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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Tide Rolls to BCS Championship; Interview with Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland; U.S. Could Hit Debt Ceiling 5 Months Early

Aired January 8, 2013 - 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: We've got a packed show for you this morning. Alabama players, Eddie Lacy and Barrett Jones, will join us. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin is with us. Former University of Texas track coach Bev Kearney is going to join us to talk about her lawsuit.

It's Tuesday, January 8th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our team this morning: Will Cain, what's with the beard?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You love the beard.

O;'BRIEN: No, actually have I not been clear on that.

CAIN: She told me yesterday to shave the beard. I said you just set the cause now a week.

O'BRIEN: I know, I know, hate is such a strong word but hate. Old man. No beard.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Richard Socarides -- oh, he's with theblaze.com.

Richard Socarides, NewYorker.com is with us well.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Good morning.

(LAUGHTER)

SOCARIDES: Completely clean shaven. Your favorite panelists are here this morning.

O'BRIEN: It's always my favorite panelists, always. I don't know what you're talking about.

"EARLY START" co-anchor John Berman, I'm struggling this morning, business correspondent Christine Romans with us as well.

Our STARTING POINT is the Crimson Tide, really left no doubt whatsoever who the kings of college football, rolling over Notre Dame -- 42-14 was the final score. The game wasn't even close, like 10 minutes in you knew what was going to happen. Alabama scored the first three times in the Bowl, 28-10 halftime.

Quarterback A.J. McCarron threw 14 passes in all. Alabama has won two BCS titles in a row, so three out of four, over the last four years obviously.

Players, fans, sportscasters talking about "dynasty", but the coach, Nick Saban, kind of -- he's sort of a mellow guy, not that cheery about his big win. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COACH NICK SABAN, ALABAMA, BCS CHAMPION: I don't think words like "dynasty" are really words I'm 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Yes, so he's like yes. You see another part of the interview, he's like, well, you know, I'm really happy.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: He's famous says a 24-hour rule on celebration, so they're still inside the window for another 18 hours or so, 12 hours. We'll see how it ends tonight.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk to some of the players. Eddie Lacy is a running back of the University of Alabama, and the team's offensive lineman, and senior center is Barrett Jones. He's an all-American.

Nice to have you both with us this morning. Congratulations are in order.

Will was mentioning the 24-hour rule.

CAIN: Eddie, you got to look happy. You're still within your 24-hour window to celebrate here.

(LAUGHTER)

BARRETT JONES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: For national championships we like to extend the window just a little bit.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: I don't know if you all ever met Coach Saban, but I would not describe him as mellow. That's not the first word that comes to mind when I'm thinking of him.

O'BRIEN: He looked so glum, he was talking about how happy he was, but he literally would not smile and you would have thought you'd lost, and you had won.

So, you get -- is it going to be more than 24 hours, it will 36 hours, go into a whole 48-hour window for fun and celebration?

JONES: Well, I think we usually have a meeting on Thursdays after these games so that gives us about four or five days to celebrate and have fun and you know, I think after that, it's back to business. That's how you create something like we have going right now where you go from year to year, certainly you enjoy your success, but you look past it and get ready for the next year.

O'BRIEN: That's why you guys are champs.

JONES: That's how we've learned how to handle success.

O'BRIEN: That kind of attitude. That's why they're the champs.

Let me ask you a question. The beginning of the game, we were talking about how 10 minutes in, it felt very, very bad for Notre Dame. Did you know that? Did you feel like we've got it early on in the game?

EDDIE LACY, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: Can you repeat that?

O'BRIEN: Sorry, I don't know if you're having a problem hearing me. I was wondering if by halftime it's 28-0. I mean, do you feel like that's it, you are getting into the locker room for the break at halftime, do you feel, we've won this, we're going to win?

LACY: I mean, at halftime, you know, Coach comes in, you know, he teaches us don't worry about the scoreboard. It's a 60-minute game and, you know, by halftime, it's just 30 minutes, we have 30 minutes left to play in, you know? In this league, teams come back all the time.

So you know he drives a 60-minute game, he drives it in our head. So, we came out after halftime, we knew we had to finish.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Let me ask you this, Alabama has shown a great deal of dominance, three titles in the last four years but the SEC even more dominant, seven straight titles. You guys play a tough schedule. You know, can the SEC ever lose? Do you ever see the SEC falling off the turf years? Is it different playing your league schedule and playing team like Notre Dame?

JONES: I think every streak will eventually end. But, you know, we're very proud to play and what we feel is the best conference in America and, you know, certainly the SEC is a huge task week in and week out. I think it's just so difficult because you have to bring your best every week and you have to be able to get up for every game because if you don't you'll be playing against an opponent who will beat you.

So, we love our league and certainly the streak will probably end eventually, but right now, I think, you know, the SEC is certainly the best league in America.

O'BRIEN: OK. So, I'm going to brag on the two of you because you're very laid back for people who have won a big giant game. Barrett Jones is a 4.0 GPA, Campbell Award, academic Heisman basically. You played injured. You had a foot injury, now you have to go into surgery, right? So, how is that looking for you? How are you feeling about that?

JONES: Well, never too excited about surgery, but you know it's just part of the game and I had an option to have it before, but certainly I was not going to miss this game and, you know, there's no way you could have maybe missed this being my last game as a senior. So, you know, it was a great experience and really a great way to go out.

It's not often you win your last game as a championship game, so that's just a pretty cool way to go out on top and finish out my career.

O'BRIEN: Yes. That's pretty cool.

OK. Bleacher Report headline this morning, Eddie, I don't know if you saw it, I bet you did, says this, Eddie Lacy, first round NFL draft pick or 2013 Heisman Trophy winner?

How do you feel about that?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the big smile.

LACY: They both sound great, man, but I haven't made my decision yet. I don't know what I'm going to do. I mean, I still have my parents to talk to and we still have to meet with Coach Sabin. But, you know, no matter which one I pick it's a good situation.

CAIN: I've got to ask Barrett really quick before we go.

Barrett, I know you're buddies with A.J. McCarron. I hear you guys make fun of each other, pick on each other, prank each other a lot, you got some good material from last night. So Brent Musburger took a liking to A.J.'s girlfriend. And I think she picked up LeBron as a Twitter follower. You've got some new material with A.J., do you not?

O'BRIEN: And about 89,000 other people.

JONES: Yes, you know, honestly, me and Eddie are a little jealous. You know, we worked for a long time for our followers and, all of a sudden, LeBron just follows her and she goes from 1,000 to 100,000. So, where is the love for actual players? I mean, she is certainly very pretty.

But you know, I just think Brett needs to share the love a little bit. It's all I'm saying.

CAIN: I don't know if you want that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Barrett almost sounds a little bit or above head (ph). I'm just teasing you guys. It's great to talk to you. Congratulations. I'm glad to see that everything is -- they're all very calm, they've got a few more hours on the clock before they get back to work on Thursday as Coach Sabin said. Nice to see you, thanks for talking with us.

CAIN: Congratulations.

O'BRIEN: And congratulations to you and the whole team as well.

BERMAN: They smiled more than 100 times more than Nick Sabin. Just that interview right here. It was nice to see some Alabama people's teeth.

O'BRIEN: Funny.

John Berman other stories making news, believe it or not today.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Soledad.

Authorities in Peru, they are investigating a helicopter crash that killed seven people, including at least two Americans. They said the chopper went down just after taking of from an airport in central Peru. Three of the victims were recovered a distance from the crash site. But four bodies do remain trap inside the wreckage.

Later today in a Colorado courtroom, day two of the hearing to determine whether James Holmes will stand trial for the Aurora movie theater massacre. In chill testimony yesterday, one officer said after the shootings last July, Holmes appeared to be relaxed and detached. Two officers took the stand cried as they described the horrific scene at the theater. Twelve people were murdered, dozens and dozens were injured.

Former Olympic gold medalist Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm were on hand for a special soccer night Monday in Newtown, Connecticut where they joined by about 40 other stars of the game, including Landon Donovan of the L.A. Galaxy and the U.S. men's national team. Their goal was to bring smiles to the kids in the community that really has been devastated by last month's deadly school shootings. And for one night, it looked like they succeed, awfully nice from all of the soccer stars.

So, thousands signed up to buy tickets for this year's inaugural ball can forget it. Foul up at Ticketmaster left them shut out. Here's how it happened. On Sunday morning, Ticketmaster sent an e-mail informing everyone they'd be receiving another e-mail Monday with a special link to purchase tickets to an official inaugural ball with President Obama and the first lady attending.

But four hours later, the tickets -- but four hours later, the ticket accidentally went on sale and sold out in a hurry. Everyone who was waiting for the Monday morning link instead received an e-mail from Ticketmaster informing them about the mistake. All sold out, no luck for this --

O'BRIEN: It's just so brutal, because they just weren't planning. They were waiting for Monday, who knew it was going to be Sunday night they had to get it together during the game they were watching.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Saved thousands of dollars on hotel rooms.

SOCARIDES: Oh, always the business angle. Very nice.

ROMANS: All right. Critics of the former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel say he's going to have to explain his comments from the past, some comments about Israeli, comments about a diplomat who was gay and wanted to be ambassador. One of them is Maryland Senator Ben Cardin who would like to hear some of those explanations. We'll talk to Senator Cardin, straight ahead, this morning.

And then, she resigned after admitting to an affair with a former student athlete. But is there more to the story? We're going to talk with the former University of Texas track coach, Bev Kearney. That's straight ahead as well.

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O'BRIEN: Republicans have been lining up against the former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel weeks now, way before President Obama even nominated him for the Secretary of Defense position. Now, that Hagel is officially the pick, some lawmakers in the president's own party don't seem that thrilled either -- including the Democratic Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin, who says Senator Hagel is going to have to clarify some of the things he's said in the past.

Senator Cardin joins us this morning. Nice to see you sir. Thanks for being with us.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: It's good to be with you. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You clearly have reservations about Chuck Hagel. What would you say is your biggest issue with him?

CARDIN: Well, I wanted to get an explanation about his position in regards to Iran. He's been reluctant to support tough sanctions against Iran. Iran's an extremely dangerous country.

You know, Senator Hagel and I served together. He's a good person. I agree with his positions with regards to Iraq.

I certainly believe that the president should be able to have his team, but the advice and consent of the Senate is a very important responsibility. We have to do it independently and there are questions that need to be answered.

O'BRIEN: He says now that when he used the phrase "Jewish lobby" he meant the Israel lobby. What do you make of that, and what kind of questions, if there are any, would you like to ask him about that?

CARDIN: Well, you know, Senator Hagel on a couple of occasions used language he should not have used. He's apologized for his language about a gay person. His use of the pro-Jewish lobby was inappropriate. These are concerns and matters I want to talk personally to Senator Hagel about.

O'BRIEN: Who -- if it weren't Chuck Hagel, who would you prefer to see in that position?

CARDIN: Well, that's the president --

O'BRIEN: You look at his background, I mean, obviously, decorated Vietnam veteran, shrapnel in his chest. There are some people point to that alone as, you know, he has tremendous experience that many others who've served in that position do not have.

CARDIN: Well, this is President Obama's choice. It's not who I would prefer to see as Secretary of Defense. Senator Hagel has a distinguished record, serving in Vietnam. I served with him on the Foreign Relations Committee. I very much admired his independence in regards to our involvement in Iraq. I think he spoke from his own personal convictions, and we agreed on that issue.

So, I think it's important for us to let the process go forward. It should be an open and fair nominating process, with the confirmation hearings, and we'll see, but I do have questions. These questions need to be addressed and we'll see where it goes.

O'BRIEN: What's the number one question? I know you've asked for a one-on-one meeting with him. Let's say you get your one-on-one meeting and he walks into the room. What's the first thing you ask him?

CARDIN: Well, it's going to be about I understand his reluctance to use our military but will he stand strong against those who threaten us and support terrorism and his comments about direct negotiations with terrorist groups. There'll be questions that I'll ask. I don't serve on the armed services committee that conducts the hearing.

O'BRIEN: Right.

CARDIN: So, it's an opportunity when he comes to my office to get these questions answered.

O'BRIEN: We were talking earlier this morning with his former chief of staff and we're asking him about his comment about a diplomat who was gay who he called aggressively gay, which would he believed make him ineligible for position as ambassador to Luxembourg. It was back in 1998. Is that a comment as well that you want to ask him question about?

CARDIN: Absolutely. You know, I want to know what his position is in regards to gays in the military, whether he -- I understand the president's commander in chief, but I want to know what Senator Hagel's view in regards to making sure that there's no discrimination in our military service. So, these are questions that need to be addressed.

O'BRIEN: All right. So, we've walked through about 15 questions you have for him. Do you think at the end of the day, though, he's going to be confirmed, realistically?

CARDIN: Well, normally, we allow the president to get his team in place, but it is an independent process and I think it's too early to make a prediction as to how his confirmation process will go.

O'BRIEN: Senator Ben Cardin joining us this morning. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for your time. We appreciate it.

CARDIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Got to take a break.

Still ahead this morning, the U.S. is likely going to default on its debt sooner than we've been calculating. Christine Romans walks us through what that means for the economy. Here's a hint -- bad, bad, bad things. That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business."

Stock futures are basically flattened. Some time is leaning down slightly here. Earnings season kicks off today when Alcoa reports after the closing bell. New this morning, unemployment in the Euro area hit a record high 11.8 percent in November.

Now, the U.S. could default on its debt in five weeks, half a month earlier than expected. That's according to a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center. It predicts it will hit the debt ceiling as early as February 15th and almost certainly before March 1st despite these extraordinary measures being taken by the Treasury Department to delay that from happening.

On that day, the U.S. will have $9 billion coming in to treasuries coffers, $52 billion in bills to pay on the very --

O'BRIEN: That doesn't add up, Christine.

ROMANS: It does not add up.

O'BRIEN: How is that going to work?

ROMANS: Hence, the budget wars that we are about to live through.

All right. Federal regulators announced an $8.5 billion settlement involving 10 banks over alleged foreclosure abuses. Plus, Bank of America agreed to a $10 billion settlement with Fannie Mae yesterday. By the way, Bank of America stock hit a two-year high on the day that it had to cough up $10 billion. Investors saying they want this behind the bank.

And rich homeowners rushed to sell their property before the fiscal cliff. Sales of luxury homes spiked in the last months of 2012 according to the National Association of Realtors. The goal, to avoid the capital gains tax hike, part of the fiscal cliff, and the Medicare surtax on investment income part of the Affordable Care Act.

The rush was worth it because a high earner would pay $88,000 less in taxes on every $1 million profit booked on a home in 2012 instead of 2013.

O'BRIEN: Wow! Definitely worth it.

ROMANS: Yes. I'm not in that category. So --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: We can all dream. Christine, thank you.

OK. Let's talk "Tough Call" today. One of the teenagers who's featured in that awful web video mocking a girl at the center of that rape case in Ohio, quote, "regrets" his behavior and his comments, that's the quote from his lawyer. The teen in question is 18-year-old Michael Nodiano. His attorney says he did something dumb but he didn't commit a crime. Here's the attorney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS MCNAMARA, ATTORNEY: Michael was very callously talking about the sexual assaults that he had been told about by others. There's no excuse or justification for the comments and jokes Michael made on the video. And with some sober reflection, he is ashamed and embarrassed to hear them himself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Apologies are always so much more sincere when they come from the actual person as opposed to the actual person's attorney is my take on this. Two 16-year-olds who were on the football team, the high school football team, are now charged with sexually assaulting a young woman after a series of parties that happened last August and those two are expected to face trial in juvenile court next month.

BERMAN: There's a lot going on at this town, including an ongoing investigation right now where there is the possibility that more than those two kids will be charged.

O'BRIEN: Right.

BERMAN: So, it is not surprising that a lot of the other kids particularly ones who may appear on a video have lawyered up and are taking some kind of measures now to deal with whatever predicament they might be in.

O'BRIEN: Yes. But when you see that kid in that video, it's awful what he's saying. He's saying he was not involved in the attack, and certainly, his lawyer is saying that, but you know, it goes on and on in great depth. His attorney in other comments about how he regrets it and, you know, the effect it's had on people in the community and his own family and he comes from a good family.

He wasn't raised -- you know, goes on and on and on, and it's kind of like, yes, well the video speaks for itself.

ROMANS: If you were that kid's mom or dad and you were watching your child say those things, I mean, what would you -- it's horrific. All of that 18 years of child rearing to result in that kind of behavior tearing up a town, destroying people's lives, it's just heartbreaking.

O'BRIEN: It is. It's awful.

Moving on, ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk to a legendary track coach who's now resigned after she admitted an affair with a student athlete. But the story has come out ten years after their relationship ended. Does the timing matter? We're going to talk to Bev Kearney. She'll join us to tell her side of the story. That's ahead. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Twenty-eight minutes past the hour. Just a few moments, we're going to be talking with Coach Bev Kearney, former University of Texas track and field coach, very, very successful, resigned over an affair she had with a student. Here's the catch, the affair was ten years ago.

Plus, we're going to take you to the consumer electronic show out in Vegas with a look at some of the hottest new gadgets from self-driving car. I need one of those to high-powered phones.

First, we want to get right to John Berman for a look at some of the other stories making news this morning. Good morning.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Soledad. So, he's already on California's death row, but convicted serial killer, Rodney Alcala, got another 25 years to life after he admitting murdering two women in New York in the 1970s.

Alcala was originally convicted of strangling four women and a young girl in California. The 69-year-old was dubbed the dating game killer because he was once a contesting on "The Dating Game" in the 1970s.

Questions this morning in Paul's Valley, Oklahoma, where a pregnant woman who went to the hospital with severe stomach pain ended up dying in jail. Hospital staff say when 33-year-old Jamie Lynn Russell was in too much pain to lie down, they asked a police officer to help but when police found two prescription pills that didn't belong to Russell, they hauled her off to jail with the permission of the hospital staff.

Less than two hours later, she was dead. The state medical examiner said she died from ruptured ectopic pregnancy where an embryo implants inside the uterus.

The search for two teenaged boys who fell into a frozen lake in New Jersey is now a recovery operation. The boys both reportedly 14 went about 200 yards out into the ice and they fell through last night.

And another ice event to tell you about, this one in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Ten fishermen stranded in ice had to be rescued yesterday from the ice shelf they walked out onto broke free.

A new school superintendent in Washington State is coming under fire for her proposal to disarm the district's guards and police officers. There are 20 armed officers in the Highline School District protecting more than 180,000 kids, but new superintendent Sue Enfield wants every school under her watch to be a gun-free zone, including security officers. The school board is expected to take up Enfield's idea tomorrow night.

So today marks legendary British rocker David Bowie's 65th birthday, 65. And Bowie's giving his fans a president. His first new music in a decade.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

Yes, it sounds like David Bowie. The new single, "Where Are We Now?" is on sale on iTunes today. A message on Bowie's Web site says a new album called "The Next Day" will be released in March. That's great.

O'BRIEN: Yes, that is great news.