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John Kerry Gets State Department Nod; Rough Winter Weather Heads East; Obama Gives Press Conference Nominating Kerry; The World Survives "Doomsday."

Aired December 21, 2012 - 13:30   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Give us a sense of his reputation overseas.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: Very good. Very strong reputation overseas and during these first four years, the first term of the Obama administration. The president has used him pretty much as a special envoy, if you will, as an unofficial emissary to various hot spots around the world, including in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere. Even early, when there was some hope that the U.S. could deal with Bashar al Assad, the Syrian president, on at least one or two occasions, John Kerry, as Senator, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, was dispatched to Damascus and met with the Syrian president. And we now know that came to nothing, that entire initiative to reach out. Any of the initiatives that may have been going on elsewhere with Iran, for example -- and John Kerry was not directly involved in reaching out to the regime in Tehran -- but he was used on some sensitive, back channel, diplomatic initiatives during these first four years of the Obama presidency.

And by all accounts, people at the State Department and people at the White House, especially the president and the vice president of the United States, they were grateful to Senator Kerry for what he's doing. He's now being rewarded. This is a job he's wanted for a long time. He made it clear he didn't want it to be secretary of defense but he very much wanted to be secretary. And the president will nominate him coming up in the next few minutes. I suspect we'll get an emotional statement from Senator Kerry in accepting the president's nomination.

MALVEAUX: Wolf, we're standing by and waiting for the Roosevelt Room for that announcement to come.

We'll take a quick break and we'll see if that starts on the other side. We'll bring you back.


MALVEAUX: We are waiting for the White House at the Roosevelt Room for the president to formally nominate John Kerry as secretary of state. That nomination we're expecting in the Roosevelt Room momentarily.

As we wait, though, I want to bring in Alexandra Steele to talk about what much of the country will be dealing with in the next couple of days, and that is some severe weather as they try to travel this holiday season.

What are we watching? What do we see?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good afternoon to you, Suzanne.

The biggest story, of course, this major storm we've been talking about for days, right? Now the bull's-eye is in the northeast but it's a different bull's-eye. We're not seeing the blizzard warnings and we're not seeing the snow, even in the green and white mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire. They're saying why is this rain? Well, what we're seeing, all of this rain is moving out and it's moving out of New York, Philadelphia, Providence. Still in Boston and up through the northeast and northern New England. You can see that. But the problem there is the rain, coupled with intense winds, 40 and 50 mile- per-hour wind gusts and that's why we've got some major problems.

But this is the synoptic storm we've been talking about for the last couple of days. What's happened now, it's transitioned to a lake- effect snow event. And copious amounts of snow. You can see coming out Lake Huron and Lake Eerie, that's where we're going to see it. So places like Cleveland and Buffalo and Syracuse and Rochester and Eerie. Six to 12 inches coming for them. In Western New York, Holiday Valley, the ski resorts there. Look at this. This is by tomorrow night. This pink delineating over 12 inches. And even down the spine of the Appalachians, so Charleston, West Virginia, getting six to eight inches of show. So that's where the troubles will be for tonight and into tomorrow. Wind threat even from Boston to northern New England down. Even in Atlanta, Georgia, it's blustery and cold. So major wind threat. You can see the light yellow showing where all these wind advisories are. That's today.

All of the winds will abate in the northeast, mid Atlantic and the south for tomorrow. But with the winds, take a look at the airport delays. If you're watching us from the airports, we've got some issues. Chicago, a ground stop until 12:30 central, which is right about now. And we'll see if that lifts. LaGuardia, of course, if you're flying out of LaGuardia or JFK, winds are a huge factor there because of the way the airlines, and the way the tracks are. In Newark, as well. San Francisco, four-hour delays. Fort Lauderdale, as well.

MALVEAUX: All right, we have to leave it there.

Alexandra, thank you so much.

I understand we're just getting the two-minute warning. That's when we expecting the president to come out and formally nominate Senator John Kerry. We're looking at Teresa Hines-Kerry there. She was one of the people back in 2004 that created a lot of buzz and excitement during John Kerry's campaign. She was one of the people that a lot of people were drawn to, as well as Senator John Edwards, who was his running mate back in 2004. She is there standing with the vice president.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, you remember that as well. He's gone through a number of various post positions, and has had quite an impact not only in Massachusetts but on the world stage.

BLITZER: He certainly has. It is interesting that, of course, his wife, Teresa Hines-Kerry, is there, the vice president. We saw Tom Donilon, the national security adviser to the president. Jack Lu, the White House chief of staff.

Missing in this photo opportunity, though, as you well know is Hillary Clinton, the current secretary of state. The reason being, she is still not feeling well. She suffered a major bout of the flu. It caused serious dehydration. She fainted at one point and then suffered a concussion. And she has not completely recuperated, otherwise, she would be there, of course, Suzanne. You and I have been to many of these kinds of announcements, and normally she would be there. But she must really still be in pretty serious, bad, bad shape if she was not able to get it together and come over and attend this nomination by the president in the Roosevelt Room as we're watching.

MALVEAUX: Let's listen in.


When I took office, our nation was engaged in two wars and al Qaeda was entrenched in their safe havens. Many of our alliances were afraid that America's standing in the world had suffered. Over the past four years, we've begun a new era of American leadership. We ended the war in Iraq, put the al Qaeda core on the path to defeat, and we're winding down the war in Afghanistan. We strengthened our alliances, including in Asia, forged new coalitions to meet global challenges, and stood up for human dignity from North Africa to the Middle East to Burma. We still, of course, face great challenges, but today I can say with pride that the United States is safer, stronger and more respected in the world.

In this work, I've been grateful for an extraordinary national security team. Tom Donilon has been a part of that. And I'm grateful to him.

Of course, one of the most important people in this whole transformation has been our outstanding secretary of state, my friend, Secretary Hillary Clinton. Hillary wanted very much to be here today, but she continues to recuperate. I had a chance to talk to her earlier today and she is in good spirits, and could not be more excited about the announcement that I'm making.

Over the last four years, Hillary's been everywhere, both in terms of her travels, which have seen her represent America in more countries than any previous secretary of state, and with her tireless work to restore the global leadership. And she's looking forward to getting back to work and I am looking forward to paying tribute to her extraordinary service in the days to come.

Today, I'm looking ahead to my second term, and I am very proud to announce my choice for America's next secretary of state, John Kerry.

In a sense, John's entire life has prepared him for his role. As a son of a Foreign Service officer, he has a deep respect for the men and women with of the State Department, the role they play in advancing our interests and values, the risks that they undertake, and the sacrifices that they make along with their families.

Having served with valor in Vietnam, he understands that we have a responsibility to use American power wisely, especially our military power. And he knows from personal experience that when we send our troops into harm's way, we must give them the sound strategy, a clear mission, and the resources that they need to get the job done.

In an extraordinarily distinguished Senate career and as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, John's played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years. As we turn the page on a decade of war, he understands that we have to harness all elements of American power and ensure that they're working together, diplomatic and development, economic and political, military and intelligence, as well as the power of our values which inspires so many people around the world.

As John has said, we are an exceptional nation not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things. And I would say that one of the more exceptional things we've seen in recent decades was when John helped lead the way, along with folks like John McCain and others, to restore our diplomatic ties with Vietnam. And when he returned to the country where he and so many others have fought so long ago, it sent a powerful message of progress and of healing.

Over these many years, John's earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of on the job-training. He has earned the respect and trust of his Senate colleagues, Democrats and Republicans. I think it is fair to say that few individuals know as many presidents and prime ministers or grasp our foreign policies as firmly as John Kerry. And this makes him a perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead.

On a personal level, John has been a great friend. I've appreciated John's partnership in helping to advance so many of my foreign policy priorities, including the ratification of the new START treaty. I've called on his talent and diplomatic skills on several occasions on complex challenges from Sudan and South Sudan to the situation in Afghanistan, and each time he has been exemplary.

Of course, I also have to say thanks because John invited a young Illinois state Senator to address the Democratic Convention in Boston. I was proud to serve with him on the Foreign Relations Committee under the tutelage of Joe Biden, and where we all became friends. But of course, nothing brings two people closer together than weeks of debate prep.


John, I'm looking forward to working with you instead of debating you. Finally, I want to thank Teresa. As someone who came to this country as an immigrant, she understands the shining values that America represents to the world. As a former interpreter at the United Nations, she appreciates how our interests can be advanced in partnership with others.

Teresa, thank you so much for being John's partner in this next endeavor.

I have to say -- I think I speak for John and Joe and myself -- we just left Danny Inouye's funeral, a man who exemplified the very best of the U.S. Senate tradition.

And so I know that John, it won't be easy to leave the Senate that you love. And I think it's fair to say that there are going to be some great challenges ahead. An uncertain world will continue to test our nation.

But even with all of the challenges that we face, I have never been more confident, more optimistic that if we act with wisdom and with purpose and if we're guided by our values and we remind what binds us together as Americans, the United States will continue to lead in this world for our lifetimes.

So John, I'm very grateful that you've agreed to take on this assignment. I'm confident that the Senate will confirm you quickly.

I guess you won't be able to actually appear and preside at the same time --


-- so we'll have to figure out how that works. But I know that you'll be an outstanding secretary of state.

Thank you so much. Congratulations.



UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, the fiscal cliff, is there going to be a deal?


MALVEAUX: All right. You've been watching the White House, the president making it official that he wants Senator John Kerry as his secretary of state.

We noticed, too, a couple of reporters trying to get a question in, if they can, if there's any reaction to the state of the fiscal cliff and the negotiations at the White House and behind the scenes.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer, as well as Elise Labott and Jessica Yellin to talk about what we've seen. And, Wolf, I want to start off with you here.

There is no question about his credentials and the respect that he carries around the world. What do you think in terms of style, substance and leadership? How will he make a different kind of secretary of state than we've seen in Secretary Clinton?

BLITZER: Well, Secretary Clinton was, as you well know, she really moved. She was constantly on the go. She never stopped. She went to all these countries. I think she broke all sort of records. I know that Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell traveled a lot as secretary of state, and Hillary Clinton broke all these records.

And I'm not a medical professional, but the fact that she is sick right now. I suspect that a little batch of travel, that last burst that she did over these past few weeks and months, probably contributed to some of her ailments right now, the serious flu that she's been suffering from and the dehydration. She worked really hard.

And I had a chance to spend a little time on one of those trips and she went to France, Egypt and Tunisia. And I accompanied her on the plane and watched what was going on. She was non-stop. She took that kind of aggressive, non-stop travel to a certain degree from her husband the former President Bill Clinton. I traveled with him all of the time and he was non-stop, as well. We used to do day trips to Bosnia or Kosovo or whatever. And Hillary Clinton was like that. She moved, she moved, she moved. And I suspect we'll see that from John Kerry. And he knows he has four years to do what he needs to do. And he'll try to milk as much of that as he possibly can. There are so many international issues out there on the agenda.

I was surprised, I have to say. I thought he would speak after the president nominated him and say a few words. But for some reason, they decided he would not speak at the Roosevelt Room. Normally, they do that, but for whatever reason, we didn't hear from him. He likes to talk, we know that.


MALVEAUX: Yes, he does like to talk. And we know as well, Secretary Clinton when she was the first lady traveled quite a bit as well around the world.

I want to talk to Jessica Yellin to talk about what is next here.

The president seems confident that the nomination will pass and it will get through. There are two things going on here. Obviously, his nomination process, but then you have Massachusetts, Massachusetts politics, and potentially an opening for Republicans to take that seat. Tell us a little bit about the jockeying that's going there.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, there will be an open Senate seat. So first, the governor of Massachusetts will have an opportunity to appoint a caretaker to fill the seat for a temporary period of time. And sources tell me it could potentially be Ted Kennedy's widow, Vicky Kennedy, but she would be interested in doing it only for a short time, and she would not run for the seat. And the question is, will it be Scott Brown who lost reelection to Elizabeth Warren? Would he be the GOP contender facing off against a various slate of potential Democrats, who include a number of current members of the House of Representatives? And then the, you know, unknown glitzy name thrown out there is Ben Affleck. We joked about that earlier.


Who knows? It's a list of unknown contenders. And the date is yet to be set.

But the president also has a full plate of national security positions to fill in the rest of his cabinet. He still has a secretary of defense to nominate. He has yet to fill the vacant CIA post left by Petraeus' resignation. Worth noting, he singled out his national security adviser, Tom Donilon for praise in his remarks there. The president has quite a bit to do before the end of the year. Presumably, he'll want to get it done by then. And some of those posts could get some attention, all right, generating a bit of controversy. And he'll have to make some tough decisions before all this wraps up -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: All right.

Elise, tell us about the hot spots here. If he is, in fact, confirmed, what is he going to need to deal with first? I assume Syria is high on the list and perhaps dealing with a potential nuclear Iran.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Those are two of the big issues he'll be dealing with right away. The Middle East is an area, Suzanne, where I think John Kerry will want to dive in and become very much involved. You also have the Democratic crisis in Egypt right now with President Morsi. Senator Kerry has been to many of these places. And I think my understanding is, just from talking to some people that know him, is when Senator Kerry is interested in an issue, such as the middle east, he likes to drive down, became very involved in the nuances of an issue and try to drive it. He can't, as secretary of state -- you can't be the Middle East peace envoy or the Egypt peace envoy. You have to look at the whole world. There is also what is going on in Asia right now with North Korea recently launched that long-range missile. There are concerns about its nuclear program. This so-called pivot to Asia, if you will, how the U.S. counters China and engages with some of the countries in that region. And then you saw just this week, Senator Kerry was talking very much like a secretary of state when he said that, in the next Congress, Congress really needs to be going for more resources for U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel abroad because this blistering report found that security in the post Benghazi was woefully inadequate, leading up to the attack on the U.S. consulate that killed Chris Stevens.

I think he's got a whole lot of international issues to deal with, but he's also going to be leading a department that, including its foreign staff, has 75,000 people.

MALVEAUX: All right. Elise Labott, Jessica Yellin, Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much, all of you guys.

We'll take a quick break and we'll be following this.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, everyone. Today, on the "Help Desk," we're talking about filing taxes as an independent contractor. How do you do that?

With me this hour, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox and David Novick.

David, take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As an independent contractor and sole proprietor of my own business in the wellness field, how should I file my taxes at the end of the year?


HARLOW: So I think it depends if she's paid the estimated quarterly taxes or not. And --

DAVID NOVICK, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER, PROMETHEUS CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: She's still going to have to file regardless whether she paid estimated tax or not. That will help in what she owes. It is similar to working people where they have taxes withheld out of their paycheck. Most likely as an independent contractor she's going to file who is know what is known as a Schedule C, a supplement to 1040, will list her business income and expenses. That would flow through to her 1040 return and file it as a normal personal tax return.

HARLOW: Anyway, Lynnette, she could maximize her benefit, her deductions as an independent contractor?

LYNNETTE KHALFANI-COX, FOUNDER, ASKTHEMONEYCOACH.COM: Certainly, she should take advantage of all of the exemptions, deductions and credits to which she is entitled. You'll want to make sure you amass the 109s you're likely to have gotten from clients and vendors and whoever paid you during the year and see whether or not it is business expenses, your health insurance that you might be paying for yourself, travel, any kind of supplies, materials you bought for your business, et cetera, write those off. Keep records of it, of course, so if the IRS ever audits you, you have the proof you actually did incur those expenses.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys, very much.

If you have a question you want our experts to tackle, you can upload a 30-second video with your "Help Desk" question to (END VIDEOTAPE)


MALVEAUX: NASA scientists have repeatedly tried to dispel the rumors about the world coming to an end. Amazingly, one in 10 people around the world believe that today is doomsday. They base this on interpretations of the Mayan calendar, which ends on 12/21/12.

Michio Kaku is the host of Sci-Fi Science on the Science Channel.

Good to see you.

Tell us why do people still believe this and what was supposed to happen.

MICHIO KAKU, PHYSICIST & HOST, SCI-FI SCIENCE: Well, as a physicist, I get hundreds of e-mails and I tell people don't quit your day job. Pay your rent. And for god's sake, do your laundry.


I just got back from speaking in Germany and Poland and it is all over the place. In fact, there are 3,000 books on the Internet talking about this. It has become a cash cow for people who want to cash in on this doomsday scenario.

But, hey, look, look up in the sky. The sky is not on fire. We're not falling into a black hole. We're not colliding with Planet X. In fact, it is raining and snowing, for god's sake.

MALVEAUX: And the Mayan calendar, even the Mayans don't believe it is the end of the world today. The Mayan calendar, there is a new calendar that starts, right? We all start right on over, right? After today?

KAKU: That's right. It is cyclic.

MALVEAUX: All right.

KAKU: You have to realize that many of the indigenous peoples live close to nature. However, Westerners hijacked it.


KAKU: They took the fact that the winter solstice is the end and they hijacked it in order to promote the book sales.

MALVEAUX: Well, let's all celebrate. We're all alive and the world has not come to an end. Thank you very much. Good to see you as always.

CNN NEWSROOM continues now with Brooke Baldwin.

Hey, Brooke.