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Rebranding the Republican Party; Police, Cory Booker's Food Stamp Challenge; Good Samaritans Lift Car Off Mom; Bin Laden Film Stirs Controversy

Aired December 5, 2012 - 06:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Rubio and Ryan, has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? And Republicans are hoping these two rising stars can, you know, can reshape their party after a bruising election.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin appearing together last night at the Jack Kemp Foundation awards dinner in Washington. It's clear they're trying to rebrand themselves and the GOP after a bitter November defeat.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser live from Washington this morning.

Good morning, Paul.

You know, Ryan, took a lot of heat during the campaign for referring to some Americans as makers, others as takers. Is he dialing that back now?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: He definitely sounds different than the Paul Ryan you heard on the campaign trail a few months ago. This was Ryans's first speech since the election last month. And both Ryan and Rubio talking about how the Republican Party needs to be more inclusive and a party that helps those in the lower economic levels rise up and improve their lot.

You know, Ryan did specifically talk about Mitt Romney and said he was proud of how he and Romney ran the campaign. But both Ryan and Rubio seemed to be pushing back a little bit at Romney's controversial comments that 47 percent of Americans are dependent on the U.S. government.

Here's a taste.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Both parties tend to divide Americans into our voters and their voters. Let's be really clear. Republicans must steer far clear of that track. We need to speak to the aspirations.


We must speak to the aspirations and anxieties of every American. SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Now, I've heard it suggested that the problem is that the American people have changed. That too many people want things from government. But I'm still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people, they just want what my parents had -- a chance.


STEINHAUSER: You know, this foundation is named after the late Jack Kemp. Of course, he was a Congressman from New York state. He was a Cabinet secretary, a Republican vice presidential nominee. I hear many conservatives and he was a mentor in a way to Paul Ryan.

You know, Ryan got the award last year, the first year this foundation gave out the award. Rubio got it this year -- Christine.

ROMANS: But Ryan and Rubio being talked about as potential contenders, you know, for 2016. And they even joked about it.

STEINHAUSER: They did, right off the bat. In both their speeches, both guys got it out of the way. Here's what they said.


RYAN: 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. You know, any good diners in New Hampshire or Iowa, right?

RUBIO: Paul, thank you for your invitation for lunch in Iowa or New Hampshire, but I will not stand by and watch the people of South Carolina ignored.


STEINHAUSER: Christine, I don't have to tell you this, you're from Iowa -- of course, Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina traditionally lead off the presidential primary and caucus calendar.

Listen, it will be a lot of talk about these guys, in the spotlight, but 2016, yes, a long way away.

ROMANS: And Marco Rubio has already been to Iowa.


ROMANS: In one of the most Republican governor fund-raising events. You're right. He's already been there. All right. Thanks so much.

America's oldest dictionary Merriam Webster has announced its word of the year. After analyzing well over a billion paid views on its Web site, the word of the year is actually two words: "socialism" and "capitalism". Merriam Webster says there was a massive spike in lookups this year with socialism and capitalism almost always searched together.


ROMANS: Wow. That is real soul searching in America.

Rounding out the top five words of 2012: bigot, democracy, globalization and malarkey.

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

ROMANS: You need two Irish-Americans on the tickets, the vice presidential tickets, and they used it in the debates.

SAMBOLIN: That kind of tells you about what Americans are watching.

ROMANS: Americans care about politics.

SAMBOLIN: All right.

ROMANS: Newark Mayor Cory Booker has started his week-long food stamp challenge. He's living on the groceries he can buy for about $30 a week or less, less than 5 bucks a day. That's the amount he says New Jersey residents receive they qualify for federal assistance.

Here's how day one went in his words.


MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: It seem a little difficult because I didn't plan and my travel schedule got a little messed up so I found myself not having access to food and the food I bought, I'm out of money. So, I went through a long period of the day actually not eating anything.

So I think that it's very clear that if you are on a very limited budget, you have to put a lot more thought into what you're going to eat, where you're going to find food, and especially if you're on a program like SNAP, what places are going to accept my SNAP dollars.


ROMANS: Here's the photo he tweeted of 17 cans of beans, seven yams, two bags of frozen vegetables, two apples that will be his food for the week.

And I'd just like to add a point here, because a lot of times people try to do this to prove a point, I guess, to live on SNAP, which is Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. It's not meant to be your only calorie intake source.

SAMBOLIN: Supplemental is the key.

ROMANS: The government designs it so this is on top of what little money you might have, food pantries, soup kitchens. Some people are getting meals quite frankly in schools and the like, like kids are getting, you know, two meals a day in schools.

SAMBOLIN: Right, right. ROMANS: It's meant for a family to be supplemental and it's never designed.

SAMBOLIN: To totally survive on it, yes.

ROMANS: To be the only thing to survive.

Then, if you're going to survive on it, then you have to discuss as a country are we -- are taxpayers going to pay for every calorie somebody consumes? Are we going to completely support people? It's 46 million people are getting food stamps.

SAMBOLIN: A whole other argument.

ROMANS: A whole other argument, right.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It is 35 minutes past the hour.

Two police officers and a few Good Samaritans are being called heroes after they saved a woman and her 2-year-old daughter from being crushed to death. It happened just two minutes away from the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where a gunman opened fire killing 12 and injuring dozens, just five months ago.

Kipinga Muanza Kalala was crossing a major road with her twin sons while holding her 2-year-old daughter in her arms when she was struck by a vehicle. If that weren't bad enough, she and her daughter were trapped underneath the car. Thankfully, two officers and a few bystanders came to their aid. Listen to the police scanner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just lifted the car off her. I'm not sure what her status is yet.


SAMBOLIN: That's right. They lifted a car off of her. The mother and daughter are still in the hospital but they are said to be recovering.

So I am joined now by Sergeant Jon Kessler and Sergeant Matt Brukbacher, both of the Aurora Police Department. They were the two policemen who came to this family's aid.

Congratulations, gentlemen. You are both heroes in everybody's book. Although I know that's difficult for you to digest this morning.

So, Sergeant Kessler, I am going to begin with you. You were actually off duty. You were working at a Wal-Mart. I understand that is behind this street at the time of the accident.

Can you describe to me how you found out and what happened?

SGT. JON KESSLER, AURORA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, while I was working the police radio dispatched out an accident involving a pedestrian nearby and I walked outside to see if I could see what was going on and a lady came up running to me and said there's a lady pinned under a car and pointing back towards the street or the parking lot. So, I ran down and found the lady underneath the car in the street.

SAMBOLIN: And Sergeant Brukbacher, how did you get involved? What happened?

MATT BRUKBACHER, AURORA POLICE DEPARTMENT: I was a patrol supervisor and heard the dispatch call and responded. And I was only a couple blocks away so I got there fairly quickly. And saw Sergeant Kessler attending to the victims when I arrived on scene.

SAMBOLIN: So, when you got there, the victims were still pinned underneath the car. Is that right?


SAMBOLIN: And so what happened then?

BRUKBACHER: Sergeant Kessler was still working with the victims trying to get them out, but they were definitely trapped under the car. And because of their position I didn't think we had any time to waste. So I determined that we're going to just lift the car off of them and be able to get them out so we can try to pace their breathing and keep them alive. So, I began to do that and ask for citizen help. There were quite a few citizens around and people jumped in and it went up very easily.

SAMBOLIN: And what condition were they in when you lifted the car off of them?

KESSLER: Well, the mother was -- she was unconscious at the time. She was on her side. She had her arms wrapped around the little 2- year-old. The little 2-year-old was awake, but we couldn't get her out until the car is lifted because her mom had ahold of her and was pinned underneath the car. So, once the car came up, we were able it to get both of them out.

SAMBOLIN: Sergeant Kessler, you were off duty at the time. You know, a lot of people, you know, when they're working another job they don't get involved. Why did you do that?

KESSLER: Although I was off-duty, I was working in a uniformed capacity, doing security at the Wal-Mart store there, when people came in and said that a lady was pinned I knew I was probably the closest person to there until the guys could arrive.

SAMBOLIN: It's quite an effort to actually lift a car in order to take those people out from underneath. Tell me about the people that were standing by that assisted you. Have you met them? Have you talked to them?

BRUKBACHER: We met two people that helped us yesterday and the other folks that were there, they left very quickly after getting the job done and we were -- got busy attending to the victims. So they just went back home, went about their business. SAMBOLIN: Wow.

KESSLER: I've talked to a lady and her husband who were involved. They wish to remain anonymous. He helped lift the car up and stuff but they felt it was the right thing to do and once it was done, they just left.

SAMBOLIN: And how about the mom and little girl? Have you visited them?

KESSLER: I have not.

SAMBOLIN: Not yet.

BRUKBACHER: I haven't had a chance. I figured the family has enough going on. They don't need me bothering me right now.

SAMBOLIN: Such humble gentlemen you are.

Sergeant Jon Kessler, Sergeant Matt Brukbacher, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Congratulations to you. I suspect you will be visiting with that family shortly. Thank you.

BRUKBACHER: Thank you, ma'am.

KESSLER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. You're Jay-Z and I'm the Statute of Liberty. A clip from the rapper's documentary called "Where I'm From." Jay is riding in a New York City subway when an older lady next to him chats him up and has no clue who he is.


JAY Z, RAPPER: I performed eight shows, actually.


JAY-Z: This is the last show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're going by subway.

I'm proud of you.

Say your name again, just so I get it.

JAY-Z: Jay-Z.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, you're Jay-Z. I know about Jay-Z.



ROMANS: Jay-Z was on the way of the last of eight performances to the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. And I just for the record, Flatbush Avenue can have terrible traffic. So --

SAMBOLIN: Seriously, Christine.

ROMANS: It really can.

SAMBOLIN: Ride the subway, Jay-Z.

ROMANS: I would take the subway too.

All right. So, in this fiscal cliff mess, I don't know whether we need a presidential historian, a political strategist or hostage negotiator to help out in the talks now at this point. But either way, it's getting close to deadline. This morning, we have brand new details about the negotiations. That's next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-three minutes past the hour.

Soledad O'Brien is with us with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": Well, we've got lots to talk about. We'll continue to talk, of course, of the fiscal cliff, the President's standing by his demand that wealthy Americans pay more in taxes in any fiscal cliff deal. Is he willing to compromise with Republicans?

We'll take a look at that question this morning. We're going to talk to Stephanie Cutter. Remember, she was the deputy campaign manager from the re-election campaign.

Also, we'll talk to Republican Congressman from Texas, Jeb Hensarling.

And a horrifying moment ends up on the cover of "The New York Post." Take a look at the picture of that man in the shot moments later who would be killed, crushed by that train. Was "The Post" wrong to publish this picture?

Teachers -- should they have to take tests before they start practice teaching -- practice teaching like doctors and lawyers? It's a recommendation in a new report that from comes from the American Federation of Teachers. We'll talk about that with the president of that organization, Randi Weingarten. That is ahead this morning.

ROMANS: Passing the bar, like an attorney passes the bar, should teachers have to pass the bar?

O'BRIEN: That's interesting.

SAMBOLIN: That's exactly how they explain it, too, that it is like a bar for teachers.

ROMANS: See you very soon. Twenty-seven days until we fall off the fiscal cliff and neither side seems any closer to coming to a deal. This morning, President Obama is going to talk to members of the Washington Business Roundtable. House Speaker John Boehner and Congressional leaders are going to meet with small business owners on the Hill.

They're talking to everybody else. It doesn't look like they're talking to each other. And they're not reaching across the aisle here.

My next guest says that most politicians don't want to go over the cliff, but some partisans might derail the discussions on both sides, he writes. There is a danger ahead, a growing chorus of ideological activists on both sides who insist there's no reason to fear going over the fiscal cliff.

If the cliff exists at all, call them the cliff deniers. Listen to all or nothing advocates, they got us into mess, in the first place, leading directly to the loss of America's AAA credit rating. Listening to them again would be the definition of insanity.

John Avlon who has a Ph.D. in insanity, the CNN contributor, and co- author of "Deadline Artists: Scandal, Tragedies, and Triumphs, America's Greatest Newspaper Columns." I was in D.C. this week and I was struck by there is one track going on of negotiations. It's a track you're seeing on television.

There's not the smoke filled back rooms -- at this point, they're not there yet. Usually, I complain about the deals happening behind the scenes. There is no behind the scenes and that scares me.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And it should. I mean, look, right now, we are in the stage of public positional bargaining, and both sides making opening bids that the other side immediately dismisses as not serious. But, of course, this is serious. I mean, this is a self- inflicted crisis. And Washington is playing chicken with the fiscal cliff.

There is no question about it. In the end of the day, this deal will only get done by President Obama and John Boehner, speaker of the House, making a deal. And they came pretty close in the summer of 2011. So, there's a present (ph) for this. But the parties are so polarized. The partisans are so polarized. This is a real problem, folks. I mean --

ROMANS: And I keep saying, I think we need a presidential historian or hostage negotiator. Somebody could look back and say we've been at stalemates before, we've gotten over it, you know, shut down the government in 1996.


ROMANS: I mean, Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan have managed to solve problems and get along. Listen to what John McCain said about what we need here.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: It's time now to sit across the table from one another, rather than me saying what I could accept and wouldn't accept. Why don't we have the President and our leaders, Republican and Democrat, sit across the table the way they did with Bill Clinton, the way they did with Ronald Reagan, and the way you get things done in Washington.


ROMANS: The way they did with Ronald Reagan and they way you get things done in Washington. You sit together and you figure it out.

AVLON: That's right.

ROMANS: They're not -- they weren't even at a holiday party. They didn't talk to each other. They're just issuing sort of statements and rebuttals and saying I'm not going to budge.

AVLON: Yes. This is negotiation by press release.


AVLON: This is not how things get done, ultimately, in Washington, and this is part of the problem of the growing incivility in Washington. People don't work together the way they did. Their families don't know each other the way they did. So, you don't have that reservoir of goodwill that Reagan and Tip O'Neill, for example, did.

Look, the American people are watching this with the sort of slow motion horror. The economy is improving. And yet, Washington is playing chicken with the fiscal cliff and it's like watching a baby play with a hammer. I mean, you're just waiting for something terrible to happen. Washington has got a lot of responsibility here.

Both parties have responsibility. As Tom Cole said earlier today, folks, we're 98 percent agreement on taxes.


AVLON: Most negotiations, that's a win. Let's take that off the table. So, the parties need a real wake-up call. The fact that two percent hangs them up as much as it does is crazy.

ROMANS: -- so interesting too, because Congress gave the baby the hammer.

AVLON: Yes. That's right.

ROMANS: You know, they gave the baby the hammer to play with.

SAMBOLIN: You call it a self-inflicted wound, right? A problem that turned into a last-minute crisis. Why do you call it that, a self- inflicted wound? AVLON: Just like the debt ceiling debacle, this is something that Congress as Christine was just saying that did to itself. We've known -- this is the most anticipatable problem ever. We knew the Bush tax cuts were expiring. We knew the sequestration cuts were coming in. Those cuts that everyone is so upset about, that itself, was a measure of the failure of the Super Committee.

We know what needs to be done for a grand bargain. Every committee's come up with its Bowles-Simpson, gang of six, Obama/Boehner Super Committee. Jeb Hensarling will be on "STARTING POINT" later today. He was the co-chair of the super failed committee. They are the reason we're in this position. So, blame yourself, Washington, and don't listen to those folks to tell you don't make a deal.

SAMBOLIN: A lot of people are saying just, you know, let's go over the fiscal cliff. It's a win-win situation, right? Both win, Republicans and Democrats.

AVLON: Yes. That's an interesting definition of win. These are the cliff deniers I'm talking about. These are the voices that said don't make a deal with Bowles-Simpson, don't male a deal with the grand bargain, don't make a deal with the Super Committee. They got us into this mess in the first place.

ROMANS: My last point about the cliff deniers, is the cliff was designed to be so horrible that we would never ever, ever risk going over it. And now some of those people, oh, it's a slope. It's not a slope.

John Avlon, CNN contributor, co-author of "Deadline Artists." Thanks, Johns.

AVLON: Thanks, guys. Good to see you.

SAMBOLIN: Nice to have you here. Appreciate it.

All right. It's a Hollywood film that is so close to reality it's raising eyebrows in Washington. "Zero Dark Thirty" is about the capture of Osama bin Laden, and some on Capitol Hill are wondering how much access the filmmakers had to classified information.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 51 minutes past the hour. The film "Zero Dark Thirty" about the hunt for Osama bin Laden will be a major Oscar player, but even before it opens, the film is courting controversy with questions about unprecedented and some say inappropriate access to classified information.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, spoke to the filmmakers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't think she's a little young for the hard stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washington says she's a killer.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a Hollywood spy thriller with as much Oscar buzz as it has controversy. "Zero Dark Thirty," the story of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, from the Oscar-winning powerhouse team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, recreates how it all happened from the female CIA analyst who finally figured out where he was hiding to the NAVY SEALs who killed him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are two narratives about the location of Osama bin Laden.

STARR: The controversy? The Obama administration has faced accusations it gave undeserved access to the filmmakers. In real life, everyone involved in the hunt for bin Laden remains sworn to secrecy. But the filmmakers say they got firsthand accounts. They just won't say exactly how that happened.

MARL BOAL, WRITER/PRODUCER "ZERO DARK THIRY": I think as a reporter, you would understand that we take protecting our sources and sort of the exact methodology of our sourcing pretty seriously, just in the same way if I asked you, how exactly did you source that story.

STARR: Kathryn, when you hear Mark talk this way, do you -- are you a journalist or a filmmaker?

KATHRYN BIGELOW, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER "ZERO DARK THIRTY": That's a good question. Well, I certainly tried to be as faithful to the research as possible and make a good movie and make a film that was timely.

STARR: But, how much access they got is the issue.

REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: Obviously, things went wrong here.

STARR: Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, first called for an investigation at both the CIA and the Pentagon.

KING: There was an event where operatives were involved and they did not know until they got there that the Hollywood people were going to be present. So, which means their identity would have been shown.

STARR: King questions whether the military was pressured to cooperate on the film.

KING: What access they were told to give, some resisted, some acquiesced.

STARR: But a senior military official denies the SEALs were pressured. CIA and Pentagon officials say no secrets were given away.

KING: My understanding is that the Hollywood people got access to CIA operatives, to CIA locations, that they had access to the Navy SEALs which they should not have had. And I can't really go beyond that other than to say that now this investigation has gone on and it's been expanded.

STARR: Boal says he and Bigelow were very aware of national security concerns.

BOAL: We're acutely aware that there are sensitivities around this material. And I think we approached this with a lot of respect for those sensitivities.

STARR (on-camera): Congressman King makes clear the movie makers are free to do as they wish. His concern is whether the government is getting too close to Hollywood at the risk of the nation's secrets.

Barbara Starr, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: So interesting.

SAMBOLIN: Makes me want to watch it.


SAMBOLIN: All right. He's an Olympian, he's bobsledder, he was also blind at one point. Up next, we asked Steven Holcomb about the best advice he ever received.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour.

ROMANS: We'll wrap it up as always with a little bit of advice for you, "Best Advice." We asked American bobsled and Olympic gold medalist, Steven Holcomb, the best advice he ever received. Listen.


Steven Holcomb, American bobsledder, Olympic gold medalist: Best advice I think I've ever received came from my coach, Brian Shimer, when I was actually a push athlete, not a driver, for the bobsled team. And, I was on his team and I had gotten hurt going into the Olympic year 2002 Olympic year and I kept getting hurt over and over and over again.

And it was pretty detrimental to me just mentally. And he actually ended up cutting me from his team which kind of sucked, especially going into the Olympic year. He went on to win a bronze medal, but he gave me advice and said, look, tough times never last, tough people do. You know, just keep your head up, keep working hard, and never ever give up.


ROMANS: Tough times never last, tough people do. I like that.


ROMANS: That's EARLY START for today. Take that one to work for you. I'm Christine Romans in for John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our starting point this morning, no plan in sight. Republicans lashing out at Speaker Boehner over his deficit reduction plan as President Obama stiffens his resolve over raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Are lawmakers really going to let us go over the cliff?

And a gruesome photo sparking outrage. Should "The New York Post" have put up this picture of a man just moments before he was crushed to death by a subway train? It was on the cover. This morning, we're hearing from the photographer who snapped that picture.