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New Details Emerge about Petraeus Resignation; Interview with General James Marks; Jeff Gordon Involved in Post-Race Fight; Still Cold, Still In The Dark; Razor Thin Lead Gets Thinner; Syrian Opposition Groups Unite; Immigration Talks To Resume; NASCAR Brawl!; Preventing The Fiscal Cliff; "Bruce": Bio Of "The Boss"

Aired November 12, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, the scandal grows. Questions and some mystery, too, surrounding the affair that led Gen. David Petraeus to resign as the head of the CIA. Was there a threat to national security that caused him to step down? Let's take a look.

As we get closer to the fiscal cliff, some new signs of compromise. We'll tell you what that could mean for your tax dollars.

And homes literally blown away in the middle of the night. An investigation now. We'll take a look at just what caused that deadly explosion to rip through an Indiana neighborhood.

A packed two hours for you this morning. Former New York Giants player, Tiki Barber, is with us. General James "Spider" Marks joins us. Grover Norquist is the president of the Americans for Tax Reform, he's with us. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt joins us. Mogul Russell Simmons is with us and actress Gloria Reuben, star of the new movie "Lincoln," all with us this morning.

It's Monday, November 12th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning: demand for answers in the David Petraeus sex scandal. House and Senate leaders want to know why they were never given the heads up on the investigation that led Petraeus to resign as a CIA director over an extramarital affair.

With that resignation, Petraeus might not have to testify this week at a Congressional hearing on the Benghazi consulate attack. CNN's Barbara Starr is following that story for us this morning from the Pentagon. Hey, Barbara. Good morning.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, look, at least at this point, there's no indication publicly of a national security breach. But that doesn't mean the questions aren't growing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) STARR: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are questioning the timing behind the revelation. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said an FBI employee told him in October about the Petraeus affair. By that time an FBI investigation was already under way. The FBI told the director of national intelligence James clapper on election night, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official. The White House says it was notified the day after the election and the president the following day. That doesn't make sense to House homeland security chairman Peter King.

REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: This seems to have been going on for several months yet now it appears they're saying that the FBI didn't realize until Election Day that general Petraeus was involved. It just doesn't add up.

STARR: "The New York Times" reports the FBI actually started its investigation late this summer. The House and Senate intelligence committees were also caught by surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to investigate why the FBI didn't notify you before?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, absolutely. I mean, this is something that could have had an effect on national security. I think we should have been told.

STARR: The FBI was investigating harassing e-mails from Petraeus' biographer. The trail led to Paula Broadwell, who co-wrote "All In," a biography of Petraeus. Broadwell described her extraordinary access to the general earlier this year on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At some point I think he realized I was taking this research very seriously. I was sharing hardship with the troops and risk and so forth, and decided to open up a little bit more access. But we had a relationship before I went there, as far as this dissertation was concerned, so it just took it to another level.

STARR: The end result was a flattering biography, summed up this way when she appeared on the daily show to promote it.

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": The real controversy is here is, is he awesome, or incredibly awesome?


STARR: Broadwell is a married mother of two. She's an honors graduate of West Point, a retired army research major who served for 15 years. Petraeus resigned Friday, admitting to cheating on his wife of 38 years, Holly, and citing, quote, "extremely poor judgment." A U.S. official says Petraeus was never the target of the investigation and his communications were never compromised.


STARR: Now as you said, Soledad, Petraeus was supposed to testify on Capitol Hill this week about those attacks against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Very controversial, what did he know and when did he know it about those attacks? Now it will be his deputy, and there are some questions still, will Congress issue a subpoena that would compel him to appear?

O'BRIEN: That's very interesting. Barbara Starr this morning, thank you.

Ahead this morning we're going to talk to retired General James "Spider" Marks. He knows both General Petraeus and also Paula Broadwell. We'll ask him some questions about that relationship.

And it's 50 days till the fiscal cliff, 50 days. New signs this morning that we could be seeing a deal possibly soon. President Obama wants to let the Bush tax cuts expire for Americans making more than $250,000, said he's not wedded to every detail of his plan. House speaker, John Boehner, wants to keep all the Bush tax cuts in place. He's starting to talk about closing up tax loopholes. Conservative pundit and weekly standard editor Bill Kristol said it's time for Republicans to come so some sort of compromise.


BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": The leadership of the Conservative movement has to pull back, let people float new ideas, let's have a serious debate. Don't scream and yell when one person says it won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. It really won't, I don't think. I don't understand why Republicans don't take Obama's offer.


O'BRIEN: CNN's senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is live for us in Washington, D.C. Hey, Dana, what do you make of his comments?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, look, Bill Kristol is not an elected official. He doesn't get a vote. But he is a very influential GOP voice here in Washington and around the country. And for him to tell Republicans it wouldn't kill to them to agree to tax increases for millionaires. It's a big deal. And we heard some similar talk from Republicans who do have a vote like Senator Bob Corker. Listen to this.


SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE: I think there is a deal, once the yin and yang, we know there has to be revenues. Look, I haven't met a wealthy Republican or Democrat in Tennessee that's not willing to contribute more as long as they know we solve the problem.


BASH: And, Soledad, now for the "but." The "but" is that sounds conciliatory, and it is, but the two sides are still not close on how to cut a deal on any tax increases. For the most part Republicans are still opposed to raising tax rates for the wealthiest Americans, and Democrats, led by the president, said this over and over in the campaign, said it's exactly what they want to do. They want to return the highest tax rates, 35 percent to 39.6 percent, pre-Bush era levels. Listen to Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: The only way mathematically I've seen to do it is go from that 39.6 percent rate. If someone can show snore plan that doesn't do that, we could look at it but no one's shown one because I think it's mathematically impossible.


BASH: So where is the compromise? Raising taxes for the wealthy, in some other way closing a slew of loopholes, or as Democrats like to say, perhaps redefining wealth so that tax rates are raised for those making half a million or a million dollars a year. Soledad, this will be all the talk in the halls of the happen when Congress returns tomorrow and the president is going to have a very important meeting with congressional leaders on Friday.

O'BRIEN: At least they sound conciliatory on both sides.

BASH: It's a nice change.

O'BRIEN: It doesn't sound like, forget it, everybody holding press conferences but not talking to each other. Dana Bash, thanks.

Just ahead this morning we're going to be talking to Grover Norquist. He's the president of Americans for Tax Reform. It is his pledge that elected officials often sign, saying no taxes, tax increases. We'll see what he has to say about this conciliatory tone.

Alina Cho has some of the rest of the stories making news today. Hey, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. We start with something that seemingly came out of nowhere. An Indianapolis neighborhood resembles a warzone this morning after a weekend explosion that leveled homes and killed two people. Authorities still don't know what caused the blast, which rendered whole blocks uninhabitable.

America will never forget the service of its military heroes. President Obama delivering that message on Veterans Day at a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this day we thank all of our veterans from all of our wars, not just for your service to this country, but for reminding us why America and always will be the greatest nation on earth.


CHO: The president also noting this is the first veteran's day in a decade with no American troops serving in Iraq.

Investigators want to know why a 64-year-old man walked into a Detroit area police station and opened fire. He shot a 50-year-old sergeant in the shoulder yesterday before officers returned fire and killed him. That sounded sergeant is expected to make a full recovery.

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano gets a firsthand look at Sandy's aftermath. She surveyed the devastation in Staten Island, yesterday. She also took stock of relief and recovery efforts there. Sandy is blamed for at least 113 deaths across various states, 43 in New York alone. Thousands are still without power.

Sunday night football action, bears and Texans in Chicago, a big night for Houston's Ariane Foster. He rushed for 102 yards on 29 carries and scored the game's only touchdown. Texans defense was all over Jay Cutler. They nabbed two interceptions before knocking him out of the game with a concussion. Final score Houston 13, Chicago, six.

O'BRIEN: You follow Roland Martin. He was going crazy this weekend. Good weekend for Roland. Another big headline is sports. L.A. Lakers making surprising announcement for their head coach position. Sources tell the "Los Angeles Times" that former New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni is going to take over after the sudden firing of mike brown after just five games.

Tiki Barber is the New York Giants all-time leader rusher and also the author of "Tiki, My Life in the Game and Beyond." It's nice to have you.


O'BRIEN: Let's start with that. Everyone's talking Phil Jackson. I saw a little wire that said new coach and I was like oh, Phil Jackson.

BARBER: Phil Jackson retired for a reason a few years ago for the Los Angeles Lakers. He's 70 years old. He's burnt out. He probably doesn't want to be on the bench any longer dealing with a lot of personalities that they have in Los Angeles, obviously Kobe Bryant.

O'BRIEN: What? Kobe Bryant has a big ego?

BARBER: Personality.

O'BRIEN: Sorry, that was my editorializing.

BARBER: Exactly. I think mike D'Antoni is the right coach for the Los Angeles Lakers right now. He's looking to get back in to a high profile position. The Lakers are going to give him that opportunity after being unceremoniously dismissed by the Knicks last year, also, because of, let's call it high personality.

So I think it's a good place for him to restart and it will be good for the Los Angeles Lakers because they need somebody who is going to come in and put in an offense that fits their players. I think that was Mike Brown's problem with the Lakers. He had these guys running and gunning like Princeton used to, but the average age is 32 years old.

O'BRIEN: Out in the blink of an eye.

BARBER: Bad look of an eye.

O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly. We saw a couple of those bad looks, because they moved those right out. Let's talk about Alabama losing. Again as I said Roland Martin completely insane on twitter. He was so excited because Texas A&M won.

BARBER: Johnny Manzel had a big day going out to a big lead against Alabama. This makes it very interesting BCS, bowl championship series last couple of weeks. Obviously Alabama can't control their destiny any longer, the defending national champions. They have to win out. And more importantly they have to beat Georgia in the title game. There's three undefeateds now, Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon State. Oregon State has a little bit of a challenge to get there. They have Stanford and a couple other teams and play in the SEC. The easiest team to get there because they don't have a title game is Kansas State. They've got a couple games to win out and they should be number one or number two in the country.

Again, this all goes away in 2014 because they institute a playoff like every other division in college football.

O'BRIEN: Which clearly you wanted.

BARBER: I think everybody wanted.

O'BRIEN: Quick question, Johnny Manzel, he's trying to trade mark Johnny football.

BARBER: How many Johnnies are there? Great quarterbacks or great running backs, that's not going to happen. It's smart.


O'BRIEN: Nice to see you, Tiki.

Let's talk business news. Alison Kosik is in for Christine romans with the latest your business news.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Minding your business this morning, U.S. stock futures are up indicating markets will open higher this morning. But of course there's a lot of volatility in the markets right now, mostly because of the fiscal cliff. The S&P 500, that's the best indicator for the stocks in your 401(k). It's fallen about 2.5 percent since Election Day. This week we're going to get several reports on the manufacturing sector. Hopefully those will give us an update on how the economy is doing. Maybe even draw attention away from the gridlock that we are seeing in Washington over the fiscal cliff.

OK, add one more to the list. Toys "R" Us announcing it's opening early on Thanksgiving night at 8:00 p.m. eastern. It's an hour earlier than last year. The retailer says it's focusing on electronics sales including its own tablet devices for kids. Target and Wal-Mart are following suit, opening earlier on thanksgiving night this year, as well. Black Friday, Soledad, oh, so yesterday. It's Thursday now.

O'BRIEN: What is that brown Thursday? Crazy.


O'BRIEN: I would never do that. Tiki, I'm going to ask you about the giants this weekend. We've got to move on.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, was national security ever put at risk because of general Petraeus' affair. Up next we'll talk with retired General "Spider" Marks who's known general Petraeus since high school. And Jeff Gordon did you see this brawl? Completely out of control. You know, he is throwing punches, which, I have to say he's kind of a mellow guy.

CHO: Not exciting enough.

O'BRIEN: Out of the vehicle. We'll tell you exactly what happened behind this big fight. That's straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. There are questions this morning about the chain of events that led CIA director David Petraeus to resign. It all began when a woman told the FBI that she'd been receiving harassing e-mails, accusing her of flirtatious behavior with the general. That trail led investigators to Paula Broadwell, a woman who wrote a biography of Petraeus, which was released earlier this year. Petraeus admitted cheating on his wife of 38 years and stepped down. Let's get to retired general James "Spider" Marks, a CNN military analyst and knows both Petraeus and Broadwell well. Thanks for being with us.


O'BRIEN: Give me a sense, since you know them both personally, how this aftermath of the announcement essentially of the scandal is affecting both of them?

MARKS: Well, I'm sure both of them are in a degree of incredible reflection, and hopefully they have their families around them and they can work their way through this. I mean at this point, it's nothing but a personal tragedy. The professional stuff we can get to later. They've got to be able to work their way through this. And so you really need a Dr. Phil intervention to find of make sure that everybody's OK and moving in the right direction.

O'BRIEN: Such a sad thing. I mean there are kids involved et cetera et cetera.

MARKS: Of course.

O'BRIEN: She had done Paula Broadwell a book tour and a lot of people watching her talk about that book, a book that she had written, a biography of Petraeus, was really surprised about the incredible access that she got. Here's a little bit of what she said about how she sort of got him to open up when she was on "The Daily Show."


STEWART: To get to know him, he wanted to run with you. So you ran together.

PAULA BROADWELL, AUTHOR: This is a typical mechanism he uses to get to know young people. He's done it throughout his life. So it was an opportunity for me to interview him on a run, and I think it was -- I was -- I thought I'd test him but he was going to test me.


O'BRIEN: Is there any indication that she had access that she should not have had?

MARKS: Well, first of all, her ability to get into his inner circle was probably not surprising. Clearly she's a very bright -- I mean she worked for me, and she knows she's an incredibly, very talented, bright, creative immensely fit, and let's be frank, very attractive young lady, yet a wonderful officer. I mean the point is that she's a quintessential professional.

So her ability to get inside David Petraeus' inner circle is not surprising at all, and, in fact, he wants to test those around him and this is an ability to test those, let's go on a seven-mile run and she probably kicked his butt. It was probably the first time that ever happened to him so he let his guard down. He brought her in. And I think those around him who knew him best were kind of amazed at her ability to immediately get inside that close proximity.

O'BRIEN: It was all discovered, we know, because of e-mails that Broadwell apparently sent to a woman that CNN is not naming at this time. Does that surprise you? I mean, to me there's an element of strange behavior in that. And you know her personally.

MARKS: Completely strange behavior. I'm not a psychoanalyst, but she obviously was smitten by the guy. Many have described elements of the book as kind of a valentine to David Petraeus.

It's extremely disappointing on all those personal levels. On the professional level, I need to tell you there's a very, very little -- there's absolutely almost zero percent chance that national security was compromised or was at risk. Clearly, based on an initial investigation I think there might have been some classified documents that were found on her laptop. That might be more procedural than it is a large risk. That needs to be looked into and that needs to be put aside so you can end that discussion. And, frankly, you can let David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell get on with their lives because the CIA, frankly, is going to be OK.

O'BRIEN: With all due respect, I don't know how to frame this the right way, but I'm going to assume he's not the first person in that position to have cheated on a spouse. Why is this such a big deal, do you think? I mean, is it because the potential military secrets being leaked? What is it?

MARKS: No, not at all. Soledad, not at all. I mean here's a guy who's been married to his -- to his wife for 38 years. My dad worked for her dad. This is very, very close. And I'm sure at the end of the day he turned around and he went, what have I just done? I leave the service. I have this affair. What's going wrong? And many would say he lost his foundation.

Once you leave the service, four-plus decades of this infrastructure, and this, kind of this organization where you love them and they love you and you love them more than they really love you back. That's the thing about the military. You leave today and you're gone. You're gone.

And he didn't -- he didn't make that transition as well as he probably thought he should have. He shows a moment of weakness, and then, frankly, he's about to get caught. And that's when he suddenly found his religion.

O'BRIEN: General James "Spider" marks joining us this morning. Thank you, sir. We certainly appreciate it. Nice to see you.

MARKS: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, when veterans return home they often face an uphill battle trying to return to civilian life, but there's a method of meditation that could help them. We're dealing with post-traumatic stress. Russell Simmons is our guest up next. We're back in a moment.



OBAMA: Today, a proud nation expresses our gratitude. But we do so, mindful that no ceremony for parade, no hug or handshake, is enough to truly honor that service.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Today we observe Veterans Day. You heard President Obama thanking veterans during a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. The sacrifice doesn't end when the troops leave conflict. For many injuries, physical and mental injuries can haunt them when we return home.

Our team this morning, Russell Simmons the author of "Superrich" also the founder of Global Grind and the president of Argyle Culture. That sounds like something somebody should be shipping to me. Chrystia Freeland is with us. Will Cain is with a, he's a columnist for Alina Cho sticks around with us.

Often we spent Veterans Day remembering veterans and the other 364 days a year forgetting about veterans. You know, especially when you think of all the issues that many come back with, PTSD, many veterans are homeless and have all kinds of challenges to deal with. You've been focusing on meditation. I know we'll talk more about it later. Why veterans, though?

RUSSELL SIMMONS, AUTHOR, "SUPERRICH": Well, because, first everyone should have time to let the noise settle. But meditating is a great way to fight off stress. And people who have been through kind of experiences that some of our veterans have need it. And it's a dramatic shift for many in their consciousness, in their ability to deal with coming back to the world. You know, so it's something that we've given, and found great results from, and I'm on the board, by the way, the David lynch foundation. We raise funds and then do these programs for veterans.

O'BRIEN: I started meditating because of Russell. I read his book, "Superrich," and he talks a lot about transcendental mediTation and he names a guy, bob Ross, who taught him how to meditate and I said I need your guy and bob taught me how to meditate, too.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I am a constant meditation. I'd like to share my meditations with everyone.

O'BRIEN: Oh, I see.

CAIN: Two hours upcoming right now.

SIMMONS: Meditation is that's the goal, actually. Why we meditate so we move in prayer.

O'BRIEN: Don't tell Will Cain he's right.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, if Washington does not reach a compromise on that fiscal cliff we've been talking about, your tax dollars could go up in just about 50 days. Some Republicans say a deal may not be far off. We'll speak with Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. He is not so much about compromise on the tax front. We'll ask him what he thinks.

And did you see this brawl at NASCAR? Oh, my goodness. Jeff Gordon, in the center of it all, throwing punches. I mean -- yes. Crazy, yes. Talk about that and what happened straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We begin with Alino Cho who has a look at the day's top stories. Good morning.

CHO: Hi, there. Good morning, Soledad. Good morning, everybody. First came Hurricane Sandy, then the nor'easter, two weeks after it all started. Some people in the far Rockaway section of Queens still do not have electricity.

Many there out of food, supplies, medication, they are desperate for help. Our Victor Blackwell is live in far Rockaway with the latest. Victor, good morning.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. Tens of thousands of people still without power, the latest number from LIPA about 95,000 across three counties. And in this community, although the sun is up now, some people got light before sunrise.

Power was restored about three hours ago to some people in this neighborhood. On one side of the street the lights are on. On the other side, they're still in the dark. Now we can show you that there are signs.

Even when the sun's up, that this community was hit hard, sand from the beach still a block or more in to the community. Even inside this woman's apartment.

Her name is Dee Arrington. And she says the beach was in her living room, water and sand. She tells us about the night that she heard that wave. She heard the sound. Listen.


DEE ARRINGTON, LOST BELONGINGS IN FLOOD: Something told me to go out and look outside. When I went to look outside, I saw this wave coming down the street and the way I heard that wave and that wind screaming, I said, no. I'm in trouble. I went back inside the house and got my son, because he was asleep on the couch I said we got to go.


BLACKWELL: Now she says she's waded through water up to four feet in this community. We've actually seen video from her neighbors of really high water in this community. Went to the train station nearby, where she said she and her 21-year-old son slept for the night until about 4:00 a.m., until the water receded and she returned.

Now, she says she's very fortunate, although most of the belongings in her apartment have been ruined, she's fortunate because she and her family are still alive.

That cannot be said for a 77-year-old man who was added to the list of the dead. He lived here in this community. He died from injuries at a hospital when he fell down the stairs -- Alina.

CHO: Let's hope that community gets the help that they so badly need. I know the governor's going to be asking for federal help. Victor Blackwell, thank you very much.

Partial recount in the hotly contested race for Florida's District 18 Congressional seat narrows the gap between Republican Congressman Alan West and Democrat Patrick Murphy slightly, but it's not enough to trigger an automatic recount.

Democrat Murphy is still ahead by a margin of more than a half percent. West's campaign manager is vowing to take legal action.

O'BRIEN: Like what? What legal action can he take? I mean, if it doesn't trigger a recount you don't have to count it, right?

CHO: Maybe it's so close that they think that they can --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't there a law that 0.5 percent is enough?

O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly. So no recount unless it drops below that maybe that's what happened. It's a little interesting.

CHO: We've also got some big news coming out of Syria, Soledad. You know, opposition groups have formally agreed to unite. They're now the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces.

The move allows for more international diplomatic recognition, more funding and better military aid. Now the group's stated goal is to crack down on President Bashar Al Assad's government, and only accept a new government.

Listen to this, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer says he and Republican Lindsey Graham will restart immigration reform talks that crumbled two years ago, and Schumer believes they could get a deal done, and soon.


SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Graham and I are talking to our colleagues about this right now and I think we have a darn good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year. The Republican Party has learned that being anti-illegal -- anti-immigrant doesn't work for them politically and they know it.


CHO: Key provisions of the plan include a path to citizenship for those already in the U.S., and stronger border security.

Did you catch this video? Some payback on the track led to an all-out drawl during Sunday's NASCAR race in Phoenix. Jeff Gordon he's number 24, he intentionally took out number 15, Clint Bowyer, in response to an earlier bumping incident or so that's what they call it.

When Gordon got back to the garage area, Bowyer's crew went back. Fight was on. Bowyer then tried to confront Gordon later, but crew members managed to keep the two drivers apart. That helped a little later on, but not during that moment. We're talking about Jeff Gordon, nice guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's such a sweet guy.

CHO: Exactly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to teach him how to meditate.

O'BRIEN: Clearly you need to calm him. Take it down a notch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. O'BRIEN: All right, thanks, Alina. Appreciate it. There are just 50 days until the U.S. faces that fiscal cliff. President Obama has invited leaders from the House and the Senate to the White House on Friday to talk about some solutions.

Some of last year's dead ends still fresh in everybody's minds. The gang of eight, Senate negotiators are going to meet sometime this week as well, but Republicans say maybe a deal isn't so far off listen.


SENATOR BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think there is a deal. The yin and yang of this is we know there has to be revenues and I think look I haven't met a wealthy Republican or Democrat in Tennessee that's not willing to contribute more as long as they know we solved the problem.

So the yin of revenue we understand. I think there's a very good pro- growth way of putting that in place so you're actually getting revenues from people like me and other folks that make above "x" dollars. What you have to have tied to that is true entitlement reform.


O'BRIEN: Grover Norquist is the president of "Americans for Tax Reform." He's also the author of "Debacle, Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now To Regain Our Future." He joins us this morning.

Nice to see you, Grover, as always -- thank you. Appreciate that. You just heard from Senator Corker in that introduction. He talks about the yin and the yang. What do you make of what he's saying? It sounds like he's up for a compromise.

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, "AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM": Well, let's keep in mind, we did have a budget deal with the Budget Control Act just in 2011, which the left called the failure because it didn't raise taxes.

But it did actually reduce spending $2.5 trillion over the next decade. That was a very successful negotiation. It was a compromise. The Republicans voted for the Ryan plan, which would have reduced Obama's spending by $6 trillion.

So they only cut it $2.5 trillion. There's a compromise to be made. Maybe we don't get as much in spending restraint as the Republicans want. But raising taxes on, you know, a little bit doesn't solve the problem of the massive spending problem that we have. Doesn't --

O'BRIEN: So we --

NORQUIST: Doesn't get spending down. It just raises taxes.

O'BRIEN: OK, so then you almost sound like you're in a compromising -- that's wrong, let me put it, but you're in a position interested in compromise is what I'm trying to say. You have these folks sign these taxpayer protection pledges and we talked about this before on the show. And you say this, for the Senate, one for the House. One I will oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses.

And two oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates. So you sign people to what is a fairly stringent pledge.

I think you have 238 folks in the House, something like 41 in the Senate right now, 112th Congress, that's the Congress that would be working on this. Do you worry by for the folks who've signed this pledge you've now bound their hands to any kind of negotiation?

NORQUIST: As you know, let's be clear for viewers, the pledge is to the American people, and to the people of their state. We share the pledge with everybody in "Americans for Tax Reform." The pledge isn't to me, even though Vice President Biden says that from time to time. It's a pledge to the American people and a commitment when you come to Washington, we have a spending problem. You solve it by spending less.

Can we get more revenue? Absolutely, if we grew at 4 percent a year, sort of Reagan rates instead of 2 percent a year, what Obama's brought us to, the French average over the last 20 years, if we grew at 4 percent instead of 2 percent just for a decade that would raise $5 trillion in additional revenue.

O'BRIEN: Here's my question, I get it, do you when you have people in the House and the Senate who've been elected by the American people and you sort of automatically say I will not raise taxes, it's off the table.

That's -- people might say that's a difficult negotiating starting point, right? It's already taken something off the table. Don't you tie their hands in some way, you have an honest conversation about compromise.

NORQUIST: First of all, the congressman and senators have made that commitment themselves. I haven't made any commitment on their behalf. They made that commitment when they ran for office as Corker did when he ran for office to the people of his state.

And you can keep that commitment by focusing on the problem. The problem is too much spending. The problem is not that the peasants aren't sending enough money into Washington. We need to reduce the total spending and we do need more revenue.

We need 10 million more Americans at work. That would bring in revenue. But what Obama's nonnegotiable is a higher tax increase on the half of small business earners. Half of all the earnings of small business guys are susceptible to the higher tax rate he wants. He talks about his attacks on rich people. It's a body blow to small business -- O'BRIEN: Let me stop you there. I want to ask Will a question. He says half of all the small business earnings. I thought that the number of small businesses we're really talking about are something like 97 percent fall outside of what would be tackled, right? If you're talking about 250,000 as your upper rate to tax, 97, maybe 96.5 percent --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- earnings. So that top level of small businesses --

O'BRIEN: Got it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- are making a lot of money.

SIMMONS: The top thing that rang a bell in my head is the peasants. There's a circle of protection that some poverty groups informed me to protect underserved communities and the middle class.

And I think we have to respect that and look at it closely and understand that there are so many groups that cannot afford to pay. I pay taxes. I'm a business guy. I run many businesses. I pay taxes based on pre-tax profit, first.

So half of what they're talking about when they say destroying small businesses, is a myth and secondly, this whole idea of growing the economy by $250,000 versus $1 million. We're talking about $2 billion.

It's a huge number that we can get. If we're only going to tax people over $1 million because we're going to tax people. That pledge is going to go out the window.

O'BRIEN: Well, we'll see about that. I'm not sure.

CAIN: I wonder if I could ask Grover a hypothetical scenario, which I don't think is that hypothetical that two months from now we're in a situation where we have a choice between going over the fiscal cliff, or raising some form of tax revenues.

If the congressmen are forced into that situation, it's not going to be coming primarily from spending and we can't make it up, you know, economic growth claims what would you recommend to the congressmen? What choice should they choose?

O'BRIEN: Over the cliff or forget the pledge?

NORQUIST: Well, remember, we were in exactly this position two years ago. Some of the guys at the White House are bringing out the smelling salts as if we're going to faint because this has never happened before.

We're in exactly the same position we were two years ago. And the president, Obama, said the economy's doing so poorly we can't raise taxes now. The economy is doing as poorly now as it was two years ago, and to raise taxes now would hurt the entire economy. And last -- two years ago they extended all of the tax cuts for two years. They should consider doing exactly the same thing, and focus on the problem they created, which is too much spending. We need lower tax rates, not higher tax rates and we need economic growth, not too much spending. And even --

O'BRIEN: Is that a yes, go over the cliff or is that a no, don't go over the cliff, don't worry, rip up the pledge, which is it?

NORQUIST: No. Extend -- exactly what Obama and the Democrats in the House and Senate did two years ago, extend all the tax rates two years. Does Obama want to put 40 million Americans in the crosshairs of the alternative minimum tax?

That's his present plan. Forty million Americans are going to get hit by the amt if we go over the cliff he's created. We could -- if we wanted during his presidency to extend the tax lower tax rates for middle income people and low-income people he could have done that.

He spent two years, all of 2009, all of 2010, woke up every morning, all day he didn't extend the tax rate for middle-income people and low-income people or anybody, then he went to bed at night, did that for 700 days in a row.

Why would we believe he doesn't extend intend to take those tax higher tax rates to all Americans, not just the rich, remember what he said during the campaign in 2008. I'll never raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $250,000 a year. In 2012, he changed that promise.

That promise starting August 8th, Grand Junction, Colorado, and repeated many times since, I won't raise income taxes next year on people who make less than $250,000 a year. There's nobody out there who is now protected by Obama's promise once we get past 2013. That's why they're going to raise energy taxes if he gets his way.

O'BRIEN: Grover Norquist is the president for "Americans for Tax Reform." I know you say this form isn't yours. "Americans for Tax Reform" and then you mail it back to "Americans for Tax Reform" so to a large degree it is a pledge to you. We're out of time --

NORQUIST: No, no, read the first sentence.

O'BRIEN: I gotcha. Believe me I hear you. I read the whole thing. I sleep with this at night. Grover, appreciate your time.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. "Saturday Night Live" says goodbye to Mitt Romney with a look at the wild antics of his election night. That's up next.

And then an unprecedented look at the man known as a boss. Do you know he almost didn't record "Hungry Heart." Also behind a brand-new Bruce Springsteen bio, which we'll talk about.


O'BRIEN: I think everybody imagines themselves in the background singing for Bruce Springsteen. That's "Born to Run." While the boss has been known to many folks for the past four decades his personal life has not been very public until now.

A new biography out called "Bruce" and the author is Peter Ames Carlin got unprecedented access. It's nice to have you with us this morning.

PETER AMES CARLIN, AUTHOR, "BRUCE": It's great to be here.

O'BRIEN: Were you pitching him to get part of this first or did you start writing the biography and hope he would come to tell the story to you?

CARLIN: A little bit of both. I pitched him right out of the gate. I'm here, that's what I want to do. They said that's great, have fun, but not with us. But I was, you know, I expected that.

So I figured I'm just going to go ahead and do this work myself. I spent a year and a half just doing light work, you know, walking around, in Asbury Park, and calling people and billing that network of sources.

And you know, after 18 months of that then I got a call from Bruce's manager, John Landell. He said they felt like they were ready to cooperate.

O'BRIEN: Did you just completely freak out? Like the boss is going to talk to you about a biography you spent the last year and a half writing?

CARLIN: Well, it was -- Bruce wasn't going to come at first. Even the first nine, 10 months I was talking to John and talking to everybody in their inner circle. There was a lot of doubt that Bruce was going to show up and hang out.

But then eventually that broke down. That original phone call, it was a kind of freak out. But it wasn't -- I tend to disassociate myself from moments like that. I feel like, well, this is really going to be good.

CAIN: You talk about that moment that Soledad asked you freaked out, and you said I wasn't sure Bruce was going to come hang out. How does that manifest? You sit down at a bar one day and you have an hour to interview Bruce? Sit throughout the process of writing the book from then on? What was his participation?

CARLIN: We started out at the bar for an hour. That went well. He said I'll pick you up at your hotel and we'll talk for a while. That turned into about six hour day.

O'BRIEN: What did you learn? I mean, what are some of the things that surprised you? I'm sure so many people I know, regardless of their interest in music, they all like the boss. Everybody loves Bruce Springsteen? So what did you as a fan of the boss learn about him that you didn't know?

CARLIN: Well, you know, I tell you what, the night before he and I actually first sat down I spent about five hours with his mother and his sister, the older of his two sisters. They filled me with so many juicy tales and stories.

I mean, one of the great sort of affirming moments for me talking to him was asking him a question and going into some detail about what I knew and have him just sort of stare back at me and say, who's telling you these tales, man? I said, your mother. He's like, my mother! I guess she's talking and then boom. He went on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're clearly a fan. This is an icon loved around the world. So how do you balance that love for Bruce with the need to be an objective journalist?

O'BRIEN: Especially talking about the band, when the band broke up. I mean, how do you both love Bruce and some of the things that happened with that band that were pretty ugly?

CARLIN: People are people. Relationships are complicated. Especially when you start working together as teenagers and you've conquered the world together over 15, 20 years. A lot of stuff happens.

Relationships get a little bit tangled. So that part didn't surprise me. The separation of my inner fan boy and my biographer, only one of those guys is -- is -- has a job. And so doing that job became -- was my primary obsession. The other guy ended up in a cage.

CAIN: He was an icon to you, an 8 on a scale of 10 before you met him. What was he after you met him?

CARLIN: Good question. I tell you what. There's the Bruce that would -- that I admire, whose work I really love, that feels really important to me. And that guy -- I knew that guy's status wasn't really going to be affected.

No matter what I learned about the guy. It's the art and the artist. The artist himself or Bruce as a man, as a person, I was actually -- I mean, I didn't know him before. Now I know him and quite honestly he was a very nice guy.

O'BRIEN: The book is called "Bruce." Peter Ames Carlin is the author. It's nice to have you with us this morning. We got to take a break. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, the abrupt resignation of the CIA Director, David Petraeus and some lawmakers wondering why they weren't told sooner. Was national security put at risk? We'll talk to a general who's known Petraeus for 25 years and calls him the finest officer of his generation.

And then from the new movie "Lincoln," actress Gloria Reuben joins us. She talks about her character a former slave who became a confidant to the first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln. STARTING POINT is back in just a moment.