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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

The Presidential Inauguration; Interview with Congressman Steve King of Iowa, Interview With Sen. Angus King

Aired January 21, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


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SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is Inauguration Day. Take a look at the picture of the masses starting to gather on the National Mall, here to witness President Obama's second public inauguration.

The festivities begin at this hour. We're expecting to see the president in roughly 30 minutes or so as he makes his way to mass -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King.

Inaugural speeches have been used to set the tone, unite a nation, and to set an example for the rest of the world. We're going to look this morning at the historical significance of today and why the next four years may be tougher than the first four.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So big names and prime seats. We will go inside the VIP section for today's inauguration. We'll tell you who will show up and who won't.

O'BRIEN: Among our guests this hour, we're talking to Iowa Representative Steve King, Maine Senator Angus King, Texas Representative Joaquin Castro, and Nick Cannon, the host of "America's Got Talent". That's all ahead this morning.

It's Monday, January 21st. The special inauguration edition of STARTING POINT coming to you live from the nation's capital and it begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Good morning, everybody. Welcome.

This is what it looks like in Washington, D.C, today -- a beautiful day, not quite as warm as yesterday. It's something like 36 degrees, 28 if you factor in the wind chill factor. But actually, compared to four years ago, it's quite balmy.

I'm Soledad O'Brien. This morning, I'm joined by Newark's Mayor Cory Booker, who you notice is completely underdressed for the weather. I said, it's warm, but it's not that warm.

Also, the president kicking off his second public term as leader of the free world.

Our "EARLY START" co-anchor John Berman, he's going to be covering this with me this morning. Also, our chief national correspondent John King.

We have reporters blanketing Washington, D.C. today. Dan Lothian is at the White House. Christi Paul is on the National Mall. Brianna Keilar at St. John's Episcopal Church. The president is heading there in just a few minutes. Suzanne Malveaux is along on the parade route. She has one of the best seats there.

The turnover, though, we're told not expected to match the 1.8 million spectators back in here in 2009. They're expecting roughly half the number, something like 800,000, 900,000. It is the president's second time taking the oath in 24 hours, the fourth time taking the oath in his presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So help me God.

JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: Congratulations, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. Thank you so much.

Thank you, sweetie.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The First Lady and his two daughters looking on. The president made good on what is a constitutional requirement. He has to be sworn in on January 20th.

The vice president, too. He was sworn in by the Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, making history as the first Latina to swear in a vice president.

So, today, for the First Family, the day will begin at church.

White House correspondent Dan Lothian follows the day's events for us. Hey, Dan. Good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And this will be the first chance we get to see the president on this Inauguration Day.

About 8:45, the First Family will be heading across the street to St. John's Episcopal Church. They've attended services there in the past. They did so four years ago on Inauguration Day. This is a church that's also known as sort of the president's church. Sometimes they'll walk across the street, across Lafayette Park, but we're told today they will be headed to services via motorcade. Then later in the morning, the president will head to the capitol for the swearing in ceremony, not only for the president but also for the vice president, and then he'll deliver the inauguration address, which White House aides say will be very hopeful. He'll talk about some of the challenges forward and a chance for the public to get engaged.

O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian, updating us on the day as it begins -- thank you, Dan. Appreciate that.

Let's get right to Brianna Keilar. She's at the church, where the president is expected to keep up what is a D.C. tradition. He's going to attend a pre-inaugural service there.

Tell us about that, Brianna. Good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad. This is a tradition that was started by FDR, coming here to St. John's on Inauguration Day. But it was James Madison who first started attending services at this church, and he chose a pew not at the front of the church, but in the middle of the congregation, and that is where you will see the Obamas sitting here today during this pretty short and sweet church service, we're told. It should be a normal prayer service.

The second family will be here as well. And there are a number of people in the congregation who are ticket holders.

St. John's is also significant because the pastor here, Luis Leon, will be delivering the benediction later today, during the actual inauguration. He wasn't the first pick.

The first pick was Louie Giglio, an evangelical minister from Atlanta who withdrew after it came to light he gave an anti-gay sermon years ago. President Obama, as you know, Soledad, supports, recently changing his mind to support same-sex marriage and the Episcopal Church is more in line with that. As you know, for instance, they have gay pastors.

O'BRIEN: Brianna Keilar for us this morning -- thank you, Brianna.

We're going to be watching the president. We're expecting him roughly 30 minutes or so. So, we're looking forward to that.

The president will deliver a speech. Then he's out to lunch with the congressional leaders who planned the day's events. Then it's that slow limo ride down Pennsylvania Avenue. The president taking part in the traditional inaugural parade.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux literally has one of the best seats you could possibly have along the parade route. Hey, Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Soledad. This is prime real estate. This is the hot spot to be essentially because here's where we are at Ninth and Pennsylvania.

Jonathan, if you show our audience here -- the president and vice president and the motorcade, they are going to start at the Capitol here. After the oath, they are going to head down Pennsylvania Avenue. You can see already all of the police that have lined up, the Secret Service, the park police, local officials, people from all over the country are going to be coming down here along this route.

We understand that there's going to be about 8,800 or so folks following the president. Right here is where they're expected to get out of the parade route. They're not announcing it. But this is traditionally where the president will step out of the motorcade, and the folks will get a really close-up look as close as they can to the president and First Lady along this parade route.

It's going to be a lot of excitement here. We're talking about kids on unicycles, military bands, and 200 animals as well as additional floats from Hawaii, from Illinois, from Pennsylvania all representing, of course, the First Family in this very special occasion.

And, Soledad, as you know, we are grateful that it's a lot warmer this go around, and not as many people as well.

Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: Yes. I'm here with Mayor Cory Booker and I are saying yes, yes. It's amazing how much another 20-some-odd degrees make.

MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NJ: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Four years ago, it was 9 degrees, I think.

BOOKER: I think I froze to my core.

O'BRIEN: It was miserably cold.

BOOKER: If it wasn't witnessing history -- that was one of the most extraordinary, record breaking inaugurations. But this, you can just feel the energy all around the mall right now. I think this is going to be a very memorable day.

O'BRIEN: Beautiful, beautiful day -- 1.8 million people turned out four years ago.

BOOKER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: They're expecting that number to be roughly half.

Christi Paul is on the National Mall for us, where folks have already been gathering, because, really, the festivities are beginning to officially start, Christi. We got a lot of people behind you now.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. And this helps, too, with the weather. You get them all cuddled up there, and you're warmer. We've been seeing a steady stream of people coming in.

But I want to introduce you to -- I know it's all about President Obama, but I've got a fellow politician here, because for one thing, this guy was able to weasel himself onto a trip of 11 women from Atlanta coming down. He's the only male that made it into the group, and on top of that, Mr. Marques Williams here, you're in ninth grade.

What did you work out with your school?

MARQUES WILLIAMS, ATTENDING INAUGURATION: What happened was, basically, my grandmother, she's a travel agent. And she planned a trip to come to the inauguration this year. And she had a seat left for me available.

So I came, and when I told my teachers, one of my teachers, he was like -- well, here's 10 pages of homework, but if you can go and report back to us what you saw in Washington, D.C., then you won't have to do the homework. So I decided to do the report, of course.

PAUL: So, what -- are you taking video while you're here? What are you doing?

WILLIAMS: Yes. Instead of writing the report, I'm going to actually videotape it.

PAUL: How about that? A man in the ninth grade who knows how to negotiate. That spells politician to me. Marques Williams, thank you so much. They're all the way here from Atlanta with all these other good folks. And we don't want to miss little Anaya here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So cute.

PAUL: Lots of energy.

O'BRIEN: She's got to be the warmest, Anaya. She's tucked in nice and warm.

I wanted to take a moment to show everybody this, which is the official invitation.

I know you, Mr. Mayor, have one of these. Look at this, the seal. It's heavy duty paper. It says the honor of your presence is requested at the ceremonies, attending the inauguration of the president and vice president of the United States.

An invitation like this would get you a seat where? Here or down the mall?

BOOKER: Well, it depends on -- you're assigned a different section. I've seen the process of going through assigning these tickets.

You have to understand this is such a great draw for people from all over the United States -- foreign dignitaries, members of Congress. So, it is a very hot and hard ticket to get. The great thing about it is, whether you're watching at home, whether you're here in the cold with us, the reality is it's truly a celebration of America. I've had the privilege of being here for Republican presidential inaugurations and Democratic inaugurations.

O'BRIEN: Me too. It's fun no matter what.

BOOKER: Whatever side of the aisle you're on, this is just a great celebration of this nation.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I agree with you.

Let's get right to John King. He's with Congressman Steve King.

Good morning, John.

JOHN KING: Good morning, Soledad.

It is a celebration for all Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, independents -- as we celebrate once again the strength of our democracy. But there are a lot of big policy questions.

As the president addresses the American people in his second inaugural address today, one of the big questions is how will House Republicans -- remember, they still have the majority in the House -- how will they react to the second term?

Steve King is a Republican of Iowa. Also a prominent member of the Tea Party Caucus.

The president won an election that many historians say he shouldn't have won, given the high unemployment, given the sluggish recovery. He beat your party. Your majority in the House is a little smaller. Democrats gained a bit more in the Senate.

Are Republicans chastened now? Do you feel the Republicans need to change in the second Obama term?

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I think a few of them are, John, but I'm certainly not. Those of us who won an election, we see our constituents as deserving the best representation we can give them. We won elections, too.

So, this is an interesting day today, this peaceful transfer, a constitutional way of the power and vision by our Founding Fathers, and they understood the separation of powers. They knew there was going to be a clash and a confrontation and a struggle between the parties. But we also know we have to run this government.

So, it's going to be interesting as this unfolds. This should be a healing day. Then tomorrow morning, we can start that harder work you mentioned.

JOHN KING: Well, let's talk about the harder work. And some of it divides your party internally. Other parts divide his party internally.

But there's been a talk that maybe immigration reform is a place there could be common ground. You've heard Marco Rubio in the Senate, Paul Ryan in the House, say maybe we can have like George W. Bush, a Republican in vision, that had legal status, maybe even citizenship for those who are in this country illegally, ballpark number about 10 million.

Would a Tea Party member like you support that? In the past, you've called that amnesty.

STEVE KING: Well, that would be real hard for me, and I defined amnesty, and not many have because they want the broader definition when it's convenient. But to grant amnesty is to pardon immigration law breakers and reward them with the objective of their crime. Now, if that's what this bill does, it would fit the definition of amnesty.

JOHN KING: Could your speaker survive if he allowed that bill to come to the floor of the House of Representatives?

STEVE KING: I think we'd want to look at the language on that. I will tell you that John Boehner's tone and his body language and everything I heard him say at the retreat in Williamsburg, he and our leadership team was all about how we pull our conference together and work together.

I don't think you'll see another bill come to the floor that's got that large a number of Democrat votes we've seen in the past. I think it's going to be a Republican agenda that he drives, and I think it's about unifying our conference.

JOHN KING: What about gun control?

STEVE KING: That's another situation that's rolling out in front of us. Both of these things, immigration and gun control, I believe, they were -- one of them, the immigration, was launched the morning after the election, before they actually analyzed the exit polls. I think some Republicans overreacted.

Gun control, we saw some of the same thing. Those people that wanted to confiscate guns, the anti-Second Amendment people took an opportunity as soon as the Sandy Hook tragedy took place.

Both of these things will be stretched out over time. The prudent thing is, hopefully, we'll come together. And that's the only thing that should get to the president's desk, constitutional, prudent decisions made by the House, the Senate, and the presidency.

JOHN KING: On the day of celebration, Congressman, appreciate your time.

It does seem we're heading towards what's more familiar in this town, Soledad, I know Mayor Booker is not a huge fan of it, but it's become a staple in this town -- confrontation.

O'BRIEN: Yes, he's not a fan of it. But I bet he's pretty good at it, I'm going to guess, go out on a limb on that.

John King for us -- thank you, John. Appreciate that.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, President Obama has faced some well-publicized battles with Congress.

We're going to talk to Senator Angus King, an independent. He says he came to Washington to shake things up. We'll ask him what that means, straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to the west front of the Capitol, where we've been inaugurating our presidents since Ronald Reagan. Behind me, of course, is where the president will take the public oath today surrounded by all the VIP seating, the families, the Obama family, the Biden family, and then not far behind them, members of the U.S. Senate.

I am joined now by a U.S. senator, a new U.S. senator from the state of Maine, an independent, Senator Angus King. Nice to have you here today.

SEN. ANGUS KING, (I) MAINE: Good morning. Great day for America.

BERMAN: We talked about VIP seating here. This is your fourth inauguration, and this is the best seating you've ever had.

SEN. ANGUS KING: Oh, yes. The seats are getting better every the time. The first time was with my dad when I was eight years old, standing down on Pennsylvania Avenue for Eisenhower's inauguration. And, I was at George W. Bush's and then Obama's last time. A lot warmer today than 2009, and, it's just a great day.

BERMAN: And you have the best view you've had yet. Senator, you're independent. You said you wanted to come to Washington to shake things up. Is that what Washington needs. Does it need to calm things down?

SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, I don't -- I think it's a little of both. I think really what we need more than anything else is talking to each other. I mean, as clearly as Bill Clinton said, it's arithmetic. If you've got a Democratic president, a Republican House, a Senate that's essentially evenly balanced because of the way the rules work, then we've got to talk to each other. I mean, there's just no other way to solve the problems.

BERMAN: You're replacing a Republican who left, Olympia Snowe, essentially because she said she was sick of the partisanship. What can you do in the next week, month to change that?

SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, I've started by just meeting with senators. I think part of the problem here is a lack of relationships. Everybody is going their own way, and they're keeping their partisanship on. And I started out in the first two weeks. I've met with over 30 senators, one-on-one, sitting down, both parties.

And what I'm finding is that everybody wants to get it going, and I think we just have to sort of push through. And -- I mean, you know, we have our differences, but they're not, you know? We ought to be able to work these things out.

BERMAN: What's the best advice you got in these meetings?

SEN. ANGUS KING: Well, the best advice, I think, was keep talking to people, and I'll tell you, it's really funny. As an independent, they all, when I walk into the room, say, man, you're in a great place. You're in a great place.

BERMAN: You are in a great place, senator. It's great to see you. You'll be sitting right down there and we'll wave to you.

SEN. ANGUS KING: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: -- as we're watching the inauguration coming up. Senator Angus King of Maine, great to see you.

SEN. ANGUS KING: Keep warm. Thank you.

BERMAN: And we're expecting thousands of people here, thousands and thousands along with the senator. When we come back, we'll talk about the crowds starting to file in, enthusiastic, ready for President Obama's second inauguration. We'll be right back.

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JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our special coverage here on STARTING POINT of the second Obama inaugural. Little tongue twister there for a second. Let's get back to our great panel this morning. Bill Burton works in the Obama White House, also as a senior strategist with Priorities USA Action, Margaret Hoover worked for the George W. Bush White House, Ron Brownstein of the "National Journal," Ryan Lizza of the "New Yorker.

It is said in Washington and some things that are said in Washington are true, others are not so true, that second terms are tougher. Yes, no, why?

BILL BURTON, FORMER OBAMA WH DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, you heard Congressman King just now say something that's pretty important where a lot of those members of Congress are thinking. President Obama won an election, but they all won an election too. So, you don't see a lot of Republicans saying feeling chastened by what happened in this election.

So, I think it's going to be very tough for him from a legislation -- legislative standpoint, but also from approval standpoint. It's just going to be harder to get things done. But even in that kind of situation, the president got a lot done in his first term, so I suspect he'll be able to get a lot of things on this time, too.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And when he got a lot of big things done, it was immediately. It was as soon as he got into office. So, I think he has a sweet spot right now. I mean, I think before outside events begin to shape, the context and the texture of a second term, it's really -- and before this (INAUDIBLE) you said, right before, I think the time is really now, but it's shorter, and I think you have less ability in the second term.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, substantively, I think you have to say this is a president whose first term handed him a tougher set of problems. I mean, whether to nationalize the banks, whether to let General Motors go bankrupt, the worst economic downturn since the depression. So, he's not in that kind of crisis situation. And legislatively, it is obviously going to be tough. But I think he does have some openings he didn't have in the first term. The fact that he reconfirmed this Democratic majority, I think, puts more pressure on Republicans to rethink where they are and might allow him to break what had been almost unbroken adamant opposition in the first term.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Just quickly, historically, the three reasons you run into trouble in the third (ph) term. One, you usually have better numbers in Congress in your first term, especially if you had a big victory in your first election. Two, your mandate. Presidents often over interpret their mandate and they push legislation that they weren't actually elected to get done.

George W. Bush in 2005, Social Security is a great example. And then, finally scandals. An accumulation of issues starts to set in by year five, six, seven, and some of those things you did earlier in your term metastasized into scandals. And Barack Obama has been very lucky on that front, so far.

JOHN KING: Forget the Republicans for a second. Doesn't he still sort of bound by the same straitjacket to the first term? The decisions on the economy are not as big.

LIZZA: Right.

JOHN KING: But he still doesn't have a robust recovery. There's no money flowing into Washington. So, there's not much room to maneuver.

BURTON: Well, he got a lot of room with the deal that he got right at the end of the year in the lame duck session. I think that he's got the Republicans sort of by the short hairs, and he's going to be able to push him on revenue a little bit more.

HOOVER: The economy -- the president's legacies are tied to the economy, and the economy is slowly starting to recover. One of the things it's starting to recover from is an oil and gas boom, the national gas in the west, something the president and his base haven't been willing to support. So, the irony is that he may actually benefit from something that hasn't actually been something he supported.

JOHN KING: Something the president would very much love in a second term, a more robust economy. Our special coverage of the presidential inauguration will continue in just a moment. We're just moments away from the president making the traditional stop at church near the White House. Stay with us.

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