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Medal Of Freedom; Aspirin To Fight Cancer?; Work Nights, Get Cancer?; Texas Votes In GOP Primary Today; Cracking The Curse; "Uncomfortable" Calling Soldiers "Heroes"; Americans Targeted?; Home Sweet Home

Aired May 29, 2012 - 06:59   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning is the super soaker, trees are down, power is out, high waves, torrential rain. The storm is named Beryl, and it's not finished yet.

Also, a shadow a (ph) war, a plot to assassinate American diplomats and their families. Some are linking it to Iran, but is it, in fact, a plot in Iran?

And cracking the curse. We're going to meet five guys and their air goat who walked more than 1,000 miles in the hopes of sending the last placed cubs back to the world series.

It's Tuesday, May 29th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning is what is really a tropical depression. The Beryl is jumping as much as a foot of rain in some areas this morning. It's been moving across Florida and Georgia.

Some of those areas are thankful for the rain after a long stretch of drought, but Beryl is creating some dangerous surf conditions, including rip tides as it moves towards the Carolinas.

CNN's George Howell is live for us at Tybee Island in Georgia. Hey, George. Good morning.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. We are starting to feel a few drops in Tybee Island, as the storm edges its way closer to us. Just a few miles away, 20 miles away in Savannah, the rain has already started in this slow-moving storm. And we've already seen storm warnings - or rather, flood watches that have been issued in this area. That is the concern in the different areas as the storm moves forward.

But there's also a concern along the beaches. Lifeguards are concerned about people getting into the water, these beaches had been closed for people to get into the water. And we talked to a lifeguard just the other day about the strong rip currents that they are concerned about. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HOWELL: So I see the white caps out there. Is that safe for a person to get into the water?

HUNTER ROBINSON, CAPTAIN, TYBEE ISLAND OCEAN RESCUE: No. It is not. The thing is with closing the water completely, you let somebody knee deep, they're going to get waist deep. They get waist deep, they're going to want to swim.

HOWELL: What is the concern about rip currents out here?

ROBINSON: Basically a rip current is a channelized (ph) body of water that pulls out to sea when there's too much water close to the shore and not enough back here. And it's just backed on basic gravity. Rip current will pull you out to sea for about anywhere from 20 to 150 yards at eight to ten miles an hour.


HOWELL: Soledad, we saw a lot of people out on the beach just yesterday, but no one was allowed in the water. And those lifeguards, they took the job very seriously to make sure that no one got in with that concern about rip currents.

O'BRIEN: That's pretty terrible and some of those pictures. George Howell for us this morning. George, thank you. We'll continue to check in with you throughout the morning to get updates.

Let's get to Rob Marciano. He's tracking all of this from the Weather Center of course. Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi. Good morning, Soledad, we're looking at this thing holding together fairly well, 30-mile-an-hour winds. The radar is showing rainfall that is just about to get to George, mostly on the east side of this thing. The center is just, it's pretty much over Valdosta, Georgia. So, here's your rain shield from Savannah all the way down to Daytona Beach. Rain is going to be heavy at times today. We saw heavy rain yesterday, about six inches in spots. Not a tremendous amount of intense flooding, but certainly some pockets of flash flooding. This is an area that really could use the rain. They don't really want it all at one time but they're getting it.

We're going to get rain not only across Georgia but up through the Carolinas as well as this tracks to the north and east. So, the Lowcountry will be filling up with some water. Anywhere from three to six inches with this system, and we've got flash flood watches that are posted as far north as North Carolina.

Here's the forecast track from this system, it will intensify, of course, once it gets over water, but that won't be until during the daytime tomorrow and by then it will begin to accelerate and move out to sea. Pushed out to sea by this strong cold front, which is going to bring some relief incidentally, Soledad, to the Northeast which has been rather steamy the past couple of days.

O'BRIEN: Why yes it has, Rob. Yes it has. All right. Let's talk about this earthquake in Italy, if we can. We know that eight people have been killed. It's a 5.8 magnitude quake. Kind of the same region in northern Italy where another quake hit nine days ago, and that quake hit -- killed seven people. It was centered near Bologna, felt as far away as Milan. Rob, what can you tell us about that?

MARCIANO: Very close, it was actually four or five miles away from the epicenter from the one that hit nine days ago. You see the damage there. You have to remember why this is different from California or Japan, where the building codes are much, much stronger. These are a little bit more old-world buildings in an industrial part of Italy, so they come down rather Italy -- rather easily. 5.8 magnitude quake.

Now, the shaded area here, that's all the people that felt it, likely well over a million people from Venice up toward the Swiss border to the Italian Riviera. But this orange area which is zoomed in - here's the epicenter from about nine days ago, about five miles from this epicenter. Very close there. About over 60,000 people felt strong shaking in the area that is seeing damage right now. We're seeing some of that coming into the CNN NEWSROOM. This technically an aftershock really from the one that hit nine days ago --

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask you if it was a new earthquake or an aftershock. How do they determine that?

MARCIANO: Well, you know, pretty much if it's smaller than the one that was previous to it and close enough, it's an aftershock. If it's bigger, well then, it's a whole new earthquake. At this point it's so close it really doesn't matter, Soledad. You're talking about a 6.0 and 5.8 all within two weeks of each other, all within ten miles of each other. It's a devastating event.

O'BRIEN: It's so terrifying for people who are in those. Our hearts really go out to them today. Rob, thank you. I appreciate the update.

Let's get to Christine. She's got a look at the day's top stories. Hey, Christine, good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Soledad. An emergency effort is on to save a peace plan in Syria. Today U.N. envoy Kofi Annan is meeting with Syria's president Bashar al Assad. Kofi Annan says his goal is to end suffering and convince the government to cooperate with his plan. Global outrage has exploded following a bloody weekend massacre that left over 100 people dead, including almost 50 children. U.S. officials warn that if atrocities continue, military intervention is on the table.

New York City police have turned to the sanitation department for help as they try to corroborate a confession in the 33-year-old disappearance of Etan Patz. Fifty-one-year-old Pedro Hernandez told police he choked the six-year-old boy to death, then disposed of his body in a trash bag. Police asked sanitation officials for trash pickup and dumping records dating back to 1979 when Patz went missing. Hernandez is being held on a murder charge and kept on suicide watch.

A 15-hour police stand-off comes to an end this morning as the suspect falls 150 feet to his death off a construction crane. The robbery suspect claimed the crane on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Police say he claimed to have a weapon and refused to leave the crane's cab. Witnesses say he eventually got sick because the cab doesn't have air conditioning.

Look out below! Pieces from what's believed to be an Air Canada jet raining down on people in the Toronto suburb. Metal chunks damaged several cars including one that smashed right through a windshield. Luckily no one on the ground was injured. The Air Canada flight had just taken off; bound for Tokyo when the Boeing 777 lost an engine. The plane with 318 passengers on board doubled back and landed safely at Toronto's Pierce Airport.

Mitt Romney set to clinch the GOP nomination today. He'll be in Las Vegas for a fundraiser alongside Donald Trump. Donald Trump who continues to question President Obama's birth place. Asked by reporters, Romney - he didn't seem concerned about Trump's association with the fringe birthers - didn't seem concerned about that hurting him politically.


MITT ROMNEY, PRESUMED GOP PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: You know, I don't agree with all the people who support me, and I guess they don't all agree with everything I believe in. But I need to get 50.1 percent or more. And I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.


ROMANS; The Obama administration criticizing Romney for not distancing himself from Trump's comments. We get reaction later this hour when Soledad talks to Andrea Saul, the press secretary for the Romney campaign.

All right. Kids her age are learning how to read while this pint- sized six-year-old girl is spelling her way to national fame. Lori Anne Madison making history today as the youngest to ever compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.


LORI ANNE MADISON, YOUNGEST CONTESTANT EVER IN SCRIPPS SPELLING BEE: Honestly it's not as big, and I'm not really excited like "Ahh! I'm going to the national spelling bee!" I'm more like it's fun.

I want to be an astrobiologist because I like astronomy and biology. I'm also aiming to be in the swimming part of the Olympics.



ROMANS: Lori Anne's qualifying word, vacaro, meaning cowboy, which she spelled correctly to win the Prince William County, Virginia spelling bee. Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You got to love a little girl with absolutely no ambitions.


O'BRIEN: I'd like to be in the swimming part of the Olympics and also want to be an astrobiologist because I'm six and everybody else wants to be a firefighter.

ROMANS: Wide range of options.

O'BRIEN: Yes, she does. Yes, she does. That's very cute. All right, Christine, thank you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we'll talk about this assassination plot that's targeting American diplomats. Some are linking it to Iran, and U.S. officials fear could be part of a broader campaign to kill foreign diplomats. We have details on the plot and what U.S.officials are trying to do to stop it.

Also, cracking the curse, or at least trying to crack the curse. We're going to introduce to you five men and their goat named Wrigley. They're walking more than 1,000 miles trying to break a curse that's brought nearly 70 years of bad luck for the Cubs. Our STARTING POINT team headed in this morning. It's Margaret Hoover, Alicia Menendez and Will Cain. Good morning, good morning, good morning.


O'BRIEN: I didn't get the memo about the blue!


O'BRIEN: Cerulean blue. This is Alicia's playlist. It's Mace, "Feel So Good." You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back right after the break.


O'BRIEN: A plot to assassinate Americans is being linked to Iran. U.S. investigators are trying to get to the bottom of what is a pretty intricate plan to try to take out American diplomats and their families. According to "The Washington Post," the plot involves snipers with silencer equipped rifles and a car bomb.

Among the targets of the alleged plot, U.S. embassy staff and family members in Azerbaijan. That's Iran's neighbor to the north.

Fran Townsend joins us. She's CNN national security contributor. Also a member of the external advisory boards for the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security as well. Good morning, nice to see you.

"The Washington Post" headline says that Iran is involved. U.S. officials among the targets of Iran-linked assassination plots. What do you think that -- is the odds it's Iran?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I think it's pretty good. Look, here's what we know about Iran's sort of modus operandi, right? We've seen them behind attacks against diplomats in India, in Georgia, in Thailand. You remember the magnetic attachable bombs using C-4.

And Iran does not want a full-on military conflict with the United States. What they prefer are these small-scale one-off attacks. We saw it, frankly, the most egregious up to this report was the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador here. And so, we do see the Iranians using these sorts of tactics, these methods as provocation without going so far as to launch a military attack.

O'BRIEN: But why target the diplomats in Azerbaijan?

TOWNSEND: Well, look. There are many - it's interesting because if you read "The Washington Post" article, it suggests that Iran pulled back in the beginning of negotiations. I think the Iranians are anticipating real effect of the upcoming increase in sanctions, particularly those targeting the oil sector. And so that they would have pulled back on that makes sense. They're feeling from them (ph) this heat, from the American sections and the U.S. alliance with Israel.

And so, I do think that it makes sense. They're not -- certainly Americans are not immune. We've seen Iranians back in the 1980s, the Beirut barracks bombing. And so, this wouldn't be the first time. It's the most recent attack.

HOOVER: You said last night that if this is true, this would constitute an act of war. What would that mean effectively?

TOWNSEND: Well - sure. Let's go back for a second, because this debate really first came up where there was the announcement of the plot against the Saudi ambassador, an attack on a diplomat on U.S. soil. This is just an extension, frankly, of that debate that started then.

So any attack against an American official, whether it's in the U.S. or someplace around the world really does constitute an act of war. When all that really means is, what then? Which tools does the United States choose to use to retaliate against it? Does it use military force? Probably not, because it would be a single attack. But it could.

And frankly, that only goes to the fact of what are the tools that become available for the United States to use in retaliation?

O'BRIEN: So if in fact it is considered to be an act of war, what do you think are the rules of engagement then potentially could change?

TOWNSEND: That's right. I mean the question becomes, does the U.S. use this event in particular if they feel that there is sufficient intelligence and evidence to link the Iranian government. That the Iranian government was truly behind this plot, do they choose to use an overt and military response or -- you know, we've seen this sort of cat-and-mouse game that's going on.

We've got to believe that there's covert action being used by the United States and its allies against the Iranians. The Iranians have used these one-off attacks and so you've got this low level, low intensity conflict that's already going on.

O'BRIEN: Will?

WILL CAIN, COLUMNIST, THEBLAZE.COM: Fran, what is the historical parallel for this? I mean it's not just one way by the way. We see Iranian scientists being bombed inside of Iran. It essentially amounts to what seems like a shadow war of this tit-for-tat. Is there a historical parallel for this? You mentioned provocation. Is there anything we can look at in the past to say, how does this play out?

TOWNSEND: You know, it's interesting because oftentimes -- these shadow wars go hot and cold. Right? So there'll be a period where it's sort of intense, you mentioned the nuclear -- the Iranian nuclear scientists, I mentioned the ones around the world in Georgia, India and Thailand.

CAIN: Right.

TOWNSEND: And then all of a sudden it seems to go cold where you have some parallel process in place. So the negotiations are ongoing. If the negotiations begin to fall apart will we see --

CAIN: Just resume.

TOWNSEND: Right, exactly yes.

CAIN: Right.

TOWNSEND: Exactly right, and I think we do have to expect that. And there's no -- sort of you don't see any path to it suddenly just evaporating unless there's some resolution to the ongoing conflict between the two countries.

O'BRIEN: Correspondent Reza Sayah was on a little bit earlier on -- "EARLY START" and he said that he sees huge holes in this "Washington Post" article which -- where this information is coming from.

Do we have that sound bite, guys, or do you need me to read it? We do. Let's play a little bit of what he said earlier today.


REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here's what the article doesn't do. It doesn't (INAUDIBLE) an iota of evidence that ties the plots to the Iranian government or groups tied to the Iranian government. Doesn't name a single Iranian that implicated in the plot. It doesn't tell us clearly who ordered the plot and it even acknowledges the Obama administration hasn't even tied the plot to the government.


O'BRIEN: So he's saying there are many, many holes, there are lots of we do not know at this point in that article. Do you find that unusual?

TOWNSEND: I do find it unusual. Look, this is one -- the reporter here is Joby Warrick of "The Washington Post" who is a well- known, well-respected and very credible reporter on national security and intelligence matters, first. Second, this is how you write a national security and intelligence story because many of the sources, much of what he's written is probably still classified.

He refers to a six-page memo and -- that one of his sources is seeing, which would be highly classified and so of course these people, it would be a crime for them to have spoken to him and to have released the information. They have to be anonymous sources so I -- frankly, and third, what he's reported is consistent with what we know about Iranian activity in the past, and in the recent past, including the Saudi plot which I've mentioned. So for all three reasons I find the article to be incredibly useful, insightful and I think credible.

O'BRIEN: Iran is behind targeting American diplomats overseas.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right. Nice to see you, Fran Townsend.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate to have you in the morning.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, today's "Get Real" takes us right to the ball field. We're going to show you the greatest moment from Memorial Day tributes.

And don't forget, you can watch CNN live on your computer or your cell phone at

STARTING POINT back in just a moment. Stay with us.



O'BRIEN: Oh my god, Margaret Hoover is becoming Will Cain. There's a banjo in that song.


O'BRIEN: That's the Gourds' "Gin and Juice." Margaret's playlist this morning. You can check out our full playlist on our Web site at and follow me on Twitter @soledad_obrien.

Our "Get Real" this morning, one of the greatest tributes that I saw on Memorial Day. It's my favorite Alex and Annie Bush, target field, Twins were playing the Tigers. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Taking part in our race around the bases, and they're off, little stutter step there, they're putting on their shoes. The first one to cross home plate is going to be our winner.

Folks, what you're seeing right now is a reunion, Master Sergeant Robert Bush is yes, returning from his sixth deployment overseas. He landed in Minnesota from Afghanistan about an hour ago. The girls had no idea their dad was going to be here at home plate waiting for them.

Master Sergeant, there's not a lot we can do to add to this moment for you, but as Twins fans, we want to say God bless you for your service.


O'BRIEN: Oh my gosh. I cried through the whole thing. I loved that so much. He was deployed for five months. His sixth deployment in Afghanistan. He's with -- he serves with the Minnesota National Guard. His girls all smiles, you know, they actually were great and happy and the father said he was an emotional wreck and could barely keep it together.

HOOVER: And the part about that I loved is that he has to kill three hours that morning before the game that he couldn't even --

O'BRIEN: Right.

HOOVER: -- see them or go there or connect. He just had to walk around town.

O'BRIEN: I know. Holding Teddy Bears and flowers for his girls. I love those stories.

CAIN: I almost -- I almost cried reading this story to be honest.

O'BRIEN: I know.

CAIN: And now you see the video. The girls -

O'BRIEN: Amazing. Amazing. So congratulations to the family --

CAIN: Round third base and see their dad.

O'BRIEN: Isn't that cute? So cute, so cute. I love that. That was our "Get Real" this morning.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney is set to unveil his Trump card, so to speak, later today. Wondering if teaming up with The Donald could cost him some votes, brings us back to the birther issue.

And five men and a goat walk into a bar -- no, I'm kidding. But actually five men and a goat walk from Arizona to Chicago. They're trying to break this curse that -- really tortured the Cubs for now 70 years. We're going to meet them and I think they're bringing their goat, too, to STARTING POINT.

CAIN: And the (INAUDIBLE) didn't have to spend three months together walking together.

HOOVER: Are they real?

O'BRIEN: No. No. They do not.

CAIN: These guys hate each other. Watch. And we're going to ask them.


O'BRIEN: Will you stop?

HOOVER: I'm just excited there's going to be a goat on set.

O'BRIEN: I know.

HOOVER: Really, a goat?

O'BRIEN: Well, I don't know if it's going to be on set. They're in Chicago.


HOOVER: Yes, they're probably --

O'BRIEN: There he is. That's straight ahead. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. Let's get to headlines.

Christine Romans has that for us.

Hey, good morning.


Now police in Italy have arrested a sergeant in the U.S. military on pedophilia charges. We're told the sergeant is from a U.S. military base in Camp Darby near the Tuscan city of Pisa. This story, just developing, we'll bring you more details as they come in.

We're hearing the 911 calls for the very first time after a family became stranded on a steep and snowy side of a mountain for hours when their small plane crash landed. It took rescue crews hours to reach a California firefighter and his wife and daughter after their Cessna went down in Idaho. Choppers eventually found them but couldn't land because of six-foot-high snow drifts and 60-degrees slopes. It was their daughter who called 911 for help.


UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Owyhee County 911, what is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I'm on an airplane and I crashed, and I'm in the mountains.

UNIDENTIFIED 911 DISPATCHER: Where are you at, hon?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the 29 miles east of -- west of Mountain Home, Idaho. I need to you send a search party, please.


ROMANS: The family spent the entire night in freezing whiteout conditions before choppers eventually pulled them up. The family all recovering in the hospital.

Trailblazers, war heroes and music legends, highlighting the list of people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom today. President Obama presenting the nation's highest civilian honor to 13 people today, including the first woman to serve as secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Former Senator John Glenn, the third American in space and the first to orbit the earth will also receive a medal along with Nobel winning novelist Toni Morrison and Bob Dylan who just finished his 35th album if you're counting.

In this morning's "House Call," take aspirin for persistent headaches you may be fighting skin cancer. A new study out of Denmark found that people who took aspirin, ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory at high doses for years at a time may have a reduced risk of skin cancer.

Those pills inhibit some of the same cell enzyme inflammation that is also found in skin cancer patients. Before you run to your local drugstore, you should know that a study in 2008 found no connection.

All you ladies working the night shift, listen up, a new study shows that women who work nights and describe themselves as morning people are almost four times more likely to develop breast cancer as those who work during the day.

The reason for the connection is unclear although researchers mention sleep deprivation weakening the immune system as a possible factor -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I believe it. All that Cortisol you don't get when you're sleep deprived, as someone who is completely sleep deprived. Dr. O'Brien who calls Sanjay Gupta all the time who says get more sleep. Thank you, Christine. Appreciate it. Well, today could be the day that Mitt Romney officially clinches the GOP presidential nomination as Texas voters will head to the polls to choose their candidate in that state's primary.

Governor Romney has 1,066 delegates that means he's just 78 shy of 1,144 that's needed to win. Texas has 155 delegates up for grabs. The governor is spending the day outside the lone star state.

Though he's campaigning in both Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada, he has speeches planned focusing on the economy and jobs and also a cameo from Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich in the state of Nevada.

So joining us this morning to talk about all this is Andrea Saul, she's press secretary for the Romney campaign. It's nice to see you, Andrea. Thanks for talking with us as always.


O'BRIEN: Let's talk jobs. The focus, of course, for the week sounds like it's been jobs and going to be jobs. Governor Romney says that President Obama has not created any jobs. What exactly is the governor's message today?

SAUL: Yes, what you're going to see today and the rest of this week, we're going to be focusing on how President Obama is hostile to business.

You can't be hostile to job creators and for jobs, and so we have put out a new web video this morning that talks about how President Obama thinks political appointees can make better decisions about where our taxpayer money is spent than free enterprise can.

And he's rewarded his donors with taxpayer dollars for failed projects like Solyndra, and so this week we're going to continue to focus on just the fact that you can't be for jobs and against job creators.

O'BRIEN: So he's also sounds like he's been touting his own record with jobs not only at this time at Bain Capital, but as governor of the state of Massachusetts so let's start with Bain Capital.

Back in 1994, the governor said this that he had helped create 10,000 jobs. He said "I'm always very careful to use the word helped create Bain Capital" or Mitt Romney helped create over 10,000 jobs." That was back in 1994.

"I don't take credit for the jobs at Staples. I helped create the job at Staples" that was from "The Boston Globe" back in 1994 then we heard Eric Fenstrom say the other day. He's the governor's senior adviser as most people know. He said this when he was being interviewed.


ERIC FEHRNSTROM, MITT ROMNEY'S SENIOR ADVISER: When you create value, add value as they did in trying to improve companies, you also add employment and a rough back of the envelope estimate of how many jobs they created is well in excess of 100,000.


O'BRIEN: Can you do the math for me that 10,000 in '94 to today, that 10,000 to 90,000? Where were those jobs?

SAUL: If you look at four start-ups alone including Staples, Sports Authority, Bright Horizons, and Steel Dynamics, they created over 100,000 jobs.

As you know, with a start-up company those likely wouldn't have existed had it not been for the help of Bain Capital. So those are the jobs he's talking about.

What we can see is Governor Romney has 25 years of experience as a businessman and entrepreneur creating jobs. The only thing President Obama has managed is his own narrative.

So Governor Romney has the experience, he's learned from his successes and failures. And he created more jobs at Bain Capital or helped create more jobs at Bain Capital than President Obama has in the entire nation as president.

O'BRIEN: What are some of the failures he's learned from?

SAUL: Look, in business, any entrepreneur knows that things don't always work out the way you want. The goal was always to grow companies, to make them better, but it's not always going to work out.

There are outside factors he's learned about and for instance a lot of things he's going to take to the White House for instance, free trade. He wants to reinvigorate free trade agreements.

He doesn't think that it's fair that, you know, China's sending this much goods to us and we're only sending this much to them so let's even it out.

That way we can create more jobs at home, get more goods out of the country. He also understands that regulations are a burden on companies.

O'BRIEN: Let me stop you for a second, you said he learned from his failures and I was asking what specific failures and what specifically did he learn?

SAUL: Right, no, that's what I'm telling you, not every business is successful so he had successes. He had failures. I don't have any specific examples to pass on, but they're going to be ups and downs and anybody in the private sector understands that.

President Obama doesn't seem to understand that. He's been picking winners and losers, like Solyndra and rewarding campaign donors with taxpayer dollars. And it's taxpayers that suffer from that instead of private investors. O'BRIEN: What's the governor's message when he looks at his record as governor of Massachusetts? What's he telling folks about that?

SAUL: You know, look, if you look at his time in Massachusetts, the unemployment rate came down and jobs were created. I think that any governor would be proud of that record. If you take Governor Romney left Massachusetts with a 4.6 unemployment rate.

And that's as opposed to President Obama who promised with the passage of the stimulus that at this point today the unemployment rate would be at 6 percent or lower.

It's not at 6 percent or lower so we'll take, you know, Governor Romney's solid record of job creation and bringing the unemployment rate down and compare it to President Obama's any day.

O'BRIEN: Mayor Rudy Giuliani didn't seem to consider it a very solid record of job creation when he was interviewed by Candy Crowley over the weekend. I want to play a little chunk of what he told her. Listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: I had massive reduction in unemployment. He had a reduction in unemployment of about 8 percent, 10 percent. I think it was 15 percent.

I had a reduction of unemployment of 50 percent. They had a growth of jobs of about 40,000. We had a growth of jobs of 500,000. So I was comparing what I thought was my far superior record to his otherwise decent record, but the numbers aren't as great.


O'BRIEN: If you actually compare it and I'm sure you've looked at this a million times to other states, the numbers Massachusetts job creation, 0.9 percent so just under 1 percent. New Work was 2.7 percent, California 4.7, North Carolina 7.6.

The national average overall is up 5 percent. Do you think that's going to be a, basically what Giuliani says like -- the numbers were not so great?

SAUL: You know, what's interesting is when Governor Romney came into Massachusetts, it was, the state was facing a similar situation as the United States was when President Obama took office, which was the state was in a recession, jobs were declining, the unemployment rate was up, and so when Governor Romney came in there, he --

O'BRIEN: I don't think that's true actually. I think that the state in 2003 was in an economic upswing, wasn't it in 2003 in Massachusetts? SAUL: No, when he took over, the state was losing jobs and he turned that around. If you look, I'm happy to send it to you when I'm back at my desk later.

But the state, how it's facing economic troubles, there was a $3 billion budget deficit. He turned that into a $2 billion rainy day fund and again, he lowered unemployment rate and created jobs which was a reversal of what had been happening.

O'BRIEN: Before I let you go, I want to take one moment to talk a little bit about Syria. Governor Romney's been critical of President Obama on Syria. What would the governor do right now in Syria?

SAUL: The governor would work to our allies to help arm the Syrian opposition so that they can defend themselves against the Syrian government. What we've seen with President Obama is, you know, just paralysis.

So right now there have been 10,000 people that have been killed and so Governor Romney would make sure to work with our allies to help arm the Syrian opposition so that they can defend themselves, and ultimately the goal would have to be there would be a new government in Syria.

O'BRIEN: So as you well know the Syrian opposition is very diverse and one of the reasons people have advised against arming the Syrian opposition is sometimes they're worried the equipment and weapon also get into the hands of al Qaeda.

And number two, that also they could start fighting each other because it's not exactly like Libya. Would he believe you just arm, should the United States be arming the opposition in Syria?

SAUL: I said that they should, yes.

O'BRIEN: The U.S. should arm the opposition in Syria?

SAUL: Work with our allies to do so.

O'BRIEN: All right, Andrea Saul, we're out of time. Thanks for joining us as always. Appreciate it.

SAUL: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, a TV anchor being attacked because he said this, "I feel uncomfortable calling fallen soldiers heroes," that was on Memorial Day weekend. Did he cross the line? We'll talk about that.

Cracking the curse of the Billy Goat, we'll tell you how this goat, that little goat right there and the five men who are walking that goat more than 1,000 miles across the country, are trying to help snap a decade's long curse. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Come on, come on, please, Cubs what Cubs fans are saying. Five guys and a goat walk into a bar, doesn't it sound like it's going to be an awful joke?

In fact, five guys and a goat just finished a 1,300-mile trek across the country. They're trying to overturn that curse that happened back in 1945 when Chicago tavern owner was kicked out of a Cubs World Series game after a goat that he brought with them was stinky.

So (inaudible) who was outraged declare "them Cubs aren't going to win no more." And by chance or maybe it was by the curse, the Cubs haven't won. They haven't played in a single World Series game let alone win one.

So this morning we are joined by Matt, P.J., Philip, Blake and Kyle and their pet goat, Wrigley. It's nice to see you guys. Thanks for talking with us.

Matt, let's begin with you. It's a 1,300-mile hike. The Cubs are going to play the Padres tonight. Will Wrigley be allowed in thus reversing the curse that is the $64,000 question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're not so sure about that, but I think whether he goes in or not the curse will be lifted and total mileage is about 2,000 miles that we walked because we went a roundabout path. We think the curse will be lifted once we hit Wrigley Stadium.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but you're not bringing Wrigley in? I mean, isn't that the point of flipping the curse is to bring the goat in. I'm sure he's not a stinky goat like the goat back in 1945. Don't you have to bring the goat in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the main focus of our hike is the curse of cancer, and we know that the Cubs are going to be donating to that. If he goes in that's icing on the cake, but if he watches the game from outside I think it will still be lifted.

O'BRIEN: OK, we're going to we've got our fingers crossed for that. How has it been hiking with a goat, which I have to say I've never done?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of patience. They're a goat, they're stubborn and he's our little buddy and raised a lot of money for cancer, over $20,000 for cancer research.

O'BRIEN: Congratulations on that. I don't know where to go with this. Do you stay in hotels with the goat? Do you stay at a camp site with the goat? Do people babysit the goat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We camp pretty much on the side of the road most of the time. We stayed in a couple hotels, few people's houses. Wrigley has been in a couple of hotels and houses, but mainly we tried to get our 25 miles, find a spot to camp and right off the side of the road, a couple hundred yards off the road.

MARGARET HOOVER, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN INDIVIDUALISM": My name is Margaret, you can't see me through your satellite, but I got to let you know I am wearing, I am sporting the Billy Goat Tavern hat, which was the owner of the tavern that had this goat who was kicked out of the World Series game in 1945.

And I just a lot of loyalty, a lot of respect for you guys for sticking in with the Cubs for this long, and I just have to ask, why are you so sure hiking 1,300 miles with a goat is going to reverse your curse?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about respecting the goat and the hike is about 2,000 miles, but raising money for cancer research and letting the goat see all the different parts of the country, like Route 66.

The goat's helped us raise almost over $20,000, probably close to $25,000 now and the Cubs are going to make a donation today so to me that's respecting the goat and I think that was part of the curse, not respecting the goat.

O'BRIEN: I love that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we went through St. Louis, when we went through St. Louis, the Cubs were playing there and we watched the game and Wrigley went outside, and didn't go in the stadium there and the Cubs won, so he's a good luck charm no matter what.

O'BRIEN: I like that. I got to ask you a question what happens to Wrigley when the walk is done, nearly 2,000 miles. I know you had a little pack, cart for Wrigley. Where does Wrigley go post hike?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wrigley is going to go to Kyle's farm in Michigan and he'll go there and retire and live a good goat life.

O'BRIEN: A good goat life.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I go to the ask you real quick, you've been with each other every day for three months walking 2,000 miles, sleeping outside and caretaking a goat. How tired are you guys of each other?

O'BRIEN: I think that's bond building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think at this point it's come full circle. Once we start seeing the finish line, everything kind of started smoothing out. We all got along pretty good, a couple rough patches, but that's expected when you spend 24 hours a day together.

CAIN: It's your turn pushing the goat, you take turns pushing the goat in the cart, is that right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, every five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd each do about five miles and take a break and someone else would get their turn pushing him.

O'BRIEN: Wow. Good luck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone pushes the goat.

O'BRIEN: I hope that you're able to reverse the curse. I can't wait to see Wrigley retiring on a farm, having now seen much of America, that's exciting.

And also I know Matt Gregory's mom was treated at the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. He lost his mom so the dual mission of raising money for cancer is really fantastic as well.

Thank you, gentlemen. Good luck today. We'll be rooting today only for the Cubs here. Take care. Nice to see you guys.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we're going to talk about the MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes. He now apologizes because he said he feels uncomfortable calling dead American soldiers heroes. Did he cross the line? We'll talk about that.

And radioactive tuna caught off the U.S. coast after a 6,000 mile migration from Japan. See what's happening there. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Very nice. I like that. That's off Will Cain's playlist. Let's talk a little bit about what happened over the weekend with Chris Hayes. He's an MSNBC anchor. I like his show a lot.

He's now apologizing for saying that he was uncomfortable using the word hero to describe U.S. soldiers killed in action. Here's the original comment from his show on Sunday.


CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC ANCHOR: I feel uncomfortable with the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war.

I don't want to obviously disrespect memory of anyone that's fallen and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine tremendous heroism, rescue a fellow soldier and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that this is problematic. Maybe I'm wrong about that.


O'BRIEN: Well, he might have been wrong about that because he had to apologize. A lot of backlash. He apologized and said this, "I don't think I lived up to the standard of rigor and respect and empathy for those affected by the issues that we discuss that I've set for myself. I am deeply sorry for that. As many have pointed out, it is very easy for me a TV host to opine about people who fight our wars having never dodged a bullet or guarded a post or walked a mile in their boots."

What I thought was interesting about this and we were talking about on the commercial break. I guess I find what I found sort of unsettling about it is people can decide and define what's a hero. Why do we think --

CAIN: Chris was doing it inside of that statement, inside of that clip that we just saw. In other words, he qualified one guy in a hail of gunfire saves soldiers as genuine heroism and others that serve as not heroism. In the end that's the problem. He subjectively through some kind of faculty lounge conversation defining what is heroism.

ALICIA MENENDEZ, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE": It's not that black and white about it. I think that if you risk your life in the service of your country then you are implicitly a hero. I think his job is to ask difficult questions and he posed a difficult question even saying that he himself had some ambiguity around it.

CAIN: Chris was trying to have a conversation about the word hero and how it's used with justification for war and how that is used politically. I think that's what he was trying to do. The problem is inside of that statement he's imposing his own subjective determinations of heroism.

O'BRIEN: Write this down because Will Cain and I are agreeing. I think that it's really inappropriate to try to define the word hero. I run around the country covering stories, right?

People do heroic things in tiny micro ways that would be inappropriate to say is that heroic or not? I mean, I think most people -- someone that holds their hand while they dying that to me is a hero. I think people do heroic actions all the time.

HOOVER: Here's what heroism is. It's a man or woman of distinguished courage or ability admired for his or her brave deeds and noble qualities. I think all of us here on the panel agree that every single man or woman who voluntarily decides to put their life online in the military, which is all volunteer and defends our country is a hero.

CAIN: It's both noble and brave.

O'BRIEN: And a lot of people are heroes as well. I would say don't try to define it for people. That's my feeling.

Anyway, ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, the United States arming European country with drones. We'll tell you why some people say this is a step in a dangerous direction.

And then look out below, a plane falls apart in mid air. That would be a plane's part. What caused its jet's engine to fall from the sky? You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll tell you right after this break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Our STARTING POINT this morning, soaking the southeast and it's not over yet. Trees are down, powers out, high waves, a storm named Beryl is causing problems for several states this morning.

This pastor says he wants gays and lesbians locked up behind an electric fence until they die.

Radioactive tuna caught off the coast of the United States after a 6,000-mile migration from Japan. Is it safe to eat?

It's Tuesday, May 29th. STARTING POINT begins right now. I like this modern day New York, New York. You know, it's really -- you are driving downtown Manhattan.