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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Whitney Houston Laid to Rest; Interview with Reverend Jesse Jackson; ESPN Employee Fired for Printing Racial Slur in Reference to Jeremy Lin; Santorum Surging; NASA Ending Space Shuttle Program; Cursive Teaching Discontinued; Senator Upset By Debt Negotiation Process; Pizza Restaurant Says No Crying Kids Allowed; Rebel Leader: Uprising An "Orphan Revolution"; U.S. Senators To Meet With Egypt Over Accused NGO Workers; Decision Day For Greece Bailout; Massive Infant Tylenol Recall; Colbert To Resume Taping Show; Granny Channels Whitney; Santorum Surge Continues; Gingrich Southern Strategy; John Glenn Makes History; John Glenn Discusses Space Flight; New Adventure Film about Civil War Vet on Mars

Aired February 20, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Good morning, everybody. We are talking about our STARTING POINT this morning, person swept down a thousand feet into a mountain. We got details of a deadly avalanche in Washington State to tell you about.

Also, voices paying tribute to the voice. Whitney Houston is now at her final resting place. We're going to talk to Reverend Jesse Jackson this morning about how the service went and, of course, the burial which was yesterday.

New national poll showing that Rick Santorum is pulling away, up eight points from Mitt Romney with Super Tuesday getting closer. We'll talk about what's going to happen there.

And then, "Saturday Night Live" officially exhausts all the Jeremy Lin tags -- did you see this? Very funny. "Starting Point" begins right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Where is my hairbrush? How do I sing along? Thank you. I love this song. What can be better than starting your morning with her. Welcome, everybody. Let's get right to our panel. We've the actor and comedian John Fugelsang joining us. Ron Brownstein in person, the editorial director of the "National Journal," and Will Cain.

WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Was that familiarity or disappointment?

O'BRIEN: That's with love. Will Cain who I always like to see sitting next to me.

CAIN: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: We've got a lot to get to this morning. It was a tough week obviously with the death of Whitney Houston, and really at the end of the week an opportunity to remember her and her legacy. She was laid to rest yesterday in a cemetery next to her father in Westfield, New Jersey.

The private moment followed the family's home going service, which took place in a Baptist church on Saturday in Newark, New Jersey, family, friends, and stars paying tribute. Oh, my gosh, it was a beautiful service. And it was Whitney Houston's own voice that ended the ceremony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The service lasted four hours. And it was interesting to talk to the Baptist pastors who were there who said, listen, we want to make it very clear, this is a religious service. This is not a performance. This is not a concert. This is a home going.

Reverend Jesse Jackson was there as well. Of course he is a president of the Rainbow Push coalition. We had a chance to talk to you a lot Saturday on the air. Tell me a little bit about the burial, though, sir. It was obviously a quiet family affair. How was that?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, PRESIDENT, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: I was not at the burial. Let me say, first of all, we thank you for the extent and sensitivity of your coverage on this past Saturday. We had a double wound. The Soul Train engineer, he left the train and first class passenger rather quickly, Whitney left the train. So kind of a double wound. But this service on Saturday was so glorious. In the words of Tyler Perry, the singing of R. Kelly and BeBe and CeCe Winans and Alicia Keys and Kevin Costner and Clive Davis, it was a great and glorious celebration on this past Saturday.

O'BRIEN: And a real challenge because I know they were trying to navigate between the privacy wishes of the family and of course millions of fans who wanted to be part of it. And that had to be a challenge. I know you talked to Cissy since the funeral. How is she doing and how did she feel that the tribute went?

JACKSON: Very well. It was handled in such a way that is miraculous how the cameras were a half-block away and how there was coverage on the inside but not the exhaustive kind of coverage. Cissy is a strong woman of faith. She's been through a lot in her life. And I cannot help but think how great a singer cissy has been down through the years. I mean, Whitney comes through a great lineage of singers, singing with Aretha Franklin, singing with Elvis Presley, watching her mother in the studio sing, you know, first music teacher, first music critic, first choir director. She came out of a great lineage, the environment. Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, all of the stuff was there for her to achieve greatness, and she did. O'BRIEN: I need to ask you about this dramatic moment. We were a distance away from the risers and we could see in the camera shots Bobby Brown leaving the church. What exactly happened?

JACKSON: Reverend Sharpton and Bishop Jakes and I were talking and the service was being held up. Apparently the ushers brought him in where they thought was an appropriate place for him to sit. Then it was the place confined for the immediate family. Finally in the end he would not move because I think he belt embarrassed, they asked him to leave. I went out to the car and Cissy and Bobby, they knew nothing about this. It was a logistic call conflict. Cissy Houston and Bobby Kristina had nothing to go with this. He left embarrassed. His positive statement has been a good thing. He did not go off, as it were.

JACKSON: Let me read a little bit of that statement me said, "My children and I were seated by security, subsequently asked to move on three separate occasions. Security then prevented me from seeing my daughter. In light of the events, I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene." It was sort of an unfortunate moment in a wonderful ceremony. What happens now? Bobby Kristina has had a lot of pressure and a tough go of it.

JACKSON: She left her grandmother who she needs very much, she has her father and friends and god to turn to. She has some huge challenges in front of her now but she certainly has an environment that support that she needs and all of us now are on alert in terms of being sensitive to what she must be dog going through. This is just the tenth day since her mother passed. The wound, Soledad, the wound is very fresh. She has to come to grips with a huge adjustment in her life. She requires, you know, I think, prayer, support, and to some extent, some distance as well.

O'BRIEN: A lot of people were talking about her from the pulpit and how they are going to care for her on Saturday, so I hope that really happens. Reverend Jesse Jackson, always nice to see you, sir, appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Got other headlines to get to. Alina Cho is in for that. Good morning.

ALICA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Soledad, good morning to you. Three skiers are dead after an avalanche at a resort in Washington state. Authorities say they fell about 1,500 feet. A dozen skiers buried in snow had to dig themselves out. All of them at this point accounted for. The area was out of bounds for skiers. Heavy snow fell in the area, too, about 19 inches in just the past 24 hours. A fourth skier was saved by an inflatable safety device that kept her from going under.

New this morning, Iran has cut off oil to the U.K. and France. It's in retaliation for all 27 EU countries putting sanctions on Iran's oil experts starting in July. But the U.S. says an attack on Iran will be premature. This as U.N. inspectors are in Iran today for another round of nuclear talks. An IAEA report back in November warned that Iran could be on its way to developing a nuclear weapon. Iran insists its efforts are peaceful.

A well-known Arizona sheriff has stepped down as co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Sheriff Paul Babeu resigned from the volunteer position after acknowledging he is gay and denying allegations that he threatened to have a former lover deported if he outed their relationship. Babeu was also a Republican congressional candidate in Arizona, and he says he intends to stay in that race.

Another human skeleton has turned up in a wooded area on the eastern end of Long Island, New York. Authorities are now trying to determine if the remains are connected to ten other sets of remains found on a remote beach about 40 miles to the west. Police suspect at least some of the victims are of a serial killer preying on prostitutes.

Minding your Business, U.S. markets are closed for president's day today. Investors will keep an eye on Greece and quarterly earnings from major retailer when those markets reopen tomorrow.

And weather-wise, the south socked with a messy winter storm. Just look at these pictures, tens of thousands losing power across the region. The snow, sleet, and rain also triggered some pile-ups across Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. What a mess. Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: Gosh, it doesn't look like that. Alina, thank you.

CHO: You got it.

O'BRIEN: So Lin-sanity, that's a word I guess we're sticking with now, because some of the choices have been pretty bad. It is back on track. They lost to the Hornets on Friday, but he helped the Knicks win over the Dallas Mavericks, defending champions.

But a racial slur said a couple of times is overshadowing some of that victory. An ESPN employee was fired after using an offensive slur on the headline on a mobile site and an anchor is under fire after using the same word in his broadcast. And it is actually so bad I'm not allowed to repeat it. So I'm going to just tell people to go Google it because ESPN and Jeremy Lin because is worth understanding. I'm not going to say it.

But here's what ESPN said, "We apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to Asian- American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN."

Saturday night live kind of did a send-up of all the comments around Jeremy Lin. They weren't apologizing for their segment. Here's what they did. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, he's unstoppable. He's like that sign says, Wednesday game, Lin is the Knicks good fortune.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's sweet, not sour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He turned Kobe into Kobe beef.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Kobe's like, hey, I ordered fried chicken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, hey, hey.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought we were having that kind of fun. Dan, back me up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize to our viewers at home for our comments of Bill Gibson. They were Lin-sensitive and politically Lin- correct. He has been fired.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You know, I love that because I thought they really hit it right in terms of how people have been trying to navigate something that frankly is just racist. You know, people are doing all of these apologies. They are racist when they say what the guy from ESPN put in a headline.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Look, you know, this is so unusual and so actually inspiring on so many different levels. People love the story of an underdog who was passed over by every team, all that Harvard basketball tradition that he's in the NBA.

O'BRIEN: Hey, hey, hey, hey, watch the Harvard jokes.

BROWNSTEIN: There are so many way, and to have it clouded by this kind of thing --

O'BRIEN: What does everyone go for the racially insensitive comments when they're trying to talk about this guy? There are so many other ways to go.

CAIN: This guy, the interesting wrangle on this story is race through and through because it's not about the racially insensitive remark which the story has been plagued with, but it's also -- it brings up the conversation. When is it appropriate to root for race? We keep showing pictures of Chinatown, and I think I saw a restaurant called the Hong Kong Express full of Asian people root for Jeremy Lin. I think it brings up another issue, when is it OK to root for race?

BROWNSTEIN: Of course, it is about race. The story is --

O'BRIEN: Part of it, sure. JOHN FUGELSANG, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Of course it is. We don't go around saying, oh, my god, a white golfer? Of course that element is there. And it's so easy to talk about it without being racist or without using crude rumor. You're right, it's great for the Asian- American community. It's great for the U.S. sports community. We lost Gary Carter last week, and this is making everybody happy.

But it's simple to cover this man's race without doing it. This scandal is inspiring in a way. I'm glad that these guys at espn.com made this racist headline to show how quickly the community responds to anti-Asian slurs.

O'BRIEN: So the headline said "blank in the armor." I had this conversation with my nephew who is visiting today who is 14. He gasped. I was so happy that this kid -- 14, was like, wow, he knows it's completely inappropriate.

FUGELSANG: The response of the population shows how far we've come in a short time wards the kind of humor. In a way it's showing racism and more or less an I.Q. test for the public.

BROWNSTEIN: It's important that his ethnic background is not the only part of the story why people have embraced him. There is the underdog story, there is someone who was passed over by everyone else, out-playing Kobe on national TV, maybe not turning him into beef, but it's a big part of the story as well, hard work, humble, contained within himself.

O'BRIEN: And it's the Knicks. And the Knicks really need a good --

CAIN: They beat the world champion Dallas Mavericks, the world champion Dallas Mavericks.

O'BRIEN: Jeremy Lin, we love you. And that SNL skit was very funny and made its point.

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Rick Santorum trading places with Mitt Romney in the polls, attacking president Obama on his faith, social issues. We'll talk about that. And we'll talk about whether or not it's working in one of the most critical swing states.

And Georgia is on his mind, kind of has to be for Newt Gingrich. He is sweating a little bit about his home state, just like Mitt Romney is. Is it do or die there for him?

And our "Get Real" this morning, a pizza place tells parents no pizza for you if your kids won't shut up. That's a good business getter. Will's playing list is going to play us out to commercial break with the Dixie Chicks.

CAIN: World champion Dallas Mavericks, if I wasn't clear.

O'BRIEN: Dixie Chicks "Love it or Leave it." I love it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Rick Santorum describes himself as Mitt Romney's main competitor for the GOP presidential nomination. And there's a new poll that is backing him up.

According to Gallup, 36 percent of registered Republicans support Santorum. Twenty-eight percent back Mitt Romney. Just a few days ago the two were in a statistically tie in the key Swing State of Ohio Santorum is leading by seven points, 36 to 28. That's an 18 - let me repeat that. That's an 18-point jump from early January.

Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania and Republican Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio joining us this morning. Nice to see you, gentlemen. Thanks for being with us.

Congressman Chabot, we will start with you. Explicame, the 18- point jump in your State of Ohio. Why is he surging?

REP. STEVE CHABOT, (R) OHIO: Well, I think Rick Santorum is a great candidate. I think he'd make a great president. I think Mitt Romney would as well.

In fact we've got four good candidates in the Republican primaries. And as they say, so goes Ohio, so goes the nation. It's pretty hard to win the presidency without carrying Ohio and I think it's going to be very close. And I wouldn't really put money on either one of them or any of these folks. So it could go either way.

O'BRIEN: So does that contradict about what you said about having four good candidates if really there's not one person pulling ahead? You maybe have four average candidates?

CHABOT: No, I think we've got four very good candidates. And I think any four would certainly be preferable to the current occupant of the White House on most issues, whether it's domestic issues or foreign affairs-type issues.

You know, if you look at this economy and how it's dragged along and we still have over eight percent in jobs and unemployment in this country, after passing the president's so-called economic stimulus package, spending over $800 billion and where are the jobs?

And then his healthcare, the ObamaCare is dragging this country down. That's one of the main reasons small businesses aren't creating jobs right now. There's too much uncertainty in this economy.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, Congressman Altmire, one of the things that I've seen certainly over the last couple of weeks really has been a shift on conversations about the economy to really conversations about social issues, contraception has been a big topic, gay marriage has been a big topic. Certainly when it comes to Senator Santorum the role of women has been a big topic. Good or bad for a general election campaign?

REP. JASON ALTMIRE, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: We have pretty good experience with Senator Santorum here in Pennsylvania. And it was his focus on those types of issues, I think that did him in politically back in 2006. He took what I believe is the biggest loss any incumbent senator has taken in history with an 18-point defeat.

So if he allows his campaign to go in that direction, I don't know if that helps him in the primary, but it certainly going to be a liability in the general election.

BROWNSTEIN: Congressman Chabot, good morning. Ron Brownstein from "National Journal." I want to ask you about one of those issues that are not only in the presidential race but now in the House as well.

The legislation that you are co-sponsoring in the House would allow not only religiously-based employers but any employer to deny not only contraception but any service under health care reform that they view is morally offensive. Why is it necessary to go that far?

CHABOT: Well, I think that it's clearly been the tradition in this country and ought to remain that that businesses and churches get to follow the constitution. And if the constitution clearly states that people have the right to exercise their religion as they see fit.

And this is a case - and this is, again, not about contraception but it's about religious freedom. This is a case where I would argue that the administration, ObamaCare in particular, and the way it's been interpreted by this administration, doesn't just step across a line, it erases that line all together.

BROWNSTEIN: So just to be clear, any - your view, any employer should be allowed to deny coverage of any service that they believe violates their moral code?

CHABOT: It's not about denying coverage, it's about when people are providing health care for their employees or particularly -

(CROSSRALK)

BROWNSTEIN: But that would be the effect to deny - deny coverage of insurance?

CHABOT: In particularly, when you have religious - Catholic hospitals, for example, where it's a tenet of their faith that one not have abortion-inducing drugs or sterilization or those types of things. Why should we force religion to pay for those types of things?

And the president has tried to come up with a so-called compromise, but it really hasn't compromised anything. It's really a wink and a nod and doesn't solve the problem.

O'BRIEN: So that sounds like a lengthy way of answering yes to Ron Brownstein's question.

I'm going to give the final question to Congressman Altmire. Do you think we stop hearing about the economy, if you look at actually unemployment rate in Ohio, it's 8.1 percent. In Pennsylvania, 7.6 percent, lower than the national unemployment rate which is 8.3 percent, as you both well know.

What do you think? How much role is the economy going to play as we head on Super Tuesday?

ALTMIRE: I think the economy is going to play, in Pennsylvania, in a very positive way for the future. We have assets with our energy resources that put us in a very unique position. Ohio shares some of that.

So when the presidential candidates come into our region they're going to have to talk about the good things that we've done in the employment market, why we're below the national averages and the decisions that have been made, very difficult decisions, to put us in that position. But we are at a different place than a lot of other states in the country.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Altmire and also Congressman Chabot, thanks for joining us. We appreciate your time this morning, gentlemen.

ALTMIRE: Thanks.

CHABOT: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Newt Gingrich says each candidate should win their home state primary or get out of the race. Well, what happens if he loses Georgia? His campaign is going to talk to us about that this morning.

Our "Get Real" this morning is a pizza place telling parents get your act together on your kids or we're going to kick them out. In fact, it's on the menu. That's a way to get clients. We're going to talk about that this morning. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: It's fun to watch Ron Brownstein like rock out. He's -

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: Nothing better than New Year's Eve with (INAUDIBLE) and Patti Smith. Every year. Every year.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yes.

All right, our "Get Real" this morning -

BROWNSTEIN: (INAUDIBLE).

O'BRIEN: "Get Real" this morning, you all know (ph), you know, children are to be seen and not heard. Don't hear that a lot, but it kind of works its way into our latest story.

Grant Central Pizza in Georgia, the owners are taking a stand against kids who are having meltdowns. The menu offers pizza, pasta, calzones and a new disclaimer that reads in part this, "We want to ensure that all diners have an enjoyable lunch or dinner with us. We respectfully ask that parents tend to their crying tots outside." Apparently they're not going to kick them out. I said that, and that's not going to happen.

But this is a response to an incident in which a child apparently hit a customer in the head with a toy. My children would never do that. Also some reviews on yelp.com which complained about loud and unruly kids taking over the place. So one customer said she dislikes the parents who allow it to happen even more than the kids who are having the meltdowns.

The owner claims still a family restaurant, you know, just they don't want kids having meltdowns.

FUGELSANG: It's good enough for church, it's good enough for pizza. I think, you know, great president and I hope they go for airplanes next.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: How many kids do you have?

FUGELSANG: I have my first one due next month.

O'BRIEN: OK, so zero. Yes, your world's about to change on this.

FUGELSANG: I'm aware of that. But I still support it. If churches can have - if churches can have a cry room, so can restaurants.

CAIN: Congratulations, by the way.

FUGELSANG: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You know what? Listen. If you have a kid who's having a meltdown, really having someone have a strict rule about that is not that helpful. I've had -

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: -- take your child out of the restaurant.

BROWNSTEIN: It's a surprising place for that to happen. You know, it is - though, it is true, you know, you are seeing more and more areas virtually very low rates of - of families with children. It's kind of almost like a separation out. I would have thought this would have been a rule in a restaurant in San Francisco, or perhaps right here in Manhattan.

O'BRIEN: When I was single -

BROWNSTEIN: An unusual place for that to be -

O'BRIEN: -- and I had no kids, I thought this (ph) - I would get in line at Starbucks, and I was like, oh, those kids are badly behaved. BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Now those are my children.

(CROSSTALK)

FUGELSANG: -- children.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

FUGELSANG: But I still think planes should have escape pods for screaming children.

CAIN: We do not suffer as a society from over disciplining our children.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

CAIN: We can do better.

O'BRIEN: I get it. I totally get that. At the same time, what's really more helpful is a waiter who comes over and tries to help you out.

I get it. I get it. And, yes, eventually you do take your child outside to calm them down, but there's like that two-minute window -

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: -- Soledad.

BROWNSTEIN: You know what? No one is happy - no one is happy -

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: OK, a little bit -

BROWNSTEIN: No one is happy in that circumstance.

O'BRIEN: A little bit of a distance between disagreeing and saying can you raise my child, waiter? But, you know, what? This is America. You can have your wrong opinion if you want to.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Newt Gingrich, is it Georgia or bust? His plan to take his home state and make maybe yet another comeback on Super Tuesday. We'll talk about that.

Plus, God speed, John Glenn. Fifty years since the first American orbited the Earth. John Glenn's going to join us live straight ahead on STARTING POINT. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Gun N' Roses are from where?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: L.A. O'BRIEN: Gun N' Roses, Will's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not my country.

O'BRIEN: Not your play list, it's not Willie Nelson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I want to see her on her play list one of these days, mister. All right, got headlines to get to first, Alina Cho has those. Good morning again.

CHO: It's not all country?

O'BRIEN: I know, stunning, right?

CHO: Soledad, thank you very much. Topping our news, Syrian forces are shelling the city of Homs for a 17th straight day. A rebel leader says the Syrian uprising is an orphan revolution without the foreign support shown in other countries.

The U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman says it's premature to think about arming the opposition. Activists saying the 11 months since the uprising nearly 9,000 people have been killed.

Mission to Cairo, Senator John McCain leading a congressional delegation to try to resolve the case of 19 American workers facing criminal charges. Those charges are part of Egypt's crack down on nongovernmental organizations.

Among the Americans is Sam Lahood. That's the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood. McCain is meeting with the military leaders and the accused Americans. Their trial is set to begin February 26th.

Eurozone finance minister is expected to approve a second bailout package for Greece today. It comes after months of economic turmoil. Greece though continues to walk a financial tightrope. Officials are hoping the deal will help the country restructure debts and put it on a more stable financial footing.

Parents listen up, Johnson & Johnson recalling its entire U.S. supply of infant Tylenol because of a design flaw. The company reportedly got complaints from consumers who had trouble figuring out how to use the dosing syringe included with the product.

It involved some 575,000 bottles of grape flavored pain reliever and fever reducer for infants, which just returned to store shelves three months ago after an earlier recall. The company says no one has been hurt using the product.

Good news for fans of the "Colbert Report." The Comedy Central show is expected to resume production today. It abruptly shut down last week after host, Stephen Colbert's, mother reportedly became ill. Colbert tweeted this message, telling fans he was grateful and touched by their concern. And we've seen a lot of them over the past week, but this may be the best Whitney Houston tribute ever. Take a look.

Yes, that's right, 90-year-old grandmother dancing her heart out in this YouTube video to the Whitney Houston song "I Want to Dance with Somebody."

Her grandson says his Grandma Jean is legally blind and she's doing it to honor Whitney. Good for her, 90 years old. She looks great. All right -- Soledad. I know. Leaves you kind of speechless, doesn't it? It's cute. Come on.

O'BRIEN: So cute. What I love about it, she's in great shape. Honestly, I wish my mom could move like that because at that age, she's --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Enthusiastic, too.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's something.

O'BRIEN: But look --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wants to dance with somebody.

O'BRIEN: All right, I need to turn now to political stories. Santorum surge is what we're talking about politically. It actually shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.

Take a look at these poll numbers, new national Gallup daily tracking poll shows Rick Santorum now up 8 points on Mitt Romney. It's Newt Gingrich in third place.

Going to bring in Vince Haley, he's the deputy campaign manager for Newt Gingrich. It's nice to talk to you. Thanks for being with us. We certainly appreciate it.

Would you guys throw that graphic back up again that has the rankings? Not only is Newt Gingrich in third place, he is 23 points behind Rick Santorum. How worried are you about these numbers?

VINCE HALEY, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR NEWT GINGRICH: Well, we have seen dramatic swings in the polls all throughout this campaign. The 2012 is the year of the long campaign in part it's been designed that way by the RNC.

And in part this is I know because we have Governor Romney in the race who is trying to win the nomination of a conservative party and he's not very much of a conservative. And he's spending millions and millions of dollars.

So that is -- we see the central narrative of this race is that the voters don't want Mitt Romney and they're looking for others. Rick Santorum now is having his surge and he's going to get his scrutiny in the media. O'BRIEN: But it's the central narrative of the race that the voters do want Newt Gingrich? He's talked a lot about a southern strategy that means that he's really looking forward to Super Tuesday, which is still like 18 days, 13 days away. It's a distance away. Is that still a mistake?

HALEY: No, I mean, we're working diligently to have a very strong showing on Super Tuesday. Just keep in mind, even after Super Tuesday, 65 percent of the delegates are still up for grabs. Again, this is going to be a long campaign.

But Gingrich has staying power and the reason he has staying power is he's the only candidate in this race who has achieved big change in Washington. In 2012, very important election of our lifetime we're going to need big change to get America back on the right track.

Gingrich in the '90s, under his leadership, we put 11 million Americans back to work. We reformed welfare. We cut taxes, 2 percent unemployment. It was big change and the American people liked it. He's got a plan today for doing that as well.

Today, he's in Oklahoma. He's going to be talking about energy. Americans have few opportunities to see the failure of their government every day and they see the failure of their government every day when they go to the gas stations and rising prices.

That is not a failure. It doesn't have to be that way. Gingrich has a strong program for getting our country's energy supplies back.

O'BRIEN: I fear you are heading into filibustering for me. So I'm going to stop you there. I'm going to throw up a map because you mentioned Oklahoma, of course, which is one of the Super Tuesday states. Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Vermont, Tennessee, Wyoming. So it's in there but again, it's not until March.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Two weeks. Vince, can I ask you real quick? Ron Brownstein from "National Journal."

HALEY: Sure.

BROWNSTEIN: If all four candidates stay in the race all the way through, how would you put the odds that you will get to the convention without anyone having the majority of the delegates and would that be a good thing or a bad thing for the party?

HALEY: I don't think it will be a bad thing. I mean, the good thing for the party is that people are talking about conservative solutions. That will be a good thing.

Certainly, if one of the candidates breaks through and can paint a compelling picture of what it requires to change this administration and get America back to work, that will be great.

I don't know if I can put odds on it, but I think after Super Tuesday there will be a lot of the four candidates with lots of delicate delicates. So it will continue.

JOHN FUGELSANG, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Sir, when Newt Gingrich talks about compromising with the Clinton administration to help fix the economy in the 90s, isn't it fair to point out that in large measure that was achieved by raising taxes on the highest income earners?

HALEY: In the 90s, no. There weren't taxes raise on high income earners --

FUGELSANG: Under Bill Clinton, there were.

FUGELSANG: Well, not under Newt Gingrich. Gingrich passed the largest capital gains tax cut in history and he had 389 members of the House of Representatives voting with him for that.

That was the key moment to incentivize economic growth in the '90s. Again, millions and millions of jobs created. So I'm not sure what you're talking about when you talk about raising taxes under Gingrich's leadership.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to ask you a question about something that Newt Gingrich said yesterday. Could we play that sound bite, please?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Romney loses Michigan, I lose Georgia. You have I think a very, very bad week in candidacy for anyone of the three of us. I was home campaigning the last two days precisely to say to my friends back home, Georgia really matters, you cannot take this for granted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Georgia really matters. So a what if he loses Georgia?

HALEY: Well, he also said in that interview, someone asked him if he would get out of the race if he lost Georgia, he says, no. He's not going to say anything, but he clearly said, it would be a weakened candidacy as it would be if Romney lost Michigan or if Santorum lost Pennsylvania.

O'BRIEN: Why stay in the race?

HALEY: Look, we have seen this race go up and down. Again, people have -- each candidate is going to have their scrutiny and we've seen dramatic changes in the polls.

I think Gingrich has tremendous staying power. He's got bold solutions for the country to get the country working again. I think over time that message will get out especially over energy as I've mentioned. Maybe this is filibustering. We actually need a dramatically better -- O'BRIEN: I can feel that's heading into the filibustering. All right, Vince Haley, joining us. He's the deputy campaign manager for Newt Gingrich. It's nice to have you. Thanks. We appreciate your time.

HALEY: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, John Glenn is going to join us live. Fifty years after he became the first American to orbit the earth.

Also, a new Disney movie taking us all the way to Mars. We're going to talk to the man behind the movie, which is called "John Carter." He also did "Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo," all my favorites.

And Will's playlist -- God, it's all about Will this morning. All right, one song that's it. One song.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It was 50 years ago today that John Glenn was the first American to orbit earth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The red light is on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God speed, John Glenn. Five, four, three, two, one, zero.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. The clock is operating. We're under way. Follow that clear? Roger, we're programming. We're all OK. It won't be long about here. Stand by for 20 seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two, one. Roger. Back up clock.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Roger. I love see that. I could see that 1,000 times. The flight lasted 4 hours, 55 minutes, 23 seconds. Senator John Glenn joins us this morning. He's in Columbus, Ohio.

It's nice to see you again, sir. Thanks for talking with us. We certainly appreciate it. Will you do me a favor and take us back to that moment that we just got to see.

This flight had been scuttled like 10 times over a month because of various issues. So the moment it was about to happen, what was going through your mind?

JOHN GLENN, FIRST AMERICAN TO ORBIT EARTH: Well, you know, trained very hard for that flight. You had a number of things you were doing. You weren't just sitting there contemplating things in general. You were very busy, reading the gauges, read that information back to the block house to check with their instrumentation. So it was a very busy time period. We trained for that. We ran simulation after simulation to where you could hardly believe that we really -- I was really getting up there, finally of the 11th scheduled date, actually.

O'BRIEN: So then, tell me about while you were orbiting, I read that you saw this thing outside your window that you relayed back, I believe, as fireflies. What happened when you said that? What was that like?

GLENN: That was something we couldn't train for and then didn't anticipate at all. At first light of sun rise I saw just like millions of them. They were about the luminous glowing color of fireflies except they were a steady light. They didn't blink on and off like a firefly. I used that to describe them anyway. And we found out later that what they were particles from the heat exchange.

We found that out on Scott Carpenter's flight, on the next flight. As far as the glow luminous color, white light acts that way coming from the sun and the atmosphere, back to the spacecraft coming back from the earth. I don't know if we ever have figure Thad that one out quite yet. It was startling. It wasn't a problem. It was just something we hadn't anticipated.

O'BRIEN: I imagine it would be like on that flight, things you hadn't anticipated on the bad side?

GLENN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: The automatic control system, something else you hadn't anticipated. Near the end of the first or bid, there was trouble with that and you had to take manual control.

GLENN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: What was going through your mind? Were you afraid? Did you -- were you nervous?

GLENN: Well, that was something we hadn't anticipated also. It was planned to do almost all of the first two orbits on automatic control where I wouldn't control at all. And then to take over manually one axis at a time, roll, pitch, or yaw, and see whether you can control each one of those, and finally whether you can control by looking outside and control the spacecraft. These were some of the things we didn't really know or hadn't done at that time.

And as it was, one of the little thrusters stuck and was wasting fuel. So I cut that off and went to manual control. Right then was able to control it OK. And keep the attitude that I was supposed to have in orbit. But that was the first thing that went wrong. There was another one right at the end of the flight where there was an indication the heat shield might be loose and the latches had pulled. Those telemetry signals, radio signals had already gone down to the ground. We left the retropack on to help hold that heat shield in place and it worked OK. Burned off the retropack and that made for a rather spectacular re-entry.

O'BRIEN: A big old fireball.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I remember the film of that is incredible. Quick final question for you. Does it feel like it's been a long time, 50 years, or do you look up at those pictures and say, god, it feels like yesterday?

GLENN: It seems to me like about a week or two ago, Soledad --

(LAUGHTER)

-- because I -- I guess I've recalled it quite often over the past 50 years and that kept it fresh. It was such an impressive thing at the time that is indelibly imprinted on my memory and I can recall those days very, very well.

O'BRIEN: I love you telling us these stories.

Senator Glenn telling us these stories.

Congratulations on the 50th anniversary.

GLENN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: I could listen to him talk about that forever. Imagine manually working on your roll and your pitch and your yaw from a space shuttle.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went back on the shuttle.

O'BRIEN: Of course, right. That was amazing.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the right stuff.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, it was "Avatar" before "Avatar" was cool. Civil War vet transported to Mars and found a princess. A man who has directed this new film from Pixar is going to join us this morning.

Also, a new way to get a quick caffeine buzz. But the FDA is really investigating caffeine inhalers.

(LAUGHTER)

Really, coffee is not good enough anymore? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pretty good delivery vehicle.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Ron is coming out strong today, musically speaking. Wow, "The Lonely Boys from the Black Keys."

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Garage bands today.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You missed that segment where I had to apologize to the band and take that back.

(LAUGHTER)

I love them now.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

Moving on, there is a new action adventure film hero in town in March. His name is John Carter. The movie is based on a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author of "Tarzan." It's about a Civil War veteran transported to Mars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Get on.

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We did not cause this! But this very night, we will end it!

(MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: It's true I was. But I won't be again.

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That looks so good. That looks so good. The man behind the movie is Andrew Stanton, an Academy Award-winning director of the Pixar animated film "Finding Nemo." Nice to have you.

ANDREW STANTON, MOVIE DIRECTOR: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Was it hard to go from animation to real people? I would think real people are more annoying to direct.

(LAUGHTER)

STANTON: Well, some of that might be true. But I never left animation. This movie, two of the characters are fully animated, but in the background they're played by Willem DaFoe and Samantha Morton, so it was really like making an animated picture plus a live action picture. It was like double the duty.

O'BRIEN: I read you have been working on this since 2007. Is that right?

STANTON: Yes. Overlapped with finishing "Wally." I always seem to be doing two things at one.

O'BRIEN: Do you like this better? Do you see yourself moving into live action? Going into animation?

STANTON: I have every right to go --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Or staying in animation.

STANTON: I had every right to go home screaming in the middle of how hard this movie was.

(CROSSTALK)

STANTON: It was so daunting. I decided to make it so difficult. Instead of shooting it all in front of green screen, we went everywhere tht it looked like Mars, in the desert in the southwest, shooting out there with people standing on stilts and weird pajamas and stuff.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Why do it that way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't you think George Lucas wishes he had done that?

STANTON: The minute I saw Tatuena (ph), when I was 12 years old, I thought I was really there. I wanted it not to be fantasy. I wanted it like a historical film. What was it really like, even though it was fiction?

BROWNSTEIN: For most people, "Tarzan" is Edgar Rice Burroughs' most famous creation. How does John Carter compare as a character to Tarzan? STANTON: Well, they're similar in a sense it's a stranger in a strange land that finds sort of a secondary purpose. But after that, in Carter, it's truly discovering an entire different society that has parallels to ours with lots of different conflicts and people. And it's really about falling in love. He is chasing for the most beautiful woman in the universe.

O'BRIEN: They are always the most beautiful women.

(LAUGHTER)

STANTON: And he is probably the most handsome guy in the universe.

OK, we have a clip.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Of course. It's a movie.

Let's play a clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Tars tarkas (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Tars tarkas (ph). Captain John Carter. Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Virginia. Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: No. My name is John Carter. I'm from Virginia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Is it hard to make these interactions seem very human? Or is it easier to do it in an animated film? That's what makes animated films work.

STANTON: They are both incredibly difficult. When you're in full animation, it's completely with what you can conjure in your head with a couple of things you may decide with the animator. I thought it was a luxury, I had the best actor in the world, Willem DaFoe, and I didn't have to make anything up. I had to make sure when we animated it, I just said, do what Willam does.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you about Steve Jobs. You worked with him at Pixar. In the 1990s you worked with Steve Jobs. What lessons did you take from him? Because when you read his book, the biography of him, that he was so picky and driving for perfection all the time.

STANTON: He was. But he also had tremendous respect for if you could do something he couldn't, he wanted to protect it. And that's what he did with Pixar. He was our firewall. We were like free range chickens.

(LAUGHTER)

He allowed us to make movies the way we wanted to without all the influences you would expect a movie studio to have. And the most important thing he ever said, it's our job to know what other people want before they do. And that's why we always trusted our gut and not worry about the demographics or the audience or anything.

O'BRIEN: That's such a great lesson.

Andrew Stanton, it's nice to have you. Thanks for being with us.

STANTON: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it. If you want to put any of us in a movie, we're all free. Call our agents.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Straight ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Senator John McCain says we should arm the Syrian rebels. We'll talk to an expert on the Arab Spring who says that idea is not a wise one.

Also, details about Whitney Houston's funeral. We'll talk to a family friend and the only television producer who was allowed inside the service.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(SINGING)

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