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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Facing the Fiscal Cliff; Interview with Congresswoman Maxine Waters; Yasser Arafat's Body Exhausted; Kelley Stripped of "Honorary Consul" Title

Aired November 27, 2012 - 06:30   ET

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


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty-five days and counting until the fiscal cliff. And there are signs of compromise from the GOP.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Cold, wet weather heads into the northeast. Some areas will see a few inches of snow.

FEYERICK: Biting the hand that feeds. One of Hollywood's highest paid teens publicly rips a show that made him rich.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Deb Feyerick, in for John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: Really nice to have you this morning. Thank you.

I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Thirty minutes past the hour.

So, we have just under 35 days and counting until we hit the fiscal cliff and several top Republicans say they are ready to revoke their no tax pledge to get a spending plan passed. That's not sitting well with the man they made that pledge too, conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist.

Listen to Norquist, naming names and getting really personal on CNN's "PIERS MORGAN" last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FOR TAX REFORM: The pledge is not for life. But everybody who signed the pledge, including Peter King, who tried to weasel out of it -- shame on him as "The New York Sun" said today. I hope his wife understands that commitments last a little longer than two years or something.

But you don't tell the bank, "Oh, the mortgage, wasn't that a long time ago?" If you make a commitment, you keep it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Wow. Well, CNN political director Mark Preston joins us live from Washington.

And, Mark, the House is back in session today. How much compromise can we really expect now that we have reached this serious crunch time? MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Zoraida, we're not going to see any compromise today. We will not see any compromise tomorrow. And we're likely not going to see any compromise for about a week.

We will start to see some Republicans, as we've seen so far, start to tick away from the pledge, the no tax pledge that they made to Americans for Tax Reform. Fact of the matter is, there's 35 days for Republicans and Democrats to come together to get some kind of a deal. And the fact of the matter is, things don't necessarily happen here in Washington unless there's an extremely large amount of pressure that is put on the folks on Capitol Hill and down at the White House to get something done.

SAMBOLIN: So, so far, there are no talks scheduled between top Republicans and the president.

So, what's the latest from the White House?

PRESTON: Well, what we know right now is that President Obama has reached out to House Speaker John Boehner, the Republican, and the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrat, over the weekend.

The White House staff and congressional staff have been talking over the Thanksgiving recess. The talks have not been as fruitful as some people had hoped. But they are starting to talk right now publicly about where the White House stands on this whole issue of raising taxes.

And this is what Jay Carney had to say yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Math tells us that you can't get the kind of balanced approach that we need without having rates be part of the equation. It's simply -- we haven't seen a proposal that achieves that, a realistic proposal that achieves that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: You have the White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday talking about raising rates on the wealthy. This is something that's a sticking point for many Republicans.

In order to reach compromise, though, Zoraida, Democrats are going to have to come to the table and talk about reforming entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid. And the White House, of course, is going to continue to try to put pressure on Republicans to agree to tax increases.

Now, Zoraida, let me just add to this, while there is talk about Democrats and Republicans, President Obama getting together to reach a compromise, we are starting to see some kind of campaign now being launched by the White House.

Today, we will see President Obama meet with small business owners at the White House. The rest of the week, he'll also be having meetings with middle class folks who will be affected by this fiscal cliff. If it's not fixed, then on Friday, he heads up to Pennsylvania to go to a toy company to talk about why Congress, why the White House, why here in Washington needs to resolve the fiscal cliff.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Mark Preston live for us in Washington -- thank you.

FEYERICK: So let's talk more about this now with Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She's a Democrat from California. And she serves as chief deputy minority whip and is also on the Financial Services and Judiciary Committees.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

REP. MAXINE WATERS, (D) CALIFORNIA: You're welcome.

FEYERICK: Well, listen, first of all, we want to talk about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He's accusing the Democrats of not being willing to compromise. Take a quick listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Republicans have stepped out of our comfort zone, and yet we remain at an impasse, leading us to ask why, because a vocal minority on the hard left continues to argue to leaders of their party from the president on down, that Democrats in Washington should do absolutely nothing about short-term or long-term spending problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: So, Congresswoman, he says that the Republicans are outside their comfort zone. Are Democrats also out of their comfort zone? Is everything on the table? Not just Medicaid and Medicare, but also Obamacare?

WATERS: The president has made it abundantly clear that he's prepared to compromise if, in fact, the Republicans understand that we have to raise taxes on the richest 1 percent or so in this country. They're not willing to do that.

Basically, what they're saying is, we can, you know, get the resources that we need, the revenue, rather, that we need, by closing loopholes, and some reforms. But they're not willing to deal with the tax rates.

That's a no starter. We have to have all of those tax cuts that were afforded to them by the Bush administration on the table. We've got to increase those tax rates.

And so, they don't have a credible proposal on the table and we are, and the president is willing to compromise and to talk about cuts and discretionary spending, if, in fact, we can get started with understanding we have to have the revenue in order to have a credible compromise.

FEYERICK: Well, at the same time, though, when you talk about a credible proposal, both sides probably think that their proposals are the ones that are credible. If the Republicans are willing to take a couple of steps towards the middle, why not the Democrats? Why not say, well here's what we are willing to shave? Because if you say, well, show me yours before I show you mine, nobody's going to get anywhere.

WATERS: Well, as a matter of fact, we have not seen the Republicans come with a credible proposal willing to do anything. They are -- many of them are still bound by the Norquist pledge that they made. We see a few talking about perhaps stepping away from it.

But the fact of the matter is Glover Norquist has challenged them and basically called Peter King a weasel for even talking about compromising with that tax proposal.

And so, you haven't seen any credible proposal from the Republicans willing to step forward to deal with the revenue issue.

FEYERICK: You know, what's interesting, and we talk about Grover Norquist, basically saying, no taxes, no taxes. But now, Simpson- Bowles, the Republican and the Democrat, two years ago, they came up with a plan. It is now being talked about again. This is two years later. All these issues have been on the table for a very long time.

WATERS: That's right.

FEYERICK: So what is the hold up? Is there still this intransigence that nobody can get past?

WATERS: Well, the real holdup in my estimation is this -- you cannot talk about dealing with our deficit, you cannot talk about how you run this country without talking about credible revenue. And if, in fact, you want to continue to give tax breaks to the richest people in this country, then you can't get started with a credible proposal for compromise. You've got to start there.

FEYERICK: And --

WATERS: And when that is done, then you can talk about entitlement and what can you do with a credible proposal to reduce entitlements. But you can't -- you can't do that until you talk about how you're going to fund a defense and not increase revenue.

With the cliff that we're faced with, we're talking about maybe a 50 percent reduction in the Defense Department. And so, you have to talk about how you're going to pay for all of this.

FEYERICK: And lastly, it was so interesting, we're talking about fiscal cliff. We're talking about an avalanche. We're talking about an austerity problem. This is very strong language, very scary words.

WATERS: Yes.

FEYERICK: The American public is not going to accept anything short of some sort of a compromise. Are those words sort of floated out there something to manage expectations, possibly? WATERS: Well, you know, the press has basically coined the fiscal cliff and promoted the idea of this catastrophic position that the Congress finds itself in. I think that what the public is looking for is they're looking for reasonable, sensible legislators to talk about what is possible. They're looking for both sides to be willing to compromise.

But one thing we know for sure, the president has a mandate. The people have spoken, and they have said they want everybody to pay their fair share of taxes. They don't want the middle class and working people to have to bear the burden of the cost of government, without the very, very rich paying their fair share.

And that is at the top of this agenda. And it has to be dealt with.

FEYERICK: OK. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the Democrat from California -- thank you so much. We appreciate your insights.

WATERS: You're welcome. Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour.

Too early for Christmas, but just in time to possibly mess with your travel plans today. Coming up, more on the cold, wet weather that's moving into the Northeast as we speak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Guess who's here? John Berman is joining us with a look at what's ahead on "STARTING POINT."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Great to see you, guys, this morning.

You've been talking about the fiscal cliff. The high-level negotiations ramping up as both sides of the aisle trying to reach some kind of deal before your taxes go up January 1st. And they will go up if there's no deal.

We're going to talk to the people at the center of the discussions right now. Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, they were on the super committee that failed to reach a deal a year ago. We're also going to talk to Tea Party favorite, Utah Senator Mike Lee.

Plus, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice meeting with three of her sharpest critics today on Capitol Hill to explain her description of the Benghazi attack. Could this remove the opposition to her possible cabinet nomination? Could that nomination be coming as early as this week?

And I hear we have a special guest coming. NASCAR's Danica Patrick is taking her speed from the racetrack to the virtual world of video games. Danica Patrick is going to be here live on the set with the new game that lets you race against her, and other characters like Sonic the Hedgehog.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: I'd like to race in her car.

FEYERICK: Yes, exactly.

SAMBOLIN: Can you pull that off for me? I would really appreciate that.

BERMAN: I'll see what I can do. I'll put in a good word for you.

FEYERICK: And a very nice woman as well.

All right. John Berman, thanks so much. Look forward to watching you, in just a little bit.

Well, umbrellas, hats, gloves later today in the Northeast. Meteorologist Alexandra Steele is in for Rob Marciano.

It's going to be a quick hit, though, right?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. Quick hit.

You know, John mentioned some virtual play. We had virtual snow in the meteorological world. We call it virga. Snow that falls but into a dry atmosphere so we don't see it. That happened. But it moistened up the atmosphere and now, in New Jersey we've got snow.

Teterboro, we've got 37 and we've got some flurries. Sussex, New Jersey, temperatures 28 and there's snow falling there. So, kind of just began but we are going to see a quick hitter. The white, of course, delineating where the snow is. South of Washington, D.C., rain. And we will see some snow in Virginia, as well.

But here is Pennsylvania -- and pretty much, this is the access where we could see the biggest accumulations, maybe one to three inches for a stripe of snow from Harrisburg to Allentown, and right here towards Morristown, New Jersey and south of Scranton.

So, that's where the heaviest snow. You can see that dark white, that's where the heaviest bands of snow may line up. There it is, one to three inches. West of North Washington, we could see in West Virginia, maybe two to four inches of snow. From the south side of this is rain and storms. Look at Birmingham, Atlanta, about to get hit. So, a slow go at the airports later this afternoon for you.

New Orleans, here comes the rain. So, really, kind of a very tough 95 corridor here into the southeast today. Most of the country, guys, dry, other than the eastern seaboard and the northwest, kind of where we've seen storm after storm. Next seven days, we're going to see kind of a barrage of storms move in. So, pretty active there.

SAMBOLIN: Alexandra Steele live for us. Thank you very much.

STEELE: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-five minutes past the hour. Time for your top stories this morning.

The body of former Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, was exhumed this morning from a mausoleum in the West Bank. A team of forensic scientists will now analyze tissue samples in an attempt to determine if Arafat was poisoned when he died back in 2004.

FEYERICK: And a dangerous scene today in downtown Sydney, Australia. The cabin of a giant crane at a construction site burst into flames, and the top part of the crane collapsed --

SAMBOLIN: That's crazy.

FEYERICK: -- on a nearby roof. Oh my gosh. Well, incredibly, there were no reports of injuries, that's according to Australian news organizations.

SAMBOLIN: And after holding the title for three months, Jill Kelley is no longer honorary consul to South Korea. The Florida socialite in the middle of the David Petraeus sex scandal has been stripped of that post. South Korea's deputy foreign minister accusing her of trying to use the title for personal gain.

FEYERICK: Hmm.

Well, this week's Monday night football game featured the Eagles and Panthers, two of the worst teams in the NFL. It was a big night for Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton. He threw for two touchdowns and ran two touchdowns in himself as he led the Panthers to a 30-22 win over Philly.

Eagles quarterback, Michael Vick, sat out the game. He's still recovering from a recent concussion.

SAMBOLIN: Take a look at this. Smoke on the water. For the first time in about a year, lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano reaches the ocean. Really, really cool pictures, right? A local station reported some sightseers hiked to the area to get a closer look. Guides say don't do that. They say a lava shelf may collapse and put people in danger. Folks have actually died trying to take a closer look.

FEYERICK: Running towards lava not on my wish list.

Well, Scott Kelly is preparing to spend a full year in space, the first U.S. astronaut ever to do so. He's going to help NASA collect information about the long-term effects of space flight on humans. Kelly and a Russian cosmonaut are due to go up to the International Space Station in 2015 and return the following year.

Scott Kelly is the twin brother of astronaut, Mark Kelly, and brother- in-law of former Arizona representative, Gabby Giffords.

SAMBOLIN: I was just looking at him and say, boy, they look a lot alike.

(LAUGHTER)

FEYERICK: That's why.

SAMBOLIN: They're twin brothers. All right. Look at this. The Empire State Building is showing off its brand-new look. New Yorkers are used to seeing the Empire State Building illuminated in various colors. This is all for special occasions. But now, the building has upgraded its lighting system.

Gone are the old floodlights and they have been replaced by a state- of-the-art computerized system that can deliver all kinds of colors and cool effects. The new lights went on display for the first time last night. Deb is not a fan.

FEYERICK: Not a fun just yet. I'm a purist.

SAMBOLIN: You'll get there.

FEYERICK: That's right. I'd like to know which light, why, there's got to be a purpose.

(LAUGHTER)

FEYERICK: Got to be a reason. I'm waiting for blue for Hanukkah, green, red for Christmas.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

FEYERICK: Well, simple that way.

SAMBOLIN: -- variety.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Hollywood is buzzing today about Anna Nicole Smith's six-year-old daughter's new modeling campaign that she has. And the young star of TV's "Two and a Half Men" who says, fans, stop watching the show. Why? We're going to have both stories coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty-two minutes past the hour.

Like mother like daughter. Anna Nicole Smith's six-year-old daughter is following in her late mother's footsteps. She is modeling in an ad campaign for Guess now. Dannielynn Birkhead is already working for the same fashion label that put her mom on the map. But is she serious about a career in modeling.

Entertainment correspondent, Nischelle Turner, has all the answers for us. So, Nischelle, what is this all about?

NISCHELLE TURNER, ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You know, Zoraida, I'm no sure how serious any six-year-old is about anything, unless, it's what their favorite (INAUDIBLE) character is. But --

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Dad.

TURNER: Yes. The dad. That's the big question. Her father, Larry, is saying that these Guess ads that she is in are an homage to her mother. You know, Guess says it's a first for them, having a legacy modeling for them. And it's good traction, good marketing, because we're talking about it, right? Now, the ads are actually very innocent.

They're very charming. So, she may actually have a future in front of the camera. But, as charming as this story can be, there's a lot of people who remember how her mother couldn't keep it together in the public eye, and they worry if this could happen to this little girl who looks so much like her mom.

Although, I saw an article in the "New York Daily News" where her dad says, Dannielynn wants to be either a doctor, a birthday cake baker, or the owner of an ice cream truck.

(LAUGHTER)

TURNER: So, I don't know if her profession has been decided on just yet.

SAMBOLIN: Also seems like he's got a nice handle on her, as well, which is really good to see.

TURNER: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: So, you're also following this really bizarre story, "Two and a Half Men," it's a controversy. Tell us about that, because I find it mind boggling.

TURNER: Yes, definitely. This is all about Angus T. Jones who grew up playing Jake Harper on the show. He's now telling people not to watch "Two and a Half Men." He's one of the highest paid child actors on television. And Jones appeared in this video where he denounced the show that made him rich and famous. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGUS T. JONES, ACTOR: Dude, if you watch "Two and a Half Men," please stop watching "Two and a Half Men." I'm on "Two and a Half Men." I don't want to be on it. Please stop watching it. Please stop filling your head with filth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TURNER: Yes, it's a little bizarre. Now, Jones goes on to say in the video that he doesn't want to contribute to the, quote, "enemy's plan," by being on the show and he doesn't think he can be a Christian and be on a show like "Two and a Half Men." Now, we reached out to CBS for a reaction and maybe some little hint as to what the show is going to do, they had no comment at this time. But here's something you can read between the lines at. His character is in the army now on the show, so, if something happens, maybe Jake Harper could be shipping out. And last hour, you guys did ask a question, how much does he make per episode?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

TURNER: I did a little research. And in 2010, he signed a deal for $7.9 million for two seasons. That's 26 episodes.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness!

TURNER: He also got a $500,000 signing bonus. So, if you do the rough math, it adds out to about $300,000 per episode.

SAMBOLIN: So, I suppose he could afford to say don't watch.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right.

SAMBOLIN: And he may get his wish come true, also. Nischelle Turner live for us. Thank you very much.

FEYERICK: All right. Today's "Best Advice," that is coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. We wrap it up as always with "Best Advice."

FEYERICK: We asked Anne Frank's cousin, Buddy Elias, about the best advice he's ever received. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUDDY ELIAS, ANNE FRANK'S COUSIN: When Anne Frank's message to the world that is actually humanism. Peace between mankind. No matter what religion, no matter what nationality, no matter what color of skin. She wanted peace all over the world. No more wars. No more fighting. No more religious fighting against each other. Peace. That was Anna's message in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: That's a nice note to end it on.

FEYERICK: Very nice.

SAMBOLIN: That's it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

FEYERICK: And I'm Deborah Feyerick. Right now, "STARTING POINT" with John Berman and Christine Romans in for Soledad today.