Return to Transcripts main page


Inauguration's Best Moments; Obama Promotes Gay Rights in Speech; Jill Kelley Breaking Her Silence

Aired January 22, 2013 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, a historic day, President Obama makes strides mentioning gay rights for the first time in an inaugural address, the praise and the criticism ahead.

Plus she made history as the first Hispanic woman to swear in a vice president. We'll take a look at Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's career and her relationship with her mother and father. That's my one-on-one interview straight ahead.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And she sparked the investigation that led former CIA Director David Petraeus to resign. Now, Jill Kelley is trying to clear her name from blackmail to extortion. We will have the exclusive details.

O'BRIEN: Ahead this hour with Howie Kurtz, the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES", Lauren Ashburn with "The Daily Beast", former General James "Spider" Marks is with us.

It's Tuesday, January 22nd -- and STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody, our team this morning:

Joe Nosef is the chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party. Former Governor Phil Bredesen is from Tennessee. He's now on the steering committee for the Campaign to Fix the Debt. "EARLY START" co-anchor John Berman is with me this morning.

We're going to talk about debt and the President's inaugural address. You didn't hear that word at all in that talk yesterday.

But we're also going to talk about how the President seemed emboldened, playing encourager-in-chief, if you will, telling America we were made for this moment. It was an 18-minute long speech, which coincided with Martin Luther King Day.

And in that speech, he made mention of several pivotal rights battles -- Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall -- before he looked toward the next four years.

White House correspondent Dan Lothian has the highlights for us.


JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: Please raise your right hand --

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And so it began, the second inaugural ceremony of President Obama, part campaign speech, part pragmatic lecture, a confident Mr. Obama appeared comfortable in his presidential skin.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment and we will seize it, so long as we seize it together.


LOTHIAN: The speech was rooted in history and fittingly on this holiday, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream.

OBAMA: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

LOTHIAN: The past made modern with first time references to climate change, immigration reform and sexual equality.

OBAMA: Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

LOTHIAN: Foreign policy was noticeably absent from his address though he heralded the end of a decade of war, touted a recovering economy, but acknowledged the challenges still ahead.

OBAMA: The commitments we make to each other, through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.

LOTHIAN: The President mostly refrained from partisan jabs, but appeared to single out his former GOP opponent Mitt Romney with this line.

OBAMA: They do not make us a nation of takers.


LOTHIAN: Filling the air what patriotism, the voices of Kelly Clarkson and Beyonce.

There was a poem and prayers.

As he left the west front of the Capitol, a nostalgic president turned back toward the Lincoln Memorial.

OBAMA: I want to take a look out one more time. I'm not going to see this again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well done, Mr. Vice President. Great job.


O'BRIEN: That was Dan Lothian reporting for us.

During the inauguration festivities, Alicia Keys said this.


ALICIA KEYS, MUSICIAN: Obama's on fire --


O'BRIEN: Washington, D.C., in fact, in full party last night, big names performing at two official Inaugural Balls, around 21 acts in total.

First Lady turned heads in a custom ruby-colored gown designed by Jason Wu, who also did the gown back in 2009. The President was wearing a tuxedo with white tie. Red was the color of the night.

Look at that. Who is that with Alicia Keys?

BERMAN: That was the color of it.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it was, because three people wore it, me, the First Lady and Alicia Keys.

BERMAN: The First Lady clearly taking her cues from you.

I think it's really significant we talk about the President being reelected the beginning of the second term. You know, Jason Wu reelected. What a reaffirmation that guy gets.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but I don't know that you pick a dress that way. Honestly, you throw a dress on, find the thing you feel good and say oh it's the Jason Wu dress.

BERMAN: I'm going to have to take your word on that.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, since I'm the only girl on the panel, today, you will.

Let's look at the other top stories this morning.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Soledad.

The family of one of the three Americans killed in the Algerian hostage crisis last week will hold a news conference in just three hours at a relatives' home in Texas. Victor Lovelady's daughter Erin, she wants everyone to know what a great dad Victor was and how much he will be missed. Thirty-six others have been confirmed dead from the standoff, including two other Americans. It is the testimony that some Americans have been waiting months to hear. Tomorrow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear on Capitol Hill to testify about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead. Secretary Clinton had been scheduled to testify last month but she was delayed after first suffering a concussion and later a blood clot that sent her to the hospital.

Investigating say a freak snow burst in Ohio caused an 86-car pile-up and led to the death of a 12-year-old girl. She was reportedly hit by a snapped median cable after getting out of a damaged vehicle. Some 20 people went to the hospital at least four of them in critical condition.

More weather news: an arctic blast and winter storm could make for a messy and dangerous commute in New England this morning.

Jennifer Delgado is tracking the storm for us. Hey, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi there, John. You know, all of this is due to the cold air in place. And look at some of these wind chill values for Duluth right now -- minus 43. That's what it feels like. Minus 25 in Minneapolis.

You have been dealing with the cold temperatures over the last couple days and it's still going to be sticking around. It looks like even as we go through the week. We'll start to see temperatures rising just a bit.

Keep in mind with your wind chill values near 30, 35 and 50 in some parts of the Upper Midwest, this could lead to frost bite, even hypothermia or even death. Now, these warnings are in place all the way through New England and some of these as I said are going to go even until Wednesday.

Now, the other part of the story is the big snow we're talking about. Lake-effect is in full effect right now. You can see coming down for areas including Lake Ontario, as well as Lake Erie. We're going to see the heavy snow from areas, including Cleveland, all the way up towards Buffalo.

In fact, let's go to a live shot coming out of Cleveland, you're looking at the snow right now, and some of these locations we're going to see three to seven inches of snow. That's just for Cleveland.

As I take you back over to our graphics here, very quickly, with all that moisture coming in, we're going to see some of these locations anywhere between 10 and 20 inches of snowfall. We're talking three feet in some of these parts, anywhere you see the purple and the pink.

John, it's bitterly cold outside and when you add in the snow, of course, we're talking about major travel delays due to the wind and that includes parts of the Northeast.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Jennifer.

You know, we have two Southerners on the panel who have been gasping through your entire weather forecast in all that snow and cold.

O'BRIEN: Is it going to be OK?

FMR. GOV. PHIL BREDESEN (D), TENNESSEE: We'll make it. What is that white stuff?

O'BRIEN: Here in the Northeast, we call that snow, Governor.


O'BRIEN: President Obama used his platform the swearing in ceremony to frame his second term agenda.

Here's a little bit of what he said.


OBAMA: It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began, for our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and our daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.


Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law. For if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.


Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.


O'BRIEN: And it went on like that, those who thought that in fact the President were to extend an olive branch were disappointed and many interpreted yesterday's address as a sign the President is preparing for a fight over the issues that could define the Obama presidency.

Peter Sprigg is a senior fellow at the socially conservative Family Research Council. Nice to save you with us this morning. We appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: Earlier, we were all talking about the fact we hadn't heard the word "debt" or "cutting spending" in that speech at all from the President. What did you think overall of the speech? What did you like in it?

SPRIGG: Well, I liked that he began with the quote from the Declaration of Independence and was attempting to root it in the principles of our nation's founding. But I'm not sure that he went on to correctly interpret what those principles mean for today. It seems like we've come a long way from when Bill Clinton said the era of big government is over. I had the impression he was saying the era of big government is back.

O'BRIEN: You know, I didn't hear so much about the era of big government, I asked what you liked, not what you didn't like. Was there a moment that you thought was a good moment, or something that you would highlight and compliment in that speech?

SPRIGG: Well, as I said, the beginning of the speech was good. The reference, the quotation from the Declaration of Independence, the statement that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

O'BRIEN: That was it?

SPRIGG: That was I think the best thing about it. And it was not too long. Some speeches can sometimes be too long. It was a good length.

O'BRIEN: Sometimes that's a diss, too -- well, at least it was short.

It was interesting to hear him, I thought, draw a line between civil rights issues of the past, right? Women's suffrage, talking then about the civil rights movement, Selma, and then talking about Stonewall -- sort of connecting the dots in that.

What did you make of what he said about gay marriage, really history- making that a president would talk about gay rights in an inaugural speech?

SPRIGG: Well, we as social conservatives do not agree with the President's attempt to link the modern homosexual movement with the women's rights movement or the civil rights movement for African- Americans.

The irony is, homosexuals already have all the time civil rights as anyone else, but the fact that all people are created equal as individuals does not mean that all sexual behavior is equal or that all personal relationships have an equal value to society at large, that serve the same public interests.

O'BRIEN: So you know many people would say that's where you're wrong, if you're an individual created equal, what individuals do is also created equal, right? If individuals are allowed to marry who are straight, then individuals who are gay should also be allowed to marry, like that would follow through.

Do you think that he is setting up for some kind of legislative fight on this issue or all the other things he laid out in the speech? I mean, he ticked off -- immigration clearly is going to be an issue. He talked about climate change.

Do you think that's sort of saying here's where I'm going to be fighting over the next four years?

SPRIGG: I do think he was kind of laying down the gauntlet, not really saying, let's seek common ground, let's find places -- let's find places where we can agree and compromise, but saying this is the agenda that I have, and I'm going to pursue it.

I mean, he won the election. He has the right to do that, but I don't think it creates the potential for really working together with Congress on a lot of these issues.

I think there's going to continue to be division.

O'BRIEN: Let's turn to our panel for a second.

We didn't hear the words "debt", and you're heavily involved in talking and trying to figure out the debt crisis and it's certainly not an olive branch.

BREDESEN: No, this was certainly an opportunity to at least get it on to the table and begin talking about some of the things we're going to have to do, if this president doesn't -- some future president will have an even more difficult problem. You can't put everything in an inaugural speech obviously. But I think for an awful lot of Americans, getting on the road to solving this problem is a very important piece of the agenda in the years ahead.

It's compromising the country's security. It's decreasing our influence in the world. It's putting us in a very dangerous situation. It's slow. It's not a crisis that's eminent tomorrow as some of these things, but it's a clear danger to the country.

O'BRIEN: But he underscored Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Problematic for you?

JOE NOSEF, CHAIRMAN, MISSISSIPPI REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, the other thing is he won the election, and so, yesterday was his day. I'm not going to disagree with what he said in his speech. My problem was the tone of it.

When you people like Susan Collins of Maine complaining that he didn't extend an olive branch, the problem is pragmatic one. He's got to work with the House if he wants to get anything done. Results matter.

And if he starts his presidency at $10 trillion of debt and ends at $20 trillion, it really doesn't matter what he said in the inaugural speech. He hadn't gotten that problem solved.

BERMAN: He did say that he wanted to go to work right away, though. He said, you know, we cannot afford to delay and he said we must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect.

O'BRIEN: Do you think that's a fair way to, when he says we must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. What do you think, Peter? I'm going to give you the final word on this. What do you think that means from the President's words?

SPRIGG: Well, I'm not sure exactly what it means. Some of the actions he wants to take are things we as conservatives would not support. So it's alarming in a sense.

He did make one reference to the deficit, I believe, but then offered no proposal for how he was going to relieve it.

And in terms of the divisiveness, he referred to name calling and spectacle and so forth and you didn't get the sense he was pointing to both his own party and his opposition. It seemed like he was pointing fingers at the Republicans, that's not a good start.

O'BRIEN: Peter Sprigg is a senior fellow at policy studies for the Family Research Council -- nice to have you with us this morning. We appreciate your time.

SPRIGG: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead, we're going to talk about a scandal that was basically sex, lies and e-mails, brought down the CIA director and a war hero. Now the other woman in the story, Jill Kelley is talking and telling her side of her own story. Howie Kurtz is going to join us with that.

And then, making history becoming routine for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She did it again yesterday. Part two of my interview with the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice is just ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. She's been referred to as the other woman in the scandal that brought down the former CIA director, David Petraeus. Jill Kelley went to the FBI when she started getting harassing e-mails that were eventually traced back to Paula Broadwell who was having an affair with Gen. Petraeus.

Well, now, Kelley is finally talking, and she's really angry over her portrayal in the media. She gave an exclusive interview to Howie Kurtz of "The Daily Beast", also, he hosts the CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

So, let's bring in Howard along with Lauren Ashburn. She's a contributor to "The Daily Beast," editor-in-chief of "The Daily Download." Also with us this morning, retired General James "Spider" Marks who's with us and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin is with us. Nice to have you all.

Let's begin with you, Howie. Give me a sense of how she sounds to you. I mean, there's a lot of holes in her story, at the same time, she does, I think, fill in the blanks in some of what happened.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Soledad, Jill Kelley is filling in some crucial blanks in a very emotional two-hour interview with me. She talks about how she was terrified in getting those then anonymous e-mails which were from Paula Broadwell which she felt involved blackmail, extortion, and threatening her family. That's why she contacted the FBI.

She talks about the media getting a lot of things wrong. Of course, it's the first time she's spoken out. No 30,000 e-mails with General John Allen in Afghanistan, maybe a few hundred. They were not sexy or flirtatious. She says, we haven't seen them of course, but she says they were sent under a joint account she shares with her husband.

And finally, she says that, you know, her life has turned into a nightmare, because even when she was having a birthday party for her seven-year-old daughter, all the paparazzi were staking out her front lawn. So, she is upset and trying to put the pieces back together.


O'BRIEN: Well, let's talk about that in a moment. First, though, let's talk about some of the implications before we get to the blaming. The NATO commission is being held up at this point, right, for General Allen. They're still deciding if there's a real implication for him in this.

GEN. JAMES, "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Soledad, absolutely. As a four-star, you have a limited amount of time where you can serve in between positions and if you don't get confirmed which the NATO position requires Senate confirmation, you revert back to the lower grade. So, there's a real personal incentive to get this thing going as quickly as possible so that he can move on to his next job and that clearly is in doubt.

O'BRIEN: We talked about those -- what they're calling, remember, the 30,000 pages of documents which Jill Kelley tells Howie, Sunny, that it's more like a couple hundred. So, that to me seems to be, you know, here and here. And I get there's a difference between 300 or 400 e-mails and pages of documents.

It's a little bit apples and oranges, but she wouldn't tell Howie -- you know, she didn't let him read the e-mails. As you're a lawyer on this panel, how do you feel about that?

HOSTIN: You know, I'm concerned by it. It seems that when someone is being less than transparent, when there's someone being opaque, that tells me as a former federal prosecutor when I put my lawyer hat on, something then is there. And what is it that's there?

And I would imagine if you have someone during war time, let's say, having the amount of time to be able to communicate with someone 300 e-mails.

O'BRIEN: We spoke about that. There was something in that, that was very odd I thought.

MARKS: Well, Sunny and I were just talking about that. I mean --

HOSTIN: Yes, that's odd.

MARKS: -- that type of discretionary time when you're the senior guy in a combat zone, running combat operations is a bit odd, but I understand the battle rhythm as we called it of two o'clock in the morning before you get about three or four hours of sleep. You try to do a little personal e-mails with your family. Jill Kelley fell into the category of somebody with whom I'm going to communicate. I find that odd. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's talk a little bit about blaming Jill Kelley, Howie, is very mad at the media. And I do think it's fair to say there were some crazy, crazy headlines about her, but who does she really blame in all this? Does she see herself having any role in how this kind of rolled out?

KURTZ: Well, I think she understands now that she made a mistake by staying silent for nearly three months and allowing 30,000 e-mails and being portrayed as the other woman when there's no evidence she had an affair with anybody to take root as the media narrative, and it was pretty juicy, Lauren. People couldn't resist.

LAUREN ASHBURN, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Right. As I wrote on "Daily Download" this morning, I wrote an open letter to Jill Kelley saying "it's about time." You know, she blew crisis communications 101, which is you have to get out in front of the story. You have to be the one out there telling what really happened.


O'BRIEN: Her argument is, we're family friends. I'm e-mailing from an account that I share with my husband, right, so he has full ability to read everything I'm saying. Sometimes, I CC the general's own wife on them. So, I haven't done anything wrong. Why must I come up and defend myself when it's other people who are running with the ball and saying some mean and hurtful and inaccurate things about her?

ASHBURN: Because you can't let the bullies win. You can't let the media define your story, and I think that what she did now in coming out, although, you know, she wasn't quite transparent as the panel has talked about, at least, this is a first step.

KURTZ: And you know, the fact -- the things that you just rattled off, joint account with the husband, no 30,000 e-mails, these are facts we didn't have. I didn't know that she didn't know the anonymous e-mails were from Paula Broadwell. I didn't know she never met Paula Broadwell. I didn't know how terrified she was at what she says were these threatening notes.

So, if she didn't feel comfortable going in front of a camera or talking to a reporter like me, people could have done it on her behalf, therefore, the story spun out of control in a way that really has ripped up this woman's life. She's got a husband and three kids.

O'BRIEN: I think there's still a lot more to understand in this.

HOSTIN: Yes. And perhaps, she's been advised not to be, you know, transparent about this. Maybe there's a criminal investigation, maybe her lawyers are advising her don't say anything, because if these were truly harassing e-mails, if she was truly afraid, maybe there's something there. So, we don't know why she's not being transparent.

O'BRIEN: There's definitely something else going on. All right. Guys, I appreciate it, Thank you.

Still ahead this morning, we're going to talk about the inauguration. What's Bill Clinton doing back there?


O'BRIEN: Presidential photobomb to share with you, straight ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone.

The bookies have spoken. According to Vegas odd makers, the San Francisco 49ers should beat the Baltimore Ravens by four points in the Super Bowl. The over/under, both teams are expected to score a combined 49 points. That's (INAUDIBLE).

All right. Presidential photobomb. Former "Idol" winner, Kelly Clarkson, was there to sing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," and look who popped out from a couple rows back, just let that sink in for a moment. You can imagine the caption contest going on right now on the internet.

And it looks like Sasha Obama is not impressed, not with her father's speech. She was spotted yawning during the inaugural, and that sent off a flurry of tweets. That is some yawn. There's also a cute moment on Sunday after her father's official swearing in, she congratulated him with a smile and that was picked up on the microphone saying, "Good job, Dad. You didn't mess up."

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, she grew up in the projects, made it to the Supreme Court, but not without making lots of sacrifices. I talked to Justice Sonia Sotomayor about the decisions that helped her get where she is today.

And then, take a look at this, a boulder crashes through a woman's bedroom, a very large boulder. She was still in bed and she lived to tell the tale. We'll tell you what happened straight ahead.