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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Inauguration: The Big Names; First Lady a Fashion Trendsetter

Aired January 21, 2013 - 05:30   ET

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


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is capping off a weekend of festivities and inaugural events here in Washington. just last night, the President and the First Lady were at a candle light reception, honoring all those who have put in a lot of hard work in making sure that all of these events went off without any problems at all. And the President talked a little bit about the First Lady's new hairstyle. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, first of all, I love Michelle Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: And to address the most significant event of this weekend, I love her bangs.

(CHEERING)

OBAMA: She looks goods.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: Of course, you will get to see those bangs and the various outfits that the First Lady will be wearing tonight when the First Lady and the President attend the big balls. First of all, there's the commander in chief ball and then the official inaugural ball that will be taking place later tonight, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Everybody wants to know what's going to go with those bangs, what gown will she wear tonight. All right. Dan Lothian for us this morning. Thank you, Dan. Appreciate that.

LOTHIAN: OK.

O'BRIEN: So, who exactly are the VIPs expected to be there? John Berman is following some of the big names for us. Hey, John. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad. I'm standing just above you here in front of the Capitol here. And down there, you can see them setting up the chairs behind where the President will be speaking. The best real estate there, of course, right behind the podium goes to the families, the President's family and the Biden family. You know, there is a new member of the Biden family this year. Joe Biden's daughter, Ashley, got married, Dr. Howard Krein, his new son- in-law. You can expect to be in attendance. Other VIP seating includes former presidents. Now, Jimmy Carter will be there. Bill Clinton will be here today, but there will be no former Bush presidents.

Of course, George H.W. Bush is recovering from being ill. He's been in the hospital for quite some time. And George W. Bush decided to stay back in Texas, too, although, he did send his regrets. Of course, the leadership in Congress, the Supreme Court sitting right there, the joint chiefs. There is one member of the cabinet who will not be here.

We don't know who it is yet, but it's a so-called designated survivor. That's the person who stays behind just in case the unimaginable happens. Four years ago, it was then defense secretary, Robert Gates. We're still waiting to see who it is this time around, but this is where all the big people will be sitting. They're going to start to file in sometime a little after 9:00 a.m. -- Zoraida.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I love the view, John. I think you may have the best seat in the house right now.

BERMAN: Not bad, right?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Very nice. Thank you very much.

So, the Washington who's who will, no doubt, be in full party mode tonight with inaugural events planned around the city, the commander in chief's ball, and of course, the inaugural ball are both happening this evening, bringing out big names like Katy Perry, Brad Paisley, Stevie Wonder, and Alicia Keys.

The festivities, though, actually kicked off yesterday, with events like the hip hop ball. That was chaired by Russell Simons where John Legend, Eva Longoria and Swizz Beatz took to the stage. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Smokey Robinson brought crowds to their feet at two other events last night. And two lucky girls, Brooke Baldwin and Suzanne Malveaux, had front row seats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brooke Baldwin inside a rocking corner theater (ph), because this is the heroes red, white and blue ball. On stage behind me right now and the headliner of the whole evening, which by the way, everyone is on their feet. You have Lynyrd Skynyrd.

But the real heroes tonight, the men and women inside this theater, our men and women in uniform. There's a non-profit group that's right here in Washington called Citizens Honoring Heroes, and that's the group that's putting this on tonight, honoring our men and women who each and every day protect this country overseas but really tonight, it's a call to action. Once these men and women coming home, we're going to make sure the suicide rate is going down, make sure PTSD has taken care of and jobs. The wide picture (ph), our veterans are employed, but it's the (INAUDIBLE) guys is thank you.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two very important activities taking place. Big events here, one of them, of course, Smokey Robinson. An amazing concert called Let Freedom Ring Celebration. 2,100 people in the opera house. Folks have lined up outside for the free concert since 5:00 in the morning to hear their favorites like "My Girl" and "America, the beautiful."

Really a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and of course, the public service that he did and the public service that many people are doing around the country. The other big event, a who's who in the Latino community, to celebrate their voting power, their fundraising power, and of course, putting the President back in office for a second term.

We saw a lot of notable celebrities here, had a chance to talk with Eva Longoria, Mario Lopez, and a very important moment, one that took place for the first time. You had the legendary Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno together on stage, both of them singing together at the same time. It really brought the house down, very special moment.

And a surprise guest, that being the vice president. He was not on the itinerary. He came forth and announced that he was very proud of his accomplishments. A lot of people in the audience thought that, perhaps, he was not only celebrating an inauguration for second-term as vice president, but perhaps, looking forward to a run in 2016.

A lot of excitement, a lot of passion here at the Kennedy Center. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Wow. Our thanks to Suzanne and Brooke. So, Soledad, that's what we missed while we were sleeping.

O'BRIEN: It looked really, really fun and really, really great.

SAMBOLIN: It did.

O'BRIEN: All right. Zoraida, thanks.

Let's talk a little bit about the Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor. She'll be taking part in today's inaugural ceremonies. Yesterday, Justice Sotomayor swore in the vice president, Joe Biden, in a private ceremony at the U.S. Naval Observatory. She became the first Latina to ever deliver an inaugural oath.

She'll do it again when she swears in Vice President Biden this morning during the public ceremony outside the U.S. Capitol. Justice Sotomayor told me that when she was growing up, she never could have imagined that one day she would play such an important role in American history. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Your book details a lot of first, and first Latino, for example, in the Supreme Court, not being the least of them. And you will be the first to swear in the vice president, another first for you on Sunday. How are you feeling about that?

JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I was thinking just a couple of days ago, if I think back when I was a kid, which of the two events would have seemed more improbable to me, I realized each one was so far fetched that I couldn't have imagined either.

O'BRIEN: Supreme court?

SOTOMAYOR: Supreme court --

O'BRIEN: Swearing in the vice president?

SOTOMAYOR: -- or swearing in the vice president in front of the nation and the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You can see my full interview with Justice Sonia Sotomayor later this morning. That's coming up at seven o'clock eastern time on "Starting Point." So, what do the next four years look like for President Obama? What will his message be? We'll dig into those possibilities, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. We are live from Washington this morning where in just a few hours, the country will watch as Barack Obama's inaugurated for a second term as President of the United States. I want to bring in Brett O'Donnell. He was the messaging director for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

In the last election cycle, he worked for both the Bachmann and Romney campaigns. Nice to have you here, Brett. So, my first question to you is, how does it feel being a Republican right now with all of these Democrats surrounding you and are you attending any of the events?

BRETT O'DONNELL, PRESIDENT, O'DONNELL AND ASSOCIATES: Well, I actually am. I'm going to the swearing in ceremony. And, you know, I wish we were inaugurating our candidate. But, you know, today is about being an American. It's the peaceful transition of power and today is about unity. And so, you know, I'll watch to listen to the President and see what he has to say.

SAMBOLIN: The President's first team was marked by a lot of battles with Republicans, with Congress, in particular. And so, do you think going into his second term that that will change?

O'DONNELL: Well, I hope it does. I hope that the President will begin to move toward the center so that he can work together with Republicans to really accomplish the things that the American people really care about, which is turning the economy around, creating jobs, and getting the country moving again back toward prosperity.

SAMBOLIN: I want to play something that White House senior adviser, David Plouffe, said. He sounds very optimistic about everybody being able to work together. Here's what he told CBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID PLOUFFE, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: There's vast support out there for balanced deficit reduction, investments in education and manufacturing, immigration reform, gun safety. So, on the issues the President intends to really push and focus on, there's massive support in the country, even amongst Republicans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, those two words, massive support, I would imagine that yes, there's massive support, but the way that they're going to tackle it is very different. Would you agree with that?

O'DONNELL: Yes, that's absolutely correct. I mean, the majority of the American public wants us to get the spending under control here in Washington. They want to see prosperity returned. They want jobs to return. It's a question of how we get there. And I think that's the place where, you know, the President has to move and work with Republicans.

Everybody has to come together and work together to get the agenda moving forward for the good of the country.

SAMBOLIN: I want to talk to you about a "Washington Post" article that's out today, and it says Obama's oratory, a gifted speaker, it has unfinished business for inaugural address. So, today is, you know, a big opportunity for the President to make his mark. He's going to speak to the American people, but also, perhaps, you know, be able to solidify his legacy, those key phrases that people are looking for.

You are a director of messaging. So, what would you be saying to the President? What is that message that he should be sharing today?

O'DONNELL: Well, inaugural addresses are about two things. They're about vision and they're about unity. And, you know, just down the other side of the national mall on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial are inscribed, in my opinion, some of the finest words ever written by Abraham Lincoln in which he faced a bitterly divided country and was able to deliver an address that aimed at unity, brought the country together.

And, you know, while the challenges we face are different than those that Lincoln faced, they're still formidable for this president. Our country is deeply divided. We've been through a divided election, which is a lot like what Abraham Lincoln went through.

And so, the challenge for the President is really to bring the country together, to sound a vision for the country that is eloquent and that will inspire Americans to come together and get behind him and get behind our elected leaders to work for the good of the country.

SAMBOLIN: It's interesting you mentioned Lincoln, because a lot of people believe that his second inaugural address is the last time we really had a strong inaugural address. Brett O'Donnell, very nice to have you today. Really appreciate that.

O'DONNELL: Good to be with you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. The parade, the parties, the pomp, the circumstance, we'll dig into it all on the special edition of EARLY START. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Let me explain to you where we are this morning. You're looking at a beautiful shot of the Capitol. Well, that's exactly where I am. And in fact, earlier, you heard John Berman bragging about what a great spot he has. He is just above me.

I'm actually -- maybe I have a better spot, because I'm a little bit lower than John Berman which means I'm right above all the 1,600 people who literally have some of the best seats in the house as they take a look looking up into the Capitol. So, the Capitol is to my left and sort of behind me.

Straight ahead of me is where we were reporting from yesterday, the far end of the mall, which means if you remember four years ago, there was something like roughly two million people or so filling this mall all the way down that direction. So, we're at the Capitol, and down there, you can see that beautiful shot.

That's where we were reporting from yesterday. Of course, since it's early, early, early in the morning here, not very many folks out yet. We're expecting this will fill up very quickly. And of course, the night, last night, was a night of stars. The balls, the parties.

Roland Martin is with us this morning. Ana Navarro is with us as well. Nice to have you both with us. Let's talk parties, because --

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We don't care about the politics.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Yes, you do very much, but let's talk parties right now. Anna Navarro, where were you last night?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I was at the Latino ball.

O'BRIEN: How did it go?

NAVARRO: It was terrific. It was Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera performing live together for the first time.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: --together before.

NAVARRO: It was so much fun. Jose Feliciano doing an acappella rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner." We saw a great tribute to the armed forces. Eva Longoria did a wonderful job. She only kept one dress on.

O'BRIEN: The yellow gown.

NAVARRO: Which is a beautiful dress and very strength (ph) for Eva because --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: She really does. Every commercial break, she changes. What did you do last night, Roland.

MARTIN: Well, just like 2009, this time, I emceed the African- American church ball where they honored Muhammad Ali, Cicely Tyson, Jessye Norman, member of other pastors. And so, it was great. The performer, Pastor Charles Jenkins of Chicago. He performed his song "Awesome."

One night after he won the stellar award for Song of the Year and Choir of the Year. He won five awards. Then also, (INAUDIBLE), a tribute to Nelson Mandela. It was phenomenal. That was great. And also, Byron Cage singing "The Presence of the Lord." So, the house was rocking. It was a ball room but it was church last night.

NAVARRO: It makes all the sense in the world to have the Black man and Latina who were out until the wee hours of the night here in the early morning.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Only one of us was at home doing -- been in the hotel room, doing home work last night.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: That would be me. Let's talk a little bit about the day's festivities. Of course, we have a great seat right now, because where the President is going to be sworn in is literally right there.

MARTIN: -- great photo show (ph).

O'BRIEN: I can't wait. I can't wait. But tell me a little about what you look for overall for the whole day. For me, it's the parade. And I remember sitting with David Gergen last year reporting on it and when the President and First Lady got out of the motorcade, remember, they were talking about they didn't think that they would.

They got out of the motorcade and I thought David Gergen was going to pass out. He was so anxious. No, I'm not even -- I'm not being sarcastic at all or being funny. He was so anxious and just petrified until the President got back into the motorcade. But he said it was a very important thing to do. What do you look forward to, Ana?

NAVARRO: Well, you know, I'm a wonk. So, I'm going to look for the speech. I love inaugural speeches. I hope that I hear a tone of unity. We've got a very divided country. it's been a lot of drama in the last couple of weeks. So, I hope there's a tone of unity where everybody's invited where we remind everybody that we're all in this together.

We're all Americans. This today is not about the Democrat Party or the Republican Party. It's not even about President Obama.

O'BRIEN: Peaceful handover.

NAVARRO: It's about our democracy, you know? I come from Nicaragua. We've had dictators. We've had revolutions. We've had communists. So, we should be able to do it without shedding blood, without one bullet, you know, just do a peaceful transition. Every four years is a wonderful think that deserves all sort of celebration. That's what I want to hear.

MARTIN: OK. I don't care about the politics and speeches, whatever. I want to see how the First Lady is going to walk out and looking with a new hair-do.

O'BRIEN: I love that.

MARTIN: I had a chance to talk to her hairstylist --

O'BRIEN: Well, save that for a minute, because we'll come back in just a moment. We're going to talk about the First Lady of fashion, the First Lady as a trend setter, the First Lady and those new bangs that finally her husband even referenced.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Of course, everybody is waiting on the edge of their seats to see what exactly she's going to wear for the ceremony and then what she'll wear for the balls. Alina Cho gives us a taste of that as our special coverage of the inauguration continues right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone, to Washington, D.C., to the stunning west side of the Capitol where we have been swearing in our presidents since Ronald Reagan. Of course, for political junkies, the inauguration is about history, but for the rest of us, for us, fashion junkies, it's about what they're going to wear, what will Michelle Obama wear tonight?

I probably should say who will she wear? Because one appearance on the First Lady can make or break a fashion designer. And no one can tell this story for us like Alina Cho. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First Lady Michelle Obama.

(CHEERING)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When First Lady Michelle Obama walked out on stage in that memorable White Gown by Jason Wu, overnight, the designer became a household name.

Take me to that moment where she walked out.

JASON WU, DESIGNER: I mean, I was screaming out of the top of my lung. I mean, I was like, that's me!

CHO: So, who will be the lucky one four years later?

ERIC WILSON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": It's really brilliant what she's done in keeping it secret, I have to say, because in the previous administrations, while there was always interest in what the First Lady wore, there was never this kind of red carpet moment.

CHO: Sources close to the process say what started out as a 20 designer field for the inaugural gown has now whittled down to two. Two designers who have a shot at worldwide fame. So, who are they? Likely, a New York-based designer and quite possibly one who is emerging versus established.

Around Thanksgiving, designers submit sketches. Garments are made. There are fittings and more fittings. The gowns are actually shuttled back and forth between New York and D.C. And because these designers don't have direct access to the First Lady, they have mannequins made in her likeness that live in their studios.

WILSON: Some people would compare it to dressing Anne Hathaway at the Golden Globes, but I would say it's more like a tee dress (ph) every celebrity at the Golden Globes. It's that much exposure.

CHO: By one estimate, a single appearance by the First Lady in a designer's clothes is worth $14 million. Tally up all of her public appearances for the year, and that's a nearly $3 billion boost to the fashion industry. Take Jason Wu. Since that moment, he's designed everything from a target collection to candles to furniture.

But that's business. What will the gown look like? If the past is any guide, Mrs. Obama, with those famous arms, tends to favor strapless and one-shoulder gowns, fitted at the waist and lots of color. Sources say strapless is at least one option she's considering. Designers are mindful this piece of clothing is not just an outfit but a piece of history, too.

ISABEL TOLEDO, DESIGNER: You have to describe in this garment what she's feeling, the importance of the moment. And I felt like Betsy Ross (ph).

CHO: Designer, Isabel Toledo, gained fame after she dressed the First Lady at the swearing in ceremony on inauguration morning.

TOLEDO: I didn't want to dress her for that evening of the ball. I wanted to do the inauguration.

CHO: Why?

TOLEDO: Because that's the moment that the whole world is a part of. And the whole world was watching.

CHO: Which is why this time --

TOLEDO: Some people wanted to know, are you going to be a part of it this time. And I said, you know, there's nothing more important than seeing someone else have this gift and what they do with it.

CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Well, it's down to two dresses, which one will she choose? You have to stay with us all day to find out. So much going on.

EARLY START continues right now.