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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

U.S. Women's Gymnastics Team Wins Gold Medal; Mitt Romney Returns from Trip Abroad; Dennis Rodman Writes Children's Book; Terror Report: Al Qaeda In "Decline"; Judge: Iran Liable For 9/11; Syrian Rebels Seize Two Police Stations; Bird Collides With Landing Flight; Unclaimed Camera Diverts Flight; Hitting The Swing States; Averting A Disaster; Little Progress In Congress; Super Deluxe Apartment In The Sky; D.L. Hughley Wants You

Aired August 1, 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: Our STARTING POINT, they are now America's sweethearts, magical night for the U.S. women's gymnastics team dominating the competition, nearly flawless on their way to the gold medal in the team competition. And Michael Phelps cementing his legacy. He is now the most decorated Olympian of all time, winning his record breaking 19th medal and adding another gold to his all-time mark.

Amanda Davies is live for us in London. Good morning, they interviewed the woman who Michael Phelps topped, whose record he beat. She's 77 years old, and she said time has come. She was OK with it.

AMANDA DAVIES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She's had quite a long time of being the most decorated Olympian ever, hasn't she? It is Michael Phelps, and it was widely expected to happen. It had been disappointing to this point but he is now the most successful Olympian ever after picking up the silver and gold in the relay. The big question here, does that mean he's the greatest Olympian ever because he has the most medals, is he the greatest or should that be measured in terms of longevity or impact on the sport and legacy he leaves. There hasn't been much time to celebrate, he's been back in the pool this morning for the 200 meter and he got through those fairly easily.

O'BRIEN: We're looking at the tweet sent from the president to Michael Phelps and it goes like this. "Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic record. You made your country proud" and signed it BO for Barack Obama. I'm so tired because I stayed up to watch the women's gymnastics. That was phenomenal.

DAVIES: It was particularly given the disappointment of the men and given the disappointment that had been all of those tears of sadness after Jordyn Wieber missed out on the individual all-around final. But they smashed it frankly, the fab five, didn't they? There was really no competition, winning by five points, which in gymnastics terms is absolutely huge. In the run-up they were watching videos in Atlanta in '96 for inspiration and that did the job. They started with a three phenomenal vaults and Russia just crumbled under the pressure. It's fantastic to see tears of joy so soon after those tears of sadness after disappointment of the men. I have to say now I'm going to talk about team GB, when are we going to win our first gold medal. We've just done it. The women's pair Heather Stunning and Helen Glover, they have just stormed to victory in the rowing in the women's pair, which is really quite something. And they weren't even heralded at the start of the day. These are the front pages of some of the tabloid papers, it was all about Bradley Wiggins, he was the one heralded as the great hope for today. Bradley Wiggins sideburns quite special and "The Daily Mirror" has a whole wig thing, which is kind of interesting.

O'BRIEN: You hang on to that for me. Congratulations on your first gold medal for your country. We're happy for you on that. We appreciate the update.

Coming up in a few minutes, we're going to talk to gold medal winning gymnast Dominique Dawes on that team giving inspiration to this year's team. Coming up in the next hour, three-time Olympic swimmers his name is Aaron Piersol. He'll be with us as well.

Before all of that, though, we've got to get to Zoraida Sambolin, who has a look at the day's top stories. Hey, Z., good morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you.

A shocker in the state of Texas, GOP voters choosing a new man as it's contender for the U.S. Senate. Several Texas newspapers reporting Ted Cruz is the winner of the Republican primary runoff against Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. It's being billed as a win for a conservative grassroots underdog. Cruz had support from Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum.

Defense secretary Leon Panetta arriving in Jerusalem this morning for talks with Israeli leaders. Iran's nuclear program and violence in Syria are expected to top agenda. Panetta is scheduled to visit Israel's iron dome, a missile defense system funded largely by the United States.

Hollywood is mourning the death of Gore Vidal. The renowned author, playwright, and politician was a fixture on talk shows and gossip columns. His works include the best-selling novels "Lincoln" and "Myra Breckenridge," and the Tony-nominated play "The Best Man." He ran twice for Congress and lost both times. His nephew confirms he died at his Hollywood hills home yesterday of complications from pneumonia. He was 86 years old.

A recent college graduate from Glenn Ellen, Virginia, was able to save her father's life thanks to quick thinking and super human strength. Her car was working on his car when the jack slipped. That's when his daughter leaped into action.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I lifted it up right here and kind of kind of threw it like, shoved my body into it as hard as I can and came back and dragged him out and started CPR.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Lauren says an adrenaline rush helped her lift the car off her father. She said her lifeguard CPR training helped keep him alive until the paramedics arrived. And her father is expected to make a full recovery. An average car weighs about 4,000 pounds. Imagine that.

O'BRIEN: Good for her. What a great story. Zoraida, thank you.

We're turning to the Olympics. Two American gymnasts are looking for redemption tonight in the men's individual all around, they follow the women's team incredible performance. The first gold was back in 1996 when Dominique Dawes and her teammates took the top spot in the Atlanta games. Dominique is now an Olympic analyst for FOXsports.com. She's also a member of the first ladies Olympics delegation. Thanks for joining us, Dominique. I'm a big fan. The young ladies who were doing gymnastics last night and got to the gold talked about your team as their inspiration. That must be really a thrill for you, I would imagine.

DOMINIQUE DAWES, FMR. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: It's an honor definitely to know we were able to motivate the team to reach their full potential and get a gold medal. I was in the arena last night and thrilled. Their performances took my breath away. The Russians didn't get them any competition, when they came to the balance beam it was close then they faltered and continued to falter on the floor exercise, Ali Raisman only needed a 10.2 and she surpassed it and they won gold.

O'BRIEN: They came on the vault the strongest, one after the other the first person's energy and ability kind of inspiring the next person to do an even better job in some ways. I thought McKayla Maroney's vaulting was terrific. Karolyi thought it should have been a ten. I could not believe it to not reward her with a 10.

DAWES: I don't agree with that, Bela, we're in 2012, there are no more perfect tens in the sport unfortunately.

O'BRIEN: Why not?

DAWES: Well, the scoring system has changed so there's no more perfect ten. Could she have gotten a perfect score, it would have then been a 17.0. I saw a slight deduction, it was very minute, she could have gotten a slightly higher score. The perfect score would be a 20 if someone was able to come up with that amount of difficulty.

But she rocked her fault. She's coaxed by an amazing coach, someone who helped me back in the day. He tried to get me to do that vault when I was a kid and I refused because it was way too hard back then.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: John Getter says his team is better than your team, a little trash talk. Others might agree, the '96 team might disagree but this is the best team. Difficulty-wise and consistency-wise, this is USA's finest.

DAWES: I do believe the fab five is out of our shadows, they have achieved an amazing fete, winning gold off American soil. The magnificent seven was able to win and I think the hometown crowd helped. I think we can compare the two teams but I would love to put on a leotard is and go at it with these girls. But we're going to give them full credit. We don't need to compete anymore. I'm 35. I'm not flipping anymore. I'll give them the props they deserve.

O'BRIEN: Your fans are older than that and want to see you do that still. Dominique Dawes it must be so much fun to watch this and be in the stands and not have the pressure on you.

DAWES: I'm actually a nervous ninny, looking forward to the all- around. Those two, one of them are going to be America's next sweetheart, reminds me back to the 1992 Olympic Games when Shannon Miller stepped up and took the spotlight, and I think that will happen in the all-around finals.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

DAWES: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney is now back on his home turf and defending those comments that angered Palestinians when he talked about the culture. That's straight ahead.

And our "Get Real," back from owing back child support to penning a children's book. The original bad boy, Dennis Rodman, has a bedtime story for your kids. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Minding your business, Federal Reserve policy makers set to make an announcement on interest rates this afternoon. They are expected to keep them near zero percent where they have been since 2008. Right now the Dow and NASDAQ and S&P 500 are pointing up in pre-marketing trading suggesting we could see a bounce at opening bell.

The sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is working for the enemy. Ariel Zuckerberg is now employed by Google after the search engine giant bought out her marketing firm Wildfire. Ariel worked there as a junior product manager. Back to you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You think he could offer her a job, hook her up in the family. Get that girl a job.

SAMBOLIN: Here you have insider information perhaps.

O'BRIEN: Oh, interesting. Zoraida, thanks.

Mitt Romney is in Boston this morning following his three-store tour overseas, standing by the controversial remarks where he stated that Israel has been more prosperous than neighboring Palestine because of cultural differences. In an op-ed for the "National Review," Mr. Romney writes that Israel has embraced freedom. "Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty and is only principle that created sustained prosperity. It is why our economy rose to rival those of the world's leading are powers and long surpassed them all."

Erick Erickson is a CNN contributor, editor in chief of RedState.com. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: He had to clarify in that op-ed comments he made that angered a lot of Palestinians because he talked about cultural differences being the reason for Israel's success and highlighted the neighboring Palestine as sort of the nonsuccess. Do you think he had to clarify those remarks? Do you think that was critical to do?

ERICKSON: He probably need to, if only because we're heading into August and August tends to be the Hastings crossings for the Donner party where politicians consume themselves and each other with random stories. This had the potential to blow up and consume his campaign for a couple of weeks. He needed to clarify it.

No one denies the Palestinian Authority area has a big fence around it, but also Palestinians would deny it but it's also fact in their culture a lot of people teach their kids to put on bombs and fire homemade missiles into Israel than to go out and try to lift themselves up. There are multifaceted problems there but Romney needed to clarify it to stop a story from exploding.

O'BRIEN: Cultural differences too, you know, can to some degree mean anything. I mean, he didn't mention all the things that I think the Palestinians would mention, all those things they felt were perceived as racist in those comments. He didn't talk about occupation. He didn't talk about settlements or talk about roadblocks or talk about closures, there's a long list that's very correlated to economic prosperity. It's not in a bubble.

ERICKSON: The roadblocks and fences are in it because they had a tendency to blow themselves up on Israeli buses.

O'BRIEN: So what you're saying seems to be the opposite a little bit of what Mitt Romney is saying. He's saying I'm not going to weigh in on what the Palestinians have done in their culture. I'm really talking about the Israelis. But if you're saying what he's saying is a metaphor because of the activities of people who have been fighting against the Israeli occupation, sometimes using bombs, suicide bombers, that is ultimately why Israel is successful in the Palestinian territories or not?

ERICKSON: I think he's commenting on Israel, but it leaves the vacuum open for what the difference between the two is. And I think there's a profound difference. He may not want to go there but I'm perfectly happy to.

O'BRIEN: All right, let me ask you a question. Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who you well know, said this in the "Washington Post." He said "He had a good flight plan. He wasn't wearing a seat belt. He hit a lot of turbulence and lost altitude but in the end he returned safely." This is what he said to the "Washington Post," talking about the trip that started in London and went on to Israel and went on to Poland. Every part of that trip there was a little bump in the road. Would you say it was a success or failure?

ERICKSON: You know, I'm ambivalent about the trip. It happened during the Olympics, I don't think any American paid attention to the fact Mitt Romney went overseas. He wanted to connect to his biography having been a part of the Salt Lake City Olympics. But the things that came out of the trip were not news worthy items other than he got a taste of his foot on occasion. Everybody was paying attention to what Michael Phelps was doing in London.

O'BRIEN: So the question is did anybody care ultimately.

ERICKSON: Yes, I don't think so.

O'BRIEN: Harry Reid --

ERICKSON: I don't think so, yes.

O'BRIEN: Interview in the "Huffington Post," Harry Reid brings back the tax issue and I wonder if this will be an issue that keeps coming back because we know the Romney campaign will not release any more of the candidate's tax returns. He said this, "A month ago, Reid said, a person who invested with Bain capital, who he did not name, called his office, quote, Harry, he didn't pay taxes for ten years, Reid recounted the person as saying, he didn't pay taxes for ten years, now do I know that's true? I'm not certain, said Reid. But obviously he can't release the tax returns, how would it look." That's from "the huffing ton post" yesterday. Do you think things like that will make him change his position and release the taxes?

ERICKSON: I always thought that Mitt Romney would ultimately cave, but not over what Harry Reid is saying. If you go to CNN.com, there's a post that either Harry Reid is lying or the person who told the story is lying because mathematically is would be impossible from what we know, it couldn't be that way.

Yes, I think this story will continue to dog Mitt Romney. Remember, August is the time where Monica Lewinsky came out, Cindy Sheehan, veterans for truth came out. It will be a time where they amp up efforts to come out with the tax returns, if he sticks to his guns, I'll be surprised considering how often the pressure builds he does cave.

And it's only August 1, just the beginning of August on that one. Thanks for your insight, appreciate it. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Coming up later this morning, we'll talk to Maryland Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen. In the next hour we'll speak to the former GOP presidential hopeful and former speaker, Newt Gingrich. He'll weigh in on Governor Romney's trip and presidential race as a whole. Ahead on STARTING POINT, he was the NBA's bad boy. He's been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and had his share of child support problems. But now Dennis Rodman is penning a book he would like your kids to read. We'll talk about that with our STARTING POINT team, Margaret Hoover, Ryan Lizza. Thank you very much. Welcome, welcome.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Zoraida Sambolin with quick headlines for you. First responders carry a baby to safety from raging floods in Phoenix. The rescued a total of nine people who were trapped in water four feet deep. The area was hit with severe storms last night.

Starting today, all new health insurance plans will have to provide eight free preventative health benefits to women. It is a requirement of the president's health care reform law, impacting an estimated 47 million American women. The benefits include contraceptives, breast feeding supplies, and prenatal care.

A milestone in New Orleans where the new $90 million Saint Bernard parish hospital is getting ready to open its doors next month. It replaces the medical center that was destroyed during hurricane Katrina.

O'BRIEN: It's a great milestone. We covered stories because they had no hospital, so I remember once when sheriff's deputies would be injured, that would be a 45-minute drive or more to get to a hospital, horrible for local people.

SAMBOLIN: It's great news indeed.

O'BRIEN: Fantastic news, I'm happy about that.

Our team this morning, Richard Socarides, Margaret Hoover, White House appointee in the Bush administration, and Ryan Lizza, a Washington correspondent for the "New Yorker."

(CROSSTALK)

RICHARD SOCARIDES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We're friends.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We are.

SOCARIDES: As are President Bush and president Clinton.

O'BRIEN: Yes, very good friends. Take that, twitter.

RYAN LIZZA, "NEW YORKER": I think President Bush and President Clinton are better friends than President Clinton and president Obama.

SOCARIDES: No they are very friendly. I have it on good authorities.

O'BRIEN: Ryan, everybody is friendly, where you been? (LAUGHTER)

Our get real this morning is about Dennis Rodman, NBA hall of famer, basketball's bad boy, several arrests for drunken driving, domestic violence, the head coach of a topless women's basketball team. Problems paying more than $200,000 that he had in child support due until last month. And now, he is penning a children's book. The book is called "Dennis, the Wild Bull." And it kind of looks a little bit like Dennis Rodman has tattoos and piercings. According to the website for the book, it will convey good lessons to children based on Dennis's experiences as a world class athlete. Rodman told "The Daily News" it focuses on character. Would you read that to your small children?

SOCARIDES: We have the book, go the expletive-deleted to sleep. Have you read that book?

O'BRIEN: I've never seen that.

SOCARIDES: Fantastic book. I don't know if it is in genre.

(LAUGHTER)

HOOVER: It's a serious children's book. I'm all for redemption, maybe this was part of his therapy in rehab, write a children's book, help get through your childhood and help other children to continue to not make mistakes you made.

LIZZA: I think so too. Our culture now, everybody is entitled to rehabilitation and maybe he has something smart to say or maybe what he's been through will help other people.

O'BRIEN: So your kids are saying, daddy, tell me about Dennis Rodman, daddy.

HOOVER: He's a fantastic basketball player, made bad mistakes then wrote a children's book.

O'BRIEN: I like that.

LIZZA: It's the new stuff in the celebrity life.

O'BRIEN: It's like the rehabilitation team today. I like that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: OK, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT. Take a look at these pictures, a close call for 151 passengers on a united airlines flight to Denver. We'll tell you how their Boeing 727 ended up with a gaping hole in the nose of the plane.

Plus a warning President Obama is prepared to deliver to voters in Ohio later today. We'll tell you what he's going to say. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. In just a few minutes, stand up comedian and actor, D.L. Hughley, will stop by our studios.

He says politicians are ruing America. Hello, my political people on my panel today. Let's talk about that. Well, it's also the title of his book, which is "I Want You to Shut the Up, How the Audacity of Dopes is Ruing America."

He's got some advice for President Obama. That is straight ahead. First though, let's get right to Zoraida. She's got a look at the day's top stories. Hi, Z.

SAMBOLIN: I'm really looking forward to that, Soledad. Thank you.

The State Department has released the first report on terrorism since Osama Bin Laden was killed. It says a number of worldwide terror attacks last year fell to their lowest level since 2005 and that Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The State Department also says the death of Bin Laden and other top lieutenants put the al Qaeda network, quote, "on a path of decline."

A federal judge ruling that al Qaeda and the Taliban along with Iran and Hezbollah owe victim's families $6 billion for the attacks of 9/11.

The ruling mostly symbolic. Families likely won't see any of that money. The ruling says Iran is libel because they allowed free passage to al Qaeda terrorists according to the 9/11 Commission report. But the commission found no evidence that Iran was aware of the terror plot.

Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad reiterating his support for the country's armed forces this morning. In a local publication, he says, quote, "The enemy is among us and using inside agents to weaken the country."

This as rebel fighters making gains in Syria, opposition forces reporting they've seized control of two critical government police stations in central Aleppo.

A nasty collision between a bird and this United Airlines flight as it landed in Denver. You can see that crash left a gaping hole in the nose of the 737. The Smithsonian Institution will now try to identify the bird. It has a DNA database of all bird species in the entire world. Luckily no one on that plane was hurt.

And the United Airlines flight from Newark to New Jersey to Geneva, Switzerland had to be diverted to Boston after flight attendants found a camera in a seat pocket.

The thing is they couldn't find the owner of the camera. No one claimed it so investigators had to inspect the camera and the plane. I wonder how long that camera had been sitting on that plane?

O'BRIEN: Could you imagine if you were on that plane? Someone claim this camera, please, so we can get on to Geneva for God sakes. It was my camera. All right, Zoraida, thank you. Safety first is what I say.

Later today, President Obama will be in the swing state of Ohio. He's currently leading Mitt Romney there in several polls. There's a brand-new Quinnipiac/CBS News/"New York Times" poll that shows Mitt Romney trailing the president in Ohio 50 percent to 44 percent.

President Obama is expected to urge the state's middle class voters to call on Congress to act before the fiscal cliff happens, which is going to happen right at the end of the year. That is when the Bush era tax cuts will expire.

The automatic spending cuts will trigger across the board. The House is expected to vote on bills addressing those cuts this week before Congress goes on break, which happens on Friday.

All that this brings us to Maryland's Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, he is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He's also an Obama campaign surrogate.

It's nice to see you as always. Thanks for talking with us this morning. We certainly appreciate it.

REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Soledad, good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. We know the Democrats had passed the tax cuts passed in the Senate last week. What do you think is the likelihood that in fact in the House a similar thing will happen?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we would like it if our House Republican colleagues would take up the president's plan, the plan that passed the Senate last week, which would provide tax relief really to 100 percent of the American people compared to what the current law provides.

It provides total tax relief to 98 percent of the American people. The top 2 percent don't get quite as much. But Republicans in the House have said that they are going to prevent that tax relief for 98 percent from going forward unless they get the bonus tax break for folks at the top.

I hope they'll reconsider. We're going to put forward a proposal, the Democrats, that's identical to the Senate proposal, which means if our House Republican colleagues agreed to it, it would go directly to the White House and the president would sign it next week.

O'BRIEN: Very unlikely, right, very unlikely that your House Republican colleagues are going to agree to it?

VAN HOLLEN: That's right. But I think it is important to understand what they are saying. They are saying that even though they say they want to provide this tax relief to 98 percent of the American people.

They will only allow that to go forward to provide this extra bonus tax cuts for folks at the very top, which increases the long term deficit at everybody else's expense.

O'BRIEN: They are saying tax cuts for all and sounds like Democrats are saying tax cuts up to $250,000 if you're talking a family and $200,000 if you're talking about an individual.

So as the fiscal cliff approaches us, and every day I say that I get more and more anxious about it, is it better to extend, given the option, better to extend the tax cuts for all or is it better to just let them all expire if you were given those two options?

VAN HOLLEN: Right, well, first of all, just a clarification. So people who are making over $250,000, under the Democratic proposal, get tax relief on the first $250,000, the same tax relief that everybody else gets on that income, number one.

The reason it's important, not to continue with this trickle- down theory that we inherited from the Bush years is it's blowing a big hole in the long-term deficit. If we don't ask folks at the very high end to pay a little bit more to contribute to the deficit.

It means everybody else gets whacked that much harder. It means seniors on Medicare have to end up paying more. It means we cut our kids' education and investments in foreign infrastructure and other areas important to the economy.

Which is why every bipartisan group who looked at the deficit challenge has recommended a balanced approach, cuts and we did a trillion dollars in cuts over 10 years as part of the budget control act.

We should do more over time. But they also recommended that we deal with the revenue side of the equation because if you don't ask, folks at the very high end to pitch in more. As I say, everybody else gets hit. It comes at other people's expense.

O'BRIEN: So Congressman Van Hollen, hold it right there for one second while I talk to Margaret Hoover for a moment. Because he's sort of stating what the Republican position is about the balanced approach, of course, the position doesn't spell out how you get to the growing revenue, clearly.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And it also doesn't spell out how you change -- how you make reforms because as we all know on the spending side reforms have to be made on Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid in order for these programs to be sustainable for people my age and younger in the future.

So a balanced approach where everybody is happy to have to talk about it's an honest balance approach, not kabuki Congress. Things that are possible for November that are simply for show.

O'BRIEN: So let's go back to the congressman for a moment. You mentioned the Budget Control Act and you voted in favor of it, but you said this, the cuts, $1.2 trillion over 10 years are reckless and irresponsible way to reduce the deficit. It was designed to be so unpalatable that the Democrats and Republicans would come together to avoid this sword of Damocles.

Sorry, my Greek is not that -- my degree was in English literature. You wrote that op-ed in "Politico" back on July 18th and you voted for that.

I mean, ultimately, isn't your vote and that of your colleagues what brought us to where we are today, which is dealing with the massive cuts in military spending that everybody is saying are potentially a disaster?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Soledad, I did vote for that because I believe we do have to reduce our long-term deficit and what we did in the Budget Control Act was two things.

One, we immediately put spending caps for 10 years on discretionary spending, that's a trillion dollars in savings. But we also understood we needed to get another about trillion dollars at least in savings.

And there was no agreement on how to get there because our Republican colleagues refused to take the balanced approach that's been recommended by bipartisan groups, which involves not just cuts.

But also asking folks at the very top to contribute more to deficit reduction, beginning to close these big loopholes like the big taxpayer giveaways to the big oil companies.

They refused to take that kind of approach, which is why we're right here. We put forward, the Democrats in the House, put forward a proposal to prevent the sequester from taking place by replacing it with a combination of cuts to for example, foreign subsidies that are unnecessary right now.

And secondly, eliminated a lot of tax breaks for big oil companies. That would have prevented the sequester at least in the first year by replacing it with a much smarter approach to deficit reduction.

But again, because it had some revenue, in this case generated from closing tax breaks for big oil companies, Republicans said no to that. If I could quickly address the health care issue, which is very clearly something we have to address in the long term.

And what we've put forward is a change in Medicare that would move us away from a strict fee per service system, which does drive up use and costs and replace it with a system that rewards physicians and providers based on the quality of care they provide, not the quantity of care.

And in that way we can begin to bring down costs. We do reject the Republican approach, which is just simply shift cost on to seniors. We don't think that that is the right way to do it, especially since the median income of a senior on Medicare is under $23,000.

O'BRIEN: As you describe it, it sounds like both sides are very far apart. You're going to take your recess in two more days today and then you have tomorrow and Friday and you're gone for five weeks.

And overall, before the end of the year, you don't really have very much time to try to get this all worked out. Congressman Chris Van Hollen joining us this morning, I appreciate your time, sir.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you. I would just say the bipartisan groups provide a model. I wish we would all start looking at those.

O'BRIEN: And Margaret is nodding her head.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORKER: Maybe it's a good thing they don't work this out. That's what the election is for. The winner of the election will get to put their ideas into law.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: I want to tell you though, this discussion now is like -- I mean, I think Chris Van Hollen is great. I agree with him, but I think the discussion now is like mind numbing. I mean, it's like -- for those of us who follow it closely it's hard to follow.

O'BRIEN: I don't know, I think to me seems like --

SOCARIDES: Sequester and sort --

O'BRIEN: Fiscal cliff is clear to the American voter. Cliff is a bad thing -- almost never a good thing.

All right, we've got to take a break. Ahead on STARTING POINT, it's true. Are politicians ruing America? Stand-up comedian, actor and political junky, D.L. Hughley will join us to talk about his new book. It's called "The audacity of Dopes." That's straight ahead.

Plus, the most expensive apartment in this country hits the market and yes, every room has a view. We'll tell you how much it costs and where it is straight ahead on STARTING POINT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's human nature to invent. It's human nature to try to make your life better and human nature to try to make the world around you a better place. And to actually do that and execute those ideas, it's really freaking hard.

Good ideas shouldn't find their ways on to shelves because they are ideas with the people right look or circumstance. They should find their ways on to shelves because they are just great ideas. That's it, plain and simple.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: I like this. From Margaret's playlist, thank you, Margaret.

HOOVER: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: I don't mock people. I just give my opinion about what I like and what I don't like. Sometimes I don't like stuff. That's OK, to each his own.

Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A couple of stories catching our attention this morning. We want to talk about first the most expensive apartment in the U.S. is for sale, $100 million.

You could have this apartment, highlights includes outdoor space, the most outdoor space, highest outdoor space too. It's located as I said in New York City, 8,000 square foot wrap-around penthouse, described as a one of a kind gem, which it should be. It cost $100 million.

HOOVER: It's on the 73rd to 76th floor and in New York -- three floors, but when you're 76 stories in New York City, that means you can see all the way north to LaGuardia Airport, all the way south to the Statue of Liberty and over to New Jersey.

LIZZA: It sounds like you've been to this --

HOOVER: I have not been, trust me, I would like to have been.

O'BRIEN: You should see all of those sites. It's on 56th Street between 5th and 6th. It's not even on the park.

LIZZA: It's a little goes.

HOOVER: There is a Russian --

SOCARIDES: Not only does it have -- this is my favorite part. It has a wine room, not a wine cellar, but a wine room --

HOOVER: For 1,000 bottles.

SOCARIDES: It can hold a 1,000 bottles.

O'BRIEN: Well, I'm sold then. I'm in -- bought it for 4.5 million. If he can sell it for that, that is a good return on your investment back in 1993.

Got to take a break. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, stand up comedian and actor, D.L. Hughley joins us. He has some advice for President Obama and actually for pretty much every politician. He has a new book. He wants them to shut up. You're watching STARTING POINT. How are you? Nice to see you.

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O'BRIEN: You know D.L. Hughley as one of the kings of comedy, stand up comedian and actor who starred in his own show and hosted a show on CNN. But now he is issuing a wake-up call and warning that the problems in American society are only going to get worse because of what he calls the audacity of dopes running the country.

It's actually called "I want you to shut the f--- up." I have to keep my finger right there and he joins us to talk a little bit about this book.

D.L. HUGHLEY, AUTHOR, "I WANT YOU": Happy Chick-Fil-A Day, Chick-Fil- A appreciation day. Like America needs an excuse to eat bad food.

HOOVER: You just tweeted, if conservatives keep eating at Chick-Fil-A then Obama care won't seem so bad.

HUGHLEY: The argument is that they believe a marriage should be between a man and a woman. But if you eat enough Chick-Fil-A, it will be between you and a cardiologist.

HOOVER: Not all conservatives believe that marriage should be between just a man and a woman. There's quite a few of us.

O'BRIEN: How much of a reality of politics give you?

HUGHLEY: You don't have to say joke and politics. They mean the same thing. I think we don't -- like the American -- even when I grew up, it was certainly a different time.

But we were proud of what we did like quality was job one. Now people will actually -- you have to pay extra to talk to somebody.

Like if people care about you and they believe that you are a viable commodity with you, they will communicate with you, but they don't that.

O'BRIEN: You give advice to President Obama in your book. What's your advice for him?

HUGHLEY: I think to be -- to stand, to stand.

O'BRIEN: Be tougher?

HUGHLEY: Not even tougher. Tougher is a word that I think people throw around that means probably more masculine than it should. But I think it would be a decidedly different presidency like when Joe Wilson called him a liar he said, you don't have to like me.

But you have to respect me. Somebody remove this man from the premises. I think that would change the way I know I saw him and I think that the country. I think his adversaries saw him as wounded as weak.

O'BRIEN: But you also write a lot about race. And I wonder, yes, is the first black president really going to be able to pull that off?

HUGHLEY: No. I think you go to what you naturally have. Being able to -- it certainly was more difficult to get there. So being who you are once you're there shouldn't be as difficult, I wouldn't imagine.

And we are a nation full of contradictions. We brag about -- like we literally are like a drunk at a bar. We brag about our strength. We can't wait to get into a fight to show how strong we are, with little regard for any of the consequences. If that doesn't express exactly our foreign policy, I don't know what does.

SOCARIDES: Can I say, we were joking about it at the break. And there's a lot of really funny stuff in here. But why do you think it's come to this? Why do you think we're not talking about bigger issues and bigger ideas?

HUGHLEY: We are the descendants of people who did great things. Who won wars, and who led the world in manufacturing, and put a man on the moon. We're a step down from that. We've got Facebook. We can like all that.

O'BRIEN: You don't think we're developing things that are great or have potential to be great today?

HUGHLEY: Certainly that would be an overstatement to say that we don't. But to be -- but clearly we're not what we were. And we're not what we were because we don't have the same goals and ambitions or even the same kind of unvarnished look at ourselves.

HOOVER: You have a lot of social commentary in the book as well. The differences you see in a man or a woman who is raised by their father. What's the --

HUGHLEY: Well, I think you -- women coddle. Women want anti-bullying laws. Men want to teach their boys how to stand up to bullies. Women want to erase bullies from the face of the earth. Men accept the fact that they exist and to make an adjustment.

O'BRIEN: I've had to keep pulling this book back. Like the entire -- grabbing my book back. The book is called "I Want You To Shut The F--- Up, How The Audacity Of Dopes Is Ruing America." It's really, really funny, but has an undertone seriously about the political state of this nation.

HUGHLEY: It's sad. Even the way -- you look at the Olympics now like we used to be so proud. Like we used to know, and like now, when I was watching the Olympics, the first thing I thought is all those countries had health care before we did even Macedonia.

I was like, wow and the Chinese are killing us. But it's hard to beat the people that they beat to get there. Like if you win all the golds, you can't say you didn't have the money to get there.

O'BRIEN: It's all in the book. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning. Congratulations on the book. It's really great.

HUGHLEY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, first it was sugary soft drinks. Now New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is focusing on baby formula. He would like mothers to breastfeed. We're going to talk about that straight ahead.

And today's tough call, Olympians accused of throwing their badminton matches. It could be against the rules in the Olympics. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

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