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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Washington D.C. Celebrates President's Second Inauguration; Interview with Cory Booker; Pundits Discuss President's Second Term Agenda

Aired January 21, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD OB'RIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: it is Inauguration Day, and we're live at the Capitol as masses begin to gather on the National Mall to witness President Obama's second public inauguration. From the oath to the parade to the parties, to the celebrities, we've got it all covered.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: -- maybe avoiding the second-term course. We'll look at all the obstacles that could trip him up.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, big names, choice seats. We'll take you inside the VIP section for today's inauguration. You don't even need a ticket.

O'BRIEN: Lots of guests coming up in the next two hours. We're going to be talking with Newark Mayor Cory Booker; Wyoming Senator John Barrasso; Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. will be our guest. Iowa Representative Steve King is with us; Maine Senator Angus King; Texas Representative Joaquin Castro. Nick Cannon, of course, is the host of "America's Got Talent" and my conversation with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor all ahead this morning.

It is Monday, January 21st. You're watching a special inauguration edition of STARTING POINT, coming to you live from our nation's capital, and we begin right now.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. President Obama kicked off his second term as leader of the free world. I'm being joined this morning by "EARLY START'S" John Berman and our chief national correspondent John King. Good morning, gentlemen. We also have reporters blanketing Washington D.C. this morning. Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill, Christi Paul is on the National Mall, Brianna Keilar is at St. John's Episcopal Church for us this morning, Suzanne Malveaux is along the parade route.

The turnout is not expected to match the 1.8 million spectators from 2009. They're guessing about half as many people, in fact, the president's second time taking the oath in 24 hours, fourth time technically as president.

You can see there, the president took the oath with his daughters and his wife watching. There is a requirement, of course, that he is sworn in on January 20th. That's why it's done officially, and then done for the public. The vice president Joe Biden did the same thing. He was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She made history as the first Latina to ever swear in a vice president. So today what do we expect? Lots of celebrating, lots of pageantry, and also some historic firsts.

White House correspondent Dan Lothian is following the day's events for us. So lay it out for, Dan. How does it begin, where does it go, how does it end?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A very long day. We're told the president will start off his day at the White House, waking up, working out in the private gym. He'll also be having his presidential daily briefing on national security issues and other issues as well. He'll sit down for breakfast with the family.

And then around 8:45, they will head across the street to St. John's Episcopal Church, a church known as the president's church. And often the first family attended service there. A couple hours later they will head up to the capitol for the swearing in ceremony where the president and vice president will take part in the swearing in, getting the oath there. This is a public ceremony. Of course, privately yesterday was when the vice president and president had the oath administered.

And then later in the afternoon, the president, first lady, will take part in the inaugural parade and then head to the reviewing stand behind me, where they will watch that parade as well. So a lot of things for the president on the docket today, capping off the day with the commander in chief ball and official inaugural ball taking place tonight.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be a long day and should be a really wonderful day. What's changed is the number of people. But, of course, also warmer, kind of good news. Dan Lothian, thank you, Dan, appreciate it.

So tonight the presidential inauguration festivities will continue. And CNN to take you live to the inaugural balls. We'll show you all the celebrities and musical acts. That's CNN tonight starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

And today's historic and public inauguration is expected to be a little -- I don't know if you can call 800,000 people low key, half the number of people here four years ago. It's also much, much warmer, something like 9 degrees four years ago. It was so, so cold and now somewhere in the 30s. Which is practically broiling, right, Christi Paul? She is talking to folks who have come out on the National Mall. Hey Christi.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, how are you? I can't imagine. It's freezing here. I don't care. Everybody jumping around, and the sun is coming up. It's a beautiful sun rise right behind me coming up, across the horizon and a lot of volunteers have been talking about, you are right, crowds are lighter, a lot of people left at 3:00, 4:00 to get here, haven't had any problem.

The parade might be another story, though. A lot of people are hoping to get over to the parade route and get a good seat, but you know those are few and far between. There are eight floats in the parade, four of them representing the home states of the president, the vice president, the first lady, as well as nearly every state being recognized or represented in the parade with bands and infantries and all kinds of dance troupes that will be there.

But it's definitely a lighter crowd. Everybody still so excited, as you can imagine, and hopefully with the sun rising the temperatures will get a little warmer for us, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Christi, right around noon. Thanks, Christi, appreciate it.

So who are some of the VIPs expected to be out today? John Berman following with the bold-faced names for us.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad. We've been watching them set up the chairs all morning for this on the west side of the capitol. Best seats for the families. The Obamas and Bidens will be sitting front row center. Behind the Obamas will be the so-called presidential guests. These are friends of the president's, and big donors, you can bet, and members of the cabinet.

One member of the cabinet not be here. We don't know who it is. The designated survivor, just in case the unimaginable happens. Former presidents will be here, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter. No Bushes, however. George H.W. Bush still recuperating from illness and George W. Bush had to send his regrets.

Look at the blue carpet. Yesterday they had vacuums in here cleaning up and the glass you can see right there, just minutes, wiping it clean to make everything look absolutely perfect for the ceremonies again. The president will take the oath for the second time in two days at 11:30 this morning. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: John Berman, thank you. Let's get to John King. Hey, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, hello to you. I don't think it's so chilly. I'm with you on the weather front. A beautiful spring day in Washington.

Let's get to the team joining us on beach day for inauguration. Bill Burton is a senior strategist for Priorities USA Action and of course a former Obama White House deputy press secretary, Margaret Hoover is a former appointee in the George W. Bush White House, and Ryan Lizza is the Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker," and Ron Brownstein is the editorial director for "The National Journal." We're going to head straight up to Senator John Barrasso on Capitol Hill. He's a Republican from Wyoming, a conservative, the chairman of the Republican policy committee.

Senator, let's start with this morning. It's a new beginning for the president. Is this a new beginning for the Republican Party? Your leader, famously, infamously, you can pick the word, started the first Obama term saying his number one priority was to defeat the president. Did the Republicans owe the Americans a more cooperative tone at the start of the second term? SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, (R) WYOMING: I'm looking forward to a time we can all work together. I hope the president hit the reset button for Russia during the first term. I hope he hits the reset button with the Republican Party. This is a time of divided government, and that's when you can do the most big things. I hope the president and the Republicans work together to do something important for the country in terms of our debt, entitlements. It's crucial we do that for kids and grandkids.

KING: Both parties have internal divisions too. Your party is trying to sort out Mitt Romney's loss in the election. It's a debate, some conservatives don't want a new immigration policy that allows those who came illegally to stay. Some Democrats don't want to touch Medicare, Social Security. If you have a grand bargain, who is the circuit breaker so everybody can talk together and things get done as opposed to confrontation?

BARRASSO: Well, and this is the time to do it because there are big things that need to be done for the country with regard to immigration. Immigration is the backbone of the country. That's what your country is built on. That's legal immigration. I think we absolutely have to move forward with immigration reform. Marco Rubio --

KING: Senator, forgive me for interrupting, but as we move forward on immigration, your words, are you prepared, and do you think a majority of Republicans are prepared, to give some legal status, whether full citizenship or just legal status, to the estimated 8 or 11 million people here in this country illegally?

BARRASSO: We're just starting this new term of Congress. This is something that needs to be discussed and debating. We have been debating it and discussing within our policy lunches. Marco Rubio is taking a leadership role here and is raising a number of different ways we can deal with the issues we face on immigration. But that's the backbone of our country.

I'm the son of immigrants, and I've been thinking about this. My dad took me to John Kennedy's inauguration when I was eight. He was a cement finisher, had to quit school in ninth grade. This country is built on hard working men and women, the sons and daughters of immigrants. Immigration is key and important for our nation.

KING: Senator Barrasso, I appreciate your time this morning as we begin the policy discussion of the second term. Let's bring in Margaret, I want to start with you. Cautious, Republicans said let's get things done. But when they ask specific questions, are they ready? The conservative base says amnesty, no how. Since the election Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are saying we have to fix this problem. Will they move far enough?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In the past, you're right, no way, no how. But the tone and tenor has changed here in Washington as 27 percent of the Latino vote is a long drop from winning 44 percent in 2004. And Republicans have traditionally actually especially under George Bush's administration had a great reputation with Latinos and Hispanics. Republicans understand this is opportunity to maybe cobble the support back, and I don't think they will waste the opportunity. That's why you have Marco Rubio corralling support in the House and the Senate right now.

KING: Will the president, Bill Burton, be careful enough to help the Republicans, to not do things that make them feel they have to pull back from any conversations, or does he want to exploit where he thinks he has the upper hand with the Republicans in disarray?

BILL BURTON, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: My guess is the president will do as much as he can to go as far as he can to get a comprehensive solution in what is a huge problem in this country to not have a comprehensive immigration policy. Republicans have a real crisis in their politics. When your nominee only gets 27 percent of the Hispanic vote you know you have you a huge problem with the fastest growing part of our electorate.

KING: Stimulus and health care out of the box in the Obama first term and Republicans pulled back and said we're not going to work with this guy anymore. What is the key in the second term?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Immigration, substantial common ground for political reasons if not any other. Republicans, and 59 percent of white voters, they have to change something. But in terms of sequencing, the critical question is the House. And John Boehner twice in the last few weeks has had to bring a bill to the floor that a majority of House Republicans oppose. That doesn't happen very often. Likely on immigration, you can get 60 votes for comprehensive reform, probably puts Boehner in the same position. There are only so many times you can do that and remain speaker. So the important sequencing has already begun with the Sandy and fiscal cliff votes.

KING: We'll stick with the metaphor. Warming in cooperation or chilly confrontation?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON REPORTER, "THE NEW YORKER": The incentives nationally for Republicans are to do something about immigration. But if you are your average House member up there, you just won your district which probably did not support Barack Obama, and frankly your incentives are not aligned with the national party. You don't care about whether Chris Christie or Marco Rubio gets killed in 2016 to support immigration reform. You vote your district, and immigration reform is not popular. So there's a big gap between the elites in the Republican Party who are pushing this and for it, a lot of pundits and grassroots and a lot of members will decide the issue in the House of Representatives.

KING: Big challenges for the president and internally. Ahead on STARTING POINT, we've heard about the second term curse. The final four years can turn into a bit of disaster. For some presidents the obstacles that could give this president some second-term trouble, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Good morning and welcome back to the special coverage of the inauguration of President Obama live here on STARTING POINT.

President Obama's second term now officially under way, starting just before noon yesterday, and potential for some great achievements.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: But if history is any indicator, the second term is also where things can get pretty messy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: It's not like he wasn't warned.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm more than familiar about all of the literature about presidential overreach in second terms.

SAMBOLIN: President Barack Obama's victory dance is about to become a dance with destiny.

PROF. COSTAS PANAGOPOULUS, POLITICAL SCIENCE, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: If we look back at really great things being done in president's second terms. But if we look back at recent history, there is a potential for real disaster.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

SAMBOLIN: According to polls by the Gallup organization, second term president's often end up with second-rate approval number. Just ask Trent Duffy, former press secretary to President George W. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.

SAMBOLIN: A presidents' whose approval ratings dropped 25 percent.

TRENT DUFFY, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: If their poll numbers start to hover down to 50 or go below 50 to 49, 48, you will see the White House press corps will turn more hostile. I think realizing these kinds of factors and planning to get as much done in the early portions of his term is key.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve our country again.

SAMBOLIN: Obama also faces nomination fights nomination fights, a divided Congress, and this.

PANAGOPOULUS: The president will either rise and fall with the economy.

SAMBOLIN: Obama is off to a head start with his current approval rating higher than his first term average. But he still faces fights over gun control and immigration reform.

PANAGOPOULUS: This is when presidents really get tested, when unexpected things happen, and they have to react on the spot, in real time. This is when we get to see the true character of a president.

SAMBOLIN: Just 16 presidents have been elected to a second term, including some of the great ones. Obama, the 17th, will now get his shot at greatness, or not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: You know, both gentlemen agreed that tackling the economy was first priority. They said in order for President Barack Obama to leave the Democratic Party stronger he really has to pass immigration reform. That's what you were talking about a while ago.

KING: Isn't that one of the big questions? Is his goal an Obama legacy, or is his goal a Democratic legacy?

SAMBOLIN: One guy said within a year, you have a year to really make your mark. The other guy said maybe two years.

KING: They get what the six-year itch in Washington. Soledad, the first key comes from the president today in the speech that he gives right where you are later today.

O'BRIEN: That's absolutely right. You pose a great question, John, so let's pose it to Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Does the president focus on his own agenda or focus on really helping Democrats down the way? We'll talk about that when we come back from commercial break in a moment.

Also, we'll talk about the Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor telling about her story going from projects to the Supreme Court. Also, as the court things about tackling affirmative action, I asked her can she remain unbiased as she credits affirmative action for lots of her success. My one-on-one conversation with Justice Sotomayor is straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You are watching our special coverage of the presidential inauguration. And look at that sunrise over Washington, D.C. That can be called nothing but a beautiful shot with a capitol right there. It's a balmy 33 degrees, although they say with the wind chill, feels like 26 degrees here. That is much, much warmer than four years ago when I was freezing out here, along with Mayor Cory Booker.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER, (D) NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: My toes will still not forgive me.

O'BRIEN: A pretty miserable experience in terms of the weather four years ago.

It's nice to have you with us. John King posed this question, as someone heads to a second term, thinking about their legacy as president, and trying to make sure Democrats keep -- from the president's perspective, keep the White House. How do you navigate the second term? Do you believe in the second term curse? BOOKER: I really don't. I think essentially for President Obama there is a great path before him to deal with immigration reform, to deal with the debt crisis, to see our economy grow, and they have a lot of good ideas for economic growth and a lot of international issues he will stand up and lean on.

O'BRIEN: If I add gun control to that and I add climate change to that, and talk about energy, right there, a very big to-do list, some people say, yes, a year, two, before it becomes very lame duck-ish. Really, six major items?

BOOKER: There's a lot of consensus on the country despite the divisive issues. On guns, a lot of consensus ground to do a lot of positive things to make cities and places across America safer. There's a lot of consensus about the need to create jobs. There's a lot of consensus even on foreign policy and making America stronger abroad both in trade and national security.

O'BRIEN: The way you talk it makes it sound as if we don't have a really divided Congress. Having talked to people on both sides pretty much every day of my work day --

BOOKER: Nothing worthwhile is easy and every inch of ground the president has to gain. But there's a lot of wind at his back right now. And I won't say he will do lay-ups, but this president delivered through his first term. He has been able to do a lot in the first term. The second term will be a very good one.

O'BRIEN: What will we here do you think we'll hear in the inauguration address that talks about that? Will you hear -- they told us, unity and hopeful. That's about it. But do you think you will hear -- he will talk about reaching out an olive branch to Republicans?

BOOKER: This is a president I have heard talk about the importance of America Americans to step up. Democracy is not a spectator sport. He needs all of us to be involved. All of us need to step up and play a role in the destiny of our country. But at the end of the day, this is one of the greatest speakers we have seen in my generation and I'm confident he won't only lift us up, but challenge as the country as well.

O'BRIEN: I find the inauguration speech the best part. Even if the person speaking is not a great speaker, the messaging is always a really interesting thing.

BOOKER: This is a great day. Democrat, Republican, independent, this is a great day for America, the smooth transition of power, all eyes focused on one singular message. I think it will be extraordinary. I'm very upset you turned down the chance to read a poem.

O'BRIEN: Since I haven't written a poem since third grade, I feel that Richard Blanco would be a much better choice.

(LAUGHTER)

BOOKER: Not even a haiku today? Nothing?

O'BRIEN: Absolutely nothing. I had to watch. Mayor Cory Booker, nice to have you, appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, you will remember four years ago the crowd made history, nearly 2 million people were packed in this mall. Look at the pictures there. This time around, how big will it get? We'll take you on a tour.

And then I'll speak to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Bernice King as the nation also marks MLK day. That's ahead. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You are looking at the folks beginning come out on the mall on Washington, D.C. It's a balmy 33 degrees although we're told it feels like 26 degrees here. The sun has come up. It will get a little warmer this morning. Look at the folks out there. We're expecting to see a crowded mall this morning.

I'm joined by Mayor Cory Booker. The president is publicly kicking off his second term as leader of the free world. John Berman, "EARLY START" co-anchor is with me as well, chief national correspondent John King is with us also. And we have reporters blanketing Washington, D.C., today. Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill, Christi Paul is there on the National Mall, Brianna Keilar at St. John's Episcopal Church this morning.