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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Mitt Romney Leads Primary in Florida Polls; Interview with Representative Daniel Webster; Pakistan "Must Have" Known; Woman Dumps Boyfriend After Cancer Diagnosis;jPolice: Blood Found Belongs To Ayla; Arab League Suspends Syria Mission; U.S. Drones Anger Iraqis; Gingrich Rally In Jacksonville; Verdict: Guilty Of "Honor Murders"; Herman Cain Endorses Newt Gingrich; Rick Santorum Leaves Campaign Trail for Sick Daughter

Aired January 30, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


O'BRIEN: Hey, ladies. Good morning to both of you, and good morning, everybody. Weekend is over. We are starting Monday, and our STARTING POINT this morning is looking at Mitt Romney who's on a roll in the state of Florida, double digit leads in three new polls. We'll talk about those polls.

The question, of course, is what's happening with the women? Is it the women in those polls swinging the Sunshine State? We'll take a look at that this morning.

Plus, defense secretary, Leon Panetta talking about that raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Question today is, what did Pakistan know?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PANETTA: It was the largest compound in the area. So, you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, what the hell is going on there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And tensions are rising in D.C. There's a deadline looming for Occupy Wall Street protesters. They have been ordered to leave by noon today, but police may not wait that long. Those stories and much more as "Starting Point" begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's me. That's me. That's me.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Yes, finally, one of my songs has made it to my show. My goodness. Welcome, everybody. I'm having serious audio problems. So, just so you know in the control room, I can't hear any of you, which means I'm missing Kanye West "All of the Lights." Why don't you sing it to me, Roland?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's not happening. That's not happening.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. And welcome to our panelists this morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, finally, one of my songs has made it to my show, my goodness. Welcome, everybody. I'm having serious audio problems, just so you know in the control room, I can't hear any of you which means I'm missing Kanye West "All of the Lights." Why don't you sing it to me, Roland?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: That's not happening.

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Roland Martin joins us once again, Maria Cardona, as well, Will Cain is back, still working on the music thing. I'm happy to know -- everybody have a nice weekend? I went to see "War Horse."

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: How was it?

O'BRIEN: Great for adults, really bad for the four small children that I brought.

MARTIN: You should have taken the kids to see the Pro Bowl -- waste of an all-star game. It's flag football. That would be more entertaining. We'll see what else is coming up. Stay tight.

O'BRIEN: We'll wait for that. All right, STARTING POINT this morning, we're talking about the Florida primary which, of course, is tomorrow. It could be a tiebreaker in the GOP race for the nomination. You know, there's been three contests with three different winners. Santorum won Iowa eventually, then it was Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, then Newt Gingrich who won the state of South Carolina. And now Florida -- could end all there, couldn't it?

MARTIN: No, no, no.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I didn't think so either. That was a facetious question. It's not going to send it all because Newt Gingrich said he's going to the end and Ron Paul says he's going to the end and Santorum said he's going to the end.

CARDONA: Interesting.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is. Florida is nobody's home state. The population is diverse. Often they divide the state into four, sometimes three, sometimes five different blocks. The one thing that unites everybody in the state of Florida is this economic downturn which has crushed the housing market there.

This morning we are joined by Republican congressman Dana Webster of Florida. He is in Orlando. He has not yet endorsed a candidate. Mr. Webster, I'm going to have to put you on hold for a second to fix my awed your because I cannot hear a thing yet. If you will stand by I'm going to ask these guys to fix my audio, please.

A question for Mr. Webster when he comes back -- and I can hear him, is to look at these latest polls. You can work on it while we're doing this. Everybody, this is Phil who is fixing my audio this morning. He's the most important man right and even more than Roland and more than Will Cain.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: The only man I really love. Oh, look at that -- audio. Audio, I hear you. OK. I didn't even get to my fist question with the panelist. Mr. Webster, congressman, thank you for joining us. My apologies. Can I start with you with a poll, if I can? American research group, when you pop it up you can see that Mitt Romney is leading in the poll by 43 percent followed by Newt Gingrich at 32 percent, and then Santorum and Ron Paul finish out that race there. This is a poll that is similar to two other polls, very similar numbers. What do you think is happening here?

REP. DANIEL WEBSTER, (R) FLORIDA: Well, I think, like you said, this state is far more diverse than the other three states they've had primaries in. You have to build coalitions and seems like Mitt Romney has done the best at doing that. You can't rely on one little group or two or three. You have to have a coalition of people and you have to have a broad message and his seems to be the broadest right now. At least it's picking up steam, picking up traction.

O'BRIEN: Broad message is sometimes a nasty message, to be blunt. I think you would agree with me. Let me show you the chunk of the attacks that happened over the weekend. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just think it would be very, very clear, increasingly over the next few weeks that this party is not going to nominate somebody who is a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase. Look, it's not going to happen.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think for each of us if we fail somewhere, if we fail in a debate or fail to get support of people, it's time to look in the mirror. My own view is the reason Speaker Gingrich has been having a had a hard time in Florida is the people of Florida have watched the debates and listened to the speaker and said, you know what, Mitt Romney is the guy we're going to support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Everyone has said they're going to stay in for the time being. Do you think this damages the party?

WEBSTER: Well, I don't like to see people shooting at each other. I think Barack Obama is the person that we would like to beat in the general election and that's where their focus ought to be.

O'BRIEN: OK, we'll move on from there. Orlando, tell me about Orlando, lots of Latinos or in your part of Florida. The stories that I've done in Orlando focus mainly on the largely port to Puerto Rican population. When people talk about Latinos, they often talk about immigration. Of course, Puerto Ricans can come to the mainland if they want to.

WEBSTER: Sure. You have to remember this area relies on construction. That's an important part of the economy that's down. Unemployment rate around Latinos is 15 percent, 16 percent. It's a big concern to them. In the end they're pro-family, pro-life, but also they want a job. And I think that message has got to be the message that these candidates put forth is, what am I going to do about the economy in Florida?

CARDONA: Congressman, this is Maria Cardona. How are you?

WEBSTER: Great.

CARDONA: One question I want to ask you. There was a poll that came out from mommyverse.com about Latina mothers. It's going to be a major swing vote in this election. In Florida, 40 percent of self- identified GOP Latino moms say that none of the candidates are acceptable. Among the ones that are going to be voting, Mitt Romney is on top. How do these candidates speak to this very important electorate, which is Latina mothers?

WEBSTER: Well, I think the point is here that the general election has not started. Once we have a candidate I think things change, the message gets clear and the differences become more strident, or separated. I think that's the key. The time to go after the -- that vote is going to be probably in the general election. To me, pick Marco Rubio.

MARTIN: Congressman, Roland --

O'BRIEN: You're not the only person who has thought of that, sir.

MARTIN: Congressman, Roland Martin here. You said you don't like seeing candidates take a shot at each other here. The reality is, this is why you go through a primary. So don't you want them to show their medal and prove that they're the best candidate to face Obama in the fall, otherwise you don't know what you get come November?

WEBSTER: Well, I think the charges are a little bit sticky when they become personal. I think some degrees it's become personal. That's what we don't -- stick to the issues.

O'BRIEN: One has called the other liar. The other one has called the other one a liberal. Those things, talking about sticky. Congressman, Daniel Webster, do I have time to ask you a quick question about the budget? He gave back almost a million dollars from your budget. You could see that two ways. One, the budgets are bloated if you have an extra million dollars to give back, or on the other hand maybe you're doing the right thing with belt tightening. Everybody could find some money in their budget. Which one is it, do you think, sir?

WEBSTER: I think everybody can do more with less or at least the same with less. I proved that when I was in legislature, speaker of the House, saved 20 percent of the legislative budget, and I haven't changed here. To me there's only a few things that I can't do -- or can do that don't require a majority vote in the house and Senate and signature of the president, and this is one of them, and I did it.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Daniel Webster, nice to see you, sir. My apologies for the audio difficulties. I blame Phil. Just kidding you, Phil. I don't blame you at all.

MARTIN: Giving money back is so rare because in D.C. That's the one thing they tell you never give it back because you might not get it next year.

O'BRIEN: In business they say that generally, the minute you give money back in budget, everybody is like, oh, I guess you don't need it in your budget.

CARDONA: It's symbolic and I think that is something that could work for the voters. But more importantly they want to see what you're going to be doing for them, not just give the money back but in terms of policies and politics.

O'BRIEN: Will Cain, our resident conservative here on the panel, do you think this is damaging, all this name sort of mudslinging? Or do you think this rule Roland is positing a moment ago that actually it's a good practice for the general election?

WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I tend to agree with Roland on this.

MARTIN: Of course you do, will. No shock there.

CAIN: My dirty little secret. I actually agree with him more often than he would like to believe. It's a good vetting process. You're putting the candidates through a process that they're going to have to deal with the issues now that are going to come back from Barack Obama --

O'BRIEN: Independents are at stake, and they're all sitting there and saying --

MARTIN: I'm so sick of hearing about, oh, can we please cater and please hold the independents. I am. They just -- look, they're regular voters.

O'BRIEN: I didn't say --

CAIN: You overestimate how many of them are paying attention right now. I'm going to tell you that, too.

O'BRIEN: You think -- you call someone a liar and a liberal and voters everywhere who may be the growing independent voters who will be critical in the election will say, oh, yes, that's all just politics. Who cares?

MARTIN: Yes.

CARDONA: Here's the thing, a lot of Republicans point to the democratic primary 2008 between Hillary and Obama. Here's the different. Hillary and Obama both had massive passionate followers. None of these candidates have massive, passionate followers.

O'BRIEN: People were engaged, engaged.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Girls against boys, this morning as my kids like to say.

All right, we've got other headlines this morning to get to. Christine Romans has that. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. The mayor of Oakland, California, says they plan to seek monetary damages from Occupy protesters after a violent confrontation with police this weekend. More than 400 people were arrested there. Protesters broke into city hall, breaking windows, damaging structure, stealing and burning American flags. Officials say city hall will be open for business this morning.

And it's D-Day for occupy protesters in D.C. Park Service police in the nation's capital gave them until noon to clear out two camps near the White House or they'd be arrested. A YouTube video captured police tasering one D.C. protester yesterday. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have done nothing wrong! I have done nothing wrong!

(SCREAMING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, in Florida, meantime, a dense smoke advisory is still in effect this morning 24 hours after a deadly chain reaction pile-up on interstate 75 near Gainesville. Ten people were killed, nearly 20 injured there. Authorities say zero visibility conditions were caused by smoke and fog from a brush fire that may have been arson.

It could take up to 10 months to remove the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship from the Italian coast. Rough seas forced another suspension of recovery operations. So far 17 people confirmed dead, 15 are still missing.

And Robert Gibbs back on the president's payroll. Reports say the former White House press secretary has been named strategic consultant for President Obama's re-election effort. Gibbs has been informally involved in the Obama 2012 campaign since May.

"Minding Your Business" this morning, concerns about Greece's debt problems pushing world markets lower this morning. U.S. stock futures pointing to a lower open this U.S. as well. This week it's about Europe, more corporate earnings. Aig January jobs report comes out Friday in the U.S.

And Facebook buzz, wow. Facebook could be filing to go public maybe as soon as later this week. That's according to the "Wall Street Journal." It would be the largest tech IPO in history. Facebook looking to raise $10 million. That would value the company between 75 and $100 billion. The Facebook buzz, we know it's going to be sometime earlier this year, right, Soledad, but everybody wants to know when the this holy grail of IPOs happen.

O'BRIEN: Everybody will be watching it, even people who don't wear about that kind of stuff. They will be watching it even though it's people and crying in their soup. That would be all of us.

Anyway, ahead this morning, we're going to take you behind the bin Laden raid. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says Pakistan had to know that bin Laden was there.

Also, it's endorsement number two from Herman Cain. Remember, he endorsed we, the people.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: The people.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: If you hold out, he will endorse you eventually. He's going to join us by phone to explain his change of heart because now he's endorsing Newt Gingrich.

And this story, Roland loves this story. A man buys Super Bowl tickets, going to propose to his girlfriend, and then she dumps him after he is diagnosed with cancer. But, but, but, but it gets worse. Wait to hear what she would like now. That's our "Get Real" straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

New revealing claims from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta about Osama Bin Laden raid in Pakistan. No evidence right now to support it, but Panetta says that someone in Pakistan's government must have known about Bin Laden's hideout. Here's what he said at CBS last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound. Don't forget, this compound had 18-foot walls around it, 12-foot walls in some areas, 18-foot walls elsewhere, seven-foot wall on the third balcony of the house. It was the largest compound in the area.

So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, what the hell is going on there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's a good question.

Peter Brookes is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, also Senior Fellow of National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation. He joins our panel this morning. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

PETER BROOKES, FMR. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: He's almost -- he is actually, Panetta, that is, laughing when he says, you know, someone had to know that it's absurd to even think that that wouldn't be the case. Do you think that's true?

BROOKES: I think it's true, but I also think his words are quite careless, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Why?

BROOKES: I don't know what purpose it served at all in revealing that or saying that now, you know, so many months later. I think U.S.-Pakistani relations are in a terrible state. I'm not sure they could go any lower other than a complete break in the relationship. So I'm not sure what point it really served for him to say that on national television.

O'BRIEN: There was some back-pedaling from it from the Pentagon. Press Secretary George Little made this statement. He said in an interview with "60 Minutes" several months ago, Secretary Panetta made clear his belief, which other senior U.S. officials have also expressed, that Osama Bin Laden had some kind of support network within Pakistan.

The secretary indicated in the same interview that he has seen no evidence that Bin Laden was supported by the Pakistani government or that senior Pakistani officials knew he was hiding in this compound.

Are you saying because of your concerns that you just expressed there that now it's time to back pedal from this?

BROOKES: Well, I think they are. I don't think they can and I'm sure nobody in Pakistan in the government or among the populous heard the fact that there's no evidence of this.

I concur with Secretary Panetta but I'm not sure -- I think it was a mistake to go ahead and say this once again to a national audience when we're trying to -- once -- you know, we you've got to remember, Soledad, that the supply routes through Pakistan are still closed, that we want them to deal with the Haqqani Network and the Taliban and al Qaeda that's growing in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

We want their help with Afghanistan. So I'm not sure why saying this now would have been at all helpful. I think by diplomacy is probably what's needed. Some time to allow the relationship to heal a bit because we still have a lot of very, very important issues on the table. So I don't know why he went ahead and reiterated what he may have said previously.

O'BRIEN: You were also frustrated back in May when there was lots of detail coming out about this raid. What do you think is going on there? I know you blame the White House back then for that. Do you still agree with that?

BROOKES: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Why?

BROOKES: Well, I wrote about that in the "New York Post" column and, you know, I have former background in the intelligence field. And I just don't think that all -- despite the desire, the real intense desire of the American people to know all the very interesting details of how these things are, I'm always very concerned about exposing sources and methods of intelligence.

You know, how our Special Forces Officers -- Ops did this sort of thing. They're going to have to do it again. I mean, they just had to do it in Somalia. We don't want to tip people off about how we do things.

The other thing is this doctor. I'm not sure why this -- this information was revealed, this doctor was supposedly helping us, wittingly or unwittingly with getting DNA samples so we could prove that Osama Bin Laden was in that compound. Now he's been arrested. Why was that information revealed to the public?

It certainly -- I -- it would seem to me, it certainly gave the Pakistanis a lead in arresting him. So I had to be very, very cautious about this, despite the need to know of the American people about some things, there are some details of intelligence operations and assets that should not be revealed because of people's security.

O'BRIEN: Here's what Leon Panetta said about that doctor. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PANETTA: I'm very concerned about the -- about what the Pakistanis did with this individual. This was an individual who, in fact, helped provide intelligence on -- that was very helpful with regards to this operation. And he was not in any way treasonist towards Pakistan. He was not in any way doing anything that would have undermined Pakistanis.

As a matter of fact, if Pakistanis -- and I've always said this, Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What do you think is the strategy here by going public? I mean is it try to protect the doctor now that he's in custody?

BROOKES: Yes. Kind of put pressure on them, but I think things are so bad with U.S. and Pakistan right now that it's not going to help at all.

I mean I do want to give Panetta some credit because back last May he did come out and say a lot of things that were revealed about the Osama Bin Laden operation was wrong. He said that we all agreed in the Situation Room, I'm trying to remember here, I can't give you the exact quote, said that we said that none of this stuff was going to be revealed and a lot of things did get revealed. And I think he tried to wash his hands off it last May.

Now he's trying to once again help this doctor out. I don't want to armchair quarterback this too much, Soledad, but my view is, if this person was helping us in getting Osama Bin Laden he and his family probably should have been expatriated (ph) from Pakistan about the time that the operation went down to get -- to ensure his security.

Now we have this person who helped the United States, who helped the world by, you know, going against Osama Bin Laden here, whether wittingly or unwittingly, and now he may face some very dire consequences in Pakistani custody.

O'BRIEN: All right. Peter Brookes for us this morning. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

BROOKES: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We certainly appreciate it. Interesting.

CAIN: It's fascinating, yes. You know, the story of this Pakistani doctor is fascinating. He was supposedly going around under the guise of giving vaccinations house to house in Abbottabad --

O'BRIEN: Taking DNA samples actually.

CAIN: -- where Bin Laden was hiding. And now it's revealed that he was actually working as an intelligence source for the United States. That doctor is now under arrest, possibly undergoing torture. He's been under arrest for quite some time in Pakistan.

It raises the question -- I understand that Pakistan has a law working against working for a foreign intelligence agency. And I understand the PR problems that Pakistan has. The fact that this doctor has been held for so long, probably under not very friendly circumstances, contributes to this question, is Pakistan our friend or our foe? And it lends the question, did they know something about where Bin Laden was hiding?

O'BRIEN: And it's the question of the day, right? Thank you. And we've got to take a short break.

Ahead this morning in STARTING POINT, a verdict reached in the Canada Honor murders, you guys have been following this story, three Afghan men found guilty of killing four female relatives. What does this case reveal about the clash of Muslim and western cultures, we'll take a look.

Then, a woman dumps her boyfriend when he's diagnosed with cancer. But her behavior, as Horace Roland (ph) would say, but wait, there's more.

CARDONA: It gets worse.

O'BRIEN: It gets worse.

CAIN: Can't wait.

O'BRIEN: And that's "Get Real" that's up next.

Plus, you're listening to John Mellencamp.

CAIN: I feel better this morning.

O'BRIEN: You are -- Will Cain -- a little faster, much better. Just proving anybody can turn it around. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Isla Bonita is a little on the slower side than you would think it is, but that is Madonna.

MARTIN: That's a little moderate.

O'BRIEN: Don't take it personally.

MARTIN: I'm singing, pep it up a bit.

O'BRIEN: We will -- we will pick through your choices.

CARDONA: That's right.

O'BRIEN: And tell you what we really think.

CARDONA: The next one, you'll see.

MARTIN: I like it, but put it in mellow.

O'BRIEN: Madonna is doing the halftime show at the Super Bowl.

CARDONA: Oh, my gosh.

O'BRIEN: That would be interesting.

MARTIN: And Cee Lo.

CARDONA: I'm excited about that.

O'BRIEN: And Cee Lo, huh? That will be interesting.

All right, let's get to our "Get Real" segment this morning. I love this story.

A guy named Jason Elia, I'm going to guess. I want to be (ph) pronouncing his last name right, Elia or Elia, he's from Tennessee. And he's kind of a guy who has had a little bit of a plan. He had gotten Super Bowl tickets and was going to surprise his girlfriend with the tickets when he proposed to her. And it was all going to happen over Christmas because he is a good boyfriend, soon to be fiance.

But then the terrible thing happened. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer. And apparently his girlfriend, when she found out, dumped him.

MARTIN: Left.

O'BRIEN: And according to Deadspin.com, they are reporting that she says because those Super Bowl tickets were bought with her in mind she deserves them. She would like them.

So Jason -- Jason, he may be recovering from a broken heart but he is no fool. He said not a chance it's going to happen. He's going to give away --

CARDONA: Good for him.

O'BRIEN: He's going to give away the tickets to the person who can bring to him the most Twitter followers.

MARTIN: Right.

CAIN: Jason does not have a broken heart right now. Jason has just been blessed with a wonderful miracle. He will not spend the rest of his life with this horrible --

MARTIN: With that evil incarnate.

CAIN: And it's been revealed to him before he made this terrible mistake.

CARDONA: I have to agree 100 percent.

O'BRIEN: Well, I have to say, so Roland Martin is trying to get those Super Bowl tickets.

MARTIN: Well, we're not following simply the story and so what he said to her whoever brings the most followers I will give the tickets. And apparently some woman with a porn webcam or something, I said, we can't have that. So I -- what he did was, seriously, so what he did was he said if you've got the most followers about the end of the promo, which everyone was watching, then that's who it will be.

O'BRIEN: So how did it end up? What happened?

MARTIN: He's going to announce it tomorrow on Twitter. I don't know.

CARDONA: It could be you (ph).

MARTIN: I don't know.

CAIN: If you beat a lady with a porn webcam, your star is so much larger than I ever could have imagined.

CARDONA: I don't think it's going to happen.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

MARTIN: So at one point, and I saw the story she had like 400 people who had send her stuff.

O'BRIEN: Four hundred, we can top that.

MARTIN: Yes. So I was like, firing up, OK, say Follow Team Roland, put them up. Even television writer, too, even TV writers, so don't be shocked if you see this as an episode on some show one day.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. Roland and I will be there waving to you all while we watch Madonna at the Halftime Show.

MARTIN: I'll be going, "Will Cain," with the camera, "come over here."

(CROSSTALK) O'BRIEN: All right, all right, all right.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Newt Gingrich has a new endorsement we want to tell you about. It comes from his former rival, Herman Cain, who says he's sympathetic to Gingrich. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that he's going through this sausage grinder because he cares about the future of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The sausage grinder that makes someone become president eventually. Well, we're going to ask Herman Cain straight ahead why Newt and why now?

Stay with us. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Seriously asking Roland who is dancing on Josh Stone this morning.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's some bad singing sister from across the pond.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes, yes and it's fast tempo. Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Let's get right to our headlines this morning. Christine Romans has those. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Authorities in Maine say they discovered the blood of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds in the home where she disappeared. Investigators say tests determined not all blood found was hers.

But they did find an amount, quote, "more than a small cut would produce." Police say they don't believe they're getting a complete story from the adults who last saw little Ayla alive.

They say her father, her aunt, and her father's girlfriend have not passed the, quote, "straight face test."

The U.N. Security Council expected to draft -- a draft resolution this week that calls on Syrian President Bashir Al-Assad to step down and transfer power.

It comes as the Arab League suspended its mission in Syria after a dramatic increase in violence over the weekend. Opposition groups blame government forces for more than 160 deaths.

A month after the last troops left Iraq, U.S. drones are still patrolling the skies over Iraq. Iraq is angry about it. The State Department says it's operating a small fleet of unarmed drones to protect the U.S. embassy and American personnel still there.

Senior Iraqi officials have expressed outrage calling the presence of the aircraft an upfront to Iraqi sovereignty.

Florida may be slipping away from Newt Gingrich according to new polls, but he is still trying to rally the troops. Gingrich and Mitt Romney have both been on the attack against President Barack Obama.

But the RNC chairman, he took it to a new level yesterday. He compared the president to the captain of that doomed "Costa Concordia."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: In the end, in a few months this is all going to be ancient history and we're going to talk about our own little Captain Skettino, which is President Obama, who is abandoning the ship here in the United States. He is more interested in campaigning than doing his job as president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right, Shaun White, he has done it again. He had a unprecedented perfect store of 100 in the men's Super Pipe Final at the Winter X Games. It's his fifth consecutive gold medal, also a first in snowboard super pipe.

Quick check on the weather, meteorologist, Rob Marciano joins us. Wow.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I DVR'd the X Games yesterday. I hadn't gotten to see that yet. Anyway, congratulations, Shaun White, "The Flying Tomato."

Let's go to Florida where issues are not only political, but weather wise over the weekend, wind and extreme fire conditions led to a couple of fires, parts of which are still burning. We had that deadly wreck on I-75 yesterday, haze and low-level fog, bad visibility this morning once again.

So parts of the highway still shut down in areas. Just be careful if you're driving through there and certainly pull over if you have. Temperatures at the freezing mark across parts of northern Florida.

At the surface you go up just a little bit and it's much warmer than that. It keeps the smoke down to the surface at least for the morning hours. Across the northern sierra, we have a couple of little clippers that are coming through, very winter like. Some snow showers, lake-effect stuff and some wind.

That's going to be the main issue if you're traveling out of New York or Boston or Chicago today. That may slow down air travel. Some chilly conditions across the northern tier, but the warmth is coming back. So embrace the winter, Christine, because tomorrow will be much, much warmer across New York. Back to you.

ROMANS: All right, sunshine. We'll take that forecast. Thanks, Rob -- Soledad.

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

A guilty verdict in the Canadian honor murders trial that we've been following. Three members of a family of Afghan immigrants have been convicted. They killed four female relatives for bringing shame to their family.

The bodies were found in a canal. Irshad Manji is the director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University. She is also the author of this book, which is called, "Allah, Liberty and Love, Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom."

It's nice to have her with us, with the panel. I put you next to Roland. I know you guys know each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Starting on the right note.

O'BRIEN: I'm kidding. This is a serious story. I want to start with this sense to me that it's a clash of cultures really. Some people have said. This is really an example of domestic violence, not honor killings. What's the difference?

IRSHAD MANJI, DIRECTOR, "THE MORAL COURAGE PROJECT" AT NYU: Well, you know, moderate Muslims who these days are not very moderate at all suggest that it is only domestic violence, which is bad enough.

But the reality is that honor murders are, in fact, usually premeditated and plotted. And this means that it's not just an outburst of killing, it is something that is schemed.

Often as well, by the way, with the buy-in of women in the family because this is part and parcel of a cultural tradition called honor, which is a tribal tradition that emphasizes the family or the tribe or the community over the individual.

O'BRIEN: Is it cultural or is it religious or is it --

MANJI: Yes, it's a great question, Soledad and you know what? Muslims themselves often confuse culture with religion. This theme honor killing is not Islamic. I say this as a faithful Muslim.

It is, however, a problem within Islam because of how Muslims often confuse culture and religion. So you can't blame non- Muslims for scratching their heads and wondering what the hell is going on.

O'BRIEN: It seems to me like one of the reasons there was a conviction in this case was because of those wiretaps, which were amazing. I'm going to read you a little chunk of what the prosecutor played. One said, this is what a daughter should be? What a daughter be such a whore? This is in the wake of --

MANJI: This is the father.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. It was really what convicted the father?

MANJI: Well, that, the wiretap conversations, the -- you know, sort of independent witnesses, the Google searches thank goodness that we've got those as records, the cell phone records. It was very clear.

It's absolutely no questions for the judge. It was unanimous among the jury that the evidence was there and, you know what I found really abominable. I mean, of so much that is, that the son who was also involved in these killings sort of pleaded that it was merely an accident.

Like kind of like, I'm sorry to sound, you know, too topical here, but almost like the cruise liner, Italian cruise liner captain who sort of tripped into the water? This son said that he kind of bumped the car of the girls and they fell into the water.

O'BRIEN: I was stunned to see fathers involved 91 percent by some statistics. Fathers involved. I think it's someone 90 percent to 100 percent of the time when you're looking at a certain age. That's stunning.

MANJI: This is something that people really have to wrap their heads around. This is one of the reasons that the girls fell through the social service system.

O'BRIEN: What is that?

MANJI: Well, you know, in Canada as in most democratic societies, when death threats are uttered against children, the parents have to be told. Well, in this case, it was the parents who had made these threats against the children. So --

O'BRIEN: Difficult didn't know how to handle it.

MANJI: And that's because it's a relatively new phenomenon, right? So this is why I keep saying to non-Muslims, is that we've really got to wrap our heads around sort of the novelty, the newness of this crime.

And the fact is it is on the rise in western societies because of increased, you know, very legal Muslim immigration. But it's Muslims who have to learn to separate culture and religion. If we don't, Islam will continue to get the bad name that it gets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Irshad, first of all, thank you for all you do. This is amazing work. What can other women do and men who really want to speak out on this? What can we do to help? MANJI: Well, first and foremost, we all have to understand that culture should be spoken up against when there are malignant aspects in it. You know, we live in many cultural societies and many big hearted, open-minded people say that's their culture and it's sacred.

You know, I have nothing to do with it, but the reality is culture is human made. It is not God given. Therefore, there is nothing sacred about culture and nothing sacrilegious about trying to reform malignant aspects of it.

O'BRIEN: Does this case set a precedent?

MANJI: It does in many ways. I mean, first of all, there has never been such a case in Canada and I would argue actually in many parts of the western world where you've had half a family wiped out by the parents, number one.

But number two, it's very interesting. A white male judge didn't come down with this verdict. In fact, it was a 12-member jury. And what that really says is that ordinary people have the right and the responsibility to call it out where it exists.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much for joining us. I want to remind everybody. Irshad Manji's new book is called "Allah, Liberty and Love." We appreciate you joining us this morning. Fascinating.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Catholic churches coming out against President Obama's health care law. We'll tell you why they say it binds their hands.

Plus, it took Herman Cain a pretty long time to endorse someone, well, an entity.

Now, but then quickly followed by a second endorsement. He's going to join us live up next to tell us about his new endorsement for Newt Gingrich. You're watching STARTING POINT. Short break, we're back right on the other side.

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ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: L.V.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's really good --

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: A little slow. A little mellow.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: I'm just saying.

OBRIEN: OK. I just want to lay down the law for a moment. That is Luther Vandross, "Never Too Much."

(LAUGHTER) (CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I just want to tell you, there is only one person in my whole life I was afraid to interview and it was Luther Vandross. He was coming to be interviewed on NBC, and right before the interview he decided he didn't like to fly, and he canceled the interview and then he died. And I was not able to --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You're walking on very --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: You know I love you.

MARTIN: We will trust you.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- will beat you mad.

O'BRIEN: I love me some Will Cain.

MARTIN: That's Luther Vandross, Willie.

CAIN: Same thing you all said to me about Willie. I love him. He's just a little mellow.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: That wasn't mellow.

O'BRIEN: Dissing Luther Vandross in any way will get you kicked off the show. I just want to be clear about that.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Come sit down. Come sit down.

MARTIN: Don't mess with Luther, Baby. Don't mess with Luther.

O'BRIEN: Here we go. From we, the people, to Newt, Newt, Newt. Yes, former GOP presidential candidate, Herman Cain, has had -- I think it's a change of heart about his endorsement. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HERMAN CAIN, (R), FORMER GODFATHER'S PIZZA CEO & FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know that he's going through this sausage grinder because he cares about the future of the United States of America. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Herman Cain joins us by phone.

Good morning, nice to see you or hear you, not in person. Nice to have you join our panel.

I got to ask you, first and foremost, sir --

HERMAN CAIN, FORMER GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (on the phone): Yes, yes.

O'BRIEN: -- last time we spoke, which wasn't all that long ago, you told me it was all about we, the people. Now you've shifted and you're going a second endorsement for Newt Gingrich. Why?

HERMAN CAIN: No, Soledad. Why can't it be both? Let me explain. I endorsed we, the people, because I don't want the people to lose interest into what's going on. Vote enthusiasm is dropping. That's why I endorsed we, the people. I never said I was not going to endorse an individual. And so now I made the decision because Newt and I have been talking for the past several weeks. And when we finally -- when he finally understood the 9-9-9 plan well enough to say that he can give that some serious consideration, that was the first point. And then the second reason that I wanted to endorse him is because when you look at our stand on energy independence, regulatory reform, as well as found money, we are right in lock-step relative to those things.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All right. All right. Well, OK. I'm a little confused on it still but we can move on. If you look at the polls, if you look at Florida specifically -- tomorrow is the primary there. Mitt Romney is leading in those polls. When you look at the national polls, Newt Gingrich is leading in the polls. Explain that. What's happening with the American GOP voter right now?

HERMAN CAIN: Well, I think that the GOP electorate is still split. Just like you saw in Iowa, could very well see it in Florida. Remember, in South Carolina, at the beginning of the week, Newt was way behind. He ended up winning. I'm not predicting that he's going to win Florida but I'm saying a lot could change between now and when the polls close on Tuesday night.

WILL CAIN: Mr. Cain, this is Will Cain. How are you this morning?

MARTIN: Your brother.

(LAUGHTER)

HERMAN CAIN: Hello there. Hello, Will.

WILL CAIN: We all know that 9-9-9 has been your love, your platform. You've been pushing it. I think I heard you said that you and Newt have been talking about 9-9-9. Can we now expect Newt Gingrich to make 9-9-9 part of his platform?

HERMAN CAIN: Not, necessarily. What Newt has -- he has -- he and I have talked and it is under serious consideration as the way we replace the tax code. This is why he also asked me to co-chair his Economic Growth and Tax Advisory Council, which I will. But what he thinks is going to be one of our big considerations? 9-9-9. So we have an understanding. It's not that he is going to adopt it, you know, hook, line, and sinker without him being more comfortable with it but he's given me enough indication that I'm satisfied that 9-9-9 is going to get a fair hearing in terms of his consideration.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Mr. Cain, it's Maria Cardona. How are you?

HERMAN CAIN: Great, thanks.

CARDONA: Why did you wait so long to endorse Mr. Gingrich? The Florida primary is tomorrow. If you had come out earlier perhaps you could have helped him with that. And also, do you plan on going on the stump and with what segment of the electorate do you think you can help with?

O'BRIEN: That's a -- that is a three-prong question.

HERMAN CAIN: That is a three-prong question.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I'm just trying to help you.

HERMAN CAIN: How many you want me to answer at once? Come on.

But answer this one, Maria. First of all, I indicated all along that this is a process. I don't play by everybody else's rules when it comes to endorsement. I wanted to go through the process. That process involved how serious was the candidate going to be as it relates to replacing the tax code. I have had the same conversation with other candidates and Newt Gingrich was the one who embraced the idea of replacing the tax code. 9-9-9 is serious consideration.

So if I had just endorsed him as a matter of what is normally done, that would not achieve what I want to achieve, and that is I want tax replacement, not just tax reform. And Speaker Gingrich is now onboard with that. And I'll help spread that message along with his other messages. Yes. In fact, I'm on my way to Florida to stump with him in Florida today some.

MARTIN: Herman, Roland Martin here. You talked about being a CEO in the race, a businessperson. So why did you bypass the guy who has talked about being a businessman, somebody's who run a company, as opposed to a Washington insider like Newt Gingrich?

HERMAN CAIN: OK, first of all, there you go with these labels again. Newt Gingrich left Congress in 1999. He has been out of politics for over 10 years. He's started and established a company called America's Solutions. So he was a CEO for over 10 years. It's not an all-or-nothing thing. You can look at Mitt Romney and he was the CEO of Bain Capital. And also he's been a governor. He's been both. I see Newt that way. He was in politics for a long time. But for over 10 years, he ran and built his own business enterprise called American Solutions. So it's not an all or nothing. I happen to think that he has an advantage in terms of his ability to communicate and connect with the people because he uses language that the people can connect with. And I'm very confident that he can be an effective leader.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: We -- we agree on the language part.

O'BRIEN: Herman Cain joining us by phone this morning.

It will be interesting to see if endorsements this late have really any weight at all. Sarah Palin has certainly come out for Newt Gingrich. Not an official endorsement.

CARDONA: Right.

O'BRIEN: We talked to Senator Thompson also. And we talked to Rick Perry, right, when he was leaving the race. And so far, it doesn't seem to have done a heck of a lot for Newt Gingrich. But we will see.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Herman Cain, thank you.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, this is sad news. Rick Santorum's 3-year-old daughter, you know, she was sick over the weekend. She's got this genetic condition, which is called trisomy 18. Our medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, will join us up next to tell us what it is and what the little girl's prognosis is as well. Stay with us.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Rick Santorum cut his campaigning short this weekend. His daughter, Bella, got very, very sick. She was admitted to Philadelphia Hospital on Saturday. She is 3 years old and has a genetic condition called trisomy 18, a devastating condition. This morning we have heard she's doing better and she could be home in a couple of days.

For more on her prognosis, we wanted to check in with senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen.

What exactly is trisomy 18?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's one of a whole group of genetic conditions where, when the cells are dividing when a woman is still pregnant, an accident happens. That's the way a lot of geneticists would describe it. And the child ends up with too much genetic material, sort of extra genetic material. And it affects -- it can affect every single part of the child's body, but especially their lungs. Often they lack the ability to clear their lungs. And that's why you see that little Isabella had pneumonia, and her father said last night that she dodged another bullet. She has been quite sick throughout her life. They said she had a very tough couple of days, but that she was getting better.

O'BRIEN: When you look at the statistics for this disease, I think about half the kids die within the first weeks of birth. Is that right?

COHEN: That's right. It's a very, very -- the numbers are very sad. They are very tough to look at.

Let's have a discussion about it. First of all, let's talk about how many kids are born with this disorder. About one in 5,000 are born with trisomy 18. Ninety percent die within a year. And as you said, Soledad, often, it is just within weeks of birth. In most cases, it's not inherited. As I said, it's sort of an accident of meiosis, basically. It's not something passed down from generation to generation.

O'BRIEN: He said that it was a miracle that he had actually -- was planning on going home from the campaign. One thing he wanted to do was to release his taxes. He had to go home and get them off his computer and it was a miracle that he was home anyway when she got sick.

COHEN: Right. And you never know when these things will crop up. We've been told that her mom, Santorum's wife, Karen, who is a nurse that worked in the neonatal intensive care unit, has had to give her CPR more than once at home. And you never know when this is going to happen.

This is such a devastating disease, Soledad, that often children are discharged from birth. The child is born and is discharged directly into hospice. And actually, the Santorums have talked about what they went through with the child's pediatrician.

Let's take a listen to what Rick Santorum has had to say about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And she talked about how there would probably be a lung problem. She would probably die because of respiratory failure. So Karen suggested that we should maybe have a prescription for oxygen if she needed some help. And the doctor looked at her and said, you have to learn to let go. I said, all we're asking for is oxygen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Soledad, as you can see, this is a very, very difficult disease for parents to deal with. There are lots of difficult decisions that have to be made.

O'BRIEN: Oh, that's so sad. That's so sad.

OK, Elizabeth Cohen updating on this little girl's condition.

Right now, we're told she is home and doing better. So that's good news for that family.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, President Obama spent more than $800 billion on the stimulus along with Congress, of course. Where exactly did the money go? We're going to examine, break it down straight ahead this morning.

Plus, should students and teachers be friends on Facebook or is that a bad idea? We'll take a look as STARTING POINT continues in a moment.

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