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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Mississippi Governor Release Murderers; Joran Van Der Sloot Pleaded Guilty; Iphone 4S Craze in China; Battle for South Carolina; iPhone Stops NY Philharmonic; Thailand Terror Threat; Fed Missed Housing Bust; Obama Asks For $1.2 Debt Limit; Paterno Paid Through Season; Mortgage Rates At Record Low; Author Discusses Book "The Obamas"; Discrimination in Cincinnati Pool

Aired January 13, 2012 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. You're watching "Starting Point" this morning. Lots to get to. Thank you, ladies. We're starting with this mess in Mississippi that we've been talking about over the last hour. It's leading the State of Oklahoma to try to take away power from their governor.

On now is this manhunt for those four murderers in Mississippi. We're going to talk about all the legal ramifications of this case with Jeff Toobin with us this morning.

Also, have you seen these pictures in China? I'm laughing, but they're, actually, they're insane. Look at this riot in China as the 4S is now out. People going completely nuts. They start throwing eggs at the store, because they can't get access to the new iPhone. We're going to -- now, I guess, it's going to be banned. They're not going to be allowed to have that phone.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: How do you say get a life?

O'BRIEN: I don't know, but I'm going to find out for you. We have our best people on it. Jeff Toobin wants to know that.

Also, here's the book. This book, "The Obamas," have you guys read this yet? "The Obamas" is written by Jody Kantor. She is a "New York Times" correspondent and she writes about the relationship between the president and his wife behind the doors of the White House.

Well, Mrs. Obama not so thrilled with the book. We'll talk about her reaction and talk with the author this morning.

Plus, Stephen Colbert is exploring a possible run for the president. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COLBERT REPORT: I am proud to announce that I am forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of United States of South Carolina. I'm going in.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Finally, I'm feeling excited about this. Will Cain, we get to weigh in and what it all means for the Republicans and that, of course, hear about this? The conductor of the philharmonic, cell phone rings in the middle of a performance and you know what he did? He stops the orchestra.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Awesome!

O'BRIEN: I am cheering for him.

CAIN: I liked it.

O'BRIEN: We agree with this. I love this man. We're going to talk about that and much, much more as we begin STARTING POINT right now.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back everybody. We are back once again inside the tick took diner as Ashleigh and Zoraida told you about. They were tossing to me. We are making our tour through diners. I feel like I'm going to need to run through the gym after this segment.

Today, we are actually starting with little more healthy food. Start with the oatmeal for them to move out. I'm having oatmeal. Will is having oatmeal. You're having eggs and English muffin. You're having fruit. Wow.

(CROSSTALK)

We started the week last week with like piles of deep fried foods. We moved into healthier options. Although this, we're going to dig in today because New York City diners of course are known for the massive cakes and pies. Well, they gave us one. And I love cakes and pies. So, this is a cheesecake strawberry something or another. We're going to cut that up this morning. We might as well go straight for the dessert.

INDENTIFIED FEMALE: Famous New York cheese cake.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. Why not? We will talk how it is.

The top story we're looking at this morning is what's happening in the state of Oklahoma because they are reacting today's to this pardoned story out of Mississippi which has become very controversial.

In Oklahoma they're proposing a new law that would strip the governor there of power to release people who are in prison, parole power. The attorney general is now in Mississippi is now threatening a nationwide manhunt because they're trying to track down the killers who have been released. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HOOD, ATTORNEY GENERAL, MISSISSIPPI: There will be a mass search for somehow. We will catch them. It's just a matter of time.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you know where they are?

HOOD: No.

SAVIDGE: No?

HOOD: We know where their family, we're contact with their family, local law enforcement. There's a search going on out there for them. We'll lay hands on them at some point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's not exactly heartwarming to think of it that way. Let's get to our panel this morning. Jeff Toobin is back, legal analyst, specialist at CNN and we have Will Cain with me. I'm slowing down. Seema Iyer is a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. And joining us new today is Julie Menin. She is a Democratic and civic leader in New York City.

It's nice to have all of you. There are so many places to start with the story, Jeff.

TOOBIN: It's just wild.

O'BRIEN: So the four guys, the killers who have been released. They now wanted to basically have an injunction so they would be returned to prison. The problem is they can't give them the papers to serve them the injunction, right, which would mean that you cannot have them find them.

TOOBIN: Right. Remember of Mississippi has this very odd provision in its constitution which says no pardon can be effective unless 30 days before the application for the pardon notice of the application has been published in the local newspaper.

The Jackson clarion ledger, the big paper down there, reported today that none of the four murders who are the focus of this investigation, the people who are -- who had been working in the governor's mansion had done the appropriate paperwork.

O'BRIEN: Therefore the release was illegal.

TOOBIN: Right. The pardon almost looks certain to be revoked but no one know where's these guys are.

O'BRIEN: And they can't revoke the pardon until they officially serve them the papers that saying you cannot provoke verbal (inaudible) party?

TOOBIN: Correct. And it's not until January 23rd that the court is formally going to hear the issue. So these four people are kind of in this weird legal limbo. They dead receive a pardon. They did get released from custody as a result.

But, it appears almost certain that that pardon will be revoked. Thinking about it from their perspective, you might want to get in the wind. The you're serving a life sentence, you know your pardon is going to be revoked -- JULIE MENIN, DEMOCRATIC COMMENTATOR: Think about this - is just for Haley Barbour who is such a conservative Republican, former governor, such a strict constructionist in terms of the constitution, the fact that he actually didn't follow the state constitutional requirement here with the 30-day notice period is rather ironic.

O'BRIEN: It goes back to the whole motivation behind it.

CAIN: Right. I keep asking why, why would Haley Barbour do this? I can't find a legitimate reason.

TOOBIN: I think it's personal. I mean, here's a guy. He lived with these people. They were trustees, which is the term for prisoners who worked out in there, you know, with him in the governor's mansion. He seems to have taken a shine to them. This is actually a tradition in Mississippi where prisoners work in the governor's mansion. It's a big privilege. And he liked them. And I am certain that he did not think that the reaction would be this.

SEEMA IYER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I do think we should look at the purpose of the pardon. The purpose of the pardon is to get someone wrongfully committed or mitigating circumstance or whether there was just some other issue such as this person's rehabilitated himself. They've gotten an associate's degree in prison or they've done something beneficial. So this is his motivation behind the party, which he hasn't explained yet.

O'BRIEN: One of these guys was turned down for parole just days before he was given the freedom completely. Now, here's what the attorney general in Mississippi had to say. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOOD: I worked all day yesterday trying to find a method to give the court authority to issue a warrant for their arrest to put out an APB on it. Unfortunately at this point we have not found any law to support that. They have a legal document saying they're free to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So he says he would like to be in a position to arrest them but he is not really in that position yet. Is there anything indication -- he frames it as a manhunt. But, is there any indication that actually they are there on the lamb versus they just haven't reported to something that they haven't been told?

TOOBIN: There is because when the injunction was issued right after the pardon was issued, the court said these people who have been have been released need to report every day to the authorities. They're not going to go back to prison. But they have to report. They apparently have not been reporting to the authorities. So, that suggests that they are not --

IYER: Because they're fools. What do you do?

O'BRIEN: Pretty clear there's not going to be a pardon under the new governor.

MENIN: And I not only think that Barbour should say something about this. I mean, pardon and clemency is such an important part of our American system.

O'BRIEN: He has said something. He released a statement --

MENIN: He's been very quiet in terms of his motivation and constitution of requirement.

TOOBIN: Wright. He talked about the other pardons he issued. And in fact, many --

O'BRIEN: -- that 90 percent.

TOOBIN: Right. Many of these pardons appeared to be quite legitimate, appear to be people who were nonviolent, who had already served their sentences. And you know, I think you make a fair point here.

Most governors issue to few pardons, not to many. There are a lot of people in prison who are not a threat to anybody. We over-incarcerate a lot in this country. But these four seem to be terrible, terrible candidates and that's going to -- as we see it in Oklahoma, maybe going to start to destroy the whole system.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break. When we come back though, a little bit later in the next hour, we're going to talk to two women who were released from prison. They were not pardoned. I did their story not too long ago. And in this case, their case was sort of fraught with kind of potential misconduct, very unclear if they were actually guilty of the charges. They would have been good candidates for a pardon. As you can imagine, they are furious. We're going to talk with them straight ahead.

First, though, a look at some of the other stories making news this morning. Christine Romans got those for us. Hi, Christine. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

The Marine Corps this morning has identified two of the four marines who were captured on video appearing to be urinating on enemy corps, the identities of those men not being released to the public right now. Defense secretary Leon Panetta says he's deeply troubled.

Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is following the ongoing investigation. Good morning, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Christine. Indeed the marines now tell us that they have interviewed two of the men that they did identify. They have spoken to them. They are not in confinement. They did return to duty. But they've been interviewed by investigators.

In addition, they expect to identify very shortly perhaps as soon as today all of those in the video. Marine corps is a small place. People will recognize them in that video. The investigation continues, Christine.

ROMANS: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks, Barbara.

Meanwhile, tensions rise in between the U.S. and Iran. "The New York Times" reports the Obama administration has warned Iranian leaders through back channels that blocking access in the Persian Gulf would trigger a U.S. response. Defense secretary Leon Panetta says that would cross the line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We cannot allow them to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line. Number two, we cannot tolerate Iran blocking the straits of Hormuz, and that's a red line.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Despite the words of warning from the U.S., Iran has reportedly agreed to host a team of high-level U.N. nuclear inspectors later this month.

In just a few hours Joran Van Der Sloot will learn how many years he will spend in a Peruvian prison. Earlier this week he pleaded guilty to killing 21-year-old in Stephanie Flores in 2010. Defense come just a day after Natalee Halloway was formally declared dead. Van Der Sloot is still the prime suspect in her death.

Conservative Christian leaders convene a two-day meeting in Texas. They are trying to rally behind a GOP candidate who is not Mitt Romney. Next hour, we will talk with Tony Perkins, president of the family research council. He will be at that meeting.

Alright, wild weather in North Carolina. A tornado that struck the western part of the state, damaged dozens of buildings and left 15 people injured but that state is not the only one dealing with severe weather, snow pounding the nation's mid section in the first major storm of the winter. Nearly a foot of snow fell in the Chicago area. About 500 flights at Chicago airports canceled.

Alright, U.S. markets closed higher yesterday. This morning stock futures for the Dow, Nasdaq, S&P 500, all of them trading lower ahead of the opening bell. And this just in, JPMorgan chase says it earned a quarterly profit of $3.7 billion, that it sees signs of improvement in loan demand and credit quality. This is the first read of how well the Wall Street banks are doing. The U.S. economy may be healing but the big banks have been suffering from exposure to Europe debt crisis, banking problems and lawsuits stemming from the subprime mortgage crisis -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Alright. Thanks, Christine. Appreciate that.

Sorry to tell you about. But you guys seen this picture of the absolute chaos as apple released the iphone 4s in China today? They actually had to close the flagship store in Beijing after people went completely insane. Look at this. It was -- I don't think we ever use the word riot, but it kind close to riot.

CNN Stan Grant was there at the store and watching (inaudible) running with security guards earlier today. Stan, what exactly happened?

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Crazy is the word that comes to mind when you look at those images. Here's what happened.

People spent the night camping out outside the store with sub zero, freezing temperatures. Now waiting for the store to open at 7:00 a.m. when they could get their hands on the iphone 4s. This was meant to be the official release. The police got concerned about the numbers of and what might happen when the door open. They told the store not to open. When that was announcers, well you can see what happened there.

People started pelting the store with eggs. Security from apple came out to move people back. They were physically attacked. They chased the security down to an alley. More punches were thrown at them. Police came in and dragged people away from there as well. At the end of the day, apple has had to suspend the sale of any of these iphone 4S right across China. You can only now buy it online. It's going to stay that way. Not just because the stock itself will be running dangerously low, but because the situation itself would be so dangerous they worried about security - Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, I'm told that these particular apple stores in China, shanghai and Beijing, generate more revenue than any other stores in the world. Is that right?

GRANT: Absolutely. People here are apple crazy. They are not just want - the just want every single latest gadget. They want the latest of the latest. Whenever you walk into these stores, they are absolutely jam packed, any time of day or not.

And you know, before this all happened today, people were chanting "we love apple," telling us how much they missed Steve Jobs and how much they love the apple product. That very, very quickly turned.

But Soledad, really interesting here. It's not just about the iphone. What we're getting here is a snapshot of this seeming anger that's bubbling underneath the surface here in China. Every now and again it flares, whether it's angry about rising inflation, about taxes, about unemployment, about traffic, about pollution. When people get a chance to vent, you often see signs like this.

At the end of the day people were saying to us saying this is what happens in China. The police turn on their own people. So, you not just about the iphone but about something, also much, much deeper here.

O'BRIEN: It is quite a hot mess. Alright, Stan Grant for us this morning. Thank you, Stan. Nice to talk to you.

Still to come this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk about this book called "the Obamas." It's fairly controversial, the first lady made it clear that she is not read it but she is not happy. We're going to talk with the author, Jodi Kantor straight ahead.

Then, here's a terrible story. In Cincinnati a landlord puts a sign up at her pool whites only after a mixed race teenage girls decides to take a dip in the pool lives in the housing development. We will find out what happened on that story - very sad, oppressing story.

And Stephen Colbert, injecting some light in to the presidential race because he is as he is exploring a bid unfortunately, the law may not be with him on this. We are going to tell you sadly why Stephen Colbert may not be the next president of the United State.

That's straight ahead on STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're coming to your live from the Tick Tock Diner here in lower Midtown Manhattan. It's a combination of folks who are out of towners and then locals who have breakfast here. We're going to have a chance to chat with some of them hopefully during the show.

This morning we're talking about the South Carolina primary, looking in that direction because, of course, that's going to happen one week from tomorrow. GOP is asking candidates to stop attacking each other and maybe focus on President Obama.

We're going to get right back to our panel. We've added Josh Tyrangiel, who is an editor at Bloomberg Businessweek and also former - "Times" former deputy managing editor.

And we're back with everybody else. Will Cain is with us. Seema Iyer is with us and Julie Menin.

So let's begin with this sort of layoff each other thing. You're actually seeing, Will, pressure from some donors that they think is just getting so ugly of infighting among the candidates.

CAIN: You know, it's funny we've all kind of made fun of Newt Gingrich for speaking for weeks about let's not go negative, how could you go negative, and now he is going negative.

But the term "negative" is a little bit overused because what happened in Iowa apparently completely ticked off Newt Gingrich, was an attack on his record. He's voted for this, he stood for this. And now it's happening in South Carolina at least coming from Newt, he's attacking Mitt Romney on such a personal level.

Yes, that's going to turn off donors. It's going to turn off people who might endorse you. And I think it's going to turn off voters. Talking about what he's done with his dog. He's commented he (ph) might be French. There's an ad that he speaks French.

O'BRIEN: It starts - (INAUDIBLE) we have that ad, so let's roll a little of that. This is what I would call circling the drain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney, he'll say anything to win, anything. And just like John Kerry -

JOHN KERRY, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, (D), MA: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He speaks French, too.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bonjour. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he's still a Massachusetts moderate, and a Massachusetts moderate cannot beat Barack Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He'll do anything to win, including speaking French, if that's what it takes.

CAIN: That's Newt Gingrich, by the way, and that's his own line, "I'll do anything to win."

MENIN: I think at this point it really speaks to the desperation of the GOP. The fact that they have to launch these ads attacking each other rather than actually talking bout real solutions. The fact that -

CAIN: Oh, Julie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- no, the fact that Senate Republicans killed Obama's jobs bill. We're not really seeing ideas coming out of the GOP.

JOSH TYRANGIEL, EDITOR, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: These - the personal ads are actually not a concern. I mean, personal ads, it happens in politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it does turn people off.

TYRANGIEL: It's financial. Let's not forget what the reason is that this is a big deal. The reason that the Republican Party wants everybody to call off the dog, so what they're attacking Romney for is about his experience in private (INAUDIBLE). And basically that's the tenet of the Republican Party is free enterprise. And so when the going gets -

O'BRIEN: Right. It doesn't make sense. Republican Party supports freedom.

TYRANGIEL: It's not about the personal attacks. It's about the notion that the tenet of the party itself is under attack which makes it much easier in May, June, and July for Obama to say it's not just us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're laying the foundation. They're laying the foundation. CAIN: This Bain argument - this line of argument against Mitt Romney about Bain, what it's done is expose Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry and anybody who's endorsed that argument for what they are. They were populous. They were never principle conservatives. They were simply trying to get your vote. Tell you what you want to hear.

O'BRIEN: So I'm trying to tap into the anger, I think, and the energy that's happened in the country right now where people are hurting. But here's - here's what I think would have been very helpful.

Stephen Colbert, as you know, has jumped into the race, you know, and it's all sort of a joke. But I was thinking, would have made the campaign trail so much better? Funnier?

MENIN: Well, there actually - he's polling higher in South Carolina than Jon Huntsman.

O'BRIEN: I mean, that's a genuine poll.

MENIN: I mean that is a real poll. And I think it again speaks to the divisions in the GOP primary field that they don't have one candidate that people are excited about.

TYRANGIEL: You know, (INAUDIBLE) cable television show versus -

(CROSSTALK)

MENIN: I think - I think it does. But I think it also speaks to the blandness of a number of the GOP primary candidates, that people are not excited about it. That's why we saw a lower turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire.

O'BRIEN: I think that's - people are not excited. And so what makes the joke funny, right, is that even Stephen Colbert could jump in and people are like, wow, that might be an improvement in some ways. Here's his announcement. Let's play it.

MENIN: Because it means he's got some kind of compassion here. I mean, what would they say -

O'BRIEN: Listen to his announcements.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST/WRITER: I am proud to announce that I am forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina.

Now, clearly, my fellow South Carolinacs (ph) see me as the only viable Mitternative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: President of the United States of South - I'm not alone. I would vote for him. You know, injecting a little fun into this race which has been it seems like Mitt Romney has a serious lead and everybody else is doing this sort of infighting with relatively - like why is Rick Perry still in the race?

IYER: Did I'm not just say that yesterday that he needs the come to Jesus talk? I mean, somebody has got to get him out -

O'BRIEN: There's some strategic reason, right? I assume he's still keeping him.

MENIN: (INAUDIBLE) doing well in the south. But his donors are even defecting because he's been attacking Romney on the Bain issue. So we're starting to see -

O'BRIEN: He's not polling particularly well in the south. Why is he staying in the race?

CAIN: It's (INAUDIBLE) south. His second word is south, South Carolina, it's all about South Carolina.

O'BRIEN: And Florida.

MENIN: And Florida, right. And Florida.

CAIN: I think he can do well in South Carolina. Once he finds out that's untrue, he will be gone.

TYRANGIEL: They don't run based on strategy. They run on motivation. And when you run and you are surrounded by people, all they were telling you, no, no, we can do this. We can do this. We believe in you. It's not about -

IYER: But the numbers say differently. Look at the numbers. The numbers say it different. Rick Perry -

TYRANGIEL: And the idea is, you know, when -- it is -

IYER: You don't live in a bubble when you can turn on the news every morning and see what your numbers are like.

TYRANGIEL: But, look, the presidency is the ultimate brass ring. And in the process you always believe in a miracle. You always believe you can be the next guy.

IYER: You should believe in a country more than you believe in a miracle. If you're a Republican you believe in this country that fight for this country, donate to your party, put all of these money and resources in your party.

O'BRIEN: Why are you advising Republican candidates?

IYER: I'll advise any candidate.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a break. I want to tell everybody what's ahead this morning. We're going to be talking to Jodi Kantor. She is author of this new book. It is called "The Obamas," and it's pretty controversial. The First Lady made it pretty clear she don't like it. We'll talk about that, straight ahead.

Also, a new study takes a look at alcohol and your brain. It links brain chemistry and alcohol addiction. That's straight ahead, too.

And a phone interruption halts the New York City Philharmonic. It is our "Get Real" straight ahead right after this commercial break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: What music is that? It sounds like the symphony music.

Time to "Get Real" this morning. So imagine you are enjoying a night out of the town with your spouse. You're listening to the symphony play and all of a sudden this. And it keeps going and it doesn't stop. So the maestro at the New York Philharmonic for the first time in history was forced to stop the music because of an iPhone that just would not stop.

It's the marimba ring tone which is a super annoying option which is why most people have it for their alarms because it forces you to get up. It happened right in the middle of the (INAUDIBLE) and dramatic final movements of Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

A reporter: from the "Wall Street Journal" was in the audience and she said she was thrilled that she was not the guy who owned the phone. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER MALONEY, WALL ST. JOURNAL REPORTER, WAS IN AUDIENCE: Audience members started shaking their heads, sort of clucking, craning their necks to see who it is. But it keeps going and going and going and going. They were shouting, and they were jeering and saying, throw him out.

MAESTRO ALAN GILBERT, NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC: There's so much tension and there was such a stunned feeling that I think for everybody in the room, and certainly for the musicians, something had to be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Something had to be done. Well, he got a standing ovation for taking a stand and once the guy who owned the phone was positive that his phone was off, they resumed. But come on.

CAIN: He stayed.

IYER: There are judges in New York County Supreme Court who will take your phone, if you're an audience, family member, they don't care, they will take the phone, they'll keep it all day.

O'BRIEN: I support that.

IYER: And even threaten to put you in in contempt.

O'BRIEN: Honestly, turn it off. If you are on trial, maybe having your phone off would be a good idea.

MENIN: (INAUDIBLE) this idea that we can never be unplugged. And the fact that -

IYER: But look at all of us.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: If the phone goes off, it's not mine because I put mine in the back in case they ring. But honestly, anyone phone goes off in the middle of a segment, you are tossed. That's not a joke.

Still to come this morning on STARTING POINT, we got this - the author of a new and controversial book about the Obamas is going to join us. Her name is Jodi Kantor. She's a "New York Times" correspondent. The First Lady is not happy about the book. We'll discuss that straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. And that's the view outside the Tic Tac Diner, on the inside is where they are hosting us today.

At our table, giant pastries and a specialty of New York City diners giant, giant cakes. They've given us the cheesecake with strawberries. We're going to dig into that later this morning, right, Josh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

O'BRIN: Still ahead this morning, we're talking about this new tell- all book about "The Obamas." The journalist who's written the book talks about major drama in the White House. Of course, the first lady is not thrilled about this book. We'll talk to the author straight ahead this morning.

And then this story about a white-only pool, really, this day and age? Civil right panelist weighs in on a landlord sign and a mixed race couple has moved out.

First, though, a look at other stories that are making headlines today. Christine has that for us. Good morning again.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. The U.S. embassy in Bangkok, Thailand is sending out emergency message to Americans there concerning a potential terror threat.

It comes after investigators arrested a Lebanese terrorist suspect who is targeting popular tourist sites. Officials warn terrorist might target those sites in Bangkok in the near feature.

Just released documents show just how badly the Federal Reserve missed the housing bust. Transcripts of Ben Bernanke's first year as chairman of the fed back in 2006 show the fed grossly underestimated the risk of housing posed to the economy. Of course, the market's collapse helped send the country into the worst recession since the great depression.

Here we go again, President Obama taking the first step toward raising the debt ceiling. He's officially asked Congress for $1.2 trillion increase. Congress has 15 days to reject the request. Republicans expected to use the request to attack the president on excessive spending.

Even though he was fired back in November, Penn State officials say legendary football coach Joe Paterno is being paid as if he retired at the end of this season.

Paterno was relieved of his coaching duties amid the child sex abuse scandal that rocked the school. Penn State's president telling the school's alumni that the crisis can be blamed on the person at the center of the scandal. That's former Coach Jerry Sandusky.

A new research suggests chemicals in the brain can make it harder for someone to quit drinking. The study looked at the distribution of chemicals to see why alcohol can be so addictive.

U.S. markets up across the board yesterday. Today stock futures for the Dow, the Nasdaq, the S&P 500, all trading flat right now. The Dow and S&P 500 slightly lower at the moment.

Now, mortgage rates are also lower at the moment still going down. The 15-year fixed rate mortgages down to 3.16 percent, 30-year 3.89 percent. We have never seen interest rates this low to borrow money for a house.

It's good news, of course, but also a sign that the economy is still very weak and, you know, you can take advantage of those low rates right now if you already have a mortgage and want to check into refinancing.

It's been very difficult for a lot of people, Soledad, that's why it hasn't been the stimulus that many had hoped for. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you.

This morning a controversial new book to talk about, it's about the Obamas. It's called "The Obamas." It's advertised as rare look behind the closed doors of the White House. It also paints a pretty controversial picture of the first couple.

The author is Jodi Kantor. She's in Washington, D.C. this morning. She is also a "New York Times" correspondent. Nice to have you. Thanks for being with us.

The first lady, as I know you know, thinks that this book is not a flattering portrait of her. Do you think it is?

JODI KANTOR, AUTHOR, "THE OBAMAS": I was so surprised by her reaction and by the way, this book has been covered, I've been covering the Obamas for five years.

What I tried to do was write a carefully researched nuanced account of her time as first lady. It is the inside story of her first lady, but it comes from her closest aide who spoke to me and told me about some of the struggles she faced in the White House.

Also the book never describes her as an angry black woman. It describes her as a strong woman. So, you know, she did say that she hasn't read the book.

So what I assume is that she's reacting to some of the more sensational coverage around the book, which is really distorted in the reporting of what this book is.

O'BRIEN: So we'll get into some of the reporting because and she did say to Gail King the other say that she felt like she was being portrayed as an angry black woman. So let's play a little bit of what she told Gail the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I guess it's more interesting to imagine those conflicted situations here and a strong woman and, you know, but that's been an image that people have tried to paint of me since, you know, the day Barack announced that I'm some angry black woman.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: She may not have read the book but I read the book and -- hang on, let me ask you a question on this other side. I read the book and I do think that you describe the being flotus, a first lady of the United States,sort of -- akin of being stuck on a chain gang or something.

I mean, you know, as you go through chapter after chapter, one thing I noticed, you end each chapter, I'll read the first one, end of Chapter One.

Michelle wasn't exactly overjoyed to move into the White House an aide said, but she was determined. This is what they decided to do and failure was not an option. Chapter two, end of Chapter Two. Hang on.

KANTOR: This comes from --

O'BRIEN: The president and first lady seems --

KANTOR: That comes -- that's something that one of her aides told me. That was their characterization. I do think that one thing comes -- that comes through in the book is that we have these glamorous images of Air Force One and state dinners and people tend to think that the president and first lady live these immensely privileged lives.

But there's something very strange, which is that they do have these enormous opportunities like the Obamas told me a story about Sasha meeting the pope. But there's this weird flip side where they can't do everyday things. There's a very poignant story in the book that one of the president's best friends told me about Sasha and Alia trying to trick or treat their first Halloween in Washington. They actually couldn't. They tried to.

They went to a regular Washington neighborhood. But all of a sudden all these onlookers appeared, they had cameras, they had phones, they were texting each other. So the kids couldn't do something as simple as trick or treating in Washington.

O'BRIEN: But your portrait, I think it's fair to say, having marked up the book pretty significantly, is the tone is sort of a sense of a woman who is frustrated, unhappy, and a little bitter about having the privilege of being the first lady.

End of Chapter Two, they noticed the president and first lady seemed subdued. We live in the White House now, Michelle Obama told them. There's not -- and tend, but she didn't mention at the food bank -- end of Chapter Three.

Let me just read another chunk of it, end of Chapter Three, this is how you end these chapters. What she didn't mention in the food bank was that it had drawn wide spread coverage from an unintended reason, to stuff thing bags the first lady had warned $515 pair of sneakers by the French designer Lynn Vin.

I could see how someone might feel like you're constantly giving a portrait of a person who is unhappy about what your average person might think would be a really wonderful privilege. Do you think -- do you understand that perspective?

KANTOR: Well, I think that words like bitter are coming from you, not from me. I definitely never used that word. I consistently find that you did a segment a couple of days ago. I think called "Get Real" where you said that my reporting on the Halloween party was wrong.

But actually I don't know if you had read the book at that point, but you misdescribed my reporting. The situation at the Halloween party was that the outdoor part of the celebration, the trick or treating on the north portico was public.

It was the party inside that Ken Burton and Johnny Depp contributed to that was kept very quiet. You know, also in the media coverage what's been lost is the significance of that story, which is part of the first lady's turn around.

The story I tell is more uplifting than the one you're describing. You're quoting from the early chapters where she has a very difficult time when she first lands in the White House. She's a stranger to this universe.

O'BRIEN: I'll pull from the rest -- the rest --

KANTOR: The rest of the story is actually about her turning around and the surprise of this story is that by this summer what White House aides were telling me was that the first lady was actually sort of more content with this life than the president was. And that was a great surprise to me, having covered them for this long. And we see many moments of triumph in this book.

O'BRIEN: For one moment, let me stop you there for one moment. So you've covered them, but you really hadn't interviewed them since 2009.

So is there something about telling someone's story of their personal relationship of a marriage and sort of framing a presidency through the prism of a marriage that's a little bit unfair if you haven't interviewed the people in the marriage in the White House since 2009?

KANTOR: Well, it's not sort of secrets of the Obama marriage. That's definitely not this book. It's about translating their partnership to the presidential level. And so I'll give you an example of how I reported this.

There's a very moving story in the book about the night that Gabrielle Giffords was shot and the Obamas are having dinner and they're talking about it. So how could I, an outsider, possibly know that story?

Well, I sat with Valerie Jarrett, one of their closest advisers and aides in the west wing office and she was at dinner with them that night and she told me about their reactions.

The book doesn't say, you know, Michelle Obama thought to herself, you know, da-da-da, I did what journalists do, which I talk to sources really close to the president and first lady who are credible and who participated in this book and weren't forced into it and told me this story. And the other thing, Soledad, is as journalists, I don't think --

O'BRIEN: Let me stop you there. The first lady has said, how would you know that these -- how would you know what's inside -- what's inside her head. I'll read you a little bit, right. You didn't use the word bitter. That's sort of my characterization.

But on the front flap here are the words you did use, you said, Michelle Obama, and even as she charmed the public, she struggled to gain an internal influence and to reconcile her natural bluntness and strong opinions with her confining new role.

A lot of people read that and they're like, that sounds like an angry black woman who is now in the White House kind of frustrated and unhappy and a little bit pissed off about being first lady. Can you understand her unhappiness with that? Those are your words, not mine.

KANTOR: Again, I never used the phrase angry black woman. One of the things I documented very carefully in the book is that first lady is a really hard job. And pretty much every woman who has ever had it has struggled with it in some way.

If you read the Laura Bush memoir, for example, she talks about feeling very misunderstood as first lady. She talks about the isolation of living in the residence. You know, the house is practically character in this -- O'BRIEN: Isn't that the point, but in a way, isn't that the point that that's her memoir, right? So after she leaves the White House, the first lady, whose often people keep their hands off the woman who is not elected to the office, but is in the White House job to watch the kids. They write a memoir. It's her take on her experience within the White House.

KANTOR: Are you saying that the -- but Soledad, your argument is that the first lady shouldn't be covered in a serious way by journalists. I look forward to reading her memoir.

O'BRIEN: I think that if you're going to --

KANTOR: But a reported book by an outside fair observer is a totally different project --

O'BRIEN: You have not interviewed her. You haven't interviewed her. I don't even know the first lady. I interviewed her once many years ago, four years ago. You haven't interviewed her since 2009.

There are many moments in the book where you talk about things that are internal to her relationship with her husband, the president. So I'm just saying, I do think you should cover her as a journalist.

I'm just saying you can understand how someone would feel having their relationship taken apart in a book, deconstructed in the book from someone who hasn't really done an interview with the two parties involved. That's all I'm saying. I don't have any more time.

(CROSSTALK)

JODI KANTOR, AUTHOR: I spent 40 minutes talking to the two parties involved. Also, this is why biography is.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: In 2009.

KANTOR: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I hear you. I get it. Right. But trying to understand a marriage between two people and a last time you talked to them together was in 2009. I think the first lady -- again, don't know her, personally don't know her.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- but I think she has some valid complaints about it.

KANTOR: Then why do you think the White House cooperated with this book?

O'BRIEN: Thanks a lot.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We have to end our interview. We went way, way long. How about this?

KANTOR: Why do you think the White House --

O'BRIEN: That is true. I will say anybody who would like to know --

KANTOR: -- talked to me?

O'BRIEN: I have no idea. I don't have the slightest idea.

KANTOR: They knew exactly what they were getting into, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I have no idea. But clearly the first lady did not cooperate with the book. And I'm not apologizing for the first lady.

KANTOR: She did. She gave me access to her East Wing. Why did she let me talk to all of her top aides?

O'BRIEN: She did not give you an interview.

KANTOR: She hasn't given any book interviews.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Ultimately, you didn't -- ultimately, you didn't interview her. We are out of time.

KANTOR: Because she doesn't give book interviews --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We have covered this ground. I'm so grateful for your time.

And I believe -- and I believe that anyone who wants to know more should pick up this book. It's called "The Obamas," written by Jodi Kantor.

Straight ahead, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has a book as well. That's a heavy book.

(LAUGHTER0

I'm exhausted. We're going to talk about his book and what he's thinking about for the 2012 race.

And then this story with our legal specialists this morning -- whites- only in the pool. We'll take a look. It says public swimming pool. Is this legal? Is it right? We'll talk about that straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. A mixed-race family has moved out of their apartment in Cincinnati after their landlord posted a white-only sign outside of the public swimming pool. Yesterday, a civil rights panel unanimously upheld a decision that the sign was an indication that this mixed-race teenager was being discriminated against. The father says the owner didn't want his daughter to use the pool because of a product that was her hair, the landlord said, clouded the water. The landlord says it's not an issue about race. She posted sign and after various iterations of her reasoning she said it's an antique. She values antiques. The sign dates back to Alabama, 1931. That's it. It's not about race.

There's a whole lot of crazy in this story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's unbelievably outrageous that we're approaching the legacy of Martin Luther King that we're going to be honoring this weekend. To have something like this happen. We're having anti-Semitic events happen in Manhattan, New Jersey and Brooklyn.

O'BRIEN: We're not at the mountain top yes, is what you're saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very, very frustrating.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We're bringing in Sunny Hostis, one our -- we have two legal specialists at the table. That's very nice today.

Back up a little bit. So the landlord said didn't want this teenage girl in the pool because product from her hair was making the pool cloudy.

SUNNY HOSTIS, CNN LEGAL EXPERT: Cloudy, right.

O'BRIEN: That was the first thing she told the civil rights panel. Then she changed the story when the civil rights panel said no.

HOSTIS: Right, and said it was merely decorative. It's not decoration. It's discrimination. It's very clear.

To your point, I think we have come such a long way. Usually, it was institutionalized racism with these whites-only signs. Now we're talking about sort of individual discrimination. I think in many respects, there's much more of a chilling effect because now your neighbor is doing that to you. But the Civil Rights Act does protect against that as well.

When I first read about this story, what was remarkable to me was so many comments to many of the stories were like, bottom line, is this is her private property. She can do whatever she wants. You can't discriminate even in your private life.

(CROSSTALK)

-- HOSTIS: -- even worse. It's even worse.

O'BRIEN: Let's walk through the legal arguments on that? Because eventually she went back to the panel and said, this is my pool. And everybody who wants to go in my pool has to ask my own permission, including my father, which gives insight into this woman.

HOSTIS: Right.

O'BRIEN: In all kinds of ways.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: So legally isn't that a strict constitutionalist --

(CROSSTALK)

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Put this in a larger contest. Soledad, you had your conversation with Rand Paul in the last couple of weeks. What this boils down to, Sunny, and correct me if I'm wrong, is the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In the one section of the '64 Civil Rights Act that talks about private property, that restaurants cannot exclude people based upon race. Of course, the Civil Rights Act said "no government" can discriminate on the basis of race.

HOSTIS: Institutionalize it.

CAIN: The parts of the Civil Rights Act that they talk about is private property.

HOSTIS: It's not private property, right. She's renting --

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: She's renting to people.

CAIN: Right.

HOSTIS: She's saying that it's her private property but it's really not. And I think it's sort of --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: What if it were her private property? What if she said this is my pool and I can put up a sign that says anybody I want is allowed in my pool and other people are not?

CAIN: It's still illegal.

HOSTIS: It's still illegal.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: Has that chilling effect.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: But only because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

CAIN: Right.

HOSTIS: That's right. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there's this protected group. You can't discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation. They are protected classes here.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: The landlord's name is Jamie Hind.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Let me just give --

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: You need to give a shout out to Jamie Hind.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: She is a landlord in Cincinnati, Ohio. She said this, "I've never said anything to that child." That would be the teenage girl. "If I have to stick up for my white rights, I have to stick up for my white rights. It goes both ways."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's incredible that here we are in 2012 and these kinds of comments are being made. It was not that long ago, about a year and a half ago, in a community I represent, we dealt with we dealt with the Islamic culture and the mosque. We saw the same discrimination and fearmongering. It's exactly what we need. We have so much work to do. As we honor Dr. King's legacy this weekend, we realize how far we have to go.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I thought it was interesting she said I have to stick up for a white race, not my personal property rights.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I mean, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- in my pool.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the landlord should have done was sue the person in the -- landlord/tenant, that kind of action for the chemical in the pool. They would have had a great state action.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: How many people that are fair-skinned cloud themselves in what is it -- stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. (CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: All this sun screen and they get into the pool and the pool is clouded up. I mean, it's in the hair products.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: And a lot of gels --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: She went before a panel and they basically said this is ridiculous a couple of times to her. Then the family moved out because they felt that a teenage girl shouldn't be made to feel badly. A girl --

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: Because it's terrible.

O'BRIEN: So ultimately what happens with the landlord? She got her way, right? Black girl, mixed-race girl has moved out, taken her family with her.

HOSTIS: But it's not over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The stress is still there.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'm talking about for the landlord.

HOSTIS: It's certainly not over. She appealed it. Thank goodness the Ohio commission said, no, 4-0, bottom line --

O'BRIEN: So where does it go from here?

HOSTIS: -- still discrimination. I think that they're going to try to make some sort of resolution. If there's no resolution, she'll be looking at the attorney general of Ohio. That's where it should go. Because the point should be made, again, this is discrimination.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Jamie Hind, landlord, call us. We'd love to have you on the show.

HOSTIS: Oh, I would love to chat with her.

O'BRIEN: We're dying to talk to you.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: -- Sunny Hostis made. Look at this, cheese grits. These are so --

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: This is the best show on television.

CAIN: I'm so proud of her.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIS: And I have bacon and cheese grits.

CAIN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you.

Appreciate it, Sunny.

Still ahead this morning, I'm going to talk about another case, another crazy case, of a Mississippi manhunt for the pardoned killers. Now Oklahoma is trying to take some of those very powers that pardoned these four guys away from the governor in that state.

And severe weather is dumping snow in the Midwest. It's messing up flights all over the country. We'll take a look at your travel forecast straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)