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Interview with Cory Booker; Royal Hoax Tragedy; Interview with Brandy

Aired December 7, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, could you live on just $30 a week for food? Mayor Cory Booker is trying to do just that.


MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: Getting this cup of coffee at Starbucks will wipe out your entire allowance for a day.


MORGAN: Suffering caffeine withdrawal and really hunger pains, he joins me for an exclusive interview.

Plus, tragedy after the prank call to Kate Middleton. A nurse who was tricked takes her own life. The latest from London.

Battleground America.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm encouraged that I think we have turned the corner.


MORGAN: Good new job numbers but same old ways in Washington. Is it too late to save you from paying higher taxes? I'll ask my all- star panel.

And she's a fine girl.

My old friend Brandy back in the spotlight and speaking from the heart about her mentor, Whitney Houston.


BRANDY, SINGER: I felt like I wasn't there enough for her at the end of her life.



Good evening. We begin tonight with our big story, the reality from an estimated 46 million Americans. Simply put, they can't afford to eat. They live on food stamps. These are men, women and children in America.

Hunger is not just a third world problem. It's a massive problem right here in the United States right now.

And Cory Booker is determined to tackle it. The Newark mayor is doing some pretty extraordinary this week. He's living off food stamps himself, just food stamps. He has just $29 and change for seven days' worth of food.

This is what he bought. It's a life-changing experience for him. What he sees as a wake-up call in all of America. He hasn't talked to anyone yet on camera after starting this but that changes tonight.

And joining me for an exclusive interview is Mayor Cory Booker.

Welcome to you.

Why did do you this?

BOOKER: You know, it actually started by a late night conversation over twitter with a woman who was pooh-poohing government's role in provision nutrition for kids. I shot back at her, we had a couple exchanges and finally I said, why don't we both live on food stamps?

And I went to bed not thinking much of it and got up the next morning and it had spread really through the social media world, and was a bigger story. I called my staff and said we're doing this.

MORGAN: You were on day four of this. This is the exact pile of food that you got.


MORGAN: What is interesting to me, you spent $29.78 on this, but when we tried to match it around here, in New York, we had to spend $57.37.

BOOKER: Right.

MORGAN: Implying that the government rate, if you like, for this food is clearly based right at the lowest possible level and may not be even possible for many people on food stamps.

BOOKER: That's what we want to highlight. You have people who live in nutrition and food deserts who don't have access to fresh and healthy foods. I'm very lucky I live a mile away so I walked to the superintendent. Many people can't just get in their car and go to the supermarket.

What we're trying to do is not just see what the challenges are on living on this amount of money, but also showing the other problems we have that cause food insecurity in the United States of America, that cause obesity, that contribute to our health care costs. There are so many things about food systems that are broken in America and one of them is just people having access to healthy, affordable food.

MORGAN: In 2011, the average monthly food stamp benefit was $133.26 per person in New Jersey, which works out a little more than $33 a week. So just slightly above what you bought for yourself. It's day four of the challenge and this is the SNAP challenge. If you don't know, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that is the food stamp program.

How are you feeling? How are you finding it?

BOOKER: You know, it's a little more difficult than I imagined and I thought I would be good on eating on a tight budget. So I started out not really marshaling my food well. So I'm really cutting back now. The biggest thing for me, people have to understand, going out and getting this cup of coffee at Starbucks will wipe out your entire allowance for a day.

And as a guy who is admittedly caffeine addicted as I now am going through a bit of withdrawal, that's one of the bigger challenges I'm facing right now.

MORGAN: You're having no caffeine at all.

BOOKER: No, because I can't afford it on a budget.

MORGAN: And you're -- you're a vegetarian, hence the fact that al this is non-meat product. I would imagine that if you are not a vegetarian, it's probably more expensive.

BOOKER: But let's go even worse than this. I'm an adult, a male vegetarian. So imagine now being a family and teenagers. When I was a teenager, I ate at my mom and dad out of house and home.


BOOKER: So over 40 percent of SNAP family recipients have kids at home and are beneficiaries, 20 percent of the SNAP recipients have disabled folks at home, almost 10 percent are elderly.

So this is one thing for the challenges for me and me right now complaining about a headache and caffeine withdrawal, I'm off this in a week. But these are families that are struggling with this. That's been the voices that have been most compelling to me of the people who have been posting on twitter, these incredible videos --

MORGAN: I have been following. It's been fascinating.

BOOKER: Unbelievable.

MORGAN: Let's watch a little clip from some of the footage of you on this challenge.


BOOKER: Tough choice I have to live with this week is that I used my money to buy a lot of different things but not caffeine, and so I'm going to be going this week without coffee, without Diet Pepsi, Diet Coke. Worried about my food supplies which are actually dwindling down, and I'm going to have to figure out a way to ration a little bit better and go perhaps with smaller meals.


MORGAN: So, the majority of people I have seen on Twitter are supporting what you're doing. They like the way you're highlighting this. Some people are criticizing you.

CNN's Christine Romans said this on Wednesday. Just have a look and react to this.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: To live on SNAP, which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, it's not meant to be your only calorie intake source.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Supplemental is the key.

ROMANS: Supplemental key is the key. If the government designs it so this is on top of what little money you might have, food pantries, soup kitchens. If you're going to survive on it, then you have to -- we 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 -- 46 million people are getting food stamps.


MORGAN: Your reaction?

BOOKER: First of all, I hope people are sniping. I hope people -- I hope there's dialogue and attention on this of the kind that it seems our media is fascinated with the pregnancy of a princess. Why aren't we talking about issues of poverty? Why aren't we talking about issues of working families who are working full-time jobs and still can't make ends meet?

And so I'm happy that the discussion and the conversation is going on at a degree we never imagined when it started, but I also want to let people know that the reality is the reality. There are many families, and I talked to a group of security guard workers yesterday who make $7 and change, don't have health care benefits, so if they get sick, they have to either take days off of work and lose that money or work through the sickness, who don't have retirement benefits, who find it hard at the end of a month to pay their rent, to buy their food, and are struggling. These are full-time people that are working.

So she may think it's a supplemental program but for many Americans who are working even, this is the difference between going deep into food insecurity, being -- not being able to provide for their families and having a bridge to stability. So I just -- right now, what bothers me and concerns me is on two levels: the local level and the national level.

National level right now in congress, this is where I give Senator Stabenow and also our president, who are trying to protect the SNAP programs and a House bill that savagely is cutting this.

MORGAN: Sixteen billion dollars.

BOOKER: Sixteen billion dollars. Right.

So, here you have veterans, families, over a million veterans, people who are depending on this program. You have military families, thousands of them depending on this program. You have kids because but for programs like this, they would be going to school nutritionally unfit to learn.

The point about our economy, this is the short-sighted thinking that so many people have about government expenditures -- there is absolutely government waste, fraud, abuse. But when it comes to programs like this, you actually get a long-term and immediate benefit from that expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

MORGAN: Nobody can tell me this is a wasteful amount of food for an American.

BOOKER: But understand, when I -- if I was on food stamps or SNAP program, I used my money, that dollar that I spend on my food actually comes -- recycles through the economy and produces $1.70 or more of a benefit to our GDP because you know what? People produce this food. The truckers depend on that. The store owners -- it actually creates jobs in communities, have millions of dollars of money that people are expending.

MORGAN: What do you think about this, though, Cory? Because there's another staggering statistic that 40 percent of all food supply in America each year is thrown away, discarded by Americans, which works out to equivalent of $2,275 annually in food.

I mean, it's a staggering amount of food tossed away. There is a real venomous (ph) disconnect here, isn't it?

BOOKER: Right. We have broken food systems in America. And that's why the movement of food justice which is gaining steam about creating sustainable food systems at the local level, where one, we have programs in Newark that reclaim food that would otherwise be thrown away from everything -- from businesses to arenas -- to get it back into the food system, finding ways to get grocers, a corner bodega, to actually have fresh and healthy foods, getting farmers' markets and farm stands and urban gardens to actually -- to exist, number one, in urban communities but also to accept SNAP benefits there.

There are so many things that we could be doing on a local level to stop food waste, to address food systems, to address food deserts, but we need the activism, we need that attention on this problem.

MORGAN: Where do I send the Starbucks on Monday morning when it's all over for you?

BOOKER: I'm trying to decide whether having worked through days of headaches, whether I should go intravenous caffeine right away or stay away from this succulently seductive, addictive thing that --

MORGAN: Well, I think it's a great way to (INAUDIBLE). The amount is completely irrelevant. The fact is we are debating this now on a national level. I mean, wouldn't be if you weren't doing this, it takes people to do dramatic things like this to get people aware of it.

Let's take a break. Let's come back and talk about your forthcoming battle, many say, with Chris Christie. You probably ate that for breakfast.

BOOKER: That's a low blow. Low blow.

MORGAN: He'd laugh.



GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: People have different skill sets at different times.



So he wasn't a leader until you needed leadership?

CHRISTIE: Maybe until -- maybe until he was presented with a stark opportunity to lead.

STEWART: Yes, opportunity.


MORGAN: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on "The Daily Show", joking about his bromance with President Obama. I'm sure Mayor Cory Booker has a lot to say about this, because he may be your rival, of course, should you -- you can confirm this now -- but should you come up against Chris Christie politically, what do you make of what's going on with him and the president?

BOOKER: Well, first of all, I think that's the way government should work and that's what we should expect from people. What we saw with President Obama is he gets into office and people are right away saying, we're not going to work with him to try to solve a national fiscal crisis, where our number one goal is to get him out of office. And that's where politics trumps people and purpose.

So, Governor Christie and President Obama showed the right spirit during one of the worst natural disasters to hit in my lifetime on my state. MORGAN: Give me three quick denials. Booker v. Christie 2013?

BOOKER: I'm not even going to give you the denial. I'm going to simply say this is one of the most important races in the country because as much as I agree with things Christie has done, there are things that are going on in the state right now where our state is going to have to make a choice, between women's rights, Planned Parenthood, between environmental policy and prioritization of education, things like that. There's a definite policy choice in the state of New Jersey.

MORGAN: Could you beat him?

BOOKER: Look, I think he's vulnerable. I think he's vulnerable to any Democrat. His high mark in polls, public polls that have been published, his high mark right now, he had with me, polls only at 53 percent.

MORGAN: How would you feel if the president comes down and puts his arm around him again at the height of the battle?

BOOKER: I think if there was a cause, a need for that, I applaud my president. New Jersey is in a crisis, I want him to bond with whoever is in the governor's office.

At the end of the day, politics should be left to political seasons. Governing should be done during governing season. Even right now, in New Jersey, before we get to next year, which is the election year, even right now, it's time to focus on governing and serving people.

MORGAN: Booker for Senate, 2013?

BOOKER: Again, my focus right now is trying to figure out what that next step will be that is in accordance with my values. Life is about purpose, not position. My value is I want to find whatever I do that can best make a contribution to the people in the city I love, and the state I love.

And you and I both know this because you have done some great shows on this. We live in a country that has so much work to do. We still live in a country where men and women are denied equal citizenship rights just because of who they decide to love. We live in a country where we have an abject failure in war on drugs that is costing taxpayers billions and billions of dollars and locking up more people than any country on earth. We still have a country that hasn't faced up to immigration policy. We still have a country that has poverty, people working full-time jobs, still below the poverty line.

There is an urgency to address one simple test. When a child stands up in Oakland, California and a child stands up in a more affluent area and they say those five words, "liberty and justice for all," we are still in a country that's working to make that more perfect union that makes those words real. We all should feel like we should be thinking what can I do in my life to best serve that ideal?

MORGAN: Booker for president any time?

BOOKER: President of the New Jersey "Star Trek" association?

MORGAN: Of the United States of America.

BOOKER: Because I will definitely volunteer to be a Trekkie of the United States.

MORGAN: I want you to know, you're on your third consecutive non-denial denial.

BOOKER: Look, it is irrational and takes a massive amount of chutzpah for anyone to say when there has been 40-plus human beings in the history of the United States that have been president of the United States. To me that is not even in the realm of consideration right now.

My focus right now is trying to continue to fight to do the things that I think benefit my residents. I've got 100,000-plus residents that depend upon things like a SNAP program and these are the kind of things I want to stand up and fight for, issues that I believe in, whether it's marriage equality or finding a drug policy and criminal justice reform that empowers people -- how do you grow businesses, how do you get small entrepreneurs from communities like mine to get access to capital.

MORGAN: The reason I think you're a good politician and may achieve these things, possibly, is that you have skillfully managed to box yourself in where I can never replay you the moment in an interview where you look me in the eye and told a complete whopper.

BOOKER: As a vegetarian, I'm against whoppers. But the reality is --

MORGAN: I bet you're dreaming of a big whopper right now.

BOOKER: Even as a vegetarian, that might be true. The reality is all of us in this political world say dumb things. I've got size 14 feet so it really hurts when they go in my mouth.

MORGAN: Really?

BOOKER: Yes. But I really wish we were a nation that the political games that we play and the gamesmanship often trumps common sense of what we need to do. And I always want to be somebody, whether in elected office or not, that helps to be part of a course of conviction among citizens that we drive this country towards pragmatism, common sense and what works for us all, because that's the ideal of America, this idea of e pluribus unum. That we're all stronger when we're together.

MORGAN: Cory, good to see you. Continue the work of this challenge.

And on Monday, I think Monday morning, when you finish, you will be on "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien to reveal how it went in its entirety. It should be fascinating. So, good luck with that.

BOOKER: Thank you very much.

MORGAN: Next, the royal hoax shocker. The nurse who took the prank call about Kate Middleton commits suicide. We'll have a report from London, coming up.


MORGAN: Tonight, the stunning and deeply shocking news from London where a nurse at the hospital where Kate Middleton was treated for morning sickness has taken her own life. The nurse who killed herself was the one who was tricked by prank call from two Australian deejays earlier this week who pretended to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. It's a tragic, tragic turn of events.

And joining me now from is Katie Nicholl, royal correspondent for "The Mail on Sunday".

Katie, it's something that people are sort of snickering about, laughing a bit, and it's suddenly become a much more serious, awful tragedy. What do we actually know about this?

KATIE NICHOLL, ROYAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE MAIL ON SUNDAY": Well, I can sure you, Piers, no one is snickering or laughing tonight. This story has taken a turn for the very, very worse. It's incredibly tragic.

The news is that Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who took the hoax call from those two deejays in Australia and transferred it to the ward that Catherine was staying on, was found dead at her house this morning. She was living in hospital accommodations just down the road from the Edward VII Hospital.

And she is the mother of two. We don't have an age for her. We don't know how old her children are. The family have asked that their privacy at this time is respected and all queries are being referred to the police.

But we are all deeply, deeply shocked. It's a terrible story and a terrible twist that will leave I think William and Catherine absolutely devastated.

MORGAN: I think everyone involved will be devastated. The two deejays have suspended themselves by the sound of it in Australia. They must be feeling I would imagine horrendous about what happened. It was a stupid thing to do but a lot of people found it sort of a typical deejay stunt, if you like. Suddenly it's become a matter of life or death and this woman has died.

We don't actually know for sure, I guess at this stage, whether her death is 100 percent linked to what happened, do we?

NICHOLL: No, because we don't know the background, we don't know -- there might have been a series of events that culminated in her suicide but were not solely linked to this. We just don't know at the moment.

But as you point out, for these two deejays who have suspended themselves from the show -- I mean, they have been inundated with hate mail on Twitter, Facebook. It's not just this family's lives who have been ruined, the lives of these two deejays now I expect have been ruined as well because "blood on your hands" was one of the comments I think I saw on their Facebook pages and that they will be feeling -- well, I don't know -- I don't think you can put into words actually how they're feeling, absolutely deeply regretful.

They did issue a statement immediately afterwards saying how remorseful they were, but I'm afraid words just sometimes aren't enough and I think in this situation, that probably is the case.

MORGAN: And Kate and William have issued a statement saying how upset they've been to hear about this. Her family's issued a statement saying similar things.


MORGAN: It's just one of those awful, awful tragedies. And our heart goes out to her, to her family, particularly her two children who now have lost their mother over something that was just intended to be a silly prank.

NICHOLL: Absolutely.

MORGAN: Very, very sad.

Katie Nicholl, thank you very much for joining me.

NICHOLL: Thank you.

MORGAN: Suicide is getting as much attention in America. Let's bring in the panel of all-stars.

"New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow, Republican pollster Kristen Soltis, and author and "Time" columnist Joel Stein.

Charles, just on this tragedy in London, a lot of people pouncing on these Australian deejays, sickening, disgusting, they should be, you know, fired and so on. It was a silly prank that seems to have gone horrendously wrong.


MORGAN: What do you make of it?

BLOW: Well, suicides are very complicated. The reasons that a person would choose to take their own life, and I think you have to look at it always as a complicated thing, whether or not there's a prank involved, whether or not there's bullying involved. That probably plays a role in it and obviously in this case, it looks like at this point with what we know that that probably played a role in it. But when a person decides to take their own life, it's a very complicated emotional set of reactions that's happening inside and you do have to take that part into account, too. Was there something that was underneath that maybe could have been helped and she could have gotten help for that other than taking her life. I really kind of --

MORGAN: My gut feeling is that there's more that's going to come out about this.

BLOW: I like to push back against the simplistic rationales for people taking their lives.

MORGAN: I think that's very sensible.

Let's move on to something that Cory booker was talking about earlier. I'll come to you, Kristen Soltis, first. This whole issue of food stamps in America -- I was pretty shocked when I saw these statistics, 46 million Americans now on food stamps. When you actually see a pile of food and realize that is it for the week and it's pretty un-nutritious, it's what it is -- really quite disturbing, actually.

What should be done about this?

KRISTEN SOLTIS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: That's such a difficult question. I mean, how do you tackle poverty in America is this enormously complex question. Unfortunately, it's not one that you can just solve with one quick program or one quick government solution.

You know, I think it's very interesting and I think it's admirable that Mayor Booker is putting a spotlight on poverty in America. It's one of the things I think my own party doesn't necessarily do as good a job focusing on.

I really think that the solution, though, is how do we create more economic mobility so that folks who find themselves in poverty have real clear pathways not to stay dependent but to be able to build themselves up, to begin to gain the skills to get the employment that they need so that they can have a good life for themselves and provide a better life for their children.

MORGAN: Quickly, Kristen -- I'll come to you in a moment, Joe -- but do you feel comfortable that the Republicans are prepared to slash investment in something like food stamps in an effort to try and protect -- as it seems to many people -- the wealthiest 2 percent from paying more tax?

SOLTIS: So I would disagree with the premise a little bit. I mean, the idea here is that Republicans think the way you can get more revenue is by growing the economy and they're concerned if you raise those top tax rates it's going to have a negative effect on the economy, and that that's going to actually mean we won't have as much revenue to go towards programs like food stamps.

But Republicans, you are right that they are in a very difficult position, at least politically, when it comes to these trade-offs. Right now, you know, Democrats have I think very effectively painted Republicans as the party of the rich, particularly on this sort of fiscal cliff fight. You could be forgiven for thinking the only thing on which Republicans and Democrats are really disagreeing are these taxes on the top 2 percent when really, there are a lot of other factors that are holding up a deal.


SOLTIS: But Democrats have been very savvy in their portrayal of Republicans in the last few months.

MORGAN: I think they have. They won the political battle.

Charles, bring it round to the fiscal cliff because it's all interwoven here. It's all about basically where should government be spending money, where should cuts be made, and who ends up paying the lion's share of this.

My sense is this will not go over the cliff and the reason it won't is that public opinion is now raging so hard against the Republicans in all the polls that you see that they've lost the argument. So why go over a cliff and make it worse for yourselves.

BLOW: Right. I think you're right about that, because all of the polls that I've seen say exactly what you're saying, which is that the Republicans will be blamed if we go over the cliff.

But the first part of your question I think is the more crucial part of the question, which is how do you not cut off your nose to spite your face. If you do things -- you make cuts that harm children who need to learn, who need to be able to go to school on a full stomach and be able to stay a whole day and have programs that will allow them to be competitive with Children in China and India, if you need that to be a real situation in America for us to be competitive 10 years from now when we're not in a recession, you have to look at that and say, this is not smart policy for the long term.

And whatever we have to do to protect and insulate those children, we do that. Now, how do we do that without -- you know, they were talking about before with Food Stamps, that's the hammock versus safety net discussion. We don't want it to be a hammock for people, where people just kind of lounge around and expect to get Food Stamps forever. But you need a safety net when the bottom falls out. And the bottom has fallen out.

At this point, it is very cool to be able to look -- not cool, kind of cruel, even, to be able to look at what people can buy, what they can get and whether or not that is sufficient.

MORGAN: I think Cory Booker's doing a great thing. Because just having it on the desk here was fascinating, what you actually buy. And then to realize you try and buy it in New York, for example, could cost you up to 60 dollars, which you just don't physically have.

Let's take a break. Let's come back and we're going to talk about this historic announcement that the Supreme Court will now be taking on same sex marriage, a potentially very, very big moment for gay rights in America.


MORGAN: Back now my Battleground America panel, "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow, Republican pollster Kristin Soltis and author and "Time" columnist Joel Stein. Joel, a pretty big announcement this afternoon that the supreme court will now be looking at both Prop 8 and DOMA. This could potentially be huge for gay rights in America.

STEIN: Yes, especially with David Boies and Ted Olsen coming together, the guys who were against each other in Bush v Gore, on the same side fighting for gay rights, for gay marriage. I think it's a really interesting case because they designed this case not to kind of be technical, but just to go at the straight heart of the issue, which is whether not letting gay people marry is discrimination.

So it's a pretty direct hit on whether this is allowed or not. And I think they have a really good chance of winning this and kind of basically deciding this once and for all, which is the way this is going to move forward. You can argue that the states should legislate, but this isn't the way civil rights get decided. They get decided by our courts, because the Constitution is designed to protect people's rights.

MORGAN: I completely agree. I think the state by state element of this just can't wash for much longer. It has to be done at a national level. Kristen Soltis, where will that leave the members of the Republican party that feel very strongly about this? And there's no doubt many people in the Republican party do feel strongly. And they are not going to like this.

Where does that leave the party in four years time, if they try and fight on another platform that doesn't fully support and embrace gay rights in America?

SOLTIS: Public opinion on this issue has changed very rapidly in sort of just the last 20 years. But you can even really look at the last eight years alone. If you look back at the 2004 election, there was lots of debate about whether or not Bush's re-election could be pinned on the fact that, in many of these states, there were referendum on the ballot about things such as same sex marriage, that these social issues were being dredged up as sort of positive for the Republicans.

Fast forward to this election, and as we have discussed on this show before, you have gay marriage, you have marijuana, you have these issues on which Republicans, you know, not necessarily where the voters were this time around in many of these states that literally, in just the last 10 years alone, public opinion has shifted a lot.

Though it's important to remember that I don't think of this as much of a partisan issue as it is generational. Remember, it was just a few months ago that President Obama was evolving on his position. And you had Dick Cheney who was kind of to the left of him on gay marriage. So I don't view this as much as a partisan issue. I view this as generational and something that both parties, particularly the Republican party, though, will be addressing and dealing with over the next few years.

MORGAN: I think that's a good point. Let's move on to jobs, Charles Blow. U.S. created 146,000 jobs in November, higher than predicted. Clearly Jack Walsh's theory that Obama was cooking the books probably cannot be true now. Unemployment went to 7.7 percent, lowest in four years.

The most interesting job story of the week to me, though, because I have campaigned about this pretty relentlessly, was that Apple have announced they are going to bring jobs back to America. I -- let's play how I have been trying to force this issue for quite some time.


MORGAN: Companies like Apple, you have 10 times as many employees in China now than America. What do you think of the concept of moral capitalism? I feel strongly about companies like Apple, for example, who outsource all the jobs to China, and a lot of it comes back here.

I have a problem with this. Apple makes 100 billion, squillion dollars. But Apple employs more people in China than it does in America. That to me is wrong.


MORGAN: Now, there is a globalization aspect of this. And what I don't want to do is tell a company like Apple look, you can't be a global business anymore because you've got to bring it all back to America. That's not what this is about. I do think this moral capitalism line, which Howard Schultz at Starbucks came up with, is a strong one, actually. I have always believed that the American public would reward companies like Apple by going to buy the products if they made them here. And they would actually be proud of buying an iPad or an iPhone that had made in the USA on it, more than they would if they see made in China.

BLOW: Right. But there are two elements to that, right? Part of it is the moral capitalism. And you can debate that on both sides of it. But the other part of it, are we educating enough kids who can do those jobs and compete on a global marketplace.

MORGAN: That's what Tim Cook at Apple said. He said the problem actually is more training than it is the cost of doing it. But Apple can afford to train people.

BLOW: Apple can afford to train people. And what you see now, you see more and more companies -- you see on television, ads by companies that have nothing to do with education, running ads about improving education. And that is because we're not training enough people in the STEM fields. That's science, technology, engineering and mathematics. What we have to do is dramatically ramp up the number of kids that we are producing who are in those fields and are capable and competent in those fields. Until we do that, we're not going to be competitive and more companies, high tech companies in particular, where they can export, will do that, because it will be cheaper and more efficient.

MORGAN: I totally agree. You have to remove the excuse actually. Joel Stein, sum up for me what the priorities should be for President Obama. He has his second term. He doesn't have to worry about being re-elected. He can effort to be bold if he wants to be.

It seems to me everyone talks about jobs, jobs, jobs and the economy. But Charles may have hit the nail on the head there. It probably is about education and training for America above almost anything else.

STEIN: I was waiting for Obama to ask me what he needs to do in the next four years. I think what he needs to deal with is our long- term problems, because he doesn't need to be re-elected. That's education and that's infrastructure and inequality. I think those are the three things that he can really cement his legacy and really move our country in the right direction, instead of worrying about jobs, which you know, there's not that much he can do in the short term about jobs.

So I don't know if that's where he should be focusing anymore.

MORGAN: Kristin Soltis, final word from you about this.

SOLTIS: I disagree that the focus shouldn't be on jobs. The unemployment ticked down from 7.8 to 7.7. But you still had hundreds of thousands of people leaving the work force. I really think we still have to deal with the more immediate problems facing our economy. Though I completely agree with what Charles Blow had to say about the need for focusing on these STEM fields. Education is the long term economic challenge for America.

MORGAN: I think the thing is America has to move with the times. America was with this great manufacturing superpower. Now it's a great consumering superpower, eating up everything from everybody else. I like what Apple's done. I applaud it. It's not a massive thing yet. But it could be if it works. And I think it's a great step in the right direction. I salute Tim Cook and all of Apple for doing it.

Charles Blow, Kristin Soltis and Joel Stein, thank you all very much.

Coming up next, singer Brandy on her triumphs, troubles and on the death of a great friend, Whitney Houston.



BRANDY, SINGER: You are my favorite contestant in this competition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you! I love you.

MORGAN: Change your hair. Change your dress. Change your shoes. And you will win this tournament.


MORGAN: And indeed, she did. That was fun times from "America's Got Talent" with Brandy, David Hasselhoff and myself having a blast doing the first season of that show in 2006. I'm back with Brandy for the first time. I haven't seen you since 2006.

BRANDY: I know. It's good to see you.

MORGAN: You haven't changed a bit.

BRANDY: You haven't, either.

MORGAN: Don't lie.

BRANDY: Just a lot more successful. I love that.

MORGAN: What I love about that clip was I was right; that girl did win that year.

BRANDY: She did.

MORGAN: Bianca Ryan (ph), voice of an angel.

BRANDY: Amazing. You were right about her. She was in dress. It was a little mean. But you were right. You were 99 percent right. I used to always tell you that.

MORGAN: How have you been?

BRANDY: I've been great. I've been great. Life has been amazing these last couple years. I'm back with new music, acting again. So it's all a fresh new start and I'm just loving it. I'm loving it all.

MORGAN: The most incredible thing about you, Brandy, is that you're 33 years old.

BRANDY: Don't be telling people my age, Piers.

MORGAN: How can you be 33? You have been in the business 18 years.


MORGAN: You don't even look 18.


MORGAN: You have weathered like a fine Chateux Latore (ph) '61. BRANDY: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. I'm just trying to keep it --

MORGAN: But do you ever stop and think wow, I'm still only 33 and yet I've had this 18-year career?

BRANDY: It's pretty unbelievable. Yes. It's pretty unbelievable. Because I started at 15 years old. And everything just started happening at that age and it continued. And you know, now I'm coming back with all of this new stuff. And it feels new again. But I definitely know that I've been around for awhile.

It's amazing. I'm very grateful and thankful for it.

MORGAN: You also have a baby girl.

BRANDY: I do. She's 10 years old.

MORGAN: She's 10 years old.

BRANDY: She's 10.

MORGAN: What's being a mother like?

BRANDY: Oh my God. It keeps you on your toes, that's for sure. Everything is led by example. Like you have to teach by what you do. So I definitely have to stay on it or she'll be looking at me like mom, but you did it, so why are you telling me. So she's amazing. She's definitely my star for sure.

MORGAN: Let's talk about 211. It's a very special title, because it is your birthday, but it's also the date of Whitney Houston's death. I was in Los Angeles that day. I came here and co- anchored the news all night long with a really heavy heart because it was one of those desperately sad things to have happened in the business that I can remember.

Your relationship was fascinating to me. You were nine years old when you sneaked in to see your first ever concert, a Whitney concert.


MORGAN: You starred with her in the 1997 movie "Cinderella," where she played your fairy godmother. Your brother Ray was actually dating her at the time.

BRANDY: They were really close friends. Yes. Yeah.

MORGAN: I realize that's how you want to characterize it. You were one of the last people to see her alive. So an incredible journey you went on with Whitney Houston. Tell me about it.

BRANDY: Wow. From the very first time I saw her, I was completely blown away. To see her music, her voice, everything about her just touched my spirit in ways that no other singer could. And you know, working with her and just sharing moments with her were just unforgettable. And you know, one of the last things that we talked about was me going forward and what I had to do in terms of my connection with my fans and music.

And she just told me, you know, you have to be yourself, because when you are yourself, that's who people will fall in love with. And --

MORGAN: Was she herself towards the end, do you think? Or had she just got lost in the maelstrom of fame and abuse and all the rest of it?

BRANDY: One of the things that I can't -- I can't put my mind around is where she really was because, you know, at the end of her life, I wasn't there. I wasn't around. I didn't talk to her as much, which is one of the reasons why it was so hard for me to get over her passing, is because I felt like I wasn't there enough for her at the end of her life.

And I have no clue where she was mentally or spiritually. I don't know.

MORGAN: What many of her friends told me at the time -- and I interviewed many of them on this show -- was that you couldn't underestimate how big a blow it was to her to lose the voice, the power that she had, the inability in stage shows to hit the big notes anymore for "I Will Always Love You" and so on.

As somebody who still can, do you understand what that feeling must be like?

BRANDY: I understand what that feels like. I don't understand to that degree, but I understand, you know, because I feel like when I don't have my instrument, I don't really have -- I don't really have me.

MORGAN: It is what you're about.

BRANDY: Yes, it's who -- it's almost who you are. Of course, there's more to you than your voice, but that's what you use to share. That's what you use to give. It's your purpose. It's what you were born to do.

MORGAN: And to lose that must be the worst thing.

BRANDY: Yeah, it probably drove her insane. It probably drove her insane.

MORGAN: Where were you when you heard the news? How did you hear it?

BRANDY: I was actually in the same hotel that she passed in.

MORGAN: At the Beverly Hilton?

BRANDY: Yes. And we were all getting ready for the Clive Grammy Party. And I was in my room getting ready. But the strange thing is right before I started to get ready, there was this guy and a paramedics guy in the elevator. And they were like, hurry up, she's not breathing. She's not breathing.

And later on to find out they were talking about Whitney, I was like, whoa, like this is crazy. And my mom calls me and tells me that she passed. And I couldn't believe it. I was like no way. And I just -- I fell to the floor in tears and had been crying for weeks and months after that.

MORGAN: Really? It hit you that bad?

BRANDY: It just hit me in ways I can't even explain.

MORGAN: How is Ray doing, because he was very close to her?

BRANDY: Ray has been going through it. He really has been going through it. But, you know, every time we go through something, we always stick to who we are as family. And you know, so we've been there for him. But he's been silent about everything and, you know, just taking his time with it.

MORGAN: Very tough thing to deal with.

BRANDY: Yeah, very tough thing to deal with.

MORGAN: She would have been very proud of you, I think. Especially the way you've rebuilt your life and your career now. Things couldn't be going better for you. Are you excited about having a new album out now, with everything that you've been through in the last 10 years?

BRANDY: I am. I'm very excited because this new album is music that I truly believe in. I truly love the music that I'm singing and love the producers and the writers that I've worked with on this album. And I'm just so happy to go forward and share it, and just talk about it and sing about it. And so it's a great, great time for me.

MORGAN: What do you feel? When you sing, what do you feel?

BRANDY: I feel everything. I feel all the emotions that's inside of me. I feel -- especially when I'm singing in front of people, I feel their emotions when they are giving me that love, that I need to give them back the love. And you know, it's just a lot. It's a lot. It's the best way I can express myself. It's therapeutic music.

MORGAN: It's a fantastic album. It's great to see you again.

BRANDY: Thank you.

MORGAN: It's been too long. Let's catch up again soon. Lovely to see you. Brandy. We'll be right back.



KAREN WINTERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The red carpet outside L.A.'s shrine auditorium buzzed with excitement. But this time the bright lights shined on some special stars, everyday people changing the world.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute."

WINTERS: Out of thousands of nominations submitted by CNN's global audience, 10 amazing men and women were singled out for their remarkable, heroic efforts to make the world a better place. People like Raja Jon (ph), who is providing a free education to hundreds of girls in rural Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think education is the only thing in the world that can go forward and make life better.

MORGAN: And Leo McCarthy, who gives scholarships to kids who pledge not to drink after his daughter was killed by a young driver.

LEO MCCARTHY, CNN HERO: Let's change the culture and keep these promising, vibrant kids alive.

WINTERS: Olympic swimmer Collin Jones helped celebrate Wand Butts' golden moment. Motivated by her son's tragic drowning, she created a non-profit that's helped more than 1,200 children learn how to swim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is unbelievable to me that I have come this far from such a tragedy with my son.

WINTERS: It was an unforgettable night, capped off with the unveiling of the CNN Hero of the Year Pushpa Basnet, founder of a children's home in Nepal that helps kids whose parents are in prison.

PUSHPA BASNET, CNN HERO: Thank you so much for everyone who voted for me and who believed in my dream.

WINTERS: The hope is that their heroic example will inspire countless others.


WINTERS: Karen Winters, CNN, Los Angeles.


MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.