Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Confirms Nuclear Test; State of the Union Tonight; Interview with Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; New England Digging Out After the Storm; Reeling From the Resignation; Speculation for the Next Pope

Aired February 12, 2013 - 06:30   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: The blast heard around the world. North Korea claiming another nuclear test.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Counting down to the State of the Union address, with President Obama set to challenge the Republican Party. A congressional Republican joins us live.

SAMBOLIN: And the Catholic Church with a big void to fill. We'll look at who could be on the short list to replace Pope Benedict XVI.

Welcome back to EARLY START. Happy to have you with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. I'm in Washington, D.C. today for the State of the Union, which is tonight. We will have more on that speech just moments away.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Looking forward to that. But, first, we have some developments overnight.

North Korea has done it again. The nation's state-run news agency reporting that it has successfully conducted a third underground nuclear test. And reaction is pouring in from around the world. In just a few hours, the U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting and the U.S. is taking this test very seriously.

So, let's bring in CNN's Barbara Starr. She is live at the Pentagon. And, obviously, this test is worrisome. There's a lot of public condemnation. But behind the scenes, Barbara, what is the deeper concern.

BERMAN: Have you read the "Esquire" story of the SEAL with bin Laden --


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Look, Zoraida, one of the biggest problems right now is whether or not North Korea really has achieved a miniaturized bomb. They say they set off a smaller, more lethal explosive, if you will. Miniaturization is key. That means they could possibly put a small warhead on a missile sooner than expected and deliver it to a target.

So, now, the CIA, the Pentagon, all has to look at this to determine what they set off and essentially now work backwards. If it was a miniaturized bomb, what did it take North Korea to get there? Where did they get the technology, the engineering, the expertise, the money to do it?

They're going to look at what it would have taken North Korea to achieve what they say they achieved and trying to figure out how they did it and who might have helped them -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And you say that because there's been a lot of skepticism as to where they are in this program right now.

STARR: That's exactly right. You know, the U.S. has, you know, behind the scenes, has been very skeptical for years. But, look, in December, they successfully launched a long-range ballistic missile, by all accounts, a successful underground nuclear test.

So they are achieving some level of expertise in their technology, and engineering. And that is vital if they are getting the help potentially and we don't know from Iran, from Pakistan. These are key issues that there might be people in those countries helping them. And is North Korea then sharing what it knows, its expertise now, back with countries like Iran?

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it raises --

STARR: This is --

SAMBOLIN: Yes, it raises a lot of questions.

STARR: This is a nuclear hub nobody wants to see.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I want to get your perspective on something. It's the timing of this, with the State of the Union address. Coincidental?

STARR: Well, you know, you got to wonder, don't you? I mean, tonight, we expect President Obama had every intention of announcing additional cuts in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. This is something he has been trying to achieve. The incoming Secretary of Defense Hagel wants to see. Now, will the president do it? Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: All right. Barbara Starr, live at the Pentagon, thank you very much.

Wondering now if the president will actually address this tonight. John, what do you think?

BERMAN: You know, he will talk about foreign policy. Foreign policy will not be the thrust of the speech, we're told. The economy, jobs, other issues. But when he talks about foreign policy, it's a pretty safe bet now that North Korea will be on his mind.

Of course, the president set to give that address tonight at 9:00 Eastern Time. Reports, though, indicate that he may do a little bit more finger-pointing this time than reaching across the aisle.

Congressman Adam Kinzinger is a Republican from Illinois. Thanks for joining us this morning.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R), ILLINOIS: Hey. Good to be here. Thanks.

BERMAN: So, everyone is talking about the president's tone. There were some Republicans who were not happy with the tone of the inaugural address and we're getting some previews about how the president may sound tonight. And Glenn Thrush at "Politico" says that his sources say the president will pay lip service to bipartisanship, but don't expect anything like the call for peaceful collaboration that defined his first to a joint session of Congress in 2009.

KINZINGER: This is more of the same. I mean, and this is what's sad. I think this is an opportunity. The president has an amazing opportunity to say big things, to call Republicans and Democrats together, to say, look, both sides are going to have to accept things they don't want in order to solve the huge problems in this country and, frankly, for future generations. I mean, that's what's missing, the discussion of what happens next with the next generation of Americans and, unfortunately, you know, to descend back to partisan rhetoric when you have such an amazing opportunity here.

I sat, you know, 30 yards from the president in the inauguration and I really did expect him to talk about those big opportunities, something large, and didn't hear it. I just heard some rhetoric.

And, again, tonight, I hope if his goal is right now to do this partisan speech, I hope he changes his mind today and rewrites the speech and comes to work with the Republicans.

BERMAN: There are issues on both sides of the aisle.


BERMAN: You look what's happening with the audience tonight, with the Republican congressman from Texas bringing Ted Nugent, a rocker and gun rights advocate who's had some really harsh things to say about the president. Does that set the right tone?

KINZINGER: Well, look, I mean, that's -- you know, each congressman gets to bring one person with them. I'm bringing my sister tonight. In my mind, it's that we have really big issues. A $16.5 trillion debt that youth have to pay for, we've got an energy crisis in this country. We have a jobs crisis in the country. There's a lot that needs to be done. There's a real opportunity to come together.

And trust me, the tone out here has to change. The personal has to go away and we have to work together.

BERMAN: But don't you think bringing Ted Nugent could be seen as a little provocative.

KINZINGER: Well, look, bringing -- again, he has his choice. I'm not going to criticize him on the air, but I will say, in the big picture, this is a huge deal tonight, a huge opportunity for both sides to come together.

I'm a member of a group called No Labels, which brings Republicans and Democrats together to say let's find common-ground solutions, because, frankly, our kids and grandkids, which I don't have yet, but I will someday, I hope, are relying on this --

BERMAN: How is the No Labels thing going so far? Are you encouraged, discouraged? It's been going on for a few months now.

KINZINGER: No, I'm very encouraged. It's an opportunity again for both sides to come together and have these discussions that need to happen. And so, no budget, no pay. This is an idea out of No Labels, and I think this is the beginning of shifting the tone in Washington from the personal to actually getting some things done.

BERMAN: You are on the foreign affairs economy.


BERMAN: Overnight, we had news that there's explosion in North Korea, some kind of nuclear test we suspect. What are your feelings about that?

KINZINGER: That's scary. You know, once again, at a point in the sequester of hollowing out our military. We have to have a real discussion tonight with how to avert that, but have real cuts, and this is pretty scary. So --

BERMAN: It's interesting. You know, Congressman Matt Cartwright brought up the sequester also on the issue of North Korea.

KINZINGER: Yes. I think this is important. It's important for us to work together to avert the cuts to the military, but have real cuts because right now, our spending cut is out of control.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Republican, thank you for joining us.

KINZINGER: Great to be here. Thanks.

BERMAN: Have fun tonight.


BERMAN: You can watch the president's State of the Union address tonight live on CNN. Our coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Catch all the highlights, all the best bits of analysis tomorrow morning on EARLY START, live here from Washington, beginning at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you.

And taking a look at top some of the CNN trends, the first of two tug boats reached the Carnival cruise ship that was drifting in the Gulf of Mexico Monday night, or is drifting, I should say. It will begin towing the ship and the more than 4,200 people that are on board to a port in Alabama. It is expected to arrive sometime Thursday. A spokesman for Carnival cruise line says it was an engine fire that has left that ship stranded since Sunday.

So, also, turning. Take a look at this folks. That's lightning strike. It's a sign from above perhaps? This happens just hours after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation. Lightning actually struck the Vatican. I was looking online to see if it's ever good news, if it's ever to get struck by lightning. But I think the answer is no.

Thirty-eight minutes past the hour.

It's a test of patience this morning for the people still stuck at home in 40 inches of snow after the Northeast blizzard. A live look just ahead.


BERMAN: So, we wanted to make sure I wasn't lonely here in Washington. So, Soledad O'Brien came down for STARTING POINT. What's ahead?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, "STARTING POINT": It's the least I could do for you.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, we continue to talk about North Korea and the claim that it's launched an underground nuclear test. It's the third time the country has performed such a test. We'll tell you how the White House and now the international community is reacting this morning.

And what does the act mean for the State of the Union address tonight? He was expected to focus on jobs. Does that message now change?

We'll take a look what the president is expected to say with Gene Sperling. He's the director of the National Economic Council.

Also, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson will be back with us, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper will be joining us.

Then, less than two months ago, the country almost went off the fiscal cliff. Remember that? So, how did we get so close to the brink?

There's a new documentary out called "Cliffhanger". It exposes what really went on behind closed doors. The director is Mark Kirk, and he's joining me live to talk about that.

BERMAN: You know, it's really interesting to see both a Republican congressman and a Democrat congressman on the show this morning. They say that North Korea nuclear tests is reason to avoid the sequester. They're both talking about North Korea in terms of the sequester, which I found interesting.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. Yes, no question. The timing of this is very interesting. BERMAN: Excellent. All right. Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you.

The blizzard is long gone but thousands of people in the Northeast are still stuck in their homes. It is now three days later. They are waiting for someone to dig them out. On Long Island, plows are struggling to reach neighborhoods buried in 2 1/2 feet of snow. In Massachusetts, where three feet of snow fell in some places, over 100,000 customers were still without power, those were the numbers last night.

And one of the hardest hit areas in the region is Hamden, Connecticut, where 40 inches fell, and much of it still plowed this morning.

That's where we find George Howell this morning. And, George, with all of the snow out there, how are residents managing?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, fair to say, people are getting around a little easier today I can say than in the past few days. In fact, we're starting to see daylight over here, something we haven't seen in a while. A lot of snow is starting to melt. You do still see snow plows and payloaders doing the job of clearing these roads.

It's when you get into the neighborhoods, though, Zoraida, that's where you see the problems. There are still, as you mentioned, those unplowed roads. There are still people who are stuck in their homes.

But you find here in Hamden, it's a community that comes together. You got neighbors helping neighbors, to clear driveways, to clear sidewalks and people are very, very patient here. They are very patient about waiting this out and that's what officials say is very important, because this cleanup could take, you know, several weeks after having 40 inches of snow.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, no kidding. We're at the end of day three, and it looks stockpiled behind you.

So, we know Superstorm Sandy cost the state of Connecticut over $360 million. So people are still recovering from that. Any sense on what the cost is for the overall damage, the cleanup, this time around?

HOWELL: You know, I was talking to the mayor here of Hamden about dollars and cents the other day, and it seems like the situation here is still being assessed. You have those crews that are still out there clearing roads. Again, it's still unclear how long it will take to clear the roads, but we know that the president did declare Connecticut an emergency, a state of emergency. Federal dollars are coming this way to help with local efforts to clear the roads, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And you mentioned another thing headed their way is more snow today?

HOWELL: A lot of it is melting, and that's good news. You know, the other day, we saw a lot of black ice on the roads. You mentioned me doing the sort of moonwalk, because it was easy to do. You slide around here so easily. Good news this morning, fewer slick spots. The commute will better than it was the other day.

SAMBOLIN: All right. That's a little bit of good news for the folks out there. George Howell, nice to have you out there. Thank you.

HOWELL: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: It is 45 minutes past the hour. Michael Vick took a big pay cut to stay in Philadelphia, a place the star quarterback says where his heart is. Jared Greenberg joins us now for today's Bleacher Report. Good morning.

JARED GREENBERG, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning. A new coaching staff, new playbook, however, there will not be a new quarterback in Philadelphia. The Eagle getting Michael Vick another chance to run the offense.

The polarizing figure has agreed has agreed to restructure his contract with the Eagles and reported one year deal that could earn Vick up to $10 million and is wildly believe that Vick best pitch, the prototype for Chip Kelly's new offense. Kelly hasn't agreed Vick the starting job. He will compete with Nick Foles.

Imaging losing nearly $13 million on Christmas, nonetheless? Injured pitcher Francisco Liriano did just that while attempting to scare his children. Yes. He said it scared his kids on Christmas. Liriano broke his non-pitching arm. Now, he won't be able to make his Pittsburgh debut until May, thus potentially forgoing millions. Can't we all hear mom saying no horsing around in the house?

The Golden State Warriors are making a fashion statement. Ignore the blinding neon yellow, the Warriors want you to focus on the sleeves. The first NBA team to stray from the traditional tank top. They say the new jerseys are also 26 percent lighter. Golden State will debut the sleeves on February 22nd. No word yet if the new look will be seen later this week in any New York City fashion shows.

All right. Early candidate for sports video of the year. Anna Olsen (ph) from three-quarter court. No chance, right, Anna? How about the biggest bounce (ph) we've ever seen? The high school junior from Colorado with a shot that defies science. Anna Olsen (ph) with a whole lot of girl power.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. That's incredible.

GREENBERG: Unbelievable shot there. One of the best we've ever seen.

SAMBOLIN: Love that it was a girl.

GREENBERG: It certainly was. For more on that shot and everything else happening in the sports world, we invite to you to log on to

Now, Olsen High School is in Monument, Colorado. So, what do you think? The town should build a monument in her honor?

SAMBOLIN: Indeed. I'm in if I get a vote. Thank you so much. We really appreciate it, Jared Greenberg.

GREENBERG: We'll see you next hour.


Forty-eight minutes past the hour. The Vatican left scrambling after Pope Benedict's sudden announcement that he is, indeed, retiring. A closer look at how they'll pick the new Pope and who it could be, coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Let the speculation begin as news of Pope Benedict XVI's unprecedented resignation continues to resonate. Catholics now speculating about who the future head of their church could be. Some of the names being thrown around are Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Cardinal Marc Quellet, Cardinal Angelo Scola, Cardinal Donal Wuerl, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

But who else could become pontiff and what does the future of the Catholic Church hold? Joining me now is Raymond Arroyo, news director to Eternal World Television Network and host of "World Over Life." Thank you so much for joining us. It's nice to finally see your face after you chatted with us yesterday on the phone.

All right. So, let's talk about this list of successors. Let's start with that, because we put up a list there. Do you --


SAMBOLIN: Does it change from what you think that list or who should be on that list?

ARROYO: You know, Zoraida, any time we engage in this kind of speculation this early on, we're bound to be wrong. I mean, all of those men, any of those men are certainly qualified, but it really is, what are these cardinal electors looking for as they go in? No doubt, the papal resignation will help shape the qualities they're looking for.

Remember, the Pope just resigned because he felt he didn't have the vigor and he didn't have the energy to not only run the Vatican, but to sort of carry the gospel to the world to carry out these large global travels and trips abroad. So, I think they will be looking for somebody that has that evangelical spirit and the vigor and stamina for the job.

Benedict, I think, also probably stepped down, because, remember, he watched John Paul II'S demise and watched his powers fade, and what happens when a Pope declines in power, the bureaucracy inevitably increases. And, I don't think he particularly enjoyed what was happening at that time and may be seeing tremors of that again, which is why he probably decided to go ahead and retire early. SAMBOLIN: So, let's stay on successors here for a moment.


SAMBOLIN: Is there any possibility that an American would -- we have Dolan on there. Is there any possibility that we could see an American Pope?

ARROYO: I love Cardinal Dolan. I've known him since he was a priest. If I could elect a Pope, I'd elect Dolan. But half of these electors are Europeans, the other half are predominantly Africans and Asians. The likelihood of them electing an American Pope is remote, because America already has such a huge influence on the world to also give it a papacy they think might be a bridge too far.

At least, that was the mindset going into the last conclave. I imagine, it will hold through here. Look for a European, I would -- I mean, right now, if you were -- you know, begging me to give you an answer, I'd probably say look at Cardinal Quellet from Canada, look at Cardila Scola, who the Pope incidentally sort of anointed or so they say when he was made archbishop of Milan.

SAMBOLIN: Let me ask you about that. How much of an influence will he have on his successor?

ARROYO: I think he'll have an enormous influence. I think this was part of the calculation, that he would retire but still be of sound mind and able to advice a bit in that pre-conclave period. Remember, it is that time before the conclave when the cardinals meet over dinners, when they have time to talk quietly.

And, I spoke to a number of cardinals yesterday. All of them except for one said his first order of business was to go see the current Pope. They want to spend some time with him, get his thoughts before they get pulled into this conclave experience. But, you know, the chances are, there are going to be a good week, two weeks before the conclave.

That is when coalitions begin to build, people begin to listen, and have those discussions that then lead to a candidate emerging once they get to into Sistine chapel.

SAMBOLIN: Big things we have no time to talk about is whether the next Pope, you think, will be a conservative much like Benedict or whether or not, we will see, you know, somewhat more of a moderate hope. But anyway, we're going to chat with you some more. I love having you. Raymond Arroyo, appreciate your time.

ARROYO: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, that is it for EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman in Washington. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien begins right now.