CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Violence Continues in Syria; "The Artist" Wins Oscar for Best Picture; Three Killed, 45 Injured In Train Derailment; State TV: Putin Assassination Plot Foiled; BP Oil Spill Trial Delayed; Source: Santorum Granted Secret Service; Source: Gingrich Applies For Protection; Report: Facebook Reads Users' Text Messages; Gas Prices Keep Climbing; Blaming Obama For Gas Prices; Nostalgia Wins at the Oscars; Revenge of the One Percent; Judge Dismisses First Amendment Case; Does Romney Question Again Over Ability to Connect with Voters

Aired February 27, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning is claimed by the Taliban that at poisoned food at a NATO base all is revenge for the mistaken burning of the Koran. It's been violent Muslim backlash, and it's becoming more deadly. We're going to talk about that this morning.

Plus, starting the workweek with even higher gas prices. Hey, good morning. It's Monday.

Some people say it's not a supply problem, it's really fear. And now, there are Democrats who are calling on the president to take some action.

Plus, the Best Picture of 2011, for some people it was a bit of a shocker. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: And the Oscar goes to -- "The Artist."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I got to tell you, I thought it was going to be "The Help," but it wasn't. It was "The Artist" took the top prize. We're going to be breaking down all the winners and the losers, maybe thrown some fashion because that's what Will Cain is only interested in.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And also this morning, have you heard this story? A member of the one percent who tipped literally one percent. What a jerk. Also, left a little note for the waitress which was even more insulting than that terrible tip. We're going to talk about that as well.

STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC) O'BRIEN: There was a time back in college I had long braid that I used to wear, in the right light, in the right angle I looked a little tiny bid like Sade.

Welcome, everybody. We have our panel with us this morning. We're joined by Will Cain who is back, but over here. He's usually there. He's there this morning. He's a columnist, of course, for TheBlaze.com. Michelle Goldberg is joining us this morning. She's a contributor to "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast." And also you have a have new -- is it book?

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, JOURNALIST, "NEWSWEEK": Yes, it's my first book.

O'BRIEN: First book. They have like five pages on you.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Also the author "The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World."

GOLDBERG: That's my second book.

O'BRIEN: Where are your books?

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Hillary Rosen is a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, and she's joining us as well. Welcome to all of you.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, some very big developments happening in Afghanistan. There's been a deadly car bombing. Also an attempt by the Taliban to try to poison the food of NATO troops. It's now confirmed that food was contaminated at forward operating base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. They found traces of bleach in fruit and coffee, although no one got sick or even hurt.

And overnight there was a suicide car bomber who was able to kill nine people and injure 12 other people. It happened right outside of the gates of an airport in eastern Afghanistan. No Americans were among the victim there. The Taliban though is saying it is in retaliation for the Koran burning.

Let's get right to Nick Paton Walsh, live in Kabul, Afghanistan, this morning. Hey, Nick, good morning.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Morning. Nine dead, 12 injured at this airport in the east used as a NATO base. I understand some ISAF staff personnel were lightly injured but are now back at work.

I think the concern is seeing the attacks continue in the warmer summer months ahead for the Taliban will keep saying they're avenging this mistaken burning of a Koran by American soldiers, trying to harness public opinion, public fury on their side. The poisoning today, if that's what it was, concerns about that, too, of course, because it appears that an Afghan worker in a dining facility at a base to the east of where I'm standing near the Pakistani border, in fact, noticed something was wrong, told his bosses about it, and then they launched an investigation trying to work out how that happened.

But somehow there was bleach, chlorine bleach in coffee and fruit. The soldiers are all fine and eating prepared rations they have that. There erodes that feeling of trust. The people's food, is that safe? The people that they work with, can they be trusted? All of these things are vital. They must be playing really hard now on the psychology of American soldiers in Afghanistan. They're in the closing year, maybe even months for some of them in this decade long war and the trust of the people they're handing the country over to is something they're really having to assess really heavily right now, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nick Paton Walsh for us this morning, thank you, appreciate it.

We're going to bring in now the retired colonel David Lamm, former chief of staff of the combined forces command in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us. When you see the protests happening in the cities throughout the weekend, and the numbers, frankly, have grown, are you surprised at how this has spiraled, maybe out of control at this point?

COL. DAVID LAMM, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF OF COMBINED FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: No, I'm not. Quite frankly, the Taliban will use this unfortunate incident. We have to keep in mind from a strategic prospective, what the Taliban wants here is to keep inciting this violence. Working it straight into in May the Chicago conference in which they would hope to either have the coalition or parts of the coalition pull out of Afghanistan early or even have the United States talk about departing Afghanistan a little early.

O'BRIEN: When you say strategic, it sounds like you are saying really ultimately it's not about the Koran, it's about something else and leveraging off of this incident which nobody seems to think was intentional to make bigger waves, is that right?

LAMM: That's precisely right. If you remember in 2005, in April, there was a similar allegation that Korans were defaced at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That incident lasted about three weeks until the story was retracted. But the main difference is if you look at the two incidents, in 2005 there were riots in Pakistan, Indonesia, Palestine. And if you look at this incident here, it's solely confined to Afghanistan itself. So --

O'BRIEN: What does that tell you?

LAMM: Well, it tells you that the rest of the Muslim world looks at this as an accident, as it was, a regrettable accident. But it also tells you that the Taliban, although it may think it's an accident, that is not what they're going to tell the Afghan people. And they are going to be in the business of winning the hearts and minds of Afghan people, using this incident strategically to gain some leverage as major conferences are due up here in Chicago in May. WILL CAIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Hey, Colonel, this is Will Cain. It's hard not to look at these protests and be kind of disheartened about our effort there over a decade now to win over the public. So my natural conclusion is, gosh, this is validation forgetting out of here. But it sounds like what you're saying here this is less a reflection of public sentiment and more a reflection of the Taliban's incitement. Is that fair?

LAMM: I don't think so. I think that there's a good portion of the Afghan population, particularly in the south, that is very sympathetic to the Taliban. So that I think that that will pick up and they can pick up on that. These aren't just Taliban in the riots.

CAIN: Right. Right.

HILLARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Colonel, Hillary Rosen. Question -- if we are convinced now that the Taliban is continuing to be our enemy here, we originally got into Afghanistan to push back Al Qaeda. What is Al Qaeda's role in any of this? And do we still have them to fear in Afghanistan, or are we really now just fighting the Taliban?

LAMM: On the first question, I think in uncertain terms the Taliban here is the major factor. The major strategic worry for the U.S. is that Afghanistan becomes, again, an ungoverned space in which Al Qaeda and folks who would be planning attacks against the west would have a safe haven and a base. And so that -- therein lies the problem.

Now, the U.S. strategy may say basically let's keep some special forces or small operating groups to Afghanistan to combat Al Qaeda. But the fact of the matter is if the population were at large, does it want you there, is going to be very hard to keep the base there.

O'BRIEN: Before I let you go I want to ask you the impact of a couple of things that happened. The president has apologized. Certainly for the folks who are running to replace the president, they've had a very heightened rhetoric about what to do in Afghanistan. And Hamid Karzai also has called for, you know, I forget his exact phrase, basically to calm things down or look at it like an accident. Any of these things permeating those crowds?

LAMM: No. In fact, I would say Hamid Karzai, even some Americans would agree that his impact over the Afghan population is marginal. And any admission, any apology like this at this point on the ground in Afghanistan, particularly in the Pashtun south, is seen as number one, not as an apology but it is seen as, quite frankly, an admission of guilt and in any case a sign of weakness.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for talking with us this morning. We certainly appreciate your time and insight on this, sir.

We have other stories making headlines this morning. Kate Bolduan has those. Hey Kate, good morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey Soledad, good morning to you. Good morning, everybody.

Syria's government says the result of a referendum on changes to its constitution will be available today. Meanwhile, opposition activists say government forces killed four people this morning in government attacks against -- in the city of Homs. That's on top of 55 civilians killed yesterday. This as we're learning more about the final moments of Marie Colvin's life. The "London Sunday Times" reports the veteran correspondent died last week in a makeshift press center as she tried to get her shoes to escape a shelling attack. Colvin followed the local custom of removing her shoes upon entering a building.

Also Pakistan has finished demolition of the home in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces. Only part of the wall surrounding the compound remains and no one is being allowed inside. Pakistani officials have not publicly explained why they decided to bulldoze the house.

In "Minding Your Business" this morning, gas prices rising another penny in the last 24 hours. AAA announcing this morning the new national average for a gallon of gas is $3.70. Gas prices have been rising every day for three weeks. Why, you ask. Because tension with Iran at least in part has pushed oil prices up to $110 a barrel and that in turn has pushed gas prices higher.

And on the eve of the primaries, the very important primaries, Michigan and Arizona, Mitt Romney appears to be rebounding and rick Santorum may be slipping. A new national Gallup poll of registered Republicans has Romney two points ahead of Santorum, which is within the margin of error. This comes as Romney picked up a key endorsement yesterday from Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

And Rick Santorum is laying out his economic reform package in a "Wall Street Journal" editorial just this morning. He's bashing the president for leaving one in six Americans in poverty and criticizing Mitt Romney for engaging in what he calls Obama-style class warfare. Among Santorum's proposals, a pro-growth, pro-family tax policy that triples the deduction for children and eliminates the marriage tax penalty, restoring America's competitiveness by cutting the corporate tax rate in half no 17.5 percent, and unleashing America's energy by approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

The black-and-white silent film "The Artist" was the big winner last night at the Oscars if you missed it, winning five awards, including best picture. Martin Scorsese's 3D "Hugo" also won five awards. Meryl Streep was named best actress for her performance in "The Iron Lady," her third Academy Award. And we'll look at the winners and losers and a couple of surprises coming up. This always reminds me, Soledad, I have a movies I need to be seeing.

O'BRIEN: I know. You're more behind than you thought you were on Saturday. There are 10 new movies to go see. That is so true, Kate. Thanks, appreciate it.

Did you see this? A post-game press conference has now gone viral. Basketball coach Pat Knight, the son of Bobby Knight, who is infamous for his really, really, really bad temper. So after a loss on Wednesday night goes on a rant about his senior players at Lamar University in Texas where he is the coach. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT KNIGHT, LAMAR COACH: I'm unhappy with these seniors. That's what I'm unhappy with. It has nothing to do with Xs and Os. We have the worst group of seniors right now that I've ever been associated with. We've had problems with these guys off the court, on the court, classroom, drugs. When I played, you act like the way some of these guys did, you got shoved in a locker with a forearm up against your neck.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I wonder if he was referring to his dad on that one? You know what's interesting though, you listen to his full rant, I can't decide if I love that or hate that, because there is some part of it that's like, guys, come on, you know, we --

ROSEN: Isn't that something you say to them, not the world at large?

O'BRIEN: You know, I think he's mad. He's telling everybody. You're right, I'm sure he said worst to them. That would probably be unprintable.

ROSEN: Publicly accusing your players of doing drugs, though, which are actually illegal, fairly stupid. This feels to me like this is the classic coach's dilemma, which is they can't play the game. They have to depend on players to do that. This is all about him. This isn't about the players. This is about whether he is going to follow in his father's footstep, deep psychological thing, he's going to win or not. I just wrote that off to a knight temper.

O'BRIEN: I think at some point someone gets to say, guys, you're to the doing what you're supposed to be doing.

CAIN: It appeals to all of us at some level because we get this sense in our society, not just athletes, but everybody is over- coddled. We need a little bit of accountability.

O'BRIEN: Sometimes my own children are over-coddled and you want to be like. Do you know how the real world works, family?

CAIN: If it takes a knight, the knight family to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: I have to say, also, as to what you said, Hillary, if what he is seen as doing is that bad, why are they still on the team? There's more than a press conference called for if it's that bad.

O'BRIEN: Odd. I don't know what he was referring specifically in that but I thought a lot of that rant was, you know -- but his father was famous for like choking, throwing chairs. ROSEN: And winning.

O'BRIEN: And winning.

CAIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: And never having any issues with the NCAA in terms of like outside of his own personal violence.

CAIN: Not that we know about.

O'BRIEN: And high graduation rate for his players. All those things -- complicated.

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, it has been 85 years since the last silent movie won at the Oscars. "The Artist," though, won best picture last night. One of the biggest highlights came before the show. Some people say it was low light. Ryan Seacrest would say it's a low light. We've got some of that and the rest of the winners and losers straight ahead.

In our "Get Real" this morning, a proud member of the one percent tips one percent on a $133 bill. I bet we're going to figure out who this guy is. That story is ahead on STARTING POINT. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right. You know, you can't hate Chaka Chan and Rufus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never on Monday morning.

O'BRIEN: There's so many great songs on --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's (INAUDIBLE) pick this morning. Nice job.

Let's talk Oscars, 84th Annual Oscar ceremony. Billy Crystal was back hosting for the ninth time. He had to step in when it looked -- who dropped out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eddie Murphy.

O'BRIEN: Eddie Murphy of course dropped out so Billy Crystal stepped in. I thought he did a pretty good job. Here's what he sounded like (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT KING, PLAYED BY GEORGE CLOONEY: Please wake up. I'm ready for you to come home where you belong.

BILLY CRYSTAL, HOST, 84TH ACADEMY AWARDS: Justin Bieber.

JUSTIN BEIBER, SINGER/ACTOR: Yes, man, what's up? CRYSTAL: What are you doing here?

BEIBER: I'm here to get you the 18-24 demographic.

CRYSTAL: Great, great, thanks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's so cute. That was a cute opening.

Jessica Shaw is a senior writer for "Entertainment Weekly" here to tell us how it all went. Because you know we really didn't stay up to see the whole thing last night.

So I thought that that was very cute. And I thought Billy Crystal did a really solid job.

JESSICA SHAW, SENIOR WRITER, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": That's because you were asleep. No, that's mean. I take that back.

O'BRIEN: We haven't seen each other for like seven years and she starts -- open up the gate mean.

SHAW: No, that's not true.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would stay awake for Eddie Murphy.

O'BRIEN: Did you think that he was --

SHAW: I think he was solid. I think the show was -- it was fine. It was solid "B" show. It was -- there was nothing amazing or nothing horrible.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's because of the movies? I mean the movies were like --

SHAW: Yes, the movies were bad. You know, certainly a year like, you know, when "Titanic," that was a great year for Oscars. When you have movies that people feel passionately about.

You know, not that many people even saw "The Artist," the show -- the movie that took home Picture, Director, Actor.

O'BRIEN: Right. I actually thought it was going to be "The Help." I really was rooting for Viola Davis. And since this is my show, I can say that I love you. I wish you won.

SHAW: Yes. And I think I have to say Meryl Streep looked shocked when she won. And you almost -- she went over to Viola Davis and you almost thought that she was apologizing. But I thought --

O'BRIEN: Here's what she said in her speech. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN FIRTH, ACTOR: And the Oscar goes to Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady."

MERYL STREEP, BEST ACTRESS, "THE IRON LADY": When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, oh, no. Oh, come on, why, her, again, you know? But whatever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I thought she kind of captured how the night -- yes.

SHAW: Absolutely. And I think it was the best speech of the night. So I think even Viola Davis probably should have won, people think that she -- you know, I think people thought she was going to win. She didn't unfortunately but Meryl saved it and I thought she was terrific.

O'BRIEN: OK. Octavia Spencer, she did win for Best Supporting Actress -- Actor, I guess they say.

SHAW: Actress.

O'BRIEN: Here you go. Let's take a listen to her speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OCTAVIA SPENCER, BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, "THE HELP": Thank you Academy for putting me with the hottest guy in the room. Thank you, Steven Spielberg for changing my life. Thank you, Stacey for changing my life. Please wrap up. I'm wrapping up. I'm sorry, I'm freaking out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I love when they give you some insight into what's really happening like behind the scenes because you know somebody is giving her the hard wrap.

SHAW: Yes, yes.

O'BRIEN: And she's not taking it.

SHAW: There was a famous Julia Roberts night. I may have messed it up, but she said something like, "Stop and stick, man," because the conductor was starting to go when she won her Oscars.

O'BRIEN: Oh, let's talk about Sacha Baron Cohen.

SHAW: He has a movie "The Dictator" coming out in May. And so on the red carpet he was carrying an urn-full of Kim Jong-Il's ashes, allegedly, and though we totally believe that that's true. And he poured them on Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet. I think it was not planned. I mean, I think Ryan Seacrest amazingly unflappable but looked a little him pissed off.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Would he be seen later? I mean, did he get a new tux? I was wondering. Do you have a guy standing by with your back- up tux? SHAW: New tux, I know.

O'BRIEN: He did. He got a new tux.

O'BRIEN: See. So maybe he knew.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ryan knows.

O'BRIEN: But who keeps the second --

SHAW: Armani, bring over the new tux.

O'BRIEN: Who keeps a second tux? I don't know about that.

All right. Well, we should mention that you have the "Entertainment Weekly" cover, yes?

SHAW: Not with me in my -- I have it at all times.

O'BRIEN: We have you as in we.

SHAW: Yes.

O'BRIEN: All talking about Oscars.

SHAW: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: It's nice to see you even though you came out of the gate like insulting me.

CAIN: Insulting the Oscar show.

SHAW: Exactly. Thank you.

CAIN: That's right.

SHAW: Thank you.

CAIN: You were telling the truth, by the way.

SHAW: Thank you.

CAIN: A little bit of "B," be honest. Maybe "C".

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: It's not pretty good in this time. When usually relic, oh, my god, what a disaster.

SHAW: I know. But didn't we all hope for the "A."

O'BRIEN: That's true.

SHAW: We all hope for the "A" every year.

O'BRIEN: Working the show with the spin. But she's like, look, it wasn't a "D." That's all good.

Well, thank you, Jessica. Nice to see you. A pleasure.

SHAW: You, too.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, you've heard this story about this investment banker? So bankers, like, right now it's not that great a time to be a banker image-wise and this story is not going to help. One percent tip on a --

CAIN: $133 bill.

O'BRIEN: Can you believe that? That $133 bill. And then one of his employees takes a picture, of course, and posts it. We're going talk about that story up next.

Also, Facebook, reading texts you send when you're using the mobile app? Interesting. You might want to start reading your terms and conditions, the thing you scroll through and accepts without reading. You might want to go back and read that. We're going to talk about all that and much more straight ahead.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's Michelle's contribution this morning, The Smiths, "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby," and that kind of works with our story this morning on "Get Real." It's a nice little segue. I appreciate that.

Bad PR for the one percent to talk about this morning. An investment banker ate at a True Food Kitchen -- that's the name of the restaurant -- in Newport Beach, California, and here's an image of the receipt. The total came to $133.54 on the bill, and he tipped his server, Breanna, $1.33.

GOLDBERG: It's actually not even one percent.

O'BRIEN: I know. Like, bad math. What kind of banker -- are you kidding? Like work out the one percent.

They -- this picture was posted on a blog called "Future Ex- Banker," which apparently the -- a guy who works for that investment banker who only tipped one percent was running that blog. It's been taken down. I guess the guy doesn't want to get fired.

The writer says he went to lunch with his boss, snapped the picture. He says his boss notoriously tips one percent and then leaves a little tip of his own, like on this receipt, where he tells Breanna, "Get a real job." What a nice guy. What a great guy.

In addition to it not really being one percent, because of course that would -- you know, he's off, the owner of the restaurant says that they're going to try to track this guy down. They're going to try to make sure that Breanna actually gets tipped in some appropriate fashion, and he's been asked to ban that person from the restaurant. He says I'd like to talk to him first.

CAIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I'd like to know who it is. Really.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: And we're going to find out.

MCLEAN: -- we do, the whole world is going to know.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

MCLEAN: We're going to make his life miserable.

O'BRIEN: No, I --

CAIN: Track him down and try to adjust the tip? How does that work?

O'BRIEN: Well, first of all, he says --

CAIN: Excuse me, sir, you owe a little more on the tip?

O'BRIEN: No, no, no, no. He says --

GOLDBERG: I think they're going to reimburse her.

O'BRIEN: Wait, they will tip her what they think is fair, since she was stiffed.

MCLEAN: He needs an attitude adjustment as opposed to -- actually, I think less problematic than the money was the snide comment that somehow servers are not doing a real job, and --

CAIN: We all know that one percent's not like a group, right, that you get a card or anything, you enter it and therefore you're representative of some --

GOLDBERG: But some of these people really are --

MCLEAN: He self identified.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: -- who the anarchists in Zucotti Park think they are.

O'BRIEN: Well, this particular guy certainly is.

MCLEAN: He self identified.

O'BRIEN: He did.

MCLEAN: It wasn't a new accusation that he's the one percent --

CAIN: He I'm the one percent -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. He said --

MCLEAN: Yes. That's why he left the one percent.

O'BRIEN: That's why he tips one percent. He just --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: -- remember there was also the people spraying champagne at the protesters? I mean, he might not be representative of the one percent, but he's certainly not --

CAIN: (INAUDIBLE). --

GOLDBERG: But he's certainly not alone, either. He's a jerk.

O'BRIEN: I just vote for him being a jerk.

CAIN: Yes. He's a jerk.

O'BRIEN: But I'm dying to know who he is.

CAIN: That's an individual characterization --

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is.

CAIN: -- and the appropriate one we should be making.

MCLEAN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

CAIN: An individual characterization.

O'BRIEN: OK, Will Cain says this is a bad --

CAIN: It's Will Cain, the voice of sanity sometimes in a sea of outrage (ph).

MCLEAN: I think he wanted -- I think actually he wanted to speak for the one percent.

O'BRIEN: OK, remember how Octavia said like, "I've got to wrap?" Me, too.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney goes to Daytona and kind of show that, you know, this is a sport that he likes, too. But the comment that he made about his fleet of cars is making him look, once again, like a rich guy, which he is. We're going to talk about that gaff today.

And Republicans are capitalizing on rising gas prices. The president says that there might not be much he can do to get them down. Now Democrats are pushing him as well.

Plus, a Muslim man who is accused of attacking what was a costume, a zombie Muhammad costume, on Halloween. Well, the judge tosses the case. He says you don't have the right to offend under the first amendment. Huh? Tell me you do. Anyway, we'll talk about that case as well.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We got some headlines we got to get to this morning. Let's gets right to Kate Bolduan. Good morning.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again, Soledad. Good morning again, everyone.

A commuter train flips off the track killing three railroad workers and injuring 45 passengers in Canada. Let's look at the video there. The train was traveling from Niagara Falls and derailed just west of Toronto yesterday. Officials are now investigating what caused that wreck.

And two men have been arrested for plotting to assassinate Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin state TV is reporting. The men were reportedly planning a suicide bombing. State TV says they were turned in to police last month. Meantime, 11,000 protesters rallied against Prime Minister Putin in Moscow Sunday.

Beloved human rights and peace icon Nelson Mandela is now home after a weekend surgery. Family members tell CNN 93-year-old Mandela was admitted to the hospital for hernia treatment. They say the former South African president is in comfortable and satisfactory condition. We wish him well and a speedy recovery of course.

Sources reveal the Gulf oil spill trial has been delayed as BP and the plaintiffs are working to reach a settlement. The trial was scheduled to begin tomorrow, but sources tell CNN it is now scheduled to start next Monday.

GOP candidate Rick Santorum reportedly granted secret service protection. A source tells CNN Santorum is set to receive security sometime this week. Right now, Mitt Romney is the only GOP candidate with a secret service details.

Newt Gingrich also is reportedly seeking protection. A source from his campaign says he has submitted the appropriate paperwork. Gingrich appears tonight on CNN's "PIERS MORGAN" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. You will not want to miss that.

Facebook reportedly spying on its users personal text massages according to the London newspaper, "The Sunday Times." The "Times" investigation reveals Facebook has admitted to reading the text messages of users who download their app to their smart phones. Facebook says it accessed these messages as part of a trial to launch its own messaging system.

Facebook is not the only one. The report says Yahoo! Messenger, Flicker and others access smart phone users' personal data. Let's get a quick check of the weather with meteorologist, Rob Marciano. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Kate. We start you off in an area of the country that desperately needs the rain and it's getting it. The past two days, but they actually don't want it. It's North Florida. The rain continues to come down.

Daytona 500 postponed because of rain for the first time in over 50 years. And lo and behold, if you went 50 miles to the south of Daytona, you'd be dry and again today, we're looking at rainfall although, there appears to be some drying behind this, but that likely not to come until late this afternoon.

It's trying to get a green flag going at noon. I'm doubtful that's going to happen maybe 3:00 or later. That's certainly possible. Dry across the northeast today. Watching a couple of strong storms parallel into West Coast, one of which will get through the four corners and the Rockies here in the next couple of days.

Threat for the severe weather tomorrow. Rain across Chicago. Back side of this, we'll see significant snow and wind. A matter of fact, blizzard watches have been posted for parts of the Dakotas and western parts of Minnesota.

Ahead of the system, the eastern third of the country is on the mild side. Once again, 55 degrees expected for the high temperature in New York City, 59 degrees, mostly dry in Atlanta and again, some rain across parts of North Florida. Kate, back out to you.

BOLDUAN: Daytona fans crossing their fingers. Probably saying a little bit of prayer right now, you got to get it done. Thanks, Rob. Let's go back to Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Kate, thank you.

It might seem that every single time you turn your back gas prices inch up. It might seem that way because, yes, that is affecting exactly what's happening.

This morning AAA is reporting that the national average is now $3.70 a gallon. That's up a penny from yesterday and up 13 cents from just a week ago. Price spike is getting political, of course.

Republicans are blaming President Obama and over the weekend, the president said not much he can do at the moment. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know there are no quick fixes to this problem and you know we can't drill our way to lower gas prices. If we're going to take control of our energy future and avoid these gas spikes down the line, then we need a sustained, all of the above strategy that develops every available source of American energy, oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels and more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Simon Constable is a columnist at "The Wall Street Journal," he's joining our panel this morning. It's nice to have you. You heard the president basically saying nothing I can do about it and listed sort of all the things that are part of his political agenda as well. Is that true or not true that there's nothing the president could do at this point about these prices?

SIMON CONSTABLE, COLUMNIST, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": It is true in the short term. It's not the thing you say in an election year though. I think it's a really, really bad move to say, people, I am the president and I'm completely impotent on this matter. I can't help you. I think the American people want something. They want someone who can do something.

O'BRIEN: Well, the Democrats themselves, specifically three House Democrats, Congressman Marky, Congressman Welsh and Congressman Doloro, have all sent a letter basically saying, you know, open up the strategic petroleum reserves.

CONSTABLE: There is no shortage of oil that's issue. There's only a price issue here. We have prices high because there is a low- level war or warring going on between Iran and Israel, bumping off each other's operatives all around the world.

It's making speculators and people who need oil scared. That's what's happening. If I was a speculator I would be doing it, too. What I think needs to happen is Hillary Clinton needs to go bang some heads together and she does this really well and make the two countries make peace.

O'BRIEN: And that's something that --

CONSTABLE: Yes. That works.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, CONTRIBUTOR, "NEWSWEEK" AND "THE DAILY BEAST": But basically what you're doing here is your criticizing the president for kind of levelling with the American people and not kind of demagoguing and making false promises, which seems to me is a plus.

And something that we should celebrate the president for and try to explain, if you are saying that it is indeed true, we should explain to people that that is indeed true and the other thing that's --

CONSTABLE: It just doesn't run very well in an election year when other people aren't going to be as level.

GOLDBERG: Well, I guess it doesn't rhyme well in part because analysts who kind of are constructing this narrative say that it doesn't run well.

O'BRIEN: Did you say meta narrative on my show? GOLDBERG: I'm sorry, but -- and the other thing that I think is so rich here is that you basically have Republicans who, on the one hand are, you know, itching for a strike on Iran who want to ratchet up hostilities and at the same time are using the fact that these hostilities are racheting up and that's what's raising gas prices.

O'BRIEN: But at the end of the day, it comes down to what I'm paying and guess what, it's 14 cents more.

GOLDBERG: People are suffering so if he can do something in the short term, he should. But there is no obviously like you said and everybody knows --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the president -- it didn't say he's impotent on energy and that's I think the key issue.

CONSTABLE: That was not a strong speech. That was not a sort of I'm going to fix everything speech.

O'BRIEN: When people talk about $2.50 a gallon of gas is that realistic at all?

CONSTABLE: It's not realistic in the short term at all, no. I mean, not with -- and I just got -- on the east coast here, remember where I am, we benchmark our gasoline prices off Brent crude. And Brent crude, I just looked $126 a barrel. That's a lot. You will not be getting $2.50 on east coast gasoline any time soon.

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The only way to lower gas prices is to change the equation of supply and demand. And that's what the president is talking about. We need alternatives to gasoline and until people really deal with that substantively.

O'BRIEN: That's not going to change what I pay tomorrow at the pump.

ROSEN: It will not.

O'BRIEN: It's not going to change --

ROSEN: But that's exactly what it needs to be.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Simon is exactly right. The only way to change gas prices in the short term is to say we are not going to war with Iran under any circumstances and that's not going to happen either.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to stop everybody there. Simon, I thank you very much.

CONSTABLE: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, free speech case, man who's allegedly attacked by a guy who is Muslim because he's wearing a zombie Mohammed Halloween costume. The judge in that case says you don't have the right to be insulted. Kind of weird. We'll talk about that.

Also, Mitt Romney trying to connect with blue collar workers. Talking about all the Cadillacs he owns or is it a major fail? We'll discuss that as well. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That's Will Cain's play list "Dire Straits". Mitt Romney, I feel like we've done this segment several times over the last many, many months, again being questioned about his ability to connect with voters, came after his comments that he made in Detroit on Friday. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love this country. I should love this state. This feels good, being back in Michigan. You know the trees are the right height.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: The streets are just right. I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit-made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHER)

O'BRIEN: Really?

(CROSSTALK)

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTION: The man's got money.

O'BRIEN: I get it. I get it.

CAIN: Probably, several Cadillacs

O'BRIEN: But it's not -- and Chris Christie basically said that.

CAIN: Right. Right.

O'BRIEN: Big breaking news that the guy is rich. We get it. I don't think that that is the issue. It's more like why, when you're giving -- trying to connect with your potential voters, why would you bring that up? It's not --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Everyone gets it. He's rich. I get it.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Let's put one more thing on the table. Over the weekend in NASCAR, he said, well, I don't really follow NASCAR but I'm friends with a couple of team owners. O'BRIEN: We haven't had that. Let's play that first.

CAIN: I'm -- OK. All right. OK.

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry. We'll do it. I don't think we have the audio.

MICHELLE GOLDBERG, WRITER, NEWSWEEK/THE DAILY BEAST & AUTHOR: One of the things that I think is interesting about Romney is he makes these mistakes only when it comes to money.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: Otherwise, he's very disciplined. I think part of it is because he really does believe that his wealth -- the one genuine thing about him is his sense of entitlement and his sense of pride in his own wealth.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I think that's -- I think that's actually unduly, unfair.

GOLDBERG: How?

O'BRIEN: I don't think get the sense that he feels entitled.

CAIN: The word "entitlement" you chose so precisely, where did you pull that from?

GOLDBERG: When he says that -- he's constantly saying, well, if anybody -- I've been very successful. I've been very successful.

O'BRIEN: He has.

GOLDBERG: He has, but he's not humble. He sees that as giving him a special political --

CAIN: He didn't luck into it.

GOLDBERG: Well, he certainly lucked into STARTING POINT. He's the son of a governor and gets legacy admission into Harvard. He, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: He's worked hard. I'm not disputing that. I also think that he believes that his wealth gives him special political insight. And he does evince, I think, an amount of contempt for people who are not rich.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I have to say I would disagree with you. I don't see in his comments contempt --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Hold on. I don't see in his comments contempt. I'm always though very fascinated -- and Will and I have had very many conversations. I think you're right. His stumbles are always about money.

CAIN: Here's why. Here's the thing. It may be amazing to a group of people who go on TV, and in an industry where this might be common, but if you were forced to always put yourself out in public and pretend like you're something that you're not, you might be stumbling. So what I'm telling is he is being who he is. He is a wealthy man who I think has earned his wealth. He's not entitled to it in some way or projecting he's entitled to it. Therefore, if we're going to judge him like he should be pretending his not wealthy, he's going to fail.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: Be yourself, Mitt.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: He's being real. That's who he is.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: You find that offensive and I do not.

GOLDBERG: I don't find it offensive.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: He has a few Cadillacs, big deal.

ROSEN: Will, the issue, actually, I don't think he acts entitled. I think he acts out of touch. I think that's different. Because the issue that he -- is that he doesn't seem when he talks to understand and communicate to somebody that they come from a different perspective. That's --

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Wait, wait, wait.

CAIN: -- why did President Obama, for being who he was and not pretending who he was. Here we are five minutes later --

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDBERG: I'm saying this is who he is.

ROSEN: I think we all agree, this is who he is.

(CROSSTALK)

CAIN: A wealthy man. O'BRIEN: I would argue --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- and I'll leave it here. I would argue if you want to win the presidency, you might want to figure out how to articulate a connection to other people.

CAIN: I would say be real and genuine.

O'BRIEN: That may not articulate a connection to the people who have to vote for you.

ROSEN: Sounds insensitive.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning -- we're going to stop.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk -- unless we've got another fight in here -- free speech case. A case of a man allegedly attacked by a gentleman who is Muslim because the original victim was dressed as a zombie Mohammed. The man who was a Muslim said he was offended and attacked him. The judge weighs in on the case against the victim.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: We'll talk about that straight ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. There's been a court ruling in the state of Pennsylvania that has sparked some controversy. It started back in October during a Halloween parade. A man who was dressed in a zombie Mohammed costume says he was attacked by a Muslim man who saw him walk by. He filmed the attack on his cell phone. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am Mohammed the prophet.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, hey, no -- stop, you're on film. Police, hey!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's attacking me. Come here, cop

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, that was some of the most unclear cell phone videotape I have ever seen --

(LAUGHTER)

-- camera action I've ever seen in my whole life. But basically, the victim in this case, the man who was marching in the Halloween parade, said that the guy who was watching the parade, who was Muslim, tried to rip his sign off that said that he was Mohammed to make his costume make sense. All went to court. The judge has dismissed the case.

Now, the judge himself is facing criticism now for what he said to the man who was the alleged victim. The alleged victim recorded it in the courtroom, and then kind of edited it together and released it online. And here's how it goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK MARTIN, JUDGE, PENNSYLVANIA: I think our forefathers intended that we use the First Amendment so that we can speak with our mind, not to piss off other people and cultures, which is what you did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: We tried to reach the judge -- his name is Mark Martin -- for comment. And we haven't been successful, though. He did release a statement online where he said he is not a Muslim. Part of the tape indicated that he was Muslim. Very confusing case.

Let's get right to Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University.

It's nice to see you, Jonathan.

Some of this is so confusing to me. I know you have tremendous issue with this case. What do you think is the -- for you personally, the most offensive thing in this case?

JONATHAN TURLEY, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, the most offensive thing is Judge Martin's view of the First Amendment, whether or not he is a Muslim or a Lutheran doesn't really matter. What really matters is that you have a judge who tells this man that you're, quote, "outside the bounds of the First Amendment."

O'BRIEN: Wearing the Halloween costume?

TURLEY: That's right. And that's perfectly bizarre. The First Amendment is not there to protect popular speech. You don't need an amendment to protect popular speech. It's there to protect people like Thomas Payne, people that frankly tick off others. And so he got it in the reverse. And that is a serious issue for him to look at. And I think that the tongue lashing he gave was -- was --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: To the victim in this case, the guy who was marching in the parade and who brought the suit in the first case. The judge actually sort of lit into him and called him a doofus at one point.

TURLEY: Yes. And what's really troubling is he makes a reference to Sharia Law. I don't think he's saying we should apply Sharia Law, but he says, in other countries, you could be put to death for this. Well, yes, and we're not one of those countries. Those countries apply a medieval form of law, and those are the antithesis of what we are supposed to be doing here.

One of the concerns of Civil Libertarians is that there a trend in the west towards criminalizing what's called blasphemy or anti- religious speech. So we're all a bit sensitive when we see a U.S. judge making these types of statements.

O'BRIEN: I thought there was -- a couple of things that were interesting. The gentleman who was Muslim was watching the parade with his kids and he said one of the reasons that he had to go in and attack -- because he didn't deny attacking him -- attacking the guy who was in the parade, was because he is with his kids, and he wanted to show them that people have to be treated right. So that, in it of itself, was kind of crazy. But I was surprised that this was not an assault case, that it was a harassment case. Because, at least from the description, it sounded like he then went and tried to rip the sign off of him and grab the beard off of the costume.

TURLEY: Soledad, I thought it looked like assault as well. And that makes the dismissal of the harassment charge even more curious. Now it's true -- in Judge Martin's favor, it is true that there was incomplete testimony, that there was a difference of opinion. But the officer here issued reports supporting the harassment charge. You have a videotape. And the judge said, I don't doubt this incident occurred. So putting aside whether he felt there was sufficient evidence, I would have thought that he would have given a lecture to the defendant, no matter what your cultural impulse or your beliefs, people are allowed to say things that disturb you in this country, and you're not allowed to grab hold of them.

O'BRIEN: He gave that exact lecture, though, to the victim, which was sort of odd.

TURLEY: Right.

O'BRIEN: So what are the long-range implications of this? Does this spell trouble for the judge now that it's recorded? It was edited and pieced together by the person who posted it online, the victim has said. What happens next, do you think?

TURLEY: Well, the judge supposedly threatened him with contempt for releasing that tape, even though it seems to me that public trials are guaranteed in the Constitution with limited exceptions, and this is why we are allowed to see these problematic statements. But it goes to a sort of deeper question. There is a trend against free speech in the West. Some of our closest allies, England, France, and Civil Libertarians are watching it closely. It primarily deals with anti-religious speech. And this judge is certainly capturing part of that trend. And we have to be very careful about these types of statements.

O'BRIEN: Jonathan Turley, nice to see you as always. Thanks for clarifying.

TURLEY: Thanks.

O'BRIEN: Because I was confused when I read that story this morning.

(LAUGHTER)

Appreciate it.

TURLEY: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will join us. Really, ultimately, their business is about selling coffee. But his idea is to really improve the community with that coffee. We'll talk about that.

And the Taliban is claiming a deadly bombing and an attempted poisoning. They say is revenge for the mistake of burning the Muslim holy book. We're going to talk about that straight ahead as well.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)