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Worst Congress Ever?; Airlines Squeezing In More Seats; Is Justin Bieber Retiring?

Aired December 26, 2013 - 07:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Love it. Love it.


CUOMO: Love it, people taking the time to reach out to others.

BROWN: Good stuff, right, Chris?

CUOMO: That is good stuff. Glad it qualifies. It does. Not easy, can't just throw around the good stuff. It's a high bar.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Unfortunately, we have a lot of them, lots of good stories out there. This is not a good story, folks. Our political gut check of the morning.

A new CNN/ORC poll out this morning confirms this is the worst Congress ever, period. We are going to talk about some added time to sign up for Obamacare and why. Ron Brownstein is joining us, CNN's senior political analyst and the editorial director of the "National Journal." So Ron, how are you?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning. Happy holidays. I'm good.

BOLDUAN: Happy holidays. I'm good. I feel like you and I were talking about this when I was in Washington covering the government shutdown. This is looking to be the worst Congress ever. The numbers confirm it. Here's the headline, 63 percent, no, wrong number, 67 percent say yes, this is the worst Congress of your lifetime, only 28 percent saying no. It's not a surprise to folks who have been watching Washington work over the past year, but is Washington getting the message?

BROWNSTEIN: It's really interesting question. You know, I think Congress realizes -- they realize they are not the bell of the ball. But, there's the "but" is that most members worry about how they are perceived in their own district and how the institution is perceived overall. And the vast majority of them feel as they are reflecting the politics of their districts in the positions they take and thus are in a pretty safe position.

The problem is that when you have a country that's divided and as polarized as we are, when you have Republicans who are taking very hard line positions because of their districts and Democrats because of their districts, it adds up to dysfunction, which is what we see in the poll.

BOLDUAN: Also look at the breakdown, they're blaming both sides. So does that mean -- what do you think this means for midterms? This is some kind of odd levelling of the playing field? Everyone's going into the midterms looking just as poor?

BROWNSTEIN: By the way, in terms of blaming both sides, what's really interesting about this, is you know, you may have Democrats -- simultaneously in your poll Democrats saying this is the worst Congress ever because they are blocking so much of what President Obama wants to do and Republicans saying it's the worst Congress ever because they're not repealing more of what President Obama wants to do, particularly the health care law.

Look, historically, attitudes about the president have shaped midterms more than attitudes about Congress overall. That's a troubling indication for Democrats because as you noted, President Obama's numbers are really low in this poll as well. The question is whether with Congress this low that changes that historic pattern. There's some reason, some precedent here.

In 2012, again, that presidential approval had an enormous effect on all of the Senate races. The three big exceptions were three Democratic senators, Senate candidates in red states won where in states where Obama was unpopular and they were running against House Republicans at the time when the House was even unpopular. So maybe things are changing, but historically it has been the view of the president that has shaped the midterm more than the view of Congress as an institution.

CUOMO: Ron, when you talk about what's going to shape the dialogue going into the midterms, obviously top of the list will be Obamacare. Should probably be jobs, but they'll be joined at the hip to two issues. What do you see in terms of how this dialogue may evolve between now and let's say the summer stretch?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, look, the short term political prognosis for the Obama health care plan is not good in public opinion. The numbers have been getting worse. As you know, there is a stark racial divide. The white middle class is much more likely to believe they are going to benefit from this and that is a problem in the midterm because the midterm electorate is older and whiter than the presidential electorate when more minorities and young people vote.

And those older whites are the most sceptical about the Obama health care plan. You throw in, Chris, you look at the states that are going to be at the center of this in 2014 and the Senate in particular, Arkansas, Alaska, West Virginia, and South Dakota. There are states where that new Democratic coalition just isn't as present. I think it will be tough. The short term is tough.

The longer term play really is can they build a constituency for this by signing up enough people that will make it tough to repeal regardless of what happens in the 2016 election.

BOLDUAN: Chris made a good point earlier when we talked about the latest headline, which was the accommodation that the administration will make, so if people had trouble signing up, they'll be able to speak someone and be given an accommodation to kind ofextend that a little bit. Chris makes a good point, which is, is that opening up themselves for more criticism or is this just what they have to do? They've already acknowledged the roll out has been horrendous. They need to get people signed up.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, look, it feels to everyone that they are just improvising almost day to day. They're improvising, I think, as Chris was suggesting there with a clear goal. As I said, the short-term politics are not good. The long-term question is whether he can build a constituency for this, both people benefitting from it, but also in the medical community, hospitals, doctors, insurers, drug companies that will kind of build a mote around it that it can survive after 2016, even if Republicans win the House, the Senate and the presidency and want to repeal it.

On that front, name of the game is signing people up. They are seeing some better news there. I mean, obviously, they're not meeting the goals they had set, but when you start talking about, you know, 2 million potentially on the private exchanges, as that number grows, plus the Medicaid number, it becomes tougher in practice to envision taking that away. What is the number above which it becomes impractical to take it away? We don't know that. They want to push that as far as they can in terms of signing people up while he still has three years to do it.

BOLDUAN: That's a really interesting question. Great to see you, Ron. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: The real tragedy is health care is a mess.

BOLDUAN: Already.

CUOMO: That's the thing. I believe that's a big crime for the Democrats, they've allowed this to be defined now as the failure of Obamacare when the system is being ignored as to the fixes that we need.

BOLDUAN: Is the fix worse than the problem? That's what they're playing with now.

CUOMO: The politics of it is really starting to confuse the real issue.

BOLDUAN: All around.

CUOMO: That's why we'll try to cover it the right way, get to the real issues and not let the politics make everything cloudy for everyone except the people in D.C.>

Coming up on NEW DAY, question, could flying coach get any worse? It's already being called roach class and cattle class. The answer is yes? How? More people, smaller seats, fewer flights. That's the reality. We'll tell you why when we come back.

BOLDUAN: Hold on to your pants, folks. Is Justin Bieber done? The singer saying he's going to retire. After all the mixed messages is he for real?


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY. Easy for me to say. Let's get over to Chad Myers in for Indra Petersons for another check of today's forecast. So it's cold where?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's chilly across parts of Chicago and Detroit even into New York. I mean, it's still 30 degrees out there and it's going to feel colder. Chicago it feels like 1 degree right now with the wind chill factor. The whole story is we have another small system coming on by, beginning to drop an inch or two of snow in some spots even lake effect. We are going to see 4 inches around Buffalo, Watertown. This is not a big weather maker.

And in fact, the biggest weather maker is not even in our country. It's in Europe. I'll get to that in a second. There goes the low that's going to make some now in the cross upstate New York. Another clipper into Chicago for tomorrow and then the next storm making snow, if you're skiing in Whistler, there's a lot going on today.

High today, Memphis 49, Atlanta 54 and all the way to New Orleans. If you haven't heard about this, the U.K., Scotland, Ireland, just got whacked by a storm on Christmas Eve. This was the lowest pressure recorded in the U.K. since the 1800s and another storm is coming today. If you're flying or expecting someone from the U.K., 53 miles per hour later on this afternoon in London, 58 in Dublin. The wind continues.

This pressure is equal to a Category 2 hurricane. That's how big the winds are. That's just planes have left the U.K. now to the U.S. They will leave later on tonight to fly back and no, that's not like the blue angels flying because that planes that look big. They're not really that big. They're flying from the U.K. -- Chris.

CUOMO: Thanks, Chad, appreciate it. Speaking of flying, if you did take a flight this holiday season, notice that people seem to be a little bit closer to you, you weren't imagining anything. It's true. They were closer. Why? Airlines are actually making seats smaller and smaller. Meanwhile, passengers are getting less and less patient. The airlines are calling on new laws to deal with unruly passengers, could there be a connection? Of course, there could.

Let's discuss it and bring in Tom Parsons, editor of Happy holidays to you. Thanks for being with us, Tom. Appreciate it. First question is, is it true, are the seats actually physically getting smaller? Are more of us being put into coach?

TOM PARSONS, EDITOR, BESTFARES.COM: Well, I think when you go over the last 30 years, there might be a 1 inch difference in the width of the seat. Where we've really seen the big loss is the leg room, 34 inches used to be the common. Today it's about 31 inches. There are some airlines that have pushed it to 28 inches. That's like putting your knees in your chin while flying and as a matter of fact, some don't even have the little buttons on the side so you can lean back a quarter inch, that's how tight they are.

So I think they are making it comfortable, but the airlines, what we've learned since 2008 is the airlines love something called fees. In the back of the airplane, they're making the seats tighter and tighter, giving us less room for our legs. The seat is about the same. If you want more leg room or the emergency room that we used to get for free, they're charging a premium, 19, 39, 49, $69 to upgrade to more leg room type flight. That gives you more options and they make more money off of you.

CUOMO: So obviously they're not making the seats smaller to just make more money, they are doing it to get more seats in there and that's leading to these other problems, obviously. Whether there's a connection or not, it does create a different environment on planes these days. They're not as friendly a place, not as comfortable. You're having more and more reports of unruly passengers. Now they're asking for new rules what do you think may come into effect here?

PARSONS: Well, you know, we have to look at the fact I think the public today, we're -- we used to be a -- I know when I used to travel, my first flight was probably in the early 60s, you know, my mom and everybody else -- everybody was dressed in sports coats and suits and ties and everything like that. Now we've got to worry if the clothing you're wearing is too skimpy.

I think we voice our opinions, we're more frustrated, more things to deal with, flight delays, cancellations, TSA and when we get on an airplane and somebody is trying to move their seat up or backwards and they keep poking you, we complain more than we used to.

I think today we complain more. I will give you one insider travel secret. In New York right now, Delta, which is probably a big airline, they're running first class specials through May 28th. If you want six extra inches of leg room, two or three more inches of butt room. Three checked bags for free, they'll fly you from New York to Tampa and most cities east of the Rockies, that fare is only 399 nonstop, first class.

CUOMO: Really?

PARSONS: I would say if I had to pay $39 to get three or four extra inches of leg room or I can get a big wider seat for my butt and more leg room and maybe even get a meal for free and three checked bags and my cocktail, I'm a happy camper for $399.

CUOMO: As long as my kids aren't sitting around you, Tom. Then there's not enough booze in the world to keep you safe. Tom Parsons, thank you very much. Appreciate the tips. Great to have you on the show.

PARSONS: Thank you.

CUOMO: Kate. BOLDUAN: Thanks, Chris. Coming up next on NEW DAY, 99 percent success rate isn't good enough for shipping companies at holiday time, UPS feeling the wrath from customers who did not get their gifts in time for Christmas. Why the slowdown and what are they doing about it now?

Also ahead, the Biebs hinting at retirement, is it real or he is just looking for some attention?


CUOMO: We have to talk to you about the Justin Bieber situation, but I can't do it from this position. I'm afraid I may faint because I am that crestfallen. I say let's take it to the couch. Ready?

BOLDUAN: Let's do it.


BOLDUAN: All right, Justin Bieber, you hear the music, stirs all kinds of feelings. He is stirring controversy once again just as his new album is set to release and his documentary hits theatres. He drops a Christmas bombshell by tweeting the following, "My beloved believers, I'm officially retiring." He quickly backtracked on Twitter. This is the second time in a week that he has hinted at his retirement. What is going on?

We don't know so we are going to bring in the expert. Carlos Greer, a writer and reporter for "People" magazine is here to help us. Hi, Carlos.


BOLDUAN: He blames the media a little bit. He says, "I'm here forever," this blew up online as much as we will make light of it. Is this real or is this a publicity stunt?

GREER: You know what, like he says, he has an album he has to promote and a documentary. Not only that, he has a fragrance that he's promoting, too. Justin Bieber is his own empire. So something tells me he's not really retiring. Maybe he was telling his fans he was retiring for the night, I mean, who knows.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to sleep.

GREER: Exactly. He shares everything with his fans on Twitter. He has like, what, 48 million fans. Not only that, a lot of people rely on Justin Bieber for their livelihood so I doubt that he's retiring.

BOLDUAN: You hit on a really good point that I find interesting. It is astonishing to understand his reach on social media. He kind of revolutionized that star/fan relationship. He has over 48 million Twitter followers. He's kind of unfiltered with them as well. Is this may be part of it?

GREER: You know, I think honestly, I mean, that's what pop stars do today, the Twitter machines, we saw that with Beyonce's release, for example. It's very much a part of their publicity. Again, he has an album that's coming out. He's not the first pop star to announce his retirement. Justin Bieber is 19 years old.

CUOMO: That's a big point. I think it gets ignored in the analysis of this kid because once you're a star, you're just a star. Being 19 years old that's obviously got to be part of the calculation here for why he seems erratic, right? Don't we think that?

GREER: Exactly. I mean, life is difficult for any teenager. It's a very confusing time, and then you factor in the fact that he is this pop star living his life in the public. Everyone scrutinizes every single move that he makes and the fact that he's so candid and so open on Twitter. He lives his life on social media. So he doesn't really have a lot of time to slow own.

BOLDUAN: I remember one of the first stories that we talked about on the show when it launched was Justin Bieber like losing his monkey in Germany. We really do cover every single one of his moves.

BROWN: What would we do if he did retire? What would we talk about?

GREER: He likes to keep us talking. I do believe that. The fact that he announced this on Twitter and then he backtracked, we heard that he initially joked.

CUOMO: How stable is he? What's the inside scoop?

GREER: He's 19 years old. So who knows how stable?

CUOMO: We see too much, too many hard lessons learned.

GREER: He's had a rough year. He's had run-ins with the law, with his fans reportedly hooking up with, you know, prostitutes in Brazil. So it hasn't been an easy year for Justin Bieber.

BROWN: Do you think it would be good if he did take some time off in light of that?

GREER: I think he is someone who needs to take some time off. I mean, he started out when he was 14 or 15 years old. He hasn't slowed down since. Again, he's a mega star in a huge empire. He has fragrances, documentaries, albums. So Justin Bieber could take time off.

CUOMO: Take it off from what though? A lot of these things happen when he is off. He's living his life.

GREER: Exactly. But you know what even then he's not living his life. He's been on tour this entire year.

BOLDUAN: Carlos, you see it in a different way. Miley Cyrus, you have one kind of example of the transition from childhood star to adult star. She kind of ripped that band aid off and she's now saying this is who I am today. I'm not Hannah Montana anymore. Is this his way of doing it saying I'm retiring, I'm going to take some time off I'm going from being little Justin Bieber, I'm going to find my new adult voice.

GREER: Quite possibly and his voice has caged. We've heard it. This album has a completely different sound too. The difference between Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber is that she grew up in this business. Justin Bieber became a part of it, at 15, very young. Her family isn't entertainment. I think she has a much stronger hold --

CUOMO: They're genius. Try to see what's going on with Miley Cyrus. Everybody was upset here banning her. I was laughing at it on television saying she is making herself bigger than her music ever would.

GREER: This kid is really talented.

CUOMO: She's a sweet kid. I've met her. I wish her all the best. This kid can sing.

GREER: It's a marketing factor. Miley Cyrus, the difference between her and Justin Bieber I think is that she really knows what she's doing when it comes to her marketing. I don't think anyone is really that concerned.

CUOMO: She seems in control most of the time while Miley seems out of control.

GREER: At times, yes.

BOLDUAN: We'll find out. Thanks so much, Carlos.

GREER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Reminder, the "People" year end issue is on newsstands today.

CUOMO: Take a break here on NEW DAY so I can compose myself. What went wrong at FedEx and UPS how two of Santa's biggest helpers let people down.

BOLDUAN: Plus, a dramatic rescue on a California freeway as a car goes up in flames. We're going to hear from a police officer who risked his own life to save a driver with just seconds to spare.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am, therefore, appealing to you to work for my release.


CUOMO: Abandoned and forgotten. The desperate plea from an American held by al Qaeda, what he wants the president to do.

BOLDUAN: Worst Congress ever, that's the verdict for most Americans in a new CNN/ORC poll. They are angry at what's happening in Washington.

CUOMO: A matter of seconds, a dramatic rescue on the L.A. freeway saves a man's life all caught on camera. Your NEW DAY now continues right now.