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John Boehner's Press Conference; November Jobs Report Analysis; Pranked Nurse Commits Suicide

Aired December 7, 2012 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": If they thought it was hilarious, it really wasn't because the most tragic outcome of that stupid prank has happened. The nurse who took that call and transferred that call to the ward where the duchess was staying, that nurse has now committed suicide.

We are hearing all of this from the hospital. They've sent out a statement. We are going to take you to London where all of this is just developing now.

We are still gathering more details on all of this. In just a few moments, my colleague, Richard quest, who will join me live from London.

But just such an incredibly sad development to that story.

We also have big news developing here on this continent. The new report out -- a surprising one really on the jobs. Wow, check out the growth of the jobs in the United States in November. Look at that number, triple digits. We weren't even sure if it double digits.

A hundred forty-six thousand new jobs, it's more than twice what the economists were expecting. Certainly, this has got to be a -- good surprise. 25 days before those tax hikes and spending cuts and the White House and Congress trying to avoid and the speaker of house about to address perhaps this and other things.


REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: ... our economy and threatening jobs and the White House has wasted another week.

You know, eight days ago, Secretary Geithner came here to offer a plan that had twice the tax hikes the president campaigned on. It had more stimulus spending than it had in cuts and an indefinite, an infinite increase of the debt limit like forever.

Now, four days ago, we offered a serious proposal based on testimony of President Clinton's former chief of staff. Since then, there has been no counteroffer from the White House.

Instead, reports indicate that the president has adopted a deliberate strategy the slow walk our economy right to the edge of the fiscal cliff. Instead of reforming the tax code, cutting spending, the president wants to raise tax rates. But even if the president got the tax rate hike that he wanted, understand that we would continue to see trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see.

Listen, Washington's got a spending problem not a receive knew problem.

Now, if the president doesn't agree with our proposal, I believe that he's got an obligation to families and small businesses to offer a plan of his own, a plan that can pass both chambers of the Congress. We're ready and eager to talk to the president about such a plan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Speaker, you did speak with the president earlier this week. Can you characterize that call?

I mean, does he call -- did he have any kind of counteroffer? And, also, we understand that he is just making clear that it's got to be increasing rates for the wealthy or no deal.

Are you willing to give a little bit, maybe just not all the way to 39.6?

BOEHNER: It was -- the phone call was pleasant, but it was just more of the same, even the conversations that the staff had yesterday, just more of the same.

It's time for the president, if he is serious, to come back to us with a counteroffer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the jobs report indicated unemployment is down roughly a full point from this time last year. A lot of folks in business communities say no deal is going to happen, it could obviously hurt American jobs prospects.

You always say, where are a the jobs? They seem to be coming along. Why take such a risk when the jobs number is improving?

BOEHNER: Well, because the risk the president wants us to take, increasing tax rates, will hit many small businesses that produce 60 percent to 70 percent of the new jobs in our country. That's the whole issue here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Speaker, what would it take ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa.

BOEHNER: You're violating the rules. Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the treasury secretary on CNBC said the president was absolutely ready, prepared to have the economy to go of the cliff if he doesn't get higher income tax rates. What's your reaction?

BOEHNER: I think that's reckless talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, you said before the election you would be able to prevent tax hikes on all Americans. You just said, flatly, taxes are not going up. Do you still believe that to be the case?

BOEHNER: Listen, raising tax owes small businesses is not going to help our economy and it is not going to help those seeking work.

There -- I came out the day after the election to put revenues on the table, to take a step towards the president to try to resolve this. When is he going to take a step towards us?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you see some way you can agree to tax rate increases and protect small businesses at the same time? Maybe going with the 37 percent or some middle ground on this?

BOEHNER: There are a lot of things that are possible to put the revenue that the president seeks on the table, but none of it's going to be possible.

The president insists on his position, insists on my way or the highway. That's not the way to get to an agreement that I think is important for the American people and very important for our economy.


BANFIELD: Well, there you go. The speaker, always short and sweet, and had that intention of coming out at 11:00 and hit his mark. Four minutes later, done with that.

So, in the meantime, CNN's Christine Romans is here. She's been not only breaking down the jobs number, but watching what the speaker had to say about the fiscal cliff discussions.

I'm sorry we don't have better news for you. You heard him. He said that president -- the call with the president was more of the same and that the ...



BANFIELD: Pleasant.

ROMANS: But more of the same.

BANFIELD: Pleasant, but more of the same. Nice that you brought that. You're such a holiday spirit.

But, look, this is critical because we are starting to see really hard numbers when it comes to the taxation of the top 2 percent.

ROMANS: Right, so, let me tell you what the smart money on Wall Street is saying, right, and one of the reasons why you've still have the Dow above 13,000 is because they think that the president and Democrats have held the line here and they have the upper hand, they have the leverage and the question now is, what will the top tax rate be? Right now, it's 35 percent. It's going to go up to 39.5 percent.

BANFIELD: That's the wish list of the Democrats. It goes all the way up ...

ROMANS: Right.

BANFIELD: ... it goes all the up to 39.5 percent ...

ROMANS: Back to those Clinton ...

BANFIELD: The Clinton-era rates.

ROMANS: The pre-Bush tax cut levels. So what will -- will there be room to negotiate and you heard Dan ask that question, ask him, is there room to negotiate on what the top rate will be? A lot of people ...

BANFIELD: He didn't answer.

ROMANS: He didn't answer, but a lot of people are saying that's where they are right now in negotiations. They are talking -- not people in the negotiation, I want to be clear.

People who are watching and literally placing their money on their expectations in the stock market are thinking that's what the discussion's going to be -- what will those top rates be?

BANFIELD: And maybe even -- and hoping -- but I will tell you what. The rhetoric doesn't lead to any discussion that they might even be hashing numbers.

It's just I'm not talking about that clause.

ROMANS: And he -- Speaker Boehner said that we need a counterproposal from the White House and the White House has said no, this is our offer. We are sticking to it.

BANFIELD: I wish I could name the reporter, but it was so low audio I couldn't hear who it was asking about the jobs numbers and whether this stance at a time when the jobs numbers are looking -- I mean, a lot of people said extraordinary.

ROMANS: Starting to improve, you're right.

Well, you look at the numbers. You see 146,000 jobs created. You're right to point out that's twice what the economists had been expecting.

You know, you didn't see a real pullback because of Sandy in these numbers, at least not this month. Maybe that will come in next month.

But look at the unemployment rate on the right there, 14.4 percent. That's what they call the real unemployment, people that are working part time, want to be working full time, people who are out of work. These are ... BANFIELD: And, by the way, that unemployment number, that real unemployment number, is the same when we had low unemployment, too.

When we had low unemployment, the number you're quoted, it's actually high when you get the real numbers, so it's all relative.

ROMANS: These are the sectors we are flipping through for you. Look at professional business services, 43,000 jobs created there.

Anybody who is trying to get your kid in college, the government pointed out that computer systems analysts and related fields very strong demand. That fits in that professional business services. Also, good pay in that field.

And let's talk about the breakdown of race. African-American unemployment went down a little bit, Ashleigh, 13.2 percent.

BANFIELD: Still way too high.

ROMANS: You'll notice that the disparities between the worker groups are still a problem. Structural problems there.

But the African-American unemployment rate went down and that's the trend. We've got two years and change now of month after month of solid jobs creation.

BANFIELD: What happened in March of 2010?

ROMANS: We need to be seeing more.

That was -- March of 2010, that was census hiring and stimulus. Remember?

BANFIELD: Ah, stimulus and census hiring.

So, quick question and this is a bit of a tangential track here, but I read this report this morning that there were 600,000 jobs that could not be filled across -- more than half a million jobs that couldn't be filled across this country last year, I believe, because we just didn't have skilled enough workers.

And the first thing I thought was because we are not teaching them sciences or computer or technology. Much of it had to do with you can't even answer a phone. You don't have social skills. You can't say please and thank you and do as you are told. What?

ROMANS: I would like to see that report because I was just talking to someone who does manufacturing, who works some manufacturing policy in the government that said some of the numbers are a little overblown.


ROMANS: Some of those numbers, in fact are. And I think you had somebody from Boston Consulting Group on recently who said some of those numbers are because, you know, employers aren't training and are not paying up for the skills. BANFIELD: And some of the argument has been that our education is so dismal we are not teaching people basic social manners.

Hold the phone for a minute here. Speaking of the phone, Dana Bash from Capitol Hill is joining me by the telephone.

Dana, I heard your question. It was right on point. It was, I believe, question number one for the speaker, which was, are you willing to start negotiating on the numbers of that top taxation issue between 35 and 39.5?

You didn't get your answer.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): I didn't get my answer, but certainly, other people were asking similar questions. I'm not sure if could you hear the questions from other reporters.

Finally, there was one question that asked about whether there is some middle ground on the Republican position on the tax rates and the speaker didn't say no. And, to me, I thought that was one of the most significant moments of this press conference.

He didn't say no. His answer was basically that, you know, he's willing to talk about a lot of things if the president moves off his "my way or the highway" attitude. So, that was -- again, I think that's pretty significant.

The other thing that, again, I'm not sure if you could hear the question. Somebody asked about the fact that Timothy Geithner, the treasury secretary, said earlier this week that he is willing to go off the cliff if it means giving in on those tax rates for the wealthy. The speaker called that reckless.

So, look, I mean, what we saw here, big picture, is the speaker trying to do what he did all week long which is to change the narrative and -- from where it is right now, Republicans admit, which is that Republicans are being unreasonable because Republicans won't give in on raising tax for the wealthy which all polls say the majority of Americans agree with, trying to change that to the president is being intransigent because he won't come back with a counter-proposal.

So, that's, by far, the main reason why the speaker decided at the last minute to come out and have a press conference.

BANFIELD: And I wonder if he will get his wish, Dana, to have other congressional leaders to step aside, everybody, and let the president and me do the business that we need to do.

Dana Bash, I've got to jump. Thanks, sweetheart. If you could continue working that for us because I know there's going to be further developments, hopefully, today.

One thing that's critical with what the speaker just said, whether that's going to have a bearing on the stock market, certainly, what happened this morning with the jobs numbers, that's got a bearing on the market, 146,000 new jobs for November.

It is good news for investors, believe it or not. But 25 days away from the fiscal cliff, those new jobs numbers could also be good for President Obama. It might end up giving him some of the leverage Dana was talking about.

Have a listen to this.


KEVIN HASSETT, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: These numbers are kind of huge for those negotiations because President Obama's argument has been that the economy is doing well enough that it could handle a tax hike.

You know, if the economy were in recession as we saw last time, then he would be reluctant to lift that top rate, but if the economy is growing sharply, then if the -- there's some damage from lifting the top rate then maybe the economy could afford it.

Now, the GDP growth number is not as strong as the jobs report, but if we a weak jobs report, then I think the president would have a really, really hard time getting people, even moderate Democrats, to increase the marginal rate.

The fact that it's kind of a strong report, I think, puts a little bit of wind in his sails.


BANFIELD: Ah, wind in his sails. That's not necessarily what the speaker was saying, though.

Let's get straight to Alison Kosik who's live at the New York Stock Exchange right now.

OK, raw numbers, what's the Dow doing?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are not seeing the wind go in a strong direction towards a positive direction.

You are seeing a mixed bag with stocks now, Ashleigh, and that's because, you know, despite the huge shocker of this report that was a surprise to the upside, the way investors see it is they are going to be kind of cautious about this because the reality is, you look at that jobs report, a lot of those jobs that were added were seasonal ones, you know, in retail, in travel and leisure.

So, guess what? The real question here is how many of those jobs are going to go away, putting people back on the unemployment line after the holidays are over.

Plus, you look at that drop in the unemployment rate. Yeah, it looks good for a headline, but 350,000 people dropped out of the work force and in November. So, with fewer people looking for work, that pushes the rate down. So, it truly -- yeah, there are some bright spots in this report. It does show the economy is holding relatively stable, but we really need to wait a couple of months and look back at the trend to get an idea of just how healthy or unhealthy the labor market really is.


BANFIELD: So, you know, the obvious is down is bad and up is good. But what are these numbers not telling us?

KOSIK: You know what these numbers don't show. They don't show that consumers. They don't show that businesses are still really, really worried about how strong or not strong the economy is.

Look, you are talking about the fiscal cliff. We're 25 days away until these tax hikes and federal spending cuts go into effect. You're looking at Wall Street. It is not making any big moves because of the uncertainty of what is going to happen with this, how long are politicians going to continue dragging their feet.

And it is not just Wall Street. You know, it is beginning to eat into consumer confidence. We just got this index -- the University of Michigan consumer confidence index -- just a short time ago, this morning.

It showed that consumer confidence plunged in the first week of its month because Americans don't know what to expect tax-wise and that's a bad sign for retailers at the most important time of the year, the holidays.

Because guess what? If consumers aren't feeling confident, Ashleigh, they're not going to spend. That domino effect could hit retailers. Many of these retailers depend on the holiday sales to push them into a profit for the year. This is what's weighing out there in -- you know, for consumers, yes.

So, the fiscal cliff definitely weighing on things despite the fact that the jobs number came in strong today, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Sure. Uncertainty can hit us at all different levels.

Alison, thank you and I just want to do one thing before we go to break and that is check the market again.

I think as we went to Alison, it was around 13.8. Yeah, it was somewhere around there. So, we're -- we just jumped a point. How about that? We are not in exact real-time, but we're pretty close.

Back after this.



CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": It is a historic day in the U.S. Did you know that? Yeah. As of today, Washington state has legalized, legalized, both marijuana and gay marriage. That's a true story, yeah, yeah.

So, today, men all over Washington have two different reasons to say, "I love you, man." You don't know which one it is, though.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. It could be both.

O'BRIEN: Are you high or proposing to me?


BANFIELD: The very funny and talented Conan O'Brien weighing in on a very serious issue, yesterday's news.

While same-sex marriage isn't a new thing because several other states have legalized it within the last decade, Washington's marijuana law makes it the only state that allows recreational pot-use.

And, by the way, Colorado is just a couple of months away from enacting the very same freedoms.

So, while it seems legal, is it really? Those two states have voted to make it so, but the federal government still says it isn't so. And, quite frankly, nobody really knows who trumps who here in the political debate.

The governors of both of those states say that the feds haven't even started talking to them yet about how to reconcile these two laws that are diametrically opposed.

But now, according to "The New York Times," the feds may be tipping their hands somewhat when and making plans for a bit of a crackdown on these brand-new state freedoms.

What the feds do could ultimately reverse what those states did, more likely what the state voters did which means that the Supreme Court may end up the ultimate referee in all of this.

So, joining me now is the former U.S. attorney general in the Bush administration, Alberto Gonzales, probably one of the better voices to ask about what's happening.

Judge, thank you so much for being on the program. Did you see this coming, first of all? Did you see these momentous shifts in the last election coming?


Obviously, as you indicated, in your opening remarks, it is still against federal law to smoke, to possess, to sell marijuana. It is still a Schedule One controlled substance and so, even though under state law it may be lawful and in Washington state and soon in Colorado, I believe, January 5, it will become lawful.

Nonetheless, the U.S. attorney in Washington has been very clear in saying it's a violation of federal law and our job as Department of Justice employees is to enforce federal law.

BANFIELD: And do you agree with the federal law? Do you agree that the federal law should remain that pot-use and smoking, trafficking, selling, administering taxes on, pot-use, should all be illegal, state to state?

GONZALES: Well, listen, that law represents value judgment of Congress as to what is right important the American people, so you asked me whether or not I had personal views about it, I certainly do, but as a general manner, it does represent the will of the people through the actions by Congress.

I personally believe it's a mistake. I certainly am -- being a former state official of Texas, I certainly believe in the rights of the states to make these kind of decisions for their own people.

But I -- but here we do have a field that I believe you can argue has been preempted by the federal government. We have a regulatory scheme that has been in place important decades. We have the DEA whose sole job is to go after these kinds of drugs.

And, so, I think this is an issue that's ultimately going find its way to the Supreme Court. There are various options that the U.S. government can take. I think this is -- this does present some serious challenges for the federal government and I think that's the reason why you have yet to hear what the Department of Justice is going to do

Obviously, I -- my understanding is that under the regulatory scheme there in Washington state, they have a year to put in place a regulation with respect to licensing and taxing of these kinds of sales and I think that what the Department of Justice is doing is evaluating what is the best way, what's the best course of action moving forward.

BANFIELD: I'm so interested to hear you say, you know, as a conservative, who appreciates state rights, I just -- I'd like you to weigh in on whether you think that the federal government should get involved and perhaps trump the rights of those states in what those voters have enacted.

As a conservative who believes in state rights, but perhaps as a conservative who may not appreciate the legalization of marijuana, what do you think should happen?

GONZALES: Well, from my own perspective, if in fact the people in Colorado and Washington state, they want to smoke marijuana and it doesn't affect me, as a general manner, I'd say, OK, again, putting aside the fact that we have a federal law, the concern that I have is that there are many reports that prolonged marijuana use results in long-term health care issues.

And to the extent that someone smokes marijuana in Washington state and they do it for a number of years and they develop medical problems and, so, they need some kind of unique or extraordinary health care and somehow mine tax dollars that I pay to the federal government find their way into the state of Washington state to help pay for the health care, I have no interest in my tax dollars being used to subsidize marijuana use in a different state.

And, so, if we could keep that conduct within the parameters of those states, I think it makes a much stronger argument for respecting the decision of the will of the people in those states.

But I don't think you can do that and, again, we do have in place already this federal scheme to deal with Schedule One controlled substances.

BANFIELD: Sure, sure. I only have 30 seconds left until I'm going to be hit with a black wall, but I have got to get you to weigh in on what you think the Supreme Court may or may not do with regard to same-sex marriage today in truly 30 seconds.

GONZALES: I think that it is going to be a very difficult issue in terms of whether or not -- I don't think the court needs to reach the fundamental question as to whether or not this is a fundamental right.

The court has said that marriage generally is a fundamental right, but with respect to issues relating to gays, the court has imposed a level of intermediate scrutiny and not strict scrutiny, which means laws and actions with respect to gays are afforded more respect by the Supreme Court.

Hard to say, but, you know, I think this is an issue in a case that everyone's going to watch very closely.

BANFIELD: And I think you will be watching closely today to see what happens along with the rest of us.

Judge Gonzalez, thank you for your time. I look forward to another conversation with you, especially after we hear what the supremes decide on.

GONZALES: Good to be with you.

BANFIELD: Alberto Gonzales joining us live. And we're back right after this.


BANFIELD: We mentioned off the top of the program that the nurse in England who fell for a prank phone call from two radio deejays in Australia and ended up revealing some private health information about the Duchess of Cambridge, well, that nurse has now apparently committed suicide.

Richard Quest is live now in London with more on this story.

Richard, you know, we just could not believe this development when it crossed the wires. It is just so incredibly sad.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL'S "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS": Absolutely and it took more than the usual amount of time for us before we were prepared to broadcast it because not only did the entire -- the sheer raw fact of what happened become so horrifying, but also there was a -- there was the potential for confusion over who had killed themselves.

Firstly, was it the nurse-receptionist who put the call through or was it the woman who then gave the information? We now know it was the nurse who put the -- the receptionist -- she's a nurse as well -- who put the call through and the hospital says that she worked at the hospital for four years, was very well liked.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge described themselves as very saddened, deeply saddened, to learn of the death of Jacintha Saldanha, according to St. James' Palace.

And the fact -- I mean, you know, one's even stumbling just to find the words, the prank that took place was clearly so affected this woman that she just -- she committed suicide.

BANFIELD: Richard, do we actually know this? I mean, has anybody been able to make this definitive connection between what happened to her with the prank and -- I know it is approximate in time, but might there have been anything else that led to this?

Or do we really know that this is really a cause-and-effect?

QUEST: No. I mean, you are -- if you are asking for the level of certainty then no until we get a statement that links the two.

However, that said, if you are asking the fact that -- if we look up at what we have been told by the hospital, we know the person that was involved and we know the facts as they have been presented to us.

She was found unconscious in rooms near the hospital. She was the receptionist who was involved in passing on the call and the hospital has made no effort to at least distance the two stories ...