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Optimistic Predictions for Fiscal Cliff Compromise; Rice Back On The Hill; Obama, Romney to Meet for Lunch; Vending Machine Caviar?

Aired November 29, 2012 - 05:30   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The president's point man, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, sent to start fiscal cliff talks today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's guest. Mitt Romney headed to the White House today for a sit-down with the commander-in- chief.

SAMBOLIN: You'd like to be a fly on the wall there.

And the winning ticket, we know where two Powerball jackpot winners were sold. Who are you this morning?

Welcome back to EARLY START. We are very happy you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ROMANS: And it's not us. We're not the winners. I'm Christine Romans. I'm in for John Berman this morning.

It's about half past the hour.

And there are about 33 days until the fiscal cliff, and while politicians try to sell their plans, the first big negotiations get underway today with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner heading to Capitol Hill for separate meetings for congressional leaders. Both the president and Speaker Boehner made optimistic predictions yesterday.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is to get this done before Christmas. And I'll go anywhere, and I'll do whatever it takes to get this done. It's too important for Washington to screw this up.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm optimistic that we can continue to work together to avert this crisis and sooner rather than later.


ROMANS: All right. A couple of optimists, but just what will both sides give and what will it cost those politicians? Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor who's editor-in-chief of Good morning.


ROMANS: All right. So, Congressman Tom Cole, he was on "AC 360" last night, Erick. You know, he's also gotten some criticism for saying he'd accept revenue increases and exchange for compromise. Here's what he said about the Bush era taxes.


REP. TOM COLE, (R) OKLAHOMA: I want to make all of them permanent, quite frankly. So, this is really a debate about political tactics. It's not a difference over political theology. In the end, all Republicans want to make sure that we don't increase taxes. That's where we differ with the Democrats.

But, if there's a place we can, again, get 80 percent of the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people made permanent, I think we should do that, and then I think we should continue to fight for the rest.


ROMANS: And Speaker Boehner said he disagreed with Congressman Cole, but is this a debate about political tactics at this point?

ERICKSON: You know, to a degree it is. I understand what Congressman Cole is saying, but at the same time, I think it's really foolish for anybody out there to think that Congress is going to be able to come to some sort of resolution. Congress is the one that designed the fiscal cliff.

I really think probably Senator Thune from South Dakota is making the most sense last night saying maybe we should kick the can down the road for six months instead of trying to rush it. I'm not really a fan of kicking the can down the road, that's what Congress does. But, in this case, you've got everybody scrambling, trying to examine the ramifications of the election.

You've got new people coming in. Some of the people voting were thrown out of Congress.


ERICKSON: Why not wait until the 1st of the year move the marker?

ROMANS: You know, kicking the can, though, I mean, you look at markets today, for example. You've got global markets up. You've got stock futures up. The stock market was up yesterday because this whole idea of optimism from John Boehner and the president that this could get done before Christmas is certainly by the end of the year is something that the world wants to see.

And you look at our polling. Our polling shows, and polling from ABC -- most recent poll from ABC News/"Washington Post," 60 percent of people support raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 per year. So, isn't the argument of kicking the can down the road losing some steam? ERICKSON: It probably is, but I don't think we need to rely on polling on this because if raising taxes on the top earners of the country would raise enough money to fund the government for eight days. I'm not in favor of Congress doing something symbolic. On the campaign trail, the president said this was about fair share. It wasn't really about balancing the budget.

It's not going to make a dent in the deficit. Congress designed this. They don't want to cut spending. They just want to raise taxes. If Congress wanted to go back to the Clinton tax rates, I would do it in a heartbeat if they would also go back to Clinton spending rates, but then, I want to do that.

ROMANS: You're right. You can't just raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year and completely close that gap. It's got to be a balanced approach everyone's talking about. The balance also includes spending cuts. Some Democrats, though, say entitlements can be on the table but should -- we should deal with long-term reform afterwards. Here's what Sen. Dick Durbin said on yesterday's "Starting Point."


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: Entitlements need to be part of a long-term strategy but do it in a thoughtful way. We're down to four weeks here. I don't want to see in the future of Medicare major changes decided in the heat of the moment here. Let's get through this fiscal cliff. Let's find a way to avert it, but let's at the end of the day, take Medicare and treat as the important program it is for so many millions of Americans.


ROMANS: If we're going to deal how much kicking of the can down the road do you think it'll include like on entitlements?

ERICKSON: See, I think that's why you've got to do this all together. We've had 18 debt and deficit commissions since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981 with the national debt was $900 billion. In more than half of those, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security were supposed to be part of fixing the debt and deficit, and it never happened.

We're now at $16 trillion. If they kick the can down the road again without fixing entitlements in the process, entitlements still are not going to get fixed.

ROMANS: You know, Erick, we asked you to comment on the news, and then, sometimes, you make news. And the news about you, it said that you're considering running in a primary to challenge Saxby Chambliss. Are you any closer to a decision? Tell me a little bit about what you're thinking and who's encouraging you to do that.

ERICKSON: Well, you know, I said all along, no I'm not going to do this. I've been very dismissive, but in the past couple of days, a number of the, I guess, more prominent names have been calling and saying I should do it. And I feel like I, at least, owe them a little more consideration than being adamantly dismissive.

I'm not any closer to thinking I'm going to do it, but I do think I should think about it a little more. My wife is very adamant that if I do it, I'll be buried in the backyard before I announce (ph). So, I mean, the odds are probably it's not going to happen. I do think Saxby Chambliss, it's probably time for him to be primaried.

ROMANS: Your wife will bury you in the backyard. Ah. That's a picture. Erick Erickson, thank you so much, editor-in-chief of and CNN contributor. His wife knows how to speak her mind.


SAMBOLIN: That would be a good reason not to do it, don't you think?

All right. Thirty-five minutes past the hour.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): South Korea's fourth attempt to put a satellite in orbit has been scrubbed. This morning's launch of the Narrow-1 rocket called off just minutes before liftoff because of an electronic problem. The South Koreans have been trying to develop a civilian space program since 2002.

ROMANS (voice-over): All right. Check your Powerball tickets especially if you live in Arizona and Missouri. Two tickets, one bought in each state, matched all six numbers. That means they'll split a record powerful jackpot of $580 million. The winning numbers, 5-16-22-23-29. Powerball is --

SAMBOLIN: The jackpot didn't pay off but the wacky radio stunt might have. The morning show at 95 Rock, a radio station in Wisconsin and Illinois, posted their lotto ticket on their facebook page and offered to split it with everyone who share the picture. It was shared about 54,000 times before the drawing. Pretty impressive considering the Facebook page only had about 10,000 likes at a time.

ROMANS: Brilliant. Brilliant.

SAMBOLIN: But they didn't win.


ROMANS (on-camera): Yes. But they got a lot more face time.

All right. From opponents on the campaign trail to diners at the White House. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama together at last. The question is why? What will they talk about? And what will they eat? A live report from Washington coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty minutes past the hour. Well, it's not the way he intended to get there, but Mitt Romney is heading to the White House today. He's having lunch with the president. And they're meeting coming at a time when Democrats and Republicans are struggling to find common ground on the fiscal cliff, as you very well know.

Some Washington insiders speculating this lunch date could also lead to a role for Romney in the Obama administration, but the president's spokesman is not biting.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Gov. Romney here tomorrow in some kind of level (ph) position?




SAMBOLIN: White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is live for us from Washington this morning. Dan, really nice to see you.


SAMBOLIN: So, what are you hearing about the purpose of this meeting?

LOTHIAN: Well, you know, the president, himself, had said that he wasn't suggesting that by this invitation to have Mitt Romney come here, that this was an audition, if you will, for some other kind of assignment. The president said that there are ideas that Mitt Romney had out there on the campaign trail that are good ideas and not partisan ideas.

The president wanted to sit down and talk to him about that, talk to him specifically about ways of creating jobs, of building the economy. He said that, you know, there were good things that Mitt Romney had out there on the campaign trail. So, that's what they're going to be talking about.

But in addition to that, you know, the president said specifically that Mitt Romney did a good job working with the Olympics, turning the Olympics around. He thought some of that could translate to the government and make government more efficient, to make it more customer friendly. And so, it's a combination of those things that the president will be talking about during that lunch here at the White House today.

This is also part of this promise that the president made during his victory speech that he would invited him here to the White House and talk about ways to move the country forward. A lot of speculation about whether or not Mitt Romney could play a role in the White House, but again, the White House pushing back on that.

But it is kind of interesting because it's a very high-profile, you know, invitation, bipartisan invitation to the White House at a time when the president is wrangling with, you know, lawmakers up there on the Hill to get this fiscal cliff issue settle. SAMBOLIN: That timing is really interesting. And also, you know, they had such a contentious battle for the White House that, you know, you find this kind of interesting.

LOTHIAN: But that's all forgiven.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes, really?


SAMBOLIN: All right. I'll go with that. I'll go with that. I'm going to switch gears here and talk about Susan Collins. She's joined the chorus of Republicans voicing reservation. She's a senator, considered a moderate. She's joining the voice of the Republicans about a possible Secretary of State nomination for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Interestingly, in her statement, she voiced support for Democratic senator, John Kerry, as an alternative. Listen to what she said.


SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would be easily confirmed by his colleagues.


SAMBOLIN: Interesting. How much self-interest is at play here, Dan? If Kerry were to get that job, Republicans could pick up his Senate seat, right?

LOTHIAN: That is correct. I mean, remember, Scott Brown picked up the Kennedy seat in Massachusetts, then he lost it to Elizabeth Warren in the last election. And so, there is that scenario that if John Kerry were to get that post, then that opens it up again for Scott Brown to pick up that seat.

A couple of things. First of all, you know, it's widely known out there that John Kerry really wants the job. But, of course, you know, the story that we've all been talking about that Susan Rice appears to be above on that list. So, that's the first thing.

Second thing is that, you know, all of this speculation about, you know, who could get that job and, you know, if he got that job then this person could, you know, pick up the seat in Massachusetts, it really is all just sort of hypothetical here, because the president has not put forward a nomination yet.

There's a lot of wrangling going on. Democrats are saying Republicans are playing politics here. But, you know, at the end of the day, it's all hypothetical until the president actually puts a nomination on the paper.

SAMBOLIN: No, indeed. And it's very interesting to watch and to chat about.

LOTHIAN: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Dan Lothian, live in Washington for us, thank you.


ROMANS: All right. It's a Black Friday hangover for a major retailer and a black eye, quite frankly. Coming up, the complaints, a slew of complaints in the wake of a holiday sales frenzy. We'll tell you where it happened.

If you're leaving your house right now, you can catch us, watch us anytime on your desktop or your mobile phone, just go to


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-eight minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date on this morning's top stories.

President Obama and Mitt Romney, they're having a private lunch at the White House today. It is expected that they will be sharing ideas about the fiscal cliff and there's growing speculation there may be a role for Romney in the Obama administration.

ROMANS: All right. If you played Powerball in Arizona and Missouri, you could be filthy rich. Two tickets, one in each state, matched all six numbers. That means lucky ticker holders will split a record Powerball jackpot of $588 million. The winning numbers 5-16-22-23-29, and a Powerball of 6.

SAMBOLIN: How long do you think before they come forward?

ROMANS: I don't know. I would wait personally, but --

SAMBOLIN: A couple of weeks, yes.


SAMBOLIN: All right. New York City nanny accused of murdering two children in her care has pleaded not guilty to those crimes. The killings of the children last month sent shockwaves throughout a city where many working parents rely on nannies to watch their kids. It actually sent shockwaves across the nation.

Yesterday's hearing took place in a hospital where the nanny is being treated for self-inflicted stab wounds.

ROMANS: Seattle police have released dash cam video of a suspect allegedly beaten by officers during his arrest. Suspect Leo Etherly held down on his back on the hood of a car, claimed one officer was choking him. Etherly (INAUDIBLE) the officer who then struck him.

The suspect's attorney says excessive force was used. The police department claims Etherly resisted arrest, but they will review the case, anyway.

SAMBOLIN: Toys "R" Us is taking heat from holiday shoppers. The retail chain has been offering tons of incentives like price matching and layaway plans, but the company's Facebook page is littered with your complaints. Customers griping about orders going unfilled and hot items being out of stock.

The Toys "R" Us spokeswoman admits they were caught off guard by the intense holiday rush.

ROMANS: All right. While you're hitting the gym, the dude in skinny jeans is stealing your girl. A new study says women prefer thin men over more macho guys.


ROMANS: It's some old animal physical thing were stuck with apparently. The theory is bigger, stronger guys who are extra fit are making up for weaker immune systems, and women see men with stronger immunity as a better mate. Skinny guys unite (ph).

SAMBOLIN: And where did they study those? Where the women come from that they were studying?


ROMANS: Why, you don't like skinny men?


SAMBOLIN: Fifty minutes past the hour. The threat of flooding still plagues the west coast this morning. Meteorologist, Rob Marciano, I can't even say your name, you know why? Because I haven't seen you in a while. Good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. Yes. Never fight with evolution, if that's what the study says, that's what it says. Right. I've been caught in the middle poser. That's for sure. Seventy-one miles per hour in Redding. These are the numbers from yesterday across California.

One of several storms that's just going to blast away at pretty much the entire west coast, especially from San Francisco up through Seattle. Sixty-seven-mile-an-hour gust here in High Glade. Look out to Duncan Peak in California seeing 64-mile-an-hour wind gusts. We have high wind watches and warnings up again.

Here is the satellite picture. It is actually the infrared, water vapor imagery which basically shows you where the biggest punch of moisture is and we're about to get slammed again in Portland and Seattle. And then, these continue to spiral in around its vortex. It really isn't moving much. So, it will be here, really, for several more days.

And because of that, we've got many concerns. One of which is a storm warning that's out for the Oregon coastline, gale warnings as well for winds that will easily be out over 50 if not 60 miles an hour, some of the higher peaks along here. Nevada will probably see winds even higher than that, and that certainly can cause some damage if not some power outages.

The rainfall, obviously, is going to be a huge issue. Snow levels will be pretty high, but at the highest peaks, you'll see 10 to 20 inches of snow. But I think the greatest threat is going to be the amount of rain that we see over the next five days, eight to 10 inches or more and that will certainly cause some flooding and maybe some mudslides as well and some of the steeper terrain.

You go east of the Rockies, we're looking good, pretty chilly, mostly quiet. Some showers across upstate New York around -- along the Great Lakes, but certainly feels like it should for the end of November.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MARCIANO: You got it.

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-two minutes past the hour. A packed hour ahead on EARLY START, including Mitt Romney on his way to the White House, but he won't be measuring curtains. Details of his lunch date with the president, what it could mean for his future, your future, your money, and hopes of a compromise in Washington.

ROMANS: Also, Yoko Ono, if you like her music, you're going to love the Beatle widow's fashion debut.

SAMBOLIN: But first, right next the Doritos, $500 an ounce caviar? We're going to show you the vending machine that only makes sense where, folks? Yes, in L.A.


SAMBOLIN: That's coming up next.


ROMANS: All right. Welcome back. Taking a look at the top CNN trends this morning. Do I want the Fritos, the Bugles, or the beluga?

SAMBOLIN: As in caviar, that is. There's a vending machine that offers caviar. Only in la, la land. Resident foodie Kyung Lah has a taste for us this morning.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this Los Angeles Area shopping mall next to the holiday displays and the Santa's corner kiosk -- what the flurries are looking at, the world's first vending machine selling caviar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like you can buy anything out of a machine anymore.

LAH: Not just any caviar, there's the garden variety 12-dollar type to the $500 an ounce beluga. Tightly frozen in the custom-built machine from Spain, $50,000 worth of rare merchandise inside three vending machines in Southern California, making their debut just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The idea came from this cupcake vending machine, already a hit in Beverly Hills. Caviar can be just as sweet says the vending machine's owner. So, it's about making that accessible to people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very accessible, very convenient in every price point.

LAH (on-camera): So, it is caviar out of a vending machine in a shopping mall, but some foody (ph) say this just doesn't belong next to cinnamon.

(voice-over) At the trendy Hungry Cat seafood restaurant in Hollywood --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The wild hack wack (ph).

LAH: Owner, David Lentz, says his caviar is served with a little more flair, not food court fudge.

DAVID LENTZ, OWNER/CHIEF, THE HUNGRY CAT: That's the part I don't get. I can see getting it and taking it home, you know, to have some champagne with it but just on your lunch break? It really doesn't add up to me.

LAH: With a soda from the food court?

LENTZ: Exactly.

LAH: We found plenty of caviar critics.

Would you put $500 on a machine?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you buy eggs out of a vending machine? Much less fish eggs.

LAH: But the flurries are buying for their daughter this Christmas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll buy anything from the (ph) machine.

LAH: A little luxury for the layman, conveniently dispensed just in time for the holidays. Nothing too fishy about it.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Burbank, California.


ROMANS: Aspiring to be the one percent in a shopping mall. That's what that is.

SAMBOLIN: Five hundred bucks? I wonder which one she tasted.

ROMANS: I don't know. All right. Once bitter rivals doing lunch. Not sure if there's caviar today, but the prospect of president Obama and Mitt Romney playing nice after such a long, contentious political battle made for some pretty juicy lunch today.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Late-night hosts feasted on the news of today's White House lunch date. Check it out.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Seriously, Mitt Romney is going to meet President Obama at the White House tomorrow. They're going to get together and talk things out.


O'BRIEN: And after three weeks of dealing with the Benghazi scandal and the fiscal cliff, Obama is prepared to offer Romney a position in the administration, president of the United States.


O'BRIEN: He's like, I made a mistake. It's all yours.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": They're eating at the White House. Here is how the lunch is going to go. Mitt, this could have been your private dining room.


KIMMEL: This could have been your presidential knives and forks. But here's what I don't get, for the last eight months, Mitt Romney has been saying nobody should get a free lunch. Now, he's going to the White House to have a free lunch.


JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": See, this is part of President Obama's plan for less government spending, invite someone to lunch who can actually afford to pick up the tab.




ROMANS: Actually, we're all picking up the tab for that lunch.


SAMBOLIN: EARLY START continues right now.