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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Bombings And Bloodshed Escalate In Gaza; Deadly Airstrikes In Gaza; Peace Talks Underway In Egypt; Historic Visit To Myanmar; Rubio 2016?; Keystone XL Pipeline Protests; Still Not Impressed; Notre Dame Number One; Hola, Twinkie; America's Economic Deadline; Lawmakers Still Drawing Lines; New Report On Fighting Poverty

Aired November 19, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It is half past the hour here. Welcome back to STARTING POINT on this Monday. Soledad is off today. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. It's been the deadliest day of violence yet in Gaza. An Israeli missile has leveled a two- story home in Gaza City, killing 11 civilians, four of them children. The violence now is threatening to escalate out of control.

Rockets are still raining from Gaza to Israel. Representatives of the two sides are now in Egypt for cease-fire talks, but they're not talking directly to each other. Hamas is publicly demanding a truce. They're calling on Israel to bring an immediate end to its long- running military blockade of Gaza.

BALDWIN: Frederick Pleitgen is live for us this morning near the Gaza border. In fact, Fred, I'm told you were moved by the Israeli Army farther away from the border. Tell me what you've been seeing so far this morning.

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN BERLIN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, guys. We've been moved a couple of minutes ago by an Israeli military patrol. They told us to get out of an area that we were at. We are only about a few kilometers away from the border between Gaza and Israel.

They said this was a forward patrol. That they had a forward reconnaissance patrol that over there from the Israeli military and they basically told us to get out of there as fast as possible because they feared that there could be sniper fire coming from there.

They also feared that there could be rockets dropping from there. So they told us to get in our car. We're following an Israeli military patrol out of the area. Just a few seconds ago, we were told to follow a car. They said that that area is very dangerous that we were in.

It's one that's taken a lot of rocket fire and during the time that we've been driving in this area we've been able to hear several rocket alarms go off. So it is an area that's taken a lot of fire in the past. It is very, very close to the border with Gaza.

Now we've been told to get out of there and go to a different location. So we're going to try to make our way over there. But while we were there, we were able to see a lot of action going on. We heard drones in the sky over Gaza the entire time and several rocket alarms as well. So there does still seem to be a lot of action going on.

A lot of rockets still being fired out of Gaza and also of course, a lot of planes still over Gaza that could conduct air strikes there.

BERMAN: Fredrick, obviously the conflict is still going on literally all around you at this moment. But is anyone around you talking about the possibility of a cease-fire?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know, it's something that's always being debated especially if you look in the Israeli media. You talk to people here. It doesn't seem as though it's imminent. I mean, people who are talking about a cease-fire, who are talking about a possible truce.

But there's also just as many people here, talking about the expansion of the conflict, talking about something like a ground invasion possibly being imminent. To get here we had to go through the military zone.

You could see a massive build up going there, of Israeli armored vehicles, of Israeli tanks. We saw a massive column of tanks go past us as we were driving out here. Certainly that military build up is still in full swing.

They were telling us that right now they're sort of getting toward the more mature stages, if you will, of that build up. They're getting in food for the troops. Most of the troops are already in place now so it seems as though they're more and more ready for an escalation if that, in fact, is something that's going to happen.

Nevertheless, they always keep saying the room for negotiations are still open, but there is still the possibility that all of this could end. Both sides are telling each other, if you stop then we're going to stop.

It seems as though and we're hearing this, there are, of course, these international mediation efforts under way. But it really is anybody's guess and there is, of course, always the real possibility that this all could escalate even further, guys.

BALDWIN: Fred Pleitgen for us driving from the Gaza/Israeli border. Fred, thank you.

Also as part of this whole story, Senator John McCain saying just yesterday here that the U.S. should use its influence to try to bring an end to the violence along the border there between Israel and Gaza. So what does he want? He wants former President Bill Clinton to get involved. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Try to find someone even as high- ranking, frankly, as former President Bill Clinton to go and be the negotiator. I know he'd hate me for saying that, but we need a person of enormous prestige and influence to have these parties sit down together, as an arms broker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: During his presidency, Bill Clinton held negotiations at Camp David between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

BERMAN: Other top stories this morning, the U.S. is with you. President Obama promising American support for Myanmar as the once repressive regime travels the road to democracy. He is the first sitting U.S. president to travel there. He's also the first to go to Cambodia, arriving there just this morning. That is the last stop on his very quick tour of Southeast Asia.

BALDWIN: And 2016. I know I know. It might be a long way away, but a certain senator from Florida sure looked like a presidential candidate during this visit to Iowa.

There he is, Marco Rubio appearing Saturday night at a fundraiser for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. In his speech, the Florida senator discussed the future of the Republican Party and addressed a host of issues including tax reform, national debt, immigration and the energy policy.

BERMAN: Of all 50 states he would go to, no coincidence he shows up in Iowa. All right, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline drawing thousands of protesters to the White House. The pipeline would help deliver oil from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, the Obama administration delayed a decision on the controversial project until after election.

BALDWIN: Team USA gymnast, McKayla Maroney has made it all the way to the White House. Look at this picture with us. It's clear that she and President Obama are not impressed. This is the latest photo of Maroney to go viral.

Remember she became this whole internet name when she splashed her naught impressed face at the victory podium at the London Olympics over the summer. She won a silver medal. Maroney said the new photo was actually the idea of the president. It is hilarious.

BERMAN: I loved it. Can you imagine how nervous you must be if you're with the president?

BALDWIN: He flashes you the look.

BERMAN: Let's play a joke here.

BALDWIN: You're like, OK, Mr. President.

BERMAN: We're always impressed by Rob Marciano. So let's get a quick check of the weather from Atlanta. Rob, it's a busy travel week. How does it look? Impress us.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, if I can get this in 60 seconds, it would impress and please everybody. Here we go. Rainfall across Portland and Seattle, this is the time of year where they get their strong rain and wind storms.

Now several pulses of energy will wrap around and make their way into the Pacific Northwest, really over the next two or three days. Here's the radar. Portland up through I-5 across the river in through Seattle, a heavy rain today.

This is mostly a rain event. Snow levels coming up, so flood watches and warnings have been posted for much of the Willamette Valley through parts of the Puget Sound area as well.

Look at these wind gusts, 98-mile-an-hour gust there along the Oregon Coastline. That's well over hurricane strength gusts there so a potent system no doubt about it.

Inner Mountain West not looking too shabby, weak cold front moving across the midsection of the country today. And some fog, just to settle in through parts of the Great Lakes. If you're traveling in through Detroit, a ground stop for the next couple of hours, so longer, cool nights.

Here's your travel forecast for Wednesday. It doesn't really change much from today. Not terrible quite honestly. The east coast, some windy conditions, but should be all right. Another system into the Pacific Northwest, it could be worse the day before Thanksgiving.

BALDWIN: Did you just say the forecast is not terrible?

MARCIANO: Yes. That's technical term.

BALDWIN: Not terrible.

MARCIANO: That's not impressive to you.

BALDWIN: Impressed, Marciano, thank you very much.

Still ahead this morning here on STARTING POINT, mayors are now pressuring lawmakers for a deal on the fiscal cliff for fear of a huge impact in their own cities. We're going to talk to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Mesa, Arizona, Mayor Scott Smith. That is next.

BERMAN: And will Twinkies survive after all? Please say yes, the foreign company that may take over the iconic American brand.

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BERMAN: A couple of our top stories this morning. Call it the BCS shuffle. Notre Dame is number one in the country in the latest BCS standings after the two top teams before, Kansas State and Oregon both lost this weekend. So, if the unbeaten Irish can beat USC on Saturday, they will be guaranteed a berth in the BCS title game. They're heavily favored. BALDWIN: So I go away on vacation last week. I'm in Napa, California. Come back, boom, Twinkies gone. What's going on? I can tell you this, there's a chance they will not be extinct after all.

Analysts say some well-known companies are expressing interest in Hostess products including Pepperidge Farm and Flowers Food, which makes tasty cakes. There's also a potential buyer out of Mexico called, really, Bimbo Bakeries.

BERMAN: The lesson here, don't go on vacation again. You will not let us down.

BALDWIN: I'm sorry, I love my -- the chocolate cup cakes? Delicious. Anyway, clock, ticking on the American economy's year-end -- this fiscal cliff we've been talking about for awhile here. A challenge, President Obama mentioned on his pan-Asian tour just this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm confident that we can get our fiscal situation dealt with. And I think it's important to recognize that yes, democracy is a little messier than alternative systems of government. But that's because democracy allows everybody to have a voice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So mayors across the country are urging Washington to get its act together before it's too late. They're gathering in Washington, D.C. to lay out the issues their cities will face if there's no compromise, pretty serious issues, by the way.

Among the mayors there, Democrat Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Republican Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Arizona. So Mayors, Mr. Mayors, you were both at the White House last week before the president met with congressional leaders. What was your sense of where things stood and what was your message to the president?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER (D), PHILADELPHIA: Well, I was pleased to be there with the U.S. conference of mayors and vice president, Scott Smith who is on the show and I am serving as president. A number of other mayors, probably a total of 14 of us, talking with Vice President Biden last Thursday afternoon about the situation that we need a balanced, bipartisan approach to dealing with the issue of cuts, as well as revenues.

These are serious matters that can affect cities all across the United States of America. You cannot solely cut your way out of the amount of debt that we have. So this issue must be addressed.

But the most important issue is that the middle class tax cuts should be voted on right now, by the Congress, passed the Senate, needs to come through the House. There's no reason for 98 percent of Americans taxes to go up next year, as we continue to deal with this fiscal crisis.

BERMAN: Mayor Smith, are you OK with that? Vote on middle class tax cuts right now?

MAYOR SCOTT SMITH (R), MESA, ARIZONA: Well, I think any action would be good action. I think one of the things we found in the cities is that the one thing that is most paralyzing to us is inaction.

Because inaction breeds uncertainty and uncertainty means people hang onto their dollars. Companies don't invest. Consumers don't spend. I think that the sooner the action from Congress, and obviously extending tax cuts may be the easiest thing to do, the better off we all are, because that will give us some certainty, especially going into the holiday season.

BALDWIN: So gentlemen, speaking of any action being good action one of our colleagues, she covers the White House for us, Brianna Keilar, she spoke with a source, very familiar with some of these top negotiations.

Let me just quote her source here, "when the president raised the issue of increasing revenue there was no, no word on moving we're not doing that and when the Republicans raised entitlement reform, the president agreed it was needed as part of a package that included revenue."

So there's the quote. Do you hear hope for compromise somewhere in there?

NUTTER: Well, it sounds like at least the message we receive --

BALDWIN: Go ahead, Mayor Smith.

NUTTER: From the White House and from some members -- go ahead, Mayor Smith.

SMITH: That's OK, Mayor Nutter.

BALDWIN: Look at this, this is beautiful. Gentlemen, one of you, begin.

NUTTER: Sure. I think --

SMITH: Well I think that --

NUTTER: -- certainly from the White House and from Congress was that they want to get something done. And again, the focus on the middle class tax cuts as an issue that can take place literally tomorrow. It's one vote.

And other than the presidential election on November 6th, this could be the most important vote that takes place this year. All sides seem to be talking about wanting to compromise on some pretty significant issues.

I don't know what came out of the meeting last Friday with the leaders in Congress, but I'm certainly optimistic. We have to be because we're mayors, but they need to get stuff done to start working on this package right now. SMITH: I'm certainly encouraged.

BALDWIN: Mayor Smith, go ahead, 20 seconds. Final -- final thought.

SMITH: Certainly encouraged by the tone that's come out. It seems like after the election people are settling in to what is the new reality. And enjoy and appreciated the tone of both congressional leaders and the meetings at the White House, where it looks like they really are putting basic politics aside and recognizing they need a solution. So I like what I'm hearing.

BERMAN: All right, guys, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Thank you for getting along so well while you are here. Here's a sign for bipartisan compromise across the country.

BALDWIN: Thanks, gentlemen, appreciate it.

SMITH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, new numbers showing nearly 50 million people right here in the United States are living below the poverty line. But now there is a new plan to cut that number in half over the course of the next decade. Another mayor, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will join us next with the details.

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BERMAN: All right, welcome back, everyone. New numbers from the Census Bureau show that in 2011 just over 16 percent of Americans. That is nearly 50 million people were living below the poverty line.

BALDWIN: But there's this new report from the half in ten campaign ends to cut the U.S. poverty in half over the next decade. They said it goes hand in hand with solutions to fix our economy. Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa will be presenting this report at an event in D.C. in a matter of hours. Mr. Mayor, good to see you. Good morning.

MAYOR ANTHONY VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: Hi, Brooke, how are you?

BALDWIN: I'm wonderful.

VILLARAIGOSA: I hear you're in New York now.

BALDWIN: For just, you know, a hot second I am, but let me ask you this. When you look at the timing of this report you'll be presenting today, you combine it with all these talks, negotiations with the fiscal cliff.

Is there any way to sort of tile this together, you know, the fight against poverty with sort of broader economic solutions for our country?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, it was great to see both, Mayor Smith and Mayor Nutter together, a Democrat and Republican talking about fixing the debt and, yes, it is very consistent. In fact, the Simpson/Bowles Commission, which lays the framework for addressing the debt does talk about some of these programs, child poverty.

The need to make sure that we're making investments in education and infrastructure and R & D, but also protecting the safety net whether it's child nutrition programs, the earned income tax credit, child care credit, making sure that we're protecting kids.

As you probably know, this report talks about the $500 million impact of child -- of poverty, child poverty particularly on the economy and the cost of some of these programs is somewhere in the neighborhood of $90 billion a year.

Now, what we have to do according to Simpson/Bowles as a framework is make sure that we're cutting red tape and duplication, but make sure that we don't cut the safety net so that we put back the economy in a way that doesn't move us forward.

BERMAN: Mr. Mayor, John Berman here, always great to see you on this show. Among the other things in this report it does say two-thirds of the programs suggested to be cut by congress last year would have come from Americans in need, low income Americans in need. What are some of the other findings in this report?

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, that's critical. Look, that's not a balanced approach. That's why Simpson/Bowles, again, laying out a framework and a template, says you can't just decimate Social Security and Medicaid. Do we have to address entitlements, absolutely.

I'm glad the president mentioned that. We're going to have to put ourselves on a more sustainable path forward. But it doesn't mean that you decimate the safety net, you cut food stamps. You cut health care for kids. You cut programs that people need to get out of poverty and move into the middle class.

BALDWIN: Mayor Villaraigosa, you know, I just spent a week in California last week.

VILLARAIGOSA: In Napa.

BALDWIN: In Napa and in L.A., thank you very much. But when you look, though, at the numbers here, when you look at the poverty level in the state of California, it is 23.5 percent. You look at the national rate. You see there it's down 16.1 percent.

As you present this, you know, new report, this hopeful report, this path for our future, do you hope that the spotlight is shining on your state specifically?

VILLARAIGOSA: Absolutely, absolutely. I gave another speech just this week on the golden state at the Milken Institute where we talked about how we restore the luster of the golden state. It means you have to make investments, too.

There is a path forward where you cut duplication, you cut red tape. You make sure the programs are efficient. You have a metrics driven effort to measure the success of programs. But you can't decimate these programs. So, yes, we do need to highlight what's going on in California because I'll tell you, we shouldn't be proud of having a poverty rate that high.

BALDWIN: Mayor Villaraigosa, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

VILLARAIGOSA: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: Pretty dropped you in L.A. Were you in for police escort or something next you're in town?

BALDWIN: No, I'd like some L.A. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, this, emergency talks happening right now to try to stop the bloodshed between Israel and Gaza, both sides refusing to back down right now. We are live in Gaza with Anderson Cooper at the top of the hour.

BERMAN: And he's been talked about as a future presidential candidate for the GOP. So why is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal saying his party needs to stop saying stupid things?

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