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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Fiscal Cliff: 53 Days and Counting; 600,000 Still Without Power in New York, New Jersey; Giffords Looks Loughner in the Eyes; FEMA Trailers For Sandy Victims; Obama To Speak From White House

Aired November 9, 2012 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm really proud of that. I'm really proud of all of you. And --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Raw emotion. The leader of the free world sheds a tear as he talks with pride about his campaign.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A tear or two.

Secrets spilled. Elite Navy SEALs accused of giving up classified information for money to the makers of a video game.

BERMAN: And worldwide inspiration. A new look at the Pakistani teen who stood up to the Taliban, and almost paid with her life.

Good morning, everyone. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Nice to have you with us this morning. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

And, up first here, 53 days and counting until we head to the fiscal cliff. If these two men cannot find a way to compromise, the impact on the economy could be catastrophic. President Obama delivers a big economic speech in about eight hours, and he wants tax cuts for the wealthy to expire.

House Speaker John Boehner drawing this line in the sand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Raising tax rates is unacceptable. And, frankly, it couldn't even pass the House. I'm not sure it can pass the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is live from Washington, D.C. for us this morning.

And, Brianna, Speaker Boehner seemed to be offering the president on olive branch earlier this week when he talked about the possibility of increasing revenue. But here, he's taking a hard stance against tax increases. What does that say about the chances of a compromise?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it may actually sound kind of like it's splitting hairs. But it's really two different things where he's talking about increasing tax rates. He says he's not OK with that. But he would be maybe OK, maybe amenable to increasing revenue. To bringing in more tax dollars, because there is a difference.

And what he's saying is part of a chorus of conciliatory language that we're hearing from Democrats and Republicans on the Hill.

Listen to more of what John Boehner said in that interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: We talk about all kinds of things we may disagree. I'm the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington. The president knows this. He knows that he and I can work together. Now, the election's over. Now it's time to get to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Now, obviously it's pretty complicated stuff because we're talking about tax reform, deficit reduction. But what John Boehner has said is that he doesn't want to see that top tax rate, which right now is 35 percent, and set to increase to more than 39 percent at the end of the year, he's saying he doesn't want that to happen.

You say, how is that possible if President Obama says he's going to veto anything that doesn't include an increase for the top earners? Well, the idea is you do it through tax reform. Obviously you can't do that in the next few weeks. So the idea is put a framework in place. Yes, the top tax rate, Zoraida, as you know is 35 percent. But there are a lot of people who aren't paying anywhere near that. That's not their effective tax rate.

So you tackle the overall tax system as a whole. Some of the change comes out in the wash. There may be a way to bring in more tax dollars. It's certainly threading a needle. But that's kind of the idea here. Not a lot of details yet.

SAMBOLIN: We're looking forward to that. So the president is going to make a statement today about his plan for the economy. How about some details there? Do you know anything?

KEILAR: I don't think -- in terms of what details will he lay out? I don't think we're going to get a lot of specifics? I don't think he'll be negotiating in public. But I think this is him setting the stage, talking about the economy, talking about what needs to be done to avoid the fiscal cliff and it's become all the more necessary to address that. A CBO report out yesterday says without dealing with it, the economy goes back into recession.

So he's going to kind of set the tone there and I think some of this conciliatory language that we're hearing from the Hill, we'll also hear from President Obama, continuing on his Tuesday night election night speech where he was talking about reaching across the aisle.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And, Brianna, I want to ask you about the president getting emotional when he was speaking to his campaign staffers. This was the second time that he cries.

KEILAR: Yes, that's right. And you know what? This is interesting to me because we just talked about John Boehner, as you know, he's someone who really gets emotional a lot.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

KEILAR: The president, not so much, although he has of late.

This is a part of a video that his campaign released of his moment where Wednesday, he goes to the Obama campaign office in Chicago to thank his supporters, his volunteers, and his staff. And here's what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: What you guys have done means that the work that I'm doing is important. And I'm really proud of that. I'm really proud of all of you. And what --

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: And that's a moment, an emotional moment, Zoraida, that I don't think we've seen something the likes of that. That was an event that was actually closed press as we call it. Meaning, the travel pool that accompanies the president everywhere was not allowed to go inside. So, that was just filmed by his campaign and released yesterday, a day after it happened.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, you know, on Monday when he cried everybody was questioning, was it just because he was outside and it was too cold. This was clearly very obvious.

KEILAR: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Brianna Keilar, live for us. Thank you very much.

BERMAN: I have never seen him that emotional.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, very.

BERMAN: All right. Five minutes after the hour right now.

Seven active members of the elite Navy SEAL Team Six have been punished for divulging classified information. The violation allegedly occurred while the SEALs work as game consultants to the makers of a video game called "Medal of Honor: War Fighter". CBS News said one of the SEALs involved took place in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. All seven had their pay docked and received a letter of reprimand which effectively ends their chances of ever being promoted.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

BERMAN: In the 8:00 hour of "STARTING POINT", we'll find out more about the punishment and what the SEALs are really accused of divulging when we're joined by former Navy SEAL commando Christopher Heben.

SAMBOLIN: It happened last week before Election Day, but the Pentagon is just now talking about this. Iranian fighter jets firing on an unarmed Air Force drone, this is in the Persian Gulf. Pentagon officials say the drone which was conducting routine surveillance and international air space was not hit and they say Iran's been told that U.S. surveillance flights in the region will continue.

BERMAN: New developments in a long and difficult recovery from superstorm Sandy here in the Northeast. New York City and Long Island have now joined New Jersey in imposing a gas rationing system.

SAMBOLIN: Incredible.

BERMAN: The odd/even day rationing is based on license plate numbers. Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo say it's designed to shrink extremely long gas lines and get the fuel supply back to normal.

SAMBOLIN: Poor folks.

In the meantime, FEMA is sending trailers into some of the areas hardest-hit by superstorm Sandy. FEMA administrator Craig Fugate says they have several hundred mobile homes that are available to help all the displaced residents in New York and New Jersey. He said at least 40 trailers have already been dispatched. New York and New Jersey officials will determine where the houses will be placed.

BERMAN: And 10 days after the storm, hundreds of thousands of people in New York and New Jersey, still in the dark. On Long Island, the power authorities' inability to get the lights turned on in flood areas has New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo just really ticked off.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: They were specialized in doing this. And we paid them and we gave them a franchise because they represented themselves as experts at doing this. And they failed. And they should be held accountable for their failure.

In the meantime, they should be doing everything humanly possible to improve their performance, and get these people out of the pain and the suffering that they've been subjected to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Wow. Power companies say they're dealing with unprecedented damage, and they're doing the best they can.

SAMBOLIN: Meanwhile, survivors dealing with some of the coldest temperatures of the season so far. So let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis.

Is there any relief in sight?

KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: As far as seeing any rain, snow, wind, we're finished with that. The nor'easter has moved away into the Canadian Maritimes. But we have that cold that is still in place. Temperatures only in the 30s.

But it's not just in the low to mid-30s. There's that wind chill factor. In Washington, D.C., it feels like 38. Philadelphia, it feels like 27 degrees, and in New York, 30 degrees.

Now we have an iReport. And take a look at the snowfall that our iReporter in Jersey City saw. They had about six inches worth of snowfall over the last 24 hours. There you can see the cars covered in snowfall.

He said that after about six days, they were thankful that their power was turned back on. And he was hoping after the snowfall that they would continue to see some power. But for lots of folks, tens of thousands of additional people with those 60-mile-per-hour winds lost power again. So the misery was continuing along that I-95 corridor. But the good news, Zoraida, is that that has moved away. The temperatures, daytime highs, do start to moderate over the weekend.

SAMBOLIN: There's a little comfort for folks there. Thank you, Karen Maginnis, live in Atlanta for us.

BERMAN: Nine minutes after the hour. She was targeted because she spoke out for girls' education, freedom and opportunity. And now one month after Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban, there's brand-new video of the Pakistani teen leader.

Check this out. Her father says the 15-year-old girl is recovering well and she's been inspired and humbled by the thousands of cards, messages and gifts she's received. He says they help her stay strong. Terrific.

SAMBOLIN: It's great to see that video.

And, you know, it reminds me when she's hugging the teddy bear that she's just a little girl, right?

BERMAN: So young.

SAMBOLIN: Doing amazing things.

Nine minutes past the hour. Courtroom drama as a former congresswoman faces the convicted killer. Coming up, what happened when Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband got a chance to say something to the man who tried to take her life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

In an Arizona courtroom, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords looked directly at Jared Lee Loughner, the man who shot her. And her husband Mark Kelly delivered a message. He said, "You tried to create a world as dark and evil as your own. Remember this, you failed."

Loughner was sentenced yesterday to six consecutive life sentences and 140 years for killing six people in last year's Tucson rampage, 13 other people were wounded.

In his remarks, Kelly criticized politicians, including Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, for not doing enough on gun control, saying, quote, "As a nation, we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson, and after Aurora, we have done nothing."

Casey Wian is in Tucson this morning, dramatic testimony.

And, Casey, both Kelly and former Congresswoman Giffords, they're gun owners. What changes do they really want to see in U.S. gun laws?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, there's a lot of talk about the issues of high-capacity magazines -- these clips that can hold 30 bullets or more. Loughner apparently had 100 rounds at his disposal that day in January of last year. Mark Kelly had very harsh words, as you mentioned, for lawmakers, including Governor Jan Brewer. He called lawmakers here in Arizona feckless on the issue of gun regulation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF FORMER REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: It's really unfortunate, you know, that somebody won't, you know, take, you know, take the lead on this issue. You know, Gabby and I are both gun owners. You know, we're supporters of the Second Amendment. But I don't really believe that that extends to high-capacity magazines, and extends to making it so easy to buy a gun in this country.

We elect leaders to try to address those problems. And this problem really hasn't been addressed sufficiently.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Even the judge who sentenced Loughner spoke out on this issue. He said lawmakers need to take a look at these high-capacity magazines, which used to be illegal in this country. He said Loughner was actually able to buy his, the evidence showed, over the Internet, with a credit card, John.

BERMAN: It was so interesting, Mark Kelly naming names in his statement in the courtroom. It was really remarkable statement to see. Casey, the other victims in the Tucson shooting also delivered statements. At least one of them talked about Loughner, the killer, his mental illness.

WIAN: Yes, the mental illness was a consistent theme throughout these victims' statements. Many of them saying that they were in favor of life in prison without parole because Loughner was mentally ill. They didn't think that death penalty was an appropriate punishment. But they also lashed out at the federal government and the public for not doing enough to deal with mental illness.

Randy Gardner was one of the victims in the shooting. He works in the mental health field. He said Loughner's schizophrenia was very, very treatable, and it's up to the people that knew him to get him help, and that we as a society need to do more.

Pam Simon, another shooting victim, she knew Loughner when he was a child.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAM SIMON, TUCSON MASSACRE VICTIM: Jared, I know you did not choose this illness that led to his horrific tragedy. When you were a student at Tortolita Middle School and I was a teacher there at the same time, you were a regular kid that liked music. When you were older, and the signs of your mental illness became obvious, I can only believe that you wished that someone, a parent, a neighbor, a friend, had intervened and gotten you the help you needed before it was too late.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Nearly every one of the victims who faced Loughner in court yesterday told the judge that they wanted to make sure that Loughner was required to continue taking his medication for the rest of his life. They said they wanted him to be fully aware of what he did to them, and to the community of Tucson, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Casey. What a day. I mean it sounds like a remarkably emotional day in this story in Arizona. Thanks so much, Casey.

SAMBOLIN: The empathy, I think, you know, something that surprised a lot of people there.

Seventeen minutes past the hour.

Let's get you up to date. Here's Christine Romans with this morning's top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you.

Now that the election is over, President Obama shifting his focus to the looming fiscal cliff. The president delivers a big speech on the economy this afternoon. He wants the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. But House Speaker John Boehner tells ABC News, quote, "Raising tax rates is unacceptable." Just 53 days left for the lame duck Congress to get a deal done.

Retiring Senator Olympia Snowe not sounding overly confident a compromise can be reached. The Maine Republican is pleading with her party to find middle ground with the president on a new spending ground. But she tells CNN's Anderson Cooper she doesn't like where things are headed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: The more we prolong the uncertainty and unpredictability, the more likely we're going to invite, you know, or trigger a financial crisis. But the uncertainty is certainly a dangerous -- it's dangerous and we're in unchartered waters.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Because of the dysfunction and the gridlock in Washington.

A U.S. border patrol agent who died last month in a shooting near the Arizona/Mexico border, he was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. That's according to an autopsy report. The FBI believes the death of 30-year-old agent Nicolas Ivey was a case of friendly fire.

If you've got Nesquik in the pantry, you might want to toss it out. Not mix it. Nestle has recalled more than 200,000 canisters of the chocolate drink mix over salmonella fears.

SAMBOLIN: What?

ROMANS: That's right. The bad batch was made last month with an expiration date -- OK, write this down -- October 2014. So far, there are no reports of anyone getting sick. But salmonella in Nesquik.

BERMAN: I've never seen such outrage. Are you a chocolate milk addict?

SAMBOLIN: No. But my child, that is the only way he drinks milk. So I've got to go and check that. But thankfully it's Nesquik. So thank you.

ROMANS: October 2014 is the date on that.

SAMBOLIN: That's why I'm outraged.

BERMAN: Check that (ph) when you're at home.

It is 19 minutes after the hour. Time for early reads. Your local news making national headlines.

And check this out, possibility of Mitt Romney serving under President Obama. According to "The Boston Herald", there's a lot of buzz, maybe a little buzz a better way to put it, about a possible cabinet position for the former Massachusetts governor.

SAMBOLIN: It's just an interesting talker, right?

BERMAN: The president did offer to sit down with Mitt Romney during his victory speech and he's already proposed creating a new secretary of business cabinet position, something Romney dismissed during the campaign. Mitt Romney's close friend and adviser Tom Rath, he's a pride of New Hampshire, says, quote, "If there were other areas of service, I think he, Romney, will look at all of them."

Here's what I say. Mitt Romney's father did go into the cabinet after George Romney was governor, he was secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Richard Nixon and you know how much Mitt Romney loves his father and respects him.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: And I do expect he will be involved with this country going forward.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, you just wonder how. I don't know that -- we'll see.

All right, 19 -- 20 minutes past the hour.

It might be time to rename Black Friday. Why? Because it's not even on Friday anymore. "The New York Daily News" says this: Walmart will be open Thanksgiving night at 8:00! That is the earliest it has ever opened for the kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Sears and Kmart will also be open, Thanksgiving night at 8:00.

They're all trying to take advantage of shoppers' hungry for deals.

The National Retail Federation is expecting holiday spending to be up more than 4 percent this year.

No way. I eat Thanksgiving dinner and I go to sleep.

BERMAN: I know people that do this though. I know people that go wait in the lines. Some people love it. I don't know what's wrong with them but they love it.

It's 20 minutes after the hour.

And coming up the fiscal cliff and what it really means to you. Christine Romans, thankfully, will explain it all to us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: We are minding your business this morning.

U.S. stock futures are flat, indicating markets will open little changed this morning. The Dow has lost more than 400 points, this is over the past two days. One of the biggest driving factors is fear of the fiscal cliff.

BERMAN: And Christine Romans is here talking about a new report from the Congressional Budget Office about what this could all do to our economy. And here's a tease: it's not good. ROMANS: Yes, it's not good.

Let me tell you first what the fiscal cliff is, because you might have heard about it. Let me remind you what it is. It is automatic spending cuts, and there's the car going over the edge -- spending cuts and tax increases that happen the very same time, starting in the beginning of the year.

The Bush tax cuts expire, everyone's tax rates go up. The alternative minimum tax, a patch to fix that. That won't be good. Payroll tax holiday goes away, unemployment benefits extensions go away, and suddenly, you have this moment in time where one after another, things start to change, and if we're allowed to go over the fiscal cliff, you cut economic output, and the unemployment rate would rise.

How much? The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, nonpartisan, advises Congress on these sorts of matters, said you get half a percentage point drop in GDP. Well, what does that mean in real person terms? It means the unemployment rate rises sharply and quickly to 9.1 percent. It means there would be a recession, companies would go out of business, people would lose their jobs, and it would be a very -- it would be a painful, painful first quarter and second quarter for the American economy.

Now, let's talk a little bit about what the CBO is saying. The CBO is saying that you -- that post-election this has to be handled. But at the same time, you can't just push it off forever because we have big debts and deficits that have to be handled or that's going to hurt the economy.

So there's balancing act that a Congress that seems unable to even show up, is going to have to -- we have to trust that Congress is going to be able to do a very delicate balancing act and they haven't shown us that quite yet.

Here are the scenarios for fiscal cliff diving. You could extend the current policy for six months. Maybe you would just say, you know, six months from now, we'll handle this. That would not be good for business, quite frankly.

You could fall off the fiscal cliff, stocks would dive, for four or five days. Congress would get frightened and then do something. Or you could have a grand bargain on deficit reduction, something that a lot of deficit folks, deficit hawks who watch the debt, really hope would happen. But haven't seen much on that.

BERMAN: You know, we could actually have a combination of all three of those things, too, by the way. It's not either/or for any one of them.

ROMANS: Right. There's probably good scenarios.

Now, "The New York Times'" Paul Krugman, this morning, he's saying don't let's make a deal. Let's not make a deal. He says it's worse to give the Republicans what they want, than to go of the fiscal cliff, quite frankly. And that's something you're hearing more from the left. They're saying it's more like a fiscal slope. It's not a fiscal cliff.

You know, I'm telling you right now, if you go over this fiscal cliff the beginning of this year, companies aren't going to hire anybody. Companies aren't going to invest. Companies are going to sit back and wait and that means jobs --

SAMBOLIN: How do you recover from that, right?

ROMANS: Exactly.

BERMAN: We'll be talking about this for the next 53 days.

Christine Romans, thanks very much.

Twenty-seven minutes after the hour.

They did it after Katrina. And FEMA might do it again to help the victims of Sandy. It's coming in the home of mobile homes. We'll tell you all about it, coming up after this quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Housing those left homeless by sandy. FEMA turning to a familiar solution. But, the question is, will it be a welcome one?

BERMAN (voice-over): Plus, a rude awakening. Tens of thousands of Twitter users get messages to change their passwords. Find out why, straight ahead.

SAMBOLIN: And twins born on Election Day get some pretty epic names, Barack and Mitt.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: That story coming up. Oh, look how cute.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): It's perfect on a Friday morning. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN (on-camera): I'm John Berman. Great to see you. Thirty-one minutes after the hour right now.

And to hear John Boehner tell it, reaching a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff should be a piece of cake. Yesterday, the House speaker did tell ABC News he believes raising tax rates is unacceptable. And even though the president is insisting the wealthy pay more, the speaker is sounding optimistic about getting a deal done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: Talk about all kinds of things we may disagree on. I'm the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington. The president knows this. He knows that he and I can work together. The election is over. Now, it's time to get to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I should think that was cold (ph) at language. I think what Boehner was saying right there is that help me help you. You know, if you don't want to have to deal with the Tea Party, you better deal with me right now. Boehner went on to say he would no longer prioritize the repeal of the president's health care reforms calling Obamacare the law of the land.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-two minutes past the hour. Miami-Dade is done, but a handful of Florida counties are still counting votes from Tuesday's election. Time's about up, though. The counties have to report unofficial tallies to the state by noon tomorrow. The results will be certified November 20th.

Florida Democrats already declared President Obama the winner there. And Mitt Romney's team in Florida told the "Miami Herald" their candidates lost the state.

BERMAN: Florida does the election their own way.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Beginning today, people in New York City and Long Island, two Long Island counties, will have to check their license plates to determine if they can get gas.

SAMBOLIN: Incredible, isn't it?

BERMAN: An odd/even gas rationing system now in effect. It's in an effort to reduce the long gas lines and fuel shortages in the wake of superstorm Sandy. New Jersey imposed gas rationing last week.

SAMBOLIN: But you can still fill those gallons. That's OK.

All right. More than 600,000 people are still without power this morning a week and a half after superstorm Sandy hit. Those people are almost entirely in New York and New Jersey. It has led to calls for an investigation of the area utilities. New York Governor Cuomo called the power companies archaic, unprepared for Sandy and the nor'easter that followed.

BERMAN: There is help on the way for some of the families displaced by superstorm Sandy. FEMA says they have several hundred trailers in its inventory in emergency supplies and is started moving some of them to the hardest-hit areas of New York and New Jersey. FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate, says it's not clear yet what the total demand will be.

SAMBOLIN: And while the region recovers from Sandy, for many people, those who lost everything in the storm, this doesn't feel like much of a recovery to them. CNN's Susan Candiotti is live in Asbury Park, New Jersey this morning. And Suzanne, we understand that you have one family story.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, as you mentioned, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in New Jersey remain without power. And a lot of those people live in coastal areas where people still are not allowed to go back home, because they have no power.

But for a few hours a day, a few are able to go back and are being allowed to start the cleanup. We made an emotional return with one couple to a place called Pelican Island, New Jersey.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): With Sandy's storm clouds gathering, Sue Kosakowski evacuated. But over her objections, husband, Bill, stayed behind. It was traumatizing.

BILL KOSAKOWSKI, PELICAN ISLAND, NEW JERSEY RESIDENT: Rode out the storm until Friday morning. Friday morning, I said, I couldn't take any more, because they turned the gas off. When they turned the gas off, that was the end for me. I told my wife, I would walk across the bridge if I had to, but I was getting off.

CANDIOTTI: Armed with a police pass, the retired Mayo, New Jersey fire chief, married to wife Sue for 23 years, joined other residents allowed back on Pelican Island for a few hours to take stock of the devastation.

What a sight, huh?

SUE KOSAKOWSKI, STORM VICTIM: They broken. Just everything is just broken down.

BILL KOSAKOWSKI: That's my boat.

SUE KOSAKOWSKI: This is his boat.

CANDIOTTI: Ripped from a lift behind the house, the storm surge swept his boat into the street. Inside the house, the couple gets a look at breathtaking damage, Sue for the very first time.

SUE KOSAKOWSKI: Oh. Oh, my God.

BILL KOSAKOWSKI: This house was spotless.

SUE KOSAKOWSKI: Oh.

CANDIOTTI: Marks on the ceiling show how high waves got inside.

BILL KOSAKOWSKI: When the water was up over my knees, I thought I might be able to save something. So, I put the chairs up on the top of the table. Didn't do any good.

CANDIOTTI: As things got even worse, Bill retreated upstairs to the couple's bedroom overlooking the bay and huddled with his retriever, blink. BILL KOSAKOWSKI: I was never so scared in my life.

CANDIOTTI: Their dream retirement home is in shambles, but with all they lost, Sue is grateful she didn't lose bill.

SUE KOSAKOWSKI: The house is stones and bricks and windows and glass. I thought I lost him. And that would have been losing him would have -- would have -- would have just devastated me. I wouldn't have known how I would have gone on if I had lost him.

BILL KOSAKOWSKI: Come down here and expect to live the rest of your life calm, in peace, and in one fell swoop, everything washed away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CANDIOTTI (on-camera): And bill, a former fire chief, understands the risks that he took by staying behind and recognizes it just wasn't worth it. They, like so many other people, Zoraida, have a long road of recovery. Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh! That was really remarkable. Thank you for that story. Don't you wish you could just solve all their problems?

BERMAN: What an amazing couple.

SAMBOLIN: Unbelievable. Unbelievable.

BERMAN: All right, guys. Thirty-seven minutes after the hour. We're going to change the tone a little bit here #oops. Twitter says it went overboard during a routine security screening, mistakenly resetting the passwords of a large number of its 140 million users. In an e-mail to effective users, it said it took action because some of the accounts may have been compromised by a website or service not associated with Twitter.

SAMBOLIN: Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, brothers? Apparently it's true. Twins, in fact. Are you confused? Let me explain this to you. A mother in Western Kenya says she decided to name her newborn boys, both born on U.S. Election Day, after the two contenders. She told the Kenyan newspaper, two little boys, her sons' names will help her remember the historic elections for a very, very, very long time.

BERMAN: I'm sure it seems funny at the time. But you know, when they get to be, you know, 15 or 16.

SAMBOLIN: Yikes.

BERMAN: All right.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, the real one, the former governor of Massachusetts, didn't get the job he wanted, but he still could end up working in the west wing? Really? We'll talk about that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-one minutes past the hour. A few hours from now, we'll hear from President Barack Obama publicly, for the first time, since he accepted a second term. The White House announced that he will make remarks in the east room this afternoon. The topic, you know, it is the economy.

So, I want to bring in Richard Socarides. He's a Democratic analyst and a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, and Ana Navarro, CNN contributor and Republican strategist. Nice to see you both. Thanks for being with us. Ana, I'm going to start with you. Obama's speaking today on the economy. What do you think he's going to say?

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think he's going to talk about how important it is to solve this fiscal cliff in order to keep the economy moving. I think he's going to say that the economy has been improving, but that for it not to go back, it needs to -- there needs to be a solution, a quick solution to this fiscal cliff.

And I think he's going to, you know -- it's an important speech. It's his first post-election speech to the American people. It's going to be, you know, all about the economy, the fiscal cliff, and let's work together.

SAMBOLIN: So, John Boehner talked to ABC about fiscal cliff negotiations. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: We talk about all kinds of things we may disagree on. I'm the most reasonable, responsible person here in Washington. The president knows this. He knows that he and I can work together. The election is over. Now, it's time to get to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Richard, you know I'm going to ask you. So, John Boehner is the most reasonable, responsible guy in Washington, according to John Boehner. Do you agree with that?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, DEMOCRATIC ANALYST: Well, you know, it's a new day. And perhaps, there's a new John Boehner. You know, I'm optimistic, and I think that, you know, elections clarify things. And so, I think this shows a very positive willingness to make a deal, perhaps.

SAMBOLIN: Ana, do you agree with that?

NAVARRO: Well, Zoraida, let's remember what the House of Representatives is like. So, it's not a high threshold to be the most responsible person in Washington. But I do, you know, I do think that John Boehner is doing everything he can to signal he's willing to work together. I think he received a message that the American people sent that they want to see some cooperation.

And I do think John Boehner is a businessman, a business-oriented person who understands the economy and understands that solving the fiscal cliff would be an important part of not having the economy go off a cliff again. Now, the big question is, OK, so John Boehner thinks he's the most responsible person in Washington.

Will his republican caucus feel the same way? So, there could be sometimes like herding cats.

SAMBOLIN: I have another question. How about just going off the fiscal cliff altogether, because some pundits like "New York Times" Paul Krugman saying we should go over the fiscal cliff.

Let me read this to you, "Republicans are trying for the third time to use economic blackmail to achieve a goal they lack the votes to achieve through the normal legislative process. Well, this has to stop. Unless, we want hostage taking, the threat of making the nation ungovernable to become a standard part of our political process, so what should the president do? Just say no and go over the fiscal cliff if necessary."

Richard, do you agree?

SOCARIDES: You know, I don't agree. And I really think that that is not what this election -- that's not the message this election sent. I think people want the country to come together. And I think both sides are going to work very hard to do that. I think the Republican blackmail is over.

SAMBOLIN: It seems like a very risky move. Ana, would you agree with that?

NAVARRO: And I think it's -- first not good for the country. And second, not good either for Congress or for the president. This fiscal cliff is the first big legislative challenge they have coming out of the election. And I think it's going to set the tone for what comes afterwards. If we see that they can't work together to get this solved in a quick manner, it's a bad, bad omen for the next three years.

SAMBOLIN: All right. There are two more things I want to get to quickly. One, the president was speaking to his campaign staffers and he got really emotional. Let's watch that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I felt that the work that I had done in running for office had come full circle, because when you guys had done, the work that I'm doing, is important. And I'm really proud of that. I'm really proud of you, and -- you know --

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, Monday, right, he got a little teared up, and everybody was questioning whether or not that was real, it was cold outside. This is unquestionable. He was incredibly emotional. Why do you think? What has changed him? Because he's typically looked at as aloof. SOCARIDES: Yes, imagine what this must feel like, I mean, being re- elected president of the United States. A very big moment for in anybody's career. You know, the last time he'll run for office. And you know, elections change you. People -- elections -- you learn things from elections. Bill Clinton used to say that to me

So, you know, I learn something from every election that I was involved in. And I'm sure the president's learned a lot. Let's hope it will help him govern even more effectively

SAMBOLIN: Were you surprised by this emotional moment, Ana?

NAVARRO: I was. He's not -- you know, he's not been known to be somebody that emotes that kind of way, particularly not in public. Maybe he's been hanging out with Bill Clinton so much that he's --

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: Ana don't --

NAVARRO: He's learned to feel the pain. But I think it's -- look, I think it's good. The American people like to see a president that emotes, that shows feeling, that shows that side of humanity and vulnerability and I agree with Richard. It's a big, big moment in his life, and there's also a lot of nostalgia to it because it is his last big hurrah.

SAMBOLIN: I want to get to this last thing, you guys. I hate to interrupt you, but the "Boston Herald" threw out this incredible idea, it may be realistic, maybe, or unrealistic. It's interesting to think about, though. Here it is. President Obama's post-election offer to sit down with vanquished GOP rival Mitt Romney has spurred talk of a possible White House role for Romney.

In the campaign, Obama proposed creating a new secretary of business cabinet post and that could be a perfect fit for Romney. Ana, is that ridiculous?

NAVARRO: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

NAVARRO: If you say so. It's so absurd. I don't even know what to tell you --

SOCARIDES: Ana, but it's a great idea. You know, so long as this guy sticks to what he knows, business, I think it's a great idea. I'm completely for it.

NAVARRO: There's one thing we learned about this election, and it's that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama do not like each other. And now, to suggest to President Obama that he appoint people that he likes, you know? A lot of the campaign has to do with beating up on Mitt Romney's business record. So, it'd be a little weird, I think. I mean, I really think it would be like channeling the --

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: We could all have Swiss bank accounts.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Richard Socarides, Ana Navarro, I've got to leave it there. Thank you both for joining us. We'll see you back here in our six o'clock hour -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Forty minutes after the hour right now. And this isn't about Washington, I promise. As if snakes aren't creepy enough. How about a snake with tentacles? Ew. It's happened and we have even more pictures coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: It's 52 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up-to-date this morning on some of the top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): The Texas judge whose videotaped beating of his daughter went viral is back on the bench. Judge William Adams was reinstated by the Texas Supreme Court. He was suspended last year after a YouTube video surfaced of him beating his then-16-year-old daughter with a belt back in 2004.

The investigation determined too much time had passed to bring a criminal case against the judge.

The Chinese communist party's 18th national Congress begins its second session on Friday. After a decade in power, President Hu is expected to hand over the party's top job to Vice President Xi Jinping. Tibetan protests against Chinese rule intensifying at the very same time. Three teenage monks set themselves on fire in protest. One of those monks died.

And aren't these little babies adorable? These are tentacle snakes at the National Zoo in Washington. They're water snakes native to Southeast Asia. In the wild, they use those tentacles to help catch fish. The zoo has been trying for several years to breed them. Last month, a momma snake finally produced eight babies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: They found the love, clearly.

ROMANS (on-camera): They found the love.

SAMBOLIN: Wow!

ROMANS: You know, usually, I'm not into more snakes, but you know, they're cute.

SAMBOLIN: Cute?

ROMANS: They're kind of cute.

SAMBOLIN: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: -- endangered species.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- like the fiscal cliff and tentacle snakes.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: That's all you need to know about Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Happy Friday. Happy Friday.

SAMBOLIN: All righty. Fifty-three minutes past the hour. Packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including he was trapped in a ravine for three days after a car accident. Hear from a 19-year-old about the ordeal and how he survived it.

Also, McDonald's with a flag flying half mast and upside down after President Obama's re-election. Was this a protest or just a mistake?

SAMBOLIN: To infinity and beyond! Reports that NASA plans to set up a manned outpost beyond the moon. A pit stop for sending man into deep space. How soon? Big question, how much could that cost. Former astronaut and International Space Station commander, Leroy Chao, joins us this morning to explain this to us.

BERMAN: You totally owned that piece right there, by the way.

SAMBOLIN: How often do you get to do that? To infinity and beyond!

But first, inside a parallel universe. President-elect Romney's transition website goes live by accident. We have a few screen grabs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 58 minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin along with Mr. John Berman, taking a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning. And we have --

BERMAN: Well, we're getting a glimpse of what it might have looked like under a President Romney. President-elect Romney's transition website, it accidentally went live for a few seconds after the election, even though he did not win. PoliticalWire.com actually captured a few screen grabs.

It's stamped with slogans like smaller, simpler, smarter, and believe in America. It also includes information about the presidential inauguration, the one that will not happen for Mitt Romney, and future cabinet appointees.

SAMBOLIN: Ouch.

All right. The late-night comedians are still having fun with the results of Tuesday's election, and it looks like they have plenty to work with.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": They are still counting votes in Florida as of now. Yes. They're still counting votes, even though the election is no longer in doubt and the people who cast them are no longer living.

(LAUGHTER)

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": The news brought mixed reaction starting in the consumer/enthusiast community.

It means I'm going to smoke a lot of weed tonight, whoo!

STEWART: Yes, and by the way, what would it mean if you had lost the referendum?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means I'm going to smoke a lot of weed tonight, whoo!

STEWART: And what would it mean if the Broncos beat the Panthers on Sunday?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means I'm going to smoke a lot of weed tonight, whoo!

(LAUGHTER)

STEWART: What would it mean if gravity were still in effect on Earth?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means I'm going to smoke a lot of weed tonight, whoo!

STEWART: He's consistent.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I mentioned this a couple of days ago. I went out to vote. I was in line for four hours. Four hours. And then, it turned out later it was a gas line.

(LAUGHTER)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": There is one silver lining about Mitt Romney losing the election. At least now, he doesn't have to move into a smaller house, you know? So, that's --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: EARLY START continues right now. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I'm really proud of them. I'm really proud of all of you. And --

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): A really raw emotion there. The leader of the free world sheds tears as he talks with pride about his campaign. Actually his staff.