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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Javier Palomarez; Right to Work Measure to Pass in Michigan Today; Interview With Rep. Sandy Levin; NHL Cancels Games Through End of Year

Aired December 11, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, sound of silence in Washington, D.C. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were quiet on negotiations to avoid those massive tax hikes and spending cuts that we know as the fiscal cliff. Will hopes of a deal become a reality? We'll take a look at that this morning.

And he didn't smoke. He doesn't drink. He doesn't do drugs. So, why did Frankie Muniz have a mini stroke sat age 27? The former "Malcolm in the Middle" star will join us to talk to us about the health scare.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: New world order. Three hundred fifty years of the West's ascendant coming to an end. Asia returning to the power it last held in the Middle Ages. What this means for the U.S.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm OK.

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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": A ceiling collapses in the middle of an interview. A storm tears through the South. We'll have an update on the damage, straight ahead.

O'BRIEN: And we're rocking out this morning. Chuck Leavell, he's the fifth Rolling Stone, as I like to call him. He's going to join us as well, to talk about the Stones tour.

It's Tuesday, December 11th and STARTING POINT begins right now.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Our team this morning: Bob Shrum, he's a Democratic strategist. Congresswoman Nan Hayworth is with us, Republican from New York. Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent from "The New Yorker".

"EARLY START" co-anchor John Berman, come here, have a seat. Christine Romans sticking around to help us out. Our STARTING POINT this morning: zipped lips on Capitol Hill. How rare is that? If silence is golden, then maybe in fact we'll have a deal on the fiscal cliff crisis sometime soon, because there's just 21 days left before the tax hikes and spending cuts kick in to send us over the cliff or down that gentle slope as some like to call it.

And, of course, Congress is supposed to break for the holidays -- right, Nan? When you go on the break?

REP. NAN HAYWORTH (R), NEW YORK: Well, the last officially scheduled day for the House of Representatives is December 13th.

O'BRIEN: So, Friday. So, Friday when everybody would --

HAYWORTH: Thursday, but we're on call.

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I don't think you'll be home permanently December 13th.

HAYWORTH: We're ready for that.

O'BRIEN: Here's where things stand the president was touting his tax plan to truck plant workers in Michigan yesterday. The House Speaker John Boehner, his team were quietly conducting behind-the-scenes talks with the White House. And on Capitol Hill, at least today, all is quiet. It could be a sign of progress.

It might not be a sign of progress, but at least the blame game and finger-pointing has stopped suddenly. We want to talk about this more with Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He's mayor of Chicago. Javier Palomarez is the president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Nice to have you both with us.

MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: Good morning.

JAVIER PALOMAREZ, PRES. & CEO, UNITED STATES HISPANIC CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Let's start with you, Mr. Mayor. You've been in the room with the president negotiating.

"The Washington Post" writes this today, "Obama could be a ruthless negotiator trying to squeeze every possible concession out of Republicans before agreeing to their last offer at the last minute. He could also be an unskilled negotiator who misjudges his opponents, overreaches wildly and backs unintentionally off the cliff."

Which one do you think he's going to deliver this time around, since you know this negotiating style well?

EMANUEL: Well, look, let me back up a little, I have -- and the basic view, they're going to reach an agreement. Everybody remembers the failure from last time, the debt talks where there is actually damage done to the economy. There's enough pressure in the room in the sense of not only avoiding that, avoiding all these cuts and the member's own desire to get back on to the holidays. You put that together in an election victory for the president of the United States, you already have Republicans acknowledging that on the tax issue, which is a primary focus of the president, that we're going to be fair in this approach that he is right and they're going to agree to that.

So my view is they're going to work out the details just like it happened back in the balanced budget agreement after the '96 election. The election was a verdict by the voters and the Republicans have heard that verdict and therefore are going to come to an agreement.

The president will be a tough negotiator because there's principles in play that he's clear about. He ran on this, talked about it, said we have to have a balance approach, and I believe he'll stick to his guns. And when I say stick to his guns, it's his principles. Not every detail but the basic objective of what you're trying to get. And I think we will see --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I would raise with you is I could -- I could show you a ream of people who said yes, let's go over the cliff a lot, including -- I hear you and I won't put any money on it. We'll see how it goes.

EMANUEL: One thing I would say to your reading of the either/or, I actually think in a negotiation you're not just one gear. Different moments of the negotiation, anybody's been in the negotiation, sometimes you have to hold your line and hold it firm, sometimes you have to open up and extend your hand. So to say you're going to only do one thing is actually somebody who has never been in a negotiation.

O'BRIEN: You have said it's a goal of yours to bring Hispanic businesses to Chicago. And I know that's one of the reasons that Mr. Palomarez is with us today. Tell me a little bit about what you're both trying to do.

EMANUEL: Well, first of all, half of the new businesses and small businesses started in Chicago and that's true for every major city are from immigrants. So, if you're pro-small business, you have to be pro-immigrant.

We were just talking earlier about, you know, the American Dream and people that make sacrifices so children have an opportunity. The city of Chicago and state of Illinois passed the DREAM Act. We're now going to make sure we have driver license for recent immigrants for safety on our streets.

We put out just a week ago a new American plan, what to do to make sure we have own our immigration policy for the city of Chicago. It is in our own economic self-interest for job creation and economic growth to have a pro-immigrant policy.

I'm proud as Javier is -- we were talking earlier -- is going to bring the Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce here to their national convention. It's 7,000 tourists and conventioneers will be here, and millions of dollars of economic growth. But it's an acknowledgment of the city of Chicago's I believe pro-economic growth, pro-immigrant economic strategy for the city of Chicago's future -- Javier.

O'BRIEN: You represent, sir, Mr. Palomarez, a number of these small businesses, Latino small businesses and not very far from where you are, there's a battle over right-to-work, the arguments on one side would say listen, right-to-work is great, it brings more business. Would you support the right-to-work measures like they're arguing over in Michigan?

PALOMAREZ: Well, first and foremost, Soledad, thank you for having me on the program. It's a pleasure to be here with Mayor Emanuel.

The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is the largest Hispanic business organization in the United States. We advocate on behalf of 3.1 million Hispanic-owned firms in this country that combine, contribute an excess of $465 billion to the American economy every single year. Our organizations are in every geography, in every manageable business model and size.

And so, we're very pleased to be bringing the largest gathering of Hispanic business leaders to the Windy City. There is nobody that we can see throughout that understands the contribution and the value and the benefit of these immigrant and Hispanic business leaders and job creators better than Mayor Rahm Emanuel. So, we're happy to bring our convention to Chicago.

In terms of right to work, you know, I think that those are things that are best settled by the people of the individual states. We would not get in the middle of something of that regard.

We do, however, look at every issue, whether it's something as emotionally charged as immigration, all the way to health care and insurance reform. We look at it from a business perspective, from a commercial perspective, and it's all about ensuring that the engine of the American economy and that is small business and certainly Hispanic-owned small businesses are taken care of, and that this nation recognizes the value and the job creation potential that exists in the immigrant entrepreneurial community.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Mayor, I'll give you the last -- I'll ask you one more question before I lose you. What is the big challenge, Mr. Mayor, to bringing not just Hispanic business but any business to Chicago? You guys have a crime problem, you know, a major one.

EMANUEL: Well, one of the things we've done -- first of all, city of Chicago's lead in the country in growth in jobs as well as in drop in unemployment, you have to have an economic strategy. Small businesses, we've cut our business licenses by 60 percent. We've cut our inspections.

It is making sure that the small businesses are the economic engine in our neighborhoods and our communities where families live and children and raise their kids and I want to make sure that if you are pro-small business, not just pay lip service to that, that means you have to be pro-immigrant. We're the first city to have an immigration policy around education, on public safety, on business climate to welcome immigrants, welcome small businesses and help them thrive. And we have -- we're also setting up this year a one stop shop for small businesses so the city of Chicago, city hall is not the problem. They're part of the solution and partner to our small businesses. So they're up and running, getting people employed, getting economic growth in our neighborhoods and as our neighborhoods are strong economically, our city will be strong.

And that's why I'm proud to have the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce recognize the city of Chicago is putting the right priorities in its own self-interest having a good immigration policy, welcoming immigrant policy and welcoming small business. Those two go hand in hand.

O'BRIEN: Mayor Rahm Emanuel --

PALOMAREZ: I think, Soledad, if I might add --

O'BRIEN: Go ahead.

PALOMAREZ: If I might add, Soledad, I think if you look at the values of the Hispanic business community, they're really core American values -- contribution, dedication, hard work, personal accountability, that's what the Hispanic business community is built upon. There are few individuals in this nation that understand that better than Mayor Rahm Emanuel. I think he's illustrated that.

And at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce while we're proud to advocate on behalf of people who happen to be of Hispanic descent, we never forget that first and foremost, we are American businesses. So, every job we create, every tax bill we pay, every product we manufacture and every service we provide goes to benefit this American economy.

And there are few leaders out there such as Rahm Emanuel that recognize that potential. And so when he reached out to us about bringing the convention here it really was an easy choice to bring our 2013 convention to Chicago.

O'BRIEN: It sounds like a match made in heaven to listen to the two of you talking about it.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Mr. Palomarez is with us and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as well, nice to have you gentlemen. Thank you.

PALOMAREZ: Thank you so much.

EMANUEL: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The other stories making news, John's got that for us.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

We know the identity of the Navy SEAL killed during the daring rescue of an American doctor from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Petty Officer First Class Nicolas Checque was just 28 years old. He was described as hardworking and enthusiastic. He joined the Navy in 2002 after graduating the high school and entered the SEALs program the very next year.

Officer Checque received the Bronze Star and several other awards during his 10-year career.

There's new violence this morning in Egypt. The government reports that someone fired bird shot pellets at protesters in Tahrir Square. At least nine people were hurt, four of them critically. Dueling rallies are being held in Cairo today by supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsy, ahead of Saturday's vote on the new constitution there.

The Australian radio station that prank called the hospital where the duchess of Cambridge was being treated says it will donate more than a half million dollars. The money will go to a fund for the family of a nurse who ended up killing herself. The station morning show duped the nurse into thinking the queen of England was calling to speak to her granddaughter-in-law. That show has already been pulled off the air.

More rough weather on the way for the South after rain, wind and reports of tornadoes in the region. Take a look at this video -- a man in Birmingham, Alabama, was being interviewed when his ceiling collapsed with his family inside.

Earlier on "EARLY START", I asked the photojournalist who shot the video what it was like to witness this collapse.

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SCOTT MACDOWELL, PHOTOJOURNALIST, WIAT CBS42 BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: It was really amazing to see something like this, that doesn't happen that often, you don't see that type of thing happen in an interview. And there was a lot of praying to God immediately after that.

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BERMAN: Fortunately, no one inside the house was hurt. Again, fortunately.

The voters have spoke and now, Colorado may smoke. Marijuana now officially legal in the state, thanks to the governor's signature. People 21 and older may have up to one ounce of pot, they can grow a small amount at home and they can smoke it, just not in public. The situation still extremely complicated, of course, because marijuana is still illegal federally.

O'BRIEN: Yes, there are so many questions that are going to be decided I'm sure by individual cases as this next year unfolds. I think they have a year before they have to think about how they're going to tighten up that law.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: thousands of people are asking the governor of Michigan to not approve the state's right-to- work bill. Of them is Congressman Sandy Levin who's going to talk about that, straight ahead.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's one of the strongest union states in the country, and today, state Republicans in Michigan could pass a controversial right to work measure. This is some video of protesters gathering this morning at the Capitol. The bills would make it illegal to require employees to pay union dues or join a union as a condition for getting a job.

President Obama traveled to the state yesterday, spoke out against the measure. Here's what he said.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES; What we shouldn't be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: These so-called right to work laws, they don't have to do with economics. They have everything to do with the politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Congressman Sandy Levin is a Democrat who met with the governor of Michigan and asked him to veto the bill. It's nice to have you with us. We appreciate it.

So, you spoke to him. What did the governor tell you in your conversation yesterday?

REP. SANDY LEVIN, (D-MI) RANKING MEMBER, WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE: Well, he said he was going to just keep going. You know, there are thousands of people in Lansing today, because they want a voice in the workplace. If a majority of people decide to be represented, that representative has to reflect, has to represent everybody, whether they belong to the union or not.

People don't have to belong to a union or pay union dues, but they have to pay a fair share for the representation that has to be equally for them and everybody else, and essentially so-called right to work will cripple the efforts of a union to represent people in the workplace and that representation helped to create the middle class and look at labor relations in Michigan today, how the big three came back through a cooperative relationship between the union and management.

And essentially with so-called right to work will do is to destroy that kind of relationship, will create immense division. It's a terrible idea.

O'BRIEN: On the other side of the debate, as you well know, sir, the governor says that this is not about being anti-union. They say it's an opportunity. If the union is so great, then they have a chance to prove it. Let me play for you a little bit about what Governor Snyder said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SNYDER, (R) MICHIGAN: I don't view it as anti-union at all, because it really gets to the other side of the equation from the union perspective. I hope the unions are really showing the value proposition of why they have good opportunities, good reasons to belong to a union, and then people can make that choice to say, yes I do want to belong.

And if there's some reason they say, I don't want to belong, well, hopefully, it gives the union ideas and thoughts on how to improve themselves so they can provide better service and get them on board.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And if you look at the polling, too, when people are asked in the state, should Michigan be a right to work state? Forty-seven percent favored it, 46 percent opposed. It seems like it's sort of straight down the middle.

LEVIN: No, no, because the governor, he doesn't understand labor management relations. He misdescribed what the issue is. Nobody has to join a union or pay union dues. If a majority vote to be represented, to have a voice in the workplace, that representative has to represent everybody. There can be no discrimination.

All the benefits have to flow to everybody else, and they have to pay everybody a reasonable fee to help the union represent everybody, so essentially, it is an anti-union.

O'BRIEN: Right. But as you know, there's people who have the problem with that fee that you're talking about, right, in theory that fee could go to something ultimately that an individual doesn't support and this has been a main contention in this debate that's been going back and forth.

Why do you think the numbers are so divided? When you look at the state of Michigan, as you point out, right, the home of the big three, it's a union state. Why is the number so down the middle when it comes to supporting right to work state in that particular state?

LEVIN: Because I think the issue is explained, it isn't down the middle. People in Michigan understand that having a representative, a voice in the workplace, created the middle class decent wages, decent working conditions, and essentially right to work, so-called right to work says is everybody essentially can benefit from representation, but they don't have to pay their fair share.

That will cripple the ability of people to be represented in the workplace. The governor misstates what this is all about. It's not union dues. It's not having to be a union member. It's if a majority selected representative. Everybody has to benefit equally, so everybody should pay a fair share of that representation. They don't pay for political activities. None of that, so the governor, I met with him yesterday and he misstated. He doesn't understand what made Michigan the ideal place, what made the middle class, and that was workers having a voice in the workplace. When I was a young lawyer, I talked to Wayne State University and said how about having a contract with a few people, and they came back and they said to me, well, we can't have a contract because it's old English law.

The king can do no wrong, they said to me. Well, we don't have kings anymore. And employers say look, let's have a relationship with workers and have them have a voice in the workplace that's good for everybody.

And ask the leaders of the big three, do they want unions to be able to be represented, people to be able to be represented, have a voice in the workplace and they say that's better for economic development in Michigan. And the governor will divide Michigan. That will be his legacy, and that is a frightful legacy not only for him but for the people of the state of Michigan.

O'BRIEN: As you know, most people think, in fact, and as you started off by saying that people think he's going to sign it, that this protest and 10,000 people it's going to be to some degree for not today because he will go ahead with that legislation.

We're out of time. Congressman Sandy Levin joining us this morning. He's a Democrat from the state of Michigan. We appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

LEVIN: Thanks. Thanks for being with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk about China set to surpass the United States. Why we might be headed for a new world order? We'll talk about that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. We could get a ruling on the NFL bounty scandal today. Former NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue's decision could affect whether two current Saints players, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith, get to play out the season.

Vilma got a full season suspension and Smith was suspended for four games over allegations they were paid for big hits on opposing players. They're playing now while it is under appeal.

Hopes of a deal, meanwhile, are melting away in hockey. The NHL has canceled all games through December 30th. No deal to end the lockout there and no new talks in the works, a total of 526 games have been wiped out so far. I'm not sure there are any fans left.

O'BRIEN: There's got to be like five.

BERMAN: Not many. They canceled the season a few years ago. They're doing it again.

O'BRIEN: I know. I know.

BERMAN: It's tough for hockey fans.

O'BRIEN: It's so crazy. It's such a lose/lose. Classic lose/lose, this is exhibit "A."

SHRUM: Maybe it's the hockey version of the fiscal cliff.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Clearly.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, Newark mayor, Cory Booker, did he kind of slip up and let his political plan slip out? We were talking about that with him yesterday. It looks like he might be running for governor of New Jersey. We'll talk about that.

And then, he was in great health until suddenly he was not. He had a mini stroke at 26 years old. Actor, Frankie Muniz, is here to talk about his serious health scare.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

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