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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Political Analysts Assess President's State of the Union Address; Interview with Rep. Jeb Hensarling; East Haven Cops Charged with Profiling Latinos; Four East Haven Cops Charged With Profiling Latinos; American Hostage Rescued; Syria Extends Arab League Mission; Giffords In The House; Reviving The American Dream; Romney's Riches; Unfair Tax Advantage For Rich?; Secret Tapes from JFK White House; Multiple Head Injuries Correlates with Parkinson's Disease

Aired January 25, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're moving on to STARTING POINT. Thanks for being with us, everybody. We're live this morning from The Diner once again in Washington, D.C.

And our starting point this morning is some breaking news, which is all about freedom for two foreign aid workers, one is American held hostage in Somalia for three months. We've got the late-breaking details on this story. Plus, President Obama released a statement of an update on the passing (ph) there.

Also, we are, of course, talking about the "State of the Union" this morning. It was all about the economy, fair play, fair shot, fair share. We'll discuss that, if today, the morning after, is back to politics as usual.

Then, the story we're talking about out of Connecticut. Have you heard this story? Four police officers have now been arrested. They are charged with obstruction of justice and false arrests. Apparently, they targeted a local pastor and small businessman.

But it's what the mayor has said about Latinos in his town that is really getting a lot of shocking reaction today. We'll update you on that story as well. STARTING POINT begins right now.

All right, show time. I was going to say, it's going to be a hip-hop morning here. Let's get it started.

Welcome, everybody. As I mentioned we're coming to you from the diner. Every morning we tell you what we're eating. So I'm going to tell you what we're eating, which is I got to read this one. It's the specialty of the house. This is called the cloak and dagger -- two eggs over easy with bacon or ham sandwiched between French loaf smothered in sauce, cheese, served with home fries or grits. Coming in at 27 -- can I hold it up for you? 27,000 calories right here.

And I'm going to put that in front of our guest panelist today who is joining us is Congressman Aaron Schock. He's the Republican from the state of Illinois who I saw your picture on the front of "Men's Health."

REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: I'm not eating a whole lot of those.

O'BRIEN: That's not how you get abs like the congressman has. I should mention he is joining our panel and women have all been on twitter to have you here today. Appreciate you being here. John Podesta is joining us as well as a guest panelist. And Roland Martin is with us as well. He looks a little tired.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I actually just didn't even go to sleep.

O'BRIEN: Did you really not?

MARTIN: Anderson Cooper to right here.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate that. We know you have to run out at 7:15 because you do your hit with Tom Joyner and the "Tom Joyner Morning Show." So don't take offense.

MARTIN: I'm not mad at what you have to say.

O'BRIEN: We have a lot to get to today. A guest list is Steny Hoyer, house Democrat whip, is going to join us in a moment, and also the Texas representative Jeb Hensarling is going to join us as well. He is the chair of the House Republican conference. We're going to talk about the reaction from the state of the union address from the president last night.

House majority leader Eric Cantor will join was as well. And Arizona senator and former presidential candidate John McCain will join us as well. We'll talk to him not only about the state of the union but what things look like as this entire GOP race heads into the state of Florida.

Let's get going. Let's begin, in fact, with the president's state of the union. The speech was about reviving the American dream. He talked on a lot of themes of how he saw the nation could do that. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans. No bailouts, no handouts, and no cop-outs.

Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a day.

I believe as strongly as ever that we should take on illegal immigration.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products.

What's the stake aren't Democratic values or Republican values, but American values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland joins us now live from Capitol Hill. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for getting up early with us. First and foremost, what did you think --

REP. STENY HOYER, (D) MARYLAND: I would like to share your breakfast, Soledad.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I don't know, sir. This is not healthy. But you're welcome to join us for whatever you would like any time. What did you think of the speech?

HOYER: I thought it was an excellent speech. I thought it was a serious speech. We have a lot of challenges. The president obviously focused on what I think is critical to the American people, and that's jobs. First of all, of course, said, and you quoted, that 160 million. We need to pass that payroll tax cut so we can keep our economy moving.

But we've had an agenda we call it "Make it in America" in the Congress of the United States for the last two years. We've talked to the president about it. His manufacturing focus we think was absolutely right. We've lost nine million manufacturing jobs over the last 20 years. We need to expand our manufacturing sector. We need to make things here in America. We need to provide the kind of middle class jobs paying good wages and having good benefits that the American middle class needs to grow, not shrink.

He also focused on obviously the successes we've had over the last four years. We are, in fact, better off than we were in January of 2009 today by the difference in a million jobs, lost 786,000 jobs in January. Picked up 200,000 jobs this last month. That's a million shift. That's positive direction.

But his point was, there is much yet to be done. Not only in terms of growing jobs, making it in America, but also in getting our deficit down. Those are the two major challenges.

O'BRIEN: Those are the highlights. That's some of the highlights.

HOYER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And I'll stop you there because I don't want to go through the entire speech.

HOYER: I hear you.

O'BRIEN: But, of course, the GOP argument, sir, as you well know, is that here's what's also happened since president Obama has taken office. There are 1.9 million fewer jobs. Gas prices are close to have doubled. And a record 46 million people are on food stamps. This is what the GOP will be arguing as all of this moves toward the general election come November. What's your reaction to that?

HOYER: Well, there's no doubt there was a deep hole, and as the president correctly pointed out, until his program was fully in effect, we continue to hemorrhage jobs. The month he took office, otherwise known as the last month of the Bush administration, we lost 750,000 plus jobs in one month. Last month we gained 200,000 net jobs, 212,000 private sector, lost 12,000, unfortunately, in the private sector. There is no doubt that the economy is reviving. The stock market reflects that. Jobs reflect that.

Are we where we need to be? No. That's what the president said. We need to do more. We need to grow the manufacturing sector. We ought have a tax policy that encourages growth of jobs here in America, making things here in America.

On the foreign policy front he was absolutely correct. We have our people out of Iraq. We're drawing down in Afghanistan. We have a savings that we can apply to infrastructure as his suggestion or other needs of the American people. But clearly I think it's -- I was surprised when the Republican --

O'BRIEN: I'm smiling here because -- I want to stop you because -- and, you know, with all due respect to you, every political figure we will have on this show today, when you guys have the opportunity, you tend to go on and on on the side of the issues that you're interested in. And I greatly appreciate that. But I do want to get some questions in so let me stop you.

HOYER: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Which is also a theme last night. The president said basically we need to end the notion that we're going to be locked in this perpetual battle. And Eric Cantor tweeted a similar thing. So I threw up on the screen a minute ago approval rate for Congress at something like 11 percent, which is really a disastrous figure. There is no other way to read it. What literally specifically, sir, happens now to bring that bipartisanship together? How does it happen?

HOYER: Frankly, I think those people who have disappointment with the Congress are absolutely right. The Congress is not working. There's no doubt about that. And we have seen the partisanship. And Senator McConnell said his principle objective was to defeat Barack Obama. In order to defeat Barack Obama, he has to oppose policies that will make America better. That, I think, is not helpful, hasn't been helpful, continues not to be helpful. We've seen the same thing in the House. I have worked across the aisle to bring people --

O'BRIEN: What does work? Give me one solution.

HOYER: Sitting down with one another and talking with one another. We had a big thing about who are you going to sit with last night. I responded to a question about who are you going to sit. I said, it's not so important as who we sit with. It's who we work with. The president said we need to work together.

At the end I thought he was powerful when he said, look, our men and women in the armed forces when we give them a mission, he doesn't care with it's Republican or Democrat or conservative or liberal or black or white, they work together to accomplish a mission. That's what the president urged us to do to show the patriotism to work to the not for political ends or political objectives but for policy objectives to make America better. I thought that was a powerful ending to his speech, asking for bipartisanship. Hopefully we'll adhere to that.

O'BRIEN: And kind of how he started the speech as well. Steny Hoyer with this morning. Again, come and join us for breakfast any time you like. We appreciate it.

(LAUGHTER)

HOYER: OK. Thanks a lot.

O'BRIEN: Let's get right to our panel -- you bet. You bet. My pleasure.

Boy, you politicians can talk and talked and talk and talk when asked a question. I get it. It's all spin. What did you think of the speech last night?

REP. AARON SCHOCK, (R) ILLINOIS: You know, I guess thought if the president gives a good speech, it wasn't one of his best speeches but it was a good speech and he delivered it well. You know, I think at the end of the day what the country really wants is results. And I think it's why you see both the president and congress' approval ratings at all-time lows.

O'BRIEN: Are you worried about that as a Congressman? How old are you?

SCHOCK: I'm 30 years old.

O'BRIEN: That's not so, so --

SCHOCK: I haven't been here all that long. But, you know, I came here to --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I'm not taking any of the blame.

O'BRIEN: Truly, when you see a number like 11 percent, I'm curious do you say, oh, my god, this is a big, big problem?

SCHOCK: I go home every weekend and I know why they're frustrated. It's because they see the House and the Senate not working well together. They see the Congress and the president not working together. I guess from my sense in the House my frustration is I feel we have advanced bipartisan legislation that should move. We passed a budget. The Senate has not for over three years. The president in his three years as president has not been able to pass a budget. I don't care what party you're from, that's a failure of leadership for the president not to be able to advance a budget even when his own party controlled the house and the Senate.

O'BRIEN: Where are the areas that you see, and maybe John can jump in on this? Where do you see a possibility of true bipartisanship.

SCHOCK: The president called for payroll tax deduction. The house did that earlier last year, as you done.

O'BRIEN: That's a check, done.

SCHOCK: There's no reason why we can't do that.

O'BRIEN: What do you think, John? What else?

JOHN PODESTA, CHAIRMAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I think that's an important area that has to be done but expires again at the end of February and nodes to be done and president challenged the house in December and got that two-month extension. But I think the one place in that speech where I thought that there was room for real compromise, that long section he did on clean energy and making America now the powerhouse in clean energy around the goal, putting people to work doing that. I think that that's a place where maybe that, you know, you could find some bipartisan agreement.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting, Roland, you and I have been on the air together for a long time now because we are both nowhere near the age of congressman, and every year we have done the approval for Congress and every year it's like, it's the worst ever. The next year, it's the worst ever. Where do you see turning around that number of is it just not going to happen?

MARTIN: I think we are such a divided country that you're going to see that continue. Also, the voters out there are always complaining saying I wish you would get something done. I have to remind people, you're the very folks who send them here. It's hard for voters to sit here and play this little game of saying, oh, they're not working together, when in Republican primaries, when in Democratic primaries, you go to the far left or far right. So what you end up with is two parties with people at the extreme. That's the problem. You don't have enough moderates on both sides.

O'BRIEN: We're going to continue our conversation with our panelists this morning. But there are other stories to get to. Christine Romans has those for us. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Soledad. We start with breaking news of a daring overnight rescue in Somalia. U.S. Navy SEALs conducting a helicopter raid to free an American woman and Danish man held hostage by suspected pirates over the last three months. Both are said to be in good condition and safe undisclosed location.

President Obama released a statement a short time ago. "Jessica Buchanan was selflessly serving her fellow human beings when she was taken hostage by criminals and pirates who showed no regard for her health and well-being. Last night I spoke with Jessica Buchanan's father and told him that all Americans have Jessica in our thoughts and prayers, and give thanks she will soon be reunited with her family." Now, I guess we know why the president said good job to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he walked into the state of the union.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Good job tonight. Good job tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, thousands of Egyptians gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the people's uprising. There are concerns about new clashes between the military and protesters today who are frustrated by the slow pace of change. You're looking at live pictures of that anniversary right now. They are frustrated by the slow pace of change since Hosni Mubarak was forced out.

The owner of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise liner denies offering discounts on future cruises to passengers who are on board the Concordia when it ran aground. The statement is in response to news reports that the cruise line was offering 30 percent off on future travel to some survivors.

A massive solar flare triggering the strongest solar storm in years, waves of energy and radiation bombarding earth, which can disrupt satellite transmissions and power grids. The storm is causing some minor disruptions for U.S. airlines. Delta altered routes for a handful of flights between Detroit and Asia.

Actress Demi Moore rushed to the hospital. TMZ reporting a 911 call placed from her home Monday night. Paramedics reportedly assessed her and took her to the hospital. Her rep issued a statement to TMZ, quote, "Because of the stress necessary her life right now, Demi has chosen to seek professional assistance to treat her exhaustion and improve her overall health. She looks forward to getting well and is grateful for the support of her family and friends."

"Minding your Business" now, U.S. markets closed mixed yesterday. This morning futures on the DOW and S&P 500 are down a little bit. The tech heavy NASDAQ are up. And it's all about tech today. Apple shares are up seven-and-a-half percent in premarket trading this morning. Apple had another record blockbuster quarter. That the rate at the opening bell, apple will surpass ExxonMobil as most valuable public company in the world.

This is what the quarter was like. Unbelievable. The company sold more than 411,000 iPhones every day last quarter. They sold more than 171,000 iPads every day.

Soledad, these are things that didn't even exist a few years ago. Apple's revenue, its sales up 73 percent.

O'BRIEN: The moral of that story. ROMANS: There is no recession in Apple.

O'BRIEN: Innovation, innovation, innovation. Right. There's no recession to innovation, innovation, innovation.

So we're going to continue to talk today, Christine, about how you put that innovation to help bring the middle class back up as part of the (ph) conversation from the State of the Union Address yesterday.

Thanks, Christine. Appreciate that update.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we'll get more reaction on the State of the Union. Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas will join us in just a little bit.

Plus, the final 45 hours of the secret Kennedy tapes have now been released, and it's pretty remarkable insight in the last three months of President Kennedy's presidency. We'll take a look at what those tapes tell us with a historian.

And four police officers have been arrested, charged with profiling, terrorizing clergy and Latinos. But it is the mayor's stunning reaction that has us saying "Get Real" this morning.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We got a short break and we're back right on the other side. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We are coming to you live from The Diner this morning in Washington, D.C.

We're talking about the president's State of the Union Address. In it, the president pushed for a level playing field for all. Calls it the defining issue of our time and also called for a 30 percent tax on million dollar earners.

Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas joins us this morning on Capitol Hill. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for being with us. We appreciate that.

REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R) TEXAS: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. First and foremost, your thoughts on the president's speech last night.

HENSARLING: Well, Soledad, I'm usually encouraged by what I hear the president say. I'm just usually discouraged by what he does.

I mean to some extent he acted like he parachuted into town last night, he's been here for three years. All of his major policies have been enacted, the trillion dollar stimulus plan, his health care plan, the Dodd-Frank plan. Each and every time he told us that if we would pass these, the economy would improve and that jobs would grow. And instead what has happened? Almost two million more Americans have lost their jobs on his watch and we have the highest sustained period of high unemployment since the Great Depression. And so unfortunately his policies have failed and we wish that he would try something new.

It's a New Year. Republicans brought to him the Keystone pipeline. Last night, the president said he wanted more jobs. He said he wanted more American energy independence. Then it begs the question, why did he just bury 20,000 shovel-ready American jobs?

So in that respect, it was disappointing -

O'BRIEN: But let me - I'm going to stop you there, sir, just so I can go through - I hear you on that. I appreciate it. Let me stop you for a second so I can go back to your first point and then we'll talk a little bit about the pipeline issue as well because some people have said that not 20,000 jobs, others have said it's more like 6,000 jobs.

But let's go back in a minute for when you said about the two million jobs lost, I have a graphic because I want to parse through those numbers a little bit. When you look at that number more specifically, right? In 2008, right before the crisis, it was down 3.6 million jobs. And then 2009 dropped right down to five million jobs that's in the month and the first year of the crisis.

But then look at this number in 2010, plus 943,000 jobs, right? So 2011, up 1.5 million jobs. Isn't - is this is a graphic exactly sort of symbolic of an improvement in the jobs? That decline was really at the start of the crisis that came from President Bush?

HENSARLING: Soledad, these aren't my figures. These come from the Bureau of Labor statistics. I mean, check it out. Here are the facts. Since President Obama -

O'BRIEN: Right. I think they're accurate but I think that look at the time line.

HENSARLING: -- almost two million more people have lost their jobs. That's the fact. Listen, we want our economy to improve. And by any historic standard we should have already been in full recovery. And in fact, had this recovery followed the trend of all the previous post-war recoveries, Americans would be thousand dollars richer - thousands of dollars richer and there will be millions more employed.

But the bottom line is the policies of this president where he threatens more taxation, where he's drowning business in red tape with his health care program, where he is bankrupting our nation bringing our nation's first trillion dollar deficit second and third, I mean, he's caused small businesses to no longer want to create businesses or hire new people.

The president cannot escape responsibility for this economy. Republicans have a plan for America's job creators and, in fact, we have 27 jobs bills that are stacked up like cord wood and Democrat Harry Reid wouldn't do anything with them. The president wouldn't do anything with them. So, again, when the president speaks of bipartisanship, he's not practicing it.

O'BRIEN: Well, let's - let's talk about that for a moment. And here's a little bit of what the president did say last night about bipartisanship. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction. The politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So where do you see that as being possible, building consensus around common sense ideas? Take off for me just - just three points, here, here, and here is where Democrats and Republicans could theoretically work together.

HENSARLING: Well, theoretically if you listened to the president's speech, you would think fundamental tax reform to make the tax code fair, flatter, simpler, something Republicans put in our budget, but the president opposed it. We brought it up. I was on the Super Committee. We brought it up in the Super Committee. It's well documented. Democrats opposed it.

And so I don't know. I would like to believe what the president says but somehow when it gets down to actually governing, it just seems that he's more interested in campaigning than governing. I hope that would be a place where we could work together.

The president talks about American energy independence, but again he just buried the Keystone project. Had bipartisan support. Had strong labor union support. It's been studied for over 3 1/2 years. And he just said no. So that these jobs are going to possibly be shipped to China along with the energy.

So I'd like to believe what the president said. And, again, I typically agree with 80 percent of what he says. I just disagree with 80 percent of what he does. And so what disappoints me so bad again is - I just - you know -

O'BRIEN: OK. Finish your thought.

HENSARLING: So what we see is a lot of the politics of envy and division because he can't run on his record and that's disappointing.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Jeb Hensarling is a Republican from Texas. Nice to have you. Thank you for being with us.

HENSARLING: Thank you. O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

Turning back to our panel this morning. Wow. You know what, I'm going to make a rule, which is all elected officials need to sit right here so that when I need to I can stop them -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need a stun gun.

O'BRIEN: And that is bipartisan, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need a stun gun.

O'BRIEN: Take a breath, sir, so I can get in there on the Republican side and the Democratic side.

You know, he pointed out some things. And I thought it was kind of interesting when he - when he talked about jobs lost, 1.9 million. And that's an accurate figure. But as we showed, the time line is critical in this.

How big of an issue do you think this is going to be in the election?

SCHOCK: I think what's going to be important is how people are feeling. And I think the president's challenge is not to argue about whether it was 100,000 jobs or 200,000 jobs lost this month or that month. The question really is really fundamental. Are you feeling better today than you were three or four years ago?

And I think the president's biggest challenge this election cycle is to convince the American people that they are better off today than they were three years ago, because I'll tell you in my Central Illinois District, they don't feel better off now than they did three years ago. And I think the high unemployment rate continues to re- instill that in their minds as the reports come out every month.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a break. In just a moment we'll answer some more of that exact question on the other side.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, this story is so sad. Time to "Get Real." Police in a town accused of beating and harassing members of the community, arresting people for absolutely no reason. But then it's the mayor's reaction that has everybody saying, "Get Real." We'll tell you what he said.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our "Get Real" this morning focuses on some police officers. Now, police obviously juggling with by the mantra to serve and protect - to protect and serve, actually.

But according to the FBI, a very small group of officers in East Haven, Connecticut, apparently had another agenda, after a long federal investigation into racial profiling in that town.

Four officers were arrested yesterday and they were charged with terrorizing members of the community, from a member of local clergy to business owners and to Latinos specifically. They are accused of profiling residents as well during traffic stops and making false arrests and performing illegal searches and then, to top it all off, conspiring to cover it all up.

Those officers were known as "Miller's Boys," which is a reference to the apparent ring leader, Police Sergeant John Miller, allegedly. The feds call them boys with badges.

And now East Haven's mayor, a guy named Joe Maturo is weighing in and what he says pretty much borders on the idiotic. Listen. When he asked by a local reporter --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH MATURO JR., EAST HAVEN, CONNECTICUT MAYOR: -- Latino community with a force of 50 officers, still no police officer Latino ancestry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And your point being -- what are you doing for the Latino community today?

MATURO: I might have tacos when I go home. I'm not quite sure yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I might have tacos when I get home. That's what I'm doing in the Latino community in the wake of four of my officers indicted for racial profiling.

Well, Mayor Maturo said -- I know, there's so much to say on this -- says he regret it is he offended anybody. He also blames the media for focusing too much on his comment. He says it was a gotcha moment on camera. No, sir, it's not. Come on, a gotcha moment.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But this is also the thing a lot of people have to understand who are not black, who are not Latino. This is what happens on a regular basis to folks in minority communities.

When you hear criticism from folks, no, you shouldn't get upset about that. Trust me, when the cop is in your rear view mirror, you don't get worried, people like me to do.

O'BRIEN: Yes, well, and the mayor who's supposed to represent everybody in town you would think he would have the good common sense not to represent Latino community, I'm going to have tacos for dinner tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ignorance.

MARTIN: Recall. Recall.

O'BRIEN: Roland is starting a recall election for East Haven, Connecticut's mayor. Can you do that as a Texan?

MARTIN: What the hell. Let's start. Let's get it going. Sign up at the taco joint.

O'BRIEN: We have other things to get to this morning. Christine Romans has a look at those stories for us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Let me turn the page. Thanks so much, Soledad.

We start with breaking news of a daring overnight rescue in Somalia. U.S. Navy SEALs conducting a helicopter raid to free an American woman and a Danish man held hostage by suspected pirates over the last three months.

Brand new picture just released by the White House. This is President Obama from the Capitol immediately after the "State of the Union" address last night.

The president called John Buchanan to tell him that his daughter, Jessica, had been rescued by U.S. special operations forces in Somalia.

Here's Vice President Joe Biden on the "Today" show just a short time ago reacting to the mission.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It had been in the works for a while, Matt, and the president authorized yesterday because the special operations forces said this is the time.

Jessica's health was beginning to decline. She's a young woman in her 30s so we wanted to act. And they did and the president followed the recommendations.

I was leaving the White House last night when the situation room was actually under way. And it was once again, a remarkable testament to the special operation forces. These guys are absolutely incredible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, the Syrian government signing off on a month extension for Arab league monitors still in the country comes after the Arab League voted last weekend to extend the mission.

Meantime, observers from the Gulf Cooperation Council left Syria today saying they were certain the bloodshed and killing of innocent civilians would continue in Syria.

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno will be laid to rest later today after a final viewing period. It's been a long line of mourners on the state college campus to view Paterno's body, to pay their respects. A public memorial will be held tomorrow at Penn State. President Obama hits the road today to follow up on his message of economic fairness. The main theme in last night's "State of the Union." The president challenged Congress to help him level the playing field for all Americans. He will travel next to Iowa and Arizona.

Partisan politics took a backseat last night where Gabrielle Giffords, at least, was concerned. President Obama gave her a hug on his way in. Attending the "State of the Union" was one of Giffords' final acts as Arizona congresswoman.

Of course, she's resigning her House seat to focus on recovering from a gunshot to the head last year. A successor will be chosen in a special election.

Students and faculty at high schools in Tucson, Arizona, are challenging the school district's decision to remove dozens of Mexican-Americans to studies textbooks.

A petition named in getting the books back in the schools has gained more than 8,000 signatures -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thanks. You know, you saw the president saying to -- good job --

MARTIN: Leon Panetta.

O'BRIEN: Last night. Good job and, of course, we now know it was that Somali rescue.

MARTIN: We were trying to figure out, what, cutting the budget?

O'BRIEN: As promised before the break, Congressman Aaron Schock, was saying that when it comes to assessing how Americans are doing, when you go to your district, it is about how people feel.

Do they feel better about the economy, less than charts and numbers and graphs, which we often we rely on in television news? So, John Podesta, you were nodding your head.

JOHN PODESTA, CHAIRMAN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I agree with the congressman, but it's also where we're going. I think that's what the challenge that the president laid down last night. Are we going to go back to try to restore some economic fairness in this country?

Are we going to focus on the middle class? Are we going to restore manufacturing? Are we going to improve education, and are we going to do it in a way -- particularly at the end of the speech, which was probably the most powerful moment, which looked at those SEALs that operated against Bin Laden and come together as a country.

I think he was challenging the Congress, but he is also challenging the American people to come together. And I think people look at this and they see a future that's about their lives and they look at I think what's going on in the Republican presidential side, part of this was set that debate up as well.

And they say not so much. This is really still all for the wealthy and well to do.

MARTIN: The hardest part, Soledad, I think is for Americans to realize how bad of a condition we were in. You had Ben Bernanke, head of the Federal Reserve saying is this is going to take five or seven years.

Americans don't necessarily want to hear it's going to take that period of time, but when you look at the home foreclosure crisis, perfect example, property values falling, home values falling.

As a result city, county, state governments having less revenue with you see laying off of teachers, other people. All of that was so impacted.

O'BRIEN: That's an explanation.

MARTIN: He's right though. It's how you feel.

O'BRIEN: People don't feel good. They're not going to say let me go back to the charts and see when this all started.

MARTIN: Absolutely. The polls still show though that people do place a loft of the blame on what took place in the eight years before President Obama came to office.

O'BRIEN: OK, I'm going to turn here. It's good to have more to talk about. I want to take a moment to talk about Mitt Romney's taxes. Remember, we had those numbers released yesterday.

Some of his forms reveal millions of dollars in offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands and tax rate of roughly, effective tax rate of 14 percent.

David Cay Johnston is a columnist for Reuters and he joins our panel and Christine Romans has offered to stick around as well last night. So thanks for being with us.

Let's start with you, David, if we can, when you have had an opportunity now to sort through all of these documents and I know it was more than 550 pages. What is your big take away?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, TAX AND ACCOUNTING COLUMNIST, REUTERS: Well, Romney is a compliant taxpayer, but there's a scandal in here. The scandal is the law that allows some people to pay very, very low taxes to make gifts to their children.

The Romney's put a trust fund for their sons that now have $100 million in it, according to the campaign, without paying any gift taxes. If you or I had $100 million of stock and wanted to do it, we would pay over $30 million in gift taxes.

That's the problem. We've created a tax system that takes a narrow group of people at the very, very top. Romney is in the top 1% of the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent. And we allow them to have a much smaller burden than middle class people.

O'BRIEN: So unfortunately I think for Mr. Romney, it's fair to say that he's kind of become the poster child of tax problems and issues in this country, less about his own personal taxes and just sort of the idea that we need tax reform in this country. What do you think tax reform, David, should incorporate?

JOHNSTON: Well, I've done a whole series of columns at Reuters and more this year on how to simplify the tax system. About 120 million Americans should not have to file a tax return.

Congress can do that quite easily and eliminate billions of dollars of wasted time and spending. We need to have a corporate tax code that doesn't tax potato chips differently than microchips.

And we need to make sure that the greater your income as an individual, the higher the burden you bear. That is the mortal principle of aggressive taxation.

It's profoundly conservative in the classic meaning of that word and we need to have a system that does that. Right now, it's progressive to a point and then falls back. Romney illustrates that.

O'BRIEN: All right, so let me ask Christine a question. One of the conversations we were having yesterday, Christine, was sort on some of our guests talking about Mitt Romney being double taxed on his income and taxed again at 15 percent. Is that actually accurate? Can you explain that for us?

ROMANS: I mean, and on "The Call" yesterday with the Romney -- with the guy who runs Romney's money they were asked that very question. The issue here is that Romney is now making money with money. He's being taxed on money he's made with money, not money that he's made by wages like the rest of us are.

It goes to this whole issue you were talking about yesterday of carried interest. And David, he's a Pulitzer Prize winning about this so he's really the expert on that.

But the question is, are you going to change those rules so money at that end of the very elite is taxed like earnings and not taxed like capital gains. That is the real fundamental question, but he's also absolutely right.

And what I was looking through all of these numbers, you know, this is a man who has run for office before, governor and president. I see a very careful, careful tax strategy here. I see closing a Swiss bank account because somebody decided it might look funny.

Even though people like Mitt Romney have Swiss bank accounts and they have accounts and funds all over the world. You know, trying to streamline that I see somebody who was very careful and it is tax code overall that is the real issue here.

O'BRIEN: I think, Christine, too, and I've heard you say it, I've heard lots of people say it over the last week or so which is the part of like the rest of us. And I think if you're a president candidate that's going to be a big challenge. He's not like the rest of us, could be or really big problem.

ROMANS: It's $21 million in earnings, wow.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Not like the rest of us. Christine and David, thanks. I appreciate it.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to play for you some of the secret tapes that take us inside the JFK White House just days before his assassination in Dallas. We'll talk to a historian about that.

Plus, can football lead to Parkinson's disease? Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back to take a look at that question. You're watching STARTING POINT. We got a short break and we're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning, everybody. You're looking at the pictures inside the diner in Washington, D.C., where they have been hosting us for the last couple of days.

I'm going to move the grits because I had a lot of grits in South Carolina. I'm going to move the French toast in front of me.

This morning, we're going to talk about the secret tapes from the JFK White House. The final 45 hours have now been released.

CNN's Mary Snow takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a moment inside President John F. Kennedy's White House that could seem mundane, him talking to his staff about a tight schedule and up coming meeting with Indonesia's prime minister. The date, November 19th, 1963.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice- over): I will see him -- when is he here? Monday?

UNIDENTIFIED AIDE (voice-over): Monday and Tuesday.

KENNEDY: Well, that's a tough day.

UNIDENTIFIED AIDE: It's a hell of a day, Mr. President.

SNOW: That Monday ended up being the day President Kennedy's funeral was held.

It was President Kennedy's idea to secretly record White House conversations. With a flick of a switch, he could activate a tape machine located underneath the Oval Office.

As the situation became tense in Vietnam, Kennedy's frustration was evident as two advisers gave him conflicting reports of the situation on the ground.

KENNEDY: You both went to the same country?

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: Well, I mean, how is that you get such different -- this is not a new thing. This is what we've been dealing with for three weeks. On the one hand, you've got the military saying the war is going better. And on the other hand, you get the political opinion, which is deterioration is affecting the military.

SNOW: Beyond policy, some rare personal moments inside the Oval Office.

CAROLINE KENNEDY, DAUGHTER OF JOHN F. KENNEDY: I want to play that game.

SNOW: The president's children, Caroline and John, can be heard in the background as the president met with the Russian foreign minister.

KENNEDY: Just have you say hello to my daughter and son. His chief is the one who sent you Pushinka.

(LAUGHTER)

You know that? You'll have the puppies.

SNOW: Pushinka was the dog given to them by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Let's get right to presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley, who joins us this morning.

Douglas, always nice to have you as a guest.

I want to ask you what you found most revealing in these tapes that have now been released.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, keep in mind, you know, most presidents get an opportunity to write a memoir, from Harry Truman all of the way to George W. Bush. Because of the tragedy in Dallas, John F. Kennedy never wrote an autobiography or memoir. So for historians, when these tapes are released, we cherry pick them and listen carefully for everything. You're going see a lot of different just singular lines. You just played a couple that will appear in future books and biographies.

Overall, the impression from the tapes is that John F. Kennedy was deep any in charge of his White House. He's almost hubristic in his ability not to compartmentalize, but to be a father, husband, statesman, politico, almost comedian at times. He -- there's a sort of -- you get the feeling from the tapes of who John F. Kennedy is. The tapes have worked against Lyndon Johnson somewhat because there's a kind of vulgarian side to LBJ that comes out. Nixon does racial slurs and anti-Semitism. Tapes haven't helped Nixon. These Kennedy tapes actually enhance President Kennedy's historical reputation.

O'BRIEN: I'm so interested and I want to play a little piece of what he talked about -- he was very interested in his own image as well. Here's he's talking about a debate and whether to be in color or in black and white.

KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): Should they be color? They'd come over the television in black and white. I don't know if maybe they'd come over the NBC one in color. Probably a million watching it in color and it would have an effect. I don't know how much more expensive it is. Be quite an effect on the convention. Color is damn good, if you do it right.

O'BRIEN: Color is damn good, if you do it right.

(LAUGHTER)

You know what's interesting, I think, Douglas, is we're really not going to get those records like this on presidents anymore, right? I mean, they -- it's sort of this --

(CROSSTALK)

BRINKLEY: Yes. It's the sentiment --

O'BRIEN: Sort of this unvarnished -- does this still happen today? Yes?

BRINKLEY: Well, when you do -- no, we're not doing the taping systems anymore. Watergate made tapes not very popular with presidents and getting the subpoenaed. We had e-mail problems instead today.

But when you listen to that bite, look, this is John F. Kennedy wanting to be in color. We called him the first television president. And he's looking on this recent batch of tapes to have the 1964 Democratic convention carried in color. It tells you a lot about his confidence. So this is an era above politicians still stuck in black and white, likes Richard Nixon and LBJ and Dwight Eisenhower, and here's John F. Kennedy, the Technicolor president.

O'BRIEN: Douglas Brinkley, nice to see you. Thanks for being with us this morning. And I do believe you've made the understatement of the day. Watergate made tapes not very popular.

(LAUGHTER)

He is a brilliant is a brilliant presidential --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I worked in a White House where we couldn't even take notes.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I'm not surprised.

He is a brilliant presidential historian.

(CROSSTALK)

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Whisper. Just whisper.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Coming up tomorrow on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk to Rose Marie Terenzio. She was JFK Jr's former assistant. She has a book out where she chronicles his final years. That's ahead tomorrow on STARTING POINT.

But later this morning, we'll examine the connection between football and Parkinson's disease. We'll meet a former NFL great who thinks they are connected. That's when STARTING POINT continues right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. My panel is making a lot of noise this morning. But the question is --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We're talking about this morning is football and Parkinson's disease. Can football lead to Parkinson's disease?

NFL Hall-of-Famer, Forrest Gregg, has been diagnoses with early Parkinson's. And some doctors think it might be because of the numerous concussions that he suffered while he was playing football.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, takes a look in this CNN exclusive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forrest Gregg was part of six NFL championships, including five with the Green Bay Packer dynasty under Coach Vince Lombardi. He was nicknamed Iron Man for playing 188 games in a row. And Gregg's role on a bruising defensive line won him a bust in the Hall of Fame.

FORREST GREGG, HALL-OF-FAME FOOTBALL PLAYER: From the time you start playing you're coached to hit the other guy, and he's going to hit you.

GUPTA: And Gregg believes it was those hard hits that have forced him to tackle a new opponent, Parkinson's disease.

GREGG: I would get up and brush my hair in the mornings and I would have a tremor in my left hand. GUPTA: Gregg is now undergoing treatment at the Colorado Neurological Institute. His neurologist, Dr. Raj D. Kumar, suggests Gregg's years of playing football may be to blame.

DR. RAJ D. KUMAR, NEUROLOGIST: (INAUDIBLE). He's a man. He's older. He's been bumped on the head a lot.

GREGG: You don't play, you don't get hit. And that was my life. I played for a lot of years and I coached it for a lot of years. It was what I did.

GUPTA: New research says exercise could also slow Parkinson's.

GREGG: I try to get it in about five or six days a week.

KUMAR: As much as I give a medical prescription, now, when I newly diagnose a patient, I give them an exercise prescription.

GUPTA: Gregg is now attacking his position the way he used to take on defensive linemen, nothing less than an all-out effort.

GREGG: The physical pain, the workouts, that's what I can do.

GUPTA: He's also taking medication, seeing a physical therapist, working on his balance, flexibility, speech, and doing cardio- workouts.

ELLEN ROLLE (ph), PHYSICAL THERAPIST: All these multi-tasking things are good for you to do.

We started working on a few balance activities and his posture. I was having Forrest multi-task some activities because people with Parkinson's tend to not be able to do two or three things at once.

Nice job.

GUPTA: He's got the support of his family who's by his side.

Gregg says he has no regrets.

GREGG: That's what I did for a living.

GUPTA: And he says if he had been more cautious, he probably wouldn't have kept his job playing football.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Sanjay Gupta joins us.

Sanjay, what is the correlation. I've had conversations with boxers. The same thing. Multiple blows to the head and some kind of Parkinson's. How big is that correlation?

GUPTA: It's much more significant now than it was several years ago. You may know this as well, Soledad. Last Tuesday was Mohammed Ali's 70th birthday. He wrote this amazing article himself when he was 42 years old, talking about his onset of tremors at that time. He, himself, believing that it was due to his boxing career. His doctors subsequently agreed with him. Papers have been written about this.

The theory is this. When someone has multiple blows to the head, there's a thing known as the blood-brain barrier. It protects the brain. Keeps bad stuff out and keeps the good things in. Blows to the head from boxing, football, whatever, can disrupt that barrier. Some of these more harmful elements get in, can surround the brain. The prevailing theories are that that's the mechanism by which Parkinson's can develop, early onset dementia can develop, some of these other issues that we've been talking about.

So the correlation is growing. He's older. He's a man, as the doctor said. Those blows to the head, probably a significant risk factor as well.

O'BRIEN: Sanjay, you said it's worse now than it was years ago. Why? What's making it worse now?

GUPTA: Well, you mean the number of concussions you're seeing?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

GUPTA: Part of it is we have a greater awareness of concussions. We're diagnosing more concussions. The real goal is to diagnose them and make sure the patient is adequately treated before they get back out on the field. You'll have increasing numbers as a result.

Soledad, you watched the game. Players, even at the high school level, are bigger, stronger, faster than they've been in years past. And as a result, you're getting these crazy, big hits that result -- probably result in some of these problems, both in the short term and long term.

O'BRIEN: And it's so sad to hear him say, and if he hadn't been so aggressive, he would have lost his job, right? That's how you're successful on the football field.

GUPTA: Right.

O'BRIEN: Sanjay, I want to tell everybody that your documentary, "Big Hits, Broken Dreams," premiers on Sunday, January 29th at 8:00 p.m. eastern on CNN.

Thanks, Sanjay. Appreciate it.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, State of the Union, we'll get reaction from the Republican side. We'll be joined by the majority leader, Eric Cantor. Also, Senator John McCain will join us as well.

Plus, what does Nancy Pelosi know about Newt Gingrich? Did you hear these comments that she said with John King yesterday?

(LAUGHTER) Oh, my goodness.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, she's very definitive that he will not be the next president of the United States. We'll dig into that on STARTING POINT straight ahead.

MARTIN: No gray area, huh?

O'BRIEN: No.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)