ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: So what does Obama's victory
mean for the African-American community and how will
President Obama deal with an emboldened Democratic
Congress and as well, problems around the world?
Joined now by our very own Michael Ware who is here
from Baghdad, Jeff Johnson from BET. Jeff, welcome,
good to see you here.
Mark Halperin, of course, from "Time Magazine" and Patricia Murphy from citizenjanepolitics.com. Let's start with you, Jeff. Some personal reflections on the results of last night's election?
JEFF JOHNSON, BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION: Clearly I've been covering this like so many others for the last two years and tried to remain neutral as a journalist until tonight when, after it was called, clearly there was emotion from me as an African-American. I don't think the country, really the world, has seen anything like this since the release and election of Nelson Mandela.
I mean something that was able to in a real way spark the interest of a nation but bring the entire world together in an embrace of a shift and a change in a nation that for so long had felt one way, but a glass ceiling, a platinum ceiling in many cases has been broken with Barack Obama's ascendance to the White House. So for me it was an intellectual decision for what can Barack Obama do for the country but then a very emotional one as well.
ROBERTS: History was going to be made one way or the other. Either the first African-American president-elect or the first female vice president-elect.
Patricia, how do you think the country is changed now? Or is it changed?
PATRICIA MURPHY, CITIZENJANEPOLITICS.COM: Well, I think when you think in terms of women candidates it's been on the one hand a fantastic year to have a woman who could have been the president and could have been the vice president. That's certainly never happened but I think also we've seen that gender doesn't really trump a whole lot else. We know that independent women were really turned off by Sarah Palin and that was a gamble that really didn't pay off for John McCain so if you're looking to build out your coalition of women voters -- and you must because we're the majority of voters in the country -- you're going to have to do more than just have a woman on the ticket. You're going to have to get to the issues that they care about.
ROBERTS: Of course one of the first orders of business for President Obama after he is inaugurated is going to be to pull the troops out of Iraq.
Michael Ware, what kind of an effect is that going to have on the situation on the ground there? I mean, you've been there since the very beginning.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, six years now, John. That's going to be the big test, isn't it? How President-Elect Obama executes this policy that has been one of the cornerstones of his campaign. Now how doable is it going to be once he is in the Oval Office and is getting the briefings and is more aware of the realities on the ground.
ROBERTS: Yeah, the realities as president are sometimes very different than they are when you are a candidate.
WARE: Absolutely. And especially when you're down there on the front line and especially when it's 140,000-odd American troops that are essentially holding Iraq together. They are keeping the two sides apart. You pull those troops out of the Iraqi mix, and I'm sure that we'll see not only bloodshed but vast instability throughout the region so that's something President Obama is going to have to confront. And the Iraqi government has already said they are willing to cooperate with him, of course, but one of the most powerful blocs, one of their parliamentarians, has said that was a surprise. They thought it was going to be McCain, that it was rigged from the beginning and that's the Iraqi view. They're quite dismayed.
ROBERTS: So Iraq obviously a big issue though in voters' minds, Mark Halperin, it wasn't as big an issue as the economy. Somewhere between 12 and 18 percent of voters saying that Iraq was their number one issue. The economy was into the 50s and the 60s.
So what kind of challenge does Senator, now President-Elect Obama face on January 20 when he takes over the reins of power?
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME MAGAZINE": Well, if he views it that way, if he sees the challenges like he does on January 20, I think he'll fail. The last two transitions from one party to the other were disasters. Bill Clinton of his own making made a lot of mistakes during his transition including picking his Cabinet very late, his White House staff very late, bringing up issues that distracted from his agenda.
George Bush, from Bill Clinton to George Bush was a disaster because of the recount. I think Barack Obama has done a lot more thinking about the transition than most people realize, I think he has done a lot more planning. I think he knows who he wants for most of the key jobs already.
On the economy, I think it's going to be interesting to watch his relationship with President Bush. We could have a lame duck Congress start to deal with a legislative agenda on the economy. I think President Bush could make a lot of decisions -- he is having this big meeting, for instance, I think he will invite Obama to that. I think in some ways, more than usual, President-Elect Obama in the eyes of the public and in the eyes of the elites of this country is going to be seen as a de facto president even during the transition.
ROBERTS: There are certainly a lot of challenges, a lot of issues that he has to tackle. Lots to talk about this morning, folks. Thanks for being with us. We'll talk more about this in the minutes and the hours ahead. Thanks -- Kiran?
ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, let's bring in our
political panel now again. Patricia Murphy is with
us, as well as Mark Halperin, Jeff Johnson from BET,
and Michael Ware.
So, let's talk about the international aspect of this, Michael. We talked last time about Iraq and his plans to pull troops out of Iraq. But in the greater international arena, I mean, does he now have to set up his meetings with Iran's leadership, as well as Syria, Cuba, North Korea?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's more of a domestic issue. Whether he actually meets with these people or not, whether he starts picking up the cell phone or not, and whether the supreme leader of Iran will answer that call.
What's really at stake here now is to see whether the president- elect can start acting like commander in chief, because the world is already watching him. And they want to see, this is a guy who talked about getting out of Iraq. Now, people may have liked that, but does that weaken people's impressions of America?
Now, for example, there's someone sitting in Tehran, as you mentioned, General Suleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard's special forces. He's the one killing American troops in Iraq, according to the American military. He's going to be looking Obama straight in the eye and wondering what to make of him.
So will, say, for example the Taliban; I mean, General Petraeus, the new Central Commander, has said Al Qaeda's leadership are hiding in western Pakistan. He said it just on Monday. American drones keep bombing western Pakistan. What is Obama going to do about that?
ROBERTS: Well, you know, Mark, of course, the now vice president-elect, Senator Joe Biden, kind of stepped in it when he told that fundraising event that Senator Obama would be tested in the first six months -or President Obama would be tested in the first six months with an international crisis. I mean, it was taken as a great talking point for John McCain. But realistically, do you think, because it happened in 1993, it happened in 2001, that there may an international incident waiting just down the road?
MARK HALPERIN, AUTHOR, "THE PAGE": I have long suspected that one of the things that will really be a challenge for Barack Obama is how much of the job in the post-9/11 world of this president of the United States is Homeland Security and thinking about threats around the world? He didn't have to deal with that as a candidate. He thought about the economy, he thought about healthcare, thought about Iraq, but the Homeland Security pressure will be enormous on him. And I think there is a good chance that in the change in government there will be some test around the world. And it will be closely watched. Joe Biden said something that may have not been politically the right thing to say, but might actually have been accurate.
ROBERTS: You know, Patricia, I got a phone call this morning from a friend of mine in Beirut, who said that the whole perception of America has changed now with the results of this election. From an Independent voter's standpoint, what do Independent voters want to see President-elect Obama do now to restore America's reputation in the world?
PATRICIA MURPHY, EDITOR, CITIZENJANEPOLITICS.COM: Well, I think that is a good question, because that was a key reason why we hear a lot of Independents went for Obama, was because of the promise that he could restore America's reputation around the world. He promised to do that in all of his speeches, every stump speech he said that would be his highest goal. What they want to see is somebody who is out there extending a hand of America, kind of not being as aggressive as the Bush administration has done.
But again, these Independent voters are very sensitive to security issues and if the Homeland Security issue did come up that would be something that would test not only Barack Obama but also the faith of these voters who put him in office.
ROBERTS: And Jeff, do you think that his background gives him a different perception around the world? I mean, the fact that his middle name is Hussein? You could see him going on a trip to Jordan and they would really play up that idea? That maybe he has a greater understanding of the Middle East and oppressed people's around the world?
JEFF JOHNSON, HOST, BET TV: I think, number one, people around the world are just glad to see George Bush gone. I mean, I think that's point number one. I think that has already been mentioned, but, two, I mean we're talking about somebody with a 80 percent approval rating in Europe and somebody that has traveled and so I think he's got a perspective.
But I think there are people who already have drunk the Barack Obama Kool-Aid. They like him. And so I think that is a step in the right direction to give him some flexibility. But a very short leash, if you will, to be able to begin making some moves on domestic policy and reaching out to the right people. So he's got a little bit of space because he's likable. But it is still about what are the steps that he's going to make? And are they in the best interest of the country, because ultimately he has to answer to people at home.
ROBERTS: One issue -
HALPERIN: He's more popular in Paris than Mickey O'Rourke and Jerry Lewis combined.
ROBERTS: Imagine that, because Jerry Lewis is very popular there.
HALPERIN: So is Mickey O'Rourke.
ROBERTS: A lot of issue ahead. A lot to talk about folks. Stay with us. We'll be back with you in just a little while. You're watching continuing coverage of election 2008 here, on the most news in the morning. We'll be right back.
ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, along with making history,
Barack Obama repainted the electoral map last night.
Let's turn now to our panel: John Avlon of the Manhattan Institute; Patricia Murphy of CitizenJanePolitics.com; as well, Frank Sesno is joining us this morning.
And Michael Ware is back with us.
Frank, since you're the new kid on the block here in terms of our coverage...
FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I haven't felt that in a while.
ROBERTS: ... this morning, let me throw this at you.
You know, Ed Henry was just talking about Sarah Palin, and we're also thinking about, you know, what were the reasons why John McCain lost last night. Steve Schmidt, his chief strategist, said, you know, we were at bad economic times, that was definitely a drag on the ticket, but he also went on to say, "The party has been very unpopular. The president's approval numbers were not helpful in the race, but the party as a whole is unpopular with the American people, and that was the big albatross."
SESNO: He's right. It shows that the Straight Talk Express, at least remnants of it, are still on the road. There's still a little gas left.
Look, any Republican would have had a monstrous time with the legacy of George W. Bush and a 25 percent approval rating, and unemployment and joblessness going up for eight months in a row. Anybody would have had that.
You know, they had that hardy embrace in the Rose Garden when he got the endorsement and said, by the way, I'll be campaigning with you. They never once were side by side. Okay?
ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. President. Now go back inside.
SESNO: Yes, thank you and goodnight. Goodnight and good luck.
So, yes, that was the albatross. But it got worse. You know, when John McCain says the fundamentals of the economy are strong, when John McCain says, Ladies and Gentlemen, please meet Sarah Palin. These were things that in the end were additional difficulties.
ROBERTS: On the point of Sarah Palin, Steve Schmidt was also asked, "And the pick of Palin for you guys, are you happy with that?" His response, "You know, I'm not going to -- there'll be time for all the postmortems in the race."
What do you make of that?
PATRICIA MURPHY, EDITOR, CITIZENJANEPOLITICS.COM: I think it was so unfair for the McCain campaign to pick Sarah Palin, to pluck her out of Alaska, to put her on the national stage, and then to blame her when it's all said and done. I talked to delegates to the Republican convention who were planning a walkout before Sarah Palin came on the scene. So they are thrilled with her, and they are very lucky that they had her, certainly at the convention. They got a big bounce out of it.
ROBERTS: Well, they didn't quite throw her under the Straight Talk Express in that exchange, but it certainly wasn't a ringing endorsement.
JOHN AVLON, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: They're just like this. I mean, the reality is, yes, she fired up the base, but at the expense of uniting the center. She has proven to be one of the most deeply polarizing figures in American politics, and that's the worst thing John McCain could have had by his side.
What we're seeing right now in American politics is a desire to move past polarization, beyond left/right, black/white, red state/blue state. That's why young voters, 40 percent of whom are Independent, are rising up in such amazing numbers for Barack Obama. And tonight, you know, taking to the street and celebrate. I mean, just going bananas, having a great time.
SESNO: Can I just say one thing? This is not Dan Quayle. This is not incompetence.
She is who she is. And she was very forceful and very...
ROBERTS: Very charismatic...
SESNO: But John, you know you don't take somebody who's never, literally never, been in the national media spotlight and expect they're going to step on that stage and not be pulled apart.
ROBERTS: So, Michael Ware, what are all the folks in the land of Oz making of all of this?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're going to bed happy, I think, at the moment. Certainly, I spoke to some people in Iraq, for example. They can't believe it.
For many Iraqis, they wanted Obama. But they just figured the whole system's rigged. And they really didn't believe that McCain would be defeated.
So, I actually made some calls back home to Australia, and they said, "Obama won?!" But generally I think the perception, like around a lot of the world, will be more than warm to an Obama presidency.
MURPHY: One bright spot for the Republicans here, the Democrats wanted that 60-vote majority, and they didn't get it. And they didn't get those seats that they wanted in Mississippi. They didn't pick off Mitch McConnell. Michele Bachmann made it through.
So they had some seats that the Republicans were able to defend. So it's not a complete rout -- it's a Category 4 and not a Category 5.
AVLON: But two things. It's on the verge of a realigning election.
Obama has built on Howard Dean's 50-state strategy, is playing in red states. And the second, to Michael's point, this is an election that the rest of the world wakes up and says, you know what? When Americans say they're a country that's different, only in America, that's true today around the world, indisputably.
SESNO: The red light that should be blinking rapidly in Barack Obama's office and in his head is the expectations red light.
ROBERTS: Yes, absolutely.
SESNO: For all of this, Okay, the land of Oz is all excited about it, they can't believe this was going to happen, there were -- I was talking to my kids at their colleges last night. They were all in the streets celebrating.
I've never heard of this before. Ever. So he's a human being in a political Real World.
MURPHY: It's Obama versus expectations. But the Republicans said today they're waiting for the overreach for the Democrats. They're like, just bring it on, we're ready to come in in 2010.
ROBERTS: Maybe let's make that our next topic.
ROBERTS: We'll see you back here real soon, folks.
A lot of celebration across the streets -- the streets across America, particularly right here in New York City, in Harlem. We'll take you there to show you the celebration, coming up next on the most news in the morning.