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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Mitt Romney Calls Individual Mandate a Tax; USA Women's Olympic Team Coach Charged with Sexual Harassment; Six People Arrested, Suspected Of Terrorism; Zimmerman Bond Decision Day; Widow Wants Arafat's Body Exhumed; Forecasting Migraines; Vitamin C Lowers Blood Pressure; The Sultan Of Scarf; Romney: Mandate Is A Tax; Implications Of Individual Mandate; The "Boy Kings" Of Facebook
Aired July 5, 2012 - 07:00 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, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, Mitt Romney's mixed mandate message. The candidate is now getting in line with the rest of the GOP and says it's a tax, not a penalty, talking about healthcare. Critics say he's changing his mind for political gain again.
Hot, thirsty, hungry, powerless, 700,000 people are still without electricity. It's been six days since that freak storm. Some people haven't eaten for days in one state.
Plus, gaining ground, firefighters finally close to killing the most destructive fire in Colorado's history. And the woman in the Facebook frat house, an ex-Facebook employee tells all in her new book. She says it was a sexist boys club. Katherine Losty will be with us along with Jack Abramoff, former Santorum press secretary, Alice Stewart, will be our guest, as well, Obama campaign press secretary, Ben Labolt, is going to join us, and Olympic swimmer, Lia Neal, will be our guest.
We have a packed show ahead this morning. It's Thursday, July 5th, and "Starting Point" begins right now. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning with some breaking news, the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks at it again. They say they started publishing nearly 2.5 million e-mails from Syrian politicians and businesses dating back six years. They're described as embarrassing to Syria as well as some of its opponents. The website says the files, quote, "Shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy and also reveal how the west and western firms say one thing and do another." We're watching the story for you and will have more details as the details come in.
The rest of the day's top stories, let's get right to Brooke Baldwin with an update on headlines. Brooke, good morning.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back from the beach. Good to see you.
Good morning, everyone. Just about 700,000 people waking up to another day without power. Look at the map. You see 11 states and talk about the nation's capital. It has been six days since powerful storms fueled by extreme heat zapped trees and knocked down power lines.
And take a look at this picture. This is Washington's massive power outage. This is from space taken from a NASA satellite showing extensive power outages in Washington and the Baltimore region, and swinging westward to West Virginia. The power outages have led to a food crisis. The Red Cross expects to provide 25,000 meals today. And 22 people have now died in the storms and the dangerous heat.
Major progress in the battle against the most destructive wildfire in Colorado's history. The Waldo Canyon fire is now 90 percent contained. That's a big improvement here. The fire scorched nearly 18,000 acres and destroyed 350 homes. But the firefighting season is far from over with 45 large fires still burning across the country.
BALDWIN: A tragic Fourth of July evening on a Long Island sound in New York. At least two people are dead after a boat carrying 27 people capsized. Coast guard officials say 25 passengers were rescued by midnight. One of them is in critical condition. Witnesses tell us none of the passengers was wearing life vests.
What better way to celebrate the nation's birthday than with a perfect display of rockets red glare set to music? Take a look.
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BALDWIN: Thousands of people ling up on Manhattan's west side to watch the annual Macy's Fourth of July spectacular, some 40,000 fireworks lit up the Hudson River.
Here is my favorite. You can call this a fireworks fail, an entire Fourth of July fireworks show, boom, exploding all at once. This was San Diego. People in San Diego were a little confused last night. They call it the big bay boom kind of went bust because all the fireworks that were part of this whole elaborate 17-minute show, oops, accidently went off all at the same time five minutes before the show was even supposed to start. So thousands of people told see you, we're done, go home. Event producers are investigating that glitch. Soledad, can you imagine? They're thinking it looks like a finale and it is really the beginning and it is over.
O'BRIEN: That's awesome.
BALDWIN: So awesome. I love it.
O'BRIEN: Wow. All right, that's it. Five minutes. Go. Done.
Mitt Romney is now saying that the health care law mandate is a tax after all and not a penalty. But it could present new problems for his campaigning because he is contradicting his top strategist. Here is what he told CNN's Dana Bash while he was campaigning in New Hampshire. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Supreme Court has the final word, isn't that the highest court in the land and they said it was a tax. It is a tax, of course, if that's what they said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Earlier this week his top advisor said that Romney actually greed with President Obama that the mandate was not a tax. Romney's new message falls in line with Republican attacks against the president promising voters he wouldn't raise taxes.
Alice Stewart is the former press secretary for Rick Santorum's 2012 presidential campaign. She's also the former communications director for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential campaign. She's a Republican strategist and joins us this morning. Nice to see you. I know you're not representing the campaign, but as a Republican strategist, I am a little bit confused. Is it clear whether Mitt Romney thinks this health care mandate is a tax or a penalty? What does he personally believe? Can you tell?
ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What he made really clear yesterday in the interview with another network was that while he agrees with the dissent, that this was unconstitutional, that at the end of the day the final word came from the majority of the Supreme Court this is constitutional as a tax. Like it or not, the final word is in. The verdict is in. It is a tax. He made it quite clear he agreed with the dissent, but he understands that the final word is this is a tax which is different than what we heard from the president when he was arguing for passage of this and he promised repeatedly the American people this was not a tax. Several times he said that. Yet he said to the solicitor general before the Supreme Court arguing that it is a tax, so I think the American people need to question President Obama, this is a tax or is it not? Governor Romney made it clear the final word is in from the Supreme Court and this is a tax.
O'BRIEN: You said the first half is he agrees with the dissent and the dissent says it is not a tax. He is going to defer to what the Supreme Court now ruled and he actually believes it is not a tax. That's what the dissent believes, right?
STEWART: What he said is the time word is in. Like it or not, the Supreme Court ruled and the majority says this is a tax and that's what the American people have to accept.
O'BRIEN: All of that is not the same thing. Forgive me for interrupting, but all that is not the same thing as saying I believe it is a tax. He said he believes it is not a tax. The dissent says we believe it is not a tax. What it sounds like and in fact you're just agreeing with the way I was reading this, so I just want to confirm it, sounds like you're saying that Mitt Romney is even though he believes it is not a tax he is going to go along with what the Supreme Court has ruled because, of course, the Supreme Court makes the final decision. Is that correct, he believes it's not a tax? STEWART: Exactly what he said was that while he agrees with the dissent, the final word from the court is that this is a tax which is in line with what majority of Republicans believe and the important vote as I understand it nearly 60 percent do believe it is a tax.
As I said, the president has spoken out of both sides of his mouth on this issue and it is the question the American people need to ask it is in terms of how much it will cost. It costs a tremendous amount more than what he promised. There is a tremendous promise gap from the president.
O'BRIEN: And I think you definitely had both sides speaking out of both sides of their mouths on this one.
The "Wall Street Journal" said this. I will read a little to you. It says "The campaign," talking about the Romney campaign, "The campaign looks confused in addition to being politically dumb. This latest mistake is of a piece with campaigns staff and strategy that are slowly squandering historic opportunity. Mr. Obama is being hurt by an economic recovery that has weakened for the third time in three years and Mr. Romney hasn't been able to take advantage and if anything he is losing ground." Confused and politically dumb is what they're calling it in the "Wall Street Journal." Do you agree with that?
STEWART: No, I don't simply because if you look at the polling data he is neck and neck with the president and what we're seeing here is that the important issue here is what governor Romney made quite clear yesterday, his position on this is that like it or not, the board is in no disagreement in terms of what we have the power to do at this point is the Supreme Court has ruled this is a tax and we must move forward with that.
And he has always promised that when he is elected president on day one he will repeal and replace Obama care and that will begin with the waivers to all 50 states and working with both sides of Congress in order to come to an agreement on obviously repealing and replacing it but putting in its place free reforms on health care which is what the American people want.
O'BRIEN: I will argue with you and say I don't think anybody made it quite clear, and now it is confused and contradictory. But let's move on to what was done in the state of Massachusetts. Here is what Mitt Romney said to CBS News about the difference between what happened with the health care law that the Supreme Court was looking at and what he did in his state of Massachusetts. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Actually, the chief justice in his opinion made it very clear at the state level the states have the power to put in place mandates. They don't need to require them to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional. And as a result Massachusetts mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the legislature and by me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So Massachusetts is different he is saying than what has happened here nationally. But he is saying that he completely supports making people pay a penalty for not having insurance. If you're not personally responsible then you will pay for it. You're compelled to buy insurance. Is that a correct reading of that?
STEWART: The important distinction here is what he quoted from the argument from Chief Justice Roberts is that states have the policing power in order to issue mandates or penalties when it comes to health care. There is not the same kind of power on the federal level. And what the governor issued in Massachusetts was a plan that worked for Massachusetts. It is not a one-size-fits-all plan for the entire country and he made that quite clear. It worked in Massachusetts but it is not something that he has argued for on the national level. And that's the clear distinction. States have the policing power in order to do this where as chief justice Roberts made it clear that's not the way it works in terms of commerce on the national level.
O'BRIEN: Isn't mandated health care even at the state level something that Republicans as a whole would be against, right? If you have to, you compel people to buy insurance and penalize those who do not in a state, isn't that against what Republicans believe, a government mandate for health care?
STEWART: Republicans wanting more than anything is we want free market reforms. We want to get government out of in between the patient and their doctors. That's the kind of plan that Governor Romney wants to implement nationwide because that's what will work across the country. It was different for Massachusetts as opposed to the country and that's what he is saying time and time again.
O'BRIEN: I am sorry, forgive me for continuing to interrupt. This is very complicated. What was done in Massachusetts was inserting the government, right? Wasn't that a government insertion as a middle person into the free market of health care, correct?
STEWART: As he said, there is a tremendous need for health care reforms in Massachusetts and he put in place what worked in Massachusetts. It is not something that would work across the country.
O'BRIEN: Why not?
STEWART: What he said --
O'BRIEN: Why not?
STEWART: What we need it free market reforms across the country.
O'BRIEN: Why would that not work across the United States?
STEWART: It is not a one-size-fits-all plan. It worked in Massachusetts. There are different needs in every state across the country. And what he has said is we need free market reforms. We need to allow people to buy insurance across state lines, and he has already agreed and promised the American people what he plans to do will not only bring costs down and increase the choice and the quality of health care as opposed to the president who promised that health care costs would come down and quality would go up where that is certainly not been the case. He promised that costs would go down about $2,500 per person and we're already seeing it is 5,000 more per person as a result once this is implemented. The Congressional Budget Office said it will cost about 800,000 jobs. This is not only bad for quality of health care but bad for the economy.
O'BRIEN: After this was done there two tweets from two well- known business leaders, tweeting this. "Hope Mitt Romney is listening to Murdoch advice on campaign staff playing in a league with Chicago politicians and no room for amateurs." And the Murdoch tweet was "Tough Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires real pros. Doubtful." What do you make of those tweets from these top business leaders?
STEWART: All you have to do it look at the polls.
O'BRIEN: What do you make of the tweets?
STEWART: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and they can certainly say whatever they want. And everyone wants to play arm chair quarterback. See it in every campaign I have ever worked with, people outside of the campaign think they understand how to run a campaign better than the next person. At the end of the day the proof is in the pudding. Governor Romney is running neck and neck with the president in many polls. And most importantly 73 percent of Americans say the economy and jobs is the number one issue in this campaign and trust that Governor Romney has a better solution and ideas in order to turn the economy around and create jobs. He is and also doing very well in independents and those are the people that will help decide this election. So things are doing well and the team he has in place is obviously doing well to put him in that position at this stage of the game.
O'BRIEN: Alice Stewart, always nice to have you. Thanks for being with us.
STEWART: Thank you, have a great day.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, likewise.
Still ahead this morning, Ben Labolt is President Obama's press secretary and he will join us a little bit later this morning. And then in about 20 minutes we'll talk about lobbyists in Washington. Jack Abramoff, remember his scandal, he will join us live. He's a former lobbyist and spent more than three years in federal prison for a corruption scandal. He believes the health care ruling will open the floodgates for more taxes. That's straight ahead.
And ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the NBA's longtime director of security won't get to guard the U.S. women's team in London. She says it has to do with a basketball coach and her allegations of sexual harassment against him. And our "Get Real" this morning, a lifeguard fired for doing his job and saving a drowning man, but he was outside of the ropes. You're watching STARTING POINT.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Poppy Harlow minding your business this morning. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Apple is preparing to release a mini iPad by November, that screen reportedly just under eight inches, a little bigger than an iPhone.
Checking the U.S. markets, futures pointing to flat open and we'll find out in the European Central Bank decided to lower interest rates to boost the Eurozone. That could move markets, but investors are waiting to see ahead of the big U.S. jobs report set to be released before the opening bell tomorrow morning. Analysts surveyed by CNN expect 80,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in June, not enough to bring down unemployment significantly.
O'BRIEN: Poppy, thank you very much.
There are accusations of sexual harassment swirling around the USA women's Olympic basketball team and its head coach. A lawsuit has been filed by the NBA's long time director of security. Her name is Kelly Hardwick. She claims the legendary coach forced her out of her job after he tried to force himself on her. I spoke with Hardwick about her story.
O'BRIEN: Kelly Hardwick was at the top of her game. A security director for the NBA, she traveled to the playoffs, met celebrity athletes and even got her dream assignment -- guarding the women's team at the Olympic games. That's Kelly posing next to the Great Wall of China, 2008 Beijing.
(on camera): Do you love your job?
KELLY HARDWICK, NBA SECURITY DIRECTOR: I absolutely love my job.
O'BRIEN: What do you love about it?
HARDWICK: Fascinating people. Traveling. Just experiences that I would not otherwise be able to have had.
O'BRIEN: Those days may be over. The NBA has taken away her Olympic security duties. She believes it is because she complained that team USA coach Geno Auriemma tried to force himself on her during a trip to Russia.
HARDWICK: I am putting my key in the door and he put his hand on my left arm and kind of startled me so I guess simultaneously to him touching me I turned around and when I turned around he leaned in to kiss me.
O'BRIEN: Did he kiss you?
HARDWICK: No, no. I was able to put my hand over his face and push him back and screamed a couple of things, profanity lading things and he better back up or he was going to get hurt.
O'BRIEN: This former police officer who spoke exclusively to CNN is not the only one accusing the NBA of ignoring allegations of sexual harassment. Former NBA security director Warren Glover says he complained to his NBA bosses years ago on behalf of three female employees.
WARREN GLOVER, FORMER NBA SECURITY OFFICIAL: My complaint was that there was a series of employees, female employees, who complained on a number of occasions of sexual harassment by supervisors and other employees and no action was taken after it was reported. Subsequently as a result of this I was terminated.
O'BRIEN: Glover filed an employment discrimination suit. In court papers the NBA denies they discriminated against him.
RANDY MCGLAUGHLIN, PLAINTIFF'S LAWYER: The NBA is part of a culture in America. It is no different than any other corporation.
O'BRIEN: Some corporations treat women well.
MCGLAUGHLIN: Some do and some don't. These allegations and these two complaints deal with different aspects of that problem. The problem is discrimination in the workplace against women.
O'BRIEN: In the Hardwick case, USA Basketball said this about her allegations, "While it is the policy of USA Basketball not to comment on pending litigation, I assure you that we will defend against the claims strenuously," they said. "USA Basketball has a lot of information to communicate, and we will do so in the near future through the legal process."
Auriemma is legendary for leading the UConn huskies to seven national championships and spoke of the charges at a recent celebrity golf tournament.
GENO AURIEMMA, COACH, USA WOMEN'S OLYMPIC BASKETBALL: I am not surprised. Like my wife said, the people that didn't like me like me less, and the people that like me like me the same. I guess it is no great loss.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any hesitancy in coming out for a public event?
AURIEMMA: No. It is what I do. I am not going to let anything change the way I go about my job and about my life.
O'BRIEN: Hardwick says she immediately reported Auriemma's alleged sexual harassment to her colleague Rachel Shannon, who remembers her saying this, "You're not going to believe what he did. He tried to kiss me and I just pushed him away." She said she had to push him off her. Players like team USA's cash say they're trying to keep their focus on the Olympics and not the allegations against their coach.
SWIN CASH, U.S. WOMEN'S OLYMPIC BASKETBALL TEAM: That situation we have no control over so I think all the girls and I are focusing on what we need to do on the court.
O'BRIEN: The NBA issued this statement in response to Kelly Hardwick's employment discrimination lawsuit, "We are proud of our confirmed status as an equal opportunity employer and a welcoming and non-discriminatory workplace. We will not be commenting on the litigation."
Coming up next on STARTING POINT, a lifeguard jumps into actions, saves a drowning man off the coast of Florida, and instead of getting rewarded he is fired. It is our "Get Real" this morning. And our STARTING POINT team is heading in. Who is with us this morning? You're watching STARTING POINT. We have to take a short break. Back in a moment.
BALDWIN: Good morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I am Brooke Baldwin with a quick look at headlines. Mexico has begun recounting ballots in the disputed election. Early polls indicated Ricky Penieto received the most votes.
And a profoundly manmade disaster is the conclusion of this Japanese panel investigating the crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant in japan. The report says the tsunami induced disaster, and I am quoting, could and should have been foreseen and prevented.
And the final report on the crash of air France flight 447 comes out today. You know the story, all 228 passengers and crew died when it plunged you about the Atlantic Ocean more than three years ago. The report is expected to show a combination of instrument failure and pilot error caused the crash.
O'BRIEN: All right, thank you. Appreciate the update.
I take a couple of days of and get a lot of sleep and I can't speak anymore. Our team, Marc Lamont Hill, look at you. I can't even reach you. I miss you, too. Margaret Hoover is with us, the author of American individualism and Ryan Lizza is the Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker." I do love vacation.
RYAN LIZZA, "NEW YORKER": You look more rested.
O'BRIEN: I did until this morning at 2:30. Not so much. Kind of a crazy story in Florida, which I don't know where that is.
LIZZA: I grew up there.
O'BRIEN: You did?
LIZZA: Yes. O'BRIEN: A man is drowning 1,500 feet outside the area protected by the buoys, and lifeguards, and a beach goer rushes up to tell the 21-year-old lifeguard Thomas Lopez that this guy is drowning. He runs to the zone even though it is not in his jurisdiction and he says the guy was struggling, turned blue, and he rushes into the water and pulls him out and saves his life. A hero.
MARGARET HOOVER, AUTHOR, "AMERICAN INDIVIDUALISM": A hero.
O'BRIEN: Except then he is fired. The company that hires the lifeguards says lifeguards are not allowed to go outside the perimeter of the beach they're watching and say they're supposed to call 911 when they see someone drowning, which is insane and apparently, Mr. Lopez, the 21-year-old lifeguard, got the other lifeguards to watch his zone.
So it is not like he left the zone unattended and several other lifeguards have now quit in protest. They say they would have done the same thing, save the drowning man, and Ellis and Associates is telling the "Sun Sentinel" they will review the situation.
HOOVER: And Thomas Lopez is hoping to get his check in the mail. He's afraid to even go and pick it up.
O'BRIEN: He will get another job.
LIZZA: The worst part is not that they fired this guy, but they fired some of the other lifeguards at the company because they went on the record saying they would have done the same thing.
O'BRIEN: Well, I think they are going to change their mind. Because the last thing I said, Thomas Ellis and Associates is now reviewing? Come on. The outpouring of anger about this and you know, I was a lifeguard many moons ago. Really you can't swim.
HILL: I am the guy, exactly.
O'BRIEN: I would rescue you. But, you know, the way we were always taught was that it is sort of the equivalent of firefighters, like no matter where you are you go and save someone who is drowning. Like even if you're of duty because you have a duty because you can perform the service.
LIZZA: In their defense --
HILL: I have to hear this.
LIZZA: My understanding is that they have some liability issues, and --
O'BRIEN: He is a drowning man. He is dying.
LIZZA: And their insurance does not allow their lifeguard to go outside the zone. HOOVER: And may not be able to help defend him should he encounter overly litigious --
O'BRIEN: In the PR defense, so imagine if the guy drowns and the lifeguard who was on duty who sees it happen and doesn't go in says, well, my company, J.R. Ellis and associates, told me that I am not allowed to save somebody's life. You don't think that would be like you're weighing things, the PR disaster versus --
HILL: And someone would be dead.
LIZZA: Who will hire --
O'BRIEN: I would. The company? Maybe not, the kid?
HOOVER: I think you get tired at 25 these days.
O'BRIEN: We all agree. They're wrong. The kid is right. Got to take a break.
Still ahead on STARTING POINT, the body of Yasser Arafat might be taken out of its grave today. There are new test that are reviving the debate and some conspiracy theories about whether he was poisoned.
And he did had some hard time, Washington's seedy side. We're going to talk this morning to Jack Abramoff. He's warning that lobbyists could take advantage of the Supreme Court's health care ruling and tax you for doing nothing.
He is joining us next. Here he is. Good morning. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everybody. Let's begin with some breaking news. There have been six people who have been arrested in London in an anti-terror operation we are told, five men, one woman, suspected of terrorism offenses have been arrested as part of an intelligence led operation.
We're being told an investigation, the ages of the six range between 18 and 30 and now eight homes in west, east, and north London are being searched as well.
We are told by reports that the arrests relate to a possible plot involving Islamist extremists with potential targets in the U.K., the arrests, though, we're told by police are not linked to the Olympics, which will begin in 22 days or the paralympics.
Security sources have described those arrests as significant, but there is no suggestion at the moment of any kind of imminent attack. We're going to obviously bring you up to speed and continue to keep you up to speed with this breaking news story this morning. Other stories making news, Brooke Baldwin has that with an update. Here's Brooke. Hi, good morning.
BALDWIN: Soledad, good morning again. George Zimmerman may find out a little later today if he will be allowed to get out of jail as he is sitting and awaiting his trial.
A judge in Sanford, Florida may rule today whether the neighborhood watch volunteer will be allowed to post bond. Zimmerman is facing second degree murder charges in the shooting death of unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.
And the widow of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat wants his body exhumed to find out if he was in fact poisoned. New test results on some of his personal belongings turned up high levels of radioactive substances, this stuff called polonium.
He died back in 2004 and the Palestinian authority says it does not object to exhuming his body if his family supports the move.
A change in the weather could actually affect whether or not you have a migraine. This is a conclusion from researchers in Taiwan who kept track of all these people who regularly suffer from these kinds of headaches.
So the changes in temperature are believed to have triggered about a fifth of migraines, most of which they say were mild. Researchers say colder weather was more likely to set off a migraine headache.
Grab an extra glass of O.J. this morning because here is what we're finding out. A dose of Vitamin C could help lower your blood pressure. Clinical trials at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore found that men and women who took 500 milligrams of Vitamin C for just eight weeks lowered their blood pressure by a couple of points.
Supplements are not the only way to get the essential vitamin, you know, fruits, vegetables, especially red pepper, oranges, grapefruits, kiwi, also the best dietary sources of this antioxidant rich vitamin.
Put down the Cheerios. Watch this video again. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, you hear the announcer, holding on to the mustard yellow belt winning his sixth famous Nathan's famous hotdog eating contest just yesterday in the Fourth of July.
You heard the announcer. He said he tied his own record, 68 hotdogs and the buns, choking them back in 10 minutes and also the Black Widow, 100 pounds. She is tiny.
Sonia Thomas won the women's contest breaking her record with 45 dogs and buns. Soledad, I don't really know where to leave you with that.
O'BRIEN: Have you seen that in person?
BALDWIN: I have never seen that. Have you? O'BRIEN: So what they do is they take the hotdog and they dump it in water to make it squishy, right? So already disgusting and smash it in.
BALDWIN: And choke it back.
O'BRIEN: Yes. It doesn't make you want to run out and get a hamburger or hotdog. Move on. They'll do it again next year and I am sure he will win again next. Thanks, Brooke. Appreciate it.
So Mitt Romney is now calling the health care laws individual mandate a tax. Earlier this week though Mitt Romney's top strategist says the candidate disagreed with the Supreme Court ruling.
He felt the provision was a penalty and a little earlier today I spoke with Republican strategist, Alice Stewart, and told her I felt it was a mixed message. Here is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALICE STEWARD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He made it clear he agreed with the dissent, and he understands that the final word is this is a tax, which is different than what we have heard from the president when he was arguing for passage of this. He promised repeatedly the American people this was not a tax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So the decision to call by the court to call the mandate a tax may have created an unexpected problem. Jack Abramoff says the court opened up an opportunity for congress to tax Americans on inactivity.
He says the president could change the way Congress looks at new laws. Abramoff is a former Washington lobbyist. He is the author of "Capital Punishment" referring to a little bit of time he spent in jail, three years in a federal prison. Is that correct?
Thanks for joining us this morning. You have an interesting article in which you layout what you say are the implications of this health care law and really what the Supreme Court decided. Explain that to us.
JACK ABRAMOFF, AUTHOR, "CAPITAL PUNISHMENT": Well, I try to look from the point of view of a lobbyist.
O'BRIEN: You're barred from being a lobbyist.
ABRAMOFF: I am not barred, but a little fool hardy to sort of jump back into the pool for me and I try to look at it in terms of how I know the lobbying world thinks, looking for opportunities.
I mean, basically you have up to 30,000 people sitting in Washington looking at legislation, looking for loopholes and looking for things that are possible.
And what happened I think with the decision in part was that they open up a new vista for a lobbyist to look at government activity in behalf of clients. Particularly clients who want to use the government as a bludgeon against competition.
O'BRIEN: Give us examples. You're a lobbyist living in your office. The Supreme Court ruling comes out and you say the first call I am going to make is?
ABRAMOFF: Well, I would perhaps if I represented a company that made solar panels, I would call them and say, listen, we have an opening now. It will be tough, by the way. but certainly with the Republicans.
But I would say what do we work to say our particular solar panel, the composition of it is something that is certainly economically and environmentally sufficient.
Let's say that if you don't have the solar panel in certain regions to start will you get a penalty. You will get a tax. The big question is, is this a penalty or a tax?
We will tax you for your inactivity. Basically, I think lobbyists and I have talked to a number of them. They're looking for opportunities now.
They're not easy opportunities, but they're looking for a new way to in essence involve the government in our lives and it is very disturbing.
HILL: How much of a long shot is it? With health care, I mean, there is a public policy reason for wanting to do this. Solar panels are a bit different. I think theoretically how that makes sense, but in practice how likely is it now?
ABRAMOSS: I think one has to remember is that a lot of what lobbyists do is so completely under the radar. You're not -- 99 percent of any lobbying fight is not going to surface to where it even makes it to any kind of show on TV.
And so lobbyists are looking for opportunities to reformulate something so that the members who are supporting and have the basis on which to move forward and this gives them another basis to do that.
HOOVER: But what's not under the radar is taxing, right? What conservatives say is the genius of the decision is that while they made it easier to tax, politically it is almost impossible to pass taxes.
But then genius of the court's decision is supposedly in the constraining of the commerce clause so it allows for a narrowing of government's influence in commerce.
And while it has allowed for taxing maybe to be easier, politically it is so difficult to get across maybe there is a net conservative gain from this ruling.
O'BRIEN: What lobbyist is going to in and say I have a great strategy, tax people more, they love that.
ABRAMOFF: No, I don't think that lobbyist will frame it as taxes any more than the administration wants to frame it as taxes politically. Everybody understands that stepping on the tax rail was death.
Lobbyists certainly understand that as well, but what it gives them is a legal framework in which to operate now. The discussion often with the lobbyists going to a congressman and saying here is what I want and trying to achieve for my client.
The congressman and the staff pressured to understand what's going on and they'll say it can't work because of the following objections.
One of the big objections indeed is constantly that the government can't attack inactivity. Now the government can. So that's what opens up that.
LIZZA: All the articles and all arguments I have read about the fall from the Roberts decision, this is the least convincing I have seen.
I mean, there is no politician that is going to propose putting a tax on some product. The health care law was completely unique in that health care economics require for insurance to work that everyone get in the pool.
And that is it is reason we have mandates, penalty or taxes, whatever you want to call it is because the market for health care was completely unique. It was literally no other market in the country whether it is solar panels or these other things you mentioned.
ABRAMOFF: I think what I am trying to -- the point I am trying to make is --
LIZZA: What argument would you make for forcing Americans as you say in your piece that they have to enrol in acme diversity training seminars -- what would the argument --
ABRAMOOS: It was being a bit tongue in cheek in the article. I think the thing is obviously you all naturally don't think like lobbyists do. Thank God that you don't.
But unfortunately for me I can't expel this from my brain in terms of how lobbyists operate within the system. It is not a matter of going in there and saying let's create a new tax.
Nobody is ever going to say that. By the way, they're not saying this. I don't think anybody -- I don't remember at least in the discussion let's put a new tax on the American people.
Let's create -- in fact, there are 20 people taxes in the health care bill and the mandate is only one of them. What I am seeing is what they opened up is a new window approach how the government can in fact be involved with inactivity and that's the biggest thing.
HILL: I don't buy it. It seems like part of a broader conversation and broader attempt to beat up on the Roberts decision and make it seem as it is leading to downward spiral towards more tax and more bureaucracy. And I agree with you, I can think of a concrete example where it is possible the government would intervene.
ABRAMOFF: Well, nobody thought, by the way, before the Robert's decision that it was possible that a Supreme Court justice certainly not a conservative would write an opinion that the government should in fact have a penalty or tax towards inactivity.
I mean, this was a new notion as well. I know it is possible we aren't thinking of something today that may be happening, but I can assure you in the minds of Washington right now percolating are thoughts and I talked to them and examples I used for --
O'BRIEN: When you start saying severe examples, come back and talk to us about them. Always nice to have you. We appreciate it. Thank you.
Coming up this morning, talking about Facebook, part frat house, mart mad men, one of the original Facebook employees joins us and has written a book that tells all about her life inside the Facebook offices that's straight ahead.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Sandberg is now the company's lone female board member. Some call her promotion to Facebook's response to criticism about the company's male dominated culture.
There is a new book out. It's called "The Boy Kings," and it illustrates just how hard it could be for a woman working among the boys of the Facebook staff.
It's written by a former employee, Katherine Lassie, who started working at Facebook in 2005. She was employee number 51, and she writes this.
Humor around the office usually had a warring, masculine bent that came from the top. Domination, mark was always saying, joking in a way that you knew also was serious.
Recently sat down with Katherine and asked her why she decided to write a book.
KATHERIN LOSSE, AUTHOR, "THE BOY KINGS": And the book is really to capture some of the excitement of being at Facebook in the early days, which was, you know, unbalance very fine. But also to talk about what it was really like at a time when it was a pretty male- dominated culture.
O'BRIEN: And literally, not just sort of culturally, but literally male dominated. There were only two women when you started, right?
LOSSE: Yes, and one was the administrative assistant. So I was one of the first real employees who was, you know, working on the product or helping the users and really interfacing with Facebook.
O'BRIEN: How did it manifest itself? More your experiences you saw. Gosh, not only are there no men here, the culture is really, really male.
LOSSE: Yes, I mean, there'd be graffiti on the walls that had women with skimpy tops and that kind of thing. So, you know, you definitely felt you were in the presence of young men.
O'BRIEN: You say that back in May of 2006, first Zuckerburg's day, an e-mail went out and advised people how to celebrate. Tell me what happened.
LOSSE: Well, they told us that the women in office would be wearing shirts with his picture on them. And the men would be wearing his typical sandals, so I decided to stay home because I didn't really want to do that. I thought it was just a little bit odd.
O'BRIEN: You write this, the gender coding was clear, women were to declare allegiance to Mark and men were to be Mark or at least dress like him. Did Mark himself, did Zuckerberg love the idea of himself as the boy king?
LOSSE: You know, I mean, I think Facebook did feel like we were building an empire and he was the leader, so I think there were aspects of that to it.
O'BRIEN: You write about this, introduction of Cheryl Samberg who I just mentioned was just added to the board back in 2010. And his intro is really odd, I think. I'll read it to folks.
When I met Cheryl, the first thing I said she had really good skin. Mark continues, this is his introduction of her. And she does, he said gesturing toward Cheryl whose face was admittedly creamy and tone.
She was smiling and didn't flinch. Mark went on to say everyone should have a crush on Sheryl and some engineers -- some engineers claimed a thread immediately after the meeting to have the requisite crushes. What did you take from that introduction of Sheryl Samberg?
LOSSE: Well, you know, Sheryl is a very powerful woman. She's held high positions at Google and in the Treasury Department and so I thought it was interesting to introduce her by way of her appearance.
When obviously she's had so many accomplishments and she really brought a lot to the company in terms of her skills. So, you know, I noticed that you probably wouldn't introduce an engineer that way or someone -- another male employee with the reference to his appearance.
O'BRIEN: Was that more about Mark. People who have interviewed him and know him say he's sometimes strange is a word I've heard a lot. Was it more of him or is it an issue of the culture?
LOSSE: You know, I think he was well-intentioned with it. I don't think that he meant to put Sheryl down in any way. I just think it was an aspect of the culture that something that people weren't thinking about and something I wanted to talk about.
O'BRIEN: You had a job of really writing in his voice and getting inside his head to capture his voice accurately. How was that? What was that like?
LOSSE: It was really fun. You know, it's kind of like a game. You would figure out how would someone say this? I want to say it differently, but I want to speak in this voice. So it was really fun. I had a good time.
O'BRIEN: Has he read the book? What has his response been to your book?
LOSSE: I haven't heard from him, but I've heard from my fellow friends and colleagues at Facebook and they think it's really interesting.
O'BRIEN: It was an off-hand comment about the book, though, right, was the catalyst for writing a book?
LOSSE: Yes, he said we're going to write a book about us and I thought, I think I would have different things to say on the culture.
O'BRIEN: And that gave you an idea of writing another perspective on Facebook. It's really, really interesting. The book is called the "The Boy Kings: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Social Network." Thank you for being here.
LOSSE: Great to be here.
O'BRIEN: Got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We've got much more coming up in the second hour of STARTING POINT this morning. We're following two breaking news stories. First, a terror alert, six people arrested in London for planning an attack.
Also Wikileaks is announcing the largest release yet in the Syria files. We'll update you on both of those stories at the top of the hour.
Plus a 17-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, becomes the second African-American woman to make the U.S. Olympic swim team. Going to talk to her straight ahead.
And Taco Bell, we talked about this the other day. Going gourmet, they've decided to drop off some of the food to us this morning. We'll tell you how it is all when STARTING POINT continues. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our starting point is breaking news in terror. A terror alert in London. Six people arrested for planning an attack. We're going to bring you the very latest on that story.
Plus, Mitt Romney's mixed messages now getting in line with the rest of the GOP calling the individual mandate in health care a tax not a penalty. Why the change of heart? We'll take a look --