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Political Gamble for the GOP; NASA Announces Longest U.S. Space Flight; Unexpected Help for Lindsay Lohan; Unbeaten Notre Dame Awaits Title Foe

Aired November 26, 2012 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss said, quote, "Country is more important than pledges. So, sorry, Americans for Tax Reform and Grover Norquist, I'm out."

It all sounds promising, you know, when it comes to compromise. Except senators like Lindsey Graham didn't exactly say he was now open to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He actually said he supports capping deductions and buying down debt, which is different.

So the question this morning: how excited should we really be by all of this talk of throwing Grover Norquist under the bust? Under the bus, rather, not the bus.

CNN contributor Will Cain is here, along with Jason Johnson, chief political correspondent at "Politics 365" and political science professor at Hiram College.

Welcome to you both.



COSTELLO: So, Will, are we getting too excited about this? I mean, what's up with this?

CAIN: Is it something to get excited about? I don't know. I mean, what we hear here is something that Republicans are willing to give a little ground on in order to reach a compromise, towards, I guess, paying down our debt.

Look, here's the deal, Carol. This pledge has been overstated from the beginning. The deal is there's two parties to a negotiation. You don't get to walk into a room and say, here's my demands, here's what it's going to be -- unless you own both houses of the legislature and the presidency. Republicans don't own it.

So, in order to get a reform that, yes, is going to require spending reform as well, entitlement reform, Republicans are going to have to give in on taxes. The question also is: will Democrats give in on entitlement and spending reform? I don't know about that yet.

COSTELLO: I know. And I was going to ask Jason Johnson that very question.

These powerful Republicans are coming out and saying, OK, we're willing to bend a little on the tax thing. So, what do you got for us?

JOHNSON: You know, I can't speak for Democrats. But I can speak as someone who looks at this as a common sense American.

And the truth of the matter is, every time you lose an election, you have to learn how to compromise. Democrats compromised with George Bush after 2004. Republicans, they recognized that this fiscal cliff will not help them.

This is a Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner thing. They do not want to be accused as being the reason America goes off the fiscal cliff.

So, I think it's reasonable. I think Democrats and Republicans recognize the war is over. Time to think about 2014, 2016, roll up our sleeves and negotiate.

COSTELLO: OK. I guess I'm trying to figure out exactly what that'll mean. Will there be changes in Social Security, let's say, Will Cain? Will there be changes in the Medicare program? Will we really think about switching to a voucher program?

CAIN: Well, I don't know, Carol. Look, I mean, Democrats are giving lip service to reforming some of our entitlements like Medicare. Senator Dick Durbin was on "This Week" yesterday on ABC and he suggested that. But the minute you push for specifics, what about raising the retirement age on Medicare? He starts to flounder a little bit.

I don't know we're moving towards any kind of deal yet. I want to say this, Carol, in politics, in television as well, simplicity sells. Nuance is very, very difficult. And a tax pledge is very simple and it communicates with your voters directly.

But here's the deal: Republicans want low taxes for two reasons. They believe it's better for economic growth. Well, we lost the election. We're going to lose that battle.

An also because they believe it will force spending restraints. I'm not sure that's true.

Voters need to feel the consequences of your decisions. If you choose higher spending, you might just have to pay for it with higher taxes. Sooner or later, that burden might have to be the spending restraints.

COSTELLO: I think voters are already feeling the consequences, though, aren't they, Jason?

JOHNSON: Yes. Look, voters are already feeling the consequences.

I also think the voters said something in 2012. They said, look, we are tired of rigidity in Washington. We're tired of people holding on to 20-year pledges. Sort of like saying, I won't wear parachute pants or use trapper keepers. It's 20 years old. You have to look at where America is now.

And while I know the Democrats are still crowing right now for a little bit. They'll probably bend a little bit on Social Security. They'll bend a little bit on Pell Grants.

I really think both sides want to get this done. And I think Republicans recognize there is no benefit. They tried last year to make Obama look bad with these situations.

It didn't help. He got re-elected. It's time to move on.

COSTELLO: And just a last question. I know we've heard from two prominent senators, Republican senators, who said they're willing to bend on this pledge. And we did hear from Peter King. He's a congressman. But not many House members are running to the microphones to renounce Grover Norquist's tax pledge.

And isn't that where we're going to have the most trouble, Will?

CAIN: Yes. You definitely have the most trouble in the House of Representatives.

And, look, Republicans are still dedicated to a low tax principle. They still want to achieve that. The problem is I used to own businesses, Carol. I used to buy and sell newspapers. I didn't get to dictate the price. It's the counter party negotiation, this counter party happens to be a Democratic Senate and the president, I think you're going to have to make a deal.

COSTELLO: I think you in your passionate hand gesture, you knocked your microphone off.

CAIN: Did I really? You just missed genius. You missed genius.

COSTELLO: I was so eager to hear what you were saying.

CAIN: I've got to quit gesticulating so much.

COSTELLO: I know. You're not even Italian.


COSTELLO: Will Cain, Jason Johnson, thanks so much for being with us.

CAIN: Yes.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Actor Morgan Freeman is putting his voice behind a new ad, touting the Election Day victories in three states to legalize same- sex marriage.


MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: Freedom, justice and human dignity have always guided our journey toward a more perfect union. Now, across our country, we're standing together for the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry the person they love.


COSTELLO: This ad by the Human Rights Campaign is already airing nationwide. The legalization of same-sex marriage in Maryland, Maine and Washington state marks the first time voters have decided same-sex marriage should be the law of the land.

Here's a switch. Hollywood bad girl Lindsay Lohan is reportedly getting some unaccepted help from another star who's had his own well- publicized problems in the past. We'll tell you who her prince charming is.


COSTELLO: NASA has announced a record breaking mission for the U.S. space agency, sending an astronaut to the International Space Agency for one year.

Science correspondent for "PBS NewsHour" Miles O'Brien joins us.

Hello, Miles.


COSTELLO: Thank you for being with us.

So, we're talking about Scott Kelly, who is Mark Kelly's twin brother.

O'BRIEN: Right.

COSTELLO: Tell us why he wants to spend so much time in space.

O'BRIEN: Well, it may be the view. That could be one reason.

But really there is some important science which undergirds all of this. If human beings are ever going to travel to Mars, the Red Planet, with the current chemical rocket systems that we have, they have to spend a lot of time in weightlessness before they ever get to the surface of the Red Planet.

And while there have been some long duration flights, the longest one is 438 days back in the mid-'90s to the Russian space station, Mir, there are still a lot of gaps in the science as to what this does to our muscles, our bones, our heart our neurovestibular system.

There's a lot of things that happened in space, and we need to know more.

COSTELLO: And the International Space Station is sort of the only game in space, right?

O'BRIEN: It's the only game in space. If you want a long stint in microgravity, that is the place to go. A lot of people ask me, where's the secret microgravity room in Houston at NASA? No. You actually have to get in space to get in zero gravity. And by putting people up in these flights and being scientifically rigorous about it, we can make some determinations about to safely do that in a real mission to Mars someday.

COSTELLO: OK. So, I wonder, does a year in space seem as long or shorter than a year on Earth?

O'BRIEN: That's a good question. When you have 15 sunrises, sunsets every day, you know, you're spinning around the planet every 90 minutes, I suppose we could -- this requires some Einstein relativity thinking, I suppose.

But yes, a day is a day, I suppose. Twenty-four hours is still 24 hours, even though days are kind of a different thing up there.

COSTELLO: Good for him. Captain Scott Kelly, good for you. He's going to go up there in 2015.

Miles O'Brien, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

O'BRIEN: You're welcome, Carol.

COSTELLO: A warning for parents: those bounce houses for kids? They may be more dangerous than you think. We'll take a look at the spike in injuries caused by these things.


COSTELLO: Forty-three minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories.

The man at the center of a no tax pledge is concerned his controversial pledge is going out the window with lawmakers. Listen to what Grover Norquist said this morning on CNN's "STARTING POINT."


NORQUIST: The two senators and the congressman, they put forth, they all said that two years ago when we were arguing over the debt ceiling limit. So their position hasn't changed. And during the debt ceiling limit, we cut spending, we didn't raise taxes.

So other Republicans did not listen to Peter King or these others and say, oh, let's go raise taxes. They're speaking for themselves.


COSTELLO: Most Americans say the country would face a crisis or major problems if the country goes off the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year. A CNN/ORC polls on the issues just out, more poll respondents said they'd blame Republicans rather than the president if a compromise is not reached.

Kids love those bouncy houses. But parents will not love these latest figures from the "Journal of Pediatrics". A study found injuries from the inflatable bouncers spiked more than 15 times over a 15-year period. About a quarter of the injuries were broken bones. Researchers don't know for sure why these injuries are gone up so much.

This video of a Black Friday fight at a Roseville, California, mall has gone viral. But the man who took the picture still doesn't understand why security guards didn't move in sooner to break this up. Lawrence Corpus said the fight went on for 15 minutes before security finally stepped in.

And in sports, the Indianapolis Colts' cheerleader Megan M. backed up a pledge to shave her head if fans raised 10,000 bucks for leukemia research. More than $22,000 raised and Meghan's locks came off during yesterday's game. A second cheerleader also got her head shaved. Shaved heads are a tribute to the Colts' head coach Chuck Pagano who is battling leukemia.

Oh, Lindsay Lohan -- say the name and hold your breath for the next problem in her scandal filled career. But not this time. She's reportedly getting some unexpected help from another star who's had his own problems.

Nischelle Turner in Los Angeles, tell us about her prince charming.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Oh, prince charming, that's a new one. I haven't heard Charlie Sheen being called prince charming in a very long time, Carol. But we're talking about this check that Lindsay Lohan reportedly got. But that's just one of the stories out there about her this morning. And a lot of people are talking about the troubled actress after her debut of the Lifetime movie she was in "Liz and Dick".

But the other story is about this $100,000 check which sounds like it could be one of those type of publicity stunts from the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton era, you know what I'm saying?

So TMZ is saying that Charlie Sheen gave Lindsay Lohan $100,000 to help her pay an overdue tax bill. Now the report says the pair met on the set of "Scary Movie 5" and they've have been friends ever since. So let's just say you know any combination of the names Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen -- it's a tabloid's dream.

So of course, we reached out to Sheen's reps. They would only say they are not going to comment about this. As for Lindsay and her acting, well, she may be hoping for a career boost from the film, but the critics have been really harsh about her performance. I've seen some headlines out there talking about, quote, "unintentional hilarity". And one critic also said that she lacked charisma to play Liz Taylor.

Of course, the important reaction will come from the audience. Because if the movie gets a good number and there was a lot of people talking about it last night on social media, I think she will be pretty happy.

So Carol, two things. We're friends. So could I hold $100,000 grand? I mean, I'm good for it.

COSTELLO: I -- I would do it for you Nischelle in a minute, in a minute.

TURNER: You know -- exactly.

And number two, I tried to listen -- I tried to watch the "Liz and Dick" movie last night and I couldn't get past Lindsay's voice. It's very much like this. I just couldn't get past it to watch it. It didn't sound Elizabeth Taylor-ish to me at all.

COSTELLO: No I watched it, too. And I could only stand it for about ten minutes and then I had to go. I had to go.

TURNER: I know, I know.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about Chris Brown and Rihanna before you go. Because this is just -- it's just bizarre.

TURNER: Yes. This started playing out on social media, too, last night. It's really vulgar. So it's so bad that we can't actually show you any of the tweets. But Chris Brown was swapping kind of vulgar tweets with his comedy writer. And in the aftermath he has now suspended his Twitter account.

He and comedian Jenny Johnson went at it online last night. Johnson has made no secret of the idea that she think he should be in jail for what happened with him and Rihanna.

So she actually started this brouhaha but Brown first innocently tweeted something about looking old at 23 years old. And she replied to him that well being worthless can really age a person. It evolved from there into this kind of schoolyard insult fight with profanity. And some really degrading comments from Chris Brown who I would just say really needs to learn how to avoid these kinds of things. One of those don't press send moments. Think before you press send.

He's also getting some more scrutiny after reports that he may have spent Thanksgiving with Rihanna. I mean, she posted a picture on Twitter of what looks like him topless, face down on a bed. And then she followed up with a topless photo of herself.

The buzz is, of course, that these two are back together. And while they haven't publicly admitted to being a couple, you keep getting these pictures like these -- like this, you know, the speculation keeps on coming. And I think they may actually like it.

COSTELLO: I -- well I think -- sadly, I think you're right. It's just --



COSTELLO: It's just so unhealthy and such a bad example.

TURNER: Just a sigh.


TURNER: I know. It just makes you say --

COSTELLO: Nischelle Turner thanks so much.

TURNER: Yes exactly.

COSTELLO: More Republican lawmakers are saying they're willing to break that no new tax pledge than go over the fiscal cliff. But could it cost them their job? We'll talk about that. It's our "Talk Back" question today.


COSTELLO: "Talk Back" question for you today. "What should Republicans expect in return for new taxes?"

This from Jeffrey. "Nothing. It's the right thing to do and part of their responsibility."

This from Janine. "You can tax every single penny from the rich in this country and it won't pay for our ridiculous spending addiction."

From Harold. "A cut in military spending would go along -- cut in military spending to go along with it. We can use that money to do some nation-building right here at home."

This from Randy. "I would give on Social Security retirement age. I can't afford to retire until I'm 70, anyway."

And this from Cylinda, "They need to cut everything else but entitlements, cut the military, cut tax benefits for corporations, and raise the Medicare and Social Security tax on paychecks."

Keep the conversation flowing. We're back with sports after this.


COSTELLO: Ronald Reagan was president; Poisons -- "Every Rose Has Its Thorns" was the top single on the Billboard chart. And Notre Dame was the national champion of college football. It was January 2nd, 1989.

Joining me now is "Bleacher Report's", Vince Cellini. 24 years since the Irish was in the mix.

VINCE CELLINI, "BLEACHER REPORT": Yes, 1989 was a good year.

COSTELLO: It was, wasn't it. I have great memories.

CELLINI: I got to CNN in 1989. Was it that long ago? Did that happen?

Notre Dame, yes. It is a good thing. How did they get here, Notre Dame? Well, it's been a slow, steady climb for the Irish. And Carol, this is good for college football. Notre Dame is a brand, It's one of the strongest brands in all of sports. And Brian Kelly has done an unbelievable job with his team going 8-5, 8-5, and now 12-0. They're the only unbeaten eligible for a championship.

If you watch Notre Dame football, a lot of people love Notre Dame, a lot of people don't like Notre Dame very much. But you have to respect that guy, Manti Te'o, who's the star of this football team -- their linebacker. They have an amazing defense. They play smash mouth football. It's not pretty, but it's very effective. Look at him now.

COSTELLO: That's all that matters, right? So Notre Dame is likely to play the winner of the Alabama-Georgia game. So what will be the key for Notre Dame?

CELLINI: In the SEC Championship, the team that Notre Dame is going to face -- all right, let's move forward to that.

COSTELLO: All right.

CELLINI: On Saturday, it's going to take place here in the Georgia Dome -- Alabama and Georgia. The amazing thing about this is the Southeastern Conference will be represented in a national championship game for a seventh straight year. That's an incredible run.

Georgia turned its season around and really their quarterback turned their season around against Florida, when Aaron Murray picked himself up off the deck, had a horrible game, got it together in the second half and they have been pretty much unstoppable ever since. But Georgia has only played two ranked teams, one of them South Carolina beat Georgia.

Alabama, they are Alabama. They find a way to answer. Now, they did lose to Texas A&M but they found themselves back in the SEC championship and facing Georgia. Battle of quarterbacks. I mentioned Murray. The other quarterback to pay attention to is AJ McCarron of Alabama. He's a caretaker, not a spectacular player, but he doesn't make a lot of mistakes and he had a huge signature drive on the road against LSU to beat the Tigers.

So those two quarterbacks don't make a lot of mistakes and whoever runs the ball more effectively. Did I cover it?

COSTELLO: Ok. Let's talk about -- yes, you covered that. Let's talk about something I really know, pro football. I love pro football.

CELLINI: Ok. Sure.

So Eagles-Panthers, Philadelphia.

CELLINI: How about that Monday-nighter?

COSTELLO: I know. I just continue to worry about Andy Reid because he looks so pathetic. CELLINI: Yes, it's been a very rough year for the Eagles and their head coach Andy Reid. The thing about Reid is and a lot of folks are calling for his head. This team has lost six in a row; that's the most loss that it's had in a row since before he took over.

But while a lot of people want him fired right now, I think you have to look at the body of work, Carol, for him. Six division titles, he won an NFC championship game. He's the winningest coach ever in Philadelphia. And I think a little respect, too, for Reid as a person who lost his son earlier in the season.

You could make a change with this Eagles' team; they've had a lot of injuries, including Michael Vick. But a lot of people also believe that an interim coach in the middle of a year doesn't always translate into immediately turning things around. So I believe, like a lot of people, that Reid will be gone, but it won't happen probably until the end of the year.

COSTELLO: Vince Cellini from "Bleacher Report", thank you so much.

CELLINI: Yes. Don't forget, go to for these stories and much, much more. It's a great read.

Carol, good to see you.

COSTELLO: Good to see, I'm going there now.

CELLINI: All right. Do that.

COSTELLO: Not really, but I will soon.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.