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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Death On the Subway; Search For Missing Leukemia Patient; Fiscal Cliff Faceoff; Bowles Talks Fiscal Cliff Debate; GOP's Fiscal Cliff Counteroffer; Wall Street CEOs And Fiscal Cliff; Royal Baby On The Way!; Deadly Typhoon Slams Into Philippines; Lohan Slammed By Uncle Sam

Aired December 4, 2012 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: -- students at one elementary school in Atlanta will be attending class have to move to a different building though dozens were sickened yesterday by their regular school by carbon monoxide poisoning. Zoraida has that story on other stories making news. That's a terrible story.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: It is awful. At least 49 people were actually sent to the hospital, Soledad. Fire officials believe the heating system failed. There was no carbon monoxide detector required in that school. So the next hour we'll talk to a student, a parent and an official as well there.

New York City police are searching for a man who allegedly pushed another man to his death in front of a subway train. The two men apparently had some kind of argument on a subway platform yesterday prior to that fatal assault -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We got the story of that kid who had cancer who has now gone missing. Police wanted to speak to the father of that child, a terrible story on that. What -- what happened --

SAMBOLIN: I'll give you the details on that. That's an 11-year-old leukemia patient who was removed from a Phoenix hospital lasts week by her mother, but police have located Emily's father now. He denies any involvement in the case.

Doctors say the young girl could die within days. She has been receiving chemotherapy at Phoenix Children's Hospital for about a month, and has had a catheter in her heart that actually could become infected. So they are desperately searching for that little girl -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: How terrible. How awful, wow. Obviously keep you up to speed on that story and any of the other stories that are making news.

Let's talk about the fiscal cliff now, shall we? Well, why not, because it almost came to fisticuffs just a moment ago. Let's talk about Erskine Bowles. I think that's a great place to start before we get to our interview with Xavier Becerra.

Erskine Bowles, you raised, Will, that in fact, he's been sort of cited in the majority leader's letter as saying this is the Bowles plan, and he, Mr. Bowles, was quick to put out a letter himself saying, not my plan. It's -- it's sort of is his version 1.0 of his plan, isn't it?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Right, it's a plan that reflected the original thoughts. We put together a plan to move us towards some kind of deficit reduction package eventually evolved into the Simpson- Bowles Commission plan.

But the point I was making and I think the speaker is making is Republicans have not come out here with some hardball, crazy off-the- table negotiation. What they have done is put something that Bill Clinton's former chief of staff at one time advocated for.

And I think in the end that reflects as Ron said we are moving towards the potential compromise deal.

O'BRIEN: He says in his statement --

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think I'm inappropriately in the middle here. I ought to be over there on the left. What Bowles said yesterday was I was testifying before Congress, and I described that as a midpoint between what Republicans want and what Democrats wanted. It was not what I would recommend, but I don't think that's even relevant.

O'BRIEN: -- circumstances have changed since then.

SHRUM: I don't even think that's relevant. I think the real question here and I think Ron's right about this are tax rates going to go up? Yes, they're going to go up, because Republicans are not going to have to vote for them to go up.

We'll go off the fiscal cliff, down the fiscal slope at the end of the year. Yes, I think it will happen because it is the one way Republicans can, without violating the pledge, and offending the grand inquisitor Grover Norquist, it's the one way they can let this happen.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And, in fact, you know, what could happen, you can imagine a scenario where you go off the cliff on taxes, rates go up for everybody. You then vote to restore the rates for, you know, the vast majority of taxpayers, 98 percent Republicans.

And further it is even conceivable that you then negotiate down the top rates from its level under Bill Clinton a little bit by putting in the pot offsetting deductions or credits, which would allow Republicans to claim some sort of victory as well. That could be a scenario where you have a consensus on the tax run.

O'BRIEN: Let's run all of this by Representative Xavier Becerra of California. He's joining us now. It's nice to see you, sir. Appreciate your time. Why did -- what is really the White House dismissed kind of out of hand, I mean, I don't have the exact number of minutes that they had this Republican proposal.

But it was not very many and they dismissed it out of -- of hand after I thought Geithner spent the entire weekend calling on the Republicans to come forward with a plan.

REPRESENTATIVE XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, Soledad, the plan, the Republican plan failed the very first test of fairness. It went after the middle class. And it goes -- it protects all millionaires and billionaires from the Bush tax cuts, or keeping the Bush tax cuts, at the same time that it asks middle class to carry the load.

It also, by the way, went after seniors and tells them, you shouldn't get that $21 on average cost of living increase for the cost of your food, your medicine, but we'll go ahead and let millionaires keep the $78,000 or so they get in one year in tax breaks.

So the president was right. This fails the test of fairness and at the same time, it almost acts as the Republican plan is almost as if the Republicans didn't watch the last two years of campaigning in an election where essentially what they proposed was the Romney plan.

And the president said, we're going to do this the right way. We're going to make sure the middle class is protected.

O'BRIEN: Well, so, in his letter, Mr. Boehner said, we recognize it would be counterproductive to publicly and privately propose entitlement reforms that you all don't seem to support. He has a whole list of sort of like the original House plans.

And he kind of lists them and says we're not going to put these on the table because that would be sort of sticking to our side and wouldn't be helpful. Instead we're going to go to something that really was the sort of Erskine Bowles version 1.0, which he has backed away from saying time has changed.

But in a lot of ways it is similar to what Erskine Bowles did have on the table, isn't it?

BECERRA: Soledad, no, it's not. This is a different time. We've got $2 trillion worth of spending cuts already in place that we didn't have when the Bowles-Simpson Commission was in place. Never once did we get anything to balance it out on the tax side.

So no, it's a totally different world for Republicans to cherry pick parts of what the Bowles-Simpson Commission or what Erskine Bowles did is just ludicrous to try to have a conversation that way.

But more to the point, the Bowles-Simpson plan said something very important let the Bush tax cuts for the highest income go away, expire.

O'BRIEN: Right. That's Bowles-Simpson --

BECERRA: The Simpson --

O'BRIEN: That's not Bowles. And believe me -- for those of you playing at home following this is the most complicated thing. There's Bowles-Simpson and there's sort of Bowles who was testifying about his ideas and he didn't have that in his original plan -- BECERRA: Soledad --

O'BRIEN: -- he had nothing to do with this plan in his letter. And this is his, his first iteration of the plan. Go ahead, sir. Excuse me for interrupting you.

BECERRA: And Soledad, every bipartisan, large deficit reduction plan calls for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent to expire because it's tough to get to a balanced solution that's big without at least collecting that revenue.

O'BRIEN: OK so --

BECERRA: Secondly the Bowles -- Mr. Bowles was saying something at a time when we did not have the $2 trillion-plus, $2 trillion-plus in spending cuts already in place.

O'BRIEN: So then can --

BECERRA: -- anything to balance that --

O'BRIEN: My panel this morning basically says this could happen, you go over the fiscal cliff, you sort of have let Republicans off the hook in terms of having to --

BROWNSTEIN: Exclusive vote to raise the tax rates.

O'BRIEN: On the rich, right? Is that how you see this playing out then?

BECERRA: If Republicans are so wedded to this tax pledge to the special interest Grover Norquist and his organization that if they can't find a way to come up with a bipartisan solution, they have to let the devil do it for them. I guess that's possibly the way we do it.

If that helps preserve or protect the middle class then so be it. But one way or the other Republicans have to realize that an election was had, that the wealthiest in this country have to contribute a little bit more.

And if they continue to try to protect millionaires and billionaires while they're willing to cut the cost of living increase for seniors on Medicare and Social Security, it's a nonstarter.

O'BRIEN: So then under this plan we have to go over the fiscal cliff, even if, right we have to. That's the only way we could get to --

BECERRA: Can't do it any other way.

O'BRIEN: And Erskine Bowles has said this is kabuki theatre. I guess as a voter you all are in the business, a reporter, but you guys are in the business and you know, as a voter you get very frustrated.

So this is kabuki theatre. This is some kind of a whole machination so then at the end you can get to a deadline so we can fall off the cliff, which freeze everybody -- next election cycle people will be able to say -- I think that's frustrating.

BECERRA: Soledad, Soledad, elections have consequences. And the president ran his campaign for two years saying he was going to let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent expire. He was very clear about that.

For Republicans, they do everything possible to shield the millionaires and billionaires from that tax increase, is the reason we're still stuck. The moment they let go of that, we have a deal.

And that's why some people are saying the only way we're going to get a deal is to let all these protections in the law expire for millionaires and then we'll get a deal.

That, to me, is a couch potato way of resolving what we should do every month because every month Americans sit down at their kitchen table and resolve their budget, and we should be able to do the same thing this month.

O'BRIEN: Xavier Becerra with us this morning. It's nice to see you. Thank you for your time. Appreciate it.

BECERRA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT, we're going to be talking about Prince William. He's at a London hospital by his wife's side, as you know, the big news, across the pond, is that there is a royal bun in the royal oven, so to speak. We're going to talk about her condition. She is quite sick with morning sickness, that's straight ahead.

Also we want to know what your must-get gifts are this year. Send us a photo of yourself or your loved one or even a letter to Santa. I'll show you all the gifts I'm hoping for. Just submit it to story graph. That's cnn.com/startingpoint. We'll share with everybody here on CNN throughout the holidays. We're back right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans. Minding your business this morning, stock futures are up a little bit. Gridlock in Washington over the fiscal cliff making stock investors pretty nervous here. Stocks are acting a little bit unpredictable.

So watch out ahead here. Companies should be making hiring and spending plans for next year instead they're left wondering whether consumers are going to take home less money, and that government agencies can slash spending. That's a recipe for recession.

I asked the CEO of FedEx how companies plan ahead when Washington is so dysfunctional.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED SMITH, CEO, FEDEX: Well, I think most of the CEOs look at the situation in Washington with complete amazement and dismay, to be frank about it. The problem is the ideological pinning on both sides of this argument are so difficult to bridge, that it's going to be hard for them to get a deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That's right. Other CEOs I talked to yesterday said they think it will be hard to get a deal, Soledad, and it's kind of a grim move right now in D.C. about how long it's going to take --

O'BRIEN: I don't know. Listening to Xavier Becerra, it sounded like compromise could be on the table because they're going to come to this cliff deadline that will put pieces in place that maybe just have a deal.

ROMANS: I hope you're right. We will see.

SHRUM: Look maybe we're not being fair. You go over the cliff, the rates go up.

O'BRIEN: Right.

SHRUM: The president then says, I want president then says I want to cut taxes for 98 percent of Americans. How at that point do the Republicans vote no and say we're going to hold this hostage until you cut the top 2 percent?

BROWNSTEIN: In fact, you might even let the top rate be reduced because of the 39.6, he might take it down a notch, offset by deductions --

O'BRIEN: You technically cut taxes for -- and everyone gets to take that home. This is why, by the way, this is why the American people hate Congress.

BROWNSTEIN: But you get the revenue --

CAIN: -- want to talk about a British baby.

O'BRIEN: And, in fact, thank you, Will Cain, the British royal watchers around the world buzzing with news --

SHRUM: Looking at --

O'BRIEN: What prompter? The Duchess of Cambridge is in the family way, as they used to say. She's also in a London hospital. She's being treated for symptoms of severe morning sickness. This morning, her husband, Prince William, is by her side. You know, I was hospitalized with severe morning sickness --

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Were you?

O'BRIEN: Yes, when I had my twins. How dangerous is it? Elizabeth Cohen is with us. She's CNN's senior medical correspondent. I mean, is it dangerous for the fetus? Is it dangerous for the mother?

COHEN: Soledad, it's not dangerous unless the mom loses a ton of weight and then they might start worrying about the baby. But really it likely is not very dangerous at all. They just needed to get her in the hospital. They'll likely put an IV in her, giving her nutrition, fluids and anti-nausea medications.

O'BRIEN: Wow, so they're going to do that -- is there an indication -- what my doctor told me was that the reason I was so sick was because I was having twins. I had two older kids, right and so I wasn't kind of as queasy, but I wasn't as sick as I was with twins. Is this an indication that she, she could likely be having twins?

COHEN: You can get horrific morning sickness with a single pregnancy, with twins, with triplets. It is more likely with multiples. It's also more likely if you're carrying a baby. I know your twins were boys -- a baby girl, rather.

If you're carrying a girl you are somewhat more likely to have morning sickness because you're got your hormones plus her hormones to deal with. So if the duchess has twin girls, you heard it here first, if she doesn't I never said anything.

O'BRIEN: Duly noted. I like that. Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning. Thanks, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead, ditto from me, too. You heard it here first --

BROWNSTEIN: A lot of deniability in the conversation.

O'BRIEN: Ahead we're going to talk to the man whose winning streak -- streak on jeopardy made him a TV folk hero. Now, he's an author, Ken Jennings is debunking some of the myths that we were all brought up with like should you swim after you eat? Doesn't that give you cramps and eventually kill you? Should you run with scissors? Doesn't that kill you? That's right ahead. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. I'm Zoraida Sambolin with a quick check of our top stories. A powerful typhoon has struck the Southern Philippines this morning packing winds of 110 miles per hour. At least 27 people have been killed. The storm has destroyed homes. It has triggered landslides and officials say that millions of people could be affected.

Troubles keep coming for actress, Lindsay Lohan. Are you surprised? The latest news involves a visit from Uncle Sam. TMZ reporting the IRS has reportedly seized her assets including her bank accounts because they say she owes close to $234,000 in unpaid taxes from 2009 to 2010, and also an unspecified amount from 2011. Soledad says she feels sorry for her.

O'BRIEN: I do.

BROWNSTEIN: Give her a subsidy. Help her out.

SAMBOLIN: Tough for that girl. All right, I'll go with you on that one.

Monday night football, Rookie Quarterback Robert Griffin III benefiting from a friendly bounce with the Washington Redskins 17-16 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

That's Griffin fumbling, but teammate Josh Morgan recovers the ball runs it into the end zone for the touchdown. The Redskins are now within one game of the Giants.

CAIN: And the cowboys, I might say.

SAMBOLIN: -- in the NFC East.

O'BRIEN: Will, I guess no one likes --

CAIN: It's tough being America's team.

O'BRIEN: Have you guys ever heard these phrases? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Make sure you finish your carrots. It's good for your eyes, et cetera, et cetera. Eat everything on your plate. Kids are starving in Africa.

It's OK to pick it up, 5-second rule. All of these are things that parents have said to make their kids do things, but have you ever thought if they were actually true?

It's exactly what the bestselling author and all time "Jeopardy" champion, Ken Jennings, was trying to figure out. His new book, it's called "Because I Said So," the truth behind the myths that every generation passes down to their kids.

Ken is with us this morning. It's nice to have you back. Are these stories and things that your parents said to you when you finally decided to dig into the myths or what made you decide to dig into these?

KEN JENNINGS, AUTHOR, "BECAUSE I SAID SO!": A lot of it came from my parents, but a lot of it is also having kids on my own now and realizing that we just lie to our kids all the time. Because we don't want to --

O'BRIEN: Lie is such a strong word.

SAMBOLIN: It's not lying. We're just protecting them, right? Isn't that how perhaps you started down this road?

JENNINGS: That's the thing.

SAMBOLIN: You just start doing what your parent said.

JENNINGS: Right. My son asks, I'm really not supposed to run with a lollipop in my mouth? I said I'll be honest, I have no idea, but that's what grandma told me so you have to suck it up, too.

O'BRIEN: The 5-second rule you rate that as mostly false. JENNINGS: It is mostly false. There are actually four or five good academic studies now of the 5-second rule believe it or not. It either gets dirty when it falls or it stays clean much there's no magical time interval by where it gets dirty on the floor.

O'BRIEN: Running with scissors, that would be terrible in any small child. Any parent would know that.

JENNINGS: Running with scissors, you know, I'm not going to tell my kids to run with scissors. But when I looked at emergency room data, it's actually over hyped, cutting with scissors much more dangerous than running with them.

O'BRIEN: OK, so here is --

SHRUM: How about breakfast? Is it the most important meal of the day?

JENNINGS: I come down on the side of true for that one.

SHRUM: I hate it. I never eat breakfast.

JENNINGS: You see all kinds of gains in school. You see grades go up.

SHRUM: That must have been my problem in school.

O'BRIEN: I have to say, I think this is wrong. You say no soda. The sugar always makes you hyper and you don't think that's true. What?

JENNINGS: Parents are going to come at me for that one, but there's at least 12 studies showing no link between sugar and hyperactivity. Parents swear by this because they see their kids running around.

CAIN: I swear by it, too.

JENNINGS: Your kids are eating sugar because they're at a party and they're running around because they're at a party.

O'BRIEN: Would you feed your kid a cupcake right before bed, Ken Jennings?

KENNINGS: I would. I have no choice. Science has forced me.

O'BRIEN: Thumb sucking, bad for you.

KENNINGS: That's actually true. Your dentist is right and psychiatrist was wrong.

BROWNSTEIN: What is the biggest misconception? What is the wrongest advice that parents give to their kids?

JENNINGS: You know, the thing I always -- this one is sort of serious. Don't talk to strangers and parents take this very seriously and make their kids scared of strangers. And that's totally the wrong advice. You know, this myth of a strange kidnapper in white van. That never happens. Kids need to be comfortable talking to strangers so if they get lost they can find help.

O'BRIEN: Ken Jennings, the book is called "Because I Said So!" It's hilarious too. He goes for all these very specific -- Ken Jennings, it's nice to have you with us. We appreciate it. You can have breakfast, you can pick up the food off the floor and you can run with scissors.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, relentless rain to tell you about in the west that's already proven deadly. More rough weather on the way. We'll talk about that.

And why you don't waste any time getting that flu shot this year. You're watching STARTING POINT and we're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, the counter offer comes from the GOP. How Republicans want to solve Washington's fiscal cliff dilemma. What the Democrats are saying about it today.

Plus bold claims for Iran. Revolutionary guards showing off what they are claiming to be a captured American drone. Why U.S. officials are saying don't believe it.

SAMBOLIN: Baby on board at Buckingham Palace. The royal couple, Will and Kate, creating a media frenzy on both sides of the pond with word that they are expecting.

O'BRIEN: Lots to talk about this morning. We got Republican Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin joining us. Steve Smith is the deputy superintendent of Atlanta schools to talk about that carbon monoxide leak that sent dozens of kids off to the hospital. One of the kids will join us too.

And Pat Houston, Whitney Houston's sister-in-law and manager will join us to talk about a new book. It's Tuesday, December 4th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Ron Brownstein joins us this morning. He is the CNN senior political analyst, editorial director for "National Journal." Bob Shrum is with us. He is a Democratic strategist. Will Cain is with us. He is a CNN contributor and columnist for the blaze.com.

Zoraida is sticking around with us as well from "EARLY START." Our STARTING POINT this morning is really about the frustration and more finger pointing now about this fiscal cliff.

Twenty eight days remain before drastic tax hikes and spending cuts take effect. Republicans are offering a plan that calls for $2.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade including --