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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with Congressman Jason Chaffetz; Occupy DC Deadline: "Get Out or Go to Jail!"; The Stimulus: Money Well Spent?; Mitt Romney Leads Primary in Florida Polls; Interview with Representative Dan Burton; Teachers, Students and Facebook; How Congress Plans to Cut Back in 2012

Aired January 30, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. And good morning.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is the fight for Florida. It's getting kind of personal, and even nastier than it has been. Mitt Romney has got a double digit lead in some new polls this morning, and Newt Gingrich is fighting back using the "L" word. Yes, liberal, liberal.

A protester -- did you see this? A protester tased in Occupy D.C. Brutal to watch.

Another showdown is looming today. The noon deadline for the campers to clear out. We'll see what happens there.

And should teachers friend their students on Facebook, or is it just a bad, bad idea? We've got both sides of that argument coming up straight ahead.

STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Ok. So this is from my iPod. That is "Los Hombres Calientes" -- your friend Irvin Mayfield, Jr. from New Orleans.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Thank you. I'm sure he would like that.

O'BRIEN: So, let me just lay the ground rules, which is we are playing music from my iPod and our guest's iPod. We pick people, highlight they love.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: We're just teasing you. Relax. Relax.

In any case, anybody who comes on, wanted something to play. We'll take feedback over Twitter, because sometimes we need a little help. It's a new thing we're working on it.

MARTIN: Didn't Will say he is almost a virtual black man?

O'BRIEN: I just tweeted that. Will just said, I'm virtually an honorary black man.

MARTIN: But (INAUDIBLE), I'm taking your virtual black card back.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I like starting my morning with the los hombres.

All right. Time to get on with our actual work, people. And it is the finish line in Florida in sight this morning because it all is going to end late on Tuesday night.

The latest polls showing Mitt Romney opening a bigger lead ahead of tomorrow's primary. Newt Gingrich, though, says the Republican Party will not support Mitt Romney. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Representative Jason Chaffetz is a Republican from the state of Utah. He's been campaigning, though, in the state of Florida for Mitt Romney.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. You are --

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Good morning. Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. You're a conservative. You just heard Newt Gingrich say that every single thing but the word "liberal" to describe Mitt Romney.

Why are you supporting Mitt Romney?

CHAFFETZ: Because Mitt Romney is in the very best position to beat Barack Obama.

Look, I'm about as conservative as they get. According to Heritage Action, I'm the second most conservative person in the House. I have a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.

I'm not willing to cede the conservative ground to Newt Gingrich. He is participating in some bumper sticker politics. He tends to get unhinged when things aren't going his way and start attacking the media and attacking everybody around him.

But the reality is, Mitt Romney has shown the consistency and I think the conservative values that's resonating from people, from Iowa to New Hampshire to Florida.

So, after a little while, it's going to be hard to dispute the success that Mitt Romney's had because he's got the winning message and he's the right person to deliver that message.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let me play a little chunk of an exchange between you -- you were there at this Gingrich event in Delray Beach, Florida. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're ready to follow him?

CHAFFETZ: No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Gingrich is more qualified than the president, and that's why you are following him rather instead of Romney.

CHAFFETZ: No, no. Absolutely not. I'm just going to offer a little perspective.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On why you think Gingrich should be president?

CHAFFETZ: Why I think that Mitt Romney should be the president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So as I mentioned, that was a Newt Gingrich event in Delray, Florida, and there you are with cameras in front of you taking questions from the media. Why?

CHAFFETZ: Because in this day and age of instant communication, it was actually Newt Gingrich's idea. He said that whatever the White House schedule was, he was going to follow the president and offer perspective. That was a pretty good idea. So, I've done --

O'BRIEN: But he didn't really mean --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: He didn't really mean like literally follow them into their press conference and hold a little mini presser while they were doing their event, right?

MARTIN: Yes, he did.

O'BRIEN: I mean, you're kind of busting into another event. Yes?

CHAFFETZ: No, no, no. These are public events. I stand in the back of the room. And, look, when the media gets done and watches the Gingrich event, they turn and they want another perspective, I want to offer that perspective.

I think that's good smart campaigning in the day and age of instant communication. You want to be able to respond not once the article is out but before it's even written.

O'BRIEN: Shape the article. Interesting.

MARTIN: Congressman, Roland Martin here. We just talked to Herman Cain, and he took a little offense to my question by saying, there you go with those labels. But isn't Newt Gingrich throwing labels around, calling Romney a liberal, blasting him? And so, isn't it hilarious to you that Cain will endorse Gingrich and then blast labels when Gingrich is labeling people?

CHAFFETZ: Well, this is where the silly part of politics where I think people get really frustrated. But I think and I hope I'm being as objective as I can here. There is a tendency in Newt Gingrich's past to attack the messenger rather than actually attack the message. To try to suggest that Mitt Romney is those things that he says is ridiculous.

To attack Mitt Romney's character? I mean, Mitt Romney is the epitome of character. He is exactly what you want in the White House with a steadiness of wonderful, beautiful family and a consistency in his life that I think is desirable. So --

O'BRIEN: You're being very objective.

MARTIN: Yes, very.

O'BRIEN: Congressman, very, very objective.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Congressman, this is Maria Cardona. How are you? I want to ask, you talk about consistency. But Mitt Romney has not been consistent on conservative principles. How do you answer to that?

CHAFFETZ: Well, I beg to differ. I look at what he did in Massachusetts, where he was governor with an 85 percent state legislature that was Democrats, issued over 800 vetoes, balanced the budget, left the state -- left the governorship there with a surplus. I think he's been a rock solid on so many of these issues.

When you start talking about economic freedom and how to get jobs and the economy moving in the right direction again, I would ask, where would you give your money? If you had to put in, say, $10,000 in taxes, and you wanted that money dealt with in a frugal way, responsibly, get a good rate of return for that, deal with it in a compassionate way, would you give that money to Newt Gingrich? No way. You'd give that money to Mitt Romney. He is the best one to deal with the issues with our country moving toward.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Chaffetz, it's nice to see you. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it that.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure.

MARTIN: I like that move showing up at the news conference. I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: As a strategist, it's very smart.

O'BRIEN: I thought it was brilliant.

CARDONA: It's very smart.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Congressman Jason Chaffetz is an oddity. This is not Tom Coburn. This is not an old-time member of Congress. This is a Tea Party, you know, endorsed conservative here.

MARTIN: Young.

CAIN: A young one, on Mitt Romney's team. You don't see much of that.

O'BRIEN: That's interesting.

All right. Let's get other headlines now. Christine Romans has those for us.

Hey, Christine. Good morning, again.

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

China cracking down in Tibet. Thousands of Chinese security forces have been sent to the region. The move follows protests by Tibetans last week, protests that led to violent clashes with police. Authorities have refused to allow foreigners and refused to allow foreigners to enter the area.

CNN reporter Stan Grant and his crew were detained in the midst of that crackdown.

Reports say talks between the U.S. and the Taliban have stumbled before they ever really got off the ground at a meeting in Qatar. Taliban representatives are said to have balked at the Obama administration's demand for a ceasefire before negotiating a prisoner swap. The U.S. had reportedly offered the possible release of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay.

A dense smoke advisory still in effect this morning in Florida, 24 hours after a deadly chain reaction pileup on Interstate 75 near Gainesville. Ten people were killed, and nearly 20 injured. Authorities say zero visibility conditions were caused by smoke and fog from a brush fire that may have been arson.

Catholic churches across the country taking a stand against President Obama's health care law. On Sunday, parishioners were read letters written by church leadership that railed against an Obama administration ruling that requires employers to provide health insurance plans that include contraceptive coverage.

And Mitt Romney may be the keeper in Florida, according to new polls, at least, this morning. But a key leadership from former Governor Jeb Bush eludes him. It eludes everyone. Bush has so far refused to endorse anyone.

Minding your business now. U.S. stock futures pointing to a lower opening. This week, it's all about Greece, Europe's debt crisis, more corporate earnings in the U.S., and it ends with the big January jobs report. Economists expect about 170,000 jobs were added to the economy this month, less than we saw back in December. That report comes out on Friday.

It could be a pretty big week here, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is. All right. Thank you, Christine. Appreciate it.

The National Park Service is cracking down on Occupy D.C. camps. Officials say protesters who are now camped at D.C. parks must pack it up by noon today or they will be hauled off to jail. We're told a crackdown actually could even happen earlier than noon.

Plus, over in Oakland, California, the Occupy protesters there -- look at these pictures. Can you believe this? This is downtown Oakland. They are clashing heavily. This is insane. I mean, I used to live not very far from there.

Clashing heavily with the police. More than 400 people arrested. I think it's the first mass arrest in that city.

Will we see similar chaos to this in D.C.? There's one indication that says yes -- especially that shot of the guy being tased by a police officer as they pull him down to the ground. Wow.

Some protesters are telling CNN that when the clock strikes 12:00, they have no plans to go absolutely anywhere. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN EISTER, DC OCCUPIER: I'm more than happy to go to jail as many times as they would like to take me to jail. Everybody else here is in the same boat. If they come to arrest me for camping, they can take me to jail. I'll be out the next day, right back here, and they can come arrest me again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And there is the dilemma for people trying to clear those camps.

Brian Todd is in D.C. for us this morning.

Hey, Brian. Good morning.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

This place has been buzzing since before dawn. Take a look over here. Some of these people have been kind of buzzing around here, just trying to pack up their belongings. And at least move them out of sight ahead of the enforcement action here.

You've got some of the protesters over here, also trying to pack up some things. What they are going to be looking for when the National Parks Service police move in here is signs of bedding, personal belongings, and maybe open tents. If you have signage like this indicating protest and 24-hour vigil status, they may not move on you. They are not going to sweep the entire place and round everybody up. They are not going to take down every tent. They are just looking for personal belongings, bedding, and closed tents with no signage.

So, we're going to see kind of how that confrontation develops. A lot of these people say they're not going anywhere, as you played that sound bite earlier. So, there could be a confrontation here in a few hours when the National Park Service police move in.

This has been brewing for a few weeks since the D.C. government started to complain about petty crime in this area, about sanitation conditions here being poor. And so, it's been kind of a back and forth between the D.C. government, the Interior Department and Congressman Darrell Issa of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Both the D.C. government and Mr. Issa have been in favor of some kind of enforcement action here to remove at least some of these protesters out of here. They are enforcing a no camping rule. But the park service has been a little bit reluctant to do that. They don't want to stamp on First Amendment rights of free speech, but they do now, it's kind of come to a critical head here, they do now have to move in here they say.

So, in about four hours or so, they'll start moving in here -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Brian Todd is watching that for us.

If it's anything like the shots that we saw at Oakland, that is going to be ugly.

MARTIN: Oakland has had the most vicious response from the police there.

O'BRIEN: Wow. That has been incredible to watch.

All right. Still ahead this morning, yes, I agree with that. D.C. could be as bad.

On STARTING POINT this morning, stimulus money, was it well spent? We're going to take a look at some successes, some failures, and if that more than $800 billion actually created any jobs.

Plus, Facebook. If you're a teacher, would you have liked on Facebook your students?

MARTIN: No.

CAIN: No.

O'BRIEN: There are people who disagree with you. I'll tell you what they think the benefits of Facebooking students are straight ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right. Will Cain has redeemed himself with one single song.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Finally. Finally.

O'BRIEN: Finally. How long we've been doing this?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Finally.

O'BRIEN: A week. A week.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He get one right.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, this morning, we're talking about the economy. It is issue number one for this upcoming presidential election. And critical to that debate is President Obama's $840 billion stimulus. That's more than it cost, by the way, to fight the Iraq war for 2003 to 2010.

Investigative reporter, Michael Grabell, is the author of "Money Well Spent?" The book is right here. Can I have it?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Help me help you. Help me help you. Can you guys see it? "Money Well Spent?" The truth behind the trillion dollar stimulus. And it's nice to have you in the studio. Boon (ph) asked you what's on your iPod. We'll start right with this.

Conservatives say that they think this thing was a failure. I think the word you use in your book is a flop, and you also say liberals cry it's too small. It is too flimsy. Which is the truth?

MICHAEL GRABELL, AUTHOR, "MONEY WELL SPENT": Well, and this is why I wanted to write the book, because it's so difficult for the public to really, you know, know how the money was spent. So, I wanted to get out of the politics and really, you know, talk to middle class workers, go across the country, and see how the money was really spent.

O'BRIEN: Right. So, then, let's walk through successes and failures. Let's start with successes. You write this in the book. Successes of the stimulus were created or saved two to three million jobs, improvements to roads, homes, helped connect 3,000 schools to high speed internet, and funded historic projects like New York City's 2nd Avenue subway, which, by the way, does not quite exist yet. Worth it?

GRABELL: You know, there's a lot of good the stimulus did. In addition to that, there was, you know, clean energy. You know, there was a lot of money spent for clean energy. Created this buzz we'd never seen before. There's a battery industry in the U.S. that we didn't have before the stimulus.

But, ultimately, you know, the stimulus didn't do what the American public expected to do, and that's bring about a strong, sustainable recovery.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the failures then which you also write about in the book. You say no strong sustainable recovery. Money didn't go to hard-hit communities. That was some of the most fascinating reading in this book, where the money actually went, and sometimes, people who did not need the money. And cutbacks often would cancel out the effects of the stimulus. Talk about that.

GRABELL: Right. You know, a great example of the cutbacks is I went to, you know, St. Cloud, Minnesota, where they have new flyers, makes hybrid buses up there. And early on, there was the expectation that they would have, you know, 4,000 buses, all bus companies, going 4,000 buses being produced by the fall of 2009.

O'BRIEN: Sounds like a great deal.

GRABELL: But we saw, you know, kind of a slowness in these transit grants going out because of reviews that had to be done. And as a result, you know, the money -- the state cutbacks caught up with new flyer, and Chicago cancelled an order, and they ended having to lay off 300 employees rather than -- or 200 to 300 employees rather than hiring more people initially.

MARTIN: Michael, people hear this number, $800 billion, but the reality is 40 percent of the stimulus package was tax cuts.

O'BRIEN: And tiny tax cuts.

MARTIN: Right. But 40 percent of the $787 billion. Also, when you begin to break it down, you say health coverage under cobra, increased food assistance, you begin to say Pell (ph) grants, child tax credit. You saw stuff that wasn't tied to actual jobs.

GRABELL: And this is what's really interesting. There's a lot of (INAUDIBLE) spending in the first year. But even though, there was hundreds of billions dollars going into the economy, the public didn't notice it because a lot of the spending was invisible. So, somewhere down the line, the food stamps, the unemployment checks, do create jobs for grocery clerks and for nurses and hospitals. But, you know, it's hard for the public to make that connection. And the administration didn't do a very good job of selling those points.

MARTIN: They did a horrible job of selling it. I can say that.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The question many conservatives have is not the question is not as Soledad teased a little earlier. Did this stimulus create any jobs? You throw a trillion dollars at something you damn well better create a job. The question is, how many jobs are enough?

And the problem with many conservatives is, what stimulus becomes is a clearinghouse for Democratic wish lists. Pull out the desk drawer, dump out your special interest, and get it satisfied.

O'BRIEN: is that what you found?

CAIN: Even as Roland just point out, even things you might like, they weren't designed to create jobs.

GRABELL: Well, so, there was, you know, these liberal priorities, but at the same time, you know, the green economy. I mean, you see China and Germany investing in it. And their economies are growing. And, you know, if it was all wasteful spending on green jobs, these other economies wouldn't be doing it. They're not dumb. Neither are we.

So, the -- so, it was sort of well intentioned money, but we saw with Solyndra, you know, a big flare-up of bankruptcy. We see another bankruptcy in the battery industry. So, there's a lot of stuff going on, but at the same time, these things will continue to haunt the administration for a long time.

O'BRIEN: Right. One of the impacts that you write about is that they will haunt, because, of course, now, that it's been tried. Necessarily, everybody moves on. We tried it. We don't need to try to do it again. Thanks for joining us. The book is called "Money Well Spent?" with a big old question mark, which the key thing is the question mark in the book. Would you like me to -- look at that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: This is the book. It's a good read.

All right, guys. We got to go to commercial break.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, why the mortgage mess in the state of Florida could help decide tomorrow's primary? We'll take a look at that. Did you know half the mortgages in that state are underwater? That's an incredible statistic. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: I do love a little chaka in the morning.

CARDONA: I love it.

O'BRIEN: She is great to see in concert.

MARTIN: Oh, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I knew you would like --

O'BRIEN: I appreciate this.

MARTIN: Chaka Khan was a popular singer in the 1970s and 1980s. I'm just trying to help Will -- I'm trying to help Will out.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I feel like we should have a segment that just answers the Twitter questions about my shoes. Thank you very much. About the music. Yes, Will Cain is improving. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: Yes, he is. Praise the Lord.

O'BRIEN: And also, a bunch of teachers have been tweeting about whether or not they would friend their students on Facebook. We're going to have that discussion straight ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: And our interns start next week to handle all of that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Thank you, Murell (ph). Anyway, we're talking about money this morning when we wrap the stimulus bill, but we're still talking about money and the economy, especially you talk about the state of Florida. Christine Romans is here to talk about really the housing issues in the state of Florida.

That is a really, really big deal. Half the mortgages in that state are underwater? I'm stunned by that number. You said in the nation almost.

CAIN: Effectively the next 30 percent in the nation, but 50 percent effectively underwater.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's unbelievable. I mean, the background noise for voters when they go into the polling place on Tuesday, I mean, it's going to be about housing and jobs. And I want to introduce you to a real estate agent who's very busy. And he's not a real estate agent who is selling houses. He's not going to be selling houses. He's checking on homes the bank owns or the bank thinks they own, and they want to sell. He's checking, going door-to-door, seeing if anybody is living in these houses.

O'BRIEN: Like squatters?

ROMANS: Squatters, or in some cases, people have left the house so long ago, because other people living in and paying rent to someone and no one even knows who owns this house. That's the reality in Florida. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT NICHOLAS, FLORIDA REALTOR: If you don't have gainful employment, you can't make a mortgage payment. So, ultimately, that's the crisis that we're in. You know, obviously, there were some issues with some lenders in the past as well, but when market values plummet like they have, and that in conjunction with the unemployment rate right now, I don't think any of this can be a shock to anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, it's housing and jobs altogether in Florida. Home prices, you guys, were cut in half. Florida's jobless rate is 9.9 percent. Wow. More than, I think, 900,000 people are out of work, yet, housing experts and academics say the seeds of recovery are there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SID ROSENBERG, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA: I did a study going back to the 1960s. And, times when it's this affordable, five years hence, prices have usually gone up significantly. I don't know. This is so unusual and so rare, but this is such a good sign that housing prices will go up in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Well, that's the first time I'm starting to hear about it. They'll be up five years in the future. You tell that to homeowners there in Florida, they say no way. He says that for many homebuyers, this is the first time in more than a decade. That it's actually affordable. They can buy a home. Look at mortgage rate, the 30-year fix rate mortgage is less than four percent.

Popular refinancing tools of 15-year is just over three percent. That's crazy. That's free money to buy a house, but so far, the buyers in Florida and elsewhere in the country, you guys, are basically paying cash. It's foreign buyers. Brazil, China, are examples. Cash investors.

Now, if you're smelling housing opportunity, what you need is money down. A lot of people don't have that. A credit score of 750 or higher. They (ph) don't have that either. Proof of income. That's the whole problem in Florida. And you can't already be saddled with a house to sell.

And the word from the trenches in Florida is that banks are finally starting to do short sales instead of outright foreclosures. That's better for the property owner, the homeowner, the property, the neighborhood, the whole bit, but it's crazy walking through some of these neighborhoods.

O'BRIEN: Just swaths of homes that have no one living in them.

MARTIN: And the other problem is when you don't have folks for those homes, paying (INAUDIBLE), property values have fallen. That's where the shortfall comes in for school district, city government, county government.

ROMANS: And in Florida, so much of their revenue is built on transaction taxes for real estate that was put into the schools, and then, that disappears and the schools suffer. But the smelling opportunity is what people with money are saying -- people with cash are smelling opportunity, but the rest of people who are going to vote, they're like opportunity. That's --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Well, as I like to say, smart is the new rich. Isn't that a book you wrote, Christine Romans?

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: This segment is called "Smart is the New Rich." You're right.

O'BRIEN: And it's the same name as your book.

ROMANS: Yes, thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. All right. Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Newt Gingrich is working to close the gap in Florida, but he's kind of running out of time. If you look at the poll numbers, three different polls show Mitt Romney ahead by a lot. We're going to hear from a Gingrich supporter this morning who says his candidate is the only one who'll be able to go toe-to-toe with President Obama come November.

Plus, the search for nuclear secrets deep inside a mountain. What U.N. nuclear inspectors are hoping and looking to find in Iran?

You're watching STARTING POINT. We got a short break. We're back right on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(SINGING)

O'BRIEN: OK, so this is one of my favorite singers forever.

MARTIN: Yes, we know.

O'BRIEN: I love her. And her concert in Chicago --

MARTIN: I love her.

O'BRIEN: We don't talk about the news. We just talk about her fabulous outfits. You know that?

CAIN: I'm going to promise Middle America, my music will be coming. I promise you, Texas, Nebraska, it's on its way.

MARTIN: Will, Ledisi is huge in Texas. Chaka Khan is huge in Texas. I'm from Texas, Will. Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: All right, all right, moving on. Headlines, Christine Romans has those. Good morning.

ROMANS: Thank you so much, Soledad.

The U.N. nuclear inspectors are in Iran right now working to find out whether Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. The U.S. is watching closely. Officials say a military strike against Iran would be, quote, premature. Still, they are taking certain new defense measures. Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine. Indeed, the U.S. military looking at putting some kind of floating base out in the Middle East so they will be ready if something were to happen. But don't look for any kind of military action against Iran just yet. The focus right now is on those International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in Iran until tomorrow. Half a dozen of them taking a very deep look at what Iran is up to, trying to get access to Iran's nuclear facilities, documentation, and personnel to determine once and for all if Iran's nuclear program really is aimed at getting a nuclear weapon, as many people suspect. That's the big question. The question is on this trip, will the inspectors get that crucial access that they need? Christine?

ROMANS: Thank you, Barbara Starr.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council expected to consider a draft resolution this week that calls on Syrian president Bashar al Assad to step down and transfer power. It comes as the Arab League suspended its mission after a dramatic increase in violence. Opposition groups blame government forces more than 160 deaths.

Three members of an Afghan immigrant family plan to appeal their convictions in the Canadian honor murders trial. They were found guilty of killing four female relatives whose bodies were recovered in a canal. And 58 year Mohammad Shafia and his wife Toobo and their 21- year-old son Hamed are all sentenced to life in prison immediately after their convictions with no chance of parole for 25 years. Rick Santorum resumes campaigning today with a speech in Missouri and another event in Minnesota. Santorum took leave of the campaign this weekend to be with his ailing three-year-old daughter, Bella, who was diagnosed with pneumonia. She suffers from a rare genetic disorder. Santorum says she is recovering after a pretty rough 36 hours.

And today, your chance to hang with President Obama on Google. The president the take part today in the Google Hangout. He'll answer questions submitted through YouTube and a live video connection. This latest social media push for the White House. The president has also taken questions on Facebook and Twitter in the past.

"Minding your Business" this morning, U.S. stock futures pointing to a lower open, DWO down about 80 points. A lot going on this week, Europe this week, more corporate earnings, and a big January jobs report that comes out on Friday.

And new this morning, the alleged rogue trader at UBS has pleaded not guilty in London court. He is accused of losing maybe $2.3 billion in unauthorized trades last year. That would be one of the biggest rogue trading scandals ever. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Wow. How do you lose that much money?

ROMANS: I know, especially with all of the scrutiny now and al of the computer systems, how did they miss it?

MARTIN: There's lots of Nikes.

O'BRIEN: Moving on to talk about -- shush. Moving on to talk about politics, tomorrow's politics obviously in Florida. Some people say it's a tiebreaker because you have Santorum won one, and Gingrich won one, Romney won one. And it's not a home state for anybody at this point. And there are new polls that show Mitt Romney has the upperhand. Three new polls, one of them the American Research Group poll, that shows that Mitt Romney is leading Newt Gingrich by 11 percentage points. Why are you shaking your head?

MARTIN: Newt will have a tough night Tuesday.

O'BRIEN: Earlier this morning we spoke with Romney supporter, the Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, and he slammed Newt Gingrich. He used the word "unhinged" to explain why he thought Mitt Romney would win in the state of Florida. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: I'm not willing to concede conservative ground to Newt Gingrich. He is participating in bumper sticker politics. He tends to get unhinged when things aren't going his way and starts attacking the media and everybody around him. But the reality is Mitt Romney has shown the consistency and I think the conservative values that are resonating with people from Iowa to New Hampshire to Florida.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Republican Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana joins us now. He is a Gingrich supporter. Nice to have you, sir. Thanks for talking with us. I was just talking about the polling a moment ago. And you can see when you look at the polling in Florida, three polls show Mitt Romney ahead by a lot. Why do you think Romney is dropping in the polls the last few days, sir?

REP. DAN BURTON, (R) INDIANA: Well, Mitt Romney has outspent Newt Gingrich seven to one, and he has had some pretty effective ads. I didn't come down to Florida to knock any of the candidates. I know all of them. I just came down here to tell why I think Newt is the best candidate to oppose President Obama in the forthcoming election.

Newt is a walking encyclopedia. He understands Washington very, very well. He is a true conservative. He started the Conservative Opportunity Society of which I was a member. He has not been guilty of any ethics violations contrary to what has been said. He did not resign in disgrace. I was one of the people who counted the votes for Newt. And after the election of 1998, which was well over a year-and- a-half after those charges were leveled against him. We lost five seats, and that's the reason he didn't get the 218 necessary to be re- elected as speaker. But he did have about 200 votes. He only about 20 that he lost. So I think Newt is the best man -- beg pardon?

O'BRIEN: Finish your thought, sir. Go ahead.

BURTON: No. I just really believe he is the best man in a debate to take on the president of the United States. And I think the other people are fine people, but I want to defeat Barack Obama. And I think Newt can get the job done.

O'BRIEN: So you said you didn't come to knock any candidates, but of course a lot of people are knocking the candidates. And I want to play you a bit of what George Will had to say. I think this was over the weekend. Let's play that piece.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WILL, ABC NEWS: Time is not Newt Gingrich's friend because the more time he has, the more he talks. And the more he talks, he just says things as he did this morning. He said "I'd love to be civil, but I'm running against a maniacal liar." That's pretty strong language. I don't know if you have ever told Longfellow's nursery rhyme to your four-year-old daughter, Alice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet.

WILL: "There is a little girl that had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very good indeed, and when she was bad she was horrid." And we are at the horrid stage with Newt Gingrich.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So while the true hard core conservative George Will is sort of saying "maniacal liar" is a bad thing to say, "horrid," you might argue, is also kind of a horrible thing to say about someone. Why are you laughing at that?

BURTON: Well, first of all, I admire George Will a great deal. The reason Newt has been upset about these things is because there has been misinformation put in these commercials. And I think it's very unfortunate that the Romney commercials have said that Newt was retired in disgrace, was run out of Congress and he was disgraced. That's just not the case.

Newt retired because we lost control -- or we lost five seats in the election of 1998, and he didn't have the 218 to stay in as speaker. He had about 200 votes, which was the vast majority of our conference. He was not convicted of any wrongdoing whatsoever. The IRS cleared him. Even the committee report said he didn't do anything wrong. There were some things that happened by the staff and letters that should have been corrected and he should have had better legal advice. But Newt has never done anything wrong. When you see those commercials that continually say that Newt was run out of office because of corruption, it's just dead wrong. And I think that's why Newt has said those things, because he is frustrated.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Dan Burton joining us this morning. Thank you for your time, sir.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, should teachers tweet their students? Should they friend them on Facebook? We'll tell you why some people say social media and schools should not mix. In fact, that would be everyone around this panel.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: They say no, they should not.

Then the GOP puts money where their mouth is literally. That's a mixed -- their mouth is. Republicans disclose plans for spending cuts. First thing on the chopping block is bottled water. Wow. We'll tell you what else made that list straight ahead in our "Reveal."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: That's not Will Cain.

O'BRIEN: Steve Perry. Steve Perry, he loves the rap, that man. All right, that was Steve Perry who's going to join us in just a moment. Jay-Z and Eminem, "Renegade." That might be too much for me first thing in the morning.

MARTIN: No, no not too much. You've got to have a little bit.

O'BRIEN: A little -- a little bit. That song, a little bit.

Ok, let's talk about social media and teachers. Some teachers say social media like Facebook and Twitter, YouTube are effective teaching tools and other people say oh, no, no. It opens the way for inappropriate behavior. One of the teachers who was tweeting me says that she has every security setting absolutely no students will be part of her Facebook.

That is our discussion for this morning's "Perry Principles". We've got Steve Perry joining us, he's a CNN education contributor, founder of Capital Prep Magnate School. We did a documentary on that school many, many moons ago and Carl Azuz joins us as well, he's with CNN Student News.

Nice to see you Carl.

CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Hi.

O'BRIEN: Steve, we're going to start with you this morning. Why are we talking about this now? I mean, Facebook has been around for a while. Suddenly it feels like there's a debate about whether or not teacher should be having this relationship. One, do you support the relationship? And why do you think we're discussing it now?

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, I don't necessarily see it as a relationship. What I see is an opportunity for teachers to expand their reach, to create opportunity, to communicate effectively with children where they are.

In fact, if a person is going to be a creep, they're going to be a creep whether they're on the Internet or they are in person. We shouldn't malign people who want to use the Internet effectively because of the people who are -- who are inappropriate.

O'BRIEN: Give me an example where you have seen a teacher use the Internet or Twitter or Fac4ebook effectively in the lesson with students. Because I think a lot of people especially the ones around this panel immediately go to the creep factor to be honest.

PERRY: No, no, we -- we do it all the time. As a matter of fact, we have students put up their lessons. We have as a senior social justice project, that's something that our kids have to do, what we have them to is to put up lessons that they would use to teach other children how to do certain things.

So you're showing some of them now. We at Capital Prep have used the Internet as a way to teach other children calculus. So for us, it's a great opportunity to communicate not just within our school but with students across the world. The world is getting so much smaller in large part because of the type of communication that we have right now. So we --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: All right, let's talk about -- let me turn to Carl for a minute and talk about Missouri because the state of Missouri actually had the statewide ban on electronic communications between teachers and students. What happened after that, Carl? AZUZ: Well, they had to pull away from it eventually, Soledad. There were some concerns in Missouri that it violated free speech. So they had to basically allow teachers if they so wanted to engage students on social media to do so.

However, Missouri is one of 12 states that are currently directing their teachers. Look, come up with some sort of policy defining what's appropriate when teachers and students communicate online so that the teachers, the students, and the parents know what to expect.

O'BRIEN: All right, let me read a couple of teachers have weighed in on CNN.com and they've said this. "It opens up possibilities for an inappropriate relationship. Could cause ethical concerns if you see a picture on Facebook of a student drinking or writing about doing something unlawful. Would you as a teacher friend be compelled to report it or somehow act on it?" These must be concerns that you have seen, Steve, in your school. How do you answer that?

PERRY: Yes we -- honestly, this is one of the best -- kids -- kids can sometimes be really stupid. They'll friend a teacher and then they'll say that they're going to do something stupid. I feel compelled to do something about that. In fact, virtually all forms of bullying that we find, find their way onto the Internet.

And so we've been able to in many ways cut kids off at the pass, and create a better understanding of what's going on in the homes.

0850

This is -- you know, I have often said to not hold parents accountable. This is a completely parent driven issue. You need to check your child's emails, you need to check your child's Facebook and Twitter accounts. You need to know every password. If you don't, you're falling asleep on the job.

MARTIN: That's right. I love it. My daddy made it clear. My house, my rules. You pay nothing. I'm with Steve.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm with him 100 percent as well.

O'BRIEN: Ok so Steve Perry is the one who supports friend -- and everyone is with you, Steve. But I've got to tell you in the commercial break, they all completely disagreed with you. Carl, of course, the big issue, you know, this idea that there can be misconduct, inappropriate relationships. You know, where we have seen that? And is it because of, you know, Facebook friending?

AZUZ: Well, critics kind of view Facebook as sort in some cases, in some extremely bad cases the gateway drug between inappropriate conduct between teachers and students. And police have also mentioned that in some sexual abuse cases around the country, they begin with inappropriate communication between teachers and students on Facebook. So like anything on the Internet it really depends on what you use it for. There are the majority of teachers who are using this as an effective teaching tool. But because you're tempted, at home you might be -- the teacher might be at home, the student might be at home, you're in the privacy of your own home, there might be a temptation there on the Internet given its anonymity -- perceived anonymity to engage in an inappropriate relationship with a student. That's the danger.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Steve, Soledad is 100 percent right. During the commercial break, all three of us said no way, no Facebook connection.

MARTIN: I said parents should check on this panel.

CAIN: But you -- but you did a hell of a persuasion job because we all kind of agree. But I still think it begs the question are we -- are these are teachers, are we inviting them in to raise our children? It feels like a line is coming close to being crossed.

PERRY: No, no, no. If a kid has a Facebook friend with the math teacher, and they are asking him for help on their homework, it's appropriate in both context and content, because you at 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 at night may not know how to help your child with calculus. So wouldn't it be nice to have access to the calculus teacher?

This is what it's about. It's about appropriate conversations and appropriate contexts. This is the same -- you know they talk about the rules that govern. It's the same rules that govern when you're dealing with a student inside the school.

I also think if a teacher is going to have a personal account, they need to have a personal account that they do not let children into. If this is what they want to communicate with their college buddies or friends or girlfriends what have you, that can be the particular space.

Last thing, I have often seen a lot of new teachers this is new teachers, young teachers, who put stuff from when they were in college or in their leisure time. This is a very -- this is Main Street for this generation. You wouldn't be on Main Street drunk, slothing around. You shouldn't be on Facebook doing it especially if you're an educational professional. It's just not wise.

O'Brien: All right. Steve Perry. Appreciate it.

AZUZ: Thank you Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nice to see the entire panel switch like that. Still ahead this morning, I'll talk about --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Yes, you did. You lie, you lie.

MARTIN: I said parents check them. O'BRIEN: Yes.

We reveal where your -- he is a lot of work today.

Where going to deal where your tax dollars are going. $190,000 in bottled water. That is a stunning figure. We'll break it down for you on STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Saving taxpayers money; that is the House Speaker John Boehner's plan and he wants to do it by cutting the office budget of every lawmaker by roughly $75,000. But in our reveal today, we discover that is a drop in the bucket. That's because each of the 435 house members currently gets $1.5 million to run an office. Total of $652,500,000.

Here's how it is being spent. In the first quarter of 2010 alone, three months, house members spent $190,000 of your tax dollars on bottled water. That sounds high to me. What do you think, Will Cain?

CAIN: Sounds high.

O'BRIEN: $600,000 on food. $600,000 on food. $10.2 million on mail. $6.4 million on travel. So why only cut $75,000 per -- that's roughly 5 percent, by the way, per office. Boehner says this. Republicans have to start somewhere, and we're going to start there.

CAIN: Let's start with Medicare. Start with the big numbers. Social security.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You would think $75,000.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's only symbolic. Yes, let's go deeper.

We can talk about that in our end point, which is coming up next. In our few remaining minutes. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: You get our final word, Maria Cardona. You have 20 seconds before you run out of time. What's your "end point"?

CARDONA: My end point's going be Latina mothers, the swing vote group of this election, no GOP candidate is talking to them. And more broadly, if Mitt Romney wins, is that the downfall of the Tea Party?

O'BRIEN: Romneyverse.com, by the way is a great place to look at them, what you're talking about earlier.

Thank you very much, we're out of time. We're going to get right to Kyra Phillips because CNN NEWSROOM is beginning right now. We'll see you back here for STARTING POINT tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. Take care.