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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Obama To Ask Congress For Power To Shrink Federal Government; 200 Criminals Pardoned In Mississippi; Marines Photographed Urinating on Taliban Corpses Identified; Senator Jim DeMint Interview

Aired January 13, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, HOST, CNN'S STARTING POINT Welcome back to the Tick Tock diner which is where STARTING POINT is coming to you from this morning. We are surrounded by food, but we're about to dig in to our cheesecake, of course, that's a New York City specialty, and we're going to open that up in just a few moments. We're going to talk this morning about conservatives who are meeting to pick the man who they think is the anti-Romney. Evangelicals are watching that in South Carolina.

Also, the manhunt for those pardoned killers in Mississippi. Well, now, it's leading into another state where they're trying to remove that same power from the governor there.

Plus, we're going to talk to two sisters who were not pardoned. One promised a kidney to her sister -- in an effort to get out of prison, they're really angry about what was given to some killers when that was not their situation, straight ahead.

Plus, what a mess for travelers. After the first big Midwest snowstorm, 500 flights have been canceled. We're going to update you on your travel plans.

And change you can believe in. We reveal how much the TSA made off your loose nickels and dimes, and quarters. I want you guys to take a guess how much money. Take a guess.

Back to your guesses in a moment.

STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Texas Christian leaders are meeting for two days in the state of Texas starting today. The goal is to agree on a candidate to get behind and a candidate who is not Mitt Romney. But there are some rumblings that they could fail to unite behind one person.

Tony Perkins is the president of Family Research Council and he joins us by phone.

Nice to talk to you. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL (via telephone): Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about this meeting this weekend. What's -- thank you. Good morning to you.

What's the strategy? And is the goal to hone in on one candidate, or do you think that's just not going to be possible?

PERKINS: Well, first off, it's not an anti-Mitt Romney meeting or bash Mitt Romney meeting. Clearly, there's a level of uncomfortability with Mitt Romney. And so, that is part of the reason for the meeting, is to see if there is consensus around an alternative candidate that has greater support among social conservatives across the country.

Now, it's very unlikely that there's going to be a unanimous consensus that comes about as a result of this meeting. But I do think you'll se more leaders move toward a personal endorsement of a candidate in the race going into South Carolina.

O'BRIEN: Back in August, you and hundreds of other evangelical leaders had an opportunity to meet with the Texas Governor, Rick Perry. And since that time, he has not done well, both in polling and also in the states where there have been contests, Iowa and New Hampshire. If you look at where he placed, for example, in the polling in South Carolina, coming in at 5 percent. So, right towards the bottom of the list.

So if it's not going to be Perry, who I think was a big pick for evangelicals, who would be your personal next pick?

PERKINS: Well, I think there's support. There will be support there for not only Rick Perry, who you're absolutely right, a lot of social conservatives like him, they like his record, they like what he stands for. He has underperformed in this campaign.

There is support for Newt Gingrich among some.

There's growing support for Rick Santorum after his performance in Iowa and his solid record. I'm seeing more move toward him.

There's going to be a very open discussion. There's going to be discussion about issues, and what's expected of the next president regardless of who it might be in order to, you know, affect the culture and to strengthen the families. There's going to be a lot of discussion. I think it's going to be a productive meeting, whatever the outcome.

O'BRIEN: It's been posited that the goal is to avoid what happened back when Governor Huckabee was running. And evangelicals were kind of slow to back him in some cases, and then it was Senator McCain who ran away from the nomination kind of leading you out of power there. Is that accurate to say?

PERKINS: Yes, that's absolutely correct. That's kind of the backdrop. That's what's driving it.

It's not that long ago. Four years ago, the conservatives were kind of fragmented in the race as you had Fred Thompson stayed in. You had Mike Huckabee, who was not extremely well known, believe it or not, among social conservatives at the time. And some kind of held back.

Looking back at that as a result of the fragmentation, you had not the strongest of the candidates emerge. John McCain, he was not successful. And so, that is the desire, not to see that repeated.

O'BRIEN: Tony Perkins is with the Family Research Council -- nice to talk to you this morning. Appreciate your time, sir.

Let's bring it to our panel. Romesh Ratnesar. To pronounce your name is insane. Romesh Ratnesar.

Some of the people mangle my name all the time. It really bothers me. I'm going to try very hard.

So, it's interesting to listen to Tony Perkins sort of say they made a mistake last time with Mike Huckabee, that they did not sort of glom on to his power early on. And then, later, it was Senator McCain who walked away with the nomination. They felt a little bit out of the opportunity.

When you look at a poll, let's throw these numbers up, about what people care about in terms of issues, social issues are at the bottom of the list or close to the bottom of the list.

Can we put that up on the screen? Without my glasses I can't see. But it's social issues, it's 2 percent.

What does that mean for this evangelical meeting that's underway this weekend?

ROMESH RATNESAR, DEPUTY EDITOR, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Well, based on what I've just heard, it sounds like this is going to work out pretty well for Mitt Romney. I mean, this is a caucus that seems pretty divided. It doesn't sound like there's any unity coalescing behind any one candidate.

None of the social conservative candidates have distinguished themselves so far. I mean, Santorum seems to be the most plausible or has the most momentum.

So, I think Romney is going to come out looking pretty good. It's in his interest if this remains a fractured field on the right. I don't think he ever counted on getting a whole lot of evangelical support. I think in the general election, he's going to be OK.

So, it seems that this is ultimately going to be working out in his favor

O'BRIEN: Does he need the evangelical -- hang on one second. Does he need the evangelical support?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Santorum?

O'BRIEN: No, Mitt Romney who's ahead in the polls, has squeaked by in Iowa, has a massive lead leaving New Hampshire. Looks terrifically positioned as he heads into South Carolina. Looks good in Florida.

So, even looking out, does he need the folks who are meeting this weekend to say --

CAIN: No.

O'BRIEN: -- you know what, it's Mitt Romney you want to stand behind?

CAIN: You know what? His success is proving he doesn't need that. I mean, one of the big debates leading up to now is how much does the Tea Party and social conservativism one and the same? How much is it defined by social conservatism?

Interestingly, in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney got 40 percent of the Tea Party vote. We had wondered how big a problem is Mitt Romney's Mormonism. What it suggests to me is people like Tea Partiers are willing to vote for Mitt Romney. They just don't want to tell their friends about it.

They're not polling it. They're not letting people know that they're supporting Mitt Romney, but they're going to vote for him.

O'BRIEN: That's an interesting theory. We'll have a chance to go to South Carolina and actually see that up close.

CAIN: Different state.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a look at other stories other than politics, believe it or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes.

Christine Romans has those stories for this morning.

Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. You're right.

Just into CNN, the White House, Soledad, says President Obama today will ask Congress for the power to shrink the federal government. The president's plan will start with combining a half dozen commerce and trade agencies that have been known to confuse businesses. But first, Congress needs to give him the go ahead and then approve any changes.

"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 a line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We cannot allow them to develop a nuclear weapon. That's the 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.

Attacking Mitt Romney as a vulture capitalist? Well, it's backfired on Rick Perry in South Carolina. It cost him the support of the state's highest profile donors. Banking executive Barry Wynn says Perry's attacks undermine the GOP's efforts to champion free enterprise. Wynn's now supporting Romney.

Apple had planned to unveil its iPhone in China but it didn't count on riots breaking out at flagship store in Beijing. The crowd grew large and unruly. People started egging the store when it didn't open. Scalpers reportedly had more than 1,000 stand-ins, waiting in line so they could sell the phones immediately on the black market.

All right. So much for a snow-free winter. The National Weather Service says the Upper Midwest, parts of the Northeast, could see snow today and into tomorrow. Nearly five inches have already fallen on Chicago, forcing more than 500 flights to be canceled.

Jae Miller from CNN affiliate WGN is live in Chicago.

Good morning. Winter is here for you.

JAE MILLER, WGN: Oh, it is here, indeed. You know, not the amount of snow that a lot of us had thought or hoped for, but certainly enough to cause a headache for people heading out this morning. A couple of inches of snow fell in the Chicagoland area overnight. That snow has pretty much stopped, but it's now the blowing and drifting snow that is the problem.

As you see this guy here with the snow blower, you know, he's doing a great job, but unfortunately, the snow is blowing so hard that in about 20 or 30 minutes I guarantee you that snow is going to go right back on that pavement.

But the streets in Chicago not too bad. The main roads are pretty decent. It's the side streets that are a problem this morning.

A lot of people are dealing with snow-covered cars, several inches of snow surrounding their vehicles. As I mentioned, the snow plows still haven't gotten to a lot of these side streets. So, a lot of people waking up this morning. We'll have to do some digging.

But the good news is not the big snow that we thought was coming and I was out here last year for the big blizzard. And this is nothing compared to that. So, I would say we've had it easy so far, especially considering just a couple of days ago, it was I think a high of 52. So, go figure.

ROMANS: What a difference a couple days will make. Jae Miller from WGN, thanks so much.

Minding your business now. Let's check in on the markets. U.S. stock futures for the Dow, the NASDAQ and S&P 500 trading lower. That's after JPMorgan reported a 23 percent drop in its profit for the fourth quarter compared to a year ago. Its CEO calls that disappointing.

And oil futures back down below $100 a barrel right now. But political tensions between Iran and the United States still running high. Iran has been threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. Guess what? Forty percent of the world's oil runs through there.

Right now, crude trading at $99.24 a barrel -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, thank you very much. Be sure to follow us on Twitter this morning. I'm @Soledad_OBrien.

Anita Baker sent me a note about Stephen Colbert. She'd like to see him run, too. Of course, he can't do that, Anita. But thank you for your tweet.

Also getting a lot of feedback on our Jodi Kantor interview. Some people loved it, some people not so much.

Ahead this morning, we're going to tell you about this ad. Have you seen this ad about the dog? Will and I were talking about this earlier.

Take a look at the Mitt Romney dog ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, CAMPAIGN AD)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We love the dog. It was where he was comfortable. And we had five kids inside the car. My guess is he liked it a lot better in his kennel than he would have liked it inside.

(MUSIC)

ROMNEY: Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I'm trying figure out DNC ad. This is from the DNC? No, this is a Newt Gingrich ad -- all about the dog.

Will Cain, give us a history on the dog.

CAIN: Little history on the dog, the story is, right, that Mitt Romney's family dog, the car was full, five kids in the car, maybe no room in the car. He's put it in a really nice carrier and strapped it to the top of the car and pulled off down the road.

Can I say this, Soledad? I told you this earlier, and I know this is not going to win me fans, it's not going to win me popularity.

O'BRIEN: Do it anyway. Say it anyway.

CAIN: I love dogs. Man's best friend. Yada, yada, yada, had one for 13 years. We do societally accept that we can strap horses into a carriage in the back of the car and drag them down the highway but we cannot put dogs on top of the car. I know dogs have a special place.

O'BRIEN: Horses don't fit in the back of the car.

CAIN: Maybe Romney doesn't se the distinction.

O'BRIEN: Right.

CAIN: It's somewhat arbitrary.

RATNESAR: He certainly has enough money to hire a second car, you know? So --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What this ad does is it's very helpful for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

O'BRIEN: Really? I mean, people who are laughing about this ad absolutely don't sound like they're voting on this issue. It's just crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Ridiculist." Can we call Anderson Cooper?

O'BRIEN: I would absolutely agree with that. As they head into South Carolina and Newt Gingrich, who created that ad, and has sort of said it's going to be Armageddon, do you think that he's over- speaking? We're going to see him start bringing down the temperature a little bit?

CAIN: Newt?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

CAIN: You just said this I'm not sure the audience got it. When that ad was playing, Soledad looked at me and said that's from the DNC, right?

O'BRIEN: I thought it was.

CAIN: No, it says Newt 2012. Do I think he's going to dial it down? I don't think so. And it's not going to work on this benefit.

SEEMA IYER, FORMER PROSECUTOR: None of this is doing him any favors. People don't like this. What you said earlier, it turns people off. When I'm on trial, I actually try to get along with the adversary. I'm telling you --

O'BRIEN: Why?

IYER: Because the jurors don't like to see people having that kind of like personal battle between them.

O'BRIEN: It damages both parties?

IYER: Yes, it does. Jurors have come up to myself and the da on my trial and say it's so nice to see two people get along.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People want solutions. In this economy, when we have double digit unemployment.

O'BRIEN: We're heading into South Carolina. I think we're going to get negativity.

CAIN: I think you're right.

O'BRIEN: I think I'm right too.

Still ahead this morning, we're going to talk with the Scott sisters. They served 18 years in the Mississippi prison under Governor Barbour in that. Because they took part, that was alleged, in a robbery that netted $11. They say they didn't get pardoned by the governor and they want to know why murderers did.

Plus, two marines have been identified in that videotape we showed you yesterday. The shock, though, is not wearing off today. We're going to talk with General Wesley Clark straight ahead.

And our reveal this morning: guess how much money the TSA has collected from -- I'm going to say your loose change? But really my loose change. I travel all the time. Some of that money is mine.

Take a guess. We're going to talk about after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Outrageous morning over the former Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour, granting pardons to nearly more than, actually, 200 convicts. The list included a rapist and murderers, but there are two women who did not get full pardons. They are the Scott sisters. You remember them, I covered their story just about a year ago.

A year ago, in fact, this past Saturday, they were released, there they are, before they made their remarks to the press. They were released from prison, both of them. They had their life sentences suspended by Governor Haley Barbour, but in order to win their freedom, one sister had to agree that she would donate her kidney to the other sister. So, Gladys and Jamie Scott are in Pensacola, Florida, this morning and they join us. Nice to see you, ladies. Again, thanks for talking with us. Gladys, I'm going to remind everybody sort of how we first met a year ago. You, Jamie, needed the liver transplant. Gladys offered that she would give her liver for the transplant, and you got the suspended sentence after serving 18 years.

So, you were both paroled. What's your reaction when you hear about these killers who were released when you were really, I believe, ended up being convicted of conspiracy around a burglary?

JAMIE SCOTT, RELEASED FROM MISSISSIPPI PRISON UNDER KIDNEY SHARING DEAL: When I first heard it, I was very upset about it, because I couldn't understand why he would look over our petition that was filed a week prior to him leaving office. He never said aye or nay to our position, but yet, you allow murderers and rapists to be put-back on the street.

I couldn't comprehend that. There's something else going on. I feel like that it's personal. I feel like it's real personal.

O'BRIEN: You do? You know, I was going to ask you. Part of this whole deal, but a lot of people wrote about it at the time was that Gladys would have to donate her kidney to you because you needed a kidney, and your health wasn't so great. You look much better now, I've got to tell you, today. How are you feeling?

JAMIE SCOTT: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And what is the status, Jamie, of this transplant?

JAMIE SCOTT: Well, at first when we first went to the hospital, they gave me a folder (ph), they was not willing to even do the transplant because they said that in the order that Governor Barbour did, you cannot force a human being to give another one an organ, and that the kidney foundation wrote him a personal letter, and he never responded.

They wrote him a letter asking him to change that order, change that part in the order because you cannot -- they could not take Glady's kidney if she was forced to give it. So, Gladys had to explain to them that no matter what he said in black and white, that she would give me her left arm, that before he even came up with that, she had already asked the Department of Corrections can she give me her kidney.

O'BRIEN: Let me take a break for a moment, because we got to hit a commercial break. Hang on one second, Jamie. I got to hit a commercial break. When we come back, I want to talk about your potential for pardon and where you stand with your health. We're back in just a moment, everybody. STARTING POINT continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And we're back with Gladys and Jamie Scott. They're coming to us live from Pensacola, Florida this morning. Ladies, I remember, when I was covering your case, we were not talking about a murder case. You both were charged with leading two men into an ambush for robbery. The amount of money, I believe, that was involved was roughly $11.

You ended up getting life terms, both of you. In fact, the guys who actually were charged with perpetrating the robbery got out several years before you were able to be released on parole. Nobody was killed in your particular instance. You served 18 years.

So, when you see people who are convicted murders who also said you guys maintained you didn't do it, and these murders did not say that they did not do it, what do you think is going on here? We've been looking into some of the motivation on the part of the governor. What do you think happened here?

GLADYS SCOTT, RELEASED FROM MISSISSIPPI PRISON UNDER KIDNEY SHARING DEAL: I feel like that it was a personal thing because me and my sister from day one, we have stood on our innocence that did not do it. We have went by the guidelines of being on parole. You know, (INAUDIBLE) feeling well, we have to stay on parole for something. It seemed like we're paying for the crime all over again.

O'BRIEN: You were telling me, Jamie, about your condition, and I had to cut to commercial break. So, I wanted to follow up with you. So, you didn't have the kidney transplant yet. Are you scheduled to have it? How's your health? Do you still need it?

JAMIE SCOTT: I'm in the process now. I'll go back in May. I go to a place (ph) called peer support, and I go five days a week, and they're helping me with my weight loss program. Everything is really going wonderful. You know, there are things that I should have gotten inside the prison.

The reason why I was going down so fast in there that I'm getting out here. So, everything is just going wonderful. It's just when I heard about all the pardons, and I actually printed out the list and looked at it, and I know several of the people that's on that list, and some of them were still violent in prison.

So, you don't put them back out on the streets. That was just making me realize -- that made me realize, hey, this is something personal.

O'BRIEN: Forgive me. Interesting. So, let me ask you a final question before we run out of time, which is what happens now? I mean, you're feeling better, but you actually have to report still to a parole officer, and you're on parole for the rest of your lives, right?

JAMIE SCOTT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Do you think the new governor will grant you a pardon?

JAMIE SCOTT: I feel if the new governor would just take the opportunity and read our transcript and investigate, I feel like that if he do the right thing, that he would give us a pardon, because right now, you know, we have several people still working. We have all our supporters. The Mississippi Center for -- Mississippi Worker Center run by Jeruba Hill (INAUDIBLE).

Everyone is supportive. Nancy Lockhart (ph). My mother, she's in a bad situation. She just had her leg amputated. She's gone through six surgeries. So, you know, so, she's down right now, but our next step is to try to talk with the new governor and see would he give us a pardon.

GLADYS SCOTT: Because if we got a pardon --

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to keep following your case. ladies. Yes, go ahead, Gladys. If you're not pardoned, what?

GLADYS SCOTT: OK. If we not pardoned, like me, I want to be a nurse, but me being a convicted felony having this over my head, I can't get my nursing license. And we just want to go on with our lives. We just want to go on because want to help children. You know, we just want to just be, you know, normal.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for talking with us. Yes, I hear you. I get it. I get it.

JAMIE SCOTT: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: We'll keep following what the new governor does in your case. It's nice to see you, ladies, again. Thanks.

Ahead this morning, we're talking about this case of the marines who are urinating on corpses. Outrage that's going. We're going to bring in General Wesley Clark straight ahead in just a moment to discuss the latest updates on that case.

And the TSA, apparently, is making money off of our loose change, and I say our, because I travel all the time. Some of that money is mine. That number is straight ahead and we'll reveal. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We're coming to you this morning from the Tick Tock diner in lower midtown Manhattan.

Ahead in our next half-hour, they have now identified two of those marines that are in that video we showed you yesterday. There is outrage from the Pentagon to Afghanistan. Barbara Starr is following the investigation for us, and also General Wesley Clark will join us as well to weigh in on what's happening there.

And Senator Jim DeMint has a new book out, and he is also handicapping for us the 2012 race for us.

We'll get to that in just a moment. First a look at the headlines with Christine Romans. Hey, Christine.

ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. The State Department this morning warning American citizens in Thailand about the possibility of terrorists targeting popular tourist areas in Bangkok. This comes after authorities arrested a terror suspect. The U.S. embassy says foreign terror suspects may be planning attacks in the future.

Just about an hour from now Joran Van Der Sloot will learn how long he'll spend in a Peruvian prison for pleading guilty to murdering 21-year-old Stephany Flores in 2010. His sentencing comes one day after Natalee Holloway was officially declared dead. Van Der Sloot, of course, has been the prime suspect in Holloway's disappearance in Aruba in 2005. He's never been charged for that murder.

Now Rick Perry getting his day in federal court. The Texas governor is suing to get on the ballot for Virginia's March 6th primary. Perry failed to get the 10,000 voter signatures required. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman also failed to qualify. They have joined Perry's lawsuit.

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert is getting in the act, making his candidacy sort of official last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE 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 the United States of South Carolina.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: In a recent poll of South Carolina voters Colbert actually tops presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.

Watching your money this morning, first let's check in on the markets. U.S. stock futures trading lower across the board after disappointing earnings from JP Morgan Chase this morning. Investors are hoping for some signs that the U.S. economy is on the mend.

Here's one, college graduate salaries are rising. The average salary for the 2011 college class is now $41,701 a year. That's an increase from a year ago according to the National Association of Colleges and employers. Guess what, it is, of course, engineers, Soledad, who get the best starting salaries, more than $61,000 a year. Momma, don't let your babies grow up to be liberal arts majors.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. I should have been an engineer. Christine, thank you.

The Marine Corps has now identified two of the four marines who were seen urinating on the corpses of enemies. The names not being revealed at this point yet. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said he is deeply troubled by this. We have Barbara Starr on this investigation. She's at the Pentagon this morning. Also this morning from Little Rock, former NATO supreme ally commander General Wesley Clark is with us. Barbara, why don't you start by updating us on the investigation?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You're right, Soledad. They have now interviewed at least two of those participating in that video. The marines also tell us they expect very shortly to have a lot of this nailed down to know exactly who the other marines were in the video. And, of course, the Marine Corps now has a major investigation going on separate from that naval criminal investigative command investigation. So you've got two investigatory tracks going on, the marines quickly beginning to identify who was involved, interviewing them. They want to get a lid on this very quickly. They want to get it resolved. They are mortified, to say the least, about how this appears to the rest of the world.

O'BRIEN: General Wesley Clark, we talked yesterday about sort of the impact on the chain of command and who ultimately would be responsible. First, what do you think potentially could be what these men are charged with when they are able to track down all four, which I assume they're going to be able to do? Also, what happens to the folks whose command they're in?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Soledad, this indicates some breakdown in discipline, command control, supervision. And it indicates the difficulties that militaries face when they're in long-term combat we've been in in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So I think they can be charged under the uniform code of military justice, with conduct unbecoming, with other actions, violation of general orders. And there are a number of generalized charges that the specifics of this act could fall under. So there's not a problem in creating a case against them.

But I think that when it goes into the court martial system, which it probably will in the Marine Corps, that all of the circumstances around this will be looked at. So it won't be just the marines. It will be the chain of command. It will be the previous activities, it'll be whether they have previous combat tours, it'll be whether any of them have been diagnosed with PTSD, whether any of them were taking any kind of psychological maintenance drugs. It could be quite far reaching.

O'BRIEN: General, I want to ask you a question about training, because this was a conversation we were having around the table yesterday, which was a sense of if your job as a sniper is to shoot or kill people, doesn't the line get kind of blurry about how maybe possibly to treat those corpses depending on adrenaline, depending on the circumstances around a particular battle?

CLARK: Not really. I think it's a very clean distinction. There's, of course, if you're a sniper, your job is to be out there looking and hunting and do a precision strike with a very high-powered rifle and some very power full optics. The job has nothing to do with what happens afterwards to the corpses, nothing whatsoever.

And better not to be around them. Get out of there. Stay safe. Keep your role undercover and let them think bullets fell from the sky and hit them. It's actually the opposite.

Not only that, but all of these men have been trained in a generalized notion of counterinsurgency, which is that you don't want to do things that aggravate and upset the civilian population. So regardless, forget about the videotape for a second, what if other people saw them do this? So this is an action that's counterproductive to the strategy that's underway supported by the United States in Afghanistan.

STARR: You know, Soledad, I want to weigh in.

CAIN: General Clark, this is Will Cain --

STARR: Soledad, this is the conversation you hear around here inside military circles. These are small units way out in isolated areas away from anybody else. Do they have a break from reality essentially, a break from societal norms that leads them to undertake these activities? So you hear that part of the discussion. Do we need to be understanding of the stresses that they're under?

But I have to tell you, I would underscore what General Clark is saying. What you hear mostly is that that is nonsense. Of course they are out there in very tough circumstances, but there is still individual responsibility and there is nothing in military training or military law that permits the desecration of bodies no matter what stress you may be suffering from. That's the kind of conversation that you're beginning to hear now.

CAIN: Barbara, this is Will Cain. I'd love to ask General Clark. We asked General Spider Marks yesterday. I think from a moral perspective, not so much the Geneva Convention or training, but aren't you always going to have this problem when you train men to kill, which quite honestly is a worse action than urinating on a corpse. You're training men to take the lives of other men.

Achilles dragged Hector's body around the castle after he killed him. Isn't this going to be an issue you always have when you train men to do something like this and then ask them to step back into civilization after they've killed someone?

CLARK: Yes, it is. It's always an issue. It's been there in every military since the dawn of time, I'm quite sure. When people are in combat, the heat of come back, the fear, the emotions about it, yes, their emotions run away from them. That's why they're trained, because they're not just exposing their emotions and letting emotions run wild. They're supposed to be disciplined because actions like this do have consequences, not just these national consequences we're seeing now, but consequences for their fellow marines and soldiers on that battlefield in Afghanistan.

O'BRIEN: General Wesley Clark with us this morning. Barbara Starr joining us from the Pentagon. Thanks. I appreciate the update on a story that we'll continue to follow of course.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint has a new book out. We'll talk to him about Armageddon, what Newt Gingrich as promised in the 2012 race as we head to South Carolina.

Plus we'll ask you what you think moneywise. How much money do you think the TSA hauls in from loose change? Maybe more importantly, what do you think they do with it? You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We're coming to you from the Tick Tock diner this morning, a little breakfast. He is considered to be a king maker in South Carolina. In the last couple of weeks we have called everybody a king maker. But in South Carolina conservative Senator Jim DeMint truly is a king maker. He's got a new book he's promoting. It's all about America's economic survival. I talked to him about his book and what he thinks about 2012 as we head into the election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: The senator's book is called "Now or Never -- Saving America from Economic Collapse." Nice to have you, sir. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it. You talk a lot about spending in this book. One thing you say is "Decades of reckless spending by both parties has given us massive debt and an unsustainable size of government without precedent in this nation's history." Give me some background. How did we get here?

SEN. JIM DEMINT, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Again, it is a problem of both parties, and it's part of the Washington environment where you're there to make people happy by creating a program or sending bacon back home to your state.

But I'm trying to sound the alarm with "now or never." it helped people understand we've never been in a situation like this. We've got about half of Americans now depending on the government in some way. The other half are paying for it. We need to take care of those in need, but the fact is if we keep this debt level, we're going to end up worse than Greece. So 2012 may be our last chance to turn it around.

O'BRIEN: There's an argument that says since Washington insiders helped create the problem, why would we possibly turn to Washington to help fix the problem?

DEMINT: I'm telling folks that you can't. Look, it's only an intervention by the American people that's going to change things. So we've got to change a lot of people who are in Washington who are there to take home the bacon.

O'BRIEN: You wrote in the book that government doesn't cure poverty, it subsidizes poverty.

DEMINT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And when read that I thought, well, this is kind like a chicken and the egg thing especially when you consider the number of children who are in poverty.

DEMINT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Or the number of kids who the only meal they'll get during the day is a meal that is given to them, subsidized, through their -- their school because their parents are in poverty.

DEMINT: Yes. Well, the unintended consequences of welfare programs are so obvious. I mean, when we started welfare, the unwed birth rate in America was below 10 percent for blacks and whites. Now it's over 40 percent, 70 percent for blacks. And if you want the indicator for poverty, juvenile delinquency, incarceration, it goes back to unwed births.

But we have not helped poverty, we have actually made it worse. I'm not saying don't help the poor, but let's do it in a way that doesn't trap them in generational dependency on government. Let's do it in a way that teaches self-sufficiency, helps people develop the skills, the character to succeed.

But we're obviously not doing that so just doing more of the same with more money is not helping people, it's hurting people.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the race. Newt Gingrich has talked about how Armageddon is approaching. Is that a word that you would use? Armageddon is coming to South Carolina?

DEMINT: No. I think there's a lot of exaggeration. It's --

O'BRIEN: I hope so. Because Armageddon is kind of the end.

DEMINT: Yes, that is the end there. But I think this is the final battle for some of these candidates. They have to make their last best case.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You haven't Mitt Romney. You did four years ago.

DEMINT: You know that -- this is a different race. I'm going to keep my focus on the Senate, and the Senate conservatives. I feel like if I can elect or help elect five or six more good conservatives that we'll send the next president good legislation.

O'BRIEN: The Tea Party which had so much power back in 2010. And the candidates that the Tea Party was most so strongly for Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry -- really Michele Bachmann's out of the race. Rick Perry, New Hampshire was less than one percent. How do you read into that from their strengths to --

DEMINT: The two parties is just divided. I think all of the candidates are talking about what we need and what the Tea Party was all about. Like Mitt Romney talks about cut, cap, balance. Balance the budget. But it's the fiscal economic situation that pulled the Tea Party together. And I think all of our candidates are talking about the right things. So you've got Tea Party members who are supporting all of the candidates right now. And it's just divided. I think you'll see as we get our nominee the activists around the country come together and unite behind a candidate because we really do see this as perhaps our last chance to turn it around.

O'BRIEN: The book is called "Now or Never, Saving America from Economic Collapse". Senator Jim DeMint is our guest today. I have to warn you we're going to see you when we come to South Carolina.

DEMINT: I'm looking forward to that.

O'BRIEN: You've agreed to come and have breakfast with us.

DEMINT: Be careful it can be dangerous.

O'BRIEN: I've heard Armageddon is coming. I consider myself forewarned.

DEMINT: I don't think you'll find it that bad.

O'BRIEN: I'm glad to hear that. Because that's really, really bad. Thank you Senator.

DEMINT: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate your time this morning. It's a pleasure.

Up next, "The Reveal". How the TSA is making money off your loose change and what they do with it. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's where we are. Right near 34th street this morning. Time now for our "Reveal". It looks like the TSA has hit the mother lode with our loose change. It turns out many of us, me included, have been leaving our coins behind at the airport security check point. So in 2011 the TSA pocketed how much, Will, do you say?

CAIN: I'm just pulling completely out of thin air.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes, we get it.

CAIN: Half a million?

O'BRIEN: Close, very close.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a million.

O'BRIEN: No, off. $409,000, that's under half million. Very nicely done, Will, I appreciate that. In change, that's a lot of change.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do they use it for?

O'BRIEN: Well, that's an excellent question. And it tees me up nicely for the next part of my script here which is they keep it. They keep it all. And there's a Florida lawmaker who would like to put a stop to that. He's introducing a bill that would force the TSA to donate the money to the troops. Interesting bill.

Take a guess at which airport brings in the most money? Anybody?

CAIN: Atlanta.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: JFK.

O'BRIEN: Very nice -- ding, ding, ding. We have a winner, JFK just under $50,000. And about half of that is my money and change.

The "End Point" is up next with our panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. We have reached the "End Point" this morning. We asked our panelists to sum it all up for us. What do you think, Romesh?

RATNESAR: I think Mitt Romney has done a pretty good job defending himself against these attacks on his time at Bain. But I think the next shoe to drop are going to be his tax returns. I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on him going forward to release his tax returns and show people --

O'BRIEN: He's really, really, really rich. What don't we know? What will we find out about him? That he's $5,000 richer than we thought? Really, really rich.

RATNESAR: Well, I think the question is whether -- I mean what his income tax rate, what he's paying. That's the big question. That's going to be where he's vulnerable.

O'BRIEN: All right. Will Cain?

CAIN: My take away as a Democrat that for that matter Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, want to have a debate about Bain. Want to have the debate about capitalism. I'm ready to have that debate.

O'BRIEN: Why.

CAIN: I do not want to have say debate about strapping dogs to the top of your car. I know I'll lose that debate. I'll win the capitalist debate, that's why.

O'BRIEN: So does America want to have the debate about the dogs on the car? Do you think America wants to have a capitalism debate?

CAIN: I think America wants to have a conversation -- we won't say debate -- about how to get the economy back on track, how to make Americans -- the economy grow. And I think the Republicans have a better solution. O'BRIEN: The dog on the car thing is underscoring a disconnectedness. Outside of the people making fun of the whole thing. The whole point of that story is there's something a little disconnected to everybody else, unless you put --

CAIN: No, I 100 percent agree with you. That makes two of them. Democratic nominee and Republican nominee, disconnected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My take away is that Jodi Kantor; she's the angry one now after this morning.

O'BRIEN: She's been tweeting this morning about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who's angry now?

O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, it's interesting, I think it'll be -- you guys should read the book and then we can continue to discuss it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to read the book but I'm proud of you. I thought that was great.

O'BRIEN: It's your weekend assignment. I want you to read the book and see what your take is on that book because we can talk about it for hours. What's your take away this morning?

JULIE MENIN, DEMOCRATIC COMMENTATOR: Ok. My take away is divisiveness in the Republican primary. I think we're really seeing that the Republican Party has not truly coalesced behind one nominee even though Romney won in New Hampshire, even though he won in Iowa.

O'BRIEN: Does it matter?

MENIN: But we're going to see that play out in the general election. I think that that bodes well for the Democratic Party as we contract Romney and unfettered free market capitalism against a more responsible --

O'BRIEN: Another Democratic elected official.

I don't know. We talk about that. I think Will's got a point there.

My "End Point" of the morning is I support Stephen Colbert for president. It would make the race so much better, so much more interesting, I personally believe.

I have to end with a final shout out to Delta Sigma Theta. 99 founders day is today. And so hey, congratulations.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Kyra Phillips begins right now. That's it for STARTING POINT. We'll see you back here on Monday.