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Hillary Clinton: I Haven't Driven Since 1996; Obama Lays Out Go-It-Alone Approach; Tom Perkins Apologizes; The Art of the Speech

Aired January 28, 2014 - 10:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it is interesting because when candidates run for president, I mean you saw President Obama trying to bull and not very well ride so he could look like a common guy. What -- Ronald Reagan rode a horse, which he did well.

Jimmy Carter like made much of the fact he was a simple peanut farmer, even though he's a pretty wealthy peanut farmer. So I guess you may be right. Maybe those questions are important.

BRIAN STELTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, and George W. Bush you add to that list had his famous ranch, even though he was also very wealthy, you know by going to the ranch in Crawford, it presented him as an ordinary American. We've seen every president for decades now try to position themselves in a certain way and that's partly because of television because of the medium of television which conveys certain things to the American people.

You know I think what we're seeing is a potential candidate in waiting bringing up questions like that. And I think when we see the spokesman try to swap those questions away, it exposes a challenge that that candidate would face if and when she runs.

COSTELLO: Brian Stelter, thanks so much for stopping in this morning.

STELTER: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, President Obama says he will go around Congress to complete his goals. Will that actually lead to more gridlock? We'll talk about that.


COSTELLO: 2014 will be a year of action with or without Congress. That's President Obama's vow and he's going to drive that point home tonight when he delivers his State of the Union. One of the key things income inequality. And the president is expected to announce a plan to boost the minimum wage for federal contractor workers.

Our senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar has more for you.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Carol, the president's announcement tonight that he will increase the minimum wage for employees on new federal contracts will affect probably less than a million Americans. A sign of just how difficult it will be for him to push his agenda in the face of a divided Congress. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR (voice over): President Obama pushing forward in his bid to close the gap between rich and poor. He'll tell lawmakers tonight he is not waiting on them to raise the minimum wage at least for Americans working on government projects. His executive action will force any company signing a new contract with the Fed to pay workers at least $10.10 an hour, almost $3 more than the current federal minimum wage.

Janitors and construction workers all seeing a boost in pay according to the White House. It was just one vow from last year's State of the Union.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

KEILAR: That didn't get traction in the Republican controlled House of Representatives. Remember that passionate call for a vote on new gun laws?

OBAMA: The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

KEILAR: It failed. And the push for an immigration overhaul --

OBAMA: Now is the time to do it, now is the time to get it done.

KEILAR: -- stalled on Capitol Hill.

Now, Obama wants action. And with the clock ticking on his second term, he is ready to tell Congress to get on board or step aside.

OBAMA: I'm also going to act on my own if Congress is deadlocked.

KEILAR: Executive actions rallying businesses, colleges and local leaders to the cause and developing programs that don't require congressional approval. All part of Obama's plan to bypass Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got a little blustered.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is an American citizen. And it stands to reason that he might be frustrated with Congress.


KEILAR: What's not in his speech? A whole lot on foreign policy despite the raging civil war in Syria and the deteriorating situation in Iraq. President Obama will have a message for Congress on Iran, though. No new sanctions as a temporary nuclear deal takes hold -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Brianna Keilar reporting.

I want to bring in David Gergen now, a CNN senior political analyst. Hi, David.


COSTELLO: I'm good. Thanks for being here. In the spirit of working together, I don't know how much of the spirit of working together will be at the president's State of the Union since he is going to like issue this executive order right off the bat.


GERGEN: Well, you started off in the spirit of working together and then you laughed. And I think that probably captures the spirit of a lot of Americans. They are skeptical. That they've heard a lot of these kinds of things before and nothing seem to happen. It was only a year ago of course that the president got inaugurated with high hopes and aspirations. He had a really you now lofty set of goals that he set in his last State of the Union and very little happened.

So he's -- he enters this with a lot of weight on his shoulders to make this speech work tonight. He is perilously close to becoming a lame duck.

COSTELLO: And just an illustration of what he faces from members of Congress this was Senator Mitch McConnell. He said this a short time ago, the Republican Minority Leader. Let's listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is a pivotal moment in the Obama presidency. We are now entering our sixth year with President Obama at the helm of our economy. The sixth year of his economic policies and at this point, we've seen just about everything in the president's tool box. We've had a year's long clinic on the failures of liberalism, the government stimulus, the taxes, the regulation, the centralization, the government control. It just hasn't worked.


COSTELLO: I'm just going to talk like a human being here. What has Congress done that's worked? What plan do Republicans have to put out there that would work?

GERGEN: The -- listen I think the one thing the president has going for him tonight is Republicans are even less popular and their Congress is less popular than he is. And that gives him some leverage. And he's also got them on a couple of issues like immigration, where it's clearly become in the Republicans self- interest to move forward on immigration legislation. And if the president can convince people that he is really the leader on that, he'll score some points.

So I don't think he is helpless coming into this at all. I just think it's a tough -- it's a tough environment for him. And I think what Americans are mostly looking for tonight is not some glittering promises. They want straight talk. And frankly, I think they would like a short speech. You know these speeches have sort of become you know it gotten over an hour long at the time and they sort of -- the speeches that try men's souls. Because it's an awful lot to listen to.

I do think, Carol, the other part of this is that you mentioned income inequality, social mobility. Those are concepts that are extraordinarily important for the health of a society but when you start talking about them on television, they don't quite work. They sound a little academic and wonky. And I think he has been well advised by members of the Democratic Party to go for bread and butter issues.

To -- to do the things he can, do like the federal minimum wage, to try to do something for the long-term unemployed, go for issues that can change people's lives. It's one thing -- as President, what he wants to do is do is not only do things that matter but he wants to be seen as on the side of the middle class. On the side of the people who are squeezed. And that's very, very important for presidential leadership.

COSTELLO: I know you know I'm sitting here struggling for a question, because it's so frustrating, because we seem stuck in this --


GERGEN: It is.

COSTELLO: -- we seem stuck in this malaise that won't go away. At least economically, right?

GERGEN: Well yes and no. Washington is stuck. If you go around the country, there are cities, there are communities that are really moving forward. Whether you go to a big city like New York where I took a class here in the last few weeks, or go to a mid-size city like Columbus, Ohio, you find that there is enormous progress that's coming at the local level.

People are taking action. To the degree the president can galvanize that and get outside the beltway, not with just speeches but with really with working with people at the community level who are getting progress, economic progress who are bringing in young entrepreneurs. They are getting start-ups going they are getting people hired. There is a freeze -- New York has a sense of vibrancy about it right now. Others in Chicago, you know Rahm Emanuel is doing a fine job as mayor.

I think the president kind of have some leverage by working with the mayors as well as the governors. Especially with the mayors because increasingly you know cities are not waiting for Washington. Mayor Bloomberg in New York made it very clear Washington has become increasing irrelevant to turning New York into an economic power driver which is what happened under his administration.

So I don't think all is lost, I just think Washington is sort of a black hole right now.

COSTELLO: OK, I feel better now. David Gergen thanks so much. I appreciate that.

GERGEN: OK, thank you. COSTELLO: Stay tuned to CNN for the most complete coverage and analysis of the president's State of the Union. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll be back.


COSTELLO: Is the Super Bowl still a hot ticket when the weather is frigid? There is no snow in the latest forecast for Sunday at MetLife stadium in New Jersey. But fans scanning the secondary ticket market might have second thoughts about buying. It is surely going to be cold, Joe Carter. .

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS: Yes, it is. It is going to be cold but like you said, probably not going to snow much, if at all. Yes, so, Newark City, the New Jersey area, their first initial estimates were about $600 million would be infused into the market there. Those figures have definitely declined in the last couple of days. Obviously there's a lot of factors that go into it.

There's the weather. There's the hotel cost. There's the travel cost. And there is this, the New York City cost. I mean this is not like it's having a Super Bowl in New Orleans or in Dallas or in Miami. New York City is a very expensive city but you know, hotel bookings, not meeting expectations as well.

As we talked about game prices for those tickets, definitely down from last week. I mean a week ago, the market on the NFL ticket exchange going for about $2,700. So $2,700 a week ago, today, you can get the same ticket for just over $1,600. Obviously, this could the cheapest Super Bowl ticket since 2002. That ticket, of course, was right after 9/11 according to several online trackers.

COSTELLO: Well, I'm just saying that watching the Super Bowl from your home, I mean there is so much good about that.


COSTELLO: You have to have a big screen TV. You have your friends around. You have great food and it's a lot cheaper.

CARTER: Well, we know that the Super Bowl has definitely become more of a corporate event as opposed to like maybe the national championship game in college you see the real true fan from that town. You're seeing more corporations bringing company, bringing clients.

But you know there still are a lot of fans out there. I know a lot of Denver Broncos fans that I'm talking to on Facebook, talk to on the phone that definitely would love to go to the Super Bowl but they say, you know, $10,000 just to start to get out there, that's a lot of money.

COSTELLO: That's just crazy.

CARTER: It's too much money for some people.

COSTELLO: Actually the best place, you mentioned this before, to see the Super Bowl, would be Las Vegas.

CARTER: Vegas -- you got it. Vegas. I mean if people don't know, I am not doing a commercial for Las Vegas but that place is really fun during the Super Bowl week. You wouldn't believe it but it is. It is definitely a hot party.

COSTELLO: And you can bet on a lot of stuff surrounding the Super Bowl, too.

CARTER: You know, it's funny you should say. There are a lot of great bets. Obviously you get traditional bet -- who is going to win, money line those kinds of things. But there are prop bets. Prop bets are fund. You've heard of ones like how long is the national anthem going to be? Take the over, take the under. How many times are they going to show Eli Manning, one, two, three, four? You bet the over and under that.

Some of the other funny ones that they're having this here -- some of my favorite, will any of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they're performing at half time -- will they go shirtless at half-time?

My bets flee (ph) might just wear a sock like he has in the past.

COSTELLO: Oh my God.

CARTER: We'll see though.

Another one -- this is very close to my experience. Will the power go out again this year like it did last year? If it does, it is 20-1 what it pays. And then Gatorade, which color will be poured on the winning coach -- blue, the color blue, is going to be paying 7-1.

So let's hope no power goes out. Let's hope nothing bad happens. It's a good game. It doesn't snow too hard and they can just play it and we can see who the best team is and have a nice Super Bowl.

COSTELLO: Amen Joe Carter -- thanks so much.

CARTER: Good to see you.

COSTELLO: I'll be right back.


COSTELLO: A billionaire is now apologizing. Remember the story about Tom Perkins, the venture capitalist who ignited outrage by comparing the treatment of the wealthy to Nazi attacks on the Jews. Well, first he refused to apologize at all for his remarks. But now this morning, in an interview with Bloomberg TV he changed his mind and apologized. Listen.


TOM PERKINS, VENTURE CAPITALIST: They got into a discussion about the idiocy of Rolex watches. And why does any man need a Rolex. It is just the symbol of terrible values and et cetera, et cetera. Well, I think that's a little silly. This isn't a Rolex. I could buy a six pack of Rolexes for this but so what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are a multimillionaire.

PERKINS: No, I'm not a billionaire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not a billionaire -- I said multimillionaire.

PERKINS: I have created some billionaires but I unfortunately am not one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have owned fancy yachts, fancy cars and underwater submersible.

PERKINS: Airplanes. Underwater airplanes

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw it. It's basically an airplane that flies under water. Do you worry at all that you are divorced from reality? Are you divorced from reality?

PERKINS: I don't know if anybody can answer that. Truthfully, I don't think so.


COSTELLO: All right. We missed the part where he apologized. But he did apologize for his remarks in comparing the hatred for the rich -- the alleged hatred for the rich with hatred of the Jews during Nazi times in Germany. He said he profoundly apologizes for those remarks. We will have much more on this on CNN in the hours to come.

Also, still to come in the NEWSROOM, another high-stakes moment for President Obama. We'll talk about the art of the speech next.


COSTELLO: The Obama administration using e-mails, TV interviews, and even Vine to promote tonight's State of the Union.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tomorrow night, it's time to restore opportunity for all.


COSTELLO: There you have it. It all comes as the clock clicks down to what some have called a critical address and moment in the president's tenure. Candy Crowley has more on the art of the speech.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. That was not true when Lincoln said it about his Gettysburg Address. It is true about most State of the Union speeches, which is not to say they are nothing. They are a moment on the grandest bully pulpit of all and in prime time, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are priceless in terms of being able to communicate your message and your message.

CROWLEY: These speeches have become the product of a cast of thousands and a nightmare for speech writers. Government agencies weigh in on programs they want mentioned to elevate their status. State Department and Pentagon types usually short change push for more word count. Political operatives shake out troublesome verbiage.

We are told the president, a wordsmith in his own right, is heavily involved in writing and editing. The key to success is knowing your audience. That is not these people, lawmakers in the house chamber. They are pretty much window dressing. CNN commentator Stephanie Cutter watched the process during the Clinton and Obama years.

STEPHANIE CUTTER, CNN COMMENTATOR: Whoever is standing up and clapping, that's great. Whoever is sitting in their seat refusing to clap, that's great too.

OBAMA: Fellow Americans.

CUTTER: You are not talking to the people in the room. You're talking to people sitting on their couches at home.

CROWLEY: Also helpful, if not too kitchy -- props. President Reagan once brought along 43 pounds worth of federal budget.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: He was talking about the need to shrink government and so forth. It was a very vivid demonstration.

CROWLEY: Except for historians and the occasionally curious, State of the Union speeches as Lincoln might say, are not long remembered. But certain phrases endure, capturing a moment in time.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, January 8th, 1964.

LYNDON B. JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.

CROWLEY: Richard Nixon January 30th, 1974.


CROWLEY: Bill Clinton, January 23rd, 1996.


CROWLEY: And George W. Bush, January 29th, 2002.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: States like this and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil.

CROWLEY: They are like mile markers in the nation's history. Be assured as they write and rewrite at the White House, they're wondering, arguing and probably betting on what words will capture the moment of January 28th, 2014.