CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Washington D.C. Prepares for President's Second Inaugural Address; Interview with Representative Joaquin Castro; First Family at St. John's Episcopal Church

Aired January 21, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back, everybody. You're taking a live look this morning at St. John's Episcopal Church. The president and the first lady and the two first children will be expected to arrive at that church within 30 minutes or so. It's really the event that kicks of the festivities for the day, and Dan Lothian has been update for us on how exactly this day, inauguration day, will unfold. Dan, good morning.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. That is the tradition on inauguration day, that the first family goes across the street to St. John's Episcopal Church to attend services there. They did so four years ago. They've also attended services there on Sunday. Sometimes they just walk across Lafayette Park, but we're told today they will be going there by motorcade.

Just a few seconds ago, I saw chief of staff Jack Lew, who the president has nominated as his next treasury secretary, walking across the street. We expect the first family to be headed there shortly. So the day starts here, then it heads to Capitol Hill for the official swearing in ceremony, where hundreds of thousands of people will be standing by to watch that historic event. President Obama will deliver his inaugural address there, and then wind up back here at the White House. They'll take part in the inauguration day parade, and then sit down and watch the rest of the parade from the reviewing stand. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Dan Lothian for us. Thank you, Dan, for the update.

Let's get right to Brianna Keilar. She is at St. John's Episcopal Church with a little more on that part of the day. Brianna, good morning.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Soledad. We're already seeing those close to the first lady and the president arriving. I saw Craig Robinson, the first lady's brother. We're told the vice president will be here shortly. His motorcade will arrive before President Obama's.

And this is a tradition here at what's been known in recent decades as the church of presidents. This has been a tradition back to FDR, coming here to St. John's Episcopal Church for the inauguration day service. But it was James Madison much before that who started coming here in general for services, and he chose a pew not at the front of the church, but in the middle of the church, the middle of the congregation. He did that on purpose. So when you're watching today and you see President Obama and the first family and you see them in the middle of the church, that is pew 54, and that is where they will be sitting today, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Brianna Keilar for us at St. John's episcopal. Thank you, Brianna. Appreciate it.

You can see the capitol right behind me. Right on the corner there fairly high up where all the media is on the side, there's John Berman. Let's go to check in with John Berman. Good morning, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad. These are phenomenal seats I have here. I've been looking down at the west front of the capitol all morning, where there's a tremendous amount of hustle and bustle. They're putting these name tags, these name cards on the seats. What name cards they must be, a veritable who's who of Washington insiders -- the Obama family, the Biden family, the Supreme Court, senators, house leaders, and of course, friends of the Obama family, also some big donors there.

Now, a few people who will not be here. There's a so-called designated survivor, a member of the cabinet who remains out in case something happens. Former presidents, former president Jimmy Carter, former President Bill Clinton. But there will be no Bush presidents here today. George H.W. Bush, Bush 41 still recovering from that illness he's been battling the last several months. And George W. Bush and Laura, they sent their regrets. Their thoughts, they say, are with the Obamas, but they stayed back in Texas as well. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, John Berman, thank you very much. I want to show folks where John is. You can see the media platform or the many platforms where the media is right up there. You can see how close that is over to the capitol, very, very close. Really, John and I when we're up there, have one of the best seats in the house. The capitol, some of the best seats are right here. All these different sections then straight back, look straight back. You can see 200,000 -- 800,000 people on the mall. We'll get right to Brianna Keilar, who is at St. John's church, with an update from there.

KEILAR: Hi, there, Soledad. You're looking at right behind me Michelle Obama getting out of the beast, as we know it, the presidential limousine, meeting President Obama on the other side of it, as they await other members of the first family. I can see off to the right, the first lady's mother, Marion Robinson, and you see Sasha, their youngest daughter, who is so years old, and Malia, their 14-year-old daughter, both wearing shades of purple here as they go into St. John's Episcopal Church, the church known as the church of presidents.

They will be going in. And we're seeing them met right now by the pastor. They will be going in for what we are told is a normal church service. It is the first family. It's also the second family, and a number of dignitaries who are there. There are also some people who, I guess you could say, are rather lucky. They are ticket holders who will be inside for what we're expecting to be a rather short and sweet service here at St. John's Episcopal Church. Look for them sitting in the middle of the congregation in pew number 54, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Brianna Keilar for us, thank you, Brianna. Appreciate it.

We have Julian Castro joining us this morning. Joaquin. That's the problem with twin brothers. Once I've interviewed you both, I confuse you completely. I believe it was you who said you're the motor vehicle more handsome brother.

(LAUGHTER)

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D) TEXAS: Good to see you.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate it.

CASTRO: Soledad, everybody here is saying it's not that cold. But when you're from Texas, anything under 50 degrees is freezing.

O'BRIEN: I'm from New York, and I'm cold. It's not as cold as four years ago. It was brutally, brutally cold. They say it's 36 or 38 degrees. It's warming up. It might be a little bit warmer. Tell me about where you're going to be this afternoon.

CASTRO: We're going to be with the members of Congress up here, so all of us are meeting in the house chamber at about 9:30. And we'll do the ceremonial walk over to the platform and get settled. And of course everyone has to be in place a few hours before the president comes out. And so we're some of the last to come, but that's because we're such a big group.

O'BRIEN: There are many people weighing in on what they expect the inaugural address to entail. Two words I have heard are hopeful and unity, which really doesn't give you much of a hint. What do you think it has to have?

CASTRO: I think it should be inspirational and also aspirational. It will map out, not too specifically but I think in broad strokes, where the president intends to take the nation for the next four years. And also, you know, I would expect him to talk about some of the hot button issues of the day, whether it's gun safety, immigration reform, of course dealing with our fiscal situation, all of those I think he'll touch on, but do it in a way that uplifts the American spirit. This is really a beautiful day, regardless of what president you're inaugurating, the peaceful transfer of power in a democracy, so it's a wonderful day.

O'BRIEN: It is quite a thing to celebrate when you think about it. You look to other countries where the transfer of power is often not smooth at all and in some cases absolutely hostile. It's kind of a nice thing to be able to celebrate in this country.

For many people, they tick off all the things that they'd like to see the president accomplish before he becomes a lame duck. Some people say that's a year, some say two years, some say a little more than that. Is it possible to get immigration, gun control, the debt ceiling, really think about how you curb spending, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, climate control, energy policy all done in that one to two-year window.

CASTRO: I think that we will be able to do most, if not all of those things. And certainly attempt to do all of them. All of them are important issues. I think all of them are things the president cares deeply about that many members of Congress care deeply about. But most importantly, they're things that the American people care about. And so with that momentum going forward, we'll try to tackle them.

O'BRIEN: Joaquin, nice to have you with us. We appreciate it. Have a great afternoon and great day.

Let's bring in Jeff Toobin, who is right over here. I want to show people how close we are to the capitol. Jeff, if you look up here, this is the perfect view to watch the president being sworn in.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It really is great. One of the things you don't realize is how close they are together. It is a very intimate scene up there. The chief justice of the United States, as famous and powerful as he is, he's not used to looking out and seeing a million people. It was more than a million last time. This time it will be somewhat less. But I think last time he was a little flustered by how many people there were. He had a good day yesterday. We'll see how he does in public today.

O'BRIEN: He looked a little tense yesterday, and I noticed he read a lot.

CASTRO: That's quite striking. John Roberts, when he was an oral advocate in front of the Supreme Court, he was famous for his great memory, never used a note. Both times he did the oath in 2009 he didn't use the note card. He thought he could memorize the 35 words. As we all remember, four years ago it didn't work so well and so he read a card yesterday. I thought that was a very smart decision. It went off flawlessly, and I anticipate we'll see a card again today.

And Sonia Sotomayor, who is making history as the first Latina to swear in the vice president, she used a card too. She told me she's going to both prepare and also read.

CASTRO: It's a much longer oath for the vice president. No one, I think, could possibly think they could memorize the vice presidential oath. The presidential oath, only 35 words, it's in the constitution, very familiar. The one part, of course, that's not in the oath, is "so help me god." John Roberts in his usual meticulous way, his assistant checked with president-elect Obama, did he want to say "so help me god," because that's traditional and not required. And of course Obama said yes, he wanted to say "so help me god." All presidents since George Washington have said "so help me god," and it's rumored the reason they all do it is because George Washington said "so help me god." But to this day, we're not sure whether Washington really did or not.

O'BRIEN: You talked about what Chief Justice Roberts looked out upon. Let's show everybody. Here again is where the president will be sworn in. Now look out this way, which is straight down the mall, and that's got to be some 800,000 people straight down there. I could see how that could make you a little bit -- that can make you a little bit nervous.

Another wonderful view for folks right here in front will be watching the president being sworn in. Another wonderful view is going to be the parade route. Suzanne Malveaux has a terrific spot right in front. It's also the spot, Suzanne, where the president often will get out and walk around, correct?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Soledad. This is the place where you want to be. People have been out here since 5:00 in the morning trying to get through the security checkpoint. But I want to just show you very briefly here. There you see the capitol up the way. It's about a mile or so long. This is the route, ninth and Pennsylvania. This is typically where -- and you will see. You already see a lot of secret service, local police, state police, park police. They have been gathered early. They've got their gas masks, bottles of water here.

They are ready, because this is perhaps one of the most tense and anxious and excited times when the president, the vice president, very likely the first lady and Jill Biden will get out of their vehicles and walk down this portion of the street. They'll actually get fairly close to the folks gathered here. You might have a chance to see some of the folks here with the red hats on. Those were the volunteers. They were able to come out early and get clearance early.

You're looking at the security as well as the volunteers. We expect close to 8,800 folks to be behind the president and his vehicle. That is going to be comprised of about 58 groups that are going to be represented. There are going to be 200 animals. We're told kids on unicycles, military presence, as you know, as well as high school bands. It is all a part of the flavor, the excitement, the momentum.

And, Soledad, the floats, people are going to be watching the state floats. The Hawaii state float is going to have a huge replica of a volcano representing the president's home state. Michelle Obama's state of Illinois, that will have a whole bunch of American flags on it, not to mention the civil rights float that's going to be here, the MLK float. A lot of people just very excited. We are pleased, very happy, relieved that it was not like four years ago where it was freezing cold, but still a lot of folks who are coming in. They're bundled up. They're ready to go. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Suzanne, it's very interesting. I remember four years ago when I was sitting next to David Gergen, of course the presidential adviser, and when the motorcade was going down the parade route, and then it stopped. And President Obama and the first lady got out of their car. He was really stressed by that. He was almost I think it's fair to say, in a panic. He was so nervous because, of course, he was just worried, worried about the security, worried about the nation's first black president who had been sworn in. And I remember that moment when they finally got back in the car, he breathed a sigh of relief, kind of slumped in his chair, and said, oh, I'm so glad that moment is over. For Secret Service, I would imagine too, the same feeling.

MALVEAUX: The excitement and anticipation of that moment, actually, you're talking to Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff Toobin and I, we were together. We were sitting together in the cold in front of the White House when they walked down Pennsylvania Avenue close to the end of the parade. It was that same kind of nervousness, nervous tension that everyone was showing, and they're all out of their vehicles. That's one of the things you remember because you've got that tenseness in your stomach.

But at the same time, people cheering and crying when they actually had a chance to get out and see them up close. That's one of the things that, of course, we'll be watching out here on ninth and Pennsylvania. They don't announce exactly where it's going to be. Traditionally, this is the place where it's taken place. Also in front of the White House, they'll get out of their vehicles again and walk into that glass encasing, that little house they've actually built on the lawn where the first family will celebrate at the end of the day as well.

O'BRIEN: Suzanne Malveaux with the best spot right there for the parade. Thanks, Suzanne. Appreciate that.

Let's get right back to John Berman. He's not very far from where I am, right up in the risers with the media. John?

BERMAN: Hey, Soledad. You know a little bit after 9:00, they will open the doors and then the VIPs will flow in. And they have been working feverishly up until the last minute to get this space ready. The glass around the podium where the President will be speaking, they were shining that, they were wiping it clean.

Yesterday they had vacuums to clean off this pristine blue carpet. They were working on the red drapes as well, brushing them off, as careful as they possibly can. Now a lot has actually changed over the last four years there will be some differences in this crowd. Of course, the Obama family will be there, the Biden family.

When it comes to the Biden family, there's a new addition, the Vice President has a new son-in-law Howard Krein, got married to daughter Ashley Biden. We assume he will be sitting there in the family section. And in the Supreme Court section which is right next to the two Bidens, there are two new Supreme Court justices - Sonia Sotomayor, who will be administering the oath to Vice President Biden, and Elena Kagan.

Of course there is so much change over time here. The joint chiefs will be sitting there, the House leadership. And Angus King, who is now a Senator from Maine, he told us he'll be sitting in the Senate section, which is actually fairly close. He used to be the Governor of Maine. That's way up in the nose bleed seats. So the way to get better seat, get a -- get a different office -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, John. Thank you.

So you know, when you grab a superstar to chat with him, suddenly everyone comes out with their iPhone. Nick Cannon is with me. You performed yesterday.

NICK CANNON, HOST, AMERICA'S GOT TALENT: Yes. Yes.

O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about how your Inauguration weekend has gone.

CANNON: It's been outstanding. I mean if you hear I mean, one of the most exciting things for me was to be able to host the inaugural ball for the youth as well the military families. I was called upon by the First Lady. So I mean, any time she calls, I'm going to say yes. But to be able to be there for the military families was outstanding.

O'BRIEN: It's quite a remarkable thing when you think of all of these people who come out on the mall to take part of the peaceful transition, sometimes depending.

CANNON: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about what you're hoping to hear from the President in his inaugural address.

CANNON: I mean like you said, usually it's one of those things where it's a transition. But you know we got a second term. So hopefully you know this is an opportunity for us to fulfill a lot of those promises that came across the first time. So I expect to hear a lot of the same thing we heard the first time around. But this time that we're in progress to making those things happening.

O'BRIEN: It's quite a remarkable thing that this is also Martin Luther King Day. And in some ways we've been talking so much about the inauguration, we really haven't celebrated Dr. King's Day with as much due that I think is needed. Of course the President will be using Dr. King's personal bible when he's sworn in.

CANNON: Yes absolutely. I mean it's outstanding to be out here. I don't think there's a better way to celebrate the holiday. A lot of people have been saying this is a dream fulfilled. But you know I feel like it's recognizing the dream in progress and beyond, when you think about it.

I mean, to be able to have Dr. King present through his bible and the President to actually continue his mission is one of those things where you just feel like it's -- it's the right place at the right time.

O'BRIEN: You're a married man with four kids now.

CANNON: Four? You got me four, I got two.

O'BRIEN: That's me, I've got four, sorry. That's like a bad mommy moment.

You've got two. I've got four. We both have a set of twins.

CANNON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: So tell me a little bit, is Mariah here with you? Will you guys go to all the parties and the balls tonight?

CANNON: I mean, I think we'll probably try to play it as low key as possible. We'll probably be able to stop by a few areas. But I mean you know, it's more about being here today this morning is the outstanding part.

O'BRIEN: It is wonderful to be here. And it turned out to be a beautiful day.

CANNON: Absolutely. Not as cold as last time.

O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh, that was ridiculous.

CANNON: Yes.

O'BRIEN: But you know what people said it wasn't raining.

CANNON: That's true.

O'BRIEN: It could always be worse.

CANNOT: That's true. The sun is out today, though. So that's good.

O'BRIEN: Yes it is. Nick Cannon, it's so great to see you. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate it.

CANNON: Good to see you too.

O'BRIEN: Pleasure. Let's get right back to John Berman.

BERMAN: Thank you so much, Soledad.

We are standing up here looking down at the -- at the stage where senator -- President Obama, I should say, will be taking the oath of office at about 11:30 Eastern Time today. The people starting to fill in all around us here. I see a choir up on the stands up high. They'll be singing a little bit later on. The program is getting all set. It truly is a majestic day here in the nation's capital.

And let's go back to John King, who's down on 12th Street. We don't have John -- we don't have John here.

So the President right now is in St. John's Episcopal Church. He's in services there. It is the traditional church of Presidents. FDR was the first person to do the services there on the day of the inauguration. The Bush family used to travel there as well. They enjoyed their time there. And that's where the President is spending the morning. We saw the Vice President's family filing in there as well.

I can tell you, again, up here on the Capitol, they have -- all right. I'm sorry. I'm told we have Soledad O'Brien back down on the Mall again. Hey, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Hey, John. Let me show folks where we are because things are starting to really get crowded. It's very exciting. So over here, straight in front of me, you can see they now brought the choir out. That's new. But right below the flags -- right below that is where the President will be sworn in.

Now, you can see they've divided everything into sections. So this section forward, you are really, really lucky. You've got a wonderful seat. This section here, you've got a seat which is fantastic. And you have a wonderful seat down a little bit further of course that gets what we might call the cheaper seats. And those in the way, way back, all the way by the memorial down there where those folks are just standing up, and there's roughly 800,000 of them.

I want to introduce you to a young lady. Come over here. Hi.

COLLEEN TEMPLE, ATTENDING INAUGURAL EVENTS: Hi.

O'BRIEN: You've been standing out here for a little bit.

TEMPLE: Yes, ma'am.

O'BRIEN: What's your name?

TEMPLE: Colleen Temple.

O'BRIEN: So Colleen, while I fix the ear piece in my ear, I want you to tell me a little bit about why you're here and why you wanted to come and watch the inauguration.

TEMPLE: Well, my father, he set up like a private plane so that we could come see the President because I was always telling him how I've always wanted to be the President and how I wanted to see an inauguration.

O'BRIEN: So your daddy's set a private plane. Well I need to talk to your daddy for when I need a private plane sometimes. How old are you?

TEMPLE: 10.

O'BRIEN: What do you want to hear from the President today? You know the inaugural speech, which he'll deliver, is considered incredibly important because it's going to frame the next four years of his term. What would you like to hear from the president as a 10-year-old girl?

TEMPLE: Stop gun violence.

O'BRIEN: Stop gun violence is your message. It's so nice to meet you. What a pleasure to have you with us this morning. We appreciate it.

We want to now head it back over this direction so I can show you a little more of the layout. Come this way. You can see already a small number of people have started. They're very smart. They put the blankets on because, of course, even though it's much warmer than it was four years ago, it's significantly -- it's cold. And so we see that there are numbered seats here that still have to be filled in. But of course, we're waiting as people slowly begin to fill in their seats. We're going to take a short break here and hand it back to, I think, John Berman, who's in the seats above me.

BERMAN: Hey, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes in fact we'll head to commercial break instead and see you right on the other side of that break, as we continue our special coverage of the President's inauguration.

We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And this is what it looks like on a beautiful day in Washington, D.C. with the temperatures in the mid-30s a little colder than that with the wind chill. As we get ready for the inauguration of President Obama -- it's the second inauguration of President Obama. Our special coverage on STARTING POINT ends right now.

But we want to leave you with a John Berman look at the President's last four years in four minutes. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN (voice-over): It starts here -- January 20th, 2009. Screaming crowds, soaring hopes, towering expectations. What could possibly go wrong? Except the inauguration.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I Barack -- I Barack Hussein Obama --

BERMAN: First year, major action, big stimulus, big bailout, big appointment, big smack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice.

OBAMA: Now, where were we?

BERMAN: We were here, beer summit. The President invites Massachusetts cop to the White House to ease racial tension. He doesn't invite the Salahis to state dinner.

Chicago loses the Olympics. The nation loses an icon. The President wins a peace prize.

Year two, state of the union, big speech, national audience. What could possibly go wrong?

OBAMA: Those who were here illegally.

REP. JOE WILSON (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: You lie. BERMAN: Congressman Joe Wilson doesn't like the President's health care pitch. Justice Samuel Alito doesn't like his campaign finance ideas. President gets Obamacare. Vice President gets fresh.

Kagan in, Rahm out. Banking reform in, "don't ask, don't tell" out. Republicans in, Democrats out.

OBAMA: Take a shellacking like I did last night.

Where were we?

OBAMA: You were here, 2011. Tunisia turmoil, Libya turmoil, Bahrain turmoil, Egypt turmoil.

OBAMA: An orderly transition must begin now.

BERMAN: It turns out the President was born in America. Turns out the president can crack a joke.

OBAMA: I am releasing my official birth video.

BERMAN: That very same weekend, closure.

OBAMA: The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda.

BERMAN: A summer showdown, budget brinksmanship -- that never happens, a downgrade for the economy.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: America's credit rating gets a downgrade.

OBAMA: Now, where were we?

BERMAN: We were here, 2012, election year. What could possibly go wrong?

OBAMA: I'm so in love with you

BERMAN: How big a deal that the President sings?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a big (EXPLETIVE DELETED) deal.

BERMAN: Is it true he has a good voice?

Major developments.

OBAMA: I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

BERMAN: Supreme Court holds Obamacare is constitutional. Democrats hold convention. Obama holds Clinton. Campaign push. Presidential debate. Presidential dud.

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's now four years later. We still have trillion dollar deficits.

BERMAN: presidential improvement.

OBAMA: I don't look at my pension, and it's not as big as yours. So it doesn't take as long.

BERMAN: Presidential victory. A time to look back at sports teams, disaster, promises kept, most troops out of Iraq, sports teams, disaster, upheaval, Gadhafi dead, sports teams, sports teams, promises broken. Guantanamo still open. Disaster, tragedy, Ft. Hood, Tucson.

OBAMA: Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing.

BERMAN: Colorado, Newtown.

OBAMA: For those of us who remain, let us find the strength to carry on and make our country worthy of their memory.

BERMAN: Fiscal debate, fiscal discord, fiscal destiny. Sports teams, sports teams, sports teams.

OBAMA: Now, where were we?

BERMAN: We were here, just about to start again.

OBAMA: I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)