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Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien

Unemployment Rate 7.8 for December 2012; Backlash Against Critics of Hillary Clinton; House Women Hope to Revive VAWA; Gabby Giffords to Visit Newtown; Adele, Gotye Top 2012 Billboard Charts; "The Insurgents"

Aired January 04, 2013 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. We are literally seconds away from the December jobs report. Christine Romans is listening in on a call from the Labor Department as we speak.



BERMAN: It's happening right there. We expect, what, 150,000 jobs added to the economy right now.

BALDWIN: Unemployment possibly staying at the same 7.7 percent. So, we're waiting.

BERMAN: There's also five years of revisions here, and this will get to a subject we're going to talk about in a little while here, but Christine was telling before (ph), conspiracy theorists say if these unemployment rates are actually revised up, particularly, over the last year or two, there's already whispers that some people will accuse the Labor Department of rigging the numbers to make the president look good.

LAUREN ASHBURN, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Donald Trump did that right before the election.

BERMAN: Jack Welch, it's been out there. Again Christine Romans on the phone waiting for that top line number, maybe not the impact it would have had two months ago with the election. I remember three days before the election waiting for that number to come in.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Old-fashioned way on the phone.

ASHBURN: On the phone conference call.

LIZZA: Twitter.

ASHBURN: You have one of the phones you plug it into old school phone handle.


BALDWIN: So we're waiting. Here we go, we're getting the numbers.

BERMAN: We have the number right now, Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, 155,000 jobs created in the month and the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent, so right in line with expectations. This is not going to rock 'n' roll anybody's socks for how the year ended in December, but, you're right, we do have five years of revisions that we'll be going over later today to find out what the year looked like overall. So 155,000 jobs created, 7.8 percent. I'll jump back on the call and find out where the job creation was in the month and in the year.

BALDWIN: So we'll come back to you once you get a little bit more information, and 7.8 percent there.

BERMAN: But 150,000 is that sort of slow but not off the level.

LIZZA: It's the new normal, not that we need to keep up with the rate of the population growth, but positive growth, and we're muddling along. We celebrate when it's positive in the last couple of years but it's not enough to get the economy going at the growth rate we need.

BERMAN: We'll check back in when we get more information on that report.

BALDWIN: I want to talk about this story it questions whether political mockery can in fact go too far. Prior to Secretary of State Clinton's diagnosis of this blood clot which has been well documented, a lot of critics mocked her for Benghazi flu after she suffered a concussion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not a doctor but seems as though the Secretary of State has come down with a case of Benghazi flu.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Apparently suffering from acute Benghazi allergy which causes light-headedness when she hears the term "Benghazi."


BERMAN: It turned out she was in the hospitalized with a blood clot. This is pretty serious stuff. There has been a backlash now, so we want to bring in Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," and Lauren Ashburn, a contributor of "The Daily Beast" and editor-in-chief of "The Daily Download." Is there a lesson here?

ASHBURN: Yes, don't listen to people who are acting like third graders and throwing sand in people's face, these amateur physicians.

HOWARD HURTZ, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": I'm not a doctor, but -- ASHBURN: But I play one on TV and I'm going to really slam somebody. I mean, you know, it does go too far. Enough. It goes on both sides, but in this case in particular it was mean-spirited.

BALDWIN: There seem to be no boundaries.

KURTZ: Hillary Clinton, if you want to bash her over Benghazi she's fair game, call her a lousy SOS, Secretary of State it's fine. But she had a concussion and poke fun. There were some people on FOX News and conservatives elsewhere basically called her a liar. I find this appalling. Is this what our culture has come to?

ASHBURN: She's Secretary of State, Cabinet, First Lady, a Senator, what do you have to do to be presumed innocent?

KURTZ: Where is her doctor's note?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Here's the question. Some people say that in politics, like in physics, an action creates an equal and opposite reaction. Is it not true that on the right side of the spectrum as well, I recall some terrible things being said about George W. Bush when he was president, now that H.W. Bush is very sick, people may be rejoicing he's close to death, and they were saying on twitter, twitter was filled, filled with hate speech, I want you to die a painful death.

BERMAN: We can actually show you a few tweets. You don't have the people who sent them, but "George Bush Sr. is in intensive care, hope you die a slow painful death. Oh, one of the George Bushes are going to die soon. Oh, happy day."


ASHBURN: In the past there have been other commentators on MSNBC who have attacked people, not necessarily calling them liar, but being mean-spirited.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, incivility is on the rise and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories, that's what we're talking about here, sort of a conspiracy theory that gets parroted on national television by members of Congress. And that's fundamentally different than folks just taking to twitter.

ASHBURN: Where is the apology? You tweeted that. I bet everybody's going to apologize now. I haven't seen one apology.

KURTZ: There is a political culture of meanness that rewards not the most extreme stuff and in the case of Hillary Clinton I'm sure they privately feel some embarrassment now that she had the blood clot and we're thankful she's out of the hospital. If you're a wannabe pundit, the meaner you are, the more incendiary you are, the more likely you're getting on TV or being re-tweeted.

AVLON: The rise of social media means we no longer have any unventilated thoughts. Previously people would think such things and wouldn't have an outlet. BERMAN: One of the things we talked about this week was Joe Biden, an instrumental figure in forging the fiscal cliff deal but for the last year was the butt of jokes and the subject for Republican pundits to lambaste for months and months.

KURTZ: Biden has been known for making gaffes, and it's true he has not gotten his due until now as a behind the scenes player who knows Capitol Hill. But I think we need to make a distinction between the normal political lampooning and the mean-spirited.

BERMAN: When did the culture of meanness like this begin?

ASHBURN: It's always been that way but with social media, it's amplified. People don't attach their names to something they say that is hateful.

LIZZA: Politics in the 1800, 1804 election was ugly, but what's different now is with the rise of partisan media and the polarization of the two parties, the fringe is blurring with the base. You get congressmen parroting conspiracy theories. And that's a new low.

KURTZ: It's the rise of a cable culture in which you have increasingly ideological channels, increasing ideological publications, and that's fine, everybody should get their say. But come on, the Secretary of State was making up the fact she had a concussion? That's offensive.

ASHBURN: People don't realize when they're on TV they've gone a little bit too far. They're looking for the sound bite, the "Benghazi flu" sound bite and then they maybe step off and say wow, I think I just called her a liar.

LIZZA: This taught me Hillary Clinton has gone through an evolution among conservatives over the last two years. Remember, when she was running against Obama in the 2008 primary there was a lot of support on the right. She was no longer the Hillary Clinton of the 90s. What this episode showed me is if she runs for president all that will disappear and she will become the old villainized Hillary Clinton of the 1990s.

ASHBURN: I think this also has to do with 2016. People are already beginning the attack. And so they think this is fair game, she's go to step out of the limelight.

KURTZ: We don't know if she's running for president. She doesn't know.

ASHBURN: A lot of people think she could be running.

BALDWIN: Laying the groundwork.

ASHBURN: Exactly right.

BERMAN: I'm not calling you a liar ever. I believe everything you say.

BALDWIN: Lauren and Howie, thank you.

ASHBURN: So glad she's healthy and out of the hospital.

BERMAN: We're all happy about that.

BERMAN: We just told you the new jobs numbers showing 155,000 jobs created in December, the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent. Christine has a bit more information and the breakdown of these numbers.

ROMANS: It looks like at the end of the year the job market was treading water, treading water, holding steady, 153,000 jobs on average created every month last year. That's just enough to absorb new labor market participants and growth, the natural growth in the labor market.

One thing interesting here, long-term unemployed steady about 4.8 million that's been something going forward this new Congress and president will talk about how to get the long-term unemployed back into the workforce.

Also I told you last month how African-American unemployment rate had dropped to 13.2 percent. It went back up to 14 percent, we've had a lot of volatility in that particular group overall.

Let me tell you where we're adding jobs, construction and manufacturing, that was consistent throughout the year. So I say treading water but there are two parts that would suggest, two places which suggest the economy is starting to get some traction again, construction and also manufacturing.

We also saw jobs created in health care, 45,000 in health care. No surprise there. That has been a consistent bright spot in the economy. Also health care and food and drinking places, people I guess were feeling better. We know from car sales, yes people are buying cars and apparently going out to restaurants, two things that we saw in terms of job creation in this report as well.

BERMAN: Food and drinking places, everyone at this table nodded their heads, like we're doing our part here, what we can.


AVLON: The holidays, December, people tend to go out.

BERMAN: But that manufacturing number is a number the Obama administration touted during the campaign, then it slipped a little bit over the last few months but it's back up again, Christine?

ROMANS: Here is the thing about manufacturing to keep a close eye on. You talk about signs of a renaissance in manufacturing, some pointed out it's on the margin. You lost such ground in manufacturing in the past 20 or 10 years the whole notion of re-shoring or in-shoring or small companies especially trying to get control of their product line and keep it here rather than having it someplace else, that's happening but it's not happening on the scale you saw the jobs leave. BERMAN: All right, Christine romans with the jobs report, we know you'll be in the middle of that report for the next several hours digging in. Thanks a lot, Christine.

KURTZ: For a conspiracy theorist, the October numbers were adjusted upward. So maybe the Labor Department isn't as good as playing with the numbers.

BALDWIN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, he was one of the most respected men in the military before an affair ruined his career. A new book looking at how General David Petraeus tried to revolutionize the American military.


BALDWIN: A quarter until the top of the hour here on this Friday. Some of the top stories here:

The question is being asked did the CIA mislead the writer and director of this film "Zero Dark Thirty?" The Senate intelligence committee has asked CIA Chief Michael Morrell for all the information that the agency gave the filmmakers.

Now senator say the movie implies that waterboarding a terror suspect was in fact would identify that courier who led Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Recent committee reports say that the agency did not learn about courier that way.

BERMAN: There is hope that the new Congress will revive the Violence Against Women Act, the last session failed to renew the law, this law provides support for groups that help domestic violence women -- domestic violence against women and this stiffens sentences for stalking.

And since the new Congress has more women than ever before, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the act will be a top priority.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It's a priority for us. It's an early priority for us and since it passed the Senate last time with two more Democrats in the Senate, we hope that we will have an easy path there and a doable path there, and successful one in the House.


BERMAN: And this measure was first passed in 1994, it's credited with reducing the number of people killed by domestic violence.

BALDWIN: Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who almost really almost two years to the day now survived that mass shooting in Tucson, she is expected to visit Newtown, Connecticut, today. How about this? Sources confirm that Giffords and her husband, former Astronaut Mark Kelly were planning to meet with the families of that Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre meeting with the victims, families after the shootings. Kelly posted on his Facebook page that it was time for more than just regret and sorrow in response to gun violence.

BERMAN: So Adele has the best selling album two years running now.


BERMAN: I told you she had a very nice voice. According to "Billboard" magazine, 21 topped the Billboard album chart selling nearly 4.5 million copies last year after moving almost six million albums in 2011. That's the first time since 1991 that an artist has accomplished that feat.

And Gotye's smash hit "Somebody that I Used to Know" was the bestselling single in 2012 with nearly seven million sales.

BALDWIN: Can I just brag for a minute, I know you're a music nerd and will appreciate this, Avlon.


BALDWIN: So I actually saw Adele live a couple of years ago in this tinny tiny venue in Atlanta, I mean it was packed, sold out.

BERMAN: You're basically claiming credit for discovering Adele.

BALDWIN: Obviously I did. She was amazing.

AVLON: All right so what's your pick for 2013? Alabama Shakes that's going to be.

BALDWIN: Alabama Shakes or Luminaires.

AVLON: I'm with you.

BALDWIN: Boom either one.

BERMAN: They're going to break out.

BALDWIN: They already have my friend.

Ahead here on STARTING POINT -- you know whatever -- the foreign affairs sideline David Petraeus he was regarded as one of the military's most brilliant minds and his new book looks at how he tried to change the way U.S. wages war. The author joins us live here next.

I'm telling you Luminaires.


BERMAN: It's a look at General Petraeus' story, career, and how he helped really changed the way the U.S. does battle top to bottom.

BALDWIN: The book is called "The Insurgents: David Petraeus in a Plot to change the American Way of War". The author is Fred Kaplan. Fred Kaplan, good morning to you. Welcome.

FRED KAPLAN, AUTHOR, "THE INSURGENTS": Good morning, thanks. BALDWIN: Obviously let me just get this out of the way, we want to ask you about the Paula Broadwell affair, and interestingly when we were all talking commercial you wrote this whole thing and then you wrote this postscript after this -- after this broke.

KAPLAN: Right.

BALDWIN: But first the book, the title "The Insurgents." It's not the insurgents one would think.

KAPLAN: Right it's not the Taliban, it's not al Qaeda. It's Petraeus and his inner circle who really were an insurgency within the United States Army and they behave (INAUDIBLE) insurgency.

BALDWIN: How do you mean? How do you mean?

KAPLAN: They rebelled against those military officers from within. Before Petraeus took command in Iraq, the definition of war in U.S. Army field manuals and so forth was basically a major combat operation, tank on tank, big armies things like fights against insurgents, terrorists, that sort of thing. They were called military operations other than war, they weren't even called war.

They had an acronym for it, they called it Mootwa. And the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff at the time said real men don't do Mootwa. So that was what they were rebelling against. They came up in a generation they had fought in places like El Salvador, Haiti, Bosnia, Somalia, they saw this was the war -- this was the kind of war that was coming.

We need to turn the Army around so that it can deal with these in a systematic way. And they had studied the insurgencies and they behaved within the bureaucracy the same way that insurgencies do in their own kind of way.

BERMAN: And what's so interesting to me is that -- is that you write that David Petraeus put himself at the center of this movement in really a very calculated way for a very long time.

KAPLAN: For -- he had, he had -- from the time that he was a parachutist in France, in the late '70s, he had read studies of these and seen it. He was an assistant to the commander in Central America in the mid-'80s. He went to Bosnia. He was in charge of a counterterrorism unit, clandestine unit in Bosnia, that's generally not known.

When he took over the occupation in northern Iraq at the beginning of the occupation of the war there was no command apparatus in Mosul. He set up a new government, he vetted candidates for an election, he revitalized the economy, he reopened the university, he reopened the border with Syria, all on his own authority, without really checking with anybody. That has been his MO throughout this saga.

BALDWIN: So this four-star general, revolutionary, then we come to find out not too long ago that he's had this affair with this woman, biographer of his life. Knowing who he is, his character, his code of ethics, did it surprise you?

KAPLAN: Well, I was the one who first revealed who the affair was with, not that he'd had an affair, he revealed that himself and it was a bit of a surprise but it was kind of obvious who it was with.

BALDWIN: It was obvious you say.

KAPLAN: There were rumors. I got it confirmed pretty solidly.

But here is the thing about Petraeus. I have never met an unassuming four-star general. and if there is such a creature my guess is that he's been a lousy general. Petraeus is more out there in that regard than most; I mean mentioned what he did in Mosul. The surge he kind pulled together the elements behind the scenes to get that study about the surge into the White House.

When he was in -- commander of all of Iraq he created this unit the sons of Iraq which paid former Sunni militants who had been firing at Americans the week before to come join us in fighting against jihadists. He did that, he paid them out of his commander's discretionary fund, without telling anybody in Washington.

HOOVER: But it worked.


KAPLAN: Yes, it worked. So I mean you get to the point where you get away with a lot of things that are way outside the border of what some people think is proper.


KAPLAN: I think you get accustomed to that.

LIZZA: When you weigh the transformation that he and the people around him performed in the military versus how his career ended, how do you think history should judge him?

BALDWIN: Good question.

KAPLAN: Well, yes. History is written by the victors, right. So we'll see what happens. I think maybe something that will play havoc with his reputation even more than that will be the fate of Afghanistan. Afghanistan turns out to be a country that was really not at all suitable for counter insurgency operations.

HOOVER: Does Petraeus' downfall actually hasten the derailment of counter insurgency in Afghanistan? It was viewed as favorably implemented in Iraq but less in Afghanistan although there was a struggle internally about whether it was the right strategy.

KAPLAN: Well President Obama had rejected it already in pulling out all of the surge troops in his announcement of how many troops to pull out, in creating a new strategic guidance that says the army will not size its forces for large scale protracted stability operations which is another word for counter. He already did this. What Petraeus' downfall tends to do is to reinforce the battle waged by those who had tried to resist it all along. He had sort of created this myth about himself. And in fact his mentors had told him you have to create a myth about yourself that inspires loyalty, among your underlings.

BALDWIN: And he believed in that.


KAPLAN: He became associated with its rise and therefore his fall sort of becomes associated with its fall.

BERMAN: All right. Fred Kaplan, the book is "The Insurgents". I have to say it is a terrific read. I am thoroughly enjoying it. Thanks for being with us here this morning.

KAPLAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Thank you Fred. "End Point" is next.


BALDWIN: Time for the "End Point". Mr. Lizza you have the floor.

LIZZA: You know, 155,000 jobs created last month not great. It would be a lot better if the payroll tax deduction holiday was being extended. Congress and this fiscal cliff deal did not extend it. That's going to be a big drag on the economy in 2013.

AVLON: I'll extend Mr. Kaplan's advice about creating your whole myth to the Boehner Speaker vote, a dozen Republicans voting against the Speaker, but look, if Louie Gohmert and Paul Brunner voting against you I think that's a character witness. And I do think then that that actually can reinforce that Boehner is the reasonable man in Washington. He is a deal maker. The extremes of his own party don't like him. But he's a guy who can get things done.

HOOVER: But you're saying he needs to take a lesson from Petraeus in terms of his own myth-making strategy?

AVLON: I think probably that would be helpful. But again -- defined by your enemies those aren't bad ones. I'll take Louie Gohmert any day, you know.

HOOVER: Yes. He gave me a pen of his.

BERMAN: I think Speaker Boehner had a point. Speaker Boehner got choked up yesterday when he was giving his, you know, sort of acceptance speech. And a lot of people make fun of John Boehner for getting emotional for crying. And you now, all I could say is, love or hate his politics we should all care as deeply about our jobs as John Boehner does. Every time that guy gets choked up, I'm like there's a guy -- at least he cares about something.

LIZZA: Absolutely. There was a lot of snark on Twitter, And I noticed you pointed that people shouldn't be so cynical like you.

BALDWIN: My "End Point", quickly, two-fold. I hope justice is found in this Steubenville, Ohio, case and finally the fact that you ate squirrel this morning. Nice work, Berman.

BERMAN: I did. We'll leave the week on that note.


BALDWIN: Yes, it was squirrel.

BERMAN: No squirrel in my teeth, we're going to move on now.

Baldwin: "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now -- Carol, good morning.