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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Chinese Dissident May be in U.S. Embassy; President Delivers Jokes at White House Correspondents Dinner; Child Bullying by Teacher Caught on Tape; Edwards Trial Enters Week Two; Octo Crib Up For Auction; Lightning Strikes Pregnant Woman; Clippers Rally From 27 Down!; Anniversary Of Bin Laden Death; Kicked Off Team For Being Too Good; Hunt For African Warlord
Aired April 30, 2012 - 06:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Our "Starting Point" this morning of crisis between two superpowers, and one man is in the middle of it. A blind Chinese activist who pulled off an escape fit for a Hollywood thriller. He is now believe to be in U.S. hands, and it could cause a big trouble between U.S. and China.
If you are worried about a cell tower, well British residents are being told that, yes, missiles are being placed on top of their apartment buildings as extra security during the Olympics.
And they call it the nerd prom. President Obama was actually pretty funny as he brought laughs to the White House correspondence dinner. Listen.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a lot more material prepared, but I have to get the secret service home in time for their new curfew.
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O'BRIEN: Oh, it poked fun at himself, obviously, poked fun at the secret service. Did he go a little far with the dog lines? I'm going to play a little bit of the highlights or some people might say the lowlights for you.
It is Monday, April 30th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.
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O'BRIEN: That's Gordon Chang's playlist. He's joining us this morning to talk about what we're going to be talking about, China. That's "Gimme Shelter" from the Rolling Stones. Our panelists this morning, Ron Brownstein, the editorial director of "The National Journal." He's also CNN's senior political analyst. He also was at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
O'BRIEN: It seemed pretty funny. Obama had decent timing. Jimmy Kimmel pretty good as well. We'll talk about that a little bit later this morning. John Fugelsang is with us, a political comedian. We'll get him to weigh in with his professional opinion. And Will Cain, columnist with theblaze.com, is joining us as well. Good morning.
Our starting point this morning is a pretty shocking and daring escape that could have an impact on the U.S. relationship with China. A blind Chinese dissident evaded layers of guards after 18 months under house arrest, reportedly made his trek 370 miles north to the U.S. embassy in Beijing. This comes just days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are expected to be in the Chinese capital for the long planned economic and strategic talks.
Neither the Obama administration nor the Chinese government are confirming of Chen Guangcheng's whereabouts are in fact at the embassy, but a former senior China analysts at the CIA says this -- "This is the greatest test in bilateral relations in years," going back to 1989 when Tiananmen Square was unfolding. Joining us this morning is author Gordon Chang, who has written extensively about China and North Korea. Nice to see you again. Thank you for being with us. The greatest test, do you think that's an overstatement of what's happening right now?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: I think so. Any time there's an incident we worry in public about ruining relation answer the Chinese see this and say, oh, my gosh, if we throw a tantrum we can get something from the Americans. So you would think after 40 years of relations with China we'd understand this dynamic, but then again apparently nobody in the State Department has ever raised a three-year-old.
O'BRIEN: Apparently not. So the Assistant Secretary of State Kirk Campbell already made his way into Beijing, earlier than planned, he's there to negotiate all of this. What exactly is at stake? Could conversations be derailed?
CHANG: It could become derailed. On June 5, a man went there after the massacre and that put U.S. relations on hold, he lived there with his wife for a year. The same thing could happen again, probably won't but it could put relations on hold for a while. It might not be a bad thing.
O'BRIEN: It could be a bad thing if you're talking about talks that are supposed to start on the third and the fourth, right?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: By all indication Mrs. Chen does not want to leave China. So how does that affect the possibility of a solution in does that make it easier to find a solution?
CHANG: That makes it much more difficult because the one thing the Chinese would love is for him to leave. Once he leaves he becomes marginalized. Most dissents who left China has sort of dribbled off and not become the force they were when inside. So Chen doesn't want to leave and I can certainly understand that.
O'BRIEN: What then happens with his family? His wife, mother and daughter all are still back in his hometown, roughly 300 some-odd miles from Beijing.
CHANG: And they're still being brutalized as they have been for the last four or five years. So essentially this becomes a much more complicated issue because they're not dealing with a man and his wife. We're now dealing with somebody in the U.S. embassy plus a whole family and a lot of dissidents who have been detained in the last couple days, they have now all sort of become part of the conversation, too. That makes things much more difficult to resolve.
O'BRIEN: John, I can see you want to hop in, I want to throw some things on the table and the conversations, they're looking to negotiate. China holds more than $1 trillion of U.S. death, F-16 fighters.
CHANG: Not important.
O'BRIEN: Currency issues, intellectual property issues, cyber- crime issues.
CHANG: Everything, you know, everything. And the question is, can the Chinese be a constructive force in the international system and they haven't opinion. As a matter of fact they've been going in the wrong direction for the last several years. We need to change our approach.
JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: Looking at the embarrassment, from the Tiananmen Square to not being able to keep a blind guy from walking out of his house. What is the role of the military in all this, and are they the real power brokers at this point in the Chinese government?
CHANG: You would think so, because as the civilians have been feuding, going into this historic leadership transition the civilians have been running to the military. The guy who was in trouble went to the headquarters in the 14th group army in Quanming. When Hu Jintao decided his fate a couple weeks ago, they did it at the headquarters of the central military commission.
FUGELSANG: It is fair to say it's powerful, more powerful than the government?
CHANG: It's breaking free of civilian control, and that's really a problem, but they now have a policy with little evident coordination from the civilians. You have Hu Jintao, the supreme leader of China, publicly remind the generals and admirals that they are subordinate to the communist party, and he does that repeatedly. So that's obviously an issue.
BROWNSTEIN: Do the people feel safer with their military than their government?
CHANG: I don't think people really thought too much about that. I would think that it's supposed to be the people's army and this has been a major issue. The people did trust the army up until Tiananmen. Since then, though, there has really been very little trust.
O'BRIEN: Does this now dissident who is now at the embassy we believe make an impact? We're now going to be watching the talks carefully to see the wording.
CHANG: I think they probably are going to make things much more difficult. Those issues weren't going to solve the ones you talked about anyway because China wasn't really helping on them. So we've had these strategic dialogues for a look time going back into the Bush administration and things are going sideways. So, you know, I think we should probably talk les and probably would accomplish more.
O'BRIEN: That changes diplomacy if you talk less. Gordon Chang, thank you as always.
Christine Romans has the other headlines. Hey, Christine, good morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. The Coast Guard suspending its search for a missing sailor after a racing accident that left three crew members dead. Their boat apparently collided with perhaps a tanker in the Coronado Islands, authorities found three bodies and the boat's wreckage, the first deaths in the race's 65-year history.
A terrible crash at New York's Bronx zoo taking the lives of three generations of a local family. Police say an SUV was carrying seven people, including three general when it slipped over a guardrail, plunging 60 feet to the ground. It landed in a wooded area of the Bronx Zoo close to the park's zoo. Investigators are trying to figure out what caused that crash. They think the SUV may have been speeding.
Police are looking for a second gunman after a lockdown at the University of South Alabama. That lockdown has now been lifted following an armed robbery at a college dorm yesterday. The thief stole $1,000 and a cellphone. One suspect is already in custody.
A new blog will keep you updated on George Zimmerman's defense. Attorney Mark O'Mara said the site has been set up to keep other media and other interested parties updated. Zimmerman is currently out on bail and has raised more than $200,000 from supporters donating to his cause.
A former top CIA official revealing explosive details about the waterboarding of terror suspects. Jose Rodriguez was in charge of the CIA's clandestine services from 2004 to 2007. He says harsh interrogation techniques have saved American supplies. Rodriguez describes the water boarding of September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, saying she was the toughest detainee they had.
JOSE RODRIGUEZ, EX-CIA CHIEF: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would use his fingers to count the number of seconds because he knew that in all likelihood we would stop at 10. So this doesn't sound like a person who is afraid of dying. I think the cumulative effect of waterboarding and sleep deprivation and everything else that was done eventually got to him.
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ROMANS: Rodriguez says critics of waterboarding are hindering the fight against terror.
The One World Trade Center tower is about to become the tallest building in Manhattan if the weather cooperates. Workers are schedule to install a beam that will raise the tower to 1,271 feet, 21 feet higher than the city's tallest building, the Empire State Building. When the construction is completed, One World Trade will stand 1,776 feet high, making it the tallest hemisphere in the western sphere, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: I know people are all creeped out about it post-9/11. But I'm glad --
FUGELSANG: I live a few blocks north of there, and it's beautiful.
O'BRIEN: I agree with that.
President Obama reprising his role as the comedian in chief, and he was kind of funny, actually. No topic of limit at the White House Correspondent Dinner in Washington, D.C. Take a look.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? A pit bull is delicious.
OBAMA: Because my stepfather always told me it's a boy eat dog world out there.
It's great to be here this evening in the vast, magnificent Hilton ballroom, or what Mitt Romney would call a little fixer-upper.
OBAMA: Four years ago, I looked like this. Today I look like this.
OBAMA: And four years from now I will look like this.
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O'BRIEN: His delivery there --
BROWNSTEIN: Three big categories of jokes -- dog jokes, Secret Service jokes, and Secret Service behaving like dog jokes.
BROWNSTEIN: That was it. The president had terrific time. It wasn't quite as memorable while he was filleting Donald Trump he had sent the team in but didn't know the attempt to kill bin Laden, just an extraordinary evening.
O'BRIEN: I thought he was better than Jimmy Kimmel. Listen.
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JIMMY KIMMEL, COMEDIAN: Mr. President, I know you won't be able to laugh at any of my jokes about the Secret Service, so cover your ears, if that's physically possible.
KIMMEL: Last week we learned the president's two favorite steaks are rib eye and seeing eye. And it doesn't matter if you're black, like President Obama, or white like President Obama, or red like President Obama's agenda --
KIMMEL: Remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.
KIMMEL: There's a term for guys like President Obama, probably not two terms, but there is.
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O'BRIEN: He was funny, too.
BROWNSTEIN: He was tough. In the hall it felt like shrapnel being sprayed at different targets. O'BRIEN: Are these people who rushed to you?
FUGELSANG: I thought Jimmy Kimmel rushed through the second part of the set a little bit. There were a few jokes I wish he'd let breathe. But it was a really strong set. I wish he'd do more politics on his show.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The president has great comedic timing. I got to go last year, by this year my star was dimmed. The president really does have the creativity.
O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a new update on the story that's really sparked outrage across the country, that teacher suspended after she was allegedly caught on tape bullying a 10-year-old with autism. The teacher says though she wasn't even there that day.
Also, the Olympics goes high security. There are plans in London to put surface-to-air missiles on the roof of one apartment building. Check out the rest of our show live blog at CNN.com/startingpoint, or check us out on Twitter @StartingptCNN. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. One of the teachers accused of being caught on audiotape bullying that 10-year-old boy with autism is now on paid leave, but Kelly Altenburg's attorney says his client wasn't even there at work that day. Listen.
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MATTHEW B. WIELICZKO, ATTORNEY FOR KELLY ALTENBURG: Those words were not hers, the voice was not hers, those comments were not made in her presence, she didn't condone those boards, she didn't instruct them to act that way.
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O'BRIEN: The stunning recordings were caught on tape after Stuart Chaifetz sent his son to school wearing a recording device.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, boy, knock it off. Keep going. Go ahead and scream, because guess what? You're going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.
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O'BRIEN: "You'll get nothing until your mouth is shut." You can hear that said on the tape. Many special needs advocates say this is a wake-up call for school districts across the nation. CNN education contributor Steve Perry is in Chicago this morning. Nice to see you, Steve, good morning. Are you surprised that this recording sticking a recording device in his 10-year-old son's pocket managed to capture clips like this that we played?
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: Not at all. I'm not surprised. It's just like the Rodney King beating. I'm only surprised somebody finally caught it on day. Teachers are people, they come from all life and walks and ways of making decisions, these decisions were disgusting and reprehensible and if anyone tries to make light or make it make sense is also part of the cover-up that we've seen so many times.
What happens, Soledad, when there are people in our ranks who are allowed to stay in our ranches who do things like this, it makes all of us look bad. It's the reason why four million people logged onto YouTube and looked at the video. They've all heard stories of teachers doing something they found bad, but the kids always seem to be lying. This is a parent --
O'BRIEN: I should interject it says unidentified voice, the teacher's attorney says that's why they had a substitute she was not there. The superintendent said "While we acknowledge there's always room for improvement in anything we do, we believe this regrettable incident is an anomaly and we wholeheartedly support the work our teachers and educational aides do every day." Do you think in fact this was an anomaly? This is the one time he popped a recorder in his son's pocket.
PERRY: I don't think it's an anomaly. That's the point. Because of rumors of teachers doing things like this, when I say to a parent your child did something, they're automatically on the defensive and say, well, how do you know? What did the other kid do and my credible and the credibility of the rest of us who did things the right way is called into question because we as educators don't spend enough time policing ourselves. We need to make sure our schools are scrubbed clean of individuals who will do anything to harm children, completely clean.
CAIN: Steve, this is Will. What do you think about parents policing you guys? Do you like the idea of parents sitting a recorder in his child's pocket and sending him of to cool school?
PERRY: Absolutely, yes. It's a public school. It's not a private social club you have to be invited into. We are in charge of the public's future. You have every right to open our doors and look and see what we're doing. We have your children, we have the money. You have every right to ask us.
FUGELSANG: Hey, Steve, it's John. How do you feel having classes on the Internet for parents to watch?
PERRY: I think it's a great idea. One of the things that happens is one of our teachers we had a staff member had to videotape a kid doing something bad, he was pulling his pants down and he's six. But the point is that times you don't see what we see. A lot of times parents say it wouldn't be my kid, and honestly sometimes it is your kid. We are watching the courtrooms, watching so many other places. I don't understand why they can't be warning what he's doing. O'BRIEN: The father said on CNN Saturday the reason that he did this was to support his son and send an anti-bullying message. Listen.
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STUART CHAIFETZ: One of its reasons why I went forward was to one day show him that people care, that what they did to him was wrong in addition to hopefully reaching out and showing with an epidemic bullying is.
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PERRY: Soledad, one of the biggest issues is this, one bad teacher can mess you up bad. There are grown company walking around remembering a snide remark a teacher made in the fourth grade, eighth grade, or 12th grade. One bad teacher can mess you up badly. That's how we have to work hard asset indicators to root our community of all those individuals who would harm children, because one of them messes up a kid --
O'BRIEN: Especially a kid who can't defense himself 100 percent. He's not only 10 years old, he's autistic.
PERRY: Soledad, we could rip you up. Because we're educators, we know how to motivate a kid and how to mess up a kid. Those powers can make life not cool for a very young person. Good luck in Chicago this morning.
O'BRIEN: Steve Perry, thank you very much.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, hundreds of people in London are saying get real after noticing that there is a plan to put surface to air missiles on the roof of their apartment complex.
FUGELSANG: Neighbors are allowed.
O'BRIEN: You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll talk about that straight ahead.
O'BRIEN: If it's Dwight Yoakam it must be Will Cain's choice.
Our "Get Real" this morning is all about surface-to-air defense missiles now being potentially put on top of a residential apartment building. Sounds like something out of an action movie. It's actually an official proposal to help fight terrorism during the Olympics this summer. This is in the Bow section of London, two miles from the sight of the Olympic stadium because that would be a good way for anybody flying in people planes they could man them and take them out.
FUGELSANG: Causing massive debris to be falling all over the streets.
FUGELSANG: When has a terrorist attacked on athletic event?
FUGELSANG: Al Qaeda goes after strategic targets, World Trade Center, military outlets. It's a great effort to give the community safety.
O'BRIEN: One thing they say is how can we be sure that it's safe? They're trained people, so OK not safe, anybody shooting a surface-to-air missile at anything --
CAIN: This is the no the first time.
FUGELSANG: This seems like a big show.
O'BRIEN: It's part of the value is the show being made of it.
BROWNSTEIN: So that someone thinking about doing something will think twice.
O'BRIEN: There are surface-to-air missiles on the buildings so whatever you're thinking about, think better.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, hear the story of this 13-year-old boy banned from playing on an all girl's field hockey team. The reason they're giving is he's too good. Look at him and how much smaller he is than some of these 13-year-old girls on the team, there he with is the bond team. He says it's a lie he's too good. We'll talk about that.
And the politics of bin Laden as we work the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death. Is the operation fair game for the presidential game? We'll tell you why Republicans are crying foul over that this morning. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: That's a great song. Rod Stewart "Maggie May" that's coming to us from investigative journalist, Richard Miniter's playlist. We're going to talk to him in just a few minutes about whether President Obama is playing politics as the anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death approaches.
Playing politics in the political year. First though, headlines, Christine has a look at those for us. Good morning.
ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad.
The second week of the John Edwards trial is about to get underway. It will pick up this morning where it left off Friday, with Cheri Young on the witness stand.
She's the wife of former Edward's aide, Andrew Young. She testified Friday that her husband did everything for the disgraced former senator, even yard work and buying Christmas gifts for his kids.
She told the court it almost destroyed her marriage. Edwards is charged with six counts of campaign finance violations. He faces 30 years behind bars if convicted.
In a CNN exclusive, Octomom Nadia Suleman reveals for the first time that she and her 14 children are about to lose their home. There are reports the California house will be auctioned off later today. Suleman is speaking "Showbiz Tonight" trying to set the record straight and sending a message to her detractors.
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NADYA SULEMAN, SAYS HOME IN FORECLOSURE: The house has been in foreclosure for several months, so yes, I was unable to, how many people can stop identifying that, stop judging, just listen, many people are losing their homes, many, so I'm not the only one.
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ROMANS: Suleman also responded to reports her children are living in squalor, despite of holes in the walls and graffiti on the inside and outside of the home. She says her kids are well provided for and are growing up healthy.
A big full body jolt, that's what a pregnant Ohio woman says it feels like to be struck by lightning.
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KELLY LOWE, STRUCK BY LIGHTNING OUTSIDE HER HOME: It was a huge flash, and just this big boom, and I felt it like jolt up my arm and out my left arm and out my toes.
The rubber sold shoes and usually on my way to work I would have heels on and I was going to throw them away yesterday. And I didn't and put them on today and first thing they said when I checked in they probably saved my life.
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ROMANS: Doctors say Kelly's baby is perfectly healthy. Let's get a quick check on the weather. Meteorologist Bonnie Schneider joins us. Hi, Bonnie.
BONNIE SCHNEIDER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Christine. We are looking at some wet weather across part of the Midwest and the plains states. You'll be following that throughout much of the day, if you're traveling.
Let's take a look at the big picture and I'll show you that we do have some heavy rain moving in from Oklahoma City into St. Louis and a lot of that rain will be working its way further to the east as we go through much of the morning.
So if you're driving or flying that may impact you. Heavy rain could cause flooding up into the overnight hours up to six inches in parts of Southwest Missouri.
And that's not the only place we're looking, wet weather and a threat of flooding south Florida down to the counties from West Palm Beach all the way to Miami-Dade, a lot of rain.
It's been raining most of the weekend so three to five inches for storm totals. You can see that rain pushing into Miami and the keys right now, areas further south of Miami are really getting hard hit.
Current temperatures this morning are cool, cooler than they have over the past few days. It's 33 degrees in Scranton, 45 in New York City and actually interior New England is looking at freeze advisories.
That's right, well into spring, temperatures in the teens and 20s into parts of upstate New York and Western Pennsylvania even cold enough to be below freezing in parts of New Jersey for this morning.
Overall for today the threat for severe storms in the central and southern plains through parts of the Midwest, a more wet weather coming into the northwest, sunshine for the southwest and hot temperatures right along the Gulf Coast -- Christine.
ROMANS: All right, thanks, Bonnie. For those of you who went to bed, you missed one of the most improbable comebacks yet ever. The Los Angeles Clippers, yes, the Clippers coming back from 27 points down on the road to beat the Memphis Grizzlies last night.
The final score 99-98. The Clippers finished with a 28-3 run. The incredible rally gives them a 1-0 lead in the playoff series and that bad if you missed it because that was pretty awesome.
O'BRIEN: I was asleep, that's what it looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I just add in addition to those who were sleep, those who did not turn the on Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Clippers -- which may have been a slightly larger group as well that's pointing that out as well.
O'BRIEN: I got tickets to go see the Knicks and the Heat on Thursday and I can't go.
JOHN FUGELSANG, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: I can take them off your hands.
O'BRIEN: Would you like to?
FUGELSANG: For you I'll do that. Get in fast on that series.
O'BRIEN: Exactly. Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden, but this morning, there is a debate over whether the raid that killed the al Qaeda leader is fair game in the race for the White House.
The Obama camp touting its success while the Romney team says that it should not be politicized. Listen.
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ROBERT GIBBS, SENIOR ADVISER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Osama Bin Laden no longer walks on this planet today because of the brave decisions and the brave actions by the men and women in our military.
And quite frankly, Mitt Romney said it was a foolish thing to do a few years ago and look there's' difference in the roles they would play as commander in chief and I certainly think that's fair game.
ED GILLESPIE, SENIOR ADVISER, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: It took something that was a unifying event for all Americans. An event that Governor Romney congratulated him and the military and the intelligence analysts in our government for completing the mission in terms of killing Osama Bin Laden, and he's managed to turn it into a divisive partisan political attack I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign.
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O'BRIEN: We'll see how most Americans will see it. Investigative journalist, Richard Minitir joins us now. He's the author of "Mastermind: The Many Faces Of The 9/11 Architect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."
It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. We certainly appreciate it. OK, so you heard them sort of sparring over whether or not politicizing this event and now the anniversary, of course, is the right thing to do. Are you surprised by these conversations at all?
RICHARD MINITER, AUTHOR, "MASTERMIND": I'm not surprised at all. But look, if the operation had gone badly, if U.S. and Navy SEALs have died or if they found the wrong men, certainly everyone would be yelling at President Obama right now.
So fair is fair. The operation went flawlessly. We lost a helicopter, but no civilians were armed except for one woman standing behind her husband who's firing a machine gun.
No SEALs were harmed and we really got Osama Bin Laden. So fair is fair. I think President Obama deserves the credit for this operation.
There's also something dangerous about what the Romney campaign is doing. And that is it might deter future presidents from taking aggressive action. They might have -- you know the Romney campaign spokesman at the back of their minds saying, do we want to seem like we're politicizing something.
O'BRIEN: I'm going to disagree with you on that. If you're worried about what the other side's spokesperson is going to say in the next election cycle as president, you're out of your mind. You really are not going to be figuring --
MINITER: A lot of calculations go into it certainly and it's not helpful for them in a national security matter to be politicizing it and at the same time complaining about politicization.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: So, Richard, Ron Brownstein from "National Journal." I think most agree it's a positive for President Obama to talk about it. It was not a simple decision. He will talk about it being a 50/50 call or even less.
The question is really whether you can go further and make an accusation against Mitt Romney. When you look back at what Republicans said in 2008 about going unilaterally into Pakistan, do you think there is a legitimate policy difference here between how Obama handled this and how Republicans feel about that kind of mission?
MINITER: I don't see a legitimate policy difference. I mean, it's certainly President Bush had a number of attempts to get Bin Laden at various times. The intelligence community is the same group of today than it was then more or less except for a few retirements.
The motivations of those people, the professionals haven't changed. The capabilities hasn't changed. And frankly, under Obama, the policy hasn't changed that much. The real question is whether or not we've moved away from capturing terrorists and interrogating them and learning about future operations.
Or we switch to Obama years to a total policy of just killing people, which might be effective in terms of degrading the organization, but it's not effective about finding of future plots, if there's going to be a policy debate here that's where it should go.
O'BRIEN: An interesting point as you bring up though, Ron, is that Mitt Romney talked about this back in 2007 it was, April of 2007 and he said this, it's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person and then he changes position in, I think it was an NBC debate that happened just a couple of days later. Let's play a little clip of that.
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MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, we get Osama Bin Laden and track him wherever he has to go and make sure he pays for the outbreak. We will move heaven and earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK, so we will move heaven and earth to get him. What do you think ultimately, politically, Ron, of the impact is on something like that? As you know, Governor Romney obviously has a weak point, the flip-flopping issue.
BROWNSTEIN: I think the positive sticks much more than the negative. I think it is clearly a positive for the president with the public that he made this call. Because as we said, it was not a simple call, and you know, people who are in the room said you might not have had a search warrant based on the evidence they had.
And as a Richard said there would have been a big downside. I think it is tougher to go the next step and say Mitt Romney might not have done the same thing. And it got us a tougher argument. It's kind of a counter factual --
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And I don't know that it will work with the public. I'm with you 100 percent and Richard for that matter. President Obama should claim all sorts of credit for killing Osama Bin Laden, but it's taking it one step further. Whether or not that's fair or not, it's almost beside the point. I'm not sure the public will appreciate it.
O'BRIEN: All right, final question to Richard, before I let you go. They recovered, we know, ten hard drives, five computers, 100 storage devices and much, much more. Overall, what is the most important you think has been recovered from the aftermath of the Osama Bin Laden assassination?
MINITER: Well, my sources tell me that they found a tremendous amount of financial information, new ways in which al Qaeda was able to move and send money and that's been very helpful, the turning off some of those financial sources.
A lot of the other information was historical or you know, operatives that we've killed or captured some time ago then there are some new leads in that area and also some interesting looks into areas of al Qaeda that we didn't know much about such as in the far east and North Africa.
So overall, this information is still being analyzed and it's still being look at in the intelligence community. But it seems to be fairly valuable and has led to some useful things. Who remembers who was president when Geronimo was killed?
O'BRIEN: How about something a little closer for us time wise.
CAIN: With a slightly more sympathetic figure.
O'BRIEN: Richard Minitir is the author of "Mastermind: The Many Face of 9/11 Architech: Khalid Sheik Mohammed." That's a great book. We appreciate you talking with us. Thanks.
MINITER: Thanks, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: You bet. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, U.S. Special Forces on a mission deep in the jungles of Central Africa, maybe it's the elephant or some crocodiles could be their biggest enemy. We're going to tell you what they're looking for.
And a 13-year-old boy has been banned from playing on the field hockey team because they say he's too good. He doesn't agree. We'll tell you why up next. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: A 13-year-old boy who has been banned from playing on the girl's field hockey team because they say he is too good. His name is Keeling Pilaro and he plays at New York Southampton High School where there is no boys' field hockey team.
But down at the school's athletic department saying he is, quote, "having a significant adverse effect on some of his opposing female players." We talked to Keeling this morning and his mom and he said he's not particularly better than the girls. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEELING PILARO, 13-YEAR-OLDD FIELD HOCKEY PLAYER: There are definitely girls that are a lot better than me. That have more skills and that are faster. Almost every single girl on the team is faster and stronger than me. So I don't see why they would want me off it.
FAIRLEY PILARO, KEELING'S MOTHER: We have a lot of support from his teammates, from opposing players, from opposing coaches and we found a lot of support in the Southampton community that it's been the pleasant part of all of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Apparently, he learned to play in Ireland. He's a good player, but as he point out, he hasn't wrapped up all the awards. There are other players who are better in some ways, may not play attack.
BROWNSTEIN: So we did the reverse story I think in January of a Little League that wouldn't let a girl to play on a boy's Little League team.
And I remember saying then that it was actually a sign of success. How rare this has become because after Title IX, we have enormous strides in opening athletic opportunities for boys and girls.
The fact that, you know, that a boy wants to play on the girls' field hockey team fundamentally is a sign of success about how we've created lanes for everybody.
O'BRIEN: Before you say something, play video of this kid, Keeling, as he works out with the team, right? When I first read the story I thought this kid was 6'2", 250 pounds and bigger overpowering the girls and then you see him, look most of the girls are a head taller than he is.
FUGELSANG: I think it's really good we're shining a light on what oppression goes on in Southampton. I was angry about Syria, Soledad, but when I heard about this, this crime --
O'BRIEN: You know, if that's your kid, I'm going to say if that's your kid and he's spent a bunch of years learning how to play field hockey because he grew up in Ireland, yes, absolutely.
FUGELSANG: Or try to start a boys' field hockey team.
CAIN: It's a girls field hockey team and he happens to have a "q" chromosome.
O'BRIEN: There are boys teams that have to allow girls on if there is, under Title IX, not a team that exist already, that is the law.
CAIN: If you want to go goat ways that's fine.
O'BRIEN: I curse you, Will Cain.
CAIN: We've gone from Chinese oppression to field hockey.
BROWNSTEIN: It is a slippery slope from a boy and a girls' hockey team to a unisex bathroom.
CAIN: I played girls hockey in college just for the locker room.
O'BRIEN: Stop! All right, we should mention the family is appealing the ruling because, of course, doing your rounds -- on cable outlets is the first step before you go to court.
CAIN: I'm going to the girl's bathroom after this.
O'BRIEN: It's weird but you may.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, U.S. troops are in Africa right now. They are hunting a warlord, Joseph Kony, the crocodile infested waters. Did all this start because of that viral video? We'll explain what's happening that's straight ahead on STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: American troops are now involved in the hunt for a violent African warlord who became known to the world after a viral video campaign.
A small contingent of American Special Forces working with the African military, they are trying to capture Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, the LRA. That group has terrorized Central Africa for more than two decades.
And CNN spoke to one of the Special Op captains about the hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kony is definitely still a threat. He's been on the run. He's on the decline and in survival mode, but he is still dangerous and he's going to be dangerous until the LRA are eliminated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: General James "Spider" Marks is the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. Nice to see you, sir, as always. Thanks for talking with us.
GENERAL JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Thank you.
O'BRIEN: To what degree did this viral video sort of instigate this hunt for Joseph Kony? I mean, is it making the operation happen or is it making a happening operation go public?
MARKS: Soledad, I can't speak to and I don't have any inside information as to how a video like this, some type of media campaign, if you will, that then motivates the State Department and Defense Department that do work.
Generally that's not the case. But clearly, it's an input and it contributed, but what you have right now is the African command is very much focused in on it. They have got limited resources down there.
But I would suspect there are other resources that are involved primarily in intelligence collection arena to try to focus and narrow where that search takes place.
O'BRIEN: Before we talk about how challenging that search is, I want to read to you a little bit of what was quoted in "The New York Times" from sort of an American official.
Let's be honest there was some constituent pressure here. Did Kony 2012, that's the viral video, have something to do with this? Absolutely, so this person would say, yes, in fact there was.
Talk about the area and talk about the danger. The size of California, I read that crocodile infested rivers to the point where one of the Ugandan soldiers was eaten by one of the crocs. How bad is it?
MARKS: This is a horrible place in the world. I mean, in terms of the environment, there are very few places that are as difficult to operate in. Number one, you have an environment that is infested with -- waters infested as you've indicated with deadly types of crocodiles and pythons that are nearby.
This is a tough place to operate. You are routinely focused not only on the environment as a threat, but also your primary mission which is to try to track down the Lord's Resistance Army and their network of support.
It's a very, very difficult place to be and clearly as a part of that effort, there's a very large and very capable medical contingent to take care of all of those soldiers and certainly local villagers as necessary.
FUGELSANG: Good morning, sir. I have a question about the whole Kony that we saw in the internet a few months ago when this was a hot topic. Is there a risk that the movement in America to raise awareness has made it more about a man than about the culture of putting boys in the army? I mean, if they get Kony, nothing is going to change in terms of putting young boys on the front lines to fight these battles, correct?
MARKS: We have seen -- yes, I would absolutely agree with you that we have seen in history where any means of employing a resource is going to be used by those that have a different standard coming from a different culture from us.
So clearly there truly is a link between what we are seeing the ability of the internet and the media to transform a message and have that be accepted and then acted upon. Clearly that takes place around the globe.
How that affects our State Department and our Defense Department is what I'm interested in and I can't tell you specifically that those were considerations. I would imagine that they are.
And they work their way through our constituents and into the discussion, but clearly this guy has been around for over two decades and has been wreaking havoc and clearly the United States has responded and the African command is involved deeply.
The commander has stated this is increasingly high priority mission for him and his folks on the ground. It must get accomplished.
O'BRIEN: James "Spider" Marks is a U.S. Army General who's retired. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you. Appreciate it.
MARKS: Thank you very much.
O'BRIEN: You bet. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, Secret Service prostitution scandals triggering tough new guidelines for agents. We will talk about those guidelines and CNN will name the agent at the center of that scandal and we have developing details on that story.
Plus, President Obama uses the White House Correspondents Dinner to go after Governor Mitt Romney. We got the highlights and low lights as well. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.