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American Soldier Goes on Killing Spree in Afghanistan; Whitney Houston's Daughter Gives Interview to Oprah; T-shirts for Homeless Criticized; New Israeli Airstrikes In Gaza; Dagan: Attack Would Be "Stupidest Thing Ever"; Comic Attacks Texas Abortion Law; Santorum's War On Teleprompters; Tiger Woods Withdraws; Happy 100th Girl Scouts!; Romney Leads Delegate Tally; Emotional Fight For The Nomination; Gas Prices Hurt Obama; Congressman Supports Immigrant Facing Possible Deportation

Aired March 12, 2012 - 06:59   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Welcome, ladies. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning is this cold-blooded rampage. A U.S. soldier currently targeting women and children as they slept in an Afghan village. The Taliban today vowing revenge.

Also, Bobbi Kristina remembering her mom, Whitney Houston's last days, talking about plans to follow her mom into showbiz. She spoke to Oprah.


BOBBI KRISTINA, WHITNEY HOUSTON'S DAUGHTER: I can hear her voice, you know, in spirit talking to me, telling me, you know, keep moving, baby.


O'BRIEN: And homeless people used as Internet hot spots. Have you seen this story? It's a South By Southwest festival. The idea is the donation and you can get some speedy wi-fi. It's causing a bit of an uproar. Folks behind it, though, are standing behind it. This morning, it's our "Get Real." It is Monday, March 12th.

STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Wow! That's quite a way to start the morning. If you weren't awake, you are now. That's Ryan's playlist, Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." He's going to be joining us, Ryan, that is in just about 30 minutes, but we have his music first.

Joining us this morning on the panel, Maggie Haberman, a political reporter for "Politico," nice to have you, Maggie, nice to have you back. Marc Lamont Hill is a professor at Columbia University. Nice to have you back. And Grover Norquist, the president for Americans For Tax Reform. I don't think you've ever been on ore set -- our temporary set while they build my set. GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: No, not in New York. In D.C.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we did it together in a diner. It improves dramatically but no food.

We begin this morning with this massacre in Afghanistan apparently by an American soldier and this morning as well. The Taliban is vowing revenge. The soldier is from the joint base in Washington state. Here's how it went down. Door to door he went yesterday morning in Kandahar province opening fire, killing at least 16 people while they slept, many children. The Afghan president Hamid Karzai says the dead include nine, children, three women. And after the attacks the soldier then returned to his base and surrendered.

President Obama today offering his condolences. Karzai, however, is furious, is calling the killings intentional and, quote, "acts of terror and unforgivable." Sara Sidner is live for news Kabul, Afghanistan, this morning. Hey, good morning to you. What's the latest on this?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morn, Soledad. I just saw pretty gruesome images coming out of Panjwai district in western Afghanistan where this happened. And there were some witnesses also talking saying that there was more than one soldier on the ground. There is a dispute at this point between what villages are saying and ISAF has been saying. ISAF saying that, look, this is the work of one soldier. There was no mission going on in the area. That soldier left his base.

Now, these villagers were apartment a kilometer to two kilometers away from the base, and ISAF says this happened sometime in the early morning hours of Sunday, around 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning. But the scene there, a gruesome one. The pictures coming in to us just looked at, we're seeing blood stained walls, blood stained floor, shell casings being picked up by investigators now, and the bodies of children, women, and then that were piled into the back of pickup trucks.

The village is obviously very angry. Many of them are shown crying, weeping, unable to speak. But some of them did speak out, and the first thing they'd said is they were not, could not tolerate the American soldiers in their town anymore. That they were told by the Americans that they could move back to their villages and be safe and now this has happened. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Sara Sidner with an update for us. Thank you, Sara. Appreciate it.

Let's get right to Gary Solis. He is a former marine lawyer who spent 26 years in the Marine Corps. He's teaching now at Georgetown University. It's nice to see you. Thanks for joining us. You heard Sara's report and I know that you have prosecuted cases just like this. What do you want to know from sort of the psychological profile, what stands out to you in this story, sir? GARY SOLIS, PROFESSOR OF WAR LAW, GEORGETOWN LAW: I think we should remember first this is an event that could not be anticipated by his commanders. It's not something that could have been prevented by training. It's the criminality of a single individual. The one thing I would certainly want to know is what the state of his -- what his mental state was. Was he suffering from some defect that prevented him from appreciating the wrongfulness of his acts? In other words, was he not criminally responsibility, mentally responsible?

We have to remember that he was on his fourth overseas tour. And we've all heard about PTSD and what it can do in a combat zone over and over and over. That's not to excuse what is done and obviously that won't be any excuse to the Afghan people.

O'BRIEN: There are reports as Sara was discussing that it could have been more than one soldier. Some people felt like the amount of damage was so great it would hard to be one home, one home alone. 11 people, entire family, with the exception of one man away from home, completely wiped out. When you see the -- and hear about the extent of the destruction, does it strike you as too much for one individual to have done because that's obviously a point of debate at this point?

SOLIS: No, I don't think it is too much for one individual given the firepower and the lethality of the munitions that we have in Afghanistan. So I think this could have been done by a single individual. And since we have apprehended one individual and there have been some accounts saying that he has admitted what he did, I doubt there are two individuals. But we have seen it before. We saw it at Ft. Bragg when we had the psychiatrist go around and kill any number of people. It is possible for one individual to have done this.

O'BRIEN: This particular base has been the spot where other soldiers apparently have snapped for lack of a better word. Isn't that correct?

SOLIS: It is. We had the five individuals who were tried for what can only be termed killing just for killing and then taking body parts as well. But they were not from the same unit, they were merely based in Washington. I don't think that this indicates that there is some gang of criminals from that base. This is just unfortunate that it came from the same base, even more unfortunate that they're all Americans.

O'BRIEN: All right, 12 suicides, I believe, at this base as well, that's the most some people have reported there and certainly the year before it was nine and the year before that nine suicides. That sounds very, very high to me. Is it high? And as you point out, you know, a base where a bunch of different kinds of groups are housed, could there be a correlation in that, do you think?

SOLIS: Who knows? I think that it's unfortunate, obviously. But the high rate of suicide comports with the high operational tempo that our armed forces are undergoing in this war. We have kids going back over and over. Two months ago one of our soldiers was killed on his seventh tour in combat zone. So we have -- we have seen in our combat forces high rates of suicide, high divorce rates, spousal abuse, alcohol abuse, and so forth. This is all reflective of the heavy strain being put on our soldiers.

Again, this is no excuse for criminality and we certainly couldn't use this as an excuse for the Afghan people. But we have to remember that we have put a heavy strain on our combat troops.

O'BRIEN: So what we know about this soldier is sergeant, support staff working for the special forces who is in custody now and as you mentioned, three tours of duty, three in Iraq. And this is his fourth tour, first tour in Afghanistan, has two kids, 38-years-old, married, 11 years in the service. I believe, is this considered three now four tours considered to be an extraordinary number? Is it considered to be a typical number? That in and of itself, that profile that I just laid out for you, is there anything that's unusual in that?

SOLIS: No. It is not. That is fairly normal for individuals who have stayed in for more than their initial enlistment. What does stand out though is he is a staff NCO, staff noncommissioned officer. He is supposed to act as the governor of the behavior of subordinate troops. He is among those who is supposed to make sure that things like this don't happen, which, to me, indicates or suggests that he may have a mental problem. I mean, just going around and killing women and children unarmed, defenseless, is not the act that one usually associates with a normal mindset.

O'BRIEN: We're going to be watching what the implications of this are. Professor Solis, thank you for being with us. We appreciate your time this morning.

SOLIS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Other stories making headlines, and Carlos Diaz is back joining us.

CARLOS DIAZ, HLN CORRESPONDENT: Not to get these two confused, but there's a massacre in Syria that just happened and, of course, not by Americans, but people going into work today might confuse the two when they hear massacre by an American soldier in Afghanistan and now we have the same thing going on in Syria but it's not Americans, as I said.

It's a massacre that has rocked Syria, 45 women and children slaughtered in the city of Homs. Rebels say government troops went house to house stabbing women and children and burning their bodies. Syria's government is blaming the killings on armed terrorist groups. The tragedy fell just hours after former U.S. secretary-general Kofi Annan left Syria. Annan spent two days in talks with Syria's president Bashar al-Assad proposing an end in the violent crackdowns.

American journalist Marie Colvin will be laid to rest in her hometown today. Colvin was killed in a shelling attack in Homs, Syria, back in February. Her private funeral will be held today at a Roman Catholic Church on Long Island, New York. The GOP raised heads in the deep south today. Front-runner Mitt Romney will be campaigning in Alabama and Mississippi with comedian Jeff Foxworthy by his side. Those two states host primaries today. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum is sounding confident after conservatives helped him win in Kansas is on Saturday. He is hoping the same thing happens in Alabama and Mississippi tomorrow. Right now the latest CNN estimates have Romney with 458 delegate, Santorum with 203, Newt Gingrich has got 118, Ron Paul with 66.

Let's go to Christine Romans with a look at the business headlines.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Carlos. "Minding Your Business" this morning, gas prices up three days in a row, again. The national average for a gallon of gas is now $3.80. That's according to AAA, rising .9. Five bucks is in sight for summer as you know. At what point do you change your life significantly because of high gas prices? A new Gallop poll found the number is $5.35 a gallon is where you change your behavior.

Let's check in on the markets now. U.S. stock futures pretty much trading flat ahead of the opening bell. Now that Greece's debt problem seems to be under control for the moment the key for stocks is the U.S. recovery. The Federal Reserve meets tomorrow on that. The Fed has pledged to keep interest rates near zero for a few more years. But critics say the Fed needs to do something more to boost economic growth and the recovery is still too slow, jobs gains notwithstanding. Carlos?

DIAZ: Christine, the Mississippi pardon case is now closed. Five remaining inmates have been released after the state's Supreme Court upheld more than 200 pardons last week. Those pardons issued by outgoing governor Haley Barbour. The high court ruling it's up to the governor to decide whether the constitution's requirements were met.

And it's time to not work today. Fill out your brackets and then tear them up on Thursday night. It's March Madness. That's right. The NCAA tournament has been set. We have Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, and Michigan state earning the top seeds in the regions. Kentucky is favored to go all the away. The madness will begin Tuesday night.

O'BRIEN: You say that like a sports man, "go all the way!"


DIAZ: The Final Four is going to be in New Orleans this year. And keep in mind the tournament starts on Tuesday night, not on Thursday, Tuesday night. This is the first four now, 68 teams, not 64.

O'BRIEN: Another good reason to go to New Orleans. New Orleans is hosting all kinds of sporting events.

DIAZ: Hold on. I'm thinking that Soledad is going to pick Kentucky to win it all. O'BRIEN: Didn't you just say they're the favorites? Yes, I am.

DIAZ: I'm thinking it's going to be Kentucky against North Carolina in Soledad's bracket.

O'BRIEN: You're amazing.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT," Israel's former top spy has a warning against Iran. He calls plans to attack, quote, "the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Also, Whitney Houston's daughter is talking to Oprah, the first time we have heard from her since her mother's death. There have been reports that she was battling some of her own problems, but is it too soon for Bobbi Kristina to be talking about all? We'll talk about.

And our "Get Real," homeless people turned into hot spots at the South by Southwest festival. Is their marketing just gone too far? We'll take a look at all those questions and much more. We leave you with Marc Lamont Hill's play list, John Legend, "Each Day Gets Better." Thank you, God.


O'BRIEN: You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: A lot of hope in our musical selection. It gets better, we're waiting on a sunny day. That was Bruce Springsteen "Waiting On a Sunny Day."

We are talking about this interview that happened over the weekend, the first interview with Bobbi Kristina. The first one certainly since we've heard about her -- since, of course, Whitney Houston died a month ago. Bobbi Kristina turned 19 a week ago and she spoke only to Oprah Winfrey on the OWN network. Here's a chunk of it.


BOBBI KRISTINA HOUSTON, WHITNEY HOUSTON'S DAUGHTER: I really wanted to say that she was something that she wasn't and this and that. I saw her hurt. I heard that, you know, I saw her cry, you know. I mean, and I held her through that. You know. We held each other through that. We have so many people saying so many other things. But they don't know who she really was.


O'BRIEN: Joining me this morning is clinical psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere. Nice to see you.

JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Good morning. Good morning to your wonderful panel here. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. You know, there are so many questions they wanted asked and they weren't asked. It was a very gentle interview with a young woman who is a teenager and at the same time I thought, wow, so soon after her mother died to be doing a television interview.

GARDERE: I thought it was a little bit soon, but she needs the catharsis, as we say the psychology. What better person than perhaps Oprah who can be soothing and comforting and is a friend of the family. Of course, you would -- you would have done a great job, too.

O'BRIEN: No, no, I meant I would call Oprah if I had an issue, too. But I guess I mean it's going to be televised. It's not just Oprah and soothing and comforting, because I would love to talk to her about all kinds of issues. It's more that you know this is a television event and that part of it, I thought, it was sort of soon.

GARDERE: If you're going to come out so soon to do this, what better person than Oprah because she will support you through that and we know that she is a family friend to Bobbi Kristina, was to Whitney and their family, and so on. So I think in some ways she really held her hand through that interview. It was really kind of a softball interview, and that's OK, too.

O'BRIEN: She's a teenage girl who loved her mother.

GARDERE: Of course. Of course. She's 19 years old. Plus, we know that Bobbi Kristina, from what we've been told, she really is kind of a fragile person, allegedly may have had some substance accuse issues of her own. We don't know how much of that is true. But certainly this is a person who needed to talk about it and get her story out and do it in a friendly way.

O'BRIEN: In that little clip it almost sounded like the roles were reversed, how much she had to comfort her mom to make her understand, you know, we know who the real you is and it's not other people. She talked to build up her self-esteem in a way. I thought that was kind of surprising, the teenager kind of mom being a parent to the mom.

Well, we see that all the time. We tall that a parentified child, because obviously Whitney had her substance abuse issues. I'm not surprised at all in any way that Bobbi Kristina talked about how she was there for her mother and how she supported her through all of her issues.

O'BRIEN: There have been reports that she's thinking about changing her name, Bobbi Kristina.

GARDERE: Yes, I think it's not so much because she has issues with her dad, and obviously she has. Bobby Brown is a very interesting person, and I thought it was really great that they didn't slam him in that interview. They were very respectful. But at the same time, I think this young girl is so close to a mother, they were friends for one another, it really was a very intense one-on-one relationship, especially with the substance abuse issues. I'm not surprised at all that she wants to change her name to Houston.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Interesting story. I felt so sorry for her. She's just a teenage girl. So see her on camera it was like, oh, you're just a little girl.

GARDERE: And this is a girl who has been hospitalized twice after the death of her mother, suicidal ideations, and so on. So I hope she's not by herself. I hope she is continued to be supported by family members because that's what she really needs right now.

O'BRIEN: That's true. Thank you. Thanks for the analysis of it, Jeff.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a comic-controversy, some newspapers are yanking a Doonesbury comic strip about an abortion law.

Plus, if you look at this T-shirt, we're going to show you right here, it says, "I'm Clarence, a 4G Hot Spot." And you can text the number on this man's shirt, pay him a fee and get speedy Wi-Fi. But these shirts being worn by homeless people at South by Southwest is our "Get Real" this morning.

We leave you with Grover Norquist's playlist, Deep Purple, "Smoke on the Water." All right. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: That's a nice mellow way to start. Welcome back, everybody. This is Marc Lamont Hill's play list, The Roots, "Silent Treatment." Monday morning, I couldn't get it together. There is no blog today, couldn't do it. Busy.

Time to "Get Real" this morning. This is a question about the line of being helpful and being humiliating. We were just in Austin Texas on Friday for a South by Southwest interactive festival, and that's where we did the show from, and there were 13 men who were homeless hanging around wearing T-shirts that say this. Take a look. "My name is Clarence, a 4-G Hot Spot." And then the T-shirt gives you directions to text and give a number, give a pay pal donation to that homeless man and then all of a sudden you get high speed internet access on your phone on iPad. Marc is going like this, no, no, no. Critics, not just you, are saying a campaign is disturbing, dehumanizing, and it's offensive. The marketing company behind the plan is called BB-8, not backing down. He says this, "Homeless hot spots, the worry is these people were suddenly just hardware, is a quote, but frankly I wouldn't have done this if I didn't believe otherwise." Why do you think it's so offensive? I have my reasons. You tell me yours.

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: It's exploiting poor people. There's this idea this this country that to help poor people we can shame them, get in a position to need help from anyone, it's OK to do it.

O'BRIEN: What if I said they did this in conjunction with a homeless advocacy group called front steps and that all the money that someone donates to that particular homeless person goes to that specific person. It doesn't go to the marketing company. It doesn't go to fund anything other than that guy Clarence. Clarence's T-shirt says my name is Clarence, I am from New Orleans, I lost he home in Katrina. Most people at that festival would not interact with those people, might hand him a buck or two but for the most part would ignore him. Does that information change your mind in any way?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, POLITICAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": It interests me. It doesn't change my mind in any way. I still think there's something demoralizing about having a guy standing there in this T- shirt saying that I'm a hot spot and knowing he's homeless and probably this is the only way we can subsist for a while and sustain his life. It just doesn't change it. I understand the person behind it wouldn't do it if they didn't think it was dehumanizing.

NORQUIST: When I was a teenager doing it as a job, I did stuff like this when I was a teenager and it was called work. And you got paid, not by a contribution but you got paid by the company that wanted to hand out fliers about their new restaurant. So why didn't they just pay them?

HILL: There's a difference between that and what we see in this picture.

O'BRIEN: Would it be better if they paid him? Would it be better if they paid the guy?

NORQUIST: That would be fine, right? We're advertising something. People wear T-shirts.

O'BRIEN: I guess I meant do you think that the backlash would be less if they were paying him?

NORQUIST: No one would have noticed if it was just people doing it as job.

HILL: If you were out of New York City you see people for check cashing places or other things where they dressed in diapers or wearing crazy outfits. I think, wow, these people are being humiliated for a small amount of money just because we can. We can't be a country that does that. We just can't.

HABERMAN: I agree. I think there is something that is standout neon-sign-ish about this that is different.

O'BRIEN: Of course, the interactive festival and the backlash certainly on twitter and elsewhere in South by Southwest has been very --

NORQUIST: Advertising.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it's advertising. A new low, a new -- I don't know what you call it.

HABERMAN: And there you have to point. O'BRIEN: And there you have the point. All right, we're going to continue our conversation, of course, during our commercial breaks. If you want to join us head online. We record all the conversations that I go personally off the wall and then once I clean them up we post them to our blog at

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, primary fight in the deep south. They could talk about grits and a little bit about grit, too. The two contests that are happening tomorrow, of course, Alabama and Mississippi. Could they be game changers? How many times have we said game changing? I should get a dollar every time I say that.

Also, Rick Santorum is declaring war on teleprompters. We'll tell you why.

And could gas prices sink the president's chances? Some new numbers out and very bad news for his campaign. We're going to leave you with Carlos Diaz's playlist, Run DMC "It's Tricky." You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: Mark's going, this is not mine. This is not mine.


O'BRIEN: That is Ryan Lizza's playist, it's Beck, "E-Pro." He is going to be with us in just a few minutes to breakdown the two GOP contests that are happening tomorrow that's straight ahead.

First, though, a look at the other stories making headlines. Carlos is back with that. Good morning again.

DIAZ: Good morning, Soledad. A new Israeli air strikes targeting Palestinian militants in Gaza. Palestinian officials say three people were killed today including a teenager.

At least 21 deaths have been reported since the latest round of cross border fighting began on Friday. Israel's minister of defense, the air strike saying it's a response to barrage of rockets being fired by militants from Gaza into towns in southern Israel.

When it comes to Israel's confrontation with Iran, the former head of the Mossad, Israeli's equivalent of the CIA says they shouldn't rush to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Meir Dagan warns it could set off a regional war. On CBS' "60 Minutes" he says there's still more time for diplomacy.


LESLEY STAHL, CBS' "60 MINUTES": You have said publicly that bombing Iran now is the stupidest idea you've ever heard. That's a direct quote.

MEIR DAGAN, FORMER CHIEF OF ISRAEL'S MOSSAD: An attack on Iran before you explore all other approaches is not the right way, how to do it.


DIAZ: Dagan says a nuclear armed Iran is not an Israeli problem, it's an international problem.

When the comic strip meets the editorial page, Garry Trudeau, the creator of "Doonesbury" defending his latest comic strip, which takes on a Texas law that requires women to undergo an ultrasound before getting an abortion.

In the strip, a woman visits an abortion clinic and she's placed in a shaming room. A male legislator also calls her a slut. Some papers have pulled the comic for the strip's six-day run. And some like the "L.A. Times" had moved into the paper's op-ed section.

Well, this may cost Rick Santorum the key on-camera vote. Santorum is taking a stand on teleprompters at a campaign events in Mississippi. Santorum said he believes it should be illegal for presidential candidates to read off the teleprompter.

We can still do it. He calls teleprompters digital mouth pieces for pollsters and speech writers. Santorum's war on teleprompters is aimed at his rival Mitt Romney and President Obama.

Well, Tiger Woods came back in a speed bump yesterday. The world's number one, former number one golfer was forced withdraw from the final round of the WGC Championship in Miami yesterday after 11 holes.

He was helped off of the course at Doral on a golf cart. Tiger says his injured Achilles' tendon was the problem. It's not clear how long he might be out of action, but of course, the masters coming up in three-and-a-half weeks. We'll see if he's doing OK by then.

Here's a quick check on the travel weather with meteorologist Alexandra Steele. How are you doing?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Carlos. All right, a few speed bumps in the air perhaps especially if you're flying in and around the upper Midwest. So here's a look at the big picture for this Monday.

Severe storms possibly, maybe an isolated tornado. More hail and some very strong winds. Pacific Northwest, Seattle, Portland, rain, snow, in the higher elevations, could see one to four inches of rain and maybe one of two feet of snow.

Also some showers here in the southeast so maybe a wet go. So hot spots if you're traveling, Chicago, Indy, Detroit to the upper Midwest especially late this afternoon and tonight.

Atlanta and Portland, biggest story, Carlos, the heat, 100 record highs over the weekend. Temperatures 20 to 30 degrees above average for the next really couple of days.

DIAZ: Wow, it's the winter that never happened.

STEELE: That's right.

DIAZ: Exactly. It's unbelievable.

Finally, Alexandra, what do Barbara Walters, Condoleezza Rice, Lucille Ball, and Dakota Fanning all have in common? They were all Girl Scouts. Today is the 100 anniversary of the Girl Scouts.

The organization was founded by Juliette Gordon Low with a mission to, quote, "build girls with courage, confidence, with character and to make the world a better place.

No mention of Girl Scout cookies. No, it is -- why want to know is when did Dakota Fanning have time to be a Girl Scout? I mean, she was an actress from birth.

O'BRIEN: They have Girl Scout troops everywhere. They even have Girl Scout troops for girls whose moms are incarcerated.

DIAZ: Wow.

O'BRIEN: I mean, it really is a pretty amazing organization that does a lot to help out girls wherever they are. I'm a big fan. I was never a Girl Scout though. I made it for a day and dropped out.

DIAZ: Did you really? You dropped out the first day.

O'BRIEN: Now I'm destined to failure. Apparently, all the women were Girl Scouts but not me. I wonder you can be an old Girl Scout.

DIAZ: Never too late.

O'BRIEN: No, I think it is, actually.

DIAZ: You sell enough cookies, Soledad, you're back in good standing.

O'BRIEN: I think not. I think the whole girl name gets you kicked out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People go back to college.

O'BRIEN: You cannot reclaim the girlhood, is what I'm saying.

Let's talk politics, although I love to talk about Girl Scouts for hours. Two key southern primaries tomorrow for the GOP presidential candidates, there's Alabama and there's Mississippi.

Republican caucuses as well in American Samoa and Hawaii. Over the weekend, Rick Santorum racked up a win in Kansas. Mitt Romney took Guam. He took the Virgin Islands and he took the Mariana Islands as well.

When you count delegates it was pretty much a wash. Here's the delegate tally right now. Mitt Romney has 458 delegates. Rick Santorum has 203 delegates. Newt Gingrich has 118 delegates and Ron Paul is steady with 66 delegates.

Let's get right to Ryan Lizza and invite him to join our conversation. He's a staff writer at the "New Yorker." It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.


O'BRIEN: All right, let's look forward to what is going to happen when we go down south and also look a little bit back to Kansas and Wyoming. Rick Santorum really killed it in Kansas. It was 51 percent to 21 percent. Here is what he said after that primary.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Someone outspent 10- 1, has all the establishments behind him, has all this, quote, "wind at his back," yet he can't close the deal.


O'BRIEN: Is that -- I mean, I think a lot of people say that's true. Others would say, listen, it's all about delegate count. Which is it?

LIZZA: I don't think he has all of the establishments behind him. I think that's one of the interesting dynamics in this race is Romney has not actually been able to solidify the sort of united front of the Republican establishment.

And, specifically, religious conservatives who by any definition in the Republican establishment have to be part of that and this primary is basically the same story in state after state.

The demographics are very clear. Romney is winning, more educate educated, wealthier voters by big margins. Santorum is winning religious conservatives, Evangelicals, the most conservative voters and low income voters.

And I don't really see any reason to think that's going to change as we go through the next state. It's been pretty consistent right through.

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: So then if this continues to be a dogfight and we see the demographic shifts, sustain themselves in the exact same way.

Doesn't this de-energize Republican base by the time you get to a general election because no one will be satisfied with Romney or somehow Santorum wins, no one will be satisfied with him completely? I mean, doesn't this completely destroyed?

LIZZA: That is the big question of this race and, you know, I don't think it's settled. On the one hand you could argue that Barack Obama is the great uniter and, you know, just because a party is evenly divided does not mean it's deeply divided. And that these divisions over class and religion will just sort of melt away once Romney who is still likely to be the nominee wraps it up. On the other hand, there's some evidence from the last round of exit polling that Romney voters and Santorum voters just don't like the other guy.

Now, we don't know how serious that is. I tend to think -- I tend to be more towards the previous view, that this is -- that the party will come together. But we're starting to see some evidence that some of Santorum's voters are saying they don't want Romney and won't vote for him.

O'BRIEN: When Marc was asking his question, Grover was shaking his head, no, no. Why?

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Look, one of the reasons this has been so interesting, you started with 10 guys. Unlike Taft, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush, Goldwater, Rockefeller, there isn't some ideological divide among the 10 Republicans who were running, now four running for president.

They're all running as Reagan Republicans, which is why the electorate could sort of flip from one to the other and have this sort of serial monogyny thing going on, all like Rick Perry, all like Herman Cain and they go back and forth because they're so similar in the central issues.

None of them will raise your taxes. They all want to spend less. They want less regulation. They don't want to raise taxes and don't want to do Obama care. They are so similar that it's easy for people to jump back and forth. It's also why it's going to be easy for them to pull back together.

HILL: Grover, there are two things you're missing. One is, while they may be a same page, ideologically deep trust of Mitt Romney, they may like what he says, but there's deep trust that he actually will do what he says and he deeply believes what he says.

The other ideological divide here I think is the around the socially and cultural issues, particularly religious piece. Evangelicals are deeply skeptical of him on faith issues. Whether or not it's fair is irrelevant.

There's a deep distress there. I don't think they'll vote Obama, but they may stay home. That's what would depress the Republican base and probably cause President Obama to easily win the re-election.

O'BRIEN: I want to ask another question to Ryan before we let him go. Lindsey Graham is not endorsing, but he said this over the weekend. Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Mathematically, this thing is about over, but emotionally it's not. I think everybody believes if I could just get a one-on-one with Romney I could win this thing.

But if Romney does well Wednesday, the Mississippi or Alabama, and wins Illinois then I think it's virtually impossible for this thing to continue much beyond early May. But there's a ways to go yet. It's Romney's to lose.


O'BRIEN: What does that mean, emotionally it's not over and really what does that mean for November?

LIZZA: Well, maybe he means a lot of voters who are not voting for Romney just aren't ready to get on board. I think Lindsey Graham is basically right is what will break this race open is if Santorum or Romney or even Gingrich can win somewhere where they're just not expected, right?

So you have these two coalitions. If Romney can go down to Mississippi and Alabama and expand his coalition and do well with Evangelicals and win one of those states that makes it very difficult for the other guys to stick around.

But it's theoretically possible for Santorum, if Gingrich is out of the race, it's theoretically possible for Santorum to build a lead, not likely, but what he can do is he can prevent Romney from getting a majority.

O'BRIEN: Every single thing that Ryan has said today is, this but this and this but this. We appreciate it, Ryan. Thank you for your music today. Very good, we approve.

LIZZA: Last time you said it was to sleepy.

O'BRIEN: I know. Yes. Yes. It's fine now. You can come back any time you want.

LIZZA: I'm bringing Metallica next time.

O'BRIEN: I love it. I like Metallica.

Still ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT," gas price pressure in addition to all the other political stories and you probably felt the pinch on this. Gas prices are going to go up and it's going to translate into big problems for President Obama. We'll discuss that, straight ahead.

Plus, the congressman who is heading to the side of a father of two who is facing deportation. We're going to talk to Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who's a leader on U.S. Immigration Policy. He's going to join us straight ahead.

Getting Ryan Lizza one more playlist number before he departs. It's Spoon, "I Turn My Camera On."



O'BRIEN: Grover Norquist, you're so cool.


Booker T and the M.G.s, "Green Onions."


GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: It's our poll music at Americans for Tax Reform.

O'BRIEN: I like it.


O'BRIEN: There's probably great discussions behind what's was going to be the hold music for the phone calls at Americans for Tax Reform. Everybody has to boogie down with that.

Let's talk about gas prices this morning. Looks like they could be hurting President Obama's re-election. His disapproval rating is on record high, especially on economic issues. That's despite the recent job growth of which showed a gain of 227,000 jobs last month. "Washington Post"/ABC poll reveals that 50 percent of Americans disprove of the way the president is doing his job over all. 59 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy. 65 percent disapprove of the handling of the rising gas price issue. New national average for a gallon of gas is $3.80 a gallon.

So it's interesting, at a time when the economy appears to be incrementally doing better, you've got those job numbers last week, gas prices could kill him in the White House in re-election chances.

NORQUIST: Employment is not doing well in terms of previous -- coming out of previous recessions, previous recoveries. But the gas prices hurt because he and Chu and his other guys who do energy, have stated this is their goal, they wanted higher gas prices and higher energy prices to force people to change their behavior. So closing down pipelines, not letting drilling offshore, the president has done a series of things which give you higher gas prices. He can't turn around and go, I was trying to avoid this. He's been doing things to do this.

O'BRIEN: But closing down the pipeline has not literally translated into the fact that I paid $3.87 at the pump.

NORQUIST: It is a signal as to where you're going. And when you open up new drilling places, in Louisiana or in Alaska, it has an effect on people's view of whether they're getting price gouged.

O'BRIEN: Psychological.

MARC LAMONT HILL, COMMENTATOR, ARTHUR & ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Hold on. Psychological, that's important. I think the Obama administration pushed that point forward. Even if we to begin offshore drilling, first of all, the effects would be long term and it would increase or decrease prices at the pump by a few cents. The issue here has very little to do with President Obama's response to gas or to energy. I think it's something he has to deal with though certainly because voters don't care about the nuts and bolts, the nuance of this. They care about their --


NORQUIST: Energy production on federal land is down. On private land, state land, it's up. When he's in charge of it, it's gone down. When other people are in charge of it, it's gone up. That is his job. That is his responsibility.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, Maggie.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER, POLITICO.COM: I understand what you're saying but I also think that what you're saying is absolutely right. I think this is a gut reaction issue for voters. I think that they can see all these other indicators. But this is a reminder and those poll numbers are a reminder that this is a fragile rebuild for the president right now as he heads toward October, heads toward November. There are elements of gas prices out of his control. There are some in his control. I don't know how well he's going to be able to separate that out for voter. If they feel they are paying more, there's going to be anger, and they are going to take it out on the incumbent. They just are.

HILL: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: So what do you think is the long-term strategy if -- many people have said, on either side of the aisle, the president himself, the White House does not control gas prices today? What's the strategy?


Which is, for good and for bad, and yet everyone will believe the president controls gas prices and will blame him for it, which means he could -- certainly re-election efforts could be --


HILL: He could really articulate with the voters about what really the issues are. He did the same thing with the economy. He said, I inherited this mess. And his whole mission for the last few years has been to convince voters --

O'BRIEN: That story is not going to work. You can't say I inherited gas prices.


HILL: Well, you can because every president has had a spike in gas prices. Bush had -- gas prices were at $4 president had spiking gas prices. We have short memories. (CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: But you can't kill Keystone and say, I had nothing to do with it.

HABERMAN: That's right. That's right.

NORQUIST: These prices have doubled since he came in. They've gone up --the recovery is weak. It's not being driven by demand increases. This is a real problem. Again, he's made decisions which didn't allow you to drill more. He gave a speech that supplied us free economics. Drilling more won't give you lower prices, that's --


O'BRIEN: We're going to continue this conversation to the commercial break. We're going to break up Marc and Grover and --



O'BRIEN: Thank you. I appreciate that.


Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a father of two is in an immigration battle and it's a case that could put President Obama's deportation policy into focus for 2012. Congressman Luis Gutierrez is going to joins us next and tells us why exactly he's fighting for this father.

Also, Speaker Boehner says that some of the dumbest people in America are members of Congress. That's a shocker. You've got to listen to that.

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


O'BRIEN: A traffic stop threatens to rip a family apart and is heating up the immigration debate. The guy at the middle of this is a guy named Gabino Sanchez. There's a photo of him from the "Post Courier." He's 27 years old. He was pulled over for speeding in the state of South Carolina. Under a new South Carolina immigration law, the officer detained him after learning he did not have a driver's license.

Now Sanchez faces deportation. He has been in the country for 13 years. The father of two children that are both U.S. citizens. The case is a challenge to the president's deportation policy, which is supposed to be targeting violent criminals and not separate families.

The Illinois Democratic Congressman, Luis Gutierrez, is backing Sanchez, taking up his fight, traveling to northern California for a hearing tomorrow. He joins us this morning. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking to us.

You're a Congressman from Illinois. Why are you involved in a case that really takes place in South Carolina?

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ, (D), ILLINOIS: Because it affects the policy nationally. I have in my own district thousands of families that wake up each day to work really hard, and our system is broken. I have soldiers that have been ordered to go to Afghanistan who live in my congressional district whose wives are under orders of deportation. It's a national policy, Soledad.

So I think, when I look Gabino and the case -- it's going to be in Charlotte, North Carolina. That's where the immigration hearing is going to take place tomorrow at 1:00. I'll have religious leaders, community leaders, his family, his friends, stand up for him because, as you suggested earlier, the Obama administration says we want to make a change. We want to shift. We want to shift our focus to violent criminals, to gang bangers, to drug dealers, rapists, murderers, and not people like this man --

O'BRIEN: OK, but --

GUTIERREZ: -- who came here when he was 15 years old.

O'BRIEN: But he also -- no one is arguing the point that he ran a red light. He was speeding when he ran that red light. When they stopped him, it turned out he didn't have a driver's license. Plenty of people would say -- and he's not in the country with documents, all those things, he should be gone.

GUTIERREZ: Well, he didn't run a red light. He was given a ticket for one thing, and that was driving without a driver's license. And he was pulled over as he was pulling into the home that he owns, Soledad. Here's somebody undocumented, coming to this country, has two American citizen children. As we try to prioritize our limited resources to go after bad people in our society that do harm, we should do. And that's what Barack Obama's administration said it was going to do. It was going to prioritize that.

So tomorrow, we have this wonderful opportunity to see a young man who came here when he was 15, eligible under Dream Act standards, who came here when he was 15 and now has two American citizen children.

I want to share this, Soledad. There are five million American citizen children whose parents are undocumented in this country. We need to have a policy that allows American citizen children to have parents to raise them. I think that as American --


O'BRIEN: I'm sorry for interrupting. What do you think the chances are that he's going to be able to stay? And what do you think the implications are, because I know eventually what you're trying to do is to target the Obama administration's deportation policy? GUTIERREZ: Well, what we want to do is -- the deportation policy clearly enunciated by this administration in August of last year said, if you have American citizen children and you haven't violated any -- you haven't committed any felonies, which clearly Gabino Sanchez has not. It's -- driving without a driver's license. The last one was immediately outside his trailer park home in South Carolina. He's not a violent criminal. We should allow him to raise his children. And if you follow the policies as set out by the administration, otherwise what you're saying is undocumented workers in this country under the new policy and under the new guidelines for driving without a driver's license is equal to selling drugs, is equal to murder and mayhem in our community. It's not, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: What do you think your chances are? As you know, the administration has deported more than a million immigrants?

GUTIERREZ: I think they're good. We're going to take -- we're going to take -- here's what we're going to do, Soledad. We're going to take the document issued by Homeland Security and we're going to challenge them to do the right thing. When we sat down with the president, I and others sat down with the president, I think it is really clear that he wants to distinguish between those in this country causing harm and those that are kind of trapped in a broken immigration system, attempting to raise their American citizen children, and to have a viable future here in this country.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Luis Gutierrez is the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force. We'll follow this case to see what happens to him and if he is actually, at the end, allowed to stay in the country or is deported.

Thank you for your time this morning, sir. Appreciate it.

GUTIERREZ: Pleasure.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, U.S. soldiers and citizens are now on alert overseas for revenge attacks after it appears one soldier has gone on a bloody rampage in Afghanistan. We'll talk to Jim Frederick of "Time" magazine who wrote all about how to stop soldiers from becoming murderers.

And then the people behind the viral "Kony 2012" videotape are expecting to release another video today, responding to critics who've question the group's management and the group's motives.

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