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Lindsay Lohan Arrested; Interview with Representatives Connie Mack and Mary Bono Mack; Fiscal Cliff Negotiation Continue; Back from the Brink of Death; Events that Shaped America

Aired November 29, 2012 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. Some of our top stories this morning, new information on that crash at a Texas railroad crossing where four veterans were killed in a collision with an oncoming train. According to a report in the "Wall Street Journal" the crossing should have given a 30-second warning but only gave a 20-second warning. Lawyer for the victim said 10 extra seconds could have saved lives. Railroad officials insist the crossing meets federal standards.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: The attorney for a Florida man who shot at an SUV with four African-American teens inside says, quote, "There are no comparisons to the Trayvon Martin situation," end quote. She also says her client is not a vigilante. And 17-year-old Jordan Davis was hit twice and killed. Davis' mother said she absolutely lost it when she was told her son was dead.


LUCIA MCBATH, JORDAN DAVIS' MOTHER: There's no logical reason. There's nothing logical that you can say that would make me believe that you were threatened. He has to live with that for the rest of his life. And that's going to be his torment. That's his hell.


BALDWIN: And 45-year-old Michael Dunn pleaded not guilty to a murder charge. He says he was threatened and that the teens flashed a shotgun. Investigators say no guns were found inside that SUV.

BERMAN: While you were sleeping, Lindsay Lohan was arrested again. The New York police department took her in after some kind of fight around 4:00 am at a club here in the city, charged with misdemeanor assault with reports saying she reportedly hit a woman. Lohan was arrested in September in New York for hitting someone with a car and not stopping. She did not face charges for that.

BALDWIN: A date with a cougar to save the animals. That's right. You can now win a date with Betty White. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals announced on its Web site Wednesday that fans, Berman is taking notes, can bid to go on a date with the 90-year-old actress and all proceeds from the date auction will benefit the Los Angeles chapter of the SPCA. It's a great cause. Why do you laugh?

BERMAN: If only I weren't married.

BALDWIN: Sorry, Mrs. Berman.

BERMAN: Sorry, Betty Wite.

BALDWIN: We have some new numbers of the economy just released. Christine Romans has the details for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDNET: This just in, revised third quarter gross domestic product reading, GDP, the broadest gauge of economic growth, 2.7 percent. That's stronger than the first estimate of that quarter, which was two percent. So you can see the pattern of GDP, of economic growth over the past year or so. Third quarter, it looked like it was 2 percent. Now the government says it looks more like 2.7 percent, so showing some strengthening in the fall.

Just under 393,000 jobless claims filed dropping from the week before. But I'm not reading anything into those numbers right now because of hurricane Sandy and how that has disrupted the filings.

BERMAN: GDP numbers strong. Is the trend we're seeing overall here, Christine?

ROMANS: We're seeing a little more durability in the economic recovery at this point. Congress, don't mess it up.

BERMAN: Good luck with that. Christine Romans, thank you so much.

It has been more than three weeks since the election. But with partisan gridlock potentially holding up everything from the resolution to a fiscal cliff to appointing a new Secretary of State, it looks like Washington is settling right back into its old ways.

BALDWIN: There are two Republicans in Congress with no reason to tow the party line with us this morning. They have the same last name. Joining us from the capital, husband and wife team, outgoing Florida congressman Connie Mack, and outgoing California Congresswoman, Mary Bono Mack. To the Macks this morning. Good morning to both of you.

Let me just tell you something we were talking about before the break, and that was this Obama/Romney lunch date. You could see yourself in similar situations. If you were to be having lunch with Senator Nelson or Congressman-elect Ruiz, what would you want them to say to you?

REP. CONNIE MACK, (R) FLORIDA: Well, I would like senator -- first I think I would say to tell Senator Nelson, thanks for spending $17 million and increasing my name I.D. Now, it may not have been the way I would have wanted it done.

I think it's important that they're sitting down with each other. We need more of this in politics. We need more of this in Washington. You might battle it out during an election. But at the end of the election, people have to come together and figure out a way to solve the problems in America.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman?

REP. MARY BONO MACK, (R) CALIFORNIA: What would I want my successor to say to me?


MARY BONO MACK: Or what would I say to him?

BALDWIN: Yes. Face to face.

MARY BONO MACK: I guess I would want him to -- I don't know. First of all, he was elected. I wish him all the best of luck.

BALDWIN: Would you want to have lunch?

MARY BONO MACK: Of course I would want to have lunch. I would want to give him the time for a victory lap to relish in these days when you're a brand new member of Congress. It is an exhilarating experience. And I think he is due that opportunity. And I want to allow him that opportunity. But I think he knows that I'm a phone call away if he needs help or advice.

But it's important to remember, I ran as a moderate Republican and he ran as a Democrat. And I don't know how much of my advice will be important to him. But I will be there any time he needs me, if he is seeking my input.

BERMAN: From the Macks you're seeing it may be a delicate lunch at the White House today. It's not an easy thing to get by.

Let me ask you, the last month you will be in Congress for now. Nothing to lose here. There's the fiscal cliff discussions going on. How can we solve them? What would you do? What would you say to both parties to get a deal done?

MARY BONO MACK: Well, I would say, first, it's important that we do get a deal done. Going into the holidays, the American people want and need certainty. I think going into the New Year people really are clamoring for the certainty and a way forward in the economy.

I have to say that if you're going to sign me up with a camp, I like what Tom Cole has to say. You had him on the show earlier at length. Tom presented a very thoughtful, articulate position. I know my husband and I are going to disagree on this. We waited till after the first cup of coffee to disagree over this. I would agree with what Tom Cole --

CONNIE MACK: Yes, dear.

MARY BONO MACK: See? I'm right, he's happy. I would agree with --

BALDWIN: That's the quote of the day.

BERMAN: That's interesting. That's a vote right there. You will get a chance to vote on this, presumably. Tom Cole, that plan has a vote.

BALDWIN: What about Ryan Lizza.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Congresswoman and Congressman Mack.

CONNIE MACK: Mary and Connie is great.

LIZZA: Thank you. What has to happen in that caucus to get a deal done? How many people agree with you, Mary? How many people are silently in the Republican caucus, agreeing with the Cole/Mary position on this?

CONNIE MACK: Let me first say this. You know, who knows what the conference is thinking. But this is where leadership matters. This is where we need not just President Obama, but Speaker Boehner to lead. They need to stand up and present the plan to the Congress for a vote.

Now, I don't happen to agree with my wife and Congressman Cole. I think we need to continue to look at ways to cut spending. And if people can answer this question for me, do you think the federal government has done a good job of spending your money? If the answer is yes then you would be willing to give more of your money to the federal government. But I think most people to this point don't think that the federal government has done a good job of spending their money. And that is a crucial question people have got to ask.

But no one in Washington or around the country should be surprised at where we are today. It is time -- look, there's no new proposal that's going to be put on the table between now and Christmas or now and the end of the year. All of the proposals are out there. We know where everybody is on the issue. Now is the time for the president and Speaker Boehner to lead. That is what we need in this country right now, is leadership.

LIZZA: Can I ask you both now just to switch topics a little bit, what do you think is really happening with Susan Rice and with the whole issue about whether or not she should be Secretary of State? There seems to be a lot of political positioning. Now that the two of you are in a position to speak more candidly, what do you think is really happening and what is the way forward?

MARY BONO MACK: Well, I believe that Susan Rice really has some very tough questions that she needs to answer. I think that these behind- the-door interviews and conversations she's having really are harbingers of tougher times ahead in a confirmation process.

With Benghazi, it was a very clear failure and it was dictated at the political levels. There's a big failure that led to the deaths of Americans. And if ever there is a space to take politics out of the public discourse and if ever a place to have serious thought and put the -- you know, all of the politics aside, it would be in this sort of situation in Benghazi. But what we saw, unfortunately, it was pure politics, dictated from the political might and not from the thoughtful side of the party. LIZZA: But where is her responsibility in this? There may have been big problems with what happened in Benghazi, but where is she culpable and why should she be held to account for this?

MARY BONO MACK: That is the easiest question in the world to answer. It was very clear, anybody who was in the position to have the information she did, her intuition alone should have simply said there's more to this than meets the eye. This is premeditated, very dangerous. What was hard for the administration to say, yet important that they should have said, that terrorism is unfortunately still around the world. It is still a real problem, even though bin Laden is gone.

The American people need to come to terms with the fact that we still do have this war on terror to fight. The proper position in my view would have been to have said this is still war on terror, we are still at war and they are one step ahead of us and it is important that the American people are invested in this fight for the long haul.

BALDWIN: Congresswoman and Congressman, or Congress couple, the Macks, thank you very much.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, how much have we spent on people who are out of work in our economy? We have some new numbers in this morning that may shock you. That's next.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, minding your business this morning. We just learned the GDP in the third quarter was revised higher to 2.7 percent. But stock futures, world markets, and commodities all up this morning after President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both expressed optimism on fiscal cliff negotiations. The Dow rallied 100 points yesterday because of those comments.

If there's no deal, though, the Bush tax cuts will expire, sending taxes up to about $2,000 for a typical family of four. President Obama taking that number to twitter. He's asking Americans to tweet lawmakers using the #My2k, telling them what that $2,000 means to them. The President wants to keep tax cuts for the middle class that will expire for families making $250,000 or more.

The fiscal cliff is big spending cuts too and not just taxes. A new report from the Congressional Budget office says more than half a trillion dollars has been spent on jobless benefits over the five years. $520 billion is part of the fiscal cliff debate, of course folks, is on whether to extend additional federal unemployment benefits beyond the end of the year.

Also new numbers on the rising number of families on food stamps, nearly 15 million households received food stamps in 2011. That's up 10 percent from the year before that's according to new data from the census bureau.

So there you go on just the scope of government and government spending in our daily lives over the past five years because of the recession.

BALDWIN: Christine, thank you.

The announcement of CNN's 2012 Hero of the Year will be an all-star tribute, beginning -- really bringing together the world and other people helping others.

BERMAN: Some of those stars have their own tales of inspiration. Including superstar musician Gloria Estefan who came back from the brink of death to provide inspiration.


GLORIA ESTEFAN, SINGER: I love CNN Heroes because people are used to seeing celebs on TV, politicians on TV.

But the people that we should really celebrate are the people out there doing things that help other human beings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You did a good job.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST "AC 360": Tonight you're going to meet real super men and super women from across the globe.

ESTEFAN: So, shining the light on these heroes that do amazing things helps all of us say I can do it, too.

St. Jude is really an amazing place and the incredible research that they do. They make it a soothing place for both the family and the child. They bring kids from all over. It's not just the United States.

It's important when someone is in recovery or facing a tough battle that their spirit and their mind be taken care of. Believe me. I've been there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Estefan's back was broken during a collision.

ESTEFAN: When I was coming back from that bus accident 22 years ago, my husband pulled me back into my song writing and my music. That allowed me to flourish and grow even that much quicker.

In my whole life, I don't think there's anything more satisfying than helping out another human being. I'm very happy that CNN Heroes is doing what they're doing. When you see these people that are sacrificing themselves for others, to me that's a hero every step of the way.


BALDWIN: Tune in this Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern for "CNN HEROES", an all-star tribute hosted by Anderson Cooper.

BERMAN: And next some of the nation's most shocking and uplifting moments in print. A look at the new book of those timeless columns. "Deadline Artists" with John Avlon, that's coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right this is just in to CNN, new video of Lindsay Lohan, coat over her head, leaving the police department. She was arrested here in New York City around 4:00 a.m. this morning after getting into a fight at a club. Lohan was charged with assault for reportedly hitting a woman.

BALDWIN: With the rise of digital media --

BERMAN: Segue.

BALDWIN: Non-existent.

LIZZA: Why the coat over the head look? Why not just come out?

BALDWIN: We know you're in there. Yes, I don't know.

LIZZA: When I'm arrested I'm going straight to the camera.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm going to hold you to that, Ryan.

BALDWIN: Enough, enough of Lindsay Lohan. We want to talk about Avlon's book here. So a newspaper paper column also transitioned online here, but for generations the pages of black and white, they were the weapon of choice for writers, giving their opinion on historic events.

BERMAN: Last year CNN contributor John Avlon co-edited the critically acclaimed book "Deadline Artists", the collection of some of the most timeless columns. Now he is back with the sequel, "Scandals, Tragedies and Triumphs." Here it is -- new book, new approach?

BALDWIN: Congratulations.

AVLON: Yes thank you. You know this is more of the best newspaper columns ever written. And we decided to focus on tragedies, triumphs and scandals, because this is the stuff of breaking news. But -- but the real reason that I did this with Jesse Angelo and Errol Louis, we were amazed that there weren't any anthologies of America's greatest newspaper columns. As a columnist, it's the kind of thing I want to read. But as readers, these are great stories. This is history written in the present tense. And the story telling of these reported columns are great to read even a century later.

BERMAN: Is this the type of thing where we have to do it now because this is a medium that's dying?

AVLON: No, but I think it is time to really reflect on the great newspaper culture. And what's different and what continues. All these writers, whether it's Jimmie Breslin, Mike Royko, Barry Kempton, they wrote a classic reported column. That's something we've seen with the rise of opinion online.

The reported column has been declining a bit. You see the importance of storytelling, of bringing out great characters and great conflicts. And then when that instinct and that impulse and that artistry combines with a historic moment you have something that will endure throughout the age.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: John -- John Berman asked an interesting question. We talk about the medium dying. You work for "Newsweek" and the Daily Beast as well as CNN. Do you think that these columns, and the sense of permanency they used to have in the printed edition in newspapers are being lost now that they exist exclusively online? Is there something lost there?

AVLON: Not necessarily. I mean in theory having these columns online means they're more accessible than ever before. But what's amazing about these columns is many of them aren't available online. These had been moldering in microfilm.

One of the columns in the book is "The Cinderella Man" by Damon Runyon. It had inspired the movie, "Cinderella Man" about James J. Brodick. The boxing hall of fame didn't even have this column. The producers of the movie didn't have the column. We found it in the New York Public Library.

And so we're actually rescuing some of these columns to actually increase their relevance and make them more accessible than ever before. That's been part of the joy.

BALWIN: I'm such a fan of the late Nora Ephron. And I actually immediately turned to her column when she was an intern at the JFK White House. And it was just hysterical, hysterical column. Do you have a favorite?

AVLON: God, I have so many favorites. Ephron was great where she's wondering How come JFK didn't hit on me, that's phenomenal. I love "The Cinderella Man". Mike Royco reflecting on Jackie Robinson's debut is great. They're a column called the "Subway Rebel" by an obscure columnist everyone has forgotten about, a guy who basically pulls a Bartleby and refuses to get off a subway train until it's brought to his destination. He says I am not a sheep, 1926.

What's amazing is how the best writers, whether it's Westbrook Pegler, Murray Kempton, Jimmy Breslin, who's still with us -- their writing is still so relevant. And it really is an inspiration and an education, not just for writers but readers.

BERMAN: I see you quote Breslin all the time here. And I hadn't seen this quote before I saw it in this book. I just want to read it. He's talking about, you know, a lesser known American hero, a guy named Joel Mayo, who was flight engineer killed on the way to rescue the Iran -- or tried to rescue the Iran hostages in 1980. The essay focuses on his wife, Pamela.

Let me read you a quote here because this just kind of breaks your heart. He writes, "There was no reason to ask him where he was going. She was a military wife and she knew that she was supposed to say nothing. At the same time it was plain that it was Iran. The only way to snatch the hostages was by air. Buck kissed her goodbye. During the kiss, the notion ran through her head that he would die. The kiss in front of the 1969 car became one of the most horrible moments of her life."

AVLON: That really captures the quality of these columns. And that is why it is so important that we kind of preserve them in a way that makes them accessible again. You realize the possibility of the reported column again, the storytelling possibility and that this endures beyond any particular news cycle.

This is a labor of love. And I love this book. And I can say that because --

BALDWIN: You can tell.

AVLON: -- it's not my writing. It's all the best.


LIZZA: Tell me if you agree. I think the artistry of these kind of columns has been lost since things have gone online and most columnists today are just polarized partisans.


LIZZA: And there's no -- the literariness of the old form is gone.

BERMAN: We have to -- we have to leave it there. John Avlon, thank you for kicking off your book tour here. This book is addictive. You can't stop reading. I love the stories.

Thank you for coming in.

AVLON: Thank you guys.

BALDWIN: "End Point" is next.


BERMAN: It is time for the "End Point".

Richard Socarides has the floor.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Well, tomorrow -- tomorrow morning the Supreme Court is going to start to decide which of the gay marriage cases pending this year they're going to hear and decide. And if, as most observers believe, they decide not to hear the California Proposition 8 case, it may mean that as early as next week same-sex marriage will be legal again in California.

BERMAN: It's a big day to come visit us tomorrow and find out what happens. Thanks for being here.

BALDWIN: We have to leave it there. Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

Carol Costello takes it away. "CNN NEWSROOM" begins now. Good morning.