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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Celebrating The New Pope; U.S. Citizen To Lead Syria's Interim Government; Former Oklahoma Quarterback Killed In Plane Crash; "Perhaps I Should Have Readministered That Test"; Dozens Killed in Baghdad Blasts; The Iraq War: 10 Years Later; House Democrats Reveal Budget; RNC "Autopsy" Report; Heat Win Streak At 23; Dominican Republic Undefeated In WBC; Wingsuits In Rio; Tiger Woods And Lindsey Vonn Dating

Aired March 19, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: STARTING POINT this morning, we're looking at Pope Francis. He's been meeting with dignitaries from around the world after he was inaugurated in a Vatican ceremony that was beautiful and steeped in tradition.

Vice President Biden leading the American delegation in Rome shook the pope's hand just a few minutes ago. Want to get right to Father Thomas Rosica, he is the deputy spokesman for the Vatican. It's nice to have you with us, sir. We certainly appreciate it.

FATHER THOMAS ROSICA, VATICAN DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: Thank you, it's good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate that, sir. Give me some of the highlights of the -- not just the, the homily, but the entire mass for you. What did you find most remarkable, and what we had an opportunity to see?

ROSICA: Well, we were surprised because when the pope went through the crowd of about 200,000 people they're telling us, he stopped the pope mobile, he got out and he went to embrace a sick person. And he's given us all kinds of indications, since he began his work last Wednesday night that this is not going to be an ordinary pope.

This is somebody who wants to be very close to the people and the clear joy of the people in the square spilled out all the way down, there's something new, of course, right now. And of course the liturgy, already he's given us some indications of his style of liturgy, very simple, very sober, but also very much direct to people's hearts and minds. And the homily, of course, was very beautiful.

O'BRIEN: His sister, Maria Elena Bergoglio did an interview with CNN Espanol yesterday and one of the things, very funny, she was revealing what he had told her to sort of pass on to the rest of the family. She said that he said this, I cannot call everyone. We are very big family, so please send them my love.

Because if I call everyone it will empty the Vatican coffers, and I thought that was both an indication of his sense of humor, but also I think reiterating, and underscoring, what you've said about his sense of -- of simplicity, and -- and I guess also the idea that, he's going to be a different kind of pope than what we have seen in the past.

ROSICA: You know, he's certainly drawing from the strength of his predecessors. When I saw him appear on the balcony last week the first thing that flashed through my mind is this is John XXIII or this is John Paul I in the smile.

This is boldness and courage of John Paul II. This is the depth of Pope Benedict. But Cardinal Bergoglio brings to the office now as Pope Francis his own gifts. And one of those great gifts has been his simple way of living in Buenos Aires, his closeness to the poor.

He's not afraid to be near people and that's so much so important. He works those themes of love and kindness and gentleness into the homily, the whole thing of taking care of creation. He talked about the Harrods that out there like King Harrod who come to destroy joy and take us away from things we're supposed to be doing.

So this is somebody who's speaking directly to people's hearts. I know being here for the past month, especially the past week people are blown away by what they see. They haven't seen this for a long time.

O'BRIEN: Father Thomas Rosica is a Vatican deputy spokesperson. Thank you for talking with us this morning. We certainly appreciate it and thank you for bearing with those alarms, and the -- the sirens going on behind you we appreciate that as well.

Let's get right to John Berman. He's got a look at some of the other stories making news this morning.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Thanks, Soledad. So Syrian rebels have picked a Syrian born American, American citizen, as their provisional prime minister. The main opposition coalition elected 50- year-old Hassan Itu to lead an interim Syrian government. Among his responsibilities making sure aid gets to rebels inside Syria and offering an alternative to the government of President Bashar Al- Assad.

A former University of Oklahoma quarterback is among two people killed when a corporate jet crashed into a row of homes in South Bend, Indiana on Sunday. The 60-year-old Steven Davis died in the crash. He led the Oklahoma Sooners to two national championships in the 1970s, also killed in the crash 58-year-old Wesley Caves from Tulsa. Investigators still don't what caused that jet to go down.

Setbacks for the defense in the Jodi Arias murder trial. A key defense witness, psychologist Richard Samuels already testified that Arias suffers from acute distress disorder, which developed into post traumatic stress disorder. Samuels on the stand again yesterday admitting he should have re-examined Arias after she admitted lying about who killed her boyfriend Travis Alexander.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just said knowing that this was a lie. You used it and then concluded that those confirm the presence of PTSD even though you just now told us that this is based on a lie.

RICHARD SAMUELS, DEFENSE WITNESS: Perhaps I should have re-admitted the test.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Wow. At the time Samuel tested Arias in January of 2010, she was claiming two unknown intruders had killed Alexander.

So on this 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion, deadly proof that Iraq is still at war with itself. Nearly 50 people have been killed and scores more wounded in an outbreak of bombings and shootings. Most of the attacks have been in Baghdad and Shiite areas.

This really is such a fragile democracy at this point and I talked about this with Paul Bremer. He was the American civilian tapped to run Iraq in the early 2003. Ambassador Bremer vividly remembers the day he arrived there. The invasion was over, but the trouble was just beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL BREMER, FORMER U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: It was chaotic. I remember looking down from the C-130 as we prepared to land in Baghdad airport, and the city was on fire. We could see buildings on fire all throughout the ground below us, as we drove into town, we could see looters out in the streets.

BERMAN: In retrospect, given the scope and size of the issues that we faced so quickly, did we know what we were getting into?

BREMER: I'm a civilian side, you can argue that the civilian plans were written on a bunch of assumptions that turned out not to be true. They thought that there was the same kind of post-war situation there had been in 1991. It didn't turn out right.

So the civilian plans were sort of based on the wrong assumptions. Military plans were based on the idea that we could get in and get out quickly and indeed it was unrealistic. So did we, did we prepare correctly for the post-war? No. We didn't.

BERMAN: Biggest regret?

BREMER: I think the biggest regret I have is that we did not do security right from the beginning. Discouraged, I think the Iraqi people that while they're being occupied, they're not being occupied by a government that is willing to provide them security.

BERMAN: So biggest accomplishment in the 10 years?

BREMER: The biggest accomplishment was the Iraqi constitution. It is the most progressive constitution anywhere in the Arab world. We've seen the problems that are going on still today in Egypt to get a reasonable constitution.

The Iraqi constitution is much more liberal. That's important because it does give them a structure from which they can -- they choose to do it, preserve a real representative government.

BERMAN: Looking back 10 years now, given the chaos, given the loss of life, given the struggles, given the fact there were no weapons of mass destruction found, was it worth it?

BREMER: Yes, I think it was. I think the -- despite huge sacrifice the American people and the Iraqi people have made, the Iraqi people are unquestionably living in a freer, more open, and much more productive country than they were in ten years ago.

You know, the thing that people really forget when they think about Iraq is how brutal Saddam's dictatorship was. This was probably the most brutal dictatorship anywhere on the face of the earth in 2003. He was an absolute tyrant. No other word for it.

BERMAN: There's still sectarian violence or bombings almost every week right now. Amnesty International says there are human rights violations regularly, there are still problems.

BREMER: If your question really is where does Iraq come out in the broad scale of things? I think itself it's going to turn out OK, but, there are real problems now. Al Maliki, the prime minister, has certainly slid back on some of the democratic institutions that we helped them create ten years ago and that is not good. That needs to be reversed.

BERMAN: Have you been back?

BREMER: No.

BERMAN: Will you ever go back?

BREMER: I would like to go back, but there are some security problems there. I still have a price on my head from al Qaeda so I'm not sure it would be wise. Certainly my wife doesn't think it would be very wise.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: Now, Ambassador Bremer was famous for those boots that he wore with his business suit when he was in Iraq for a year. He said he still actually has the boots in a closet. His wife only lets him bring them out once a year for a sort of reunion.

O'BRIEN: He says that, you know, from the perspective of the Iraqis, was it worth it and it would be interesting to hear from the Iraqis as well --

BERMAN: -- they have very complicated feelings about this. Almost every Iraqi you talk to will say that they resent the security situation. They're very grateful that the U.S. got rid of Saddam Hussein, but they hate the occupation and there's a lot that is still unsettled in their country.

O'BRIEN: -- for the United States I guess is the question?

BERMAN: Was it worth it for the United States? That is a very good question. He didn't seem to answer that directly.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Do you counsel a lot of people who are Iraq vets over the past years?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I haven't seen a lot. But I have a few, post traumatic syndrome.

O'BRIEN: Is there a sense that the sacrifice for them, and I suppose those who have PTSD -- do they feel like it was something they were proud to be part of or do they look back and think, ten years later, what was done?

BECK: -- spoken to me and they were disappointed. They feel as though a lot of it was for naught and they wonder about their investment and time and their lot.

CHRIS JOHN FARLEY, SENIOR EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, DIGITAL FEATURES, WSJ: A key question also is why were the assumptions wrong, the assumptions on the military side, on the civilian side. We acknowledge there were mistakes made, but why were those mistakes made and that's something people need to examine going forward.

O'BRIEN: Key questions could fill a back amazing.

We have not had any official government budget since 2009. The battle to get one past the House and the Senate will be on and the real fight could be on how to avoid a government shutdown that will happen next week a ranking member of the Budget Committee is going to be our guest up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: This morning in Washington, D.C., it's a battle of words and numbers too. Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on budget proposals today. This is Washington, D.C., over the Republican Party's so-called autopsy report why they lost the election in 2012.

Let's get right to Maryland Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. It's nice to have you with us, sir. We always appreciate it.

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You and your Democratic colleagues in the House have introduced your own budget and I want to walk through some of the features of that budget if I may up on the screen, $200 billion in defense cuts, $141 billion in savings from Medicare, $1.2 trillion in new tax revenue over 10 years, 200 billion in job creation packages, and turns off those forced spending cuts.

So I guess I want you to give me the map on one part of that, that $1.2 trillion in new tax revenue over ten years. Where exactly does that come from?

VAN HOLLEN: That comes from the elimination of tax loopholes and tax expenditures for very wealthy people. You recall during the last presidential election, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan both told us that there were trillions of dollars of tax breaks for very wealthy people. They proposed to eliminate them as part of tax reform where they reduced the rate. We say, let's take some of that revenue to help reduce the deficit, combined with other targeted cuts.

O'BRIEN: Be more specific for me, when you talk about tax loopholes and the very wealthy, which specific loopholes and what is very wealthy? What's the number for you on that?

VAN HOLLEN: Sure, sure, well, these are -- when you're in the highest tax bracket. If you're in the 39 percent tax bracket, when you get a deduction, whatever it may be for, you get 39 cents worth of deduction.

Whereas somebody who is in the 28 percent tax bracket only gets 28 cents deduction for that particular deduction. So what we're saying and this is similar to a proposal the president's put forward, is that for folks who are in that very high bracket.

The 39 percent bracket, the value of your deductions will be limited to about 28 percent, which is what the value of deductions is for a middle income taxpayer.

O'BRIEN: So ultimately, the budget that you have there and I just read the little chunk of it, you have more revenue increases than cuts, right?

VAN HOLLEN: Within, within this particular budget, but if you look, Soledad, at the two-year period of reduction we've been engaged in, which is -- includes the $1.5 trillion in cuts, if you look at everything that we've done, we actually have higher ratio of cuts to revenue.

And we have a higher ratio of cuts to revenue than the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission report did. So we believe when you take everything in, that we actually have a much more balanced approach as measured by that bipartisan yardstick.

O'BRIEN: I want to ask you a question about this RNC autopsy. Did you see the, I guess the press conference where they sort of laid it out? What did you think of that and what do you think of the RNC autopsy?

VAN HOLLEN: I did.

O'BRIEN: OK, what's your assessment?

VAN HOLLEN: Look, we all know that the first step on the road to recovery is to recognize that you've got a problem, but you've got to diagnose the problem correctly. And with the exception of immigration reform, I didn't hear any new ideas coming out of that assessment.

And if you look at the budget that the house Republicans have put forward, it's simply what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were talking about in the election, which is the trickle-down notion of economic development, where, providing tax breaks to people at the very top is somehow supposed to lift everybody up. Well, we know that doesn't work, which is why our budget focuses on accelerating the economy and putting people back to work right now, for example getting rid of the sequester. So I guess the bottom line, Soledad, it's good they're recognizing they've got a problem, but as far as I can tell they misdiagnosed.

O'BRIEN: Although you say with the exception of immigration and immigration is a big exception. You can see Paul Rand talking about a pathway to some kind of citizenship in the Tea Party. That's I think a little bit of a surprise for some people.

Do you worry as a Democrat that with Republicans, I think, correctly analyzing the issue, and the problem they have with the fastest growing demographic in this country that that's going to be a real challenge to Democrats?

VAN HOLLEN: Look, I'm glad that our Republican colleagues are finally on board with immigration reform. We've gone at a very short period of time --

O'BRIEN: Right, but that's not my question. My question is do you worry that that's going to be -- a part of getting them to capture the hearts and minds of --

VAN HOLLEN: No, I don't worry --

O'BRIEN: -- who might identify as really Republicans if there were not these issues with immigration.

VAN HOLLEN: Look, Soledad, we're interested in the result and the result is good for the country is to finally get comprehensive immigration reform. What I'm concerned about is that if we're able to get a bill out of the Senate, that we may have trouble getting a vote in the House.

But, I ultimately think Speaker Boehner will be pressured to allow a full vote in the House. And to your question, I fear that you're still going to get an overwhelming number of House Republicans voting against it, but since we'll have enough Democrats in the house combined with some Republicans, it. But hopefully we can ultimately get it through.

O'BRIEN: Chris Van Hollen, it's nice to have you with us. We appreciate your times as always.

VAN HOLLEN: Thanks, good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

So Tiger Woods making it official, he's got a new girlfriend. Why this is breaking news, I'm not sure, but we'll tell you about it, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. The Miami Heat's streak continues, despite a strong effort from the Celtics last night, the Heat managed to escape Boston with the 23rd straight win. So Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report" for us. Now how close are we to them taking the record, Andy?

ANDY SCHOLES, "BLEACHER REPORT": Getting closer and closer day by day. They're within ten now. Last night's game, Boston definitely a playoff like feel to it, Celtics, they had won 11 straight at home, and the Heat, of course, continue to chase history with its current winning streak.

Boston, led this game by as many as 17 points in the first half, but Lebron would not be denied. Here in the second quarter, he absolutely posterizes Jason Terry with the alley-hoop slam, actually get the technical foul for taunting afterward.

And when the game was on the line, Lebron will knock down the 18 footer, gives the Heat the lead for good. Miami wins at 105-103. They are now ten wins away from tying the '72 Lakers for the longest winning streak in NBA history.

In case, you weren't aware, the NCAA Tournament actually kicks off tonight with two of the four playing game. The Liberty Flames who are just the second team ever to make the tournament with 20 losses, will kick things off against North Carolina ANT.

The winner of that matchup gets the right to play the top overall seed, Louisville, in the first round. Night cap features St. Mary's versus Middle Tennessee. Both games are on TruTV.

To the semifinals of the World Baseball, Fernando Rodney had his lucky charm, a plantain, flown in from the Dominican Republic. He said the fruit told him to keep it close and he gets his sixth save of the classic. They will play Puerto Rico in the finals.

Check out this video, two stuntmen donning Red Bull Wing suits jumped out of the sky in Rio De Janeiro and flew through a 26-foot gap in between the corporate towers. Crazy performed the stunt in the wee hours of the morning without permission of the city.

Finally, we all know about making your relationship Facebook official. But Tiger Woods and Lindsay Vonn have taken it to another level. Woods and Vonn have been rumored to have been dating for weeks and they finally decided to confirm their relationship on Facebook by posting a series of pictures with one another.

To see all the pics, head over to Bleacherreport.com. I guess instead of just releasing a statement, Soledad, they decided to go with the engagement pictures to let everyone know.

O'BRIEN: Only it's on Facebook.

BERMAN: That was hardly like holding the iPhone.

O'BRIEN: Those are engagement photos.

FARLEY: Looks like a magazine cover. O'BRIEN: Ding, ding, ding, probably is.

So winter weather not stopping, ice, snow, strong winds pelting the northeast. The mess is causing a string of flight delays and cancellations too. We'll have the very latest for you in a live report that's right at the top of the hour.

And the second part of my interview with Facebook Sheryl Sandberg. We'll tell you why she says women often face a penalty for being too pleasant at work. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: STARTING POINT this morning, thousands of faithful packing St. Peter's Square for the pope's inaugural mass. The message Pope Francis sent to the world this morning.

Plus wet, cold, messy conditions in the northeast, slammed by another winter storm. The affects are widespread.

BERMAN: New this morning, explosion at an army depot and people there are injured. We have the developing details ahead.

Plus, homemade bombs, multiple firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, new details this morning on the plot for mass murder at the University of Central Florida.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Is there a retirement crisis brewing? The staggering number of Americans who are not comfortable enough with the money they have for retirement. We have new numbers for you, next.

O'BRIEN: Part two of my conversation with Facebook exec, Sheryl Sandberg. We'll tell you why she says likeable can work against women in the workplace and how she's hoping change that. Tuesday, March 19th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. Our team this morning, Father Edward Beck is back. He is a CNN contributor.