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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Interview with Senator Mike Lee; Jailed For Helping U.S.; Federal Government Set to Raise Tax Rates in 2012; Interview with Grover Norquist; "All I've Done is Survive"; Tebowing Teen Gets in Trouble
Aired May 24, 2012 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody.
Our STARTING POINT this morning, breaking news: a man is under arrest after apparently implicating himself in the disappearance of Etan Patz -- the first missing boy to ever appear on a milk carton.
And Mitt Romney making a promise to lower unemployment if he gets to the White House. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent or perhaps a little lower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Is that pledge doable?
Plus, the man who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden has now been sent to prison in Afghanistan. No questions about exactly what will happen to him?
And our great real: the Unabomber updating the class of '62 about what he's been up to -- which pretty much includes prison.
O'BRIEN: Yes, I'm proud of my alma mater today.
Thursday, May 24th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.
O'BRIEN: All right. A little Elvis Costello right now, "Peace, Love and Understanding." Margaret and I sharing playlist, I like that.
Our panelists, joining us -- Margaret Hoover, she worked in the bush White House. She's the author of "American Individualism." I also like throwing in that your great grandfather was President Hoover. That's awesome. There's no President O'Brien.
MARGARET HOOVER, AUTHOR: I joke I'm not related to a vacuum cleaner dynasty.
Ryan Lizza is with us as well. He's a Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker."
And Will Cain is a columnist for TheBlaze.com.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My great-grandfather was president of the Future Farmers of America of Grayson County, Texas. I made that up just now. That sounds pretty good.
O'BRIEN: It did. It sounded credible.
O'BRIEN: Our STARTING POINT this morning is what Mitt Romney is saying he'll do if you elect him president. He says he's going cut the unemployment rate. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent or perhaps lower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That's a promise that Governor Romney might be able to keep. Current projections are already suggesting that unemployment would fall to that level by 2016, regardless of who is in the White House.
The bipartisan Congressional Budget Office says unemployment should average 6.3 percent in 2016. The Office of Management and Budget says it will hit 6.1 percent and even lower than that.
Joining us this morning, Mitt Romney supporter, Senator Mike Lee. He's a Republican from the great state of Utah.
Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us. Certainly appreciate it.
SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: You know what's interesting. A lot of the conversation was around sort of the budget and jobless figures and unemployment and yet at the same time as we just pointed out, a lot of number crunchers or Congressional Budget Office for one says that number will be hit any way.
What do you make of what Governor Romney is suggesting he can do if it's already being predicted? LEE: I think he will do it. And I think the important thing to keep in mind is the trajectory on which our next president will put us. He'll put us on one trajectory or another depending on whether he's expanding government of restricting it. We need, as Governor Romney has proposed, to have a government that has a simpler, fairer tax system. We need a government with a lighter regulatory touch.
That's what he'll bring to the table. He's been on the receiving end of this in business. He understands that business creation is chilled whenever government gets too aggressive.
O'BRIEN: So, why -- why so much reluctance to talk about Bain? I wonder if you saw the interview with Governor Romney. And I'm talking about obviously Bain and his experience with the private equity company.
So this was the question that Mark Halperin asked the governor. Very straightforward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: When the president says he wants to focus a lot of the election debate on your career at Bain Capital, do you welcome that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And this is what Governor Romney said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Well, of course I would like to also focus on his record. What is it that he's done as president of the United States over the last four years? Has he established the revitalization he promised he would bring to us? Did he hold unemployment below 8 percent? It's been, what, 39 months now. That hasn't happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So, he answers kind of a yes/no question with five other questions to Mark Halperin. Mark Halperin says clearly is this issue relevant? Here's how the question went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALPERIN: You welcome scrutiny of your business record, is that right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: And Governor Romney says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Mark, what I can tell you is the fact is I spent 25 years in the private sector and that obviously teaches you something that you don't learn if you haven't spend any time in the private sector.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Senator Lee, here's my question for you. This is a straightforward yes or no question. Do you think Bain should be on the table and the governor's record at Bain should be something he's willing to go through because he doesn't answer the question and many surrogates don't either?
LEE: Well, look, I think it's part of what will be discussed and I think that's appropriate. I think it's also appropriate that the governor pivots back to the point that what we really need to be talking about are government policies, and what we really need to be talking about is the proper role of the federal government, whether it should be chilling job creation or encouraging it.
He wants to encourage it. This president made it worse through policies that involve expanding the reach of the federal government into every aspect of our lives.
CAIN: I want to say this to you, Soledad. I think this is a political calculation. Romney doesn't have to talk about his Bain record because so far the issue has been chalked full of shoot yourself in the foot for President Obama. This has not been a message that's been working.
Even President Obama's own surrogates many of which have distanced themselves from this Bain attack, I don't think Romney has to say a word. This is blowing up in the face of the Obama campaign.
RYAN LIZZA, NEW YORKER: I disagree.
I want to ask Senator Lee a question, though. Senator Lee, one thing that's clearly dragging down this economy is that we have $800 billion in negative equity in the housing market. I know you experienced this personally, right? Your own home was under water. You had to sell it in a short sale.
Can you tell us about what you learned from that experience and what a President Romney would do about the housing situation in this country that seems to be the number one thing preventing this economy from moving?
LEE: Well, I think the first lesson that we can take from this is when you have less revenue coming in the door then you have money going out the door, you've got to find ways of trimming. I think as he looks at the government, he would look at that situation and say we've got to cut our expenditures, and we've got cut outlays.
LIZZA: No housing policy?
LEE: Look, I want to focus first and foremost on what we do with the federal government's actions. That's what we can control most directly. I think that's what he would take.
I'll leave it to the Romney team to speak to what they would do specifically on housing. What I'm talking about the big picture about what the federal government is there to do. And what we need the federal government to do right now is to look at the fact that it's got a $1.3 trillion annual deficit and to figure out how to get to the point of balance.
We can't get there immediately. We can't get there overnight. We can get there within the course of a few years.
O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, Senator. We did a story the other day on air that was about a school, I think it's called Davis High School, which is in your state and we talked about that school being fined $15,000. I don't know if you were here, Ryan. But Will was and I know Margaret was too.
The school fined $15,000 because they were selling soda during the lunch hour, that meant they were breaking federal rules about the national school lunch program, $15,000. By the way, like three times what each individual student funding is in that particular school. I know this is a story that is something you've been watching.
What did you make of this story, sir?
LEE: Well, this is what happens when federal government gets into our local classrooms. It has no role doing that and wildly inappropriate for the government to be saying, look, you had a vending machine that was on too long in our opinion and this will cost $15,000. This is going to cost real students real opportunities in the classroom. These decisions shouldn't be made from Washington, D.C.
It should be made at the local level with parents and teachers and local administrators.
LIZZA: Can I just follow up on that? Just this week Governor Romney gave a speech really talking about the federal role in education and not in any way looking to limit that role. Was talking about how the federal government can leverage federal funds to public schools. Do you disagree with him on that?
O'BRIEN: A national system of vouchers we should add to that.
LIZZA: Do you disagree on his position on the federal role in education?
LEE: Your question was about the vending machine situation in Davis High School in Utah. I answered that straightforwardly and the federal government should have no involvement in that.
I haven't had an opportunity to review a statements the other day, and so, I'm not going to comment on them at this point.
O'BRIEN: Senator Mike Lee is a Republican from the state of Utah, it's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it.
LEE: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Time now to get to Christine Romans. She's got a look at the day's top stories.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
Breaking news for you, Soledad, New York City police have a man in custody in connection with the 1979 disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz. We're told he has implicated himself in that little boy's death. Patz vanished while walking to a bus stop in Manhattan.
Last month, investigators began digging up a New York City basement looking for human remains and forensic evidence in this case. Their search turned up empty. Commissioner Ray Kelly says he'll release more information about the man in custody later today.
New video and audio of George Zimmerman. CNN obtained an audio recording of Zimmerman at a Sanford City Hall meeting in January 2012. You can hear Zimmerman describe a ride-along he took with Sanford police as disgusting.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I also have had the opportunity to take ride-alongs with the city of Sanford Police Department and what I saw was disgusting. The officer showed me his favorite hiding spot for taking naps, and explained to me that he doesn't carry a long gun in his vehicle because in his words anything that requires a long gun requires a lot of paperwork and you're going to find me as far away from it. He took two lunch breaks and attended a going away party for one of his fellow officers.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ROMANS: E-mails sent by Zimmerman eight months later show a change of heart. One reads, quote, "I have high hopes for and restored faith in your administration and the Sanford Police Department in its entirety."
Also new this morning, video released by prosecutors shows Zimmerman three days after he fatally shot Trayvon Martin walking unescorted around the police station.
A baby sitter and her friend who put a 1-year-old baby in a washing machine in a Laundromat are getting a clean start from the law. Prosecutors in Southern New Jersey decided not to prosecute them for this stupid stunt.
The incident was captured by store security cameras. The couple panicked when the door locked. A clerk pulled the plug on the washer to free this little baby. The child's mother wasn't even aware of what happened until the night before the hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAKIA DAVID, MOTHER: I never knew about none of this. That's what I was trying to tell everybody. I never knew about any of this that was going on. I found out on the news. I mean, on -- yes, on the news.
REPORTER: Did you recognize your son?
REPORTER: What did you think about what you saw?
DAVID: Truthfully, you don't want to know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: The baby had minor injuries but is doing okay now.
ROMANS: Struggling tech giant Hewlett-Packard is cutting 27,000 jobs worldwide. That's 8 percent of its workforce. CEO Meg Whitman says the company will save the company about $3 billions in the next couple years. Most of that money will go toward research and development.
The Big Apple in the baseball world buzzing about a report in today's "New York Daily News" that the New York Yankees might be for sale. The Steinbrenners may listen to offers after record sale of the L.A. Dodgers for more than $2 billion. George Steinbrenner bought the franchise back in 1973 for $8 million. You can't even get an apartment on that for New York now.
Statements say a bidding for the seven-time champions could be $3 billion today. That report getting a lot of buzz this morning, "New York Daily News".
O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks, Christine.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, he helped the United States find Osama bin Laden. Now he's serving 33 years in a Pakistani prison for treason. Will the United States come to this man's rescue? We'll take a look.
And the Unabomber updates his bio in the Harvard alumni directory.
Plus, Christine's playlist, the Violent Femmes, "Blister in the Sun."
You're watching STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: A man jailed for helping catch Osama Bin Laden in accused of treason this morning. A doctor in Pakistan will start his 33-year prison sentence. His name is Shakil Afridi. He helped the CIA run a fake vaccine drive hoping to confirm that Osama Bin Laden was actually in a compound in Abottabbad. Am I saying that --
O'BRIEN: Sorry. The same one, of course, where he was killed by navy SEALs last year. And even though Pakistan says Bin Laden was the enemy of their country, after its government discovered involvement, he faced a two-month trial in tribal court. And by its rules, he wasn't allowed to defend himself.
Fran Townsend is CNNs national security contributor, also a member of the external advisory boards for the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. It's great to have you. Thirty-three year sentence, does that come as a surprise to you?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATL. SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: No. Look, this is not a -- the tribal justice system is nothing that an American would recognize, right? You mentioned that he wasn't able to represent himself. It was a two-month process. And frankly, with the charge, right, the charge was treason.
Although, in the tribal court, he couldn't have been executed, he could be under federal law in Pakistan. Now, this case can be appealed by Dr. Afridi into the federal Pakistani system. The federal investigation is ongoing. It's been ongoing for some months.
O'BRIEN: Why was he not protected? I mean, here's a guy who had a critical piece of information. The vaccine thing at the end of the day and the DNA testing wasn't, well, planned out, but the cell phone number did. That was critical. Why did no one swoop in and protect him?
TOWNSEND: You know, the impulse here is to say what a lousy job they did, right?
O'BRIEN: Kind of.
TOWNSEND: Well, but you don't know. Oftentimes, Soledad, what will happen is an asset who's in country has a large extended family thinks he's safe enough, doesn't think he'll be revealed, and thinks he can sort of muddle on through and doesn't want to leave. We don't really know if that's the case here.
It may be -- you could be right. It could be that they just didn't exfiltrate him quick enough and didn't plan for it, but more than likely, this was a long-term investigation. They knew Dr. Afridi well. And so, more likely, it is that he didn't want to leave then or he didn't want to leave without a large extended family that would have blown the operation.
CAIN: -- been like during the trial and then on to this appeal? He's been in jail, I assume?
TOWNSEND: That's right. I mean, we don't know publicly really very much about his condition or that of his family.
HOOVER: Is this something that could be added to the long list of negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan right now?
TOWNSEND: It's on it, right? So, Hillary Clinton has intervened in his behalf, and we've seen trips from chairman of the joint chiefs Dempsey, director of the CIA Petraeus, Leon Panetta who was director of the CIA at the time of the operation is now secretary of defense. This gets raised by the cabinet every time somebody is having an interaction. So, it will be added to the list. Pakistan -- let's remember, Pakistan will use it as a leverage point. They're going to want some concession, some commitment from United States that there will be no use of Pakistani citizens inside their own territory by American intelligence.
O'BRIEN: So, his faith could very much parallel the U.S.- Pakistani relationship.
O'BRIEN: It's going well. We see him freed potentially. If it's not going well, he could be stock in prison for even more than 33 years, as well, if he doesn't pay the fine that he owes.
TOWNSEND: I think it's more likely you will see that this does get resolved. Like Ray Davis, the American contractor who was ultimately released, he may spend some time in jail. We've seen it already. But I think it's likely that the behind the scenes negotiations will result ultimately in his release. One would hope.
LIZZA: Just quickly on the vaccination program. So, one part of all of the amazing work that we did to get Bin Laden that always bothered me a little bit. Is it a legitimate use of -- you know, the U.S. going in and using a vaccination program for purposes like that. Is that troubling?
TOWNSEND: It's a fair question. I will tell you, you know, there's the old bromide of gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail. I think that's why it sort of troubles you. But the fact of the matter is, our intelligence agencies under appropriate legal authorities and supervision from the president and White House are permitted to use those sorts of covert activities. I understand why people are particularly uncomfortable.
LIZZA: -- will affect future state department programs?
O'BRIEN: Anyone in country who's doing a vaccine program or anything like that will now be potentially looked at as a spy and maybe people who need vaccinations for something critical won't get it because they'll know the story.
TOWNSEND: No. And that's why I say, Soledad, it's a legitimate concern and legitimate question. I will tell you that there are multiple levels of review and consideration when somebody makes a policy decision to allow that kind of activity.
O'BRIEN: Fran Townsend, nice to see you as always. We appreciate you.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, kind of hard to attend your 50-year college reunion when you're serving eight concurrent life sentences, isn't it? The Unabomber, though, who's been left out of the celebrations goes right to the alumni guide book to insert himself. It's our "Get Real" and it's up next.
O'BRIEN: A little sonic youth this morning. "Silver Rocket." This is off of Ryan's playlist. You can, by the way, check out our playlist every morning. It's on our website at CNN.com/STARTINGPOINT.
Time to "Get Real" this morning. You know, Harvard's class of 1962 is a very impressive bunch. It includes members of Congress like Ruth Messinger, lawyers like (INAUDIBLE), doctors like Peter Schwartz, and journalists like Kevin Klose. But the addition of one man, Ted Kaczynski, is upsetting to some folks.
He, too, is listed in the alumni directory. And if that name sounds familiar, that's because he's Unabomber, people. Here's what he submitted under occupation prisoner, under awards, eight life sentences issued by the U.S. District Court in California. No joke. This is true.
While at least one member of the class 1962 thought it was kind of funny saying he's more famous than anybody else in our class because that's what it's all about. Who wins on the famous rating? A wife of a victim of Ted Kaczynski said she was disappointed in Harvard.
She said he's a con artist, he's a serial killer, he's a murderer. Everything is a game for him to push people's buttons.
CAIN: The thing about Kaczynski's background is connection to Ivy League schools and makes me think about that scene in "Goodwill Hunting" when he's talking about Will's future and Robin Williams says to the other scientist, "rattling off the achievements of someone named Ted Kaczynski."
And he's like, "I don't know who Ted Kaczynski is." He's the Unabomber. People, sometimes, don't remember who Ted Kaczynski is.
O'BRIEN: Well, I think it means no one is reading these applications or maybe they read them and they let them go through which would be worse.
HOOVER: This is an alumni bulletin which is sort of a vestige of the past. It's paper. It's printed. What about another Harvard alum who invented something called Facebook. You know, imagine --
HOOVER: -- and he could have updated his profile from his -- consecutive terms in federal prison.
O'BRIEN: Yes, yes, yes.
LIZZA: Harvard wants everyone to be the best at what they do. And by that standard, Kaczynski succeeded. O'BRIEN: Right. Unfortunately. That was a hot mess.
All right. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the jobless numbers for the week are set to be released any moment now as soon as we get them. We're going to bring them to you.
And does that number even matter? We're headed for another recession say some no matter what. Our next guest has words of warning before we fall off the so-called fiscal cliff. Don't miss the nerve-wrecking -- have you seen this truck crash?
O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness! I'm not going to show it to you yet. That's what we call the deep tease. Over the commercial break. It is shocking and it's worth waiting for. This is Will Cain's playlist. Stone LaRue?
CAIN: Stoney La Rue.
O'BRIEN: "Look At Me Fly."
CAIN: That's right.
O'BRIEN: Breaking news we've been following all morning for you. New York City police have a man in custody who they say has implicated himself in the 1979 disappearance of six-year-old eat Etan Patz. The little boy, you might remember, vanished while he was walking to a bus stop in Manhattan just two blocks away from his apartment. He became the first missing child ever to appear on a milk carton.
We're being told the man being questioned was picked up on Wednesday in New Jersey. He claims he played a direct role in Patz's death. Our sources tell CNN the man's claims are a, quote, "good lead" but it's unclear where it will take the case. We're told the man lived and worked in the area where Patz lived, but we're also told by a second source that the claims are being treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. We're going to bring you more developments in the story as they come in, obviously.
Other headlines to get to as well. Christine Romans has that for us. Hey, Christine.
ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealing that State Department specialists hacked into websites run by Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen. Clinton says they targeted sites that were trying to recruit new members by bragging about killing Americans. The U.S. team plastered the sites with altered versions of those ads instead showing the toll Al Qaeda attacks have taken on many people.
The Senate launched an investigation into a national charity that's supposed to assist disabled veterans. The probe was sparked by a two-year investigation by CNN. CNN examined this charity's tax records and found very little of the millions raised by this foundation over the past three years, very little has actually gone to help veterans. And $61 million has gone to a direct mail company that works with the foundation and many other charities, something Senator Max Bachus of Montana finds very suspicious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHUS: Frankly, I smell a rat there. I have a hunch that the mail order is using the veterans' organization as a front for themselves so they get the contributions from good, well-meaning Americans thinking they are helping disabled vets when the money is going to this other outfit that's a fundraising operation and then the money is going to disabled vets.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: The nation's largest charity watchdog group gives the disabled veterans national foundation an "F" grade since 2010. They estimate only two percent of the money raised by the charity goes to help disabled veterans.
This is real. A guy driving a SUV coming up on a curve, a tractor-trailer coming around the bend the other way taking the turn too quickly, tipping on its side screeching down the road and slamming head-on into this SUV. This happened on a two-lane highway in Russia. Get this -- everyone survived. When you really look at that video closely, you can see a guy in the orange shirt, the driver of that big rig sort of stands up, stands up upright after the whole thing. No one hurt.
O'BRIEN: It almost looks like the big rig comes to rest against the car that has the camera in it, because it doesn't all go to black. It just sort of stops and bounces back. Amazing.
O'BRIEN: You just can't take those corners so fast. I bet he knows that now in retrospect. Christine, thank you.
Weekly jobless numbers are in -- 370,000 unemployment claims filed for the first time last week. That is down 2,000. We want to keep seeing that number come in below 400,000. That means the labor market is improving, so we keep watching that.
If the so-called do nothing Congress does nothing, this country could be in recession by early 2013. That's the word from the Congressional Budget Office. We told you about it on Wednesday. The CBO is warning that if the Bush tax cuts expire, and automatic spending cuts are triggered, the country could topple off what they call the fiscal cliff.
And in true Washington fashion, both sides of the aisle are already pointing the finger at each other. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said president Obama and Congress have spent the last year advancing "misguided, redistributonistic policies" -- is that a word? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded by saying this -- "We could avoid the so called fiscal cliff tomorrow if Republicans would agree to extend the middle class tax cuts."
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. He's also the author of "Debacle." Nice to have you, Grover. Let's talk about what the CBO is predicting which is Congress on both sides of the aisle don't get together and figure this off we're going off a fiscal cliff. Is that true?
GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FOR TAX REFORM: If nothing is done on January 1st, two months after the election, this is going to be very much front and center like that truck that turned over right in front of our face as we go into vote because fewer than 60 days later there's an automatic tax increase that hits. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are eliminated. The expensing for business investment, very important to manufacturing, that disappears. Tax increases on dividends triple. The capital gains tax goes up. Taxes on all individual income tax go up. Taxes on businesses go up because most businesses pay the personal income tax. It's over a $400 billion tax increase the first year, starts January 1st.
Then there's also spending reductions which I think are a great idea and were part of the agreement to raise -- when Obama wanted to raise the debt ceiling, the Republicans said you have to reduce spending at the same time. Some spending restraint begins to take place then.
But this fiscal tax increase coming straight at the American people 60 days after the election unless Congress votes to extend the lower taxes.
Now, what's interesting is President Obama and Harry Reid who was quoted there could have made that any day in 2009. They had a super majority in the house and Senate, any day in 2010 and chose not to. So when Reid says we would like to get this done, I'm not sure what he's talking about, because it's what he didn't do when he had the power to do it.
O'BRIEN: The CBO makes it very clear that they think this is a bipartisan problem.
LIZZA: Grover, you obviously know there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans about which of those tax cuts they want to renew. I have a question for you, Grover. Last year Boehner and Obama almost came very close to this grand bargain that would have included $800 billion in new revenue. What's your view of that?
And number two, there's some Republicans out there that are off the reservation recently. Allen West said you're a little misguided. So are you able to still get Republicans to vote your way on taxes or are things slipping as we approach this fiscal cliff?
NORQUIST: Two things. One, the commitment that most Republicans have taken is in writing and to the American people. I know Harry Reid keeps acting as if it's a commitment to me. That's cute politics or something on his part, but it's not true. Congressmen and senators have made a written commitment to voters of their states they won't raise taxes. As for last year, what Boehner, the speaker of the House, told the president repeatedly is we're not raising taxes, period, end of conversation. We will accept higher revenue through economic growth by reducing marginal tax rates, supply side economic growth, absolutely. That would count toward reducing the deficit that Obama had run up. That Obama knew. Boehner made that clear. Some of the Democrats chose to say if he agrees to revenues, maybe we can make him eat $800 billion in tax increases. And the answer was no.
And so what we did do in 2011, the House and Senate and president, was agree to cut spending $2.5 trillion and not raise taxes. That was a good negotiation. It was a big success, unless you wanted to race taxes in which case you lost.
LIZZA: What about Allen West saying you're misguided?
NORQUIST: What I think West was quoted as saying is if you eliminated waste in the government, he might consider a tax increase down the road. One -- OK, that's kind of a hypothetical that's a little bit silly. The other part is that Allen West and all of the Republicans have already voted once and a second time now for the Ryan plan, which reduces government spending through reforming entitlements, doesn't raise taxes, and puts us on a path to eliminating the national debt and not just reducing the deficit. Allen West doesn't have to worry. He'll never have the opportunity to vote for a tax increase in order to balance the budget. We can do it by reducing spending. He's actually already cast that vote.
HOOVER: Grover, it's Margaret Hoover. Good to see you again. One of the things we talked about a lot is the Democrats strategy to demonize you and make you the villain of the tax debate rather than the pledge to the American people. I wonder if you can hone in on during this debate as we look back at Bowles-Simpson that we might have got something done, the debate goes to you. Grover Norquist would say that's bad because it will close loopholes. Can you put an end to question of closing loopholes for people who are watching.
NORQUIST: The taxpayer protection pledge was designed in 1996. President Reagan set up Americans for Tax Reform, the group I run, and asked me to run it to be the outside group to push tax reform. That was 1986. Reduce tax rates, broaden the case. It eliminated many deductions and credits that cluttered the tax code which was inefficient and reduced rates, which gave us good economic growth, very helpful.
So the Americans for tax reform and American people are all in favor of getting rid of deductions and credits but not if it's a Trojan horse for higher taxes. So let's reduce deductions and credits and reduce marginal tax rates. Congressman Pompeo from Kansas has a great bill that eliminates tax credits targeted toward energy, natural gas, oil, algae, everything, and instead reduces tax rates for everybody. So if you want a clean tax code, lower taxes and no special deductions, Pompeo's bill on energy.
O'BRIEN: You'll have to get into it with Grover on your own time because we're out of time. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, harsh punishment for a high school senior who was graduating and he "Tebow- ed." We'll tell you what happened to him.
Here's Grover's playlist.
NORQUIST: I like it.
O'BRIEN: Me too.
O'BRIEN: Margaret just said I love this song. That's Regina Spektor, "Fidelity". It's from Dr. Sanjay Gupta's playlist.
And today Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to a student from Indiana University. He came to the United States to finish his engineering degree. Take a look at how he's never given up even under the most difficult circumstances.
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DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2004, Manoj Rana's family couldn't have been more proud because he was coming to America to Purdue University to complete his degree in computer engineering. Just a month from graduation, however, his life changed forever. His neighbor two floors below intentionally set a fire with his wife and child still inside.
MANOJ RANA, SURVIVED APARTMENT FIRE: And by the time my roommate and I woke up, the whole apartment was on fire.
GUPTA: Rana and his roommate Trobat Single tried to escape but they couldn't.
RANA: My roommate collapsed in front of me and I started running down the stairs.
GUPTA: Rana only made it down a few steps before he collapsed. A fireman found him still alive but on the way to the hospital, he could hear paramedics talking about how badly he had been burned.
RANA: At that moment I was thinking about my family and what I had come here for to get a good education. And now this guy is saying that I don't have a chance to survive and I passed out and then I woke up in University of Chicago Burn Unit after four months of induced coma.
GUPTA: Rana had burns over 95 percent of his body. So far he's had 54 operations. But he didn't give up. And he credits three people for his survival.
RANA: My father, my mother and my occupational therapist, Shannon Hendricks.
GUPTA: His biggest accomplishment so far, getting his MBA. He recently graduated with the highest honors.
RANA: I'm still happy that you know I can live an independent life and now I have gotten my MBA and hopefully you know I'll get a job soon and you know have a good life.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.
O'BRIEN: Wow amazing.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a graduating teenager is denied his diploma for this. Take a look, yes, he's Tebowing at his high school graduation ceremony. We'll tell you why he was flagged for excessive celebration on the field. That's straight ahead on STARTING POINT.
O'BRIEN: Margaret's playlist. Lyle Lovett, "I've Been to Memphis".
When it came to walk across the stage, is what I'm trying to say a young man, 17 years old, did this. Take a look. Yes. He's Tebowing -- it might be hard to see in the photo. But he is kneeling and -- and doing the Tebow.
Chris Shriner goes to a private Catholic school and they said before graduation, absolutely, positively no antics on the stage at graduation, graduating seniors. We don't want to see it.
So of course they were furious and they told him he's not going to get his diploma. In a way he was on the receiving end of a prank because his mom who is a math teacher at the school who was so angry with the stunt was part of that group that said he had to clean up the gym where graduation was held and then she actually had his diploma on her.
LIZZA: Did you see how big that gym was too?
O'BRIEN: I know.
CAIN: There's a lot of deep analysis. I decided the school did exactly the right thing.
O'BRIEN: Me too.
CAIN: The kid was warned. And they have a standard.
O'BRIEN: Yes agreed.
CAIN: And they don't want beach balls and antics on stage.
O'BRIEN: Agreed, Kumbaya, Will Cain. We agree.
CAIN: It's 8:51 and we come together.
HOOVE: There's always going to be that kid, right? There's always going to be the kid who -- who goofs off at graduation and got the attention. And look now he's on CNN. O'BRIEN: And he goes to -- it's a Catholic school right? And instead of saying I wanted to pray and celebrate my graduation which I think would have gotten him a little sympathy maybe. He says this, "I just thought it was fun. I was doing it to make graduation memorable".
HOOVER: And now he's memorable.
CAIN: What's his name?
O'BRIEN: I have no idea.
CAIN: I don't know are you recording this CNN segment? Here is your memory.
HOOVER: Here's your 15 minutes.
LIZZA: He may have been mocking Tebow there.
O'BRIEN: You know what when I interviewed Tim Tebow the other day and I said does it bother you that people are mocking you. Like some of them are actually Tebowing and then other people are Tebowing and mocking you.
He said, "At the end of the day it's all praying and I'm totally fine with it", which is why I love him.
"End Point" is up next with the panel.
O'BRIEN: All right. Ending strong this morning. Rolling Stones -- "Honky-tonk Woman". Was that you?
CAIN: Yes. Right.
O'BRIEN: Cain coming through. Look from 8:51 on, we've actually -- we're having a (inaudible) --
CAIN: As you say it's Kumbaya.
O'BRIEN: It's working. It's working. Write it down. It might never happen again likely.
All right. Who wants to start with their "End Point"?
CAIN: Go get it, Ryan.
O'BRIEN: Come on, Ryan. Jump in.
LIZZA: Bain, we were talking about this off camera.
O'BRIEN: Arguing really.
LIZZA: Right. Arguing about this.
O'BRIEN: It was before 8:51.
CAIN: This was before yes. Our nine minutes of kumbaya.
LIZZA: Romney's problem with Bain in a word is he changed the metrics about what Bain does because of the --
O'BRIEN: Here's Margaret -- here's Margaret. Let me act out Margaret for you.
LIZZA: He argued at some point he decided to argue that rather than I ran a great company that was a huge success which is true. He said I created jobs and he put a number on it and that's been dogging him ever since. But that was not Bain's job.
HOOVER: Actually it's not --
CAIN: That's nonsense.
HOOVER: Here's what happened. Here's what happened thought. When the argument first started, this wasn't nitpicking about how many jobs Bain had saved. This actually was an argument against capitalism. This is like vampire capitalism and anti-private equity and that has changed. Now you have Democratic surrogate who are saying private equity is a positive influence on the economy and now they're going back --
O'BRIEN: But -- I just think that the but in there is vampire capitalism was about jobs, right? The vampire part.
HOOVER: Now, it was actually a hit on private equity. And that's why you've had all these Democratic surrogates making --
HOOVER: Using private equity is actually not negative on the economy.
O'BRIEN: By saying vampire capitalism is when you go in and you basically suck everything out of a company and you kill jobs, right? The vampire thing was about jobs. And I'm going to agree with Ryan on this. We were disagreeing about this, Will.
CAIN: Well, we have disagreed. I disagree with you. This Bain issue has not dogged Romney. It will not dog Romney.
O'BRIEN: Whether or not is in question.
CAIN: It will dog Obama and if he ties himself to it, it will sink Obama. I'll tell you this, this issue about Bain --
O'BRIEN: Why not answer the question then?
CAIN: What question?
O'BRIEN: Every time --
HOOVER: Everybody else is talking about it including us. All of his surrogates and Democratic surrogates.
What does he have to say about it?
CAIN: You asking that question is like asking someone "Hey you see your opponent over there opening up that time bomb? Why don't you walk over there and punch him while he doesn't." I don't need to. The time bomb is going to explode.
Bain is the time bomb. Obama is playing with this bad issue. People like capitalism, people like profits, people understand that profits leads to jobs. Jobs don't have to be your focus -- Bain is a winner.
O'BRIEN: I'm just saying some people and others will say they understand that when a company goes in and buys a company and at some point has to lay people off and jobs are lost, that is a story that could resonate in an election year.
CAIN: If that is what Bain does -- I have one simple question for you.
If that is what Bain's modus operandi was to destroy companies in the pursuit of profit, to lay people off --
O'BRIEN: Of course it's not. And I didn't say that. And I didn't say that. And don't frame it as if I said that because I did not.
CAIN: Does that happen in private equity? On occasion. Is that something that Mitt Romney specialized in? You must answer -- you, proverbial, proverbial, you --
O'BRIEN: Did he say that either?
CAIN: -- must answer why Bain has been in business since 1987.
O'BRIEN: All points, by the way, well put. I didn't say any of those things.
LIZZA: You are making a somewhat complicated argument about what Bain does. That's not what Romney was saying. Romney was saying "My success at Bain was creating jobs." That's not the metric that Bain used.
CAIN: But it doesn't matter if it's the metric. It's a positive by-product. Does Bain and private equity create jobs? Big stamp yes.
HOOVER: You guys are so in the weeds because when Americans go to vote in November they're going to look at who is the guy who can turn the economy around. Who is the guy who has a sense of what government needs to do in order for the private sector to turn around and people are thinking jobs and the economy. We are so in the weeds on this Bain stuff. I think it's going to be irrelevant.
O'BRIEN: I think that when people go and actually ask that question they're going to go two tracks. They're going to say a guy who ran a private equity company or they're going to say is that private equity company connected to jobs? That's a $64,000 question for how people are going to vote.
And by the way, we have so much time that there's a lot of other stuff that can happen in between.
Done and done. My god I'm worn out today.
O'BRIEN: Carol Costello and "CNN NEWSROOM" begins right now. I'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning. Hey Carol.