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Fiscal Cliff: All Talk, No Action; Interview with Steve Israel; Internet Pioneer on the Run; Ryan, Rubio Deliver Dueling Speeches; "Who is Black in America"; Jazz Legend Dave Brubeck Dies

Aired December 5, 2012 - 14:30   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Want to take you back to the fiscal cliff. Not sure if you caught this, but House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has launched this effort to force a vote -- force a vote on extending the middle class tax cut while letting taxes go up first of the year for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Keep in mind, Republicans own the House majority, so they control which bills, of course, come to vote. And they have not allowed a vote on the tax cut.

So, Pelosi has begun to circulate this petition and it would force a vote on the measure. And they have to get the signatures just to get the vote to happen. If all House Democrats sign the petition, she still needs just about two dozen Republicans to come on board as well, and that could prove to be a pretty tough task.

Joining me now from Washington, Congressman Steve Israel, Democrat of New York.

Congressman, nice to see you back here on the show.

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: I understand you, yourself, have been reaching out to some of the House Republicans on this. Have you spoken to any of them?

ISRAEL: I have. And, you're right, it is tough for a Republican to break with his or her party and sign this petition to give a tax cut to 100 percent of all Americans on the first $250,000. What's tougher, I think, is for them to go home and have to explain to people who are making $100,000, $200,000 that they're not going to get a tax break, that their taxes are going to go up $2,000 in order to protect the richest 2 percent.

Now, look, I personally believe that that $250,000 figure is too low. If you represent a high cost of living area like mine, I think it should be higher. But I'm not willing to go back to Long Island and explain to somebody who's making less than $250,000 that they're going to be held

REPRESENTATIVE STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: -- now, look, I personally believe that that $250,000 figure is too low. If you represent a high cost of living area like mine, I think it should be higher.

But I'm not willing to go back to Long Island and explain to somebody who is making less than $250,000 that they're going to be held hostage for people making more. Agree on the 250 and get to the higher number.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so these Republicans though, as you point out, the tougher task is to go back to their constituents. How many do you think you may have coming over to your side? Got a number?

ISRAEL: We put out a -- I think we'll get virtually every single Democrat and we have put out a help wanted hit today. The middle class has a help wanted ad. We need about 30 Republicans who are willing to sign this petition, just force a vote. You could vote against it, but force a vote on tax cuts for at least up to the $250,000, and the only skill necessary is courage.

BALDWIN: Congressman, we have two weeks. You really think you're going to get 30 Republicans to do this?

ISRAEL: I think as we get closer to the fiscal cliff, I think many Republicans will realize it is an indefensible position to go back to their districts and say to 100 percent of their constituents, your taxes are going to go up because I was protecting 2 percent.

BALDWIN: OK, let me ask you about your party because one question is why is it so important to you, to the president, to other Democrats that rates go up on the 2 percent, the wealthiest Americans? Because I know there are a lot of issues at play here, but it seems as though your side will not go anywhere until you get that. Is that correct?

ISRAEL: No, look, what's important to me and to my party is that we reduce our debt. What's important is that we reduce our debt, but not on the backs of middle class and seniors. What's important is that we have debt reduction that is big, bold and balanced. To do that, you have to cut spending. We have already voted for $2 trillion in cuts.

BALDWIN: But you won't budge on that 2 percent. I just want to make crystal clear that's the deal.

ISRAEL: We can negotiate. I'm all for talking and reasonable compromise, but it doesn't look like we're going to be able to get an agreement before Christmas. And this is why people get frustrated with Washington instead of beating each other up where we're not going to agree --

BALDWIN: You don't think an agreement will be reached by end of the year?

ISRAEL: Not on the whole package I think it's getting tougher and tougher. So instead of beating each other up on areas where it looks like it's going to be tough to get agreement, let's just pass areas where we agree.

Everybody agrees at least on a tax cut on the first $250,000, let's pass it. Let's give America's middle class certainty in terms of how much they can spend on their holiday gifts. Let's come back as soon as we can and negotiate the tougher issues. That's just common sense and reasonableness.

BALDWIN: Let's talk about numbers. Let's throw the common sense and courage out the window for now, talk hard numbers. If we can throw up the Dow right now, it has been up, here it is, about 100 points.

And you know, there is an article, Congressman, in the "Washington Post" today, saying that traders think -- they do think, perhaps you don't, in terms of a huge deal, but a deal will be reached before the end of the year.

And there is not this feeling on Wall Street that -- I'm quoting this article, "that a short-term voyage off the cliff would do no lasting harm to the economy." What are you hearing from Wall Street? It sounds like some folks aren't so nervous.

ISRAEL: Well, there is a variety of opinions, diversity of opinions. You know, I've always said show me two economists and I'll show you six different opinions. You know, the opinions are out of my control. What is in my control is this.

Can we get certainty? And, again, we all agree on at least the first $250,000, me, myself, I think it ought to be higher because, again, it should be linked to the cost of living and not some figure.

I think it should be higher. But let's just get agreement and pass the bill where we know everybody does agree. And that's on at least the first $250,000. That gives the market certainty and just as important it gives the middle class certainty.

Right now, this weekend, people are going to go out and buy holiday presents for their family, their friends, loved ones, they need to know whether their taxes are going to go up by $2,000 because we can't get an agreement. Let's at least get that done and then we can move on to the more contentious issues.

BALDWIN: OK, Congressman Steve Israel, appreciate it. Thank you very much joining me from the Hill. After weeks of hiding out in Belize, an American millionaire now on the run is now seeking asylum in Guatemala. Coming up next, why John McAfee's scheduled press conference was suddenly canceled today?

Plus, a makeover for the Republican Party? Just ahead, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio lay out their vision to strengthen the GOP.


BALDWIN: Internet security pioneer John McAfee is asking for asylum in Guatemala. McAfee is wanted for questioning about the murder of his neighbor in Belize, who was found shot in his head. McAfee was on the run and in hiding until he just surfaced in Guatemala. He promised to hold a news conference today, but the appointed hour came and that hour went. No McAfee. Martin Savidge has been covering the story in Belize. You just got back. You've met him. You have interviewed him. What happened to the news conference today? Where is he?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we don't know. This is typical John McAfee style in that something gets said and for whatever reason, yet to be revealed, he didn't have the news conference. I have looked on one of his web sites, he has multiple, he said news conference tomorrow 2:00 to 4:00. That's not a guarantee. Something has happened and John McAfee will reveal all.

BALDWIN: Is he still in Guatemala?

SAVIDGE: You can't say that for certain. I would think probably so. Although when I met with him, he did indicate they were going to run. That was pretty clear. And he also said the journey would take about three days, which it did. Went probably on Saturday, resurfaces Monday. And then he said he would probably, wherever he went, stay only a few days and then disappear again so.

BALDWIN: This is the kind of guy even for you to come find him, he sent you on some bizarre circuitous route to even locate him, correct?

SAVIDGE: Right. It's was just out of like an old spy movie where the taxi rolls up and a man says, the password, which in this case was sorry I'm late. And I'm supposed to respond, that's OK, I'm waiting on a co-worker, although I nearly blew it because I was so caught off guard that I stammered out the wrong response.

But I went in the cab and then he races through town, then drops me in a parking lot, jump in another vehicle, we roar off again. I mean, it was clearly designed to keep me out of the loop of where we were.

BALDWIN: You talked to him. CNN Espanol talked to him as well. Let's listen.


JOHN MCAFEE, INTERNET ANTIVIRUS PIONEER: No one has blamed me for the murder. I have not been charged. I am not a suspect. They merely want to question me about the murder. I am not concerned. I have not been charged with a crime. There is no basis for extradition.


BALDWIN: Explain that.

SAVIDGE: It also seems there is no basis for asylum. That's what he's seeking if the authorities don't want him, and they haven't formally charged him. There is no warrant for his arrest. There is no formal charge against him.

In theory, he can go wherever he wants, but he makes it out like he's the number one criminal in all of Belize. He is not. Authorities said we would like him to come in and answer some questions.

We are not out actively trying to pull this man in. John McAfee sees something else going and that is that somehow the government of Belize is targeting him for death.

BALDWIN: We shall see if he appears tomorrow. Martin Savidge, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Rebranding the Republican Party, analysts say it is a must for the survival of the GOP. Coming up next, two of the Republicans most prominent young voices delivering speeches that could signal their future strategy against the Democrats.


BALDWIN: Two of the future stars of the Republican Party appeared together last night. Florida Senator Marco Rubio received the second Jack Kemp Leadership Award. The first recipient was congressman and former vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan. Here they were.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: As you may know, Marco is joining an elite group of past recipients for this award. Two of us so far, I'll see you at the reunion dinner, table for two, know in good diners in New Hampshire or Iowa, right?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Paul, thank you for your invitation for lunch in Iowa and New Hampshire. But I will not stand by and watch the people of South Carolina ignored.


BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, chief political analyst, little, I suppose, that is presidential primary humor there for these two?


BALDWIN: For these two potential Republican candidates. OK, so these two men, they're in the midst of this discussion as to where the Republican Party needs to go next. How do their speeches last night fit into that discussion?

BORGER: Well, first of all, they were at an event honoring Jack Kemp, who, of course, ran for the vice presidency and lost like Paul Ryan, and Paul Ryan's a disciple of Jack Kemp's. Jack Kemp was the original sort of inclusive Republican.

He really wanted to make sure the tent of the Republican Party included minorities, included people who were in the middle class, and below the middle class, and he spoke about that almost nonstop.

So it was kind of interesting to me that both of these candidates last night really seem to be taking that and running with it because, of course, they looked at the exit polls just as we did, they're part of a Republican Party that is now on the couch, trying to figure out what went wrong and who they need to include the next time around if they're going to grow as a party.

And win the presidency. And what we heard from these two men is be more inclusive, don't divide the country into us and them, talk about the middle class, and talk about minorities, particularly from Marco Rubio, who, of course, wants the party to appeal to Hispanics.

And you can argue that Hispanics were a large part of the reason that the Republicans lost this presidency.

BALDWIN: I was just curious too when I was watching -- reading a little about it, this whole inclusiveness theme, is that a jab at the Mitt Romney 47 percent comments as well?

BORGER: Yes, he was saying you just can't divide the country and Romney said 47 percent of them believe they're entitled and then there is, you know, the rest of us and we're never going to get them, I think what Ryan was saying was, of course, we can get them.

We just have to talk to them. And that, of course, Brooke, you've been talking about this today, this plays into the whole fiscal cliff debate up on Capitol Hill, which is Republicans trying to decide whether they're going to go over that cliff in order to preserve a tax cut for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. This is a big --

BALDWIN: It's a big moment. It's a big moment for the Republican Party. Let me just put it -- I want to hear a little bit more of the sound and we'll keep the conversation going. Take a listen.


PAUL: Both parties tend to divide Americans into our voters and their voters. Let's be really clear. Republicans must steer far clear of that trap. We must speak to the aspirations and the anxieties of every American.

RUBIO: I've heard it suggested that the problem is that the American people have changed. Too many people want things from government. But I'm still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people just want what my parents had, a chance.


BALDWIN: Back to what you were talking about with the fiscal cliff. Do you think depending on what the Republicans do here in these final, what, two weeks, might that be sort of a harbinger of things to come, a harbinger of the next Republican Party?

BORGER: Yes. I think it will. I think what you're seeing is a party really having an identity crisis, trying to figure out what it is and who it should stand for and as you see more and more Republicans sort of saying, you know what, we don't need to go over the cliff on this particular tax issue out of economic theory.

We need to take a stand and appeal to the people who can actually get us elected president in the next presidential campaign and that would be the middle class and also appeal, trying to appeal in the long-term to those minority voters.

I mean, you know, the fascinating statistic to me out of this entire election, Brooke, was that in 2008, 74 percent of the electorate was white. This time that went down two points and those two points, one could argue, handed the president re-election.

And the Republican Party needs to figure out a way to broaden, not to narrow itself, and that's what these two men are talking about, and that's what the debate on Capitol Hill is about.

BALDWIN: Gloria Borger, thank you very much.


BALDWIN: America's leading dictionary publisher has announced its list of the top ten words of the year. So this list is actually based on the volume of how many people are searching for words at merriam-

So number four here, the number four search word, marriage. Number three, bigot and the top two words after the break. Think about what's happened this year, could you guess the top two words? That's next.


BALDWIN: This is fun to watch. The words you're guessing on Twitter here with me, before the break, we showed you numbers three and four on Merriam-Webster's list of the most searched words of 2012.

Here are the top two positions, number two, touche, Webster believes this word may have gained popularity this year through verbal jousting on social media. I tweeted the word touche for the first time today.

Craig Schultz, I'm talking to you. And the most searched word in 2012 is actually, two words, socialism and capitalism. Merriam Webster says that both these words share the top spot.

Thanks to this year's presidential election. They also say searches for socialism spiked during the coverage of health care and right after the election. There you have it, the top four, really top five.

Here's an interesting question for you, what are you, black, white, Asian, Latino, other? For some the answer isn't simple. It is something they're forced to deal with every time they meet someone new. It leaves them wondering why the question needs to be asked at all and if it should be answered. Soledad O'Brien explains.


NAYO JONES, PHILADELPHIA YOUTH POETRY MOVEMENT: If I had a word to describe me, it would most likely be quirky. I'm in a band. We do, like, progressive alternative rock, kind of. At first when people meet me, they don't really know what I am. People will ask me like, what are you? SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The 17-year-old Nayo Jones is a singer, a talented poet, a high school senior, but that's not what people want to know.

JONES: Recently I had one of those experiences, just like writing things and I was like, Becca deals with the same thing. Let's make this a group piece.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you want to do?

JONES: I don't know. Pick a book and pick a poem.

O'BRIEN: Becca Kahlil is Nayo's best friend. They do spoken-word poetry together.

JONES: It starts off with girl, you are so pretty. What are you, the quintessential question for a girl with soft kinky curls. They can't handle my racially ambiguous figure. They itch to know just what I am. It helps them sleep at night if they can pin down the reason for my -- skin.

O'BRIEN: Young women are being asked to categorize themselves racially. In a country that has historically put most people into one of two boxes, black or white.

(on camera): Can you decide if you're black or white?

BECCA KHALIL, PHILADELPHIA YOUTH POETRY MOVEMENT: I don't think anybody else gets to pick for me. When it comes down to it, it is what I say about myself that is the most important.


BALDWIN: "Who Is Black In America," Soledad O'Brien examines questions about skin color and discrimination and race. In our documentary, we're calling it "Who Is Black In America," it premieres Sunday night 8:00 Eastern and 11:00 Eastern only here on CNN.

Remembering jazz great Dave Brubeck, not only was he really one of the world's most bright, great jazz musicians, he was also a fighter for civil rights and justice. Bill Cosby reflects on his extraordinary life next.


BALDWIN: Some sad news to share with you today from the music world. Jazz legend Dave Brubeck has died.

As a pianist, Brubeck is credited with bringing jazz to the mainstream, but also breaking racial barriers. In fact, during the height of his career, he canceled dozens of concerts in the south when they wouldn't allow his black bass player in certain venues.

We had Bill Cosby on earlier today. Listen to what he had to say about Brubeck.


BILL COSBY (via telephone): As I have said, racism is a waste of time. And people who tried to push it and keep it out front because of whatever their idiocy happens to be, there are people like Dave and others, Benny Goodman, et cetera, et cetera, Louis Armstrong, they all knew that in playing these places, that they were given an opportunity to say, no, it's not going to be that way.


BALDWIN: Bill Cosby there. Brubeck worked with Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington, just to name a couple of other greats. His manager tells us Brubeck died of heart failure one day before his 92nd birthday.