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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

No Regrets For Anti-Islam Filmmaker; Statin Recall; McCain Softens Attack On Rice; Giants Snap Out Of November Swoon; Delayed By "Showers"; Notre Dame Number One; Morsi To Meet With Judges; State Department Responds To Morsi; Civil Rights Activist Guyot Dead; Leave The Manatee Alone; Confetti Mystery At Macy's Parade; A Christmas Classic

Aired November 26, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. John Berman starts us off with a look at the day's top stories. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Good morning, Soledad. Remember that anti-Islam filmmaker behind the crude and controversial short film "Innocence Of Muslims." Well, he's now talking from jail through his attorney to "The New York Times."

And Nakoula Basilly Nakoula says he has no regrets about making the film or how he treated the cast. He said the cast signed contracts that allowed changes to the script. In addition to deadly protests the film also led to Nakoula's arrest for violating supervised release on a fraud conviction.

No word this morning on what caused a spectacular weekend fire aboard an 80-foot yacht in the water near Miami Beach. The vessel was completely engulfed in flames. Look at that. Three people on board jumped into the water and they were rescued by the Coast Guard. There were no reports of injuries, lucky there.

A popular prescription medication used to reduce cholesterol now under recall. Forty one batches of Atorvastatin Calcium are being pulled from pharmacies because they may contain small particles of glass. This is the generic version of Lipitor.

The manufacturer, Ranbaxy, says the recall affects bottles containing 10, 20 and 40 milligram tablets. Can you say side effects? Heck of a side effect there, glass.

The Republican attacks on Susan Rice seem to be easing this morning. Just last week Arizona Senator John McCain insisted he do everything in his power to block Rice's potential nomination to become secretary of state.

He blasted her for telling Americans the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was triggered by an anti-Islam video. McCain is now dialing it back a bit on the Sunday morning talk shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I give everyone the benefit of explaining their position, and the actions that they took. I'll be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Rice claims everything she says in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack was based on information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

The defending Super Bowl champion, New York Giants, they looked good again, snapping out of a font for that 38-10 drubbing of the Green Bay Packers last night. Eli Manning, he looked good too. Threw three touchdown passes to end a two-game losing streak and knock the Packers out of first place. Their first place tied with Chicago in the NFC North.

And check this out, third quarter showers causing a delay in the Seahawks/Dolphin game in Miami. The stadium sprinkler system malfunctioned. It thought it was Saturday. The players managed to dry off. The Dolphins went on to beat the Seahawks 24-21, amazing, right?

All right, more football. Notre Dame football fans they're waiting to find out who Notre Dame is going to play for the National Championship game. The top ranked Irish capped off a perfect season with a 22-13 victory Saturday over USC.

As Roland butted and said, they will almost certainly play the winner of this weekend's SEC title game between Georgia and Alabama. I think you for a preview of the news.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Alabama, so --

O'BRIEN: All right, let's turn back to the Middle East this morning. The Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is resigning. He says he wants to spend more time with his family. And he's leaving as the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Gaza is just holding.

Meantime, the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is going to meet today with Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council where he'll address criticism and protests of the vast new expansion of his powers just one day after he helped broker the Middle East ceasefire.

Morsi declared immunity from any judicial checks and balances while Egypt's new constitution was being drafted. A move that many say will grant the new leader virtually unlimited power.

Jamie Rubin, he is a former assistant secretary of state under President Clinton, currently serves as counselor from Competitiveness in International Affairs for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

It's nice to have you with us. Let's talk first about Ehud Barak. When anybody says I'm going to spend more time with my family all the red flags go up, but he's an elderly gentleman. He is certainly not young. What really is happening there? It's an interesting time for him to announce his departure.

JAMIE RUBIN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I think he's concluded that politics, meaning running for office, winning the votes of the Israeli public, is not going to work for him this time around. I don't think he's ruled out being in the cabinet and a future Netanyahu government.

The truth is that Ehud Barak is very well respected around the world and well respected among the security professionals. But on the political sphere, he really has had a rough time ever since he was prime minister, and stepped down. So I think he's giving up the political game, but I don't think he's giving up completely the idea of being part of a future cabinet.

O'BRIEN: This would happen in January so he's spending time with family, probably not really --

RUBIN: Not so much. I mean, he's spending time with your family is often a euphemism. I'm sure he will --

O'BRIEN: Yes, I've noticed.

RUBIN: Get a little more time.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's move on to talk a little bit about Mohamed Morsi. This expansion of his powers really sent a lot of people right into Tahrir Square where they were beginning to very much question sort of his motivation there. Do you think he has said it's necessary until the constitution is created? What do you make of this?

RUBIN: I think we're seeing again in Tahrir Square the politics of Egypt play you out. And often during the so-called revolution, and the Mubarak government made a particular decision one waited to see how many people would come out to show how possible that decision was.

This is the second time the Muslim Brotherhood has broken a vow. The first time was when Morsi decided despite the promise that he would run for president. They had said they wouldn't do that.

Now, he's basically declaring himself a dictator as it relates to specific judicial decisions. And this brings to mind all the fears that people in that part of the world have had about the Muslim Brotherhood when it comes to democracy.

I think the U.S. has to make absolutely clear that we will not work closely with him if he, indeed, follows through on this decision. That we will make our --

O'BRIEN: But he's negotiating peace right now, and he's talking to --

RUBIN: Well, that's the problem. That's the problem. Look I don't think that Morsi right now is going to enter into a serious peace negotiation between Israel and Hamas and the Palestinians.

I think that's on hold. I think they got the ceasefire, but I wouldn't expect a big piece negotiation to follow. What's really going to happen is he's going to figure out why he can get this constitutional change through.

My suspicion is that he will walk some of it back. Try to limit it down to the most narrow question of whether this constitutional assembly can go forward, but he's raised all the fears the people have had --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- encouraging including from some people close to him.

RUBIN: Well, yes, and I think the fact that his justice minister is responding saying that he's gone too far, the fact that some people have resigned, this is their democratic process at work. But in the end, you know, there has been a long-standing reluctance in Egypt to accept the Islamic -- the Muslim Brotherhood, despite his winning the election.

MARTIN: That should be within of how they're dealing with democracy. I interviewed General Colin Powell a few weeks ago and he said this should have been expected, and it is natural when you have a democracy trying to form itself.

Trying to get their footing, many folks think we have a democracy kit, open it up, six days later, everything is great. This is what we should be expecting these sort of type of things here.

RUBIN: Well, I think that's right. They're working their way through their system. They've never had a real democratic system. They've had essentially rulers, dictators of some kind or another.

Plus the problem, as Soledad pointed out, is that since so many of our eggs in the Middle East are in Morsi's basket, the Middle East peace process, how to deal with Iran, how to deal with terrorism, we have a huge stake in this.

It's not just a question of how Egypt's democracy will play out. It's a question of whether the region will be stable, whether we'll get support if we need to confront Iran, over the nuclear question.

As we pull back in the world, we've put much more of our national security in the hands of someone who's really an amateur at this democratic process.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Would you agree with Senator McCain to just reject what Morsi is trying to do? Because clearly he's at odds with what the people want. I mean, people are well on their way to democracy.

And I think just given the advent of technology and the fact that all eyes are on Egypt, dictators like this will never be able to be dictators again. Will never be able to amass their power against people who clearly want democratization?

RUBIN: I certainly hope you're right and I do think that it's correct that we need to make our views known and clear, but we have to be, also, aware of the fact that our other interests, whether it's with the Israelis, whether it's with Iran, are at stake here. And that's why this is so difficult for us.

O'BRIEN: -- like Russia. And interesting timing for all of this, right, between this and Ehud Barak's, interesting to watch. Jamie Rubin, always nice to have you with us. Appreciate it.

Coming up at the top of the hour, we're going to talk more about what's happening in the Middle East with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, you know all that confetti that was raining down on Thanksgiving Day parade. Wasn't that fabulous? Well, actually, it was very sensitive information. Oops. Social Security numbers, things like that.

Also, the man who played one of the most beloved characters in movie history, Peter Billingsley, Ralphie, talks about the new Christmas story musical.

Be sure to weigh in this morning on today's big stories, that is your end point, 20-second video. We got to play it at the end of the show. You can submit yours at cnn.com/starting point. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Americans are mourning the loss of a heroic civil rights activist. Lawrence Guyot survived threats, severe beatings and jail time leading a black voter registration drive during Mississippi's freedom summer of 1964. In recent years, he suffered from heart problems. Guyot died late last week at home. He was 73 years old.

A woman from St. Petersburg, Florida is learning the hard way you shouldn't mess with a manatee. The 53-year-old Ana Gloria Garcia Gutierrez was arrested Saturday after being photographed two months ago riding a manatee. In Florida, it is illegal to harass manatees or ride them. She faces up to six months in jail, and a $500 fine if convicted.

O'BRIEN: You should just not be riding manatees. Go ahead.

BERMAN: I think a lot of people are now learning for real, you know, the impact of doing that. That's for sure. Some people --

CONWAY: I'm all for protecting animals.

BERMAN: Thank you for making that disclaimer. Some people who turned out to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City last Thursday found out the confetti raining down on them contained sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers.

That's right. It turns out the confetti was made up of shredded documents from the Nassau County New York Police Department. An investigation is under way to determine how that happened.

MARTIN: Speaking of which -- bad stuff. O'BRIEN: Anyway, still ahead on STARTING POINT, so it is one of the most famous scenes from the holiday movie. Remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll shoot your eye out, kid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Now, it's all gone to Broadway. Ralphie, a.k.a. Peter Billingsley, talks about the new "A Christmas Story" musical coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas. Ho, ho, ho.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So, I mean, everyone knows that scene. It's one of the many memorable moments in the 1983 holiday cult film favorite, "A Christmas Story" set in Indiana in the '40s.

It's a story of 9-year-old Ralphie and his obsessive wish to get an Red Rider Carbine action air rifle for Christmas with a compass. Only trouble is his parents won't let him because like Santa says, it will shoot your eye out.

The child actor who portrayed Ralphie in the film, Peter Billingsley is now all grown up, acting as a producer for the new Broadway stage adaptation of the movie, which I saw and it's fantastic.

Take a look at the scene from the musical of Ralphie dreaming how he'd be a hero.

That's "Ralphie to the Rescue," one of the great scenes in the show. Co-producer Peter Billingsley is here right now. Obviously, you know, this time of year you're about to see the movie on TV, you know, 24 hours a day every day until Christmas time. Do you still remember the experience?

PETER BILLINGSLEY, CO-PRODUCER, "A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL"": Absolutely, I was 12 years old. It was a very little film. It took about 12 years to get made. At the time when it came out, modest returns at the box office. Mediocre reviews. You thought that was it. Slowly cable and video started to come out. The film kept coming. Now it's a 24 hour marathon, kind of crazy.

BERMAN: We'll have to deal with it. You're pretty good as Ralphie. Everyone seems to think you're pretty good at that. Why put it on stage?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, there's been I think a lot of ideas when you have a successful movie or successful kind of anything. People try to come up with ideas to sort of -- I have not done any of it. When I heard a musical, I thought, gosh, that's a great idea. To give you an example, you've seen the show. When the dad wins the leg lamp, we turn into a leg lamp kick line.

BERMAN: Funny you bring that up because it has all the iconic scenes of the film including the leg lamp. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what this is? This is a lamp!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: So that's obviously the film version. On the stage, as Peter said, it's hysterical. There's a kick line with the leg lamps.

BILLINGSLEY: Well, that's the fun of musical theatre. You can take a lot of spirit of these scenes but take them to bigger, more fun places. We have an 8-year-old who won the Fred Astaire award. He can tap dance on his toes.

A lot of the fantasy scenes is like that cowboy scene in the film. I got excited when I heard about it. Got involved three years ago. Went to Seattle, did a run, went to Chicago, much like the film sort of this little movie that built up, the show built up and is now on Broadway.

BERMAN: How do you explain to these 12 year old singing, by the way, can you sing?

BILLINGSLEY: No, no, no. These are talents I don't have, never had, the singing, dancing.

BERMAN: So how do you explain to these 12-year-old kids with amazing voices what this idea, what this story means?

BILLINGSLEY: They kind of explain it to you. They're carrying these talents through. When you do a movie you get a couple months. It's relaxing. You get a trailer. You get multiple takes. If you're sick, it doesn't matter. They've got to go every night.

Eight shows a week. These kids plow through. They're all fans of the movie. What I like, every character, it's their own interpretation. They're not trying to mimic the characters in the film. You have song and dance takes it to such a different level anyway?

BERMAN: Is there something that makes it work? What's the one thing that makes it work so well both on screen and on stage?

BILLINGSLEY: Well, I think certainly on screen it was one of the first real portrayals of a family, I think. It wasn't that kind of Indy film dark version we've seen. It's timeless today. That's a family.

It's a little messy, but there's a lot of love. You're trying to navigate things. I think Christmas for most people is about the small things. Trying to get a free, make dinner, make a turkey.

So it's that sort of over commitment to the mundane things we all go through that makes it relatable. It looks like my family. That dad's a lot like my dad. That mom's a lot like my mom.

BERMAN: Did you ever own a BB gun?

BILLINGSLEY: I did. I had a BB gun and you know, shot a bird. Felt horrible.

BERMAN: Did you ever shoot your eye out?

BILLINGSLEY: No. I went to an eyeglass store here in the city, got them. I was completely blind.

BERMAN: Peter Billingsley, it's great to see you. Love the movie. Love the play. It's on Broadway right now.

BILLINGSLEY: Thanks so much.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, dozens of Republicans promised they'd never raise taxes. Some are talking about taking it back. We'll ask to Grover Norquist, the man behind the tax pledge where this is all heading as we inch toward that fiscal cliff deadline.

My one on one interview with the legendary Tony Bennett. He's not slowing down after six decades in show business. We'll talk about his new documentary, new album and his new memoir plus his real hobby, which is painting. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Morning. Welcome, everybody. Our Starting Point this morning, the fiscal cliff deadline now just 35 days away. This morning, some Republicans are talking about possibly taking back their pledge for no tax hikes. We'll talk about that change of heart with the man behind the pledge, Grover Norquist.

Plus, Egypt's Mohamed Morsi gives himself unprecedented powers as ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas happen in this country today. Will the controversy present a peace deal?

ROMANS: So-called Cyber Monday is hereafter Americans broke retail records at the stores this weekend. We're spending lots of money, but how can you save? I'll tell you.

BERMAN: All right, and sports history. A college sophomore scores 138 points in a single basketball game. We're going to talk to Jack Taylor. He's going to tell us how he accomplished this ridiculous feat.

O'BRIEN: Got a packed show for you this morning. We're going to talk with Grover Norquist with the "Americans for Tax Reform."

And the one and only Tony Bennett, that's all ahead this morning, it's Monday, November 26th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, welcome, everybody. Our team this morning, Roland Martin is CNN's political analyst, host of "Washington Watch With Roland Martin" on TV1, Chrystia Freeland is with us. She is a digital editor of Thompson Reuters, author of (inaudible), Republican pollster, Kellyanne Conway is with us.