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tv   Starting Point  CNN  February 7, 2012 4:00am-6:00am PST

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do we have no more time. too bad. he's making a lot of money. >> how about that? i guarantee, you soledad, you will talk about eli manning today. >> we will, yes, we will, because i love the giants. appreciate it very much. that was "early start" this morning. they will be back at 5:00 tomorrow morning. "starting point" starts right now. and our "starting point" this morning is talking about millions of dollars in earmarks from lawmakers and how they may have personally benefitted from those earmarks. one of the lawmaker tons list will respond to the accusations this morning. plus, three states, 70 delegates on the line. gop caucuses, mitt romney is looking to solidify his front-runner position. rick santorum, though, really could be the dark horse in this race. and there is no let-up on the syrian regime on the people. the u.s. embassy is now closed. russia's foreign minister is now in da mus cuss meeting with president assad. also, catholic leaders are
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in a battle with the white house over birth control. health care lawman dates employers provide it. catholics, some say it's against their fundamental beliefs. all that and much more ahead as "starting point" gets under way right now. ♪ can you come in and fix russell's audio? welcome, everybody. unbelievable, that's kathy's play list. she's a contributing editor for "the washington post" and founding publisher which i have been in a time or two. nice to have you. co-author of "grand new party" and russell simmons, mogul, founder of def jam and ceo of communications is with us. good morning. welcome. let's get under way. talking about the new investigation coming to us from "the washington post." nearly 50 lawmakers who helped
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direct earmarks to projects that potentially helped their own property or immediate family members. they say it benefits the public, not private interests. one of those who is on that list is the republican congressman joe barton, he is a republican from the great state of texas. he joins us now. it's nice to -- i think he is standing by. can you hear me, sir? okay. it looks like they're getting him ready. we'll stand by for congressman barton in a moment. the other thing congressman barton is going to discuss with us, he is a newt gingrich surrogate. as we head into the various contests, which no delegates will be awarded today, he is saying that his candidate is still in the race. russell joked this morn that none of the gingrich surrogates would talk to him, which is not the case, but we'll be chatting with him. it's interesting to see the big question there is, does he have the money to stay in the race, of course. >> no, he doesn't? >> can we comment on that? >> of course you can. jump on? >> all american politics is
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adding up to be. does he have the money? i spent a lot of time on this for years. more recently occupy wall street has brought this to america's attention. and then the greatest example of it is this republican primary. >> it's all money. our democracy is for sale. i've been work for a very long time. and now the constitutional amendment that's being discussed. a lot of religious leaders, african-american religious leaders have joined forces with i don't kn union leaders, ok ccupy the dre. >> catch-22. you're not in the game you get out spent and then you lose. >> 96% of the money have the money with. so instead of working for the people who elect you you ends up working for the special interests that paid you. and so the question is does gingrich have the money and does he have the relationships and does he owe the favors. therefore, if he does, maybe he could win. you notice what just happened, romney spent five times what he
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spent in florida and he won. >> you have president obama said -- >> if it was not for that money he wouldn't have won. >> president obama criticized the super pac money and now he has his on super pac. >> there's a wonderful new book called "rule and rue i" the history of the republican party since the 1950s through the 2000s. a big part of the story is moderate republicans tended to be supported by wealthy backers. and then as you regulated the campaign finance system as parties depended more on small dollar donations you saw an increase in ideological polarization and decrease in them working together to solve various problems. the story here is not so much that money is good or money is bad, it's that money ploes in the system in different ways and a lot of the regulations meant to put the little guy in the driver's seat actually backfired because back then you had a lot of backers who was like, we want to kind of have a broad-minded big tent party and so we're going to support people.
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candidates spend all their time chasing after donations. that dynamic has dramatically changed. similarly on the democratic side you see that labor organizations after restricting soft money donations to the parties, they have much less influence whereas now upper middle class, social liberals who make small dollar donations maybe influence. i wouldn't say that money is good or bad. i would say are the regulations actually serving their initial purpose or have they proved counterproductive? >> it's bad. i mean, ben is a person, jerry is a person, but ben and jerry is not a person. corporations are not people. it's ridiculous. the discussion that we should have public funding. we should have a democracy where each person has a vote and a vote matters. >> what do we do now? >> each person's vote matters. >> i love how the panel takes off without me. hi, i'm here. what do we do about it now, right? we followed newt gingrich as he was campaigning through iowa and then into new hampshire and so forth, one of his issues was, i
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would like to not have to run ads. i would like to be positive but i'm being hammered on the other side. >> the same amount of money should be public funding. >> eugene mcor think ran for president against lbj. nobody thought he had a hope. he ran a small campaign. they said he's dragging us through a war and we don't like it. when you have a public financing system the incumbents, the people all right in office, the the party that already exist are able to game the system to work to their advantage because they set the laws. they set the regulations. >> except they're in lord in office and except they already made the deals and already have money flowing. 94% of the time they win and they have the money and that's what incumbents do. the idea that there is a fair election now when it's all up to money is unrealistic. >> let me turn to our -- >> kathy and i are just going to start -- i can see how this
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morning is going to go. wow. no coffee for you, sir. all right. let's get to congressman joe barton of texas. good morning, sir. thanks for being so patient. we were all audioilogical difficulties. thank you. i want to talk to you about "the washington post" investigation. it's all into earmarks. they identified 50 members of congress who directed money to projects that were either very close to properties that they owned or connected to their families. and you were on that list of 50 lawmakers. talking about $3 million deal to widen a part of u.s. 287, i believe. it's near where you own a couple of homes. was there a correlation between the fact that your home was there and the fact that this deal was done? >> well, 50i've been in congres since 1985 and i have been working on u.s. 287 from course can that texas up to ft. worth, texas, that entire time. i live in a small town in dallas which is a community of
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approximately 15,000 people. every home in ennis, texas, is within two or three miles from 287 or the bypass that goes around it. and i have been successful over time in making 287 a four-lane highway from corsicana to ft. worth. that's totally on the up and up process. i would invite you and any of your cnn viewers that want to come down to texas and look at the u.s. 287 in my congressional district. i think you will see that it's a straight-up project. in my homes that you referred to are in residential parts of ennis, texas. i own no commercial property nor do i have options on any commercial property anywhere, not just in ennis, texas, but anywhere along the len of that highway. >> one of the complaints about the earmarks is they're not transparent. do you push for them to be more
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transpare transparent? >> of course, we're not doing earmarks in the house of representatives right now. but when we did do them, we had to sign a sheet, and i posted it on my website, and we also sent copies down to the local press. so we've been transparent for, i think, for almost the entire time that i've been in congress when we were doing them. >> let's turn around talk about politics in terms of the caucuses that are today. newt gingrich surrogate is what your role is on that front. how do you think it's going to go? you know, some people are backing away from predict that mitt romney is going to have a clean sweep of the contest today. do you agree with that? >> i think governor romney with his cash advantage, which y'all were talking about in the earlier segment, is going to do well. i think former speaker congressman gingrich is going to be competitive. i think he's really gearing towards super tuesday, which is the first tuesday in march. newt is the clear conservative
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change agent. his entire career has been about changing america in a conservative way. i think ultimately the republican primary and caucus voters are going to pick him over governor romney because newt is more conservative and he's been dedicated to doing that for a longer period of time. >> congressman joe barton of texas. thanks for talking with us. apologies for the audio problems earlier this morning. appreciate your time. >> no problem. turning now to syria. slaughter in nearly 100 more killed in homs. antiactivists are growing more desperate though. here's what they're saying. >> the entire world should be ashamed of what's happening here. everybody is just silent and looking at us being slaughtered every moment for no reason.
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just for wanting our freedom. it's too much, for god's sake. >> that is a terrible clip to listen to. jill doherty is live at the state department. jill, first of all, talking about that clip. there are many people suggest that syria is spiraling into civil war. is that the expectation at this point? >> i think you would have to say that, soledad, because you look at the situation right now. both sides are arming. and that is one of the problems. diplomacy hasn't been able to stop that. so you have to look at the options. could you do military action? well, president obama already said at least at this point that that is not an option. and many people who look at the situation say, look, this is a very different deal from libya where they did have military action. it's much more complicated. so what's the u.s. going to do? they're going for, of course, more sanctions, talking with the international community outside of the united nations to put on the pressure. they're also going to put pressure on russia by calling
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them out on the fact that they are providing their weapons and other countries providing their funds. >> and yet the foreign minister has arrived now in damascus which means, what exactly? russia obviously scuttled the security council's efforts to support the opposition. >> right. >> what's that meeting about? >> well, the meeting, you know, is essentially to do something, to try to get resolution of this. but one of the problems is, i was just reading a comment by the turkish prime minister who said, if you look at what happened at the u.n. and the action there where russia and china blocked things, he calls it a fiasco. and what he is saying is it's being interpreted in syria as a green light to do essentially what assad wants. so the prospects of something coming out of that are not very great. >> jill dougherty for us this morning. thank you, jill, for the update. look at the head loilines. good morning. >> good morning.
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dozen of mourners, many strangers, gathered in last night in washington state for a candlelight vigil honoring the memory of charlie and braid ddew we well. they say their father, josh powell well, hacked their two young sons with a hatchet before blowing up their home sunday, killing both boys and himself. more than 40 states have now signed on to a settlement plan that would help millions of homeowners whose mortgage is underwater. america's top banks would pay $25 billion to settle all the government lawsuits. the money would then be used to bring relief to struggling homeowners by lowering the principle they owe on the mortgage. several states, including new york, florida, california, still not on board. they're worried about their own investigations into the banks and giving immunity to bad actors. that's all holding things up right nounchts greece teetering on the edge of default this morning. leaders of greek's political parties met through the night trying to reach agreement on
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austerity measures in order to get a $170 billion bailout from the eu. three hours ago a nationwide 24-hour strike began with demonstrators vowing to close greece's ports, close the fo tourest sites and disrupt transportation. new york stogrowing concern greece, fixing the debt problems and avoiding default, those concerns and a deadline for the qualified for bailout weighing on markets this week. a source close to m.i.a. tells cnn the entertainer messed up. she feels awful about flashing the finger during her super bowl appearance. halftime appearance with madonna. the source, who is not authorized to peek speak to the mediation m.i.a. was amped up, adrenaline rush. she was not trying to send a message. she was just in the zone, soledad. >> that makes no sense. russell, you know her. you're our music moek gull. she gave the finger during the
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half time performance and now the source was saying she was amped up? >> maybe it's her normal performance. >> she gives the finger to her fans? >> imagine how exhilarating it is to do something a little transgressive in that setting. >> the idea, just the idea of the whole system, to say, you you know, young people, that's what they live for. so maybe it's something she's done in other performances and it was natural. >> natural? >> the whole thing worries me. all right. still to come this morning on "starting point," outrage over obama health care reform. religious hospitals now required to cover birth control. this is going to start august 1st. they say though it's against their beliefs. we're going to have a conversation with both sides coming up next. president obama originally said we should not fund super pacs, the group that can spend endless money but now changing his tunes. a school district with no zeros. fail the test, just take it again. we say get real this morning. you're watching "starting point." [ horn honks ]
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welcome back, everybody. there's controversy over a portion of president obama's health care law. it requires some religious affiliated organizations, university, hospitals, to cover birth control services under the programs. religious organizations are outraged over the mandate. they say it goes against their fundamental beliefs and the issue has spilled on to the campaign trail as well. listen to mitt romney from last night. >> this is a violation of conscience. we must have a president who is willing to protect america's first right, a right to worship god, according to the dictates of our own conscience. >> to have a conversation about both sides of this argument, republican congressman marsha blackburn joins us from tennessee and lieu ice ming is the deputy legal director for the aclu. congresswoman, let's begin with you. when you hear from mitt romney saying this is about the right to worship god, this is about religious freedom, how is this about religious freedom and a
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right to worship? >> well, it is about religious freedom because what has happened with the obamacare bill, soledad, is specifically this. that bill is about government force. government forcing their way into what you believe, what you're going to -- what you're going to be able to provide. and that is not what the american people want. what happened to the president saying, if you like what you have, you can keep it. well, we know that that didn't happen. >> let me stop you there. >> that didn't happen. >> let me stop you there for a second. >> sure. >> i want to bring you back to the original question which, is how is that about the right to worship god and how is that about religious freedom, because what it's saying, right, is that these churches have a very narrow -- only narrowly can get out of this requirement. if it comes to catholic universities, et cetera, they have to pay for contraception for their employees. >> for the employees -- >> they want to take them up on that, right? how is that about religious
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freedom. >> it is about forcing employers to provide things that go against their religious beliefs. and when you have individuals that go to church on sunday and put money in the offering plate, they need to be assured that that money is not going to go and pay for contraception item, for abortion pills. and this mandate covers all fda-approved medications. so what it does is go against what those religious beliefs are. i think that this is color lcle example where the federal government does not know best. and the federal government and the obamacare bill should not be forcing these employers to go against their religious beliefs. what's it going to do? >> let's bring louise in for that. what she's saying is that -- and they are requiring an employee to offer the choice of contraception for the employees. why shouldn't someone like a church who is against contraception say, why can't we opt out of that?
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>> this respects religious liberty. churches aren't, in fact, churches don't have to provide contraceptive coverage@as part of their package. what this rule says is institutions like hospitals and charities and schools that open their door to the public, serve primarily the public, don't have a primary purpose of religion, have to offer the same insurance everybody else does. 9 8% of american women use contraception. including catholics. this say it is you serve the public, you play by public rules. >> that 98% number and i've seen ranges between high 80s and 99% of women are using contraception. and if you look specifically at catholi catholics, they're actually high 80s that are using contraception. ultimately isn't that giving an option to people who have decided not to follow the church's teaching on this? >> well, what it is doing is
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forcing the issue of religious freedom, soledad. as you said in your first question, what this is is government coming in and saying to institutions that are founded on these religious beliefs that you are going to have to comply with this federal government mandate and -- >> but a lot of their employees aren't catholic, right? those are for people who -- employees who may not be catholic, who may actually be using contraception if they are catholic. >> it is a catholic employer. you've got 70 million catholics. you've got institutions, colleges. there are already lawsuits filed. the beckett fund has a couple of lawsuits filed fighting this on behalf of catholic institutions. and i hope that they continue to fight it every step of the way. this is a religious liberty issue. these religious organizations are now being forced by the federal government to come in and they're going to be pushed
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out of the health care arena. then two is going to step in and fill that void? it will be the federal government. >> let me play a little bit -- it's a letter, actually from cardinal o'malley. unless the rule is overturned, we catholics will be compelled and must be prepared to either violate our con shenses or drop health coverage for our employees, and suffer the penalties of doing so. louise, let me give you the final word on this this morning. how do you think this ends? >> first of all, i want to emphasize again the church has not interfered. people can hold to their beliefs and what we're doing here is nothing exceptional. asking employers to provide contraception for their employees. 28 states already do it. new york, california have the same exemption. this is about saying if you're an institution you serve the public, you open the your doors to the blik, then you have to play by public rules. you don't have the right to impose your relike john on other people and because you're people of good faith you are not exempt from rules.
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once you operate in the public sphere. we'll see. american women want coverage what what is an essential piece of their health care. >> louise ming and -- >> religious freedom. >> appreciate you both joining us this morning. still ahead this morning, georgia's school district adopts a no zero grading policy. students will not get zero, no matter what. a student cannot get a zero. it is our "get real" this morning. big change in unemployment benefits. you ready? we wanna be our brother's keeper. what's number two we wanna do? bring it up to 90 decatherms. how bout ya, joe? let's go ahead and bring it online. attention on site, attention on site. now starting unit nine. some of the world's cleanest gas turbines are now powering some of america's biggest cities. siemens. answers. sadly, no. oh. but i did pick up your dry cleaning
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and had your shoes shined. well, i made you a reservation at the sushi place around the corner. well, in that case, i better get back to these invoices... which i'll do right after making your favorite pancakes. you know what? i'm going to tidy up your side of the office. i can't hear you because i'm also making you a smoothie. [ male announcer ] marriott hotels & resorts knows it's better for xerox to automate their global invoice process so they can focus on serving their customers. with xerox, you're ready for real business.
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snt ♪ i love this song. jay-z. guess who on the panel picked this today? ding, ding, ding, we have the winner. this is russell's. we could play russell's ipod for the whole two hours and be happy. here is our "get real." we're going to take you to georgia and they're putting a new system in place that think think will keep students from failing. system is literally do not allow them to fail under new policy kids in grades 3-8 cannot be given zeros. if they're given a zero they
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retake the test until they pass. 60 is the lowest grade. it helps them from dropping put. the zero policy is raising a little controversy. people argue it let's kids skip studying for teachers. forces teachers to coach them through the material until they pass. it forces teachers to coach the students through the material to pass. that's called teaching, i think. i don't know why people are up in arms about this. i say get real. this is a good idea for students third grade. mastery of material. >> i was a former public schoolteacher so i never liked to fail my students. i would make sure they would get those ds and do what it takes to get to the next step. if you're getting zeros and fs that means you're holding them back. when you hold back a student it does more damage in the long term than anything else you could do in a school. move them on. >> i don't know why people are up in arms about it. >> excellent idea.
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every school should do this. >> whenever people say studies show, i always want to say which studies, are there other studies. >> studies i've read. >> what i like is decentralization, different strategies, figure out what works best. it's entirely possible this will work but i would be perfectly happy to see another school take it a totally different direction. >> you've got little kids, right? >> they already do take a different direction, they're failing them. we find that it hurts. probably a good idea. i have to say as parent of way too many small children. >> you say all five. >> all five fits all. no, i'm for an education. i think we have to think carefully about the -- listen to this, they're going to force teachers to make sure the kids master material. that's teaching. >> so that they move on. >> that's teaching. that's actually a good idea, to have children master the material and not worry so much about the grade but worry about
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the mastery. anyway, we can argue about this on the commercial break because we have one coming up. still ahead, pass the senate, now the house is voting on a bill that ould outlaw trading. we're going to talk life with the sponsors. a shocking circus accident has landed -- look at this. my goodness. a stunt man and a claun clown in the hospital. take a look at what went wrong. straight ahead. here's what went wrong, they have a motorcycle inside a building jumping something very large. [ female announcer ] lactaid milk is easy to digest. it's real milk full of calcium and vitamin d.
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a look at the headlines. >> good morning, again. russia's foreign minister meeting a president assad. saying moscow wants arab people to live in peace. 21 civilians bb killed in syria so far today. president obama's re-election campaign is changing its position and its opposition to the super pacs.
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obama had been among the most voc vocal critics of these outside spending group fwhus an about face the campaign will begin using administration and campaign aides to fund raise for priorities usa action, a super pac backing the president. gop presidential race moves to colorado and minnesota today. no matter what happens in the caucuses there, both newt gingrich and rick santorum insist they won't leave the race. the two agreed neither would drop out to give the other a better chance against front-runner mitt romney. gingrich says we're both busy having a good time. maximum amount you could receive in unemployment insurance is about to drop to 79 weeks. the federal extended benefits is due to expire over the coast of this year in the 32 states where it's now in effect. and a circus stunt driver vows to return to the ring after a devastating fall this weekend. josh headforf broke his femur, wrist, and he'elbow when he str
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a cable in a show in saginaw, michigan. he was a busineit going difficu after the accident. he said as soon as i can pull a boot on my leg i will be back on my bike. european markets down overnight. greece is on the brink of meeting the terms of a new bail out agreement from the eu. but until that actually happens, markets will remain jittery. so it's all about greece today. last week it was all about good jobs and the u.s. now it's about greece and europe. >> we're watching greece today. thank you very much. this morning a bill that would make lawmakers obey the same rules that you and i have to when it comes to making money on inside information, in other words, you can't. it's gaining traction. it had been going nowhere for years. this week the house is expected to vote on the bill as well. republican congressman bill johnson of ohio is the cosponsor of the stock act and tim is a leading sponsor of the stock act. i want to first talk a little
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bit about these races that are happening this evening. so let's tart start with you, congressman. look for me at the race in minnesota. what are your expectations for tonight? >> well, i certainly wouldn't want to speak for republican caucus goers but what i can tell you mainnesota, probably governr romney not even being in the state the last couple of days is pretty telling. probably the way the thing looks like it's going to shake out, 33% will win this thing. i would guess maybe senator santorum will win it there. just pretty much in flux. >> i like how you say i'm not going to talk about republican caucus goers. >> with any conviction, i can only say i think that's what's happening here. >> i hear ya. congressman johnson, santorum is predicted to potentially be surging. we know that romney has been on the attack or romney's folks have been on the attack. what do you think that means for the race? >> well, you know, i can't say what mr. santorum or the other
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candidates are doing tactically but i know strategically they're all focused on the same thing, and that's to make this president, president obama, a one-time -- one-term president. you know, his policies have hurt america. we've had 36 straight months of unemployment in excess of 8%. most of the time it's been around 9% or higher. we've got 2 million more americans out of work today than when he came in to office. and we've got 4 million more americans that are classified as either low income or at the poverty line. and every economic indicator we've got practically is heading in the wrong direction. so i'm sure that that's what governor romney and mr. santorum and newt gingrich are all focused on. >> all that said, ohio is a battleground state and it's a state that president obama won by five points in 2008. if you look at this new poll
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that comes out of abc it shows a swing of independent voters. the number to look at is the first column. 48% independents supporting president obama was 38% in january. that's a ten-point leap if you look at mitt romney's numbers, was 50%. now that's dropped a few points to 47%. does a graph like that concern you, sir? >> well, what i can tell you along the eastern and southeastern ohio border, along the ohio river where unemployment is still unacceptably high, people there are concerned about jobs. they're concerned about unemployment. cbo reports that unemployment will be back up around 9% by the end of this year. so we are far from out of the woods. and we've got a long way to go between now and november. and i can tell you that people in my district that are paying double for what they paid for a gallon of gasoline when president obama came into office, they're concerned and i think that will be reflected in november.
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>> congressman waltz, let's talk about the stock act. it says you can't insider trade and members of congress would be subjected to the same rules that regular folks would be subjected that. >> imagine that. >> shocking. i'm shocked. as a voter. why do you think this bill, in all seriousness, why do you think it's important? >> well, i've been on there this since i got here, soledad. it's about restoring faith in government, in the democracy. bill and i will disagree greatly. we can talk about the president and the different indicators and job growth and things like that. fundamental by i know bill is an honest guy doing the right thing. i think the public wants to see their government the same way. that proposition of doing the rules. you get something like this passed and then we can start dealing with the real issues about how we move and how we make sure this congress passes things to help that growth moving in the right direction. it's really about restoring faith. >> congressman johnson, how would this change how congress does business on this front? specifically, literally. >> absolutely. you know, i want to echo what
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tim said. you know, there's no doubt about it. tim and i probably have differences where the presidential climate is concerned. there are some things that tim and i agree strongly on. this is one of those areas. and returning integrity and honesty and the faith of the american people to their elected representatives, this is extremely important. and i'm very, very proud to be a co-sponsor of the stock act and i plan to support it this week. it's only fair and only right that we expect our elected representatives and their staff in washington to abide by the same rules that the american people have to. >> might get those congressional approval numbers up from 11% which are kind of bad. gentlemen, i thank you for joining us this morning. appreciate it. still ahead this morning on "starting point," school lunches are getting healthier, but not the school vending machines. we'll talk about that. plus, that terrible story out of l.a. elementary school. the two teachers accused of committing lewd acts on
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children. now that school has been shut down, the entire staff is gone. they will be bring new staff in. lawyers for the alleged victims will join us live in just a minute. americans believe they should be in charge of their own future. how they'll live tomorrow. for more than 116 years, ameriprise financial has worked for their clients' futures. helping millions of americans retire on their terms. when they want. where they want. doing what they want. ameriprise. the strength of a leader in retirement planning. the heart of 10,000 advisors working with you one-to-one. together for your future.
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♪ i was going to say, what is this?
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"still my sunshine." who since it? >> len. >> len? >> l-e-n. >> are you bringing the one-hit wonders? i like it. it's definitely -- wakes you up in the morning. it's on on the go sound track. >> on the "go" sound track. the movie "go." >> the teleprompter said it was "ice ice baby." >> i did not pick that. >> we're talking this morning about unhealthy snacks. one-third of kids in the united states are overweight or obese and despite some efforts to change men nuus and junk food, y can still buy them. senior medical correspondent is elizabeth cohen in atlanta this morning. good morning to you, elizabeth. >> good morning. you know, soledad, it's so interesting because people we're hoping with this new study that came out that fewer schools
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would be putting these vending machines in where kids could buy junk food but in fact it's just as bood ad as it ever was. we're talking elementary schools here. >> you know, i know that for many schools the vending machine income correlates to the band uniforms, the musical instruments, all of these other things. is that really what's at the heart of it? >> right. in many ways it is. those contract can be lucrative. a single district can make hundreds of thousands of dollars from vending machines. they know if you put apples in those vending machines those sales might not be quite as high. so you know, the usda has made this big push to reduce school lunches, which they announced earlier this year. this one is tough because this really affects the school's bottom line. >> i have to say, you would think that if they're making all of this effort on a school lunch and putting crap in a vending machine doesn't it undo all the
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good or at least some of the progress they've made on the school lunch front? >> absolutely. that's what advocates say is right, exactly. you can give them as healthy lunch as they want but if the kid can go down the hall and get a candy bar and a bag of chips, he might opt to do that instead. this is a harder thing to in some ways to change because of those band uniforms. schools might not be able to buy what they want to buy if they stop selling candy bars and chips in vechip s in vending machines. >> when did you start eating vegan and healthfully? i have a candy bar every morning before the show starts. >> are you serious? >> i do. yes. i'm sorry. i have to wake up. i'm up at 2:30 in the morning. >> creativity. i'm spending time developing a food line. to make them fun and creative and taste good, it's not impossible. >> are your daughters vegan? >> my daughters eat very healthy. they're not totally vegan. they eat fish sometimes. i believe it's important that
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you feed a kid and you teach a kid to eat healthy. you know, it's critical. it's part of parenting. i think the school systems should be held accountable. and i think we are going to work on it. as we talk more about it we're going to make more changes. again, creative work can make those vending machines taste good and serve the public. >> i love junk food you be i have eaten your food. >> you are not -- >> at all your events you serve vegan food. it's really good. cauliflower, thumbs up. in a vending machine -- >> in a vending machine there are creative ways again. it's up to the food companies. it comes from the schools. if the schools put some kind of restriction on them, then they'll come up with creative things. it's simple. you can make them do it. >> ahead this morning on "starting point," president obama's designer duds, big money from re-election campaign, tote bags, even a russell simmons' designed shirt. all right, here, there. that's what it looks like right there. republicans though are saying, we're going to have details on
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that coming up next hour. plus, the l.a. school where the two teachers were accuse of lewd acts on children are now closed. the entire staff will be replaced. lawyers of the families of the children involved will join us next. stay with us. i am loving this greek yogurt. i like yoplait. it is yoplait. but you said it was greek. mmhmm. so is it greek or is it yoplait? exactly. okay... [ female announcer ] yoplait. it is so greek.
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some major developments to tell you about this morning in that disturbing sex abuse scandal that took place at an elementary school outside of los angeles. the school's closed today and tomorrow and we learned late last night that all staff members will be reassigned. all members of the staff and all the kids will be interviewed. two teachers have been arrested and both are charged with abusing students. a former teacher at the school, mark burt is accused of lewd acts on 23 children. it includes blindfolding the children and having them eat things we cannot talk about on television. they found nearly 400 photos taken by burnt of his alleged students. martin is also being held for allegedly fondling girls.
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we have two attorneys representing the families. why don't you tell us how many families you are representing between you. >> we represent at least five families at this point in time. >> i'm currently representing five families as well. >> we have ten families. when we look at the actual numbers of kids who were photographed, of kids who were allegedly involved, it seems like that number would be much bigger. are you expecting that number to grow? >> there's no question there's a significant number of additional kids over the last 30 years who were sexually abused or miss treated at the school. i think that number -- ten is going to be dwarfed by the actual number of ultimate cases. >> i know you guys are filing civil suits. brian, when you hear that the school district has closed the school, which is incredibly unusual, and gotten rid of all the teachers, are you happy with that decision or are you not? >> well, i think it's just a band aid on a deep wound. just to clarify, they haven't fired all of these teachers or
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terminated. all the superintendent has done is just removed them. he's taken them to another site and he claims that he's just going to try to determine what they knew about this sex scandal. so it's not going to ameliorate the problem. they spent 20 years over there fostering an environment that allows pedophiles to prey upon children. you can't fix the problem overnight. >> raymond, explain that for me because as i said going in, there are things that we cannot describe that happened to these kids and then photographs taken of that. how did that happen in a school that has 1500 elementary school age kids who should all sort of be watched by 150 staff members? >> well, you know, the way it happens is that the administration sat on its hands while previous complaints took place at the school about this teacher, about burnt himself, for at least the last 25 years that we know of so far. i think it goes deeper than that. the school looks at it and
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ignores it and tells the kids repeatedly over and over again, not just once, not just twice, several times over the last 30 years, your' just imagining it. forget about it. it's all in your head. you shouldn't tell stories. rather than listening, rather than documenting the file, rather than investigating, they put these kids at risk. unfortunately, we don't know how deep the damages go and how many people were destroyed by this, but this is something that is going to evolve for the next five, six, seven years before we truly understand the depth of it. >> do you think the fact that these kids were mostly in poverty, mostly latino, most did not speak english as a first language, do you think that made them ripe for the picking in an environment like this? >> absolutely. in fact, i think that burnt, springer, and there was another gentleman who was convicted in 2005, his name was ricard
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ricardo guervez. they all preyed on these kids because they were in a low income latino neighborhood. i think they knew parents on behalf of these kids spoke english as a second language, and they might be a little bit fearful of coming forward. these teachers selected this school many years ago to facilitate carrying out their pedophile acts on the kids. >> we should underscore in the two cases they alleged at this point. i'm going to talk to the panel for a second, gentlemen. people had said you find the path of least resistance. there could be a number of people undocumented. people who don't speak english well enough. >> what's so alarming is to become a certified teacher in a public school you have to go through several classes to be certified. part of those classes are child psychology, you learn about early childhood slept and abuse. we are taught to spot abuse.
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they knew exactly what abuse was. they went beyond abuse. >> you're talking about the teach jeers around the two that are alleged. >> these two teachers knew what they were doing. they studied child psychology. to get to the point where they are and then went through with the acts is alarming they got through it. >> gentleman, brian and raymond, thanks for talking with us. we'll obviously continue to follow this case as it moves forward. we appreciate your time. ahead this morning, big day on the campaign trail for the gop and for the romney camp, tim pawlenty is playing the attack dog. former republican governor is going to join us. >> iran is banning another american classic. we'll tell you what that is straight ahead. a new belt. some nylons. and what girl wouldn't need new shoes? we talked about getting a diamond. but with all the thank you points i've been earning... ♪ ...i flew us to the rock i really had in mind.
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gingrich and santorum say they're not going anywhere. romney's national campaign co chair, the former minnesota governor tim pawlenty is going to join us. 21 civilians killed so far today in syria and there are no signs of letting up. millions upon millions of dollars in earmarks from lawmakers. they may have personally benefitted from those earmarkers. lawmakers say it is legit. "starting point" begins right now. hey, everybody. our panelist is run dmc's runs house. ring stengle is the managing editor of "time." mr. salam is the co-author of brand new party. lots to talk about. especially these three brand new
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republican contests happening. mitt romney is looking over his shoulder, it could be the most critical day of rick santorum's campaign. he's hoping for a strong showing in the state of florida. tim pawlenty is live. he's national co-chairman of romney's 2012 presidential campaign. it's nice to see you. thank you for talking with us. four years ago mitt romney swept the minnesota caucuses. now everybody is downplaying what he might be able to do. why do you think that is? >> of course, each state and cycle is modest. the tradition in minnesota is the caucus cuss attendees tend to gravitate toward the person they think is most conservative. ron paul, rick santorum will do very well. newt might do well. mitt will be in the mix as well. it will be a more challenging state for mitt because of the lower turnout than some of the others. one of the messages we're trying to convey is rick santorum is not the perfect conservative
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that he holds himself out to be. when you look at his record on things like earmark and some other things, his rhetoric and record don't match up. >> you've been the person out front attacking him on that. this is what rick santorum had to say about your attacks. listen. >> any time someone challenges governor romney, he starts going out and talking about what he is for, which is what i did today. he goes out and attacks and tries to destroy. i don't think it's going to work this time. >> how concerned are you about rick santorum in this race? i know people have been pressuring him to drop out. if he has a strong showing, doesn't that kind of change the game? >> well, of course, two of the three states today are nonbinding, soledad, so it may be a psychological boost but it won't change the trajectory change of the race overall. with respect to rick's comments, i like rick. as long as we kep it on the issues and don't make it personal i think the dpee bait and back and forth is fair. he said the other day a scathing
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attack on governor romney's health care. rick santorum supported the government mandate when he was in congress. >> let me talk to you about some poll numbers we have. the question was this, if the election were held today, whom would you -- whom would you vote for? good, grammatically correct. that's nice to see. often they say who and that's wrong. president obama gets 51% of the vote, mitt romney 45% of the vote. are you concerned about a figure like that? >> well, if it's the poll that i'm thinking of from yesterday, that poll was tainted that they introduced some negative information about mitt before they asked the head-to-head question. some weeks mitt has been ahead, some weeks president obama has been ahead. but it's clear that mitt romney is the strongest republican candidate in the field to defeat barack obama by far. that's not just my rhetoric. the polls show that week this and week out. if republicans and conservatives
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are concerned about who's most likely to beat barack obama, the answer is clearly mitt romney. the others are defeated easily by barack obama. >> that was an abc news washington post poll. another part of the poll found this. 52% of people polled said that the more they learned about mitt romney, the less they like him. what's the strategy? the people involved in his campaign, how do you turn that around. the more you learn about him, 52% say the less they like him. >> if i remember that poll correctly, soledad, i think it related to republican voters. nonetheless, it's hard to keep them all straight. in my experience, i think this is what people will see, mitt romney is a very gracious man. he's a high integrity person. he has strong values. he's knowledgeable. he's capable. he's had a successful leadership experience. importantly, he didn't spend his whole life in washington, d.c. if that's the problem we're trying to fix, then you don't turn to people who spent their whole adult life in washington,
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d.c., or in close parasitic relationship with washington, d.c. he's been a entrepreneur. he started business and provided private sector economic activity and that's more important than ever. people across the country know that's one of the main things we need to do and have in the next president. >> governor, hold on for one second while i turn to my panel. rahan, people in elected positions will say the polls don't couldn't at all. there's flaws in the poll. they live and die by the polls. are some of the polls, the governor is saying nothing to be worried about. >> at this stage, president obama is doing unusually well. he's doing as well as he did after the killing of osama bin laden. whether that will last is another question. the question is who is the most viable candidate over the longer turn? president obama is in an up cycle. >> the governor just talked about a parasitic relationship with washington, d.c. how much baggage does that really carry when you're talking about looking toward a november election? >> well, i guess he's referring
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to earmarks and that kind -- >> he's referring to santorum, he must be. that's been the message. >> i am completely contrary on this. i am in favor of earmarks. i find the discussion about earmarks to be so misguided. earmarks are getting money for honts, museums, senior centers in other cities. the fact that earmarks have been demonized i find amazing. they've been abused. i ran the cons city center at philadelphia. rick santorum was one of the patrons for the constitution center. he helped get money. i would argue that's a good thing. a relationship with washington to get things to benefit people. >> he's talking about newt gingrich and he's talking about lobbying. >> let's go back to the governor for a final question. sir, you know what i'm always curious about. do you regret you dropped out of this race? one of the things i hear on the campaign trail all the time is who's the guy we want to throw our support behind. you hear it a lot. you could have been that guy. do you regret your decision?
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>> well, soledad, i had my shot at it. i regret some of the tactical decisions we made during my campaign. i couldn't get it done. i'm pleased and proud to be supporting mitt romney. obviously when you have somebody vote to the bridge for nowhere like rick santorum did, that's beyond a need for the federal hospital that the government might have a research project with. newt gingrich, rick, even ron paul, their whole adult life in washington, d.c., in congress, in government. it would actually be nice for once to have somebody who's been an entrepreneur newer, who hasn't spent their entire life in washington, dc. the only candidate who fits that bill is mitt romney. he's been in the private ee connie. >> governor tim pawlenty joining us this morning. thanks for your time. appreciate it. other headlines to get to. christine has them. >> good morning again, soledad. brand new pictures of russian's president meeting with al-assad
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asking him to end violence. moscow wants arab people to live in peace. 21 civilians have been killed in syria so far today. meantime, the u.s. says its embassy in syria will be closed. today italy has re-called its ambassador. we'll talk to the u.s. ambassador to syria later this hour. dozens of mourners, many strangers, gathering honoring the memory of two little boys killed in an apparent murder/suicide. their father, josh powell, is accused of setting of o a home explosion that killed all three of them. powell's wife went missing two years ago. her sister spoke with cnn's ashleigh banfield this morning. >> they were working on the case without a body to go after him for murder. and it was within a few weeks it was going to -- the arrest was going to take place. we were all excited that something was going to happen. >> officials say josh powell
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hacked his two little boys with a hatchet before using ten gallons of gasoline to blow up their home on sunday. a washington post investigation reveals 33 lawmakers spent $300 million in taxpayer money on projects within two miles of their property. texas congressman joe barton spent $3 million to widen part of a highway in ennis texas where he owns two homes. soledad asked him about this earlier this morning. >> i live in a small town outside of dallas called ennis, texas. which is a community of approximately 15,000 people. every home in ennis, texas, is within two or three miles of either the 287 that goes through downtown and the bypass that goes around it. i have been successful over time in making 287 a four-lane highway from corsicana up until forth worth with an exception of about two miles it's still two
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lane. that's a totally on the up and up process. zblt earmarks are legal. the senate rejected a bill last week that would have outlawed them. country singer randy travis arrested for public intoxication yesterday morning outside a baptist church. he apologized in a statement to cnn admitting he partied too hard after the super bowl. travis was released after spending some four hours in the drunk tank. bart simpson gets banned from iran along with homer. simpsons dolls joined barbie on a list of toys that are prohibited from being sold in iran. other western icons like super man, spider man are still allowed because they are seen by iranian officials as helping the oppressed. >> interesting. >> there you go. >> we're talking about -- forget pacs and super pacs to our panels. the latest campaign finance issue is about campaign theme tote bags and t-shirts and accessories.
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have you heard about this? republicans questioning obama campaign's designer sales. they contend the sales, you are one of the designers, this is your shirt. this is the store.barack obama.com russell simmons. apparently they contend the sale could violate campaign finance rules. likely or not likely violations? >> i have no idea. they're so insanely complex, which is why i think we should throw out the whole system. i think people should be allowed to sell campaign tote bags and what had you in order to raise money. i think it's entirely possible to think it is against the rules and regulations because hardly anyone understands them. they massively empower lawyers and they don't help people have their voices heard. >> i think the president should use whatever resources he has within the law. you understand, the problem is the law. the problem is that we allow so much money in politics and so many people funding -- these super pacs have gotten out of control.
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it's crystal clear when you watch the republican primaries it's only money that rules this democracy. until those laws are changed the president should play by any rules available. it should be his legacy issue. >> that's sort of the art of mutual destruction, right? i'm against super pacs, if there's going to be super pacs -- >> i'm happy to pay more taxes if everyone else does. i'm not going to pay more -- write a check. i'm not going to write a blaj check and no one else writes that check. i want to see a system that works. i'm going to work within the system to change it. >> you know, the thing is is there's either way too much money in politics or way too little. if you look at what they're spending on this whole election cycle, republican primaries all the way to presidency, it's $5 billion. that sounds like a colossal sum. that's what proc ter and gamble spends one year in advertising. is that enough money in politics or is it too little? i don't really know. campaign finance law is a
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problem, but even if you had federal support of elections people would still be spending money on elections. >> the point is there's a level playing field. more important than that is that there aren't these outside influences buying influence. you should not have -- why do we have people in prison? why can't we have health care because health care companies won't let you. >> you have brought us into conversations that -- >> every single issue that we have that disempowers the poor is money because the people-the politicians are not representing the people who elect them. >> we're going to pick up this conversation on the other side of this commercial break. we're also going to talk about the crisis, or is there a crisis, among conservatives? can conservatives unite behind one candidate? president obama doing an about face. he's been a big critic of super pacs. now he's using one to help get re-elected. >> good for him. >> we'll talk about that on "starting point." ttd#: 1-800-345-2550
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♪ it is. the fighting on the panel this morning. >> not fighting. >> i'm sorry, the aggressive conversation across the table. >> we're having a debate. >> yes, you are.
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welcome back, everybody. rick stengle is joining our panel. the latest issue of ""time magazine"" on the news stands talks about the identity crisis. it gets to what i think we have seen in the race. we've seen iowa, new hampshire. we've seen as we go into minnesota today, what is the issue behind the conservative identity crisis? >> well, the issue has been who's the real conservative and what happens in republican primari primaries. it skews to the right. very conservative folks are the ones that vote in primaries. richard nixon said they run to the right in primaries and to the center in the election the argument is he is not a conservative. >> they are the true conservatives. >> newt has been a movement conservative. in our panel of conservatives they are talking about what are
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the true conservative values that candidates should represent. smaller government, more efficient government. fewer taxes. that seems to be the thing that they all coal less around. >> the reason you call it a crisis, we have seen this play out in the primary and the caucus season, is united all of those disparate parts is proving to be a challenge and could have an implication for the general election come november. >> true. conservatives are way more diverse than liberals are. there are libertarian con serreah tifs, there are social conservatives. they all have trouble uniting. that's been the problem in the primaries for them. >> what's the implication of a trouble uniting, do you think? >> i reject the premise. i think that when you look at the republican party during the obama era on all of the critical issues, you see paul ryan, congressman from wisconsin, who's united the party around health reform where there wasn't a united front there, taxes, broadening the base, lowering the rates. you see a party that i think has moved to the center where as
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everyone pays attention to the tea party on the right. core domestic policies, skilled immigration, there weren't real issues on issues. the differences were you supported x or y 20, 30 years ago, your personality is x, we can't trust you. that in a way is dangerous. but on the core policy issues, i think there's remarkable consensus. i think it's big progress even from the bush era. >> don't you see the difference between the noncons and the pea faertyers -- >> these labels don't mean very much. when you talk about mitt romney talking about the strong military, etc. the truth is that there is an exhaustion for new military interventions. if you ask them about iran that's one thing. if you ask them about invading syria on human rights grounds or something along those grounds, something that they might have taken seriously ten years ago, i
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do not think you would get a lot of enthusiasm from the republican base. i think you're seeing a coalescing around a shared foreign policy platform. >> why are they having a hard time picking a candidate? >> i don't disagree. in fact, over the past 40 years, particularly on social issues, there's been much more unanimity than there ever has been before. when we're talking about a campaign here, it's not a valid discussion of ideas. it's saying i'm the real conservative and you're not. certainly part of the reason that establishment republicans have coalesced around mitt romney is that they feel he is a moderate in some respects and, therefore, actually has a chance of beating president obama, which a true movement conservative probably doesn't. i don't disagree with you that the debate has actually no fundamentals to it, but the debate is about who can raise their hand in class and say i'm the true conservative. >> isn't there a debate between the people who are saying they're true conservatives, then
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you say people who are establishment republicans, then people say i'm a tea party -- i meet all of these people m coffee shops. they very clearly delineate themselves. >> the tea party has done something. they've moved the establishment republican to the right in the sense that all kinds of things that once upon a time would have been passed in the house and senate i think did not get passed because of that freshman class of tea party folks who would absolutely not agree to anything. >> what are the implications for november? >> i think certainly in some respects the tea party movement -- i think folks have learned. a lot of the tea party freshmen in congress have learned that certain kinds of recall si trants get them in trouble. the payroll tax cut debate for example. sometime in 2016, 2020, the fact that there's so much consensus around chris christie. >> not in the race. not in the race. >> true. people who reconcile these tendencies, people who tea partiers like as well as more
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moderate republicans, it will come. >> it sounds like it will come. ahead this morning on starting point, the former u.s. ambassador will talk to us about the syrian issues. plans to help underwater homeowners. more than 40 states are on board. there is a holdup. tell you about that straight ahead on "starting point." what's this? [ male announcer ] quaker oatmeal squares have 46 grams of whole grains... mmmm. ...and a touch of sweetness. you'll be delighted to discover how good they taste. get your free sample of quaker oatmeal squares
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[ male announcer ] want great taste and whole grain oats that can help lower cholesterol? honey nut cheerios. ♪ i like this. all right. i might be a new fan. that's rehan's suggestion for us. in a fewer hours new york will be honoring the super bowl giants. mark her zish will be among them. sanjay gupta has a story of his incredible comb back. he had a rare form of bone cancer. >> how's it going.
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>> reporter: mark herzlich has come a lodge way in a short time. as a member of the new york giants the rookie linebacker focused on beating the new england patriots in super bowl xlvi. some say his being here was somewhat of a miracle. herzlich was expected to go far. as a junior at boston college he was named his conferences 2008 defensive player of the year. he was projected to be a first round draft pick, but all of that came to a crashing halt in may of 2009 when he was told he had a rare form of bone cancer called ewing's sarcoma. >> when the cancer came it wasn't just smie super bowl dreams are dead, it was all my football dreams were dead. >> reporter: he was determined to fight the cancer but after two months of chemotherapy doctors wanted to remove part of his thigh bone. then he found a doctor who was willing to try a rare treatment for this type of cancer, radiation therapy. >> my dream was to play football
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again. i knew that radiation and keeping my leg was going to be the only chance i would have of playing again. >> reporter: the treatment worked, and a little more than four months after diagnosis herzlich was declared cancer free. >> football drove me every second of every day. >> reporter: herzlich returned to boston college the next year. even though he wasn't drafted, he was still picked up by the new york giants. >> i think the biggest thing, you know, coming back from cancer, coming back to play football, you know, all that kind of sits in the rear-view mirror. there are such things as dreams coming true and miracles. i believe that this is one of them. >> reporter: dr. sanjay gupta, cnn, reporting. still ahead this morning on starting point, the brutal crackdown in syria. does diplomacy stand a chance there? also, how did the giants win the super bowl? giants quarterback eli manning reveals the secret. more touchdowns than the other guy. we're coming back in a moment. [ male announcer ] this was how my day began.
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welcome back, everybody. let's get to the head lines. christine has those. >> good morning, soledad. drug enforcement agents raiding two cvs pharmacies over the weekend in the orlando area. they're cracking down on the abuse of prescription painkillers. authorities say these two pharmacies ordered more than 3 million units of oxycodone last year. the typical pharmacy orders less than 70,000 units in a year. president obama changing his position on super pacs. the president has been one of the loudest critics of these unrestricted political spending groups, but his re-election campaign has just directed staffers to help raise funds for priorities u.s.a. action. that's the name of the super pac that is supporting the president. a strike by aviation workers could intensify today forcing
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air france to cut half of its scheduled long haul flights. airline employees are in the second day of a four day job action. they're protesting restrictions on their right to strike. air france is contacting their customers and asking them to postpone. in just over two hours the new york giants will be honored with a ticker tape parade in manhattma manhatt manhattan. mvp quarterback eli manning telling david letterman last night it's all about the team, not individual accolades. >> when you win a championship, it's a team. it's a team coming together and that's exactly what we did. and so i was happy for a lot of the guys, this is their first super bowl. so i think when you have one, a second one you do it for the other guys who have never had that experience. and there it is, eli manning on the cover of this week's "sports illustrated" with that headline, they must be giants. minding your business now. some good news for homeowners. if you owe more on your house
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than it is worth, you could have some relief coming your way under a new settlement expected to be announced this week, underwater homeowners could be eligible for up to $20,000 relief on the principal they owe in that house. it amounts to about $25 billion for mortgage lenders and servicers like bank of america, jpmorgan chase, citigroup, wells fargo. it's designed to help up to a million homeowners and make sure they give their customers a sharer shake. attorneys general have agreed. california, new york, florida, nevada, delaware, they're still negotiating. >> how many people, christine, are they thinking this could help? >> they're thinking a million people. it would be the biggest mortgage relief so far. it's the first on this scale to really go after the big problem of writing down the principle. the question here, this is what some of the attorneys general are concerned about, they don't want to give up their right to really go after these banks. they want to not give them
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blanket immunity from some of the big investigations they have ongoing against the banks. >> thanks. >> you're welcome. the slaughter of civilians is continuing in syria. nearly 100 people reported killed. russia's foreign minister is in damascus trying to negotiate an end to the violence. anderson cooper spoke to a desperate anti-government activist. here's what he said. >> the entire world should be ashamed of what's happening here. everybody is just silent and looking at us being slaughtered every moment for no reason, just for asking for our freedom. it's too much, for god's sake, it's just too much. >> ambassador ted katoof is the former u.s. ambassador. he joins us. thanks for your time. when you hear that activist, it really is heart breaking. when can be done at this moment to help people like that?
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>> well, at the moment there is not going to be any foreign military intervention; however, the secretary of state, hillary clinton, has called for a friends group for the syrian people or a contact group, if you will. there are so many states that are against what the outside regime is doing that cooperation among the u.s., european union, the arab league, turkey and some other key states could continue to squeeze the regime and cause the economy to further collapse. >> i have been talking all morning about the russian foreign minister who is heading to damascus to meet with al-assad ostensibly to help stop the violence. what are your concerns in that particular meeting? >> well, the russians and the chinese have already essentially given a green light to bashar al-assad to try to end this rebellion by brutal military means. i don't think he's capable of
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doing that. the russians are going to be looking for some window dressing and they're going to probably be asking bashar al-assad to do some reforms, open some dialogue with, quote, oppositionists who are willing and the like, but at the end of the day this regime believes it can survive. they won't even listen to the russians if they believe that what the russians are recommending will undermine their rule. >> mr. ambassador, this is rick steng gel. i'm the editor of time. i'm curious what you think the role of the arab league has played in regard to syria. they seemed quite out front early on criticizing assad. subsequently they've been a lot milder. it seems to me for it to be resolved the arab league has to take a strong position. will they do so? >> i'm not sure i entirely agree with you, mr. stengel. we have to remember that the arab league used to be all about keeping their members in power, and now, as has been said, the
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regimes are more afraid of their people than the people are of the regimes. so even regimes like algeria, which are authoritarian, have gone along with the arab league call for assad to step down. and, actually, what the arab league's done, i think, is a bit remarkable. but we should have no illusions. no arab state is going to take upon itself to militarily intervene, but i do think we will find states like saudi arabia, non-arab state turkey trying to arm various opposition factions within syria. that presents problems of its own. >> yeah, let's talk a little bit about the potential for civil war, especially in light of what you just said and also talk about the closing of the u.s. embassy and what the implications are. >> well, the second question is easier. >> take that one first. >> the u.s. embassy did close for security reasons. i've served in that embassy three times. it's a death trap.
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if anybody gets a substantial car bomb in there, forget truck bomb, they can bring that building down. the syrians have been for years unwilling to close the street that abuts the embassy. it's a main thorough fare and it leads to a neighborhood where a lot of regime figures live. that's why we've pulled out. now that we're out, robert ford, the ambassador, is free to speak with the external opposition groups, particularly the syrian council. >> talk to me about civil war and both sides in that. what does the opposition look like? how is the opposition armed? >> well, the opposition is armed with light weapons, mostly rpgs, rife fa rifles, they're going up against tanks, mortars, they may be encountering sooner if they haven't already helicopter gun ships. it's a very unfair fight. i'm sure bashar al-assad will
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use this period after the u.n. vote to try to stamp out opposition in predominantly suny opposition neighborhoods in homs which has been the epicenter of the rebellion. quite honestly, i don't think he can -- his troops are not capable of being everywhere and there's much more opposition springing up other than just in homs. we are in a civil war as far as i'm concerned. >> excuse me, ambassador. can you speak to the polling that's been done with the people and how large is the opposition? >> well, quite honestly, i'm not aware of any polling that has been done or can be done, but about 2/3 of syria population is so suni arab. i don't want to say all of them are against the regime but many of them are. they are arming themselves. they believe they'll be
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slaughtered like lambs if the regime ever manages to stamp out the opposition arm presence. the regime does have support because there are important minority groups, assad's own minority, the alouites, an offshoot of christians and jews. there is a curd dish minority too. >> the ambassador joining us today. thanks for your time. appreciate it. >> thank you. still ahead on "starting point", today's reveal talks about the stunning growth in just how many people are on government assistance and why experts say those numbers have gone up so dramatically. then actor damian berkshire, a surprise nominee for "live is better."
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♪ a little beyonce. this is how i get going on the treadmill. the debate on how to deal with
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the 11 million undocumented immigrants is a politically charged issue. there's a film that takes a look at that. it's called "a better life." he stars as a mexican immigrant in texas. >> i don't want you to miss school no more. school's important. it's everything. >> professor? >> you want to end up like me? >> no. so can i have money or what? >> you want money. come work. >> he scored a surprise oscar nomination for his role. it's nice to have you. congratulations to you. so tell me how it went down. >> thank you. >> the night of the nomination you're home watching tv surrounded by your family and friends. no? what happened? >> no.
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i was in mexico rehearsing a play that i'm doing right now. i was not feeling good the night before. i went to bed feeling really bad. i had a cold and some fever so i had a really, really bad night. even if i felt good, i was not going to wake up and turn on the tv, you know? you can get a heart attack if you do that. so my girlfriend stephanie called me from here, from los angeles, with the news. and i thought it was part of my fever or some kind of hallucination. but it was real and madness began ever since. >> it's a small film. you were up against some very big names like leonardo dicaprio. what do you think has resonated with people about this film? >> it is a small film.
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i think we spent during the film as much as any of the studios spend in publicity. but it is a really, really powerful story. it's a story of the love of father for his son and anything he can do to overcome any obstacles to give his son a better life. and people have been touched by it, and it's a really moving story. and it goes straight to the point. i have a lot of friends, anglo friends that have told me they just had no idea that two hours sitting in front of a film could change drastically what they think about the immigration issue. >> illegal immigration is a big political football in a big political year, but you've said it's not a political issue, it's a human issue. what do you mean by that? >> it is. it is. you know, part of all of this
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debate is that a lot of politicians insist in calling this a political issue. it is a human issue because, i mean, this country is exactly based on immigration of all kinds and men have been moving ever since they existed on the face of the earth. and this is a large community that it's here to make our lives easier and better and happier in many ways. and they're two different things. the jobs that the american public are losing is one thing and another thing is this community of hard working people who are doing the jobs that no one else can or want to do. and there are examples like the
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laws in alabama right now. the fruit is rotten on the fields because no american has claimed those jobs. >> i was going to say, we're out of time but we'll be watching and rooting for you on oscar night. >> thank you. he is talking about in his movie is obviously an issue that is a hot button issue right now in the united states and some of the points he's making about -- are really -- it's interesting to see what this -- what will happen with this conversation come november. >> absolutely. i mean, i have a somewhat different way of thinking about the issue, partly because mexico is a country that is actually sending far fewer migrants to the united states than it had before. then you have a ton of countries, for example, in africa, in south asia where you have a ton of very poor people who, for example, in some countries like bangladesh is a country where literally over a million people apply for diversity visa lotteries.
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there are a lot of people who are, if you will, waiting in line who are much, much poorer than folks coming from mexico and central america. if you care about humanitarianism and finding hard working people who might send remittances back to their families back home, you wouldn't necessarily prioritize the countries that neighbor the united states. you would think of countries like zanbia, seriously, have very few natural resources. >> and for the illegal mexican immigrants who are working as well. >> if you care about the humanitarian, you would think about it of who would get the maximum benefit. >> that's the understatement of the year. >> it dovetails with our earlier discussion because one of the areas there was a consensus is around something like the dream act which george bush supported, democrats supported it. it gives a path of citizenship to people who have been here. that ought not to be a political issue. >> i disagree.
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it benefits other people. >> that's a conversation for another day because we need about 6.5 hours for that. still ahead, a startling number of americans need assistance to survive. that's our reveal this morning. a ♪ priceline negoti - - no time. out quickly. you're miles from your destination. you'll need a hotel tonight we don't have time to bid you don't have to bid. at priceline you can choose from thousands of hotels on sale every day. save yourself... some money the world needs more energy. where's it going to come from? ♪ that's why right here, in australia, chevron is building one of the biggest natural gas projects in the world. enough power for a city the size of singapore for 50 years. what's it going to do to the planet? natural gas is the cleanest conventional fuel there is.
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♪ don't you know that i heard it through the grapevine ♪ it is time for our reveal. the reveal is the long arm of the recession. it has left scores of people without jobs. an analysis of the latest census data shows that it's pushed record numbers of people on to public assistance programs. more than one in three households lives in households receiving other government help. if you add in social security, medicare, unemployment benefits nearly half of the country is getting a government check. that's more than 148 million nations. the nation's safety net is fodder obviously for the presidential campaign. republicans are accusing president obama of turning the country into an entitlement nation. mitt romney said on this program last week he's not very concerned about the very poor because of the ample safety net, but the rapid growth of government assistance programs is a concern on both sides of
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the aisle. we can expect to hear much more about it, including more rhetoric, and certainly what promises to be a rough and tumble general election campaign in november. "end point" is up next with our panel. stay with us. we're back in a moment. in america, we believe in a future that is better than today. since 1894, ameriprise financial has been working hard for their clients' futures. never taking a bailout. helping generations achieve dreams. buy homes. put their kids through college. retire how they want to. ameriprise. the strength of america's
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largest financial planning company. the heart of 10,000 advisors working with you, one-to-one. together, for your future. ♪ we asked total strangers to watch it for us. thank you so much, i appreciate it, i'll be right back. they didn't take a dime. how much in fees does your bank take to watch your money ? if your bank takes more money than a stranger, you need an ally. ally bank. no nonsense. just people sense.
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welcome back, everybody. it is time for "end point" this morning. i'm trying to decide who i should pick. rick stengel i'm going to let you go first. wrap up the day for me. what should we be watching as we move into tomorrow. >> obviously we're looking at the primaries and caucuses. as governor pawlenty told us they're not binding. they're not that important. does it increase mitt's momentum or does it detract from it? i have to say i was struck by the ambassador and his comments about syria. i think we've looked at arab spring, what's happened. it's going to be much, much more
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difficult and more bloody than any of us have anticipated. >> rehan? >> when we were talking about the stock act it reminded me of a really clever proposal from an economist of the university of chicago who said politicians should be treated like the managing directors of a corporation. if they make materially false or misleading statements, they should be punished for it. that would have a tremendous effect -- >> wow, that would change how we cover the news. >> very interesting if that happened. i'm not saying it's necessarily a great idea, but if you're going to talk about the stock act, let's go further. >> that's a very interesting suggestion. you get our final word, russell. >> behind the scenes we talked about all of this campaign finance issue. we talked today about president obama and super pacs. i think he should take all the money he can take. he should make this a legacy issue as he goes. >> take all the money but then work against it? >> he's in a system where in order to be competitive he should do what the system allows. he should note the system is broken. he should work on campaign

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