CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Pelosi to Stay or Go?; Jill Kelley's Link to Scandal; WSJ Op-Ed Supports Bipartisan Fiscal Accord; Fiscal Cliff Looms For U.S. Economy; Victoria's Secret Apologizes for Cultural Insensitivity

Aired November 14, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning, will she stay or will she go? We're going to find out in a couple of hours if the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is going to stay in power or step down. We got a live report on that.

Plus, the Petraeus web is getting more and more tangled and we're learning more about the woman -- top right there on your screen. She's the woman who triggered the investigation that led the CIA chief to resign. And we'll talk a little bit more about her contact with the four-star general, John Allen.

Plus, he's known for making movies about history, whether it's Vietnam or JFK's assassination. Now, Oliver Stone is tackling what he calls the ignored history of America. What he says is the real story of our nation.

Among our guests this hour: Pennsylvania Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, retired General James "Spider" Marks, Washington Senator Patty Murray.

It's Wednesday, November 14th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome. Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Richard Socarides to my right. He's a writer for NewYorker.com, former senior adviser to President Clinton. McKay Coppins is with us. He's a political reporter for BuzzFeed.com. Will Cain is a columnist for TheBlaze.com. You may have noticed his head in my shot a moment ago, earlier. Yes, that was it. John Berman is staying around with us as well.

Our STARTING POINT is, what I think is fair to call a cliffhanger about Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill, of course. The question is: will the House minority leader stay or will she step down? She's expected to announce her decision in just a couple of hours.

Many Democratic aides, at least those outside her office, believe that she's going to stay. But we were in a similar position two years ago and many said she'd step down after the Democrats lost control of the House. That didn't happen either.

That brings us to our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's following developments.

Dana, if I had to take a poll, I got to tell you, people don't think she's going to leave.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I think you're right, in terms of that poll. But I also have to tell you that Nancy Pelosi's staff, the people I'm talking to that are very close to her, they insist that they don't know -- that that is clearly deliberate on her part.

Democratic sources, I'm talking to I strongly suspect, do know what she's going to do. They are sworn to secrecy. No matter how hard I tried, they're simply not saying.

Look, Nancy Pelosi has been the House Democratic leader for 10 years, four of which she was the speaker of the House. She led her caucus with an iron fist. And, you know, the way she's handling the news about her future really shows in the words of one source I talked to, her ironclad command of detail.

Although I don't know her decisions, I do know a little bit about her decision-making process. I'm told she has been very deliberate, very calculating about who in the very small inner circle that she has of confidants, she's told and when she tells them.

Now, she left a lot of her Democratic colleagues pretty shocked two years ago when she decided to stay as minority leader after she lost the gavel. Now, she really seems to be enjoying the intrigue about her future.

Listen to what she said yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: Let's see. What time is it now? It's 2:00 on Tuesday. I'll see you right here 10:00 tomorrow morning.

While I love you all very dearly, I thought maybe I would talk to my own caucus before I share that information with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now that meeting is just one hour away, 9:00 a.m. Eastern with her colleagues and the press conference is an hour after that.

Now, adding to this intrigue, she will appear with House Democratic women. Now, that could mean that she will say she wants to stay and remain the highest ranking woman in Congress. It could potentially show how proud she is of her accomplishments, historic number of women that she helped get elected into the House.

Last hour, I gave one potential scenario that she could say that she's staying as leader for two years in order to give younger people a chance to position themselves to take over. But afterwards, Soledad, I got several hints immediately from sources saying, don't go there. That's not going to happen. So, what will she do? The betting starting out, as you said, is she is going to stay. And again, no matter how hard I've tried -- and I have tried hard -- people who I'm pretty sure know just are saying --

O'BRIEN: Newt Gingrich has said, believe me, the speaker does not call me at all for any kind of guidance.

BASH: That's true.

O'BRIEN: He says he believes the President is going to ask her to stay and that she will end up staying. He was weighing in in the commercial break with us as well.

All right. Dana Bash for us this morning -- thank you, Dana. Appreciate it.

BASH: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: I want to get right to Nancy Pelosi's colleague. Democrat Allyson Schwartz is the only congresswoman from the state of Pennsylvania.

Nice to have you with us this morning. Thank you for being with us.

REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: You took office back in 2005. Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack told me that there's a certain amount of camaraderie among women in the -- in office. Do you think -- is that -- is that true? I mean, do you guys, ladies, women stick together so to speak in these kinds of things?

SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, it's interesting, as the only woman representing Pennsylvania, there are certainly our moments when I -- many of them -- I'm the only woman in a room, we are still just -- well, 17 percent, will be 18 percent of the Congress in the next Congress. That's good. We're growing the numbers. Certainly Democratic numbers are more diverse.

But, you know, there are times when you're still the only woman that you feel like you are -- you have the responsibility and the obligation to do this well, to work hard, to get things done. Certainly I come with that kind of passion for what I do and commitment to what I do here in Congress.

Certainly the women do have a nice camaraderie, mostly. I think that is important to have, to be able to reach out both across the aisle and to each other. Because we still are, as hard as we work, as visible as we are, we still are a fairly small number in Congress.

O'BRIEN: And small number around my table today, I've got to point out, one in five today here.

Let me ask you a question. Today, Nancy Pelosi, we think, is going to make a big announcement and you could argue with women around her, she could say I'm a role model to these women, so I'm going to stay or she could say, there are all these women around me, they've made big strides. It's now time for me to step down.

Which way do you think it's going to go? What will she say, do you think?

SCHWARTZ: The fact is, we have no idea. And so, I'm not going to make it up. I'm going to let Leader Pelosi make her announcement. I really, honestly, don't know what she's going to say.

O'BRIEN: You think -- do you want her to stay?

SCHWARTZ: Well, you know, I think she has done a remarkable job. She's the first woman speaker of the House. She made history. And she has been always looked up to and cared about women making progress not only in Congress but making progress in this country.

Economic opportunity, educational opportunity, making sure that women have opportunity is something that she cares deeply about. So I will stand with her -- whatever she says, because, in fact, she does really care deeply about growing the number of women in influence everywhere in this country and I think that -- and being heard and being part of the debates and part of the decisions.

I'm proud of that. And I know she is, as well.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about something less fun, which is not sitting around trying to decide if she's going to step down or she's going to stay, but the fiscal cliff. There is Senator Patty Murray the other day, in ABC's "This Week" and -- on Sunday, and she said -- it sounded to me like, go over the cliff.

Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D), WASHINGTON: The wealthiest Americans have to pay their fair share, too. So, if the Republicans will not agree with that, we will reach a point at the end of this year where all the tax cuts expire and we'll start over next year and whatever we do will be a tax cut for whatever package we put together. That may be the way to get past this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So, she kind of runs through that. But we start over next year means we hit the fiscal cliff.

Do you support that? Would that be something that you say let's go over the cliff? Let's see what happens.

SCHWARTZ: I think the fact is that we, as Democrats, and we are more in number. Of course, Republicans still control the House. There's a question that most of us believe it would not be good for our economy to go over the fiscal cliff, that we have to resolve these issues, that we have to deal with what is the right tax policy, what is the right spending policy and how do we best grow the economy? But I do think we have to stand firm. It's very clear we need new revenue and Republicans are saying kind of the right tone but what they're actually saying is still no new revenue. It's got to come from economic growth from tax cuts.

That's not a policy that's worked for this country before. It's not a policy we believe will work for this country going forward. We have to get it right.

Can we get it all done before the end of the year? Not so sure about that.

But I do believe that we ought to make some decisions. We have to set ourselves on a path to fiscal reality and fiscal responsibility in a way that makes sure we have a way to bring in new revenue to grow this economy and to protect the government spending that meets obligations to our seniors and to our future. That's a big lift for us to do in a few weeks.

O'BRIEN: That is a big lift that -- Will, you want to jump in?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Soledad, there's a growing sentiment it seems on the left, at least among some writers like Ezra Klein and Jonathan Chait, that we shouldn't think of the fiscal cliff as a cliff, rather it's a slope. And that's OK if we go into it. In fact, Democrats gain leverage in that process by letting the Bush tax cuts expire. They become the party that then can grant tax cuts to the middle class.

McKay, in your reporting, have you noticed that sentiment taking hold in the Democratic Caucus, like Patty Murray suggests, or more like the congresswoman suggests? No?

MCKAY COPPINS, POLITICAL REPORTER, BUZZFEED.COM: No, I think that there's absolutely -- I mean, the way they're describing it, Ezra, for example, is not even calling it a fiscal cliff anymore. He's calling it an austerity crisis, right?

CAIN: Right.

COPPINS: And I think that you see a lot of liberals and Democrats saying, you know, we go a couple of weeks into next year without a deal, we don't see massive, catastrophic results quite right away. And, if anything, it will push Republicans to have to make a deal.

Although, the risk in that is that it may just embolden Republicans more. Newt Gingrich, we just had on, we heard early -- a couple of days ago, say, you know, President Obama might have a mandate but the House Republicans feel like they have a mandate as well.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. I'm not sure it's a slope or a cliff.

Representative Allyson Schwartz with us this morning, a Democrat from the state of Pennsylvania. Thank you for talking with us. It will be interesting to watch this press conference. I know you'll be there so we'll get a chance to see then as well. Thank you. SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: John Berman has got a look some of the other stories making news today.

Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad.

Congress wants answers about the Petraeus and Allen investigations. The CIA and FBI will brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill today, this as we're hearing now for the first time from Jill Kelley, the Tampa woman at the center of both investigations. It's a 911 call this past weekend. She called to complain about crowds outside of her house.

But listen exactly to how Kelley describes herself.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JILL KELLEY, TAMPA SOCIALITE: You know, I don't know if by any chance, because I'm an honorary consul general so I have inviolability. So, they -- I should -- they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved as well, but now -- because it's against the law to cross my property since this is now like, you know, it's inviolable.

911 DISPATCHER: All right. No problem. I'll let the officers know.

KELLEY: Thank you.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, honorary consul general. A lot of us want to know what the heck that means.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is live at the State Department with an explanation.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a word, John, it doesn't mean much.

Seriously. I think there's a case, as you can see, evolving here of exaggeration as to what her role was.

Jill Kelley was a volunteer in Tampa. She was in Tampa, she volunteered for an international organization, the Citizens Diplomacy Group, that helped to welcome international citizens. And also she apparently was helpful in some fashion, whatever that is, in promoting the free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States.

This might have been -- and this is speculation, but it might have been, you know, having a dinner party to say that this is a good idea. There are many ways you can promote it.

In any case, she got this honorary consul award from the South Korean government. It has no legal standing. She is not a diplomat. Even though she was -- she had plates, we understand, on her car which said some type of consul.

But, again, this is all voluntary. There is no legal support for this whatsoever.

So our team in South Korea, by the way, John, contacted the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And their spokesperson says that nothing is decided about perhaps pulling this award from her, but that they are currently observing the situation closely.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, we're in the middle of a national investigation in two of our major national security leaders.

Thank you very much -- Jill Dougherty in Washington right now.

Today, President Obama holds his first news conference in eight months, his first since winning re-election. He'll be watching -- we will all be watching to see what he says about the Petraeus sex scandal and what he'll say about working with Republicans to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Keep it right here on CNN for special coverage of that news conference at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. Wolf Blitzer takes the (INAUDIBLE).

It is lights out for the head of the Long Island Power Authority. Michael Harvey announcing that he's stepping down at the end of the year. The LIPA chief has been under fire for the utility's slow response to Sandy, leaving Long Islanders without power for more than two weeks.

Many New Jersey homeowners have already been hit hard by hurricane Sandy and it looks like they're going to feel it again in their bank accounts. Governor Christie says people living in towns that need extensive rebuilding, they will likely see their property taxes go up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: There's no magic money tree. But I think most of the people in these towns will recognize that if the money is being spent reasonably and responsibly to rebuild their towns, they'll be happy to do it. No one is ever happy with higher taxes, but the fact is what annoys people more than anything else is waste.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: New Jersey state law caps property tax increases at 2 percent, but the law does provide exceptions for emergencies.

All right. If you listen -- if you own a Toyota, Soledad, listen up. Another massive recall here, close to 3 million cars worldwide, mostly 2004 to 2009 Prius models, 670,000 of them sold here in the U.S. problems with the car's steering system and electric water pumps. Toyota says, luckily, no crashes or injuries have been reported yet as a result of these problems. Check with your dealer. Seriously. Sorry.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, can the White House focus on what it needs to be doing despite the Petraeus scandal? Retired General Spider Marks who knows the former CIA well is going to talk with us up next.

You are watching STARTING POINT. We are back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. The President is holding a news conference this afternoon. It's going to happen at -- is it 1:30 or 1:00 p.m.?

BERMAN: 1:30, but our coverage begin at 1:00 p.m.

O'BRIEN: That's why I was confused. Our coverage begins at 1:00 p.m.. The news conference itself begins at 1:30. And you can assume that he's going to be asked about the various scandals that now surroind his former CIA director, General David Petraeus and top Afghanistan commander, General John Allen. New details coming out about all the people involved.

Let's get right to General James "Spider" Marks, he's worked with both General Petraeus and also Paula Broadwell, who is the "other woman" in this entire case.

It's nice to talk to you again. We appreciate your time. Have you had a chance to speak to either General Allen or General Petraeus in this story so far yet?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I have not. I certainly have left both of those gentlemen alone. I know Dave Petraeus and I certainly know John Allen by reputation but we're not friends.

O'BRIEN: Some of the e-mails, in the John Allen part of this very complicated case, have been described as more innocuous and flirtatious. For example, a senior U.S. official who is close to General Allen said the tone was like this: in some of the e-mails Kelley would say "I saw you on television and you were terrific." And General John Allen would write back, "thanks, sweetheart." And people focusing on the "sweetheart" part of that, which I think to some people's reading that would be an old school way of saying thank you. And others would say that's flirtatious.

Is that still considered to be inappropriate in the military?

MARKS: From Marks' view of the world, I think it's inappropriate. Clearly, it's -- I would imagine knowing John Allen's reputation, that it is entirely innocuous. But you simply don't call someone sweetheart in a form that lasts forever, which an e-mail is, unless it's your daughter, mother or wife. I can't imagine doing that. Those that know him most closely would say this was simply behavior this was practiced and it's not flirtatious. Again, what's important is that this needs to be this negative that there isn't something there needs to be confirmed so that we can all move on.

CAIN: General Marks, this is Will Cain. I understand initially there's national security concerns about what kind of information may or may not be leaked from high-level Generals, but it seems to me like the FBI cleared pretty quickly that that wasn't the case, bringing me to this question. Why is all of this of national concern? Whether or not General Allen signed his e-mail sweetheart seems to me to be at the very least, frivolous. Why are they issues for national debate and why are they issues for the FBI?

MARKS: I think the FBI has to get into the details of those various documents and the e-mails that John Allen had with Jill Kelley and others only because it's been raised. They have the obligation to investigate it. It's not a story I would prefer to talk about, nor you. We're still a nation at war. We have 68,000 troops on the ground and we're prosecuting an enemy. We have to do that right. John Allen has a job to take care of an absolutely precious mission in Afghanistan to ensure that that transition goes well.

I'm with you, Will, I would prefer to be talking about something else of far more significant matter. Dave Petraeus is gone from the CIA. It's important we understand there wasn't a breach of national security. Paula Broadwell had very close access to Dave Petraeus. I'm not trying to be flippant here, but what was whispered, what was said, what did she have access to? That has to be proven there was not risk. I don't have any more data than you do. This investigation has to run its course, let you and I talk about something else.

O'BRIEN: And I want to hear about Jill Kelley. Maybe you don't care, Will, anymore but I think that someone who's running around calling herself the honorary Consul General and has diplomatic plates, what's that all about?

(CROSSTALK)

MARKS: That's a camp follower. Every community has these folks. Clearly she's in a very prominent position with a lot of stars around. And she's infatuated by the stars. Those gentlemen need to not flatter themselves. She's attracted to the stars, not them.

O'BRIEN: General James "Spider" Marks joining us to fill us in on aLl these details. Thank you. Appreciate it.

MARKS: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning: 48 days till we reach that fiscal cliff unless Washington, D.C. Acts. A new op-ed has a broad plan to give the economy a jolt. We'll talk about it straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're talking about the fiscal cliff this morning. Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein has an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning, and it's called "The Business Plan for American Revival." If you haven't had a chance to read it, grab it right now. He writes about the stance of big business when it comes to the fiscal cliff debate here is what he says, in part.

First of all he says that relationships between the Obama administration and business community have been strained, but he says "the business community vigorously supports efforts to conclude a bipartisan fiscal accord. I believe that tax increases, especially for the wealthiest, are appropriate, but only if they are joined by serious cuts in discretionary spending and entitlements. A number of CEOs and companies agree and support principles that call for a comprehensive and balanced solution to the debt problem, increased tax revenues and decreased spending."

It's a fascinating op-ed.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I don't generally like to associate myself with telling people to read Lloyd Blankfein op- eds, because he is still to many Americans public enemy number four or something like that. But it's really well written. It's not new.

The only thing that's new, you're seeing business leaders say, yes, I get it. We've got to pay higher taxes, but he frames it really well. He really frames the business and the President of the Administration have got to come together. He starts the column that way, talks about "Lincoln and Team of Rivals," Doris Kearns Goodwin's book and says this is like Roosevelt after the depression before the war when government and business leaders come together, you can actually do remarkable things and he ends it by saying, "we are all ready to roll up our sleeves and work with the Obama administration and Congress to help fulfill America's enduring promise." Remember, the business community can have great influence on Congress.

O'BRIEN: Well, it's interesting. A lot of people have been talking about the mandate, right? Does Obama have a mandate? You hear Paul Ryan say no, there's no mandate there. The Republicans won the House so they have some kind of a mandate. And he addresses that very issue in this op-ed. He said whatever it was, the election was not to elect squabbling people.

VELSHI: Right. They elected a split government not for more squabbling. And I think that is 100 percent clear.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: And something to keep in mind here is that Wall Street after 2008 overwhelmingly supporting Obama, they supported Romney in the 2012 election.

VELSHI: Right.

SOCARIDES: And you wonder how much of this is Wall Street and big business who are now saying we're ready to roll up our sleeves and work with President Obama, trying to make nice with him, right? They've got four more years of a Democratic -- right? VELSHI: Remember, there were not such remarkable points of clarity on a lot of the platforms between Obama and Romney but one of them was that Romney said I'll get rid of Dodd-Frank, I'll get rid of all this regulation. He was definitely going to be bank and Wall Street friendly. Obama, we know where he stands on that. I think he is a lot less friendly than a lot of people on Wall Street think he is, but this is definitely the election is over. Let's get down to business. This is serious. We're all going to get hurt one way or another. Let's all come together.

O'BRIEN: Who thought we would be saying hallelujah, Lloyd Blankfein this morning.

VELSHI: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Ali, thank you. Appreciate it. Still ahead, with a new Congress a new political landscape on the horizon, will that leave Nancy Pelosi to step down as minority leader or leave her deciding to stay as minority leader? We'll be chatting with Senator Patty Murray. That's coming up next.

Plus, outrage after a Victoria Secret model wears a Native American headdress on the runway. We'll tell you what the lingerie company is saying about that, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Let's start with John Berman, who has a look at the day's top stories this morning.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

The CIA and FBI set to brief lawmakers today on the scandal involving the now former CIA director General David Petraeus and General John Allen. The President and Defense Secretary are standing by Allen although his nomination to become NATO's supreme allied commander was put on hold pending investigation with his alleged relationship with a Florida woman Jill Kelley. She is Petraeus family friend who inadvertently exposed his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell. Now we are learning that both generals tried to help Jill Kelley's twin sister in a child custody battle. What a mess.

A number of Congressional committees holding closed door briefings today concerning the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Acting CIA director Michael Morrell will be on Capitol in place of David Petraeus today.

They were heading to a safety conference and went down. All three people aboard Piper PA-32 were killed when their plane crashed in Jackson, Mississippi. The plane slammed into a house. One person inside managed to escape with minor injuries. The owner of the plane said all three on board were pilots on their way to that FAA safety conference, which was supposed to be in Raymond, Mississippi.

After his failed bid to become President of South Carolina, comedian Stephen Colbert has shut down his super PAC Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. It may have started a joke, but this PAC raked in more than $1 million. Colbert used some of the cash to pay for his phony campaign ads during the Republican primaries and that fake presidential run.

Victoria's Secret is apologizing for having a model strut down the runway in this leopard underwear and Native American headdress at a fashion show last week. Native American groups complained about the headdress, saying it is meant to be worn only by chiefs and warriors who earned respect through an act of bravery or compassion. A Navajo Nation spokesman told the AP "They are spitting on our culture." Victoria's Secret has promised not to air that part of the show when it is broadcast on CBS next month.

O'BRIEN: What is it with people insisting on doing these culturally insensitive things? It seems so --

BERMAN: We did a story on Victoria's Secret with another cultural insensitive moment. It was Asian.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

SOCARIDES: But they are in the business of selling --

O'BRIEN: Bikinis, bras and underwear. It has nothing to do with a headdress.

(CROSSTALK)

COPPINS: These are popular -- used to be popular Halloween costumes, right, the sexy Native American. That was actually a costume that was very popular. And my Web site, BuzzFeed and other websites in the last couple of years have pointed out, this is not that funny. It's actually racially insensitive and probably something we shouldn't be doing.

O'BRIEN: You would think there's a team running this who Googled these things and said, do we want to do this today? Should we do blackface? Probably not. Should we make fun of the Asian culture? No, no.

COPPINS: I don't know who the racial sensitivity --

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: Maybe they need a director. Sounds like a great job for somebody. Maybe we could get someone from Victoria's Secret on and talk about this.

BERMAN: I know a good guest. Can we get that model? Put that picture back up. See what she has to say about this.

O'BRIEN: We're moving on. Let's talk instead -- we're moving on. Let's talk instead about historic gains for women in Congress.

Good segue. O'BRIEN: It's much more important than a model in a headdress, I think. The 113th Congress -- stop giggling like schoolgirls, people. A political landscape, a landmark that Nancy Pelosi was touting alongside newly elected Democrats yesterday. Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PELOSI: Today we officially welcome our Democratic freshmen. They will make our first caucus in the history of civilized government to have a majority of women and minorities in the caucus. You can applaud that.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So while you were applauding the Victoria's Secret model I am applauding that a record number of women have been brought into the U.S. Senate as well. Yes, it is sanctimony. Watch it. Most in history, and that brings the total number across both chambers to at least 101. There are some races that are still undecided, so it's pending those races.

One of the people responsible for that, in part, is Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray. She joins us this morning. Nice to have you with us. I'm going to ignore the men on the panel this morning. All they want to talk about is Victoria's Secret models. I'm kidding, Richard.

SOCARIDES: Don't pin me with all of them.

O'BRIEN: Seriously, with a record number of women in minorities in Congress, what actual tangible change do you think that brings? Is it just a number to talk about and there's no real difference?

SEN. PATTY MURRAY, (D) WASHINGTON: I think what's real important is when you have a diverse group of people deciding the policy for a very diverse nation, you get better policy that actually works for people and they understand it and they get that this country is better off because of that. When you have women's voices in committees on transportation and foreign policy, on budget, on all these critical issues, it works better for the nation.

O'BRIEN: I agree with you on that.

Let's talk about Nancy Pelosi. Everyone says she's going to decide what she wants to decide. What do you think? Do you think she'll stay or do you think she'll go?

MURRAY: I would have no idea. I can say that Nancy Pelosi has done an incredible job over the last years leading her caucus in difficult times, has been a voice for many Americans, and I wish her well in whatever she decides to do at this point.

O'BRIEN: Another one who will not say --

MURRAY: I have no idea.

O'BRIEN: I understand.

MURRAY: I have no idea.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the fiscal cliff, if we can. You have said that if we reach a point at the end of this year, I'm quoting from you, "where all the tax cuts expire and we'll start over next year and whatever we do will be a tax cut for a package we want to put together." Which to me reads as let's go over the fiscal cliff. Is that what you're saying, we should go over the cliff?

MURRAY: Soledad, I, like everybody else, believes we should not go over the fiscal cliff. But we are facing today a terrific problem in our country in balancing the needs of people everywhere and facing this budget crisis that we have. We need a balanced, responsible, fair decision to end -- and a way to put this budget together so that everybody pays their fair share. The key to that right now is whether or not the Republicans are going to continue to stand in a corner and say everybody else has to solve this. Everybody else has to sacrifice, but we're going to protect the wealthiest Americans.

O'BRIEN: What can they do? Let's say they do. We're not going to agree to raising taxes. Are you saying that if that is the case, then we are de facto going over the cliff or the slope or whatever you call it?

MURRAY: I think the Republicans have a decision today. They need to decide if they're going to stay and protect the wealthiest Americans from participating in this challenge that we have. And if they do that, then we have no other choice but to go into next year when all the Bush tax cuts expire and start over. I don't want to do that.

O'BRIEN: That's the fiscal cliff?

MURRAY: I don't think we should do that, but that's what they may force us to do that.

O'BRIEN: Agreeing to go over the cliff, some would say, is almost irresponsible. That raises unemployment to 9.1 percent. That puts millions of people out of work, that that affects your GDP. All these terrible things that the fiscal cliff brings?

MURRAY: Absolutely. But the alternative to that, if they insist on their position, is even worse, that middle class families who have been hurt over the past number of years because of the economy are going to bear the entire burden of our fiscal challenges, whether it's cuts to education, changes to Medicare and Social Security or whether it's they, themselves, having to pay additional taxes. What we're saying is it has to be fair. Everyone has to participate. And we can't continue to allow the Republicans to exclude one group of people, those making over $250,000 a year, from paying their fair share. That's what we're fighting for.

O'BRIEN: Let me turn to McKay and Will Cain about this. We were discussing this in the commercial break as well. Some people have said it's not a cliff. It's a slope. And what you could do is slide down the slope a couple of days.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. If Democrats are willing to go past that point, whether we call it a cliff or slope, why would they do that? What kind of leverage would they gain is the question, in furtherance of what goal? I don't know the answer to this, McLay, if all the Bush cuts expire -- that's the situation we're talking about, middle class, upper class, all of them expire. What will Democrats come back with in, say, February? What will be their proposal for what the tax code should look like? I don't know.

COPPINS: That's the question I have. I listen to the Senator talking there and it sounds like she's willing to go over that cliff or down that slope a couple of days or couple of weeks even. Where does that leave Republicans, right? Is she saying that they have basically not -- what are they willing to bring to the bargaining table, right? Have they changed their position since last year when they were making these same negotiations and weren't able to reach a grand bargain? What are they willing to budge on?

O'BRIEN: That's a great question but I can't answer it. I'll turn back to the senator and ask her.

MURRAY: I'm delighted to answer that. What would happen is at the end of this year all the tax cuts would expire, all the Bush tax cuts. Beginning in a new Congress, we could put forward a bill that does what we all want to do, extend the -- to put back in place tax cuts for those Americans who earn less than $250,000 a year. That's 98 percent of Americans. Put that on the floor of the Senate and the Republicans would not want to vote against that, because that itself would be voting against a tax cut. So, I think they put themselves in a very vulnerable position. They've delayed us for nothing and have put the country in a bad spot.

O'BRIEN: Or it could be everybody. I think honestly, the American voter, if you effectively raise -- you, meaning all of Congress, you effectively raise taxes by killing the tax cuts for everybody and go over that cliff, I've got to tell you, I would not want to be holding the bag on that one, no matter what party I'm representing.

MURRAY: Neither do I. But I don't want to have an unfair package. I don't want to say oh, never mind. Let the wealthy keep their tax cuts. We'll just put this forward, because the result of that is much deeper cuts to those things that matter to average Americans -- education, job training, infrastructure, taking care of our veterans. We can't allow that to happen. That will hurt us for a very long time to come.

O'BRIEN: Senator Patty Murray, Democrat from Washington, thank you for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

MURRAY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: I'm looking forward to hearing what Nancy Pelosi says as well.

We've got to take a break. Ahead on STARTING POINT, he has made movies about Vietnam, the JFK assassination, movies about President Bush. But Oliver Stone says the history of United States America, that we have ignored the true history. We'll talk to him ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Oscar winning film maker Oliver Stone is unveiling a project that's been four years in the making this week with a premiere episode of his ten-part documentary series "The Untold History of the United States". It debuts on Showtime.

The sometimes controversial director sets out to retell some of the pivotal events of our nation's past, talks about his own introduction to the nation's place in the world. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVER STONE, FILMMAKER: Renaissance, we were the center of the world. There was a manifest destiny. We were the good guys.

Well, I've traveled the world now. I continued my education as an infantryman in Vietnam, I made a lot of movies. Some of them about history and I've learned a lot more than I once knew.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: "The Untold History of the United States" airs Monday night on Showtime 8:00 p.m. Eastern accompanied by this book by the same exact title.

It's nice to have you with us, Oliver Stone.

STONE: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure. So why is the history, as you think it really is untold? There's an intentional reason in your rationale?

STONE: You know when I say "untold" maybe it's the wrong title. But I like the title but it could have been called the ignored history. This stuff was, at points, in the newspapers or sometimes in the headlines even but it's been somewhat forgotten, like the Henry Wallace story. It was there. It's out there.

Scholars at the college level certainly know it. History -- historians who work on this know it. But it's not in the general consensus in the high school level.

O'BRIEN: Why?

STONE: My daughter -- I don't know why. Because it happened after World War II --

O'BRIEN: And you point to World War II as sort of an area that we do a PR version of what happened in World War II, which is not the real version of what happened. What really happened?

STONE: Well we -- the first chapter is about World War II. And it's an amazing story of the U.S./British relations between Churchill and Roosevelt, the conflicts. And not some -- they're allies, clearly, but the conflicts that exist between the British empire and the American empire and what the World War I, and how the World War I created the World War II.

And the Russian empire under Stalin becomes a big issue because the British and the Soviets do not agree. Churchill is very anti-Soviet. And we get into a relationship with Roosevelt and Stalin it's fascinating. It's like a three-card money game. They're playing for geopolitics power after the war.

And the dropping of the atomic bomb is very much the origin myth you know that we get in school. But we had to drop the bomb to save Americans lives because the Japanese were fanatics and would fight until the end. We show in the course of the chapters how the Japanese were finished. They -- they were completely decimated, their economy, their shipping and everything.

And how the Soviets had come into the war and were cleaning up the Japanese army in Manchuria and various islands of the Japanese. So there was no necessity to drop the bomb but it was dropped to warn the Russians and that starts basically this Cold War conflict that dominates our lives and dominates our national security structure.

O'BRIEN: I think there are people who say there's a reason why there is not transparency, right? There's a reason why you have this -- this narrative of here is what America has done?

STONE: I mean first of all we got to -- if we study our history and we got to know it better, we can understand. And our citizenry can't understand -- can't even begin to get there. They have points of view but they -- we're talking about fact. We're talking about educating ourselves in how we got to be who we are. If we can understand where we came from, we can understand where we are now. You can only change the past. You can't change yourself unless you know the past.

O'BRIEN: Who do you want to get something from this book? Is it young people who don't know our history?

STONE: Well I think history is exciting and colorful. It's an intelligent documentary sharing. It does go fast. But young people can handle it. They're used to it from their -- whatever their iPad, their Internet existence. But it's a good story for them to know.

O'BRIEN: The book is called "The Untold History of the United States". Oliver Stone it's nice to have you.

STONE: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it. Thanks so much.

He mentioned there Henry Wallace, well, Henry Wallace of course is the Vice President during Franklin Roosevelt's administration. In 1948, he made an unsuccessful run at the presidency as the Progressive Party nominee. That's the fact that he was mentioning there.

STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Any given Sunday tourists line up to go to church in Harlem. Black churches are becoming big inspirational attractions for white European visitors. It's a growing trend and a cultural experience that is uniquely American.

Jason Carroll has this edition of "Black in America."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Gospel choir had parishioners on their feet singing, hands raised, waving and inspirational sing playing out at many black churches on any given Sunday.

But this is Harlem, New York. Take a second look at the congregation and you'll see the black church here changing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very inspiring and I definitely can come back. Yes, why not?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's no pictures, no video --

CARROLL: Tourists, many European, have been packing the pews of Harlem churches in increasing numbers. Michael Henry Adams specializes in Harlem's history.

MICHAEL HENRY ADAMS, HISTORIAN: It is voyeurism to some degree. But I thought of it initially as something bad but I'd say I realized it's to be able to know each other better and to learn more about each other so there's nothing bad in that.

CARROLL: What's happening in the pews is not just white tourism it may be a reflection of something greater.

(on camera): Do you see the identity of Harlem changing or shifting?

REV. MICHAEL A. WALROND JR., SENIOR PASTOR, FIRST CORINTHIAN BAPTIST CHURCH: Well I think demographically, you would have to see that there is a change. The Harlem of my youth, when I would come to Harlem, it doesn't look the same.

CARROLL: Statistics show Hispanics and whites outpacing the number of blacks moving into Harlem.

WALROND: You can no longer make the assumption that all persons who are non-African-Americans, who are whites were tourists. And just like anyone else, they were persons who lived in the community, who came to the community and wanted to find a place to have a transformative encounter with God.

CARROLL: The changing face in Harlem, still being moved by the age- old Gospel.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Coming up tomorrow on STARTING POINT: the actor, Stephen Baldwin will join us all morning; Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is going to be with us; Nascar driver Kurt Busch; singer, Jordin Sparks is a guest; and "Twilight" star Elizabeth Reaser all with us tomorrow.

"CNN NEWSROOM's" Carol Costello begins right now.

We'll see everybody else back here tomorrow morning.

Hey Carol, good morning.