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President and Secretary of State Give Joint Interview on "60 Minutes," Senate Produces Immigration Compromise; Hundreds Die in Nightclub Fire in Brazil; Interview with Congressman Steve Israel

Aired January 28, 2013 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: how did it happen? Hundreds of people die inside a burning nightclub in Brazil. This morning, we're learning the cause of the fire is all too common.

Plus, the ultimate exit interview. We'll breakdown the conversation with President Obama and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. And why the president says if he had sons, he'd have to think long and hard before he let them play football.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Crying foul over this one. Why the cost of your Super Bowl party is going to go up? Start planning and budgeting now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And first, the Golden Globes, now the SAG Awards. Why last night's big winners may lead to big drama at the Oscars?

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, we'll talk to New York Congressman Steve Israel, Hillary Clinton's former White House chief of staff, Thomas "Mack" McLarty, and star of the "Walking Dead," David Morrissey, is going to be joining us.

It's Monday, January 28th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. We begin with a developing story this morning. The funerals underway for some of those killed in the horrific fire that took place at a Brazilian nightclub. As we learned nearly half of the victims, 231 of them, were students, all from the same university, all celebrating their last weekend of summer break. It's called the Kiss Nightclub located in Santa Maria, Brazil. Recovery workers are hearing the sounds of ring tones as those looking for loved ones are hoping they will pick up the cellphones. Shasta Darlington live in Santa Maria with the latest for us. Shasta, good morning.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. That's right. Right now, over at the cemetery, the funerals have started. And I'm right here in the center of town, a few steps from the nightclub, Kiss where this tragedy happened yesterday morning, very early, of course. Right now, the investigators are inside. Looking for more clues about what caused this fire. There has been a lot of talk about the pyrotechnics display. Right now, they don't want to go into any details. They would rather continue and complete the investigation before they confirm anything one way or another. But as you can imagine, this is a small city, a college town, four universities. People are in shock and mourning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Shasta Darlington, thank you for the update. We'll continue to obviously monitor what is happening with that story.

A little later, we'll talk to Todd King, you might remember in 2003, the similar fire at the station nightclub in Rhode Island. He was a survivor of that fire. We'll talk with him in a couple of minutes.

Barely a week or so into the second term and a very busy one for the president many he sat down this weekend for a joint interview on "60 Minutes" with his outgoing secretary of state Hillary Clinton. It's kind of interesting. They really seem to like each other. You might remember they were bitter rivals, but seemed to enjoy sitting next to each other, complementing each other over and over.

Today the president and vice president will meet with police chiefs and sheriffs from around the country to talk about how to deal with gun violence. Tomorrow the president will launch his gun violence initiative. With all that he also talked a little bit about football. CNN's Brianna Keilar is at the White House for us this morning with more. Good morning, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, to you, Soledad. This was an interview taped at the White House on Friday, aired last night on "60 Minutes." And in it, President Obama and Secretary Clinton really appeared to have genuine affection for each other, they talked about their rivalry and also 2016.


KEILAR: President Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, once bitter rivals, now allies, together for an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes."

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I consider Hillary a strong friend.

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I mean, very warm, close -- I think there is a sense of understanding that sometimes doesn't even take words because we have similar views.

KEILAR: Rewind five years to their bruising primary battle.

OBAMA: You are likable enough, Hillary.

CLINTON: I'm here, he is not.

OBAMA: I can't tell who I am running against sometimes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long did it take to you get over that?

OBAMA: It didn't take as long as I think people would perceive it.

KEILAR: It took longer for their staffs, not to mention --

CLINTON: I think spouses take it much harder in a way.

KEILAR: And 2016 came up. The president laughed of a question about endorsing Clinton.

OBAMA: I was literally inaugurated four days ago and you are talking about elections four years from now.

KEILAR: And the secretary side-stepped.

CLINTON: And I don't think, you know, either he or I can make predictions about what will happen tomorrow or the next year.

KEILAR: Clinton, who recently suffered a concussion and blood clot and is wearing glasses for double vision, answered a question about her health.

CLINTON: It's great. It's great. I still have some lingering effects from falling on my head and having the blood clot, but the doctors tell me that will all recede, thankfully. And I'm looking forward to being at full speed.


KEILAR: And Soledad, this was not the only interview, at least for President Obama, where we learned a little new about him. He sat down with the "New Republic" and talked about politics here in Washington. He also talked about gun violence, and he talked about football and some of the injuries that we've seen from representative concussions. He said "I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I would let him play football," Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Brianna, appreciate it. In just a few minutes we'll talk with New York Congressman Steve Israel about that interview and also talk to Jack Crow, a former football coach at Jackson State University because we want to run those very comments that Brianna was just mentioning by him this morning.

Other stories making news, John Berman has that for us this morning.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Soledad. It is going to be a snowy, icy, rainy, just plain sloppy commute for millions of Americans this morning. The storm that coated the Midwest in ice yesterday is heading north and could bring snow, freezing rain, and sleet. Not a lot of fun for the northeast today.

Flights in and out of Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis were grounded on icy runways. And check this out, firefighters chipping away at a hydrant. You might say it was literally frozen in time because New York went seven days without temperatures cracking the freezing mark.

Jennifer Delgado is live with a look ahead at the storm that will hit so many of us this morning. JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, John. At least we're not talking about bitter cold temperatures we saw last week. If you're headed out the door, from parts of the upper Midwest to the mid- Atlantic, we are dealing with some freezing rain out there just see to the west of Altoona, as well as some snow.

This will continue to be the feature as we go through the morning hours and into the afternoon. Now, if you are driving along interstate 95, we had a last report of freezing rain in Dulles. Notice for yourself, warm air is winning out and those temperatures will continue to climb, above freezing, I think through late morning as well as the afternoon for some parts.

But still for some areas like New York, as well as New England, we'll see a mix of snow, as well as freezing rain at times, warmer temperatures on the rise. Notice for Washington, D.C., today a high of 55. And by the end of the week, we'll see cold air once again return. John, that means we'll see a serious threat for severe weather tomorrow and Wednesday, and that means the possibility of tornadoes, as a strong line of storms moves toward the east. John, of course we'll be following that, but the weather is crazy right now.

BERMAN: That's right, Jennifer, on the severe weather watch for us tomorrow, thank you very much.

A big step toward immigration reform this morning, a bipartisan plan from the Senate's so-called gang of eight being unveiled today. It offers a pathway to residency and even citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States unlawfully. It calls for an effective employment verification system that prevents identity theft and would end hiring unauthorized workers in the future. Coming up in our next hour, we'll talk to two congressmen working across the aisle on immigration reform, Republican Mario Diaz- Balart of Florida and Democrat Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

And while you were sleeping Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has declared a limited state of emergency in the wake of recent violence in Egypt and suggests more action is possible. He imposed a 30 day curfew on three cities along the Suez Canal where violence has broken out since Friday. Morsi invited representatives from 11 political parties to meet today to address problems in Egypt so as to avoid expressing anger like this.

A big night for some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Anne Hathaway among the winners in the Screen Actors Guild Award for her supporting role in "Les Miserables." But once again it was "Argo" that stole the show. This is becoming a really big story. Adding to its list of three Oscar honors with the night's biggest prize, outstanding ensemble, in a motion picture.

We'll go live to Los Angeles for a morning after look at the highlights from the SAG awards. Everyone said "Lincoln," but "Argo" is walking off with the awards.

O'BRIEN: How about Anne Hathaway's dress? She looked fabulous. We'll talk more about that later this morning. I want to get back though to this tragic nightclub fire in Brazil. It shares a lot of eerie similarities with that 2003 nightclub fire that happened in Rhode Island. In that fire 100 people were killed. It happened after pyrotechnics went off during a concert that was also overcrowded. Todd King survived that fire at the Station nightclub, which is where it happened. He's with us this morning. Todd, are you there?


O'BRIEN: Good morning, nice to see you. Just checking. Let's take me back to when you first heard what happened in Brazil. What went through your mind?

KING: I was really in shock that something could happen this way again. Survivors from the station nightclub fire, we're a tight nit group and yesterday morning, my phone was going berserk. Couldn't figure out what was going on. And the first thing I saw when I turned on the TV, I actually thought it was replays from 2003, someone was doing a story on it or something, it was that eerie.

O'BRIEN: And that similar. There were so many similarities if you look at -- well, walk me through some of them. Certainly pyrotechnics is one of them.

KING: Yes, I can't believe someone has actually done that in a crowded nightclub again. But also the way that people could not get out the doors, stampeding, the look on people's faces of just the panic of trying to help people get out and the hopelessness of not being able to get out in that situation.

O'BRIEN: I know you were dealing with a terrible bottleneck, everyone trying to get out. Either they were blocked or they couldn't go out the front door, just too many people trying to get out a narrow space, and also the overcrowding. It looks like this nightclub was holding way more people than it was supposed to. But the club itself put out a statement, and part of their statement said this, "We're open to all authorities and inspections, all the fire systems were approved by the fire department. They were adequate and necessary to provide the safety of the nightclub and its patrons, although, there were also reports that the club's license expired in August and had not been renewed." That was a local fire official said that.

What did you learn from the fire in 2003 that was less about regulations and inspections and more about what to keep an eye out for, what to do when something like this happens?

KING: Well, from my point of view going back into a crowded area, I always look to see where the exits are and how I'm going to move or create if something does happen.

It's really frustrating, where you try to fight the anger when something happens this, and you see 100 people die in front of you needlessly, is every place that serves alcohol should have sprinklers. It's just good common sense. If you're going to ply people with alcohol and have people in your business, putting a large amount of people together, common sense would be you are responsible to keep them safe. If there was a sprinkler in Rhode Island, if there were sprinklers at this club, you wouldn't be talking to 233 families telling them their loved ones or dead or the 100 in Rhode Island, that their kids, brothers, sisters didn't come home. And the survivors and the catastrophic injuries we've seen people overcome in the last ten years, it's heartbreaking, heartbreaking we have to do this again.

O'BRIEN: Still investigating, but there were reports that exits weren't marked that the doors were not available to open. People weren't trained working the doors to really know. Todd King, survivor of the station nightclub fire, thank you for talking with us. We appreciate your insight on this.

KING: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, we'll cover President Obama and Hillary Clinton's sit-down. We'll speak about that with New York Congressman Steve Israel. He says he's going to send the secretary a virtual thank you card.

Also, if you're looking forward to seeing all the new Super Bowl ads, we've got an exclusive first look at a brand new one. Business news today as well.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The important economic impact of hot wings, bad news for anyone planning a Super Bowl party. Hot wings prices, what is driving the economic phenomenon? I'll tell you, after the break.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans minding your business. Stock futures up a little bit this morning. The DOW is up 792 points, or six percent, this year, 792 points in about four weeks. Crazy.

One caveat, Apple, America's most beloved tech stock, is down 13 percent just last week. Apple has fallen 37 percent from its all-time high of $705 a share in September. A lot of folks wondering if a little shine is off the Apple, if it's going to be able to keep selling quite so many high-margin products.

If you like chicken wings, your Super Bowl will cost you more. The drought in the Midwest drove up the cost of corn, and corn is used to feed chickens. The wholesale price of wings jumped 26 percent in December. And there's another reason prices could go up further, McDonald's. In certain cities the fast food giant has been testing the mighty wing, its own take on the Super Bowl staple. If McDonald's rolled out wings more widely, analysts say there could be even more pressure because there will be more demand for hot wings.

O'BRIEN: Hot wings, I thought she really was talking about aerodynamic issues, not Super Bowl food. Good to know.

Our team joining us -- I'm just telling you. This morning we're talking with Will Cain, CNN contributor, Charles Blow is back, CNN contributor and "New York Times" columnist, Chris John Farley is with us as well, a senior editorial director of digital features for "The Wall Street Journal" and editor and writer for the "Wall Street Journal's" speak easy pop culture blog. That is a long, long title. We need an acronym for that somehow.


O'BRIEN: His royal highness with us. And Christine is going to stick around.

We're talking this morning about Hillary Clinton. She was the first lady, of course, then a senator, now secretary of state. Will she add president to that hefty resume in 2016? There was an interesting, rare joint interview with the president and Hillary Clinton, secretary of state on "60 Minutes" last night. They talked about a possible run and an endorsement of any kind. Let's listen in.


OBAMA: You guys in the press are incorrigible. I was literally inaugurated four days ago, and you're talking about elections four years from now.


CLINTON: I don't think either he or I can make predictions about what will happen tomorrow or the next year.


O'BRIEN: They both dodged that question, didn't they? Let's get right to Congressman Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York. It's nice to have you back us with, appreciate it. We heard the president call the media incorrigible. One of the reasons we're incorrigible is because we want to look toward 2016, of course.

How much do you think of that interview and the questions and the two of them sitting there together was about 2016 and the future for Hillary Clinton?

REP. STEVE ISRAEL, (D) NEW YORK: No, I think that interview displayed the fact that the relationship between secretary of state and president Obama is extraordinary and unique and it also showed something else to the American people that the American people wanted to see and that is two former competitors who figured out how to put whatever difference these had aside and learn how to govern, move on, and take the country forward. That's a lesson I wish many colleagues in Congress would learn.

O'BRIEN: Hillary talked about the people who are often most sensitive after time are the spouses and the staff members. Here's a little bit about what the president said about the staffers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Hillary mentioned part of our bond is we have been through a lot of the same stuff. And part of being through the same stuff is getting whacked around in political campaigns, being criticized in the press. You know, we've both built some pretty thick skins.

And sometimes our staffs don't go through that, so they are taking umbrage and offense.


O'BRIEN: Where have you seen the staffer unable to move past the slights and hurts or move past the umbrage?

ISRAEL: I have seen it rather routinely. If you are an elected official, you develop a thick skin. But the staffers and the families, they sometimes take it very personally.

O'BRIEN: Like, really, who on the staff has had a hard time. I want to talk specifically.

ISRAEL: If you are a staffer, you are paid to be protective of the boss. And so I can understand that they -- you know, they would interpret things slightly higher, more intense level.

Here is the thing. You do have to have a certain personality. I have seen Hillary Clinton walk into a town of Babylon Veterans Barbecue, embrace 9/11 families, and then walk into the United Nations and negotiate stiffer sanctions on Iran. Wherever she is, she has been tough. But at the same time, able to demonstrate empathy and compassion, and that is what makes her unique and as special as she has been and will continue to be.

O'BRIEN: All right, we have you over the next commercial break. Stick around. We'll talk about what Paul Ryan had to say. That was kind of interesting, comparing what the secretary of state could have done versus the president himself. We'll have that conversation right after the short break. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: We're back with Congressman Steve Israel, Democrat from New York. Let me play what Paul Ryan said over the weekend. He was on "Meet the Press." I thought this was interesting about a Clinton presidency.


PAUL RYAN, (R) FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look if we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles as chief of staff of the White House, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now. That's not the kind of presidency we are dealing with right now.


O'BRIEN: So let's fast forward to 2016. Is that something that circles back around if he finds himself up against Clinton running for president?

ISRAEL: You can go forwards or you can go backward. Paul Ryan, I would remind him in the Clinton presidency in the 1990s that Newt Gingrich and the Republicans at the time shut down the government, refused to compromise. It's exactly what's wrong with Washington. The president was inaugurated one week ago, and Paul Ryan as given him the shortest honeymoon in history, name calling and vilifying and attaching blame. Can we just talk about solutions rather than engaging in the name calling? The country would be much better off if we could do that.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the Senate immigration plan being forwarded. There are a number of proposals on the table. They want to secure the border, modernize and streamline the current system, and create a tough but fair legalization program for individuals who are here. I have to imagine the list, right in front of through, that last one will be the sticking point, right? That has always been the problem. Do you think this is something that actually can go through at this point?

ISRAEL: I'm optimistic, Soledad. It's a little early for optimism. I am optimistic we can find common sense reforms, based on certain premises, one, that there needs to be a path to legalization, earned citizenship for people who came against the law. Number two, that we've got to secure our borders and have additional enforcement. Number three, that while we're being tough, we're also being compassionate with people who can help our economy. And we can get critical mass, I don't expect every single Republican to join with us, but as long as we can get critical mass, I think we can get this done.

House Democrats want to find solutions, the right kind of compromise. We need someone to negotiate with. As long as this Republicans will come to the table and reject this my-way-or-no-way negotiating strategy they've had up till now, maybe we can produce a compromise for the American people that make sense.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Steve Israel joining us, a chairman of the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for being with us, appreciate it.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, the president says if he had a son, he's not sure he would let him play football. We'll speak with a former college football coach Jack Crow about that when we come back.