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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Interview with Representative Peter King; Gingrich Leading in Polls; Missing Drone; Penn State Sex Abuse Case

Aired December 6, 2011 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Thanks, John.

OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, a ninth accuser comes forward in the Penn State child rape case, his accusations against Jerry Sandusky.

President Obama delivering a big speech on that payroll tax plan, he also attacks the GOP. We break down that speech and the chances of a deal on the payroll tax.

But first the "Bottom Line" on the man of the memento, Newt Gingrich, new polls out showing him surging, Representative Peter King comes OUTFRONT to tell us why he might not be the guy.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, Newt on top. The former speaker of the House dominating the polls both nationally and in crucial primary states, brand-new numbers out today, and let's just show you this -- I mean this started a week ago and it has gotten stronger and more consistent. Nationwide, this is what you're looking at here, Gingrich holding a 15-point advantage over his competitors as you can see, 37-22 for Mitt Romney. In Iowa, caucus goers there support Gingrich 31 to rival Mitt Romney's 17 percent.

Ron Paul is at 16 percent. As we all know, Mitt Romney needs to come in one or two there. Down in South Carolina, the former speaker with an even more commanding lead, 38 percent versus 22 for Mitt Romney. Now despite his double digit leads, Gingrich still has a lot of critics within his own party.

One of them most outspoken among them Congressman Peter King. He came OUTFRONT just a few moments ago and I asked him whether he's happy to see the polls.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: I'm really not. I mean to give Newt credit Republicans took back the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years because of Newt. He's a very good revolutionary, he's able to mobilize forces, but as far as governing, as far as being the leader, he's too erratic, he's too self-centered. The time he was speaker, it was one crisis after another, and they were most all self-inflicted. He puts himself at the center of everything. It's -- and it was impossible to stick with a game plan and Bill Clinton constantly outmaneuvered him.

BURNETT: It's interesting. You have said quote, "I don't think he has the temperament, intellectual discipline or ego control to be either a successful nominee or president. Basically Newt can't control himself." But that Newt hasn't been the Newt that's been on prominent display in recent months.

KING: No, partly because he hasn't been watched as carefully as he would be if he became the nominee or if he became president. But he has like in the last weeks compared his wife to Jacqueline Kennedy and Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan. Yesterday he was going into a rant about child labor laws and he does that without laying any foundation for it. He just makes these remarks and then he goes on defense.

He's really almost incapable of laying out his reasons first, instead he makes these inflammatory statements, all these apocalyptic statements, you know the worst corruption in the history of the world, the most hypocritical thing in the history of mankind, all that type, again Armageddon language, it wears people out after a while. And also --

BURNETT: And you think it will happen? I mean that it's going to happen, right that people may -- buyer's remorse if they pick him as the nominee?

KING: Yes. I mean it has to happen. You know you don't change when you're 68 years old. I mean that is Newt, the good and the bad. And again, he's a tremendously inspirational person, as for as rallying troops, as far as governing, he's -- I think he does not have the discipline, does not have the capacity to control himself. And he can't stay focused.

It would be, again, the country and the Congress will be going through one crisis after another. And these will be self-inflicted crises. They wouldn't be you know there's enough crises in the world without inflicting crisis on ourselves. Or again, I keep saying putting himself at the center, the reason the Republicans lost the government shutdown debate with President Clinton in 1995 is because Newt gave the impression it was all about him being made to get off the back of Air Force One. I mean that's how he puts himself at the center of everything.

BURNETT: And you know he just said to ABC this week, I'm going to be the next nominee, obviously a lot of confidence, but let me ask you this. I know that you don't think he's the right guy, but if it were him versus President Obama, who would you vote for?

KING: Oh, I would vote for the nominee of the party. I mean I would certainly vote for the nominee of the Republican Party. But there would be a lot more enthusiasm --

BURNETT: You just think your vote wouldn't matter?

KING: Well, no, I mean again, you know Newt does represent certain Republican principles and I would prefer him over President Obama but he would not be overall certainly nowhere near the best representative of our party.

BURNETT: All right, well thank you very much Representative King, thank you very much for coming OUTFRONT tonight.

KING: Thank you, Erin. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right as we said, you know we really are seeing some strong divisions amongst Republicans. You don't usually have people coming out like that in their own party so early against someone who is surging in polls.

Craig Shirley is author of Gingrich's authorized biography "Citizen Newt" due out next spring. Ramesh Ponnuru is senior editor for "The National Review". He wrote a very critical column on Gingrich today for "Bloomberg View". All right, I love this.

Two people very different views. But Craig, Peter King just came out and made the point, the case for why he doesn't think Newt is the guy and can handle it. Why don't you take the other side? You are a supporter of him, correct?

CRAIG SHIRLEY, AUTHOR, "CITIZEN NEWT": Well I'm more of just a writer and biographer of Gingrich, but I did find it interesting that Congressman King, you have one politician attack another politician for being self-centered. I thought that was mildly amusing. The other thing -- I think the other thing that's interesting is that he's talking about things that happened 15, 20 years ago with Gingrich and said that he hasn't been on display when as a matter of fact he has been on display.

He's been everywhere. He's been all over the debates. I think everybody would agree that he's been remarkably disciplined. This is not new for the Republican Party. We are not witnessing, the Republican Party has always had a history of being bipolar. You had Goldwater versus Rockefeller. You had Ford versus Reagan, Reagan versus Bush. This is an extension of that story of the separation between the moderate wing and the conservative wing and it's being played out once again.

BURNETT: Ramesh let me just -- the headline of your article, "Heartbreak awaits Republicans who love Newt" and then some of the words that was pulled out by Bloomberg for your piece, erratic, undisciplined, grandiose. OK, you don't think he can do it?

RAMESH PONNURU, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Well look, I don't believe that he's changed. I think in fact all of those traits have been on display in recent weeks. In the last month he has compared himself to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. In the last year, he has flip-flopped three successive times about what to do about Medicare. He took a vacation cruise right after the launch of his campaign. What this says to me is grandiose, makes incendiary remarks, self absorbed, undisciplined. He has not changed.

BURNETT: All right, let me ask you -- (CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Craig, OK, go ahead.

SHIRLEY: Knowing all that and the voters presumably know all the things that Ramesh has rattled off and he's surging in the polls, so obviously all these complaints about the insiders don't mean a whit to the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Florida and everything else. They want someone who's going to articulate their conservative views and their conservative vision and right now he's the one who is doing it.

BURNETT: Craig, let me ask you, you spent two years working on this biography --

SHIRLEY: Right.

BURNETT: -- which I believe is supposed to come out in the spring of next year.

SHIRLEY: Right.

BURNETT: Good timing if he's the nominee for you.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: You know just take financially, right? There you go.

SHIRLEY: Right.

BURNETT: But you traveled with him. You have seen e-mails, you've had phone calls. You've spent a lot of time with this guy.

SHIRLEY: Yes.

BURNETT: Is there a side to him that we don't know? That isn't all of the words that so consistently are stated about him, whether it's arrogant or egotistical that people who like and dislike him seem to use?

SHIRLEY: Well, Erin, he's remarkably frank about his mistakes. I asked him about the 104th and the 105th Congress and he said I lost control of my conference. That's all there is to it, is that he has not pulled back in any of the interviews that we've engaged in. He hasn't held back anything. He's been about -- it's been almost all about policy. It's a political biography, not a personal biography. But he's been remarkably candid and frank about all of these aspects and going out of his way to point out his mistakes of the past.

BURNETT: Final word to you, Ramesh, I want to ask you about this -- the 16 percent of voters say Gingrich's marital history is the reason did not support him. Obviously he has been married three times, he's admitted to extramarital affairs. Is that 16 percent unusually high or low? I mean what do we read into that?

PONNURU: Well I think what it means is that Republican voters in particular are holding this against him. They're not saying it rules out voting for him. It doesn't rule out making him the nominee or making him president assuming that's the whole story, that we know the whole story.

BURNETT: All right, well thanks very much, Craig, Ramesh, appreciate it. It's going to be -- it's going to be an interesting one. Interesting to see people with their flaws and how they rise above them.

All right, well ahead on OUTFRONT we've got breaking news on the Penn State child rape case, a ninth accuser coming forward today. We go there for that.

And the U.S. loses an incredibly advanced drone in Iran. We were talking about that yesterday from Abu Dhabi. But now -- and one thing we said was what kind of knowledge do -- does Iran or whomever they share that drone with get from that sophisticated drone. We've got answers tonight.

And it turns out that privacy option for your Facebook photos indeed does not keep them private. Just ask one victim named Mark Zuckerberg.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Have you been taking fewer trips to the Olive Garden lately? Well it's starting to show, not just on your waistline. OK, today the company that owns the Olive Garden, that's called Darden Restaurants, cut its outlook for all of next year. Now there were a couple of reasons and one of them was actually good for those of you who eat there, is they haven't raised prices which is obviously not so good for the company especially as commodity costs, cheese and pasta rose.

Now those costs actually might be improving. Larry Miller (ph) of RBC (ph) told OUTFRONT that commodity prices are going to be easing, which could be good for us all in a lot of ways, but the second problem for Darden brings us to our number tonight, 5.7. That's the percent by which Olive Garden sales fell in the month of November. That's not very good and it means low prices didn't lure customers in.

Sales actually rose at Red Lobster and at Longhorn Steakhouse. Those are two other brands. Maybe people just (INAUDIBLE) wanted red meat and not pasta, carbs, who knows. Bottom line it wasn't good enough for investors. Darden stock fell 12 percent in today's trading and (INAUDIBLE) a little challenging for the economy.

We're learning new details tonight about that U.S. drone that crashed in Iran that we were talking about last night from Abu Dhabi. The Iranians have claimed that they shot it down. We knew that it was an RQ-170 Sentinel (ph), which it one of the most sophisticated drones that this country has. It was on a mission, we can now tell you for the CIA at the time it disappeared. Here's CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr with more details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. stealth drone that crashed in Iran last week after the U.S. lost control of it was part of a CIA reconnaissance mission using both CIA and military personnel. Two officials have now told CNN. The officials are also for the first time confirming that it was an RQ-170, the stealth drone that is so important to the CIA. This drone has special coding technology that makes it less visible to radars, to enemy radars. That's one of the keys to it.

It also has sensors that allow it to see into enemy territory to gather intelligence information for possible targeting. That means U.S. officials of course are not saying a key fact here, was it flying over Iran when it lost control? Was it flying over the Afghan-Iran border or inside Afghanistan and it drifted into Iran? No one will say whether it was over Iranian air space. We also know that when the drone went down, the U.S. did consider some type of mission to either recover the wreckage or bomb it to keep it out of the hands of the Iranians.

That's how important it was. But all of those options were discarded because it was inside Iran. The question now of course is if the Iranians have their hands on the wreckage, which the U.S. believes they do, what do they really have? How intact is it? How much access do the Iranians have to understanding this special stealth coding, the special intelligence sensors that are on this drone that now the key question -- Erin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Pretty amazing because obviously as Barbara was saying, what are they going to do with that technology? What do they really have? You know some had said yesterday in Abu Dhabi people were worried about whether, you know they could share it with China. They could share it with Russia. All of a sudden, this highly sophisticated American technology becomes something a lot of people we don't want have.

Well breaking news on the Penn State sexual abuse scandal. A 19- year-old man has come forward with some new allegations that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted him when he was 12. Sandusky is charged right now with 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight young boys over a 15-year time span. And a preliminary hearing has been set for December 13th.

Joining us from the state college in Pennsylvania is a "Patriot News" reporter who broke the story (INAUDIBLE) and Sara, let me just ask you, you know you broke this story today about the ninth accuser. What exactly is he saying Sandusky did and why did he come forward right now?

SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well Erin, by my count this is the fifth victim to come forward and make public accusations since Jerry Sandusky was charged November 4th. What he's saying though is a little slightly different than what the other accusers have said and this is why. He says that he was a Second Mile camper staying at Second Mile facilities in 2004 when he was 12 years old.

He was in a swimming pool with Jerry Sandusky and other kids, was then separated from the other children, taken on a tour with Jerry Sandusky, taken to the football building and into an office in that football building where Jerry Sandusky gave him whisky, started talking to him about his life, and then molested him before taking him back to the camp.

BURNETT: And the camp -- was he from Second Mile or --

GANIM: Right. He was a Second Mile child and that's consistent with all of the other accusations, all of the other accusers have also been Second Mile children. The grand jurors actually put in their report that they believe Jerry Sandusky started that charity, the Second Mile, to get access to kids.

BURNETT: All right, Sara, thank you very much. Disturbing, especially given the alcohol involvement in that too. Let's bring in CNN legal correspondent Paul Callan here. As if it weren't already bad enough, the fact that there was whisky involved, giving whisky to 12-year-old boy for some reason just strikes me even more than just the facts itself. But explain exactly how this happens when another accuser comes forward.

PAUL CALLAN, LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's not uncommon at all in these child abuse cases because I think we're up now maybe to about 13 claims --

BURNETT: Right.

CALLAN: -- claimed victims in this case. You know people get the courage to come forward. They have been harboring these thoughts about the fact that they were abused as children --

BURNETT: Right.

CALLAN: -- and suddenly it's in the press and they realize that people are taking them seriously. Of course it also inspires copycat people to come forward, people who just want to make money. So it's the job of the court system to sort out the real from the phony claims.

BURNETT: OK, so what are we going to see next week at the preliminary hearing where Sandusky will appear?

CALLAN: Well this is very interesting because most states now have eliminated this preliminary hearing business. You -- there's a grand jury presentation and you go to trial. Prosecutors like to keep their evidence secret, but in Pennsylvania, we're going to have a hearing. The victims are going to come into court and many of them will actually testify and be subjected to cross-examination.

BURNETT: And the grand jury only had the original eight, right --

CALLAN: That's correct. BURNETT: These additional ones aren't going to be involved in the preliminary hearing?

CALLAN: No, probably not.

BURNETT: Right.

CALLAN: This is only going to involve the charges that are pending against him, but we're going to get a real good look at how credible they may appear to be --

BURNETT: Yes.

CALLAN: -- and the judge then has to make a decision.

BURNETT: And will we get to see them or no their identities will be protected --

CALLAN: It's -- well you know it's hard to say because if they were actually children at the time, definitely protect their identities, but these are all adults.

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: Some of them may be willing to waive their right to testify without being publicly identified, so that's really up in the air.

BURNETT: So Sandusky gave an interview to "The New York Times", spent significant time with them. He had called into with Bob Costas on NBC. What is the strategy in him giving interviews?

CALLAN: I do not get this. Traditionally you hire a criminal defense attorney to protect you from being damaged by the press. This defense attorney is assisting the press in destroying his client. We have this thing called the right to remain silent. It exists for a reason because generally when a criminal defendant goes out and starts making public statements --

BURNETT: Yes.

CALLAN: -- he gets crucified at trial, so big mistake I think by this defense attorney.

BURNETT: Paul Callan, thank you.

CALLAN: Nice being with you, Erin.

BURNETT: OK, next OUTFRONT we break down the president's speech day today in Kansas and that push for the payroll tax cut extension and Mitt Romney, he picked up an endorsement today from former Vice President Dan Quayle, why we couldn't resist that one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And now a story we can't resist. So earlier today, Mitt Romney received an official endorsement from former Vice President Dan Quayle. Now here's the thing, Quayle has mostly stayed out of the limelight since his one term as VP and his failed presidential run back in 2000. The truth is, is the media used to have a field day capitalizing on his infamous blunders for easy laughs and so well, we will too. In honor of his endorsement today, here's a look back on the political life of former VP Dan Quayle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN QUAYLE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: In 1988, the question is whether we're going to go forward to tomorrow or we're going to go past to the back. And I can tell you --

We don't want to go back to tomorrow. We want to move forward. I believe that I have made good judgments in the past and I think I have made good judgments in the future.

And the future will be better tomorrow. Well Bobby Knight told me this. He says there is nothing that a good defense cannot beat a better offense. In other words a good offense wins.

I was known as the chief grave robber of my state. Hawaii has always been (INAUDIBLE) role in the Pacific, but it is in the Pacific. It's part of the United States (INAUDIBLE) right here.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And if you thought that we would forget his most notable episode.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUAYLE: Add one little bit on the end. Potato, how's that spelled? You're right phonetically. There you go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: We just couldn't resist.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Still OUTFRONT the "OutFront 5".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got to find her.

BURNETT: A mother's plea.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's so beautiful. She doesn't deserve this.

BURNETT: My life in a harem.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's absolutely true. I was actually still a teenager. BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about where we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the "OutFront 5".

Number One: Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, now with a double digit lead nationwide. He is 15 points ahead of his closest competitor Mitt Romney. Despite Newt's rising popularity, some Republicans not on board. Congressman Peter King came OUTFRONT earlier saying Gingrich is not the right choice for the nominee calling him quote "erratic, self centered and incapable of controlling himself."

Number Two: Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned tonight three days after being charged with drunk driving. Babbitt submitted his resignation to his boss, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who said he learned of Babbitt's arrest through a police department press release. Babbitt was arrested Saturday night after police say he was driving on the wrong side of the road.

All right, number three: Evangelist Billy Graham has been released from a North Carolina hospital following a six-day treatment for pneumonia. In a statement obtained by CNN the 93-year-old's personal doctor said quote "We are gratified that he has had a good response to treatment and we're committed to good home care to continue his improvement." Graham has been treated successfully twice now for pneumonia in the past twelve months.

Number four, Facebook acknowledged today a flaw that allows users to see private photos, including private images on Mark Zuckerberg's face. Whoa.

All right. John Avlon is here. Sorry.

Facebook spokesperson told OUTFRONT, "Upon discovering the bug, we immediately disabled the system and will only return functionality once we can confirm the bug has been fixed."

It involved reporting another user for having nudity in his or her profile picture. It's unclear you know that involved Mark Zuckerberg. I don't know.

Facebook then gave the user the choice to select other images to look for. So, including one's setting to private. We shall see. But it's funny, you know, when the boss has a privacy problem with Facebook.

OK. It's been 123 days since the U.S. lost its top credit ratings. What are we doing to get it back?

Standard & Poor's has been busy yesterday. Fifteen eurozone countries went on credit watch negative. Today, the ratings agency warned if those countries are downgraded, it might cut the AAA rating on the European bailout fund. That's actually a real big negative.

OK. What does the payroll tax cut mean to you? Well, we have been talking about the numbers. It could mean a lot more money comes out of your paycheck every week if it doesn't get extended. It has to be extended by January 1st, which means a little before that, because, you know, Washington, they like to take off Christmas, a little before Christmas, and probably all the way through New Year's.

President Obama was in Kansas today stressing the importance of the deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we don't do that, the 160 million Americans, including most of the people here, will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 starting in January. And it would badly weaken our recovery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The average American can expect to lose somewhere between $700 to $2,300 if the cuts are not extended. It all really depends on how much you make. The more you make, obviously, the more you pay on the payroll tax.

Now, the White House has even placed a countdown clock on its Web site to pressure Congress. The irony here is that R's and D's all agree that tax cut should be extended, if for no other reason than it's popular. And the extension though is going to cost between $110 billion and $120 billion.

Democratic Senator Bob Casey introduced a plan that called for a 1.9 percent surtax on millionaires to get the cash. That surtax was over, I believe, a decade.

The Republican plan called for freeze in federal workers pay and unemployment benefits from millionaires. It was voted down last week.

So, what will the R's come up with now? Because that clock is ticking.

Senator Hoeven of North Dakota is OUTFRONT tonight to break it down.

Senator, I really appreciate your taking the time.

The clock is ticking, I was jokingly saying people want to go home for the holidays. It's not really fair to say it will go to New Year's. I hope it gets settled before that, whatever you are going to do.

So, what's going to be the next thing put on the table by Republicans? SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R), NORTH DAKOTA: Well, Erin, good to be with you. And look, the key is we want to extend the payroll tax holiday. We also want to make sure it's paid for because we're talking about dollars that go into Social Security. And so, we need to make sure that we do all we can to keep Social Security solvent and at the same time, not increase the debt or the deficit.

And that's why Republicans have put forward a plan to pay for the tax holiday. So, we want to continue it, but we want to make sure it's paid for. That plan was voted down by the Democrats.

Now, the House is working on another package. You talked about some of the things that were in it. We're open to those ideas -- and others. But we want to make sure we touch all of this.

BURNETT: So, you're open to a surtax on millionaires?

HOEVEN: No. We've said we shouldn't be raising taxes. Look, the whole point is we believe in tax reform and the closing loopholes and getting revenue from growth and we should have a comprehensive plan that also includes savings and entitlement reform. But that's how we get this economy going and that's the approach that we're trying to take.

BURNETT: So, what other way is there to pay for it? Because, I mean, you have to say, I know you may disagree intellectually with how the Democrats want to do it. But they agree we shouldn't borrow the money, right? They're trying to tax someone to pay for it.

So, what other ways are there to do it if you don't want to raise taxes and you couldn't pass the freeze on federal salaries?

HOEVEN: There are a number of ways and we've put forward the idea that we reduce the federal bureaucracy through attrition, you don't replace some of those positions, that you don't increase pay. We have talked about for millionaires, making sure that we're not subsiding their Medicare premiums or providing food stamps or unemployment benefits.

But, look, you've got Simpson-Bowles. You've got the gang of six. You've even got ideas that were brought forward in the discussions between President Obama, Speaker Boehner and the vice president as far as savings.

So, we have identified a lot of areas where we can reduce spending to pay for, you know, this tax holiday.

BURNETT: Right.

How have you not been able, though, to do what the Democrats have successfully done. They have identified a group of people, the wealthy, that most Americans are all right with having them pay more, right? They've got that kind of intellectual thing working.

Your plan is actually asking the wealthiest in this country to give us some up that they have. You don't intellectually have that going for you at all. You keep being painted as the defenders of the wealthy.

So, what's going on here from a P.R. perspective?

HOEVEN: Erin, that's a great question and thank you for bringing it up, because how many times have we come forward and we continue to come forward and say in a bipartisan way, let's reform this tax code, let's close these loopholes, make sure everybody pays their fair share, let's have a pro-growth tax code that stimulates job creation and private investment, and you get revenue from growth. And that should be part of a comprehensive plan that includes savings and entitlement reform.

We can do it. It has to be bipartisan, and we're going to continue to push for it.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, sir. We appreciate your taking the time.

HOEVEN: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: There's going to be some kind of movement on that payroll tax extension in the next couple of weeks.

Well, the president's speech in Kansas today didn't just focus on the payroll tax cuts. He also made a passionate plea to middle class Americans while taking some shots at Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: And they took some shots at Republicans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. Let's bring in Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons and CNN contributor John Avlon.

John, let me ask you this, because the Democrats and the president have very successfully taken this issue of fairness, certain people are not carrying their share of the load. And Republicans go in and try to have a plan that says millionaires shouldn't get unemployment benefits, that millionaires shouldn't have cuts in all these benefits. They get zero credit at all for even pointing the finger at the wealthy.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And that should be the basis for a bipartisan agreement, right?

BURNETT: Yes. It should be.

AVLON: That's giving a little bit. But right now, we're heading into campaign season, that's the problem. This was a major speech today by the White House where they basically unveiled the terms of 2012 as they want to see it. The president as the defender of the middle class, and you heard that word fairness. You're going to be hearing it a lot going forward.

The most fascinating thing was that he gave the speech in the location where Teddy Roosevelt gave his "New Nationalism" speech in 1910.

BURNETT: Yes.

AVLON: What you see here is President Obama trying to wrap his political agenda in the legacy of T.R., a progressive Republican. It is a fascinating move and it was a fascinating speech.

BURNETT: Jamal, what did you make of the speech today?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, I thought the speech was very good at laying out the broad contours of how America has both -- we got to focus on the skills, better education. We got to focus on making sure that young people have the will to succeed. But then we also need the opportunity to succeed.

People need to know that they work hard, they play by the rules, they do what they're supposed to do, they're going to have greater opportunity. I think that's what the president was saying today, that even before the recession started, we were seeing that opportunity start to slip away. And Americans really want to recapture that momentum to get the American Dream.

BURNETT: So, John, if you're a Republican right now, you look at all the polls and you see that people bought into the Democratic point of view, they like a lot of things that Democrats are saying, they are for these millionaires' taxes that Democrats have proposed. What do you if you're a Republican? What can you come forward -- when you say this is what should be the basis for an agreement?

AVLON: That's the problem they've got. I mean, right now, you've heard the senator say earlier, maybe means testing for entitlement reform.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: Maybe that would add some credibility here. But the bottom line is they have an ideological opposition to raising any taxes at all, even a surcharge on people making over $1 million a year. And it's on philosophical grounds not polling grounds, because we know the 52 percent of Tea Partiers even support that policy.

BURNETT: Right. AVLON: So they're going to have to find other ways to reach out in substance and the deal is that the clock is ticking, we do need a bipartisan agreement, otherwise, folks are going to have their taxes raised out of their paychecks come January 1. So, there's real incentive to do so.

BURNETT: Well, Jamal --

SIMMONS: Well, Erin --

BURNETT: Yes, go ahead.

SIMMONS: The senator was in a little bit of a philosophical pretzel. At one point he's saying we can't cut taxes unless we find a revenue -- we find a way to pay for it. On the other hand, he says we're for pro-growth, we cut taxes, you get growth. You bring more money in over time.

You can't have it both ways. Either you cut taxes and you don't pay for it or you cut taxes and you do.

BURNETT: All right.

AVLON: I mean, look, the solution here is the one that's always been, is that we should be able to close loopholes, keep the rates low, and raise revenue as a result. That's the obvious common ground that Washington should be able to come to. It's not rocket science.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Yes. But if you close the loopholes, you can close the loopholes, but I think Democrats want to make sure that you still have a certain amount of fairness in there and, frankly, the wealthy have gotten over pretty well in the last few 15 or 20 years and it's time for everybody to kind of get back in the pot and pay their fair share.

AVLON: We're going to have a fight in this debate between laissez faire and the fair deal. That's the terms of this campaign coming forward.

BURNETT: All right. Well-put. Thanks to both of you.

Well, China got a vote of confidence the U.S. isn't getting today. The credit rating S&P affirms China's ratings, citing its, quote, "exceptional growth prospects." Wow. We could use some of that.

Well, China's rise is something I see starkly when I travel in the Mideast.

In my conversation with Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, and the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, I asked him about China, specifically about this, in a four-page ad in the "New York Times" about the UAE's 40th anniversary. He highlighted here on the back that UAE had only 18 businesses in 2005 and more than 2,100 today -- a whole page just for that. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So how important is China to Dubai? It must be pretty important?

H.H. SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM, PRIME MINISTER OF UAE: Very important. You know, we think the power is shifting for a few years now. And, remember, before we have been doing trade with Asia and China, before that. But now, China is very, very important because China is growing up and we're changing direction, trade (ph) to go to China.

BURNETT: There is something to the question of which is now more important for the world in your view, for the UAE -- China or the U.S.?

SHEIKH MOHAMMED: Now, the U.S. is very important, you know. And we've been dealing with them for a long time. But this is a new market.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Just this year, the UAE became the number one destination for American exports in the Middle East. So China's rise is a real and direct threat to the U.S. there.

One thing before you feel too bad if you're an American watching tonight, China's rating although it's stable, is still lower than the United States.

Right now, let's check in with Anderson Cooper with a look at what's ahead on "A.C. 360."

Hello, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin.

Tonight on the program, Newt Gingrich is skyrocketing in the polls, downplaying his past as the first House speaker in history to be reprimanded for ethics violations. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is starting to share details from that investigation back then. When asked about his past misdeeds by CNN reporter, Mr. Gingrich didn't exactly tell the whole story. Tonight, we're keeping them honest.

Also ahead, trying to get answers from the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania about who they actually consulted for medical advice for denying admission to a 13-year-old student who's HIV positive. They won't allow him in the school. A lot of medical experts are questioning that decision. We'll try to find out the answers tonight.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: Anderson, as always, looking forward to it.

Well, ahead, twin suicide attacks kill dozens in Afghanistan, we have exclusive video at tonight's "Outer Circle."

And Michelle Parker was last seen on the people's court before she disappeared. We've been following the story. And tonight, her friend and co-worker comes OUTFRONT to talk about her friend and the search.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle," where we reach out to our sources around the world.

We're back in New York tonight and that means we go overseas.

We begin in Afghanistan where 60 people were killed in twin suicide bombings today. You're looking at video of a sectarian attack against Shiite worshippers observing the holy day of Ashura.

Nick Paton Walsh is in Kabul.

And, Nick, who claimed responsibility?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, what's key is how the Taliban leapt forward very early on to condemn this attack, there has been a claim of responsibility by a fringe group called Lashar-e-Jhangvi. But really no one's sure about the validity of that. Many are confused about the sectarian nature of people targeted and trying to work out whether or not this marks the beginning of some kind of new phase after a decade of war trying to foment an inter-Muslim strife here in Afghanistan -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you, Nick.

And now to Germany where Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is meeting with European counterparts.

Diana Magnay is Berlin.

And why did he make the trip?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Timothy Geithner is over here because he knows that if the euro fails, then that is a huge problem for the U.S. economy. He's telling the European leaders to get their act together, to stop the euro train wreck. He says he's encouraged that Germany is up front and looking to crack down on country's that consistently bust their budget. But that the rest of the eurozone has to back them to build a stronger Europe -- Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you, Diana.

And now, we go to Russia where at least 250 anti-Putin demonstrators and an opposition leader were arrested today. It was the second day of mass protests. Pro-government supporters were also out in full force.

And Phil Black was there in Moscow.

Phil, what's behind the protests?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, these people are rallying in the streets because they're angry with the fact that they believe that the parliamentary elections that were carried out on Sunday were unfair. They and some international observers say they were slanted in favor of the governing United Russian Party, the party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Now, that party suffered significant losses and that is considered to be a significant humiliation to the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who is intending to return to the presidency of this country early in the New Year - Erin.

BURNETT: Phil Black, thank you.

And now to Florida -- a tip investigators have, expanding the search area for 33-year-old Michelle Parker. She disappeared in Orlando November 17th. Now, we've been covering this story as, you know. And police say a caller reported someone who looked like Parker in the Daytona Beach area. This is a new lead, but it hasn't turned up anything so far.

The missing mother hasn't been seen since she dropped off her 3- year-old twins with their father, Dale Smith. He was once engaged to Parker.

Now, their relationship ended in humiliating argument over a $5,000 engagement ring on the TV show "The People's Court." Coincidentally, Parker disappeared the same day that show aired.

Now, Smith has a criminal history, including domestic abuse charges. And he's been named the primary suspect of the case. He has repeatedly declined our invitation to come OUTFRONT.

Erica Thims will and she's a coworker and friend of Michelle Parker. She's OUTFRONT tonight to talk about the latest in the search efforts.

And thank you so much for taking the time, Erica.

Have you heard anything more about the new tip in Daytona Beach? Is that an area Michelle was familiar with or talked about ever with you?

ERICA THIMS, MICHELLE PARKER'S FRIEND & CO-WORKER: No, Erin, I have not been updated on the tip that we received today and it's not an area that I know that Michelle would frequent to.

BURNETT: So, we've been talking with Michelle's sister Lauren. I know you're also friendly with her and have stayed in touch with her. And we understand that they kind of moved the command post to The Barn, which is where Michelle worked. Are they still working that area that you know of?

THIMS: Yes, ma'am, the command center is still there at The Barn, the main reason they have it there is to make sure her face is out in a new area. They want to make sure her story stays current, kind of like what you're doing for us now. And although the search is not happening in Seminole County, the police are continuing in Orange County.

BURNETT: So, Erica, can you tell us a little bit about Michelle? I mean, you were friendly with her from work, right, at The Barn?

THIMS: Yes, ma'am. She's an amazing person. She's a great mother to her children. She loves her family.

She's always the light of the night. Everybody -- she's like a magnet. She just draws people in. She's a beautiful, beautiful person.

BURNETT: And is there -- do you have any sense from anything she said of what might have happened here?

THIMS: No, ma'am. No.

BURNETT: So, you speak to Lauren, as I mentioned -- her sister who has been on this show as well. How is the family holding up? Have you seen her kids? I know they're still with Dale.

THIMS: They are. I have not seen her children, and her family is staying strong and positive, doing everything they can to bring her home.

BURNETT: So what else are you planning to do to get the word out? I know, you said it gets harder as it gets further and further away from her disappearance.

THIMS: It does get a little harder. We just try to stay positive. We are continuing with benefits. We have a benefit this coming weekend on the tent at The Barn in Sanford with a truck pull and tug of war. All proceeds are going to go to the continued search effort for her and also for her children.

We're passing out flyers as much as we can, you know, staying on TV, staying with Facebook, it's a great way to keep her name out there, her face out there. Just trying to make sure people are aware that we still want her home and we're not going to give up.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Erica, thank you very much for coming OUTFRONT and telling your story. And I know we also hope that she will be found and found alive. Thank you.

THIMS: Thank you so much.

BURNETT: Well, she spent 18 months in a harem. Yes, there are harems in this day and age. There are harems. And then she wrote a book about it.

Jillian Lauren is OUTFRONT, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: The 2009 memoir "Some Girls: My Life in a Harem" detailed the 18 months the author spent in the harem of Prince Jefri Bolkiah. It was a bestseller. And now, Jillian Lauren's newest book, a novel called "Pretty" is poised for similar success. Jillian's story is pretty incredible.

And she came OUTFRONT recently and we began with, well, her life in a harem. It read like fiction, but it was real.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILLIAN LAUREN, AUTHOR, "SOME GIRLS MY LIFE IN A HAREM": It's absolutely true. It's a memoir of my time when I was actually still a teenager, that I wound up in the harem of the prince of Brunei, and I spent a year as his mistress, traveling with him, travelling back and forth. And so, it's about that experience and about that emotional journey for me.

BURNETT: And you had -- how you got there. You grew up in New Jersey, you went to NYU, it was a theater school. You dropped out. Your parents didn't really know what you were doing.

I guess at the time, you were stripping and that's how you got this. But you didn't know you were going to be in a harem, did you?

LAUREN: No, certainly not. When I went to this audition, since I was stripping, I was also acting. When I went to this supposed audition or casting, it was supposedly to go and entertain a rich businessman in Singapore for what at that time was a tremendous amount of money.

BURNETT: It was like $20,000, right?

LAUREN: Right, which was astronomical for two weeks worth of work.

BURNETT: Yes.

LAUREN: When I got the job, they told me actually you're being invited to be the guest of the prince of Brunei and to attend these parties that he has every night. I said where? I hadn't even heard of Brunei.

BURNETT: Tell me a little bit about this Prince Jefri. I mean, I saw a story -- this is the guy who went through $50 million a week or something. He spent more than $14 billion, more than anybody in the world. This guy's kind of a crazy guy.

LAUREN: He's crazy, and decadent. And you know, at that time, it was attractive to me, his confidence and his charisma and his recklessness. And, of course, recklessness when you have billions and billion of dollars translates to this huge scale, which is why I think is still is in the press and entertaining us all with his antics.

BURNETT: Yes, he certainly is. "Vanity Fair" profiles, giant court cases, all kinds of absurdity and insanity. Let me ask you about your other book "Pretty", which is not a memoir. But you just waved your arm and everyone can see your tattoos. It's about a woman who has -- that's described in some ways like you. She had a lot of tribulations in her life, at least the character in the book, struggled with alcoholism, drugs, things like that.

Is that reflective of you?

LAUREN: Yes. You know, many, many of the details in "Pretty" are culled from my life, certainly the substance abuse problems. You know, I wrote that book when I was in very early recovery from a drug and alcohol addiction of many years. And -- but it's all sort of thrown up in the air and come back down in a different order. I supposed to the memoir where it was really -- it was an exercise in memory and accuracy and honesty.

And this is a little bit more of a flight of fancy. Also honest in its own way, emotionally very honest book, the novel. But the narrative is invented. But many of the people are characters from my life.

BURNETT: Your life. And do you feel proud of the fact that you set such an example?

LAUREN: I don't think of myself as an example, necessarily. But I do feel very strongly about telling my story in a way that is honest and that's free from shame, because, you know, I do hope to help other people, to honor their own stories even when there are mistakes and missteps involved.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Jillian, thank you so much. Such a pleasure to meet you in person.

LAUREN: Thank you so much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: That's right. I read her book on a plane. And bought her book in Singapore. Just really an amazing story.

Well, tomorrow on OUTFRONT, another amazing story. There is a new presidential candidate in the Republican Party. We're not going to tell you who it is, but we can tell you that they will exclusively announce their candidacy right here on OUTFRONT.

We have that coming up tomorrow night. Right now, thanks so much for watching.

And "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.