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CNN NEWSROOM

Obama and Romney in Private Lunch; Geithner Meets with Republicans; Obama: No Deal Without Taxes on the Rich; Arizona Powerball Winner to be Announced Today; West Coast Weather Forecast; Lohan Arrested Again; U.S. Might Arm Syrian Rebels; Smart Travel

Aired November 29, 2012 - 11:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": That's just weeks after re-election back in 1996.

Now, why do I show you all of these? Because it all brings me to a very special party of two having lunch next hour at the White House.

President Obama, as promised, in his victory speech 23 days ago, is hosting Mitt Romney, who has made no secret that he really thought that it would be the other way around.

And our Dan Lothian is counting down the minutes, standing by at the White House, even though, Dan, you are not invited to the luncheon, nor am I, nor is anyone else with a camera, a mike or even a pen. Why is it so private?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, you know, oftentimes, the president will have meetings here at the White House, lunches or official meetings, where the press is not invited in. Our cameras are not allowed in. Sometimes our cameras are allowed in, but no editorial presence.

This one of those where no cameras allowed in, we're hopeful that the White House will take a picture and then release it to us, but at this point, no plans for us to sort of get a peek inside that room and listen in on that conversation, although we hope that there will be some kind of a readout to give us some indication as to what the two politicians discussed.

BANFIELD: You know, Dan, oftentimes people say these meetings are just to make nice or to have a good photo op.

In this particular case, not unlike other cases, there's talk about the potential of a position, maybe a high-level position, even cabinet level, in the Obama administration for Governor Romney. And that's not so far off base.

I mean, we have plenty of history to show that politicians have crossed over. Just take a look at your screen. I mean, this is a great example of former presidents who have reached across the aisle to take high-level members of the opposite party into their very close cabinet.

Do we have any idea if we might see one more of these screens added today with Governor Romney?

LOTHIAN: You know, no, not as far as we're hearing from those close to Governor Romney, and, of course, aides here at the White House saying absolutely not. This is not an attempt for the president to bring him here to the White House to talk about a potential job.

This is pretty much a courtesy call. The president made the invitation during his victory speech, said he wanted to sit down and talk with Mitt Romney about moving the country forward.

He also said there were some things that Mitt Romney -- some ideas that he had on the campaign trail that were not partisan ideas, but were smart ideas, ways to create jobs for middle class Americans, so he wanted to talk to him about that.

And the president specifically pointed to the fact that Mitt Romney did a good job in turning the Olympics around and he thought that some of what he did with the Olympics could translate to making the government, the federal government, more efficient.

So, it really is all about sort of talking about ways that they can perhaps, you know, use ideas together to move the country forward, but no indication at all that there's some other kind of job hanging out there, that the president plans to offer.

BANFIELD: I know that the governor also has a meeting with his former running mate, Paul Ryan, but I think -- what I think a lot of people want to know is if we're going to hear from Governor Romney today.

Oftentimes, we have a stakeout, microphone or camera position outside the White House. Is that the case today? I know we can't get into that private dining room. What about outside after the governor leaves?

LOTHIAN: We have cameras everywhere, to not only get a shot of the governor going in, but also, if he wants to say something, we'll be there, as well.

And, as you pointed out, my colleague, Jim Acosta, said that about a half hour ago, according to a Republican source, Governor Romney was meeting with Representative Ryan at a hotel here in it D.C. and so it's unclear if we have located where that hotel is, and if we'll be staking that out, as well.

But, you know, we just want to be able to hear a little bit about what is in Governor Romney's head, what is he thinking, what does he hope to accomplish by this meeting? At this point, we're watching and waiting, but so far, nothing.

BANFIELD: We've got to make sure that microphone and the hot mike position is in on-position.

All right, Dan Lothian, thank you so much.

And unlike Governor Romney, Paul Ryan does have some other pressing government business to actually tend to today. That former GOP running mate did hold on to his House seat in this election, and he's going to keep his chairmanship of the budget committee, as well, in the 113th Congress.

So, that will put him front and center in the fiscal cliff debate. It also earns him a meeting today with the current treasury secretary, Tim Geithner.

CNN's Kate Bolduan's on Capitol Hill. She's been following this leg of the financial story today, day 33.

Eek, 33 days, Tim Geithner kicking into this process. We would assume possibly pushing into high gear or is it more of a photo op or a little of both?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It remains to be seen. I hate having to say that for our viewers, but we're waiting to hear exactly what comes out of these meetings.

Important, nonetheless, because these are face-to-face meetings with real, principal players. Timothy Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, has been tapped by the president to be the point-person to spearhead the negotiations with Congress over these fiscal cliff negotiations.

We had had a brief shot of him arriving this morning as he was coming into the Capitol.

He's being joined in those meetings by Rob Nabors, the White House liaison to Congress. He's a man that has long-standing relationships with folks on Capitol Hill.

Series of meetings, all individual meetings, really. He met with Senator Reid, the top Democrat in the Senate, this morning. He's -- I'm told by my colleagues he's now in a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders, including Paul Ryan, as you mentioned earlier.

And then he'll be meeting with Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, as well as Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House.

Now coming out of the meeting with Senator Reid, I'm not getting much at the moment from sources, but one Senate Democratic aide does tell me the following. He says that we -- he -- this aide told me, we're all on the same page today. It's more about Republicans.

That goes without saying, because these negotiations really were focusing on the negotiations between the White House and Speaker Boehner. Even before the meeting, with the treasury secretary and Speaker Boehner, a spokesman for Speaker Boehner said this, gave us this following statement, Ashleigh. I want to read it to you.

He says, "We accepted this meeting with the expectation that the White House team will bring a specific plan for real spending cuts because spending cuts that Washington Democrats will accept is what is missing from the balanced approach that the president says he wants." Clearly, what that tells me is Republicans are putting the ball in the White House's court and Democrats' court to come forward with spending cuts.

But I'll tell you just as quickly, I've been told by Senate Democratic aides all week that they believe it's absolutely the opposite, that Democrats, the White House, they're waiting for Republicans to come forth with a serious proposal of revenue and specifics on that that they'll be putting on the table.

We obviously are eagerly awaiting to hear what comes out of these meetings and also eagerly awaiting to hear from Speaker Boehner. He will be speaking to cameras in his weekly press conference in just about a half an hour and I'll be there.

BANFIELD: Well, that's a good thing.

And one thing quickly that it seems to signify, as well, what you just read, that statement, also signifies that maybe that phone conversation yesterday between Speaker Boehner and the president might not have been as productive as we'd have liked.

BOLDUAN: We're all trying to read between the lines. Of course, no one has a full readout of the call.

We do know from sources that the president and Speaker Boehner did speak yesterday, but I want to point this out. As we're all trying to read the tea leaves on progress, is there progress, is there not progress, we have had no public evidence of progress for sure to date.

And my colleague, Jessica Yellin, got an important note from a source. She said that in the call the president stressed to Boehner that rates were going up on the wealthy and there was no deal without it.

That is a major sticking point, Ashleigh. You know that. Has been all along. And I'll tell you, there's no indication from Republicans right now that they're moving off their position.

They don't think that's the right path to go. They're sticking to their guns so far.

As you can see, as we've been saying all along, it appears -- and we'll see what comes out of these meetings -- that both sides are staring each other down and it doesn't look like they're off the starting blocks yet.

BANFIELD: You know, I have a son in kindergarten and his teacher is very good at negotiating people who are intransigent. Maybe they should call her.

Kate Bolduan, thank you very much. I will look forward to some -- hopefully for some better news from you in the next hour or so. Kate Bolduan on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Get a good look at these. You know, 12 hours ago, these things were golden, potential tickets to a brand-new life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams. And today they're ready for the Macy's parade confetti machines.

Because it doesn't matter who gets their hands on these things now. They are just junk, pure and simple. My Powerball team lost and so did millions of other lottery pool players out there across the country.

But at least two tickets in Missouri and Arizona are about to launch lifestyles of the rich and famous for someone I hope is going a friend of mine.

In about an hour, Arizona lottery officials may be about to tell us who won there because they've got a news conference scheduled, but right now, it's all a big mystery.

Look at all these people hoping for this same thing. Everyone so excited. And today just dashed because that jackpot ended up going up to an estimated $570 million.

Don't be too upset, though. Double-check your tickets. I did before I tore them. Even if you didn't win the jackpot, you still might end up a millionaire if some of your numbers matched or you might end up winning the $4 that my lottery pool won. And we're going to let it ride as Christine Romans advised us.

So, listen, if you're also waking up to something else on the West Coast right now, looking out your window, don't expect there will be sunny skies. Chances are it is going to be raining and not just a little.

Your drive to work could look something a lot like that. Ugly. Most of Northern California is expecting 8-to-10 inches of rain by Sunday. That spells flood watches. They're already out for several areas.

The wind speeds also could reach up to 70-miles-per-hour. That means trees could be toppled and that also brings down power lines and creates a lot of problems for residents.

So workers have been doing what you're seeing on your screen right now, dragging away scorched trees to prevent them from actually causing the problems and also to try to prevent landslides.

Also, it is very hot in the Rockies and the Central Plains right now. Temperatures, believe it or not, 20-to-25 degrees above normal for the next five days. And for people who live there, the temperatures are not expected to go back to normal until the middle of the week.

So, we're keeping a really close eye on some of this nasty weather and troubling weather, as well.

Whether it is on the West Coast or on the East Coast, because a young lady named Lindsay Lohan is brewing up yet another storm in the form of trouble, i.e., another arrest.

We usually just shy away from this because it's become a bit commonplace, but at this point, mug shots of Lohan or video of her sitting in a court are starting to become so familiar, they're commonplace and, now, another round of allegations just about to be added to this bad girl image. It actually could end up added to her criminal rap sheet, too.

This time it wasn't drunk driving. It wasn't a hit and run or a jewelry theft. This time she was arrested early this morning for allegedly punching a woman at a New York nightclub.

Howard Bragman is the founder of Fifteen Minutes P.R. He's vice chairman of Reputation.com.

Boy, she needs some Reputation.com work, Howard. I want to ask you a serious question about this young lady. It was just about four or five days ago I was watching her in her first what was supposed to be comeback role as Liz Taylor in the Lifetime movie "Liz and Dick."

It didn't do as well as they expected, but it did pretty well. Three- and-a-half million people tuned in to watch that and a lot of people thought this was her big chance, yet again, another big chance.

How do you read this latest fiasco?

HOWARD BRAGMAN, FOUNDER, FIFTEEN MINUTES PUBLIC RELATIONS: Actually, it wasn't a huge success. With all of the hype and attention, Lifetime has had three or four other movies that have done better this year.

And more importantly, the critics savaged -- savaged -- her performance. So, I was kind of expecting another fall from grace from Lindsey.

Not that we don't expect it, you know, pretty much every week. But ...

BANFIELD: That might be her calling, Howard. By all means, you're going to have to take that call. She needs a lot of help.

Let me ask you something. You've said that you didn't expect Lindsay Lohan to actually reach age 30. She's a bad girl and she has been convicted of all sorts of things and we know she has had problems with substance abuse, but do you think it's really that bad, that this girl may not make it?

BRAGMAN: I really do. Because what we see with time and time again is this is a girl who doesn't understand how deep trouble she's in.

I tried to Google on the Internet how many times she's been arrested. I got the number 16, but it seemed to be a few months old. And we're between 15 and 20 arrests. That's just not normal.

And what people do, what I've learned from clients and talking to a lot of psychologists who deal with this, is people get worse. They get more of themselves, not better, unless they acknowledge they have a problem and they get some help.

And this is clearly a girl who has not acknowledged she has any problems. Every time we see her, it's someone else's fault, someone else did something to her. And personal responsibility and acceptance and understanding is the basis of recovery.

BANFIELD: One of the other things I found from some of the notes that I read on your thoughts about this, Howard, was that she shouldn't have -- in your opinion, she shouldn't have taken this latest movie, even though everyone was suggesting this was her shot. This was her ability to prove herself again after so much trouble.

Why do you think she shouldn't have actually made a go at this and tried to make right?

BRAGMAN: Because I think it's one thing to be in a movie and act and be a character. It's another thing to come out and be a beloved legend and those are very big heels to fill and she clearly didn't fill them that well.

It's a really daunting, acting task and you set yourself up for failure by being on this huge pedestal. And this is a girl who doesn't need a failure.

What I think she needs is a number of small successes to feel better about herself. It just didn't work.

I kind of saw this coming as -- and was not at all surprised by the reviews, by the performance, and the movie was, you know, watchable in that it was amusing, but kind of sad because I knew Elizabeth and I spent time with Elizabeth. And she was not Elizabeth Taylor.

BANFIELD: I mean, that's a really big and tough role to take on, a titan of industry in her own right who has had her own troubles, so they could have had -- she could have had some kismet with that role.

But it's troubling to see her being brought out of the cop shop with a coat over her head. I hope the best for her.

Howard, thank you. It's nice to see you. Do appreciate it. Howard Bragman with Reputation.com and Fifteen Minutes P.R.

And we just want to also mention that police have declined to say whether Lindsay Lohan is actually going to face assault charges after all of this.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Just three weeks since President Obama was re-elected and already there are rumblings of a major shift in American involvement in the crisis in Syria.

By all accounts, this is a very messy and lethal civil war with no easy solution, especially for outside countries who would like to help, but can't afford the immense risks that come attached.

Now today, "The New York Times" is reporting that the United States may start directly arming the rebels in Syria. That's opposed to what we're already doing which is sending humanitarian and intelligence support. And all of this comes as the rebels appear to be getting somewhat stronger.

Take a look at this video that was shot by CNN. It is the wreckage of a fighter jet that Syrian rebels shot down, the third such aircraft that the rebels say they've shot down in just the last 24 hours.

And, of course, we don't know yet where the anti-aircraft weapons that were used actually came from.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh was there and joins us live now with the latest in Beirut.

Nick, I don't know if there's any feeling on the ground from our reporters there who are having such trouble just reporting from that country because we're not allowed in, whether the rebels feel as though this actually may happen sooner rather than later -- the Americans may come to their rescue with weaponry.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there are some who consider it's too little, too late. I mean, they have been asking since the beginning of the use of Syrian regime air power against rebel forces for substantial amounts of military aid.

The U.S. has only provided non-lethal support so far and there are been reports that Gulf states are loyal to the Sunni majority in that rebel movement, maybe supplying arms.

But I think if you ask most rebels now, they see the curve on their side. They see themselves seizing weapons, caches at quite a substantial rate, seemingly downing aircraft, too.

And I think if the U.S. now went to them and said, OK, we want to help you out, that may get a fairly chilled response from much of the rebel movement and certainly I think they may recognize this is programs a late-in-the-game stage to try and be able to influence the outcome of this civil war, rather than to actually assist the rebels in winning.

Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Nick, just before my next question, a little bit of breaking news that I want to get to our viewers.

We're getting reports now that the road to Damascus international airport has been shut down because of continuing clashes and military operations that are on the outskirts of the airport and on the outskirts of that major city.

I'm also hearing that cell phone outages and the Internet has been now blocked in Syria, which means communications for so many are now down and Syria has been now shut off, essentially, from the rest of the world. You know, that sounds awfully foreboding, but at the same time, we're coming up in a few months on two years since all of this began.

Why am I only hearing about Internet blackouts now? This would seem like a very big tactic for the government to use much earlier on before we started seeing all those horrors.

WALSH: I mean, today that is, to be honest, some quite substantial news. You're seeing weeks of rebel successes, but the calculation made by the government, if it is the government shutting down the Internet, the rebels benefit more from the Internet being on.

They use it to spread news of their successes and put video out of what they have been doing. That the rebels benefit more than the regime benefits from the Internet being on does suggest some sort of crisis within the inner regime in Damascus.

There could be other explanations. It could be a technical hitch or it could be a rebel success causing this to happen.

But bear in mind, today, yes, we are also hearing of substantial movement near Damascus international airport.

I should bear in mind, Reuters reporting that two U.N. Austrian peacekeepers were wounded, not life threateningly, but wounded near Damascus airport. Not clear by who.

But that comes as reports of Free Syrian Army rebels moving towards the airport within two kilometers, perhaps. Emirates and Egypt Air cancelling flights until further notice, saying for the safety of the staff. And reports yesterday the airport was closed due to maintenance.

Something is certainly happening in that very significant airport to the east. That will be causing great tension in Damascus. Is that linked to the Internet shut off and the cell phones being down, as well. We can't tell.

But certainly today for the first time I think in quite a number of weeks, things are definitely changing on the ground in Damascus and it looks like it's in the favor of the rebels.

Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: And I just want to be absolutely clear, you're coming to us from Beirut at this moment and keeping a close eye.

I know that our reporters who are based in Lebanon next door to Syria are trying at all times to get in and out of that country safely.

Our colleague, Arwa Damon, is in country right now. She is in Syria, but she's in a situation where she can't come to us live right now, so we do appreciate you doing this for us, Nick.

Keep us updated as to what you hear about the situation around Damascus. Nick Paton Walsh for us live. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JACKIE CASTILLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You take a vacation to indulge and enjoy, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money to have fun. Here are some tips I picked up while traveling through Tuscany.

Number one, don't be afraid to rent a car and drive. Many people say driving in Tuscany is terrifying, but if you rent a compact, manual car, you will find driving is a breeze. Plus, a compact car is cheaper than a luxury car or an SUV, so brush up on your stick.

Number two, don't want to drive? Take the train. While traveling through Italy, my family and I took the train to Florence. It was fast and we saved money because we didn't have to pay to park.

Number three, rent a villa instead of a hotel. Renting a home will help you save on accommodations and food because, if it there's a kitchen, you can prepare some of your meals there.

Looking to save more? The more people you can fit in, the cheaper it will be.

We stayed at this Villa Il Tortile Patrolino (ph). What I loved about staying off the beaten path and away from tourists, getting to explore a neighborhood and really experience Tuscany's culture ...