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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Alabama Wins BCS Title over Notre Dame; Gun Rights Advocate Interviewed by Piers Morgan; U.S. May Default on Debt Earlier than Expected

Aired January 8, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning: the Crimson Tide. Yes, we're going to talk about how it steamrolled to victory. Number two Alabama blows back number one Notre Dame for a second straight BCS title. We'll have highlights from the game. Plus, an eyebrow raising comment from one of the forecasters. Yes, we're talking to you, Brent Musberger.

Then, the battle lines are drawn. President Obama officially named Chuck Hagel as his Defense Secretary nominee. We'll tell you why his confirmation process will be anything but easy.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And we have a date. The U.S. could default on the debt ceiling earlier than expected. What that means for you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An exclusive exchange when Piers Morgan sits down with a man who wants him deported.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX JONES, GUN RIGHTS ADVOCATE: And 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: We'll have more from that rather testy interview coming up.

O'BRIEN: Lots ahead this morning. Members of the champion Alabama Crimson Tide football team, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg from ESPN, Mike Buttry, the former chief of staff for Senator Chuck Hagel, We'll talk about addiction with former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy and author Christopher Kennedy Lawford, and the former university of Texas track coach Bev Kearney will join to us as well to talk about her lawsuit against the school. It's Tuesday, January 8, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome back, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning a crimson tidal wave I guess it's fair to call it. Alabama crushed Notre Dame, and 42-14 was the score. At the end of it all won the BCS national championship. The game was pretty much over kind of not long after it started. Alabama scored the first three times, and led 28-0 by halftime. The Tide has won two straight national titles, three of the last four titles. CNN's Carlos Diaz is in Miami for thus morning. Good morning, Carlos. CARLOS DIAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Soledad. Coming into the national championship game, it was supposed to be a battle between two storied programs. You've got Notre Dame taking on Alabama. It's going to be a battle in the trenches, a great defense versus a great offense, and the great offense won. Alabama cut right through Notre Dame's vaunted defense to score 35 unanswered points. This thing was over at halftime. The jokes were flying, basically saying that Notre Dame's marching band crossed mid field more than Notre Dame's actual football team.

Alabama has now won three of the last four national championships. In fact, they won two in a row. This is truly a dynasty that head coach Nick Saban has put together. A.J. McCarron, the new golden boy, quarterback of America if you will. He has thrown for 500 yards in the last two national championship games without throwing one single interception. He was as flawless last night as he was last night against LSU.

Guess what? There's a new celebrity, A.J. McCarron's girlfriend. That's right, Kathryn Webb, the current Ms. Alabama USA, was shown over and over again last night on ESPN, and she went from 2,300 twitter followers to over 100,000 twitter followers in the span of the game. She has more twitter followers than A.J. McCarron himself. And afterward he says I guess she's more famous than I am. I guess east OK with that. He has a couple national championships and a very attractive girlfriend, just ask Brent Musburger from last night. Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: That was a little weird, wasn't it, when Brent Musburger was raving on about this 22-year-old woman. She is hot, I will give her that. This young lady is the former Ms. Alabama. Her name is Kathryn Webb, and as Carlos was telling us, she gained 90,000 twitter followers last night. This is what Brent Musburger had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETN MUSBURGER, SPORTSCASTER: I tell you, you quarterbacks get all of the good-looking women what a beautiful woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, A.J. doing some things right.

MUSBURGER: If you why a youngster in Alabama, get the football out in the backyard and start throwing it around with pops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Brent, you're 73 years old. She's 23 years old. Come on, man. But she's hot. I'll give it to her.

BERMAN: There was a lot of action in the game.

ROMANS: It was just filler, thank you, John, pointing that out.

BERMAN: It felt like the early 70s, like when they would do close-ups of the cheerleaders half the game.

ROMANS: It didn't bother me, but it felt like the '70s.

O'BRIEN: We will talk, not to the cheerleaders, not to the girlfriend, we'll talk to some of the players of Alabama, that ahead this morning.

Chuck Hagel also saying it's time to set the record straight. President Obama's kind of controversial pick of the secretary of defense now firing back at those firing back at the critics who are questioning his support for Israel and claim he's soft on Iran. Heroes the president calling Senator Hagel the leader our troops deserve when he introduced the former Nebraska senator to the nation yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Let's get to Brianna Keilar at the White House this morning. Senator Hagel gave his first interview to a newspaper in Nebraska and he said he has been stuck out there, unable to respond to all the charges and falsehoods and distortions about his record. So what is he saying in the first interview?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He said in his first interview, Soledad, exactly what you said. This was an exclusive with "The Lincoln Journal Star," and says critics have distorted his record and now he has a chance to answer some criticisms. And he says when he does he will show an accurate assessment of his record, an unequivocal and total support for Israel.

As you know, a lot of critics have questioned his credentials when it comes to supporting Israel. They point to certain things, like he called AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobbying group, the Jewish lobby. He's gotten a lot of questions about that. But also questions about what kind of sanctions against Iran he has supported. He has been skeptical of unilateral sanctions. And this is something the White House very much acknowledges, but they point to the fact that he supported as a senator sanctions against Iran backed by a coalition of the U.S. and other countries. President Obama sort of in a veiled way referred to this yesterday in his comments in the east room and he said that Hagel realizes that America is strongest when it stands with its allies.

I will tell you, Soledad, the White House feels that although this will no doubt be a tough confirmation process, that Hagel will get some really tough questions from Republicans and even from Democrats who at this point, many of them holding back on endorsing Hagel, the White House and President Obama feel when Hagel has a chance to answer those questions, he will give good answers, convincing answers, that will get him the support he needs in this confirmation process. And to that end, Soledad, President Obama said, I think it was at least twice yesterday, that he was urging Congress to move forward quickly with this nomination as well as others on his national security team because these are really imperative roles that need to be filled.

O'BRIEN: He is in the interesting and unenviable position of being on both sides. Brianna Keilar at the White House, thank you, appreciate it.

Ahead this morning, we'll talk to Senator Hagel's former chief of staff, Mike Buttry.

And a story that combines our love of football and politics, kind of sort of. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned to work yesterday. As she was ready to leave her home and head into the office, you'll remember she suffered from the flu that led tie fall which led to a concussion and led to a blood clot. As a welcome back gift from her staff her colleagues gave her a football helmet and a little football jersey with the number 112. That's the number of countries that she visited as the head of the state department. She's expected, of course to step down from her role at the end of month.

BERMAN: Notre dame could have used her on the line as Alabama was running all over them.

O'BRIEN: I was rooting for Notre Dame, so lay off the Notre Dame jokes this morning.

BERMAN: Sorry.

O'BRIEN: Do you have some other news this morning?

BERMAN: I do have other news. At least two Americans were sitting among seven people killed in a helicopter crash in central Peru. The chopper crashed and exploded shortly after takeoff. Authorities say three of the bodies were recovered away from the crash site, and four are still trapped inside the wreck.

The alleged gunman in the Aurora movie theater massacre is due back in court later this morning. It's a preliminary hearing to determine if James Holmes will stand trial. In chilling testimony yesterday one officer described Holmes as "very, very relaxed" after the shootings.

Casey Wian joins us from Centennial, Colorado. Good morning, Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It really was a dramatic day of testimony yesterday. Prosecutors were warning victims' family members who were in the courtroom that there would be a lot of graphic testimony and they should be prepared for that. and they certainly delivered. Several police officers took the stand, testified about their first encounter with James Holmes. One officer, the one you mentioned who said his demeanor was very relaxed. Not normal. He said when he first encounters James Holmes, he thought he was another police officer because of the way he was dressed. He was wearing a helmet, gas mask. He had body armor on. As he got closer, he realized, in fact, it was the suspect.

Other officers describing horrific bloody scene inside that theater as they tried to rescue victims and get them out of the theater. One officer saying he walked in and had trouble keeping his footing on the floor because there was so much blood. He also said that after several trips to the hospital with victims in his patrol car, that he could actually hear blood sloshing around in the back seat of his car.

In addition to the graphic testimony that we heard, all eyes were on James Holmes to get a look at what he looked like. He is now -- has a very long beard, does not have the dyed red hair any longer. He sat and listened to the testimony with an emotionless, expressionless look on his face. And at least one relative of one of the victims of James Holmes' shooting spree allegedly says he believes that Holmes is faking his demeanor. Let's listen to what that man had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM TEVES, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: I never stopped watching him in the courtroom. As soon as he saw different things happened and he smiled a couple times and very quickly, because he caught himself, he's really pretending to be crazy. That guy is evil, but there is no way that guy is crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIAN: Also going to his argument about whether he formed the intent to commit the crimes, prosecutors played video of Holmes walking into the theater, using his cellphone to enter the theater. They showed evidence that he purchase that ticket 12 days before the shooting spree began. John?

BERMAN: Thank you very much, Casey Wian live in Colorado with details from the shooting.

Today mark two years since the Tucson shooting massacre, and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly are unveiling a new gun control initiative. They are hoping their new website AmericansforResponsibleSolutions.org will encourage elected officials to fight gun violence while protecting the rights of responsible gun owners. Bells will ring across Tucson today at the exact moment that gunman Jared Loughner opened fire outside a supermarket, killing six people and severely wounded Giffords.

New this morning, a second inquest into Amy Winehouse's death confirmed she died of accidental alcohol poisoning. Winehouse died in July, 2011, at the age of 27.

Going up? Well, maybe not. An escalator at a New Jersey commuter train station abruptly reversed direction, sending people into panic. Commuters riding up the escalator at the Jersey City station, when suddenly they weren't at all. A malfunction sent a stampede of people down the moving staircase, people clearly didn't know what to do. Five people suffered cuts, scrapes and bruises in the confusion.

O'BRIEN: That's weird. I wonder what happened. BERMAN: Some kind of malfunction.

O'BRIEN: People try to fight their way up, just go down and take a better escalator.

ROMANS: One person trips, you get a clog of people.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, many say Notre Dame didn't stand a chance against Alabama. I was not one of those many. The host of ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" join us. They disagree with that.

And for the very first time ever a monster of the deep filmed alive and in its natural habitat. New images of a giant squid, and the thing is massive. Christine, what's in business news?

ROMANS: I have nothing that cool. It's disgusting and ugly. The U.S. will likely default on its debt sooner than expected. What that means for our economy, for you, and for politics in that fair city. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: At the end of the day, Irish eyes were not smiling. The Alabama Crimson Tide crushed Notre Dame at last night's BCS championship game, 42-14. From the very first drive, it was the Tide dominant, left the fighting Irish to nurse their wounds. Notre Dame team captain Manti Teo said the team did the best it could.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANTI TEO, MIDDLE LINEBACKER, NOTRE DAME: We battled, and I think they just did what Alabama does. Like I said, we had opportunities to make plays. We just didn't capitalize on those opportunities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Much of the credit goes to coach Nick Saban, celebrating his fourth BCS title. He gives credit to the players, the university, and the fans, very politic of him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the game with Mike and Mike, Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg. Nice to talk to you, guys. He's so funny, I'm happy as hell. As he sits there, not looking particularly happy at all. People have said "dynasty." Is that a fair word to use? MIKE GREENBERG, HOST ESPN2'S "MIKE AND MIKE IN THE MORNING": I think it is, Soledad. In the world in which we live today in college football, where it is as competitive as it has ever been no, team ever won back-to-back BCS championships in this era. At this stage, three out of four does qualify as a dynasty.

MIKE GOLIC, HOST ESPN2'S "MIKE AND MIKE IN THE MORNING": He doesn't want to talk about it, he'll leave it to others, I guess that's us. Yes, you can use the word "dynasty." One of only four coaches who have won four national championships. He deserves that title to be above him. He'll never admit it, but he deserves it. He's built a fantastic program. He has it humming right now.

O'BRIEN: What happened to your team, Notre Dame? I was rooting for them.

GREENBERG: Physically, they got beat. I appreciate that. But it was about lining up and establishing dominance on the line of scrimmage. I thought it would be certainly closer than it would be there, but they dominated, especially offense against Notre Dame's defense, which had been great all year. I'd never seen them physically dominated like that. They took control of the game when that happened and opened up the passing game and they just rolled from there.

This was a physical beat-down by Alabama. What everybody was looking forward to. The best offensive line in the country and a great running game against arguably the best front seven defensively for Notre Dame. This was the matchup everybody was looking for, and unfortunately for Notre Dame and my alma mater, no matchup. They were physically beaten at the line of scrimmage by Alabama. It opened up so many more things for A.J. McCarron to throw for four touchdowns. That's how they continued to roll and dominate.

O'BRIEN: Oh. I was rooting for Notre Dame. I really thought --

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: After 10 minutes, you knew where it was going.

That's Will Cain joining us. I am ignoring you for the rest of the morning. And Richard Socarides is with us at as well. At halftime you knew it was completely over. It was still kind of painful.

BERMAN: We may not see a college championship game like this again. Maybe with the sort of playoff situation, we will get two better teams.

CAIN: Texas longhorns since USC, probably the last really good game. It's been a while since we had a really good national championship.

O'BRIEN: The Notre Dame coach said they learned a lot. I guess next year we'll see how much they learned and if they apply it.

Next, did you see this guy who has been trying to get Piers Morgan deported?

BERMAN: He's kind of scary. O'BRIEN: He was on with Piers Morgan. Totally interesting. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Will it really? 1776 will commence again?

CAIN: I don't think he means the musical.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Anyway --

RICHARD SOCARIDES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What did you think of that?

O'BRIEN: We'll play more of that and talk about what Piers Morgan said, back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans minding your business this morning. Stock futures basically flat. The earnings season kicks of today when Alcoa reports after the closing bell.

And new this morning, unemployment in the euro area hit a record high in November, 11.8 percent.

Red alert, the United States could default on its debt in five weeks in Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling. That's about a half a month earlier than expected. According to a new analysis by the bipartisan policy center America could be in default as early as February 15th and almost certainly before March 1 despite these extraordinary measures taken by the treasury department to delay that from happening. On that day, the U.S. will have $9 billion coming in to the treasury's coffers, $52 billion going out. Committed spending, including Social Security checks, paying for active duty military, that's shows you what they are fighting in Washington, how to cut that spending.

O'BRIEN: That math does not add up. It cannot work.

So it wasn't exactly point-counterpoint because Piers Morgan didn't say much when he sat down with radio host Alex Jones, the guy who created this petition to have Piers deported because Piers he an outspoken advocate of guns and gun control. Jones went completely into rant mode last night. Here is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: I'm here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms. It doesn't matter how many lemmings you get out there on the street, begging for them to have their guns taken. We will not relinquish them. Do you understand? (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK. So that guy has by his own count, 50-something guns. Just put that in your back pocket for a moment. Here is what Piers said when he got a chance to respond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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's a man that owns 50 weapons. He has sort of a pathological view about it. He seems unhinged to me. The irony of guns rights guys saying 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 because he's a ranting guy who doesn't want anybody to grab his gun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: With the gun control debate, we go every single time should we talk about AR-15 weapons being more easy to get than a package of Sudafed, to suddenly we're going to take everyone's gun away. There is a big middle there that you can have a ration discussion about.

O'BRIEN: Why do you think that is? Why don't we go to the middle? I will say the average American sort of recognizes there is a big middle there.

CAIN: Every time we invoke the middle, I get a little queasy, a suggestion that always the middle is the right place to be. I would suggest we might want an intellectual debate.

Alex Jones is a lot of things, a 9/11 truther, the guy that Charlie Sheen went out and said he drank tiger's blood and so forth. That's how he got famous. And it was a wonderful triumph on a television show last night to Alex Jones. I would suggest to piers, have a one- on-one debate. It's not about meeting in the middle, but having valid intellectual points laid out for audience to choose from.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to say there is a middle, and the middle doesn't necessarily have to be a bad compromise. And we never talk about a middle. We talk about this to this, and a discussion about the middle.

SOCARIDES: And I think president Obama is talking about taking some very sensible middle ground positions. President Obama is not suggesting we appeal the second amendment. The stuff being proposed is very modern.

O'BRIEN: We will see what that discussion becomes.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, here is a guy who worked as former Senator Chuck Hagel's chief of staff when he was making the comments about the Jewish lobby. We'll speak with Mike Buttry about the upcoming cabinet confirmation hearings for Chuck Hagel. That is ahead. We're back in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)