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Steubenville Rape Case May Be Postponed, Moved; Chuck Hagel Nominated for Secretary of Defense; "Hurricane Harry"; Violence in the Movies

Aired January 7, 2013 - 08:30   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. We begin with John Berman. He's got a look at the day's top stories. Good morning, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Thanks so much, Soledad.

No developments in the rape case in the small town of Steubenville, Ohio. This story really caught the attention of the entire country. Attorneys for two teenagers charged with raping a young girl in August want their client's February trial postponed and moved to a new venue. Defense attorney Adam Nemann sees no other way to move forward.


ADAM NEMANN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Giving its publicity and what we perceive as threats to individuals, perhaps witnesses and also defendants and even defense counsel, we're concerned about safety issues at this point.


BERMAN: And 16-year-old defendants Trent Mays and Malik Richmond are charged with raping the girl in August during a night of partying.

The search continues this morning in Washington state for missing skydiver Kurt Rupert who disappeared last Thursday after jumping out of a helicopter. A rescue team is scouring the Cascade Mountains for Rupert. Authorities believe the missing man jumped from 6,500 seat while wearing a special wing suit which allows a skydiver to soar and glide before deploying a parachute.

Bashar al Assad making it clear he's not about to step down. The Syrian president made his first public speech in six months this weekend, dismissing any chance of peace talks with his country's rebel forces, referring to them as "murderous criminals," and his demanding the west stop funding them.

The son of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul facing charges including underage drinking, public intoxication, and disorderly conduct after being arrested at a North Carolina airport. William Hilton Paul was arrested at Charlotte's Douglas international airport after flying in from Kentucky. Senator Paul's office issued a statement, asking his family's privacy be respected in a situation such as this.

The man we love, you have to see this picture. Prison guards in Brazil spotted this cat as it was trying to enter the prison on New Year's Eve. They say the cat had an amazing amount of contraband taped to it. Check it out -- saws, concrete drills, a head set, a memory card, a cell phone, batteries, and a mobile phone charger. It's like in prison, you figure he'd have a carton of cigarettes too.

O'BRIEN: It's like a mobile store.

BERMAN: That's like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank sneaking into the prison here. A prison spokesman told a local newspaper it's hard to know who's responsible for the action since the cat did not talk. All 250 inmates are considered suspects.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my goodness. That's a little shop. That's crazy.

MCKAY COPPINS, POLITICAL EDITOR, BUZZFEED.COM: It's the cat to think of the charger.

O'BRIEN: And the electric saw as well.

Time to talk politics to the Macks. Today 1:00 p.m. Eastern the president is expected to announce his chief counterterror adviser John Brennan as a nominee for the CIA director, and former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel as his next Secretary of Defense.

We brought the Macks together for this, Mary Bono Mack, former Republican Congressman from California. Her husband Connie Mack is a former Republican representative from Florida. Is it weird to not be elected officials, or is it just a huge relief to have your lives back?

FMR. REP. MARY BONO MACK, (R) CALIFORNIA: It's a relief. It is. It was an honor to serve, there's no doubt about it. But there's definitely been a weight of the world lifted off -- at least my shoulders. I don't know if he's realized he's not a member yet. I know it feels like it's a wonderful relief. I'm ready for a new chapter. It's very exciting.

FMR. REP. CONNIE MACK, (R) FLORIDA: It is exciting. I would say that things just get better and better. There's a lot of responsibility. It is an honor to serve in the Congress and to represent the district that I represented, but we're looking forward to the future and to the next chapters in our lives.

MARY BONO MACK: To be Monday morning quarterbacks.

O'BRIEN: Yes. People don't like Congress people very much. I think it would be a great thing to be like sayonara, moving on.

MARY BONO MACK: I watched the swearing in thinking, who are those people? I thought it would be bittersweet and sad. It's already like who are all of those people? What are they doing?

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about Chuck Hagel, shall we? Let's say you were in Congress. Would you support him? What do you think of Chuck Hagel?

MARY BONO MACK: First of all, I said it earlier in the break, if he's upset the left and the right, perhaps he's doing something right. For me, I think the confirmation process is going to be very important. I think that his stance on Iran and Israel needs to be flushed out. To me, even as a moderate Republican, he's still perhaps a little bit too much of an appeaser and doesn't make us stronger or weaker. So I think it's going to be a very spirited confirmation process. I think it's going to be great theater. There's no doubt about that. But in the end, I think he's going to get it.

O'BRIEN: Explain to me why Mitch McConnell, who not long ago was saying Hagel is one of the premier foreign policy voices and one of the giants in the United States Senate. He stands with him philosophically 90 percent of the time. He's an indispensable member of the Republican team. That was then. Now he says he'll be given a fair hearing, and you have John McCain saying, to allege that Hagel is somehow a Republican, that's a hard one to swallow.

CONNIE MACK: I think --

O'BRIEN: What's at work here?

CONNIE MACK: I think Senator Hagel was more of a libertarian, if you look at some of his votes. He came from a libertarian side. Sometimes that upsets more of the mainstream Republicans. I consider myself to have a libertarian streak as well, but I think what Mary said is right. He's going to have to answer to some of these issues. They're going to come from both the left and the right. Look, this is a process that is important. He will have his day in the hearings. There will be a vote. But my guess is at the end of the day that president Obama will get his nominee.

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask if you think the issues are big. Ouch. I hit my hand. Let's put Iran on the side for a moment. You have the other two more controversial ones. He said back 14 years ago, 15 years ago, he called a diplomat aggressively gay. He has apologized recently for that. And then he talked about the Jewish lobby, not the Israel lobby, and there are people who take great exception to that. And then, of course, you have Iran, where I think the idea of sanctions, he has not necessarily been supportive of that. The president has put a lot of eggs in that basket. Are these enough?

CONNIE MACK: I would say these are the ones that we know before his nomination was --

O'BRIEN: Good point, touche.

CONNIE MACK: My guess is this is part of the process. It's as ugly as it can be. This is part of the process in the Senate where the president makes a nomination. And we're going to have to watch it unfold, and it's just going to be an interesting hearing.

CHARLES BLOW, OP-ED COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Here's the problem. He makes many of those comments before McConnell praises him, before the 2006 "New York Times" magazine article where John McCain praises him and says he would be perfect in his administration, in any capacity. What has changed -- they knew that then, when they were praising him, and now --

O'BRIEN: Is it just political?


CONNIE MACK: Let me say this. If it was a Republican president making his nomination, the Senator, the freshman Senator that you just had on a few minutes ago would have been all over him, right? So to suggest that this is --

BLOW: We don't know what he would have done. We know exactly what McCain and McConnell actually said. We don't know what that new Senator would have done because he didn't do it. McConnell actually said this.

O'BRIEN: But you're saying that it all depends on who the president is and his political feeling.

CONNIE MACK: It's the president's nomination. Look, people might not like the political theater. This has been going on forever.

O'BRIEN: That's why people don't like Congress, though.

CONNIE MACK: The difference is now it's on our TVs all the time. And I think --

O'BRIEN: It's 24-hour cable. It's your fault.

CONNIE MACK: No, it's not your fault, but he can't help but watch because we're interested. There have been nominees that have gone down well before we got into this world of twitter and Facebook and other things. The advising consent of the Senate is something that's been on our imagination for generations.

O'BRIEN: That it not something they come out and hold press conferences.

COPPINS: Let's remember we're talking about Israel and Iran, and those are important issues. One of the things that turned Republicans against Hagel was his opposition to the Iraq war, when he really alienated a lot of people back then during that battle. And I don't know if president Obama would have appointed him.

O'BRIEN: Here's what he said. "Many of the predictions Chuck Hagel made about the war came true. They have proven to be accurate." That is McConnell talking about Hagel. So I don't think it's necessarily that.

COPPINS: I think the Republican Party doesn't want to own the Iraq war anymore. But there was a lot of bad blood between Republicans and him.

O'BRIEN: Aren't they mad that he supported Obama? MARY BONO MACK: But there's something else that's really important. When you think about being a member of the house or the Senate, that you are as defined by how you interrogate or question somebody. This is your opportunity to state what you believe in. Obviously, sometimes that is taking that person on, and that's what's happened. They're carving out their niche by saying everything that he does wrong because it's their opportunity to highlight what they believe in.

And again, going back to what else is different --

O'BRIEN: Do you think that Congress is partisan and dramatic and made for TV?

BLOW: They didn't win in 2008. I'm talking specifically about Mr. McCain.


MARY BONO MACK: I don't think that's right.

BLOW: I think that is exactly right.

CONNIE MACK: Senator McCain has been one of the most -- he is someone who has bucked the Republican Party. He has been through a lot in his life. And to say he's thin skinned about an election, I think, is a little over the top.

BLOW: So what changed between 2006 and after 2006 other than the fact that Hagel whacks him in the 2008 election over McCain's political stance on foreign policy, and Hagel does not support the surge, which McCain throws a lot of his eggs into that basket? What changes from his kind of blanket support in Hagel in 2006 in the Senate/ He would support him in any capacity if he were to be elected in 2008, any capacity.

CONNIE MACK: Now he's about to be nominated.



COPPINS: There's a difference between paying lip service and actually nominating someone. Would John McCain have actually nominated him?

BLOW: He doesn't have to nominate him now. He has to figure out which side he stands on.

MARY BONO MACK: There's an important point in history right now where we have to make sure we are very serious with Iran. And if anybody is out there weakening our position with them, it is incredibly dangerous, and I think it's legitimate for Senator McCain or anybody to say, wait a minute. He's an appeaser. Does that advance our cause, or does it weaken our cause? So regardless of a blanket --

BLOW: What does "serious" mean? Does "serious" mean war, or does "serious" mean we have to take that situation seriously and figure out how we deal with it?


O'BRIEN: If I may interrupt, sir, because I can cede the time back to me, if you will.


O'BRIEN: I feel that you feel strongly. We'll have to wait and see. They haven't even named the guy yet. Give it a moment, will you? Thank you. We certainly appreciate it. Politics to the Macks, which, by the way, I love that title so much. It's a little mini show right here. Someone is going to steal that from me, aren't they?

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a movie without some huge name stars and a pretty small budget slays the competition at the box office. What's the secret behind the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D," version 96.5? You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll talk about that straight ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone.

Some "Top Stories" we're following this morning: Firefighters down under are busy battling two out of control brush fires in southeastern Tasmania. The fires have burned through about 110 square miles on the island off Australia's southern coast. More than 100 homes have been destroyed, but so far no deaths have been reported.

Carnival has arrived in New Orleans as is tradition the funny 40 fellows herald its arrival on loud and color -- loud and colorful streetcar by going up and down St. Charles Avenue. The Mardi Gras day is on February 12th.

And Harry Reid may not want to compare natural disasters. The Senate Majority Leader is not making any fans in New Orleans after taking the Senate floor Friday to complain about the House's failure to pass an aid relief bill for the victims of Superstorm Sandy. This is what he said.


SEN. HARRY REID (R-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We are now past two months with people of New York. And the people of New Orleans in that area, they were hurt, but nothing in comparison to what's happened to the people in New England.


BERMAN: Because Reid's comments were factually incorrect. Katrina killed over 1,800 people and caused more than $145 billion in damage. Sandy has been blamed for 120 deaths and $80 billion in damage.

You know what comparing to begin with just probably a bad idea.


O'BRIEN: And I was going to say it's just bad form to try to compare disasters -- if you've lost your home, it's devastating for you. Right? A tragedy is a tragedy, and to compare disasters --

COPPINS: He's trying to make his case and obviously got carried away with the hyperbole.

BLOW: Exactly.

BERMAN: He will not be invited to Mardi Gras at this point.

O'BRIEN: And he won't be in New Orleans any time soon.

BLOW: I'm from Louisiana, I live in New York. They're both bad. Don't do it. Let it go.

O'BRIEN: Right, well tragedy is a tragedy for anyone involved that's -- come on Senator.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning the country reeling from the Newtown massacre, but an extremely violent movie number one at the box office this weekend. How did the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" in 3D do so well? I'm guessing none of you all saw it. Let's talk about that, straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: This is the time of year when the big movies, big stars battle out for box office profits and Oscar nominations. But what was the number one movie this past weekend? Low budget nearly starless horror movie. The "Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 3D" kind of slashed its way to the top of the box office. $23 million is what took in. It's a great thriller. Beat out "Django Unchained" which I haven't seen yet. It's also beat out the "The Hobbit" as well as "Les Mis".

Bradley Jacobs is a senior editor at "US Weekly" nice to have you with this morning.

BRADLEY JACOBS, SENIOR EDITOR, "US WEEKLY": Good morning Soledad thank you.

O'BRIEN: Great to see you. Happy holidays.


O'BRIEN: So why?

JACOBS: This was just counterprogramming. You know you have all these heavy Oscar movies at this time of the year that you really have got to get around to seeing, like "Les Mis" and "Lincoln", which are three hours long. And -- or you can go and see like half naked girls running around and people throwing chainsaws through the air and it's -- did I mention leather face and that's it's all in 3D? So it's --

O'BRIEN: This is the eighth one. Aren't people sick of it yet? JACOBS: -- yes I mean, there has been a prequel, there has been a sequel, there has been a reboot, this is another sequel that has nothing to do with the other sequel. But the audience didn't care. The audience just wanted to see Trey Songz, the rapper.

O'BRIEN: Oh hello I love him.

JACOBS: He was -- one out of three people who went to see it said that he was the main draw.


O'BRIEN: This is his first movie.

COPPINS: That he's about to begin.

JACOBS: You don't have to critic.

O'BRIEN: This is his first movie, right, I love Trey Songz.

JACOBS: Well, Trey was a big part of it. You know half the audience was women. One-third of the audience was under 25.

O'BRIEN: That's a shock.

COPPINS: Really.

JACOBS: Yes, yes. So I mean, you know girls go with guys on dates. It's a good -- it's an ironic date night.

COPPINS: I don't think my wife would be into me taking to "Chainsaw Massacre" --

BLOW: It's a young person's thing.

O'BRIEN: Forget it. So I was surprised to see that, when you look at the top four movies, three out of four are very like horrifically violent and this is all in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre.

JACOBS: Yes this is a different kind of violence. The Jack Reacher movie, Tom Cruise movie, did really poorly and it opened with sniper fire. And a lot of people just found that wrong. This is the wrong moment for that. But the violence in "Texas Chainsaw" is cartoonish. Like I said as people throwing chainsaws 60 feet across the room.

O'BRIEN: And does it kill somebody when you hit them with the chainsaw? I mean completely serious. I've never seen the movies.

JACOBS: Well yes, you've got to go. There are all different ways of hurting people with chainsaws.

MARY BONO MACK: There's so many great movies out there right now. "Les Mis", it's amazing that they were able to put that together, it was -- I think it's very extraordinary I think they took great risk in doing that.

O'BRIEN: But even that's kind of violent.

JACOBS: But don't you think the amount of people like saw those big movies over the holidays and like now just kind of wanted something to like relax and get away?

O'BRIEN: Don't you think 3d makes a difference?

JACOBS: Oh yes and it also hikes up ticket prices. Yes can very much more quickly make it --

O'BRIEN: What does a ticket cost? It's like in 3D

BLOW: Soledad only goes to premieres. She doesn't know about tickets.

O'BRIEN: I don't go at all.

JACOBS: It could be like $13 or $14.

O'BRIEN: $13?

JACOBS: Instead of maybe $11 or $12.


JACOBS: Yes, now it adds a lot to the bottom line.


JACOBS: But you know you -- "Les Mis" and "Lincoln," these are great movies to see right now, but sometimes you want something lighter. You know it's going to be a popcorn movie. You're going to get a lot of laughs out of it. Clearly, you're not going to be going to see it this week.

MARY BONO MACK: I'm one of those people, movies stick with me forever. I would not be able to sleep. Even if they're laughing while the chainsaws are flying I would still have nightmares.

O'BRIEN: I think "Scream" was the scariest movie I've seen. Seriously, I just cannot watch it for a moment.

JACOBS: There was a lot of humor in "Scream." there was a lot of fun. The humor -- the horror in horror movies, the violence, is very close to comedy. You kind of get a lot of laughs out of it and scares whereas something like "Jack Reacher," which has sniper fire. It's a little bit too close to home. A little too realistic.

O'BRIEN: Is it too early to talk about Oscars?


O'BRIEN: Thursday right, they're going to do the nominations.

JACOBS: Right. The nominations are Thursday morning. This is the awards season basically at its peak. Right now you have the Oscar nominations Thursday. You have the Golden Globes this Sunday. This is when everyone's talking about "Les Mis" and saying -- in fact, your husband just told me in the green room his parents just went to see "Les Mis". Like everyone is talking about these movies.

Thursday morning you're going to see "Les Mis" and "Lincoln" really clean up -- a lot of Oscar nominations. Anne Hathaway you're seeing right now -- she's is a lock to win best supporting actress this year.

O'BRIEN: She's terrific, I think, in everything.

JACOBS: She was incredible in that role. "Lincoln", you know you have the pedigree of Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner and Daniel Day Lewis, who's won the Oscar twice before and looks like he's going to win again.

O'BRIEN: But everybody is going to see "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".

COPPINS: It's so ironic.

O'BRIEN: Hang on. Which movie is Trey Songz in? That's what I want to see this weekend.

JACOBS: I know because it got very quiet when I was talking about the other Oscar movies.

O'BRIEN: I have a picture of me and Trey Songz. And I'm going to dig that out and re-tweet that. What is that?

BLOW: I really like the "Lincoln" movie.

BERMAN: And Barack Obama, name-checked it on "Meet the Press". Lincoln has a lot going for it. It's definitely looking like it's going to go --

BLOW: And you haven't mentioned "Django".


JACOBS: Django well, Django you have -- no, no, it's definitely a yes, and you'll probably see that also get a lot of nominations this week. There's just nothing -- there's no one particular win. There's no actor who's necessarily going to win for "Django". But you know, you might see some nominations like maybe Leo will get a nomination. We'll see.

Samuel L. Jackson, most creative use of language.

MARY BONO MACK: I have to do a big plug for the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which is --

O'BRIEN: When is it?

MARY BONO MACK: It's happening right now.

O'BRIEN: Oh now. MARY BONO MACK: This past Saturday, two nights ago I guess was their big gala. And Connie and I are there and all the stars are there. They're warming up for Oscar night. Sally Field was there.

JACOBS: Sally field gave a great speech, I heard, funny and poignant. It's much better than that you really like me thing.

O'BRIEN: Oh, she'll never get past that. Let that go.

MARY BONO MACK: Wonderful. She's such an icon.

O'BRIEN: People like you with those unforgiving memories. Bradley, it's always nice to have you with us. We appreciate it. We'll talk to you on Thursday when the 0scar nods come out.

"End Point" is up next. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're looking at some new pictures. This is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She's leaving her home in Washington, D.C., heading back to work for the first time since she suffered a series of injuries -- ailments really over the last month. She had a concussion, and then a blood clot.

She waved to cameras as you could see right there, said she's doing well. She's got a meeting this morning in the 9:00 hour with her staffers. Probably the most watched departure for work in the history of a little while. She's got a meeting with her staffers in the 9:00 hour, and then she'll meet with Hamid Karzai on Friday as well.

All right. Let's take a moment to talk about "End Point" before we run out of time. Wrap up the day for me.

BERMAN: I have a good one right here for you.

O'BRIEN: OK, start. He's got nothing.

BERMAN: The President announcing CIA director will be John Brennan today. That's coming out at 1:00. They clearly leaked that announcement to try to take some of the heat off the Chuck Hagel kerfuffle and they all think -- but I'll tell you this. In Washington, no one's talking about that. They're all talking about RG3. RG3 took the heat off the announcement.

O'BRIEN: Do you think does it happen with Chuck Hagel? Yes or no.

MACK: I think it does. I think it's going to be a very -- as I said -- spirited, you know, hearing process, without a doubt. I think a lot's going to be aired. But I think it will happen.

O'BRIEN: We're going to be watching it. It's going to be good TV, that's for sure.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. We'll see everybody else back here tomorrow morning. Sorry. Next time, Charles. Good morning, Carol.