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Alabama Rolls to Victory; Peru Helicopter Crash; Hearing in Colorado Movie Massacre; "Deport Piers" Petition; Hagel Could Face Rocky Confirmation; Debt Ceiling Alarm Bell

Aired January 8, 2013 - 06:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Deadly plunge. At least two Americans among seven killed in a helicopter crash in Peru.

SAMBOLIN: D-day for America's debt. Some experts now predict we'll hit the ceiling sooner than expected.

BERMAN: And a new sports dynasty. It is Alabama in a rout on college football's biggest stage.

SAMBOLIN: Are we going to talk about this all morning long?

BERMAN: I think we will. Alabama just dominant last night. Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is January 8th. It is 6 a.m. in the East and guess what, this is exactly what we're going to talk.

But the end of the day, Irish eyes sadly, they were not smiling. The Alabama Crimson Tide crushed Notre Dame's Fighting Irish in last night's BCS Championship game. They owned the game apparently, 42-14.

From the very first drive, it was tied dominant leaving a crushed Notre Dame to nurse its wounds. Linebacker and Team Captain Manti Te'O said the team did the best it could.


MANTI TE'O, LINEBACKER, NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL: I think we just did what Alabama does, and like said, we had opportunities to make plays. We just didn't capitalize on those opportunities.


SAMBOLIN: Meanwhile, much of the credit for Alabama's win was going to Coach Nick Saban who celebrated his fourth BCS title. He had one with LSU, now three with Alabama. He gave credit for the victory to the players, university, and the fans.


NICK SABAN, COACH, ALABAMA MEN'S FOOTBALL: It's not about me. It's really about seeing all of those people happy and proud of what this team was able to accomplish. That's the thing that makes me happy. You know, whether I look at it or not. I'm happy as hell.


SAMBOLIN: Maggie Gray is an anchor for She was at the game last night. We're lucky to have you this morning. We didn't talk to you ahead of the game, were you surprised by last night's major win?

MAGGIE GRAY, ANCHOR, SI.COM: I think everyone was surprised at the scale of the win the fact that it was a blowout. We thought this would be an old-school tough defensive battle and it turns out Alabama has this high-flying offense able to dominate the game from kickoff.

And right now in college football it is Alabama and everybody else because Notre Dame certainly did deserve to be in the national championship game. They deserve to play for it. They went undefeated throughout the season.

They had a very tough schedule and they ran up against an Alabama team that was on a completely different level.

SAMBOLIN: Maggie, what stood out to you as a highlight for last night's game?

GRAY: I think the highlight for me was any time that Notre Dame started to get a little bit of momentum, Alabama stopped it. At the beginning of the third quarter, coming out of halftime, Notre Dame put together what looked like its most promising drive of the game.

And just add insult to injury, as they were driving toward the end zone, a player named Haha, first name Haha, intercepted the Notre Dame quarterback and that was just -- that was almost indicative of the game.

They were driving, they end up getting intercepted, it's a guy named Haha, and this was the end of it. You could tell any time Notre Dame tried to get some traction, Alabama there was to really suffocate them.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about Nick Saban, the coach of Alabama. Earlier, he said he was happy. He should be. He's won four overall national championships. He was asked about calling Alabama a dynasty, a word that was banned in the Alabama locker room. Listen.


SABAN: I don't think words like dynasty are words that I'm really much interested in. You know, we're interested in accomplishment and consistency and performance and we want to continue to try to do that in the future. So those are for other people to talk about.


SAMBOLIN: Well, I don't know. Do you consider it a dynasty? Can we call it a dynasty now?

GRAY: Absolutely, 100 percent. I mean, you win three championships in four years. It's almost the definition of a dynasty. I know. I can understand the mental aspect of not wanting to embrace that word. Maybe you think that you've accomplished all that you can.

And you are not leaving anything left out there to gain. But I don't think there is any slight in calling this Alabama team a dynasty, and what Nick Saban has done to cause that.

You know, Zoraida the scarier thing is that there are even better players coming in for next year and this team that won last night, they are young guys on that team like T.J. Yelton, who scored two touchdowns.

He is just a freshman. I mean, they are stacked from top to bottom. There is no reason to think that Alabama's dominance will end any time soon.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, you can call it tonight because I know you have probably been up all night long.

GRAY: Haven't slept yet.

SAMBOLIN: I want a female's perspective of this. The girlfriend of the quarterback A.J. McCarron got some special attention during the game from commentator Brent Musburger. Let's listen.


BRENT MUSBURGER, ESPN COMMENTATOR: I'm telling you, you quarterbacks get all of the good-looking women. What a beautiful woman.


A.J. is doing some things right.

If you are a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throwing it around the backyard with pops.


SAMBOLIN: If you're a youngster in Alabama. Was that odd to you?

GRAY: No, I think that we've kind of come to expect a little bit of that sort of pitch, old boys club in sports and even though it is changing and the sports landscape is changing because there are so many more women who are covering sports and who are involved in sports in such a high level.

And that could be seen as a little bit low brow, but I think people just take it as good natured -- Brent Mussberger is 73 years old. I think he thought he was being funny and pitchy. I don't think he meant any disrespect.

SAMBOLIN: Some people were calling it creepy actually. GRAY: You can't argue with that, a little creepy.

SAMBOLIN: Maggie Gray, anchor. Thank you for joining us. Get some rest, girl.

GRAY: Thanks.

BERMAN: All right, it's 6 minutes after the hour. If the U.S. doesn't raise the debt ceiling, the country could be in default, five weeks, half a month earlier than expected according to analysis by the Bipartisan Tax Center.

They say the nation could go into default as early as February 15. It will almost certainly happen before March 1st, despite ordinary measures being taken by the Treasury Department.

SAMBOLIN: New overnight, a tragic helicopter crash killing seven people including two Americans. This was in Peru. Officials say at least two Americans were on board when it went down in a village in Central Peru.

The chopper crashed and exploded shortly after takeoff yesterday afternoon. Three of the bodies recovered away from the crash site. Four are still trapped in the wreckage.

BERMAN: Day two today of a court hearing in Colorado, in the case of James Holmes, he is the alleged shooter in the Aurora movie theater massacre back in July. Details emerged yesterday about his behavior right after the shooting.

A police officer testified Holmes was "very, very relaxed." a preliminary hearing will determine if he will stand trial. Twelve people killed in the shooting, dozens were wounded.

SAMBOLIN: Bells will ring across Tucson, Arizona today marking two years since the shooting that killed six people and wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, announcing a new gun control initiative that they are launching today.

Their web site, is designed to encourage elected officials to fight gun violence while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners.

Coming, guns also the topic of a debate on Piers Morgan show last night and things almost got out of hand. Take a look.


ALEX JONES, HOST, THE ALEX JONES SHOW: I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms, doesn't matter how many lemons you get on the street. We will not relinquish them, do you understand?



SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Piers Morgan sat down with a radio show host who wants to see him deported. Radio host, Alex Jones, created the "Deport Piers Morgan" petition to protest the CNN anchor's anti-gun position. And last night, he brought the crazy and a rambling pro-gun tirade.


JONES: The Second Amendment isn't there for duck hunting. It's there to protect us from tyrannical street guns. I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms. Doesn't matter how many lemons you get out on the street begging to get their guns taken. We will not relinquish them. Do you understand?


SAMBOLIN: So after the interview was over, Piers finally had a chance to respond.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": He is really one of the reasons why I'm so concerned about the lack of gun control in America. He owns 50 weapons. He has a pathological view about it. He seems unhinged to me.

And the irony of these gun rights guys saying to me that I'm rude to them, won't be lost on my regular viewers I'm sure. I try to stay calm and really there is no other way of dealing with him. He's just sort of a ranting guy who doesn't want anybody to grab his gun.


SAMBOLIN: Well, if you watched, you do know that Piers remained very calm during the rant -- John.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Zoraida. President Obama looking to restock his cabinet in making his choices official. He nominated former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to be his replacement for Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chuck Hagel's leadership of our military would be historic. He would be the first person of enlisted rank to serve as Secretary of Defense, one of the few secretaries who had been wounded in war and the first Vietnam veteran to lead the department.


BERMAN: The president is also giving his nod to anti-terrorism chief John Brennan to be next director of the CIA. But it's really Chuck Hagel who is getting the most scrutiny. Comments from his past are coming back to haunt him.

So I want to bring in Peter Beinart, a special correspondent for "Newsweek" and the "Daily Beast." He is the editor of Open Zion, which is a blog at the "Daily Beast." And Peter wrote what I think is most of the interesting and compelling articles about the Hagel nomination.

Explaining it perhaps better than anyone I've seen it including I should the president. The first paragraph of the piece, you write it may prove the most consequential foreign policy appointment of his presidency because the struggle over Hagel is a struggle over whether Obama can change the terms of the foreign policy debate. Explain that for me.

PETER BEINART, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, "NEWSWEEK" AND "DAILY BEAST": I think so far, the debate about military action in Iran has been conducted by and large in Washington, as if Iraq and Afghanistan didn't happen.

As if we haven't learned anything from the disaster that these two wars over the last ten years. I think the real struggle between Hagel and his foes, is he wants to bring some of the lessons in to the Iran debate that we learned about Iran and Afghanistan.

He talks very compelling about the fact wars once launched can't be fully controlled. He is very cognizant of the enormous financial cost that these wars have imposed on the United States, and I think the heart of the hostility is the fear that his recognition about what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq will make taking to us war in Iran harder.

BERMAN: You suggest there are no consequences for the Iraq war in terms of those who supported or imposed it.

BEINART: What I said if you listen to Republican foreign policy discourse, with the exception of a few people like Chuck Hagel, you would think the Iraq war had been a great success.

Because all of the same people who said it was a great success are defining in large measure the debate over war on Iran, pushing the United States closer, and I think Hagel is a message by the president to say hold on a second here.

I am going to set the bar for war higher than George W. Bush, and I don't think this is a simple and easy thing.

BERMAN: Why does Obama need that? Obama opposed the war in Iraq for longer than Chuck Hagel. Hagel voted for the invasion.

BEINART: Yes, that's right. Chuck Hagel did. But same thing with one of the few Republican senators who, after the war started he began to rethink his view of the world. It's not only about Iran. I think the other big thing about the Hagel nomination is that Obama wants someone to bring the Defense Department back into balance with Americas financial resources.

BERMAN: Is this a smaller foreign policy? A smaller defense policy?

BEINART: I think it is. The dominant Republican way to talk about the defense budget is to completely separate it, wall it off from all considerations about the national debt.

Chuck Hagel doesn't see it that way. He's a lot like Dwight Eisenhower who people forget drove the defense budget down quite dramatically because he believed America's real power was its fiscal health. It's economic health.

BERMAN: A lot of fire around Hagel nomination has to do with Israel and Hagel supporter and the lack of support as the case maybe for Israel. Let's listen to what Senator John Cornyn of Texas said about Hagel.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Comments he's made about the so-called Jewish lobby, which seems to denigrate the efforts of pro-Israel individuals, myself included, who view that relationship as a special relationship one that's important to our national security and stability in the region.


BERMAN: Hagel suggest he misspoke or shouldn't have used those words. But is this a real problem for him?

BEINART: No, I think this is really a smoke screen. If Chuck Hagel had the same views on Iran and defense spending as John McCain, no one would even be talking about these comments. I think it's really a side show.

One of the most important Jewish leaders (INAUDIBLE) used the same phrase, Jewish lobby, just last December. Yes, it would be more accurate to call it I think the kind of right wing pro-Israel lobby. But the truth is, many of the people in the pro-Israel lobby are, in fact, Jewish, as is myself. One of the groups is the American Jewish Committee.

So, to suggest this is in any way anti-Semitic, when many, many Jews, including a rabbi from Omaha, has testified to his good relationship with Jewish community I think is character assassination, to be honest.

BERMAN: All right. This is the case that the White House and Chuck Hagel will be making in the coming weeks, including in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when they have this hearing.

Peter Beinart, thank you very much for joining us. As I said, special correspondent for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." Your blog is Thanks very much.


SAMBOLIN: It is 17 minutes past the hour. Time for a quick check of this morning's top stories.

The BC Championship, it wasn't a game. It was a shame for Notre Dame and its legion of fans. Alabama Crimson Tide rolled over the Irish, 42-14, to win the national championship. It's Alabama's third BCS title in the last four years, looking every bit like a college football dynasty now.

Former President George H.W. Bush continues his recovery at a Houston hospital. According to a statement released by his office, the 88- year-old former president has been busy watching football, enjoying big wins by Texas A&M and the Houston Texans. Last week, the oldest living former U.S. president was moved out of the intensive care unit at the Methodist hospital. At a time, a spokesman said Mr. Bush was being treated for a stubborn fever.

Hillary Clinton has little extra protection this morning. And we're not talking about the Secret Service either. The Secretary of State returned to work yesterday after suffering from the flu which led to a fall, a concussion, and a blood clot in her head. So, her colleagues gave her a football helmet as a welcome back gift. She also received the football jersey with 112 on the back. That's how many countries she has visited as head of the State Department.

Mrs. Clinton is expected to step down at the end of the month.

BERMAN: You know, Notre Dame could have used her last night because, you know, she couldn't have played any worse than those guys.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, right. Thank you very much.

So, we still have a few months of winter left in 2013. And that means travel delays could perhaps be in your future. But the good news, airports across the United States are sprucing themselves up, adding new services for you. Maybe you will even be wishing for a delay?

BERMAN: Yes, I doubt that.

Christine Romans has the details in this morning's "Road Warrior".

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, you could get a manicure in some of these places. It's amazing. Yes, I mean, some of the amenities that they're coming up yet. You know, it used to be shabby carpet and really horrible food options. But you might be pleasantly surprise this year because we've already seen a few airport makeovers in 2012.

Las Vegas opened a new wing, complete with nearly 300 slot machines, so you can gamble while you wait. Atlanta added new slick international terminal in Atlanta is and high-end retail stores. And now more reports they're getting facelifts n 2013, good news if there are new travel plans and your delayed. San Diego's airport includes an upgrade a new media lounge where passengers can relax and get personalized flight updates while they wait.

Baltimore airport is also being renovated, one addition of a bar in the observation gallery, so if you get stuck, you have a cocktail and a view. Improvements are also planned at airports in New Orleans, Ft. Lauderdale, Columbus, at LAX, the new $1.5 billion international terminal set to open this year will have more than 60 shops and restaurants, including an Emporio Armani store, a caviar and champagne bar. In O'Hare, they actually have a green garden, a market garden on the roof that you can go -- I'm not kidding with fresh organic vegetables.

I mean, the things they are coming up with are pretty interesting. Maybe because they have determined that we are going to be cooling our heels a lot and we have money to spend.

So, look for more of those kinds of improvements this year. Interesting, right?

SAMBOLIN: I love the mini mani/pedi.


SAMBOLIN: I'm serious. I always pray for the flight to be delayed a little bit so that I could get it in before I travel.

ROMANS: I have never paid free for flight to be delayed.


ROMANS: All right. If you are a victim of a shoddy mortgage loan, you can have some money coming your way. I'm going to be minding your business. That's coming up next.


BERMAN: There she is. New York, New York, the sun about to come up over the Big Apple right now. We are minding your business here in New York this morning. U.S. stock futures trading slightly lower, close to the break even point really this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Earning seasons kick off. And unemployment in the euro area, hit a record high in November. Crazy -- 11.8 percent?

ROMANS: Eleven-point-eight percent is the unemployment rate in the eurozone. And one of the reasons why we look at this is because the eurozone has been in the midst of austerity, cutting budgets, cutting benefits, tightening the belt. And that's something that we'll be talking about in this country as we face the debt ceiling debacle.]

And what's that doing in Europe is causing a rise in unemployment. So, something economists are watching closely.

The earnings season will kick off here in the next couple of days. Alcoa is the first big one that we're going to hear from, Monsanto. What I'm going to be looking for is running commentary from these big companies about what they're seeing from demand, and what they think about the U.S. government. I have a pretty good idea about what they think about the later.

Speaking of the debt ceiling, Bipartisan Policy Center says we're going to hit the "x" date on maybe as early as February 15th. That means that's the day that if you don't raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. can't pay all of its bills. That's a chaotic situation, that's a real problem.

On that day, February 15th, if we hit it then, you would see $9 billion coming into the government on revenue, that's on the left side. That's our cash flow, $9 billion coming in that day. And to pay our bills, we have $52 billion due on committed spending the same day. You can see that is a $43 billion deficit.

With interest on the debt, IRS refunds, federal salaries, military active pay, you got all kinds of entitlement programs on the right side, so a big imbalance that will be bag problem and cause chaos in government and in politics. I want to talk quickly about a big bank foreclosure agreement. Regulators have squeezed $19 billion over the major banks over the last couple of days in foreclosure settlements. Some consumer groups say it's not enough. Banks are still looking for clarity.

Some of you homeowners are going to be eligible up to $125,000 in compensation if you were wrongly launched into the foreclosure process because of the shenanigans of these terrible loans that banks wrote and made moneys on for years and years. So, we'll keep following the mortgage crisis for you, $19 billion. And I don't think it's over.

I think it's almost over for the banks, but I think there could be more money they have to cough up in the months ahead.

BERMAN: And what's the one thing we need to know about our money?

ROMANS: One thing you need to know about your money, rents are still rising and will keep rising this year. They have been for three years now. In major cities like New York and San Francisco, it's good for the housing market. Real estate firm Reis says rising renters are going to push a flow of renters to turn into buyers. So, you're going to see some people turning into buyers now because they have been squeezed by higher rents for a few years.

And those higher rents will continue. Bottom line: higher rents will continue this year.

BERMAN: It does force the decision for a lot of people.

ROMANS: It does, it does.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: It is 26 minutes after the hour. Take a look at this -- startled commuters taken for a sudden ride in the wrong direction. More on the escalator accident caught on camera, coming up.