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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Mideast Bloodshed; U.S. Stock Futures Trading Higher Today

Aired November 19, 2012 - 08:00   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: Our STARTING POINT this morning -- negotiations happening right now. But will it stop the bloodshed between Gaza and Israel? Anderson Cooper live for us this morning in Gaza.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Obama making a historic trip to Myanmar and Cambodia. Hear what he had to say this morning and why not everyone is happy the president is even there?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Is the Black Friday frenzy all just a big scam? How you can stay home this year and still get the best deals.

BALDWIN: And the clock is ticking here on the fiscal cliff. We continue to talk about it, 43 days to go. Why there is new optimism there will be a deal reached soon?

BERMAN: It is Monday, November 19th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Soledad is off today.

We want to welcome in our special team that's joined us here. Charles Blow, "New York Times" columnist is here.

BALDWIN: Good morning.

BERMAN: Representative Nan Hayworth of New York, a Republican, is here. Just up (INAUDIBLE) from where I live. And Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, is here as well.

BALDWIN: Welcome to you all.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

BALDWIN: We will be talking here in a moment. We have to begin with the huge story.

STARTING POINT this morning: death and despair mounting in the Middle East. The conflict in Gaza City, it is intensifying. It's been intensifying overnight. Look at the destruction here -- an Israeli missile slamming into a residential neighborhood taking out the two-story home, 11 people were killed including four children.

BERMAN: Let's get right to CNN's Anderson Cooper who is live in Gaza City this morning.

And, Anderson, I understand the situation changing by the minute, getting increasingly dangerous.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We just saw, actually, probably about four or five minutes ago, a number of rockets actually being fired from Gaza City just over in that direction toward Israel. We have not heard on the Israeli side the results of those rockets. But we've seen probably at least -- more than half a dozen rockets before that rocket barrage being fired over the last several hours. I saw at least six with my own eyes.

It happens periodically from different parts of Gaza City. There's often very quickly an Israeli response. We're watching that area over there to see if there is an Israeli response to those rockets being fired.

We've had a number of explosions throughout the city as well, in various locations -- Israeli artillery or air force response. Again, it is day six of this conflict. The death toll: 92 people here in Gaza have been killed, according to health officials in Gaza. At least three in Israel that's known of, according to Israel.

The IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, say that some 800 to 900 rockets in total have been fired toward Israel from Gaza. And just yesterday, Israel said they had about 120 airstrikes on various targets.

But as the days progress, the number of targets that Israel can have is dwindling. They're now hitting buildings that -- in one case, they said, was owned by a Hamas militant, a commander. That was the building yesterday that they hit that 11 people died, 10 members of one family were staying in the building.

Israel initially said they killed that member of Hamas. They've now walked that back and said it's unclear whether or not he was at the house at the time.

But there was a funeral today for the members of that -- the 10 members of that family. Our Ben Wedeman was there. Rockets went off during the funeral. And according to Ben Wedeman, he was saying people in the funeral party were chanting "revenge, revenge."

BALDWIN: Anderson, you mentioned last hour, just in terms of painting the picture of the city on the ground, that -- you know, the streets are desolate, that people are fearful of even going outside. You said you visited a hospital a couple of hours ago.

What did you see there?

COOPER: It's obviously a chaotic scene there. You know, doctors in addition to the 92 death -- 92 people who have died according to health officials here -- and again, we haven't independently confirmed that, they said they've had more than 740 injured, wounded people. A lot of people with broken legs, shattered limbs, you know, you see a lot of kids, elderly people as well.

This is a very densely packed city. So, even though Israel says they are targeting carefully, even if they target carefully, if you have a rocket battery in a residential area, it's very easy for civilians to be hit as well. And we've obviously seen a lot of that over the last several days.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much -- Anderson Cooper in Gaza this morning.

We should also say Wolf Blitzer is on the Israeli side of the border. Both will be filing reports on CNN all day.

BALDWIN: Let's continue the conversation. I want to bring in former Democratic congressman from Florida, Robert Wexler. He currently is president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

Congressman, good morning to you here.

FMR. REP. ROBERT WEXLER, (D) FLORIDA: Good morning.

BALDWIN: Just -- let's be realistic. In your opinion, what are the chances any time soon of a ceasefire?

WEXLER: Well, I think we have to keep in context why we're in this quagmire, which is the unprovoked, continuous fire by Hamas of rockets into Israel.

There's a short-term goal and a long-term goal, it seems to me. The short-term goal is to create a sustained ceasefire. But in order to do so you have to, in effect, create a victory speech for both Hamas and Israel.

For Israel it seems to me the victory speech would sound something like, we've created greater deterrence. We exacted an enormous price from Hamas. We killed the military chief of Hamas. We also showed that the Iron Dome anti-rocket system works quite well.

For Hamas, it would seem to me the victory speech would probably be something like, Hamas has shown the world that its military capacity is now greater than it was and that they could endanger citizens in both Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem, the population centers.

The long-term challenge, though, is how do we create a political dynamic which avoids this kind of confrontation in the first place and bring the more moderate Palestinian forces represented by President Abbas into this equation.

Unfortunately, though, President Abbas seems poised to go to the U.N. at the end of this month and seek to enhance the Palestinian status, which will create a whole another set of circumstances which will -- which will dry up funding for the Palestinians and cause there to be even greater tension between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

BERMAN: Congressman Wexler, John Berman here.

You know, one of the things that makes this situation even more difficult is when we see the pictures of suffering and really the victims from both sides. The other day, there were three people killed on the Israeli side. And now we've been looking at pictures overnight. CNN's Arwa Damon sending us pictures of a two-story townhouse pretty much demolished in Gaza. Three generations of a family killed there, up to 11 people.

You know, how does this type of picture, how does this type of public relations incident effect the possibility, even, to get to peace -- some kind of peace or at least a ceasefire?

WEXLER: Well, you're correct. This is a tragic situation on both sides. And as the fighting continues, there will be more and more tragedy.

But Anderson Cooper, I think, hit it right on the head when he said that there are artillery spots. There are launch pads placed by Hamas in civilian neighborhoods. And when that happens, it's not by accident. It's done by Hamas to create the scenario in which when Israel responds, the likelihood of civilian casualties is greatest.

So you have to wonder what kind of an army or what kind of a government puts its own civilians at risk?

You know, as we speak, the Hamas fighters are underground. But the ordinary Palestinian citizens in Gaza are being subjected to the -- to the fire power of the Israeli Defense Forces.

So, again, one must wonder, what is the goal of the Hamas government? One must also wonder why their own citizens don't ask these questions as to why their own leaders are putting their own fellow citizens in this kind of tragic circumstance.

BALDWIN: All right. Congressman, in terms of political ramifications here in sort of this region, we know President Obama has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the newly elected president of Egypt, which also makes this an interesting sort of equation, Mohamed Morsi. And let's call their relationships complicated.

How does that affect the dialogue and possible negotiations moving forward?

WEXLER: Well, President Obama and the entire American government have been unequivocal in terms of Israel's right of self-defense. But what is also apparent is that our relationship, the American relationship with Turkey, with Prime Minister Erdogan is of great importance.

And also, one of the things that I think can be extracted from this circumstance, while President Morsi, the new Egyptian president, is not like President Mubarak, he still plays an extremely important role because of his ability, unique ability, to influence Hamas hopefully in a more positive direction to create the dynamic for a sustained ceasefire. What's also important is that even though Israel has engaged militarily in Gaza, the Egyptians under President Morsi have not, at least to date, suggested that they would compromise their peace treaty with Israel, which is a very important occurrence.

Now, if Israel goes in in a ground operation, that will be one of the tensions. How does President Morsi respond politically to the enhanced violence?

And what President Obama is making certain, I think very successfully, is that Egypt plays a hopefully positive role while maintaining its relationship and peace treaty with Israel, which is essential for the background of the whole region.

BALDWIN: Congressman Wexler, we appreciate it.

I certainly want to bring the panel in in a moment to talk about this quagmire, to use the congressman's words here. Want to get to you all in just a second.

Let's get to the other top stories here in a second, because we know that the president is arriving in Cambodia here. This is the final stop really of this whirlwind three-nation tour of Southeast Asia. He's making history in Cambodia just as he just did in Myanmar, being the first sitting U.S. president to visit there.

In a speech at the University of Yangon, the president praised Myanmar's civilian government for reforms, but he did say there is still much more work to be done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected. Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted. And as you take these steps, you can draw on your progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: President Obama also met with activist Aung San Suu Kyi at her home where she spent 15 years under house arrest.

Coming up, we'll take you live to Cambodia as the president is making his final stop.

BERMAN: Vice President Joe Biden gets a firsthand look at superstorm Sandy damage in New Jersey. He met with first responders who lost their homes and toured the battered coastline by helicopter. The vice president, like President Obama, vowed to help make the area -- help the area make a complete recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president's made it clear that we're going to do everything we can to make sure that the corps is fully funded, that we have -- FEMA has what it needs, and that all the programs that exist under the auspices of the federal government are -- not only continue to exist but are funded so that we can make sure that -- that this area of the country is fully, fully, fully restored.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: About 600 customers still have no electricity in New Jersey over the weekend. That's three weeks after the storm hit.

Meanwhile, New York City commuters have something to be thankful for this morning. For the first time since hurricane Sandy, both tubes of New York's Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, that's the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, are open for business this morning. You may know that better as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, as I said. The Hugh Carey Tunnel got flooded out by the storm surge caused by hurricane Sandy. On an average workday, the tunnel carries about 50,000 cars.

BERMAN: And federal investigators in Midland, Texas, they say there's absolutely no sign of any kind of mechanical malfunction from last week's deadly train crash that killed those four veterans. The National Transportation Safety Board says the alarm system and the gates were working properly when a truck pulling a trailer full of veterans and their wives entered the railroad crossing eight seconds after the lights and bells activated. The 84-car train slammed into the trailer at 62 miles an hour.

BERMAN: So, things are not looking so good for Florida Congressman Allen West, a Tea Party favorite. The latest recount in Florida shows West trailing his Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy by almost 2,000 votes. Unofficial numbers posted last night on the Florida secretary of state's Web site give Murphy 166,257 votes, to 164,353 votes for West. That's in Florida's 18th congressional district.

BALDWIN: Louisiana's Republican Governor Bobby Jindal slamming his own party and some of its candidates. Jindal's been critical of Mitt Romney and the Republicans since they lost the election. He says the way to start winning majorities is by not insulting the voter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, (R) LOUISIANA: I think we can be respectful of those that disagree with us. We don't need to demonize those that disagree with us. We need to respect the fact that others have come to different conclusions based o on their own sincerely held beliefs and have a civil debate. We don't need to demonize or -- and we also don't need to be saying stupid things.

Look, we had candidates in Indiana and Missouri that said offensive things that not only hurt themselves and lost those two Senate seats, but also hurt the Republican Party across the board.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, since Bobby Jindal brought it up, let's talk about that with our panel here.

BALDWIN: Let's go there.

BERMAN: -- but, as the ranking member on the table here, Rep. Nan Heyworth, what do you make of what Bobby Jindal just said right there?

REP. NAN HEYWORTH, (R) NEW YORK: Well, I agree completely with him that it's crucial for Republicans to focus on the issues that all Americans can share as concerns. And, to me, that means respecting what people do in their personal lives as being the province of the individual citizen and thinking very carefully together about how we actually move our economy and our nation forward for the future.

And I think we've tended, unfortunately, and comments like those from Representative Aiken and Mr. Murdoch have tended to focus public attention on peripheral issues that should never be part of a national discussion of federal laws. Exactly.

BROWNSTEIN: Republicans can either respond to the demographic wave that's reshaping America or they can fight it and resist it.

Mitt Romney's comments after the election, which were extraordinary, probably the most bitter by any loser since Richard Nixon's 1962 press conference (INAUDIBLE) Nixon to kick around anymore in California basically said that, you know, President Obama bought off young people and minorities with policies that they favored.

And implied that those voters were not thinking about the broader national interest. They only cared about what they were going to get. The only people who really are concerned about the country are people like me. It's an incredibly contemptuous way to look at the electorate. And it does betray (ph), I think, a kind of sense of defensiveness and retreat in a portion of the Republican Party that feels besiege rather than feeling an opportunity in this changing America.

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": I would hope that he doesn't -- you know, after every presidential election, the candidate who lost is still that party's fanfare. So, to some degree, he does represent -- there's 50 million people who voted for him. One would hope that this kind of cleaving where you see other Republicans coming out publicly saying Mitt Romney does not speak for me actually represent more of the wave and the changing the nature of the party because they do, as Ron said, they do have to change.

And not just because of demographics, because of the way that people look is changing. The way we construct families in America is changing. More and more people are choosing to put off marriage. They're choosing to have children not within the confines of marriage. That means that's a huge change in and of itself that's economic, and it's not necessarily about race or ethnicity.

BERMAN: We'll be talking about that no doubt --

BALDWIN: Quick show of hands. Black Friday shoppers? Oh, they laugh. They laugh.

BERMAN: So, ahead on STARTING POINT, is this Black Friday shopping just one big scam? Christine Romans explains why you should skip the lines this week and just stay at home and eat.

BALDWIN: We want to leave you with one of the big winners at the American Music Awards last night, Carly Ray Jepsen, Best New Artist of the Year. There she is. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans. Quick check of the markets for you.

U.S. stock futures are up this morning. There's optimism finally that the fiscal cliff will be resolved. That's because Congressional leaders sounded upbeat after that meeting with President Obama Friday. That's pushing up markets worldwide today.

And in today's "Smart is the New Rich." Prepare yourself. It's about to begin. The annual Black Friday retail hype machine. And it's not Black Friday anymore. Many major retailers will open again on Thanksgiving. It worked well for them last year. So, black Thursday, here you come. A Deal News, though, says 70 percent of in-store sales can be nabbed online.

And here's what Deal News says. Do not buy on Black Friday, one, toys. You'll find better prices on toys in the two weeks before Christmas. Wait a few more weeks. Two, brand name HD TVs. You can find deals on third tier manufacturers, but the brand names are best bought in January or February.

Three, jewelry and watches. Deal News says don't buy any piece of jewelry or a watch over the whole holiday season. They're just as expensive as around Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day and the holidays, bad for jewelry. All right. Four, winter apparel. You can find cheap clothes, but winter clothes like gloves and hats and stuff like that, you can get them much cheaper in January.

And five, Christmas decorations. Hold off until we get closer to Christmas if you can. They'll be like half price, actually, the day after. And of course, they're cheapest once you've actually put the Christmas tree away. No one listens to me, though. Every year I say this and millions of people go shopping anyway.

BROWNSTEIN: All of that is really good advice, but can you really put a price on getting out of a house full of relatives?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: This is true. I mean, that's something to keep in mind. That's something to keep in mind, OK?

ROMANS: In all seriousness, I like to say, if you don't have money this year invested for your kids' college, why are you buying a bunch of stuff you don't need? I mean, the best investment, the best gift for your kid is putting a little money in a 529. Grandma and Grandpa.

HAYWORTH: -- common sense. This is how we should all be thinking about our lives. And, you know, the more common sense we apply, the more planning we do, the less likely it will be that we'll be the victim of some unwise --

BERMAN: None of you are coming to my Christmas Party this year. I'm not quite sure you're going to bring gifts, but that's OK.

ROMANS: I could make you something, john. I could make you a macrame pot holder.

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: On that note, back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. So, we just had an election. You might remember it. It was about two weeks ago at this point.

BALDWIN: We did?

BERMAN: There are a lot of people who won. Some people often don't win elections.

BALDWIN: Yes, yes.

BERMAN: Rep. Nan Hayworth is here with us this morning. She's a Republican from New York State here did not win re-election. Many republicans did not. Tell us about your race.

HAYWORTH: Well, you know, I'm in -- of course, we had redistricting. So, I started out in a swing district in Hudson Valley in New York, and it became really even more of one, even closer to very narrow balance between Republicans and Democrats. And that's all right for someone like me because, actually, I've always been very ecumenical.

But the theme of the race from the Democratic side was, you know, Tea Party Republican versus, in the case of my opponent who'd had a role in the Clinton White House as a staff secretary, you know, it was a Clinton democrat, you know, capable of compromise. President Clinton -- of course, I felt the Democratic convention was President Clinton's convention in a sense, with no disrespect to President Obama.

But, I think it was President Clinton's speech that animated -- wow, yes, remember those housing days when we had all that growth and all that good stuff? So, I -- although, I certainly -- the folks who knew me, you know, the parts of the district that I've had before, I did even better than I did in the previous election.

There was also a ground game that really brought a lot of folks out to the polls for the Democratic side.

BERMAN: Did you feel the events going on around the nation, the national party events and the blemishes as it were, were they dragging you down?

HAYWORTH: You know, I think that was part of the atmosphere. Hurricane Sandy, obviously, had an effect as well because the message -- Mitt Romney was gaining some good traction with some, I thought, very positive economic messaging. Hurricane Sandy took that all away.

We had -- you know, I was one of those people -- I actually had good relationships in our urban areas. I had endorsements from Democrats. But there was just quite a pull out of the vote for the president in urban areas, especially.

BROWNSTEIN: House Republicans engineered over the two years a long series of votes on very conservative issues that had virtually no chance of becoming law through (ph) the Senate or the president. You voted repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood. You voted to block the EPA from regulating carbon. You voted for nationwide --

HAYWORTH: Actually --

BROWNSTEIN: The first time you voted for it. And you voted for the Ryan budget that converted Medicare into a voucher, all of which -- or a premium support system. All of which were used against you. The question is, did it make sense to force the House to vote -- members to vote on all of those very conservative initiatives that had no chance of becoming law and were ultimately used against you? And should they do that again over the next two years?

HAYWORTH: Well, you know, results -- elections have consequences. It's been said many times. It's true. And, we look at the 2012 -- we look at what we pledged in 2010. And we really -- I was among the Republican candidates who said, look, we have to have fiscal responsibility for the sake of everyone, for the sake of every single American 100 percent.

That's always been my thing. So, we voted in ways that we felt would advance a fiscally conservative agenda. I had a very ecumenical environmental profile as I am environmentally protective. And I think that's important.