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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Stars Aligning on Immigration Reform?; Interview with Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey; Hillary Clinton Taking Your Questions

Aired January 29, 2013 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Soledad is off for today. Our STARTING POINT here at the top of the hour, in a matter of hours, President Obama will be laying out his plan for immigration reform, but already parts of it is causing controversy.

BERMAN: And looking to the future, yes, we're going to go there, is Hillary Clinton prepared to leave the administration, what is next? One of Clinton's former close advisers joins us.

BALDWIN: And talk about a lucky shot, we will hear from the guy who not only got check this out, boom, $75,000 for this but this huge hug, there it is from the Lebron James after a pretty impressive half court shot.

BERMAN: It's $75,000 and a priceless hug. All right, ahead this hour, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, one of the so-called "Gang of Eight," economist Paul Krugman and the director of Oscar-nominated "Silver Linings Playbook" David O. Russell.

It is Tuesday, January 29th and STARTING POINT begins right now. What a team we have here today. Republican Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn is here, former senior adviser to Bill Clinton and a writer for the newyorker.com, Richard Socarides, and Frank Fore who is the editor of "The New Republic," the new "New Republic". And here's a look at their new issue right now, making all the news with their big interview with President Obama.

BALDWIN: Speaking of the president, here we are a matter of hours from the president in Nevada today unveiling his proposal, his plan for immigration reform.

BERMAN: But Democratic sources tell CNN the talks are so delicate that Democrats in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus asked the president not to announce his own legislation.

"The Washington Post" says President Obama does have a plan and that it is more liberal than the bipartisan effort announced in the Senate yesterday. The president wants a quicker path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. BALDWIN: Here's the thing though, conservatives -- they are not happy with the gang of eight's plan -- here they were unveiling this yesterday on the hill. They say this is a path to amnesty.

Senator John McCain explained why Republicans now are stepping up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Elections, elections -- the Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens, and we realize that there are many issues in which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a preeminent issue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And our chief Washington correspondent -- and you're like which one -- Jake Tapper, following developments on immigration overhaul. Nice to see you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It's good to see you.

BALDWIN: Let me just say welcome to you here.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.

Hi, John.

BERMAN: Long time no see.

BALDWIN: You know this guy --

TAPPER: You know, I'm taller than him but somehow his chair is higher than me I just want to say.

BERMAN: It's the special effects. It's Lucas Film gets in here and makes everything look different.

TAPPER: OK. We'll figure this out.

BALDWIN: So, immigration reform, Jake Tapper. What should we expect to hear from the president today?

TAPPER: I think you're going to hear a lot of what has been said already by the president in 2011 during his big El Paso speech, outlining the steps he wants to take. There will be some new language obviously, but there's not going to be legislation as you pointed out. People on the Hill trying to work out a compromise, say, President Obama producing actual legislation could be more hindrance than help.

BERMAN: A man of your age, Jake, knows that the presidents have tried this --

TAPPER: What am I, three months older than you?

BERMAN: But this came up with President Bush. It came up with President Clinton. It didn't work.

What's different? Why is this night different than any other night?

TAPPER: I don't know. Thank you for the Passover illusion there. I don't know specifically that it is, quite honestly, because the problem is with House Republicans last time in 2007, I was congressional correspondent for our former employer ABC News, and the House Republicans were a problem, Senate Republicans also were a problem.

This time, you may have more Senate Republicans convinced, look, we can't just keep telling the largest growing population that we are not interested in their votes, but House Republicans and I'm sure the congresswoman will have more to say on this, I'm not yet convinced that there is a majority of the majority willing to support immigration reform.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Can I ask -- the president's proposal today is going to be even more progressive than the one that came -- the bipartisan plan that came out of the Senate, correct?

TAPPER: Well, he supports things that the bipartisan plan does not. For instance, the president's plan supports same-sex rights, rights for same-sex couples in this immigration reform, in the bipartisan plan. The gang of eight plan does not.

And then the president has a quicker path to citizenship. The gang of eight plan, you have to secure the borders first before we talk about any sort of path to legal status.

BERMAN: What about the politics of this? What about the gang of eight getting out in front of the president, why was that so important?

TAPPER: Well, I think it's so important because the president right now is not Mr. Bipartisan, and the senators in the gang of eight, the four Republicans and four Democrats have a better chance of getting something through that body if it's seen as a bipartisan effort and not President Obama throwing something on the table saying, pass this.

FRANK FOER, EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": So, what is his strategy in this? What role does he see himself and the White House and the bully pulpit play in propelling this forward? Is he --

BALDWIN: Leave from behind?

FOER: Yes, exactly. Leave from behind, or is he going to sit there, hovering, bludgeoning his opponents politically, reflecting this new pugnacity that we've been talking about?

TAPPER: It's a great point, because I think the role that he can play in this, is this going to be one of the bipartisan achievements. There are not going to be probably a lot in the second Obama term.

FOER: Right. TAPPER: This can be a bipartisan achievement because there are so many Republicans who are convinced that it's in their own interests to do this. Right now, I think his position is going to be to hold back and he's -- it's almost like a threat position. He can be there ready to get involved, if the bipartisan negotiations don't work.

I think that kind of gooses the Republicans and Democrats on the Hill to get something done, because they don't want President Obama to come in there and perhaps mock it up.

BALDWIN: In lighter touch in comparison to what he heard in his tone in the inaugural speech.

TAPPER: I think immigration reform calls for it. But I'm sure he'll -- I mean, the pugnacity that Frank alludes to is there, and he's ready to unveil. He's also somebody who has a great deal of credibility with the Latino community. And if he comes out in favor of a plan, that really can help.

BERMAN: That's a good segue right here. Jake, hang on for one second. By the way, I missed you, nice to see you.

TAPPER: Thank you. That's very sweet.

BALDWIN: What a bromance this morning.

Let's bring in, as we talk about this gang of eight here, let's bring in Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat, New Jersey who helped come up with the immigration reform plan.

So, Senator, good morning.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Good morning.

BALDWIN: Let me just begin with -- as we've been highlighting this morning sort of the differences between the president's proposals and that of your bipartisan group of senators, the fact that among the senators in this blueprint, the biggest difference this prerequisite per Senator McCain this morning, that there must be strong border security in order to then have a pathway to citizenship. That's the biggest difference that I'm hearing.

How big of a deal is that difference to you?

MENENDEZ: Well, the reality is what we're talking about is verifiable substantive elements that we think are attainable and that ultimately would allow us to move forward on the pathway. And certainly I think border security is important. We've already done in this administration an enormous amount of border security more than any other time in history.

BALDWIN: Sir, define border security for me.

MENENDEZ: But at the end of the day, I think that what we're talking about is attainable and would not be an impediment to the pathway that I certainly seek as does the president. BALDWIN: Define border security, what does that look like? How long does it take to get there?

MENENDEZ: Well, I think as I said we're building -- I think Senator McCain would say we've acknowledged that we've made tremendous progress. So the question is, how do we use additional technology to enhance our border security? How do we amass the resources we have with border patrol, customs and others to the entry/exit points that are critical both for the border security, as well as for the commerce, along the border states.

And we believe that there can be specific, substantive items that can be achieved, and that's what we'll work towards in the legislation. If I believed that, at the end of the day, this would just be a process for a veto towards achieving a pathway to citizenship, I would not have signed on to the principles. I think this is an important part of it and it will not be an impediment to achieving our goal of a pathway to citizenship.

BERMAN: Within this pathway to citizenship, one of the things that seems to be agreed on here, especially with Senator Rubio, is that they would have to get to the back of the line, that's the phrase people use. But one group of people in your proposal doesn't have to go to the back of the line is this group of agricultural workers. Agricultural workers somehow would get somehow preferred treatment.

Explain to me why.

MENENDEZ: Well, there's actually two groups contemplated that would not necessarily have to wait until the back of the line. Agricultural workers and what we called DREAM Act students.

A recognition in the DREAM Act students that they came here through no choice of their own, the only country they know is the United States, the only flag they pledge allegiance to is that of the United States, the only national anthem they know is "The Star-Spangled Banner."

On the ag side, we have in many cases, over a generation of workers who have picked our fruits and vegetables and we believe that as part of that, they deserve a pathway that may be accelerated, compared to those who are otherwise undocumented in the country.

BERMAN: Senator Menendez, thanks for joining us this morning. Great to see you here -- a member of the gang of eight.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

BERMAN: Let me put that question to you, Representative Blackburn, right there -- the agricultural workers who get an accelerated path to citizenship. Is that acceptable to you?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: No, that is not acceptable to me.

BERMAN: Flat out no?

BLACKBURN: Well, no, I think it's a more thoughtful perspective.

BERMAN: Fair enough.

BLACKBURN: I don't like that saying flat out, you know?

Think about it like this, why don't we talk about a pathway to legality? Why don't we talk about a pathway to a green card? Why don't we talk about some other things rather than going straight to pathway to citizenship?

You know, is this fair to those that have been in the queue for a long, long time, going through the legal process trying to get into this country. And that is going to be one of the key questions that I think members in the house are going to ask. What's the fairness component of this? Being fair to the taxpayer, fair to those currently in the queue, fair to those that have been seeking to come here.

Ending illegal entry as the senator said -- that is something that individuals want to see happen. Ending that illegal entry into this country, whether it is going to be drugs or it's human trafficking or it's terrorists or it's weapons, we want to make certain that our borders are indeed secured. There's been a lot of kicking the can on this issue. There has been a reticence to address this and my hope is that we will be very thoughtful in putting it on the table and working through some of these issues.

SOCARIDES: You know, it always sounds so reasonable when Marcia talks about it. But I think what you just said are reasons really not to act. I mean, I think that there is a consensus now in this country --

BLACKBURN: I disagree with that.

SOCARIDES: -- that we have to do something, and these people are putting forward reasonable proposals. And I know you for one will take a reasonable look at them.

BLACKBURN: Well --

BERMAN: We have more time to talk about this. We have more time to talk about this coming up. I promise, I promise, we will come back to in that in a bit.

First, we're going to go to Christine Romans with the rest of the day's top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, guys.

Other news we're following today.

The search is on for a U.S. Air Force fighter jet that may have gone down during a training exercise over the Adriatic Sea. The Air Force says it lost contact with the F-16 off the coast of Italy. They, along with the Italian coast guard and some commercial vessels, have been searching through rain and snow, dealing with poor visibility.

Italy's Ansa news agency reports there's an oil slick. The U.S. Air Force says the pilot's condition is unknown at this hour.

New developments this morning surrounding the nightclub fire in Brazil that killed 231 people. Police made four arrests and questioned 20 others in that case. Two of those in custody are owners of the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria. The two others are members of the band that was playing at the club when the fire broke out. Police say that band used pyrotechnics as part of its stage show.

And last night, mourners held a march in Santa Maria. They released 231 white balloons into the sky, one balloon for each person killed in that fire.

It looks like clear sailing for the man President Obama wants as his next secretary of state. John Kerry is expected to be confirmed this morning by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full Senate after that.

When the Kerry confirmation is official, the race for his Senate seat kicks in. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will first appoint someone to fill Kerry's seat until a special election is held in June.

Back to you guys.

BALDWIN: Thank you, Christine.

Ahead this morning here on STARTING POINT: it is her last week in office and oh yes we're jumping in on the 2016 chatter which is getting louder and louder. We are looking into Hillary Clinton's political tea leaves with the former adviser to President Bill Clinton, David Gergen.

BERMAN: Plus, his film wracked up eight Oscar nods, including one for best director. David O. Russell of "Silver Linings Playbook", he will join us live.

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BALDWIN: In a little over an hour here, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is holding this town hall style event on YouTube. So that means you can ask some questions.

BERMAN: She'll take questions via satellite and from social media and this is just a few days before she officially steps down on Friday.

We want to bring in senior CNN political analyst David Gergen. He was an adviser to several former presidents, including Bill Clinton. Nice to see you this morning, David.

BALDWIN: Good morning.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. Good morning all.

BERMAN: So, she's got this town meeting today, Secretary Clinton does. She's also got a series of interviews, one interview after another after another after another. What's she doing here? GERGEN: She's having a wonderful farewell, and I think she's probably enjoying every minute of it, and frankly, she deserves it.

BALDWIN: Have other secretary of states done this in the past? We were trying to think this morning, or is this sort of a first, all these interviews and this very open --

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: Well, I don't think we've ever seen a secretary of state have a farewell interview with the president of the United States sitting next to him or her on "60 Minutes." That is a first. So, yes, there's other a lot -- I think this is basically unprecedented. The speech that she's giving tomorrow is very important with the council on foreign relations on America's leadership in the world and that I think is a more traditional way of saying farewell.

It's a time to sort of sum up her views of where this country is going, where the world is going, and what role we should play. And I -- you know, she's long believed that we should have a more muscular role than, perhaps, even her successor will have. We'll wait and see.

SOCARIDES: David, it seems to me that the big shift here, you know, there are a lot of people who'd like her to run for president, myself included, but the big shift, you know, for a long time she said she wasn't running. She wouldn't run. She was just going to take it easy, but now when asked about it, she seems to say, well, you know, we'll have to wait and see. That's a big change, no?

GERGEN: You're right. There's been a morphing that's been going on here, slight, subtle changes. I think the truth is, she doesn't know. Everybody who knows her well tells me she hasn't made up her mind. She does want this rest. I think there's going to be a question of her health, that she has to consider, and at some point, she'll have to come forward and people will want to know what her health records are if she decides to run.

She's going to be under pressure to make a decision sooner rather than later. She can't wait, I think, more than a year or so because there are going to be so many other aspirates. But, here's the deal. She's got -- she starts often in an enormously popular position.

As you well know, when Gallup takes a poll of the most admired woman in the world, she had -- in this U.S. poll, she has been number one for 11 straight years, 11 straight years. It's remarkable. The best record of any woman on the Gallup Polls which stretches all the way back to 1948.

So, she's in a very powerful position, but then, she has to weigh it against another proposition and that is, she has to get some sense of how well the Obama administration is going to perform this second term.

If you think about it, since the Roosevelt/Truman years, we've had five occasions when one party has held the White House for eight straight years. And in the next election, the out party has won four out of those five, only in one instance when Ronald Reagan was succeeded by George H.W. Bush did the end party win a second time.

So, you see, that depends to some considerable extent on the performance. Does this economy come back? Does it remain anemic? What happens to jobs? That sorts of things. So, I think the calculations here are not as simple as it may appear on the surface. She's got to -- and a little more time would, perhaps, give more clarity to our path.

FOER: Is there anything from her record as secretary of state that could come back to haunt her as a presidential candidate?

GERGEN: I don't think so. The Benghazi affair, I think, will long be forgotten unless there's some smoking gun we have no idea about. What will be chewed over, but you know, a number of conservatives have now, like Brit Hume has said her record of secretary of state is much less impressive than people are supposing.

But, you know, look at the public narrative, the public narrative, the public has basically concluded she did a very good job. Yes, she didn't have a lot of big triumphs. She didn't get a Nobel Prize for some particular breakthrough in the Middle East, but, she's had a very substantial record and the public looks upon her.

And the dignity in which she carried herself, the fact that she and President Obama did seem to go more from the team of rivals to the team of friends, all of that, I think, is still in good standing and I think her record as secretary of state will be a strong plus, not a minus.

BERMAN: All right. David Gergen, nice to see you this morning. Thank you for joining us to join in the speculation. We're only to eager to talk about 2016.

BALDWIN: We mentioned the round of interviews and we just want to tell you that before Secretary Clinton actually steps down, as we mentioned Friday officially here, Jill Dougherty and Elise Labott conduct her exit interview. Do not miss that today, 4:00 Eastern, in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

BERMAN: And up next from us, from hoax to helping hand, how this shocking and fake video of a baby snatched by an eagle went from viral video to helping a good cause?

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. Some of the stories trending on the web this morning, a World War II veteran with a taste for Burger King hamburgers had it his way during his own funeral.

BALDWIN: Eighty-eight-year-old David Kime from West York, Pennsylvania apparently loved Whopper Juniors so, so much so that after he died from a heart attack, his family arranged one last drive through the drive-thru and then onward they went to his funeral procession.

BERMAN: I love that. That's sort of my favorite story.

All right. A wounded warrior who lost his arms and legs in 2009 while fighting in Iraq is now recovering from a double arm transplant.

BALDWIN: That's incredible.

BERMAN: Doctors performed the surgery on Brendan Marrocco last month to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He will talk to reporters later today at a press conference. But Marrocco has made a few comments about it on Twitter already. He says his new arms already move a little and that "I feel like I finally get to start over."

BALDWIN: That is my favorite story. Hopefully, we can talk to him, too.

And you remember that viral video, it's all over the place, claimed to show this eagle, right, swooping down to grab this baby? Well, the video hoax was created by three students at an animation and design school up in Montreal. The school says the money generated by the video will now be used to pay for a new scholarship program.

No word yet from school officials on what almost 42 million hits add up to in terms of dollars and cents. Forty-two million watching that.

BERMAN: They were on the show, cool, cool kids.

BALDWIN: What were they saying?

BERMAN: They're amazing, you know, into technology. They want to make movies in the future, and I think they have the talents --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

BALDWIN: Good for them, we say.

BERMAN: All right. So, ahead on STARTING POINT, what would President Obama's immigration plan mean for the economy? We have a Nobel Prize winning economist and they don't, you know, they're not a dime a dozen exactly.

BALDWIN: No, they're not, Berman.

BERMAN: "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman is live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Twenty-eight minutes past the hour here. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. In a matter of minutes, we've been discussing through the commercial break, he's a Nobel Prize winning economist.

BERMAN: Not me.

BALDWIN: And his ideas on the deficit getting a lot of attention, no, not you. "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman is here live. BERMAN: Then, he's one of Hollywood's most sought after directors, David O. Russell, is here live to talk about his Oscar nominated movie, "Silver Linings Playbook."

BALDWIN: But before we get to both of those, Christine Romans with some more of the day's top stories. Hello again.

ROMANS: Good morning again to you on this Tuesday morning.

A wave of new protest in Egypt overnight despite that President Mohamed Morsi's 30-day curfew. Demonstrators took to the streets in Cairo and cities along with Suez Canal where they clashed with police and even attempted to storm a prison. At least 45 people, including civilians and soldiers have been killed in Egypt over just the past two days in the separate clashes.

The search intensifying this morning for an American mother who disappeared without a trace in Turkey. Sarai Sierra was on vacation, traveling alone in Istanbul. She was in regular contact with her family until last Monday. The following day she never checked into her flight back to New York. Most of her belongings, including her passport were found at the hostel where she was staying. Sarai's husband and brother are now in Turkey searching for her.

The prognosis is grim for snowmobiler Caleb Moore who suffered serious injuries last Thursday in a crash at the Winter X Games in Aspen. A family spokesman says the 25-year-old Moore is in critical condition at a hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado. Moore had heart surgery on Friday. Doctors saw now he's dealing with brain complications as well.

Live pictures of an oil storage facility explosion out of Van, Texas. It started about 3:00 a.m. this morning, about 70 miles east of Dallas. You can see that signal going in and out.