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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Interview with John Sununu; New Forecast On Housing Slump; Interview with Rick Scott; Florida to Use List of Non-Citizens to Monitor Voting; "Fairy Tale Interrupted"; Ohio Teacher Pay Linked to Grades

Aired July 16, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning: the battle over Bain has Mitt Romney asking for an apology from the Obama campaign. He says the president's attacks are demeaning to the office. President Obama says he is not backing down.

Former New Hampshire governor and Mitt Romney supporter, John Sununu is going to join us to respond.

Plus, two Americans and their tour guide have been kidnapped in Egypt. (INAUDIBLE) from their captors that even more people will be taken. We have the latest development there.

And gone without a trace. The desperate search for two little girls who are missing. Last seen riding their bikes in their Iowa hometown.

Plus, in wake of that damning Penn State report on the sex abuse scandal, should the statue of former head football coach Joe Paterno be torn down? It's our tough call this morning.

Monday, July 16th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Please don't stop the music. Please don't stop the music. Off my playlist. That's Rihanna for to you wake you up at 8:02 in the morning.

Our team this morning: Rosemarie Terenzio joins us. She's the author of "Fairy Tale Interrupted." She was on not too long ago talking about that book, chronicling her time as JFK's assistant.

Nice to have you with us this morning.

Ron Brownstein is back. He's the editorial director at the "National Journal."

Will Cain is the columnist for TheBlaze.com. You might notice he's missing something on that fresh face he's got. No beard. Yay, finally.

Our STARTING POINT this hour, there will be no "I'm sorry."

President Obama is saying he's not going to back down over comments his campaign made regarding Mitt Romney's time as the head of Bain Capital. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We won't be apologizing. He is now claiming while I wasn't there at the time except he files an SEC listing that says he was the CEO, chairman and president of the company. So, you know, as president of the United States, one of the things I've learned and we just talked about it was anything that happens on my watch is my responsibility. That's what people expect. Truman said "The buck stops with me."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: This comes after Obama's deputy campaign manager said Romney may have committed a felony for claiming he left Bain back in 1999 even though SEC documents showed he was there until 2002.

Former New Hampshire governor and Romney surrogate, John Sununu joins us this morning.

Nice to see you, Governor, as always. Good morning to you.

Where do you want to begin? Because over the weekend the conversation was about Bain and taxes. Which one shall we start with?

FORMER GOV. JOHN SUNUNU (R-NH), ROMNEY CAMPAIGN. Let me begin by complimenting you, Soledad, on two things you said --

O'BRIEN: Oh, thank you.

SUNUNU: -- on two things you told Governor Markell. The Obama campaign is not very smart introducing the idea of felony into the discourse because they come out of the murky soup of politics in Chicago where felons abound.

And number two, you are absolutely right when it comes to taxes. If Governor Romney puts out two years of taxes, they are going to ask for five. He puts out five, they're going to ask for 12. You are absolutely on both of those.

O'BRIEN: Well, thank you. I appreciate it.

The only problem is I didn't say the first one, but I'll take credit for the second one.

Let's begin with Bain, in fact.

SUNUNU: OK.

O'BRIEN: Here's Dick Durbin and Rahm Emanuel. They were kind of going over this over the weekend. Durbin on "Meet the Press." Emanuel on "This Week" on ABC. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Why is Mitt Romney running away from his company Bain Capital like a scalded cat? Because there's abundant evidence that under Bain Capital, they were exporting American jobs to low-wage countries. He doesn't want to be associated with it.

RAHM EMANUEL (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO: Stop whining. If you want to claim Bain Capital as your calling card to the White House, then defend what happened to Bain Capital.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Don't they have a point? Do you think, Governor?

SUNUNU: Absolutely not. Look, the fact is that lots of times, there are people who are major stockholders who are not managers of the company. At CNN, at some point, Ted Turner, owned the bulk of the stock of the company and no long have a management voice. Bill Gates has done the same thing at Microsoft.

Unfortunately, the management units at the White House don't understand what management is all about. And, frankly, they are just trying to distort the situation because they are shamed of 8.2 percent unemployment and the fact that they have ignored the workers of America for the last four years.

O'BRIEN: Or maybe, Will Cain, they are trying to exploit the situation because it seems like Bain is sticking. I mean, obviously they are coming back around to something from a P.R. perspective alone, seems to be problematic.

SUNUNU: Soledad --

O'BRIEN: Hang on, one second, Governor. Let me ask this quick question of Will Cain. I'll come right back to you, sir.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's the unfortunate thing for me. I think -- we are trading in the currency of public relations because the truth is whether or not Mitt Romney was there making management decisions in 1999 or 2002, you are operating on the presumption, if some job was outsourced, that some rational economic decision was made, then that's bad.

And we need to progress to the debate which is the conditions in this country, some of which the government contributes to, are they conducive to jobs being grown in this country? That's the debate that needs to be had.

SUNUNU: Yes, but look, you want to talk outsourcing. Let's go back to the Solyndra, Fisker, Bright Source, First Wind, all of these grants that were given to cronies, to people who bundled, people who contributed to Obama. They not only got money that outsourced jobs, it was money, taxpayer money, that outsourced jobs.

There is a huge difference. In fact, we had an event yesterday that wasn't well-reported. We launched a U.S. astronaut up to the space station. But you know how they were -- he was launched? She was launched?

She was launched on a Russian spacecraft because President Obama has outsourced a major portion of the U.S. space program to the Russians. That's national policy. Taxpayer money.

So let's stop playing games with this outsourcing distortion and talk about the fact that when we need is a president that knows how to manage big enterprise and create jobs.

O'BRIEN: So --

SUNUNU: And the White House that we have now has failed.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a minute before I have to let you go. I want to get threw a lot of stuff with you, about taxes, because that's another issue that's been front and center. People are not talking about outsourcing as much as they are talking about right now Bain and taxes and this is a problem important Governor Romney.

Here is what Governor Romney told our reporter, Jim Acosta, in his round of interviews that he was doing last week. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've indicated that -- well, first of all, we have complied with the law. The law requires us to put out a full financial disclosure and that I have done. And then in addition to that, I have already put out one year of tax returns. We'll put out the next year tax returns as soon as the accountants have that ready. And that's what we're going to put out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What he is say in a nutshell what I have done is fine. Everybody should get over it.

SUNUNU: I stand by my most important source of authority on this program. That's Soledad O'Brien. You said if he puts out two, they will ask for five. If he puts out five, they'll ask for 12.

O'BRIEN: I was quoting Mary Matalin, by the way, who I interviewed last week.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I was quoting Mary Matalin who said that last week. I kind of stole that from here.

So, you think it's a political game.

SUNUNU: It is a political game.

O'BRIEN: OK. But fellow Republicans are saying it's a problem. Actually fellow Republicans are saying it is a distraction. Here is Bill Kristol, also, George Will, and Matthew Dowd all in a row --

SUNUNU: I wouldn't hire any one of those guy.

O'BRIEN: I'm not asking you that.

SUNUNU: They are all good friends but they know nothing about running a campaign.

O'BRIEN: All right. All right. Let's -- let them speak and then we will talk on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

WILLIAM KRISTOL, EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Release tax returns tomorrow, it's crazy, you've got to release six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two. And then give a serious speech on Tuesday.

GEORGE WILL, WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: The cost of not releasing the returns are clear. Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in relation.

MATTHEW DOWD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There's obviously something there because if there was nothing there, he would say have at it. So, there's obviously something there that compromises what he said in the past about something.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

O'BRIEN: You may not hire them but isn't that problematic, that last line? Yeah, there's something there. If that's left in the minds of voters the American public, that's a huge problem. Right?

SUNUNU: You know, these are six-inch high every year. So -- you are going -- if you want to release twelve years, you are going to release about six feet worth of tax returns that the Democrats will twist and turn whatever entry they find in there.

Two years tells you what Mitt Romney is all about. Let's move on and talk about the cronyism of the White House, the outsourcing of the White House, and the failure to deal with unemployment and the jobs situation in America.

You walk into any supermarket or any shopping mall and ask the public what they are worried about. Not one of them will tell you they are worried about 12 years of Mitt Romney's tax returns.

O'BRIEN: Hold on. I want to ask a question of Ron Brownstein.

RON BROWNSTEIN: Obviously that's right, but the core question is who do you trust to lead us out of the morass that we are in? Mitt Romney has heavily relied -- again, just now Governor Sununu, the kinder, gentler Governor Sununu, I might add --

O'BRIEN: Today.

BROWNSTEIN: -- today. Has relied about upon that business experience saying look, this is what uniquely qualifies me. I have run large enterprise. I know how to create jobs. This is what qualifies me to be president. As you say, we haven't had a --

SUNUNU: That's your version of what he is running on. What he is running on --

O'BRIEN: You don't think he is running on Bain?

SUNUNU: He is running on having been in the private sector and having been able to manage a state like Massachusetts instead of coming out of being a community organizer to that had absolutely no idea in the handling and managing the process.

BROWNSTEIN: In fact, Governor, that in fact I think frames the way, in fact, both sides want the choice to be. What the president is saying is look at the background and look at what we have done in our life and whose side is -- he trying to make a whose side are you on argument that's not just about the background and ultimately does tie into the agenda.

I think Mitt Romney and President Obama would both argue that their agendas flow out of their life's experiences and what the president is trying to say is that if you look at the choices we face going forward, my experience better equips me to understand your life and make, you know, make policy that will improve your life as an average American.

The governor has a very different argument.

But that is a real argument that goes beyond distraction. And maybe some of these are, you know, some of the issues are elevated or blown up. But the core issue is a real one. Whose side -- what does your experience qualify you in terms of understanding the lives of average Americans?

SUNUNU: Americans are going to come to the conclusion when they look at this White House that doesn't know how to manage lemonade stand and look at the disaster of the country is in, they are going to pick the guy that's going to be able to fix their personal problems of unemployment or their sister or brother's unemployment. or their uncle or aunt's unemployment, or their kids' unemployment.

And when it comes down to that, the Obama administration fails woefully. It is a disaster. They have created four years of nothing in America. And they've got to stand up and be responsible for that.

If you want to move it one step further, they will look back at the background of this crowd that came out of Chicago and if the president wants to talk about felons we can talk about Tony Rezko. We can talk about his relationship with Blagojevich. And we talk about the fact that these guys like to do business in the way that nauseates the American public.

O'BRIEN: At the end of the day, though, he was making the rounds on all those stations for a reason, right? He did back-to-back-to-back interviews for a reason. That this has become a problem, and it's a problem that he is trying to get some control over. So, I agree with you.

SUNUNU: If he didn't --

O'BRIEN: Go ahead.

SUNUNU: Soledad, if he didn't show up, you would say he failed to show up. If he shows up, you say he showed up too much. Let's -- let's understand it's a political campaign. It is a complicated process.

And the voters are going to decide in November who is going to fix their personal family dismay over not having jobs in America. They are going to pick Mitt Romney.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, we'll see about that. Governor Sununu, first of all, number one, you are being really nice to me today. And it is kind of weirding me out a little bit. So, that's one thing.

Number two, just maybe you started out by complimenting me. Hmm.

SUNUNU: You didn't make any mistakes today, Soledad.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Is that what it was? Okay. So much for the complimenting.

Number two, whenever you are in New York, we'd love to have you come by in person. So if it gets to fisticuffs, I can defend myself and punch you right back if I have to.

Nice to see you, Governor. Thanks for talking with us.

SUNUNU: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Hmm, he's very sweet today. What's going on?

Let's get right to Christine Romans. She's got the rest of the top stories for us.

Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: News flash, Soledad didn't make any mistakes today.

Here's the news for you. Hillary Clinton is in Israel this morning after a tense visit to Egypt. Protesters throwing shoes and tomatoes at the secretary of state's motorcade yesterday after she spoke in Alexandria. And Egyptian official was hit in the face with a tomato and shoes and water bottle landed near the armored cars carrying Clinton's delegation.

A short time ago, Mrs. Clinton met with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Despite the unrest in Egypt and Syria, she called this a time of opportunity for the entire Middle East.

Increased security in Egypt's Sinai region as two Americans and their Egyptian translator remain hostages in the desert. The State Department is working with the Egyptian government to free them as soon as possible. This as we're hearing new reports that the Reverend Michel Louis offered himself as a hostage to spare his parishioners when a man ambushed their tour bus Friday. The kidnapper demanding his uncle be released from prison in exchange for the hostages.

Earlier on STARTING POINT, we heard from Reverend Louis' son.

REV. JEAN LOUIS, SON OF KIDNAPPED U.S. PASTOR, MICHEL LOUIS: We are in good faith despite anything. Our faces might not look like it, because as you can assume, physically, it's taking a toll, emotionally taking a toll, too. But we are still remaining faithful. We believe in God. We believe that he's going do what he needs to do.

ROMANS: It's been four days now and still no sign of two missing girls in Iowa. Eight-year-old Elizabeth Collins and 10-year-old Lyra Cook (ph) were last seen Friday riding their bicycles in Evansdale, Iowa. Police found their bikes near a lake but no trace of them. Nearly a thousand volunteers joined the search this weekend.

A $15,000 reward is being offered for information regarding the girls. The girls are cousins.

NBA star, Jason Kidd, in trouble with the law just days after signing a contract with the New York Knicks. Kidd was arrested in New York for driving while intoxicated after smashing his SUV into a telephone poll in the Hamptons. Kidd was also -- has also played for the New Jersey Nets and the Dallas Mavericks.

And looks like Linsanity is heading to the Lone Star State. According to several reports, the New York Knicks are not prepared to match the Houston Rockets' offer to Jeremy Lin $25 million over three years. The sticking point is the third year of the deal. It pays Lin $15 million. If the Knicks match it, they'd be hit with a $15 million luxury tax.

New York just traded for point guard, Raymond Felton, as a sign that they are prepared to move on in New York without Jeremy Lin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: I'm not sure I'm ready to let go of Lin-sanity. I was kind of into that.

CAIN: We'll see if it continues in Texas.

O'BRIEN: I hope it does for him. He was great. He seems like a super nice guy. That's a lot of money. Good for him. Good for him. That's right. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the number of U.S. homeowners with mortgages under water. Well, that number is going down. It's dropping. But does that mean we're crawling out of the housing crisis? Not necessarily. We'll examine some of those numbers up next.

And our "Tough Call" this morning, should the statue of Joe Paterno be torn down at Penn State after his alleged knowledge of the Sandusky sex abuse scandal? STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And welcome back to STARTING POINT.

Drop in the number of U.S. homeowners who are under water in their mortgages is giving some hope at the nation's housing crisis maybe bottoming out. People who owed more on their mortgages in the value of their home dropped from 12.1 million to 11.4 million over the last three months of 2011 to this year's first quarter.

But a new report that's coming out today from "Bloomberg Government" warns that in spite of recent improvements, a sustained recovery could still be a few years away. Nela Richardson is an economic analyst to "Bloomberg Government" and co-author of the report. Christine Romans is joining us, as well, because any time I need business help.

(LAUGHTER)

Christine, hold hands with me on this. All right. Nela, welcome. It's nice to have you. Let's talk about this report, first and foremost. You say slow recovery. What are some of the contributing factors to the slow recovery?

NELA RICHARDSON, ECONOMIC ANALYST, BLOOMBERG GOVERNMENT: Soledad, it's great to be here with you. And let's start with the first part of the year. What we saw was some freakishly good weather that may have pulled in a lot of housing activity in the first quarter. People got outside, started looking at housing and started actually buying.

But what's been keeping housing down and what may continue to drag it down is the fact that there are so many foreclosures and distressed houses on the market today. The New York fed is expecting 3.6 million more foreclosures to come on the market at the end of this year and through 2013. That's going to keep prices depressed for quite some time.

O'BRIEN: So, then, is this the bottom? Are we -- are we found it? Are we close to it?

RICHARDSON: You know, it's like looking for the Holy Grail. Where's the bottom of the housing market, right? Well, I think that question is secondary to the fact of what would indicate a recovery. The fact is we could sputter along the bottom for years to come. And so, what my colleague, Ian Hathaway (ph), and I tried to do is to show multidimensional finds of what a housing recovery looks like.

When prices start to stabilize, when people are actually able to get a mortgage, it's very difficult to get a mortgage this year with foreclosures taper down, delinquencies go down, and sales increase. These are some of the factors that would lead to a rebound in the housing market.

O'BRIEN: We were talking about, Christine, that earlier, the sort of the issue with low mortgage rates, and yet, you can't really necessarily get a mortgage.

ROMANS: Right. These mortgage rates are unbelievable, 3.5 percent for a 30-year fixed, two percent and change for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. This should be having everyone rushing into the housing market that people can't get ahold of those mortgage rates because the requirements by the banks are just getting more and more strict.

Nela, I wonder, is there a point when that is going to loosen up so that people will be able to take advantage of these very low mortgage rates and these low prices? People who want to move are ready to keep going. They've got a job. They want to keep going. Is that going to -- when does that magic solution happen?

RICHARDSON: Well, There are two factors. First of all, the hanks (ph) are really gun shy. They made a lot of mistakes going into the housing boon. They made mortgages they probably shouldn't have, and they allowed prices to skyrocket. So, now, we're feeling the pain of that correction in market.

But secondly, I think, consumers, potential buyers are a little bit gun shy, too. Who wants to buy an asset? Even a great house that may depreciate next year --

ROMANS: So, they bought in 2010 thinking that they were buying the bottom. And then now, they're down another few percent since 2010.

RICHARDSON: Absolutely.

ROMANS: So, a bottom can be a very ugly, ugly thing to put in a housing market, quite frankly.

RICHARDSON: Uncertainty affects behavior. People don't know where the bottom is. They're going to be reluctant to make a choice, especially a choice as expensive as the house.

BROWNSTEIN: Nela, Rob Brownstein from "National Journal." Can I ask you, for both President Clinton and President Bush, it was a conscious strategy to increase the share of Americans who own houses. We went up to an all-time high under President Bush, and in particular, it was the centerpiece of their efforts to build wealth in the minority community.

Did we go too far? I mean -- did we try to reach an unrealistic level of Americans owning houses and do we have to scale back that expectations by what share ultimately will?

RICHARDSON: Absolutely it went too far. The homeownership rate right now is the lowest it's been in 15 years. That homeownership program, those policies, perpetuated under Clinton and Bush were unsustainable. It's not that everyone shouldn't have a part of the American dream to own a house. It is that, though, the fundamentals have to be right.

People have to be employed. And people have to be put into mortgages that they can afford. And that's important. That was forgotten during the housing boon. It can't be forgotten again if we're going to have a sustainable housing market going forward.

O'BRIEN: Nela Richardson joining us, economic analyst from "Bloomberg Government." Nice to see you. Thanks so much for walking us through. Christine, also, thanks as well.

RICHARDSON: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, cries are growing louder to tear down this statue of Joe Paterno at Penn State. What do you think? "Tough Call" coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. "Tough Call" segment this morning. Pressure is mounting on the board of trustees at Penn State to tear down this statue of the late legendary coach, Joe Paterno. Right now, it stands right outside the stadium, Beaver Stadium. The former FBI director, Louis Freeh, released his report last week on the Jerry Sandusky sex child abuse case.

Details that Paterno placed Penn State's football program ahead of Sandusky's victims. So, many are now saying that statue needs to go. You said that you don't think this is a tough call.

BROWNSTEIN: I don't think it is a tough call. Reading that report, it's no chance.

ROSEMARIE TERENZIO, AUTHOR, "FAIRY TALE INTERRUPTED": He didn't just not protect children.

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

TERENZIO: He enabled a sexual predator who was preying on children.

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

TERENZIO: Since 1998, Joe Paterno was an enabler.

CAIN: You know, I think, just to provide a different point of view, not necessarily one I'm subscribing (ph) to, but it does bring up an interesting question is how do you define someone's legacy? Do you define people's legacies by the worst that ever took place under them?

I don't know the answer to that. We can broaden the conversation. Broaden the conversation to many figures to -- you know --

BROWNSTEIN: That's absolutely fair question, but you know, the worst here is pretty bad. Pretty bad.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I don't feel like all the swirling conversation around the statues. Who cares when clearly what you need to be focused on is how do you change the culture? And clearly as recent (ph) this report. Not just at Penn State which held its help up as sort of the higher moral standard under Paterno, but in other football programs as well, you know?

BROWNSTEIN: From the economic power. I mean, the economic -- you look at the pay of the coaches --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And that's correlated to --

BROWNSTEIN: There's no question where the economic power lies. That produces --

TERENZIO: I -- completely disagree with that. What he did -- almost OK, in my opinion.

CAIN: You look for the bigger picture in other places to place the blame. I think one of the implications. Many people just go to the culture of college football in general. I'm not saying that's wrong. There are a lot of angle which is you can begin to examine this, even generational. I think when you look at Joe Paterno, that generation, there was tendency to look away from it and not discuss ugliness. Why did this occur?

O'BRIEN: Right. Some of that generational and some of that is don't jeopardize my football program to the point --

TERENZIO: He was negotiating a $5 million package while this is going on. It is a little bit more than that. He was still aggressively pursuing $5 million exit package in the wake of the scandal.

O'BRIEN: So maybe not such a tough call but maybe we should be focused on other things.

All right, we have to take a short break. Republicans say it is a victory. Thank you government agrees to let Florida use law enforcement database to challenge people's right to vote if they're suspected of not being U.S. citizens. We are going to be talking with Florida's governor, Rick Scott, coming up next.

If you ever wondered what the governor is listening to, we will chat with him coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Let's get right to Christine. She's got a look at today's top stories. Hey, Christine.

ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. A tough time for firefighters in northern California where a wildfire in a steep canyon is threating dozens of homes. This fire has already destroyed one house and torched nearly 2,000 acres. Local reports say 170 homes are in danger this hour and 11 firefighters have been injured battle this blaze.

A vast surveillance operation conducted by the Food and Drug Administration was used to spew on its own scientists. According to "New York Times," thousands of e-mails sent by disgruntled employees were secretly intercepted. Those e-mails contained complaints about the way the FDA operates. FDA officials defend their operation and claim computer monitoring was limited to five scientists suspected of leaking confidential information.

Checking in on the markets now, U.S. stock futures are lower this morning. Concerns about Europe are a major factor driving uncertainty in the market this week. Lots of corporate earnings reports on tap as well. Citigroup just reports its earning beat analysts' expectations, earning almost $3 billion in the quarter.

The estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr. getting a new gravesite. The family moved Mary Kennedy's body to the sunny hillside. The Kennedy family also bought 50 plots surrounding the new grave to be reserved for her six children and their families. Mary Kennedy committed suicide in May after battling depression much of her life.

The Tour de France is turning into the tour de tacks after someone placed a series of tacks along the race route. Around 30 competitors blew flats and one rider crashed after running over the tacks. Race officials are asking French police to investigate.

O'BRIEN: So terrible. I wonder what they do now. Are they just out if it is -- what happens?

BROWNSTEIN: The time on that stage.

O'BRIEN: What do you do?

CAIN: Don't know. Put a report on that one.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you.

New developments in the battle between the state of Florida and the federal government over that state's efforts to purge illegal immigrants from the voter rolls ahead of the November election. The Department of Homeland Security mass finally agreed to grant Florida officials access to its save database which keeps a record of non-U.S. citizens who are living in the country. The decision comes just a few weeks after a federal judge denied a request from the Justice Department to suspend the state's voter purge. With me this morning Florida's governor Rick Scott. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. We appreciate it. Explain to me what the new agreement means exactly.

GOV. RICK SCOTT, (R) FLORIDA: Sure. You know, the song "I Hope You Dance" was the father/daughter song for my first daughter's wedding. I took dance lessons and everything. Hopefully nobody has pictures of it.

O'BRIEN: We will find them and put them on the air soon.

SCOTT: Here's what it does. You know, their database will allow us to make sure that in future elections, you know, non-U.S. citizens will vote. I'm really very appreciative the federal government is cooperating with this, and it will allow us to go through a logical process to make sure non-citizens aren't voting. And hopefully it will set -- creates path for other states that have the same concern.

O'BRIEN: There are restrictions, right? What are the restrictions?

SCOTT: What you have to do is make sure -- the secretary of state will work with our -- 67 supervisor elections, each county has one. He will work with them to make sure it is a methodical process where you will confirm the names and things like that to make sure that -- there is a good due process, because we want to make -- in Florida, I tell people this all the time. This is not a partisan issue. You want people to register to vote and get involved in the campaigns and vote. We want to make sure this is done the right way but non-citizens not voting in the elections.

O'BRIEN: Why do you -- do you have any idea why homeland security would agree now and why now? I'm curious why.

SCOTT: I don't know. You know, it took almost a year. The -- but I'm very appreciative of -- that they are doing it. This is good. I mean, states -- programs ought to be cooperating on things. Everybody has the same goal. We want fair, honest elections. None of us -- nobody wants non-U.S. citizens to vote in the elections. So I have no idea why, but I'm very appreciative.

O'BRIEN: OK, then what happens over the next few months, what's your strategy going to be? Are you going to continue with the purge using the database? Had you some folks --

SCOTT: There was never a purge. Soledad, as you know, there was never a purge. What we do is provide information to our local supervisor elections, 67 of them per county. We will give them names that people that it appears would not be U.S. citizens that might be on the voter rolls. They will go through the due process. What happens is you -- send them a notice and by mail. If they don't respond, put tonight the paper. And then if they don't respond, they are taking off the voter rolls. But when the election happens, this happened to me. You go in and you are not on the voter rolls, and in my case, I think it was 2006, they said I passed away, you get to vote provisionally. So in that way, you know, we know everybody that's a U.S. citizen, registered to vote, will have the right to vote. We want on make sure everyone has that right to vote.

O'BRIEN: I know you know that one man's process is another man's purge. So I think there are some people that disagree with you on it. The 67 counties, so many said they wouldn't go ahead with, you know, the original process. Has that changed? Will they reverse their decisions, do you know?

SCOTT: Well, I believe so. This is a very reliable data that -- homeland security is going to have. I think it is very reliable data. I can't imagine they are not going to go forward to make sure. I don't know anybody, any supervisor of elections or anybody in our state that thinks non-U.S. citizen should vote in our elections.

The right on vote is a sacred right. We have to make sure U.S. citizens' right on vote is not diluted. As the judge said, it would cause irreparable harm in f that would happen. We will go through a responsible, logical possible due process to make sure the non-U.S. citizens do not vote. The U.S. citizens absolutely will vote.

O'BRIEN: Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking to us. We appreciate it.

SCOTT: Have a good day.

O'BRIEN: Likewise.

BROWNSTEIN: The question I would ask -- is there in the long run this is ultimately a victory for the Republican governors who -- not so much on this specific issue but broader issue of restrictions on Florida that other states imposed this year. You have every minority -- virtually every minority advocacy group as a systematic attempt to suppress the minority vote. They were 26 percent of the vote in 2008, 80 percent of them voted for Barack Obama. 29 percent of eligible voters in 2012 will be non-white. That number is only going to increase.

And the risk, I think, here very clearly -- what's being interpreted in the minority community is that these governors are sending a message of questioning whether we want you to vote. Yes. Obviously everyone wants, you know, process that's as accurate as possible. But ultimately I think that these Republican governors in the long run interest of the party need find a way to resolve some of the concerns which are very prevalent in the minority community.

O'BRIEN: Wouldn't a great step be to not do it in election year? You know, where the -- you can do it at a time where it is not an election year. I think that would remove a lot of that sort of pressure where it becomes --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you trying to limit --

O'BRIEN: Exactly.

CAIN: They're trying to get the list for one year.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Right. True.

All right, we have to take a break. Tying students' test scores to the teachers' salaries -- is that a burden or an opportunity? We will chat with Steve Perry straight ahead on this one.

And we're going to leave you with Rosemarie's playlist. No surprise. She likes Madonna. This is "Like a Prayer."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Did you know it was 13 years ago today that JFK Jr. died in that plane crash? Rosemarie Terenzio wrote a book about it. It was called "Fairy Tale, Interrupted".

And your book is now out in paperback. But you worked as his assistant.

TERENZIO: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Do you look back now at that time and just think what could have been? I mean, every time a political year comes around and he was a man who was being really groomed for something great.

TERENZIO: Sure. Yes you think about -- you know, you think about where would I be, what would I be doing? What would -- what would he be doing? I think, you know, there are something about the fact that I think -- I feel that people behave better when John Kennedy Jr. was in the world. So as far as I'm concerned I think he would have -- he would have probably done something political. But he wanted George to be a success before he moved on.

O'BRIEN: Do you do political PR now? That you're running a PR company?

TERENZIO: I have done some, mostly books, political books. But I would love to. I think it's fascinating.

O'BRIEN: And one day you get up on TV and yell at me like John Sununu.

TERENZIO: I won't yell at you. I might disagree but I won't yell (inaudible).

O'BRIEN: Ok, it's a deal. We'll have you back on that alone. Appreciate it. The book is a great read. And congratulations it's coming out in paperback.

TERENZIO: Thank you. Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Have to take a break. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT tying students' test scores to their teachers' salaries. Is that a good or a bad idea? We're going to talk to Steve Perry about that coming up next. And tomorrow on STARTING POINT, I take a little swim with billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson. A little swim with whale sharks. There we are in the water as I'm paddling backward to get out of there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What was your reaction the first time that you were sort of eyeball to eyeball with a whale shark?

SIR RICHARD BRANSON, BUSINESSMAN: Just the sheer beauty of it. I mean, it's the biggest fish in the ocean. Just this enormous, gentle giant in the ocean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: I like that music. We should run that more often. Let's keep that one. Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

Should students' test scores be used to determine, what their teachers get paid? Ohio Governor John Kasich want it to be a big factor. His new law requires half of a teacher's pay be based on test scores.

This brings us right to CNN education contributor, Steve Perry. Good morning, Steve Perry. Good idea or bad idea?

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: It's a great idea. In fact, what I don't understand is why it is even a conversation. If we are not paying people based upon their performance, then what are we paying them for? To make them feel better?

We are talking about educators who have the single responsibility of ensuring that students pick up the skills that are necessary to be successful in their life. They are being -- paid to do that. If they cannot do that then they cannot have the pay.

O'BRIEN: But why wouldn't you say let's pay them in -- you know, the delta, the change from when they got the students to how they -- much they improved, wouldn't that be a better strategy? Because otherwise you can have a teacher who's got great students, honor roll students, who all knocking out A's with no efforts and they are going to get paid more than somebody who's got a struggling class whose students are not particularly good students and their -- their teachers' salary would be lower.

PERRY: I don't think it is either/or. I think you do both. I think you have to put together a system in which you pay those people because in our school what we typically get are students who are anywhere from three to four grade levels behind.

So you're right. So if we move them up two grade levels in one year, they would still be behind by one year. Likewise we still have some students in -- I mean some teachers were able to move students within their area so that they were at grade level and they moved up just a little bit more.

There has to be a combination of both. The objective performance meaning if this -- on a scale from one to five they got a five. And the growth they need to be combined.

BROWNSTEIN: Steve, Ron Brownstein, to some extent this is an empirical question already, right. I mean there are places, Ohio is not first jurisdiction to look at doing this. The City of Denver, I believe is one of the pioneers. What have we seen from the pilot projects that are under way?

PERRY: I think what we're seeing is a greater sense of accountability among the faculty. When we understand that our very employment is determined by our ability to focus the children on the skills that are deemed to be necessary by the state, then we have to work harder to ensure that our lesson plans are better. We have to make sure that we deliver a better product.

I think it's too early to tell whether or not it has in fact made the uptick that we want because I don't believe -- believe it or not, that pay actually makes someone work harder.

But I do think that if you can't do the job, then you can't be allowed and just observations in the classroom alone are not enough. You can't just go in and look at a teacher and determine whether or not she is doing a great job. There's got to be more.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I show a quick follow up. What's a little odd about this is the timing. It's happening at the same time that the overall push towards measuring school performance based on testing is rolling back with this broad backlash against "No Child Left Behind".

So on the one hand you are seeing more and more jurisdictions saying let us out of the measurement of our overall school performance based on student testing. And now we're saying well, let's measure the teachers on that.

PERRY: Well, what we're looking at with race to the top is really the Dem's version of "No Child Left Behind", which is "No Child Left Behind"-like. One of the struggles that I have with -- with the DEMs on this issue, particularly the President, is that it seems like he wants to have it both ways were he wants to have accountability but it's a low state accountability. Meaning you're accountable but we are not going the make it so that you lose the money that goes to the school that makes it possible to keep a failing school open.

Whereas "No Child Left Behind" made it very clear. If you don't get these children where they need to be by a certain time, we're going to shut you down.

O'BRIEN: Steve Perry, always nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

PERRY: I'll see you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks. "End Point" is up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Time for "End Point". I love my new graphics. Ron Brownstein.

BROWNSTEIN: My "End Point" is in honor of the new kinder, gentler John Sununu, who I just famously said I never met a man I didn't like. But as my colleague Jack Farrell (ph) pointed out in 1988 a popular button in New Hampshire pointed out the opposite.

O'BRIEN: Will Rogers never met this man.

BROWNSTEIN: Never met this man.

O'BRIEN: Will Cain.

CAIN: Rosemarie and I were talking during the break about JFK Jr. I asked her how he dealt with failure both with failing the bar a couple of times and the ups and downs of George and he said -- he told us an interesting story.

TERENZIO: We were at an editorial meeting and everybody was kind of down on George getting beat up. And John said they are never going to say I'm smart. You can't be smart, rich and good looking; and rich and good looking aren't going anywhere.

O'BRIEN: We end up on that. Coming up tomorrow on STARTING POINT, the original karate kid, Ralph Macchio is going to join us. I'm so excited.

Also my exclusive interview with Sir Richard Branson as we take a swim with the whale sharks in Mexico. That's all tomorrow.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. We'll see you tomorrow morning guys.

Hey Carol.