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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Gunman Targets Sikhs at Temple; "Lightning Bolt" Is Back; Shooting at Sikh Temple Leaves Six Dead

Aired August 6, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and welcome to STARTING POINT. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Ali Velshi. Soledad is out today.

Our STARTING POINT, new details in the Sikh temple massacre in Wisconsin. We now know the identity of the suspected shooter and that are signs that it may have been motivated by hate. Were the victims targeted because of their turbans? We're going live to Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

SAMBOLIN: Touchdown. Scientific pandemonium as curiosity lands on Mars. Look at these folks. They are so excited. The Rover already on the hunt for signs of life.

VELSHI: And the fastest man on this planet, Usain Bolt, blazes to 100-meter gold in London and silences his critics. This guy is fast.

SAMBOLIN: All right. It is Monday, August 6th. STARTING POINT begins right now.

So let's introduce our STARTING POINT team for this hour.

Hank Sheinkopf is a Democratic strategist.

VELSHI: Margaret Hoover is a former White House appointee under the Bush administration.

Don't we get a picture of Hank? Hank is virtual.

(CROSSTALK)

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm a virtual anchor. It's very well.

SAMBOLIN: Looking good this morning.

SHEINKOPF: Thank you very much.

SAMBOLIN: And Jay Fielden is the editor in chief of "Town and Country Magazine."

Thank you for being with us this morning.

JAY FIELDEN, TOWN AND COUNTY MAGAZINE: Thank you.

VELSHI: All right. Our STARTING POINT this morning and breaking news, we know the name of the alleged gunman in the deadly shooting spree at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Wade Michael Phillips is his name, 40 years old. Two officials tell CNN Page had served in the Army but then left.

Another official said he owned the gun in the shootings legally. Seven people are dead including the shooter, including Phillips. This morning investigators are looking for a possible motive in the massacre. Law enforcement officials spent the night examining the suspect's home and there is word that he may have been a white supremacist.

Police say Page walked into the temple parking lot yesterday morning, began firing. The first officer responding to the scene was ambushed and shot several times, nine times, we're told by the police chief.

Here is what it sounded after he was shot on the police radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OFFICER: Ambulance up, subject's down. (INAUDIBLE) officer's down.

(INAUDIBLE)

DISPATCH: Go ahead.

OFFICER: We have one officer shot.

(END AUDIO LCIP)

VELSHI: Page was then shot and killed by another police officer.

David Mattingly is live in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, very close to Milwaukee this morning.

David, witnesses said that Page had a tattoo commemorating 9/11 and some significance seems to be being made of this. What do you know?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, at this point no one is willing to come out and publicly say officially what the motivation might have been behind this case. We know that witnesses at the scene describe him as a white male, bald, wearing a t-shirt, dark pants with a 9/11 tattoo.

And we know that authorities were approaching what we believe was his home about five miles from here last night very cautiously. I was watching them well after dark last night approaching this house. They evacuated homes nearby. They were telling people on neighboring streets to stay in their homes as they went about their investigation.

They were approaching this home as if someone might still be inside but they were able to get inside peacefully. No incident whatsoever. We saw them carrying out boxes. After we don't know what was in the boxes but it's clear the investigation will continue and now that we know the shooter's name is Wade Michael Page, age 40, former Army, we know there's going to be a lot more coming out today. We're waiting to hear from authorities in just a couple of hours about what sort of updates they might have for us.

But right now, this community is still absolutely reeling behind this senseless and sudden attack on a very, very peaceful congregation, Ali.

VELSHI: All right. Obviously we have a lot to learn in the next few hours and I know you will be on top of it. We'll talk to you again shortly, David. Thank you very much.

In a moment, we'll talk to the niece and nephew of one of the victims, the temple leader, the president, Satwant Kaleka, who was shot when he apparently tried to tackle the gunman and save others.

SAMBOLIN: He's being called a hero this morning.

VELSHI: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: A deadly lightning strike kills a NASCAR fan at the sprint cup race at Pocono Raceway. The 160-lap event had to be called on lap 98 when that violent storm moved in. A racetrack spokesman says about 12 minutes after Jeff Gordon was declared a winner. Lighting struck in the parking lot, killing a 41-year-old man, injuring nine others. One of them critically.

VELSHI: Wow.

All right. Wildfires are still burning in parts of Oklahoma this morning, an enormous blaze between Mannford and Kellyville. That's in the northeastern part of the state, has burned almost 91 square miles.

Dozens of homes and buildings have burned to the ground. The flames were so intense on Friday, three firefighters were treated for burns. Many families were forced to evacuate their homes, are now being allowed to return. Some light rain and cooler temperatures are helping firefighters make significant gains against the flames.

Yesterday, they got that and hopefully will get more of it today.

SAMBOLIN: The U.S. attorney's office won't confirm or deny reports that Jared Lee Loughner will plead guilty in the Tucson shooting rampage. The "L.A. Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" are not identifying their sources by name but they say tomorrow's competency hearing will be a change of plea hearing instead now.

That shooting killed six people, wounded another 13, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This was last year.

VELSHI: A political shake-up in Syria this morning. The country's prime minister, seen here, has defected. In a statement, Riad Hijab sys he, quote, "joined the ranks of freedom and dignity revolution," end quote. But Syria state television claims that he has simply resigned his post. State TV also reporting an explosion at their building in Damascus today that injured several people.

SAMBOLIN: And back to our top story now and as we just told you -- one of the victims in the deadly Wisconsin shooting rampage at a Sikh temple was Satwant Kaleka, seen here in this Facebook photo, he is the president of the temple. We are told he tried to tackle the gunman and was shot in the back.

Simran and Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka are Satwant Kaleka's niece and nephew. They were supposed to be temple yesterday with their family.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning. We really appreciate it. We are incredibly sorry for your loss.

Simran, if I can start with you, we received word that your uncle died overnight. Can you tell us about your uncle?

SIMRAN KALEKA, NIECE OF SHOOTING VICTIM SATWANT KALEKA: He was an amazing man. He was very selfless. He was a protector. He was a fighter and he was a believer.

He put his heart into this church, and he went -- he left this world fighting for our church, fighting to protect our loved ones. And, I guess, you know, he lost the fight in that process and we lost him.

SAMBOLIN: We understand, though, that he died a hero. What can you tell us about that, that he was trying to protect other people in the temple? Kanwardeep, if you could answer that for us, please?

KANWARDEEP SINGH KALEKA, NEPHEW OF SHOOTING VICTIM SATWANT KALEKA: So more or less what we gather, I mean, it's what investigators tell us and the pictures that they've shown is that after the gunman entered our holy room where we keep our -- people were praying in there and he shot and killed a couple of individuals, and my uncle once he realized what was going on went to tackle him and suffered a gunshot wound into his abdomen and back area and continued to try to fight him until the bleeding just caused to be too much and ended up being fatal.

SAMBOLIN: And we announced the shooter is Wade Michael Page, age 40 years old. When were you told that was the alleged shooter?

S. KALEKA: We really weren't told much about the shooter other than he was a white male. We keep getting asked as to whether this is a form of a hate crime. That's what we think. An action like this has to be some form of hate to really just go in a church and shoot it up with families and children and mothers and fathers and elders. It has to be some form of hate.

SAMBOLIN: There are reports --

K. KALEKA: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Go ahead.

K. KALEKA: I was just saying there's some evidence to think this was planned, and there's other people involved based on the tattoos described in terms of white supremacy and 9/11, it's clearly an act of ignorance, I think it would probably fall under a hate crime.

SAMBOLIN: Have you experienced anything like this before, any hate crimes at this particular temple?

S. KALEKA: Not even it at this temple. The Sikh culture has not experienced anything like this in the nation ever. So, I mean, there are acts of ignorance here and there but not to this level at all. Not to this level at all. It's --

K. KALEKA: Yes. We're a peace loving community. We gather together every Sunday to pray, to come together and pray together and to find peace and we eat together and serve each other, and we open our doors to the communities around us, no matter what their faith, their gender, their creed, and to show love.

And homeless people come here to eat. It's really where people find the peace that they're looking for. It's really important that people understand that I don't usually wear this turban but I wanted after yesterday really felt the need to wear today to educate people, that we're not terrorists. We're people who are loving and we care about others and we're humans, just like everyone else.

And these acts of ignorance need to be stopped in some way, shape, or form. This isn't right. We're suffering here as an entire community.

SAMBOLIN: All of the reports that are coming out of that area do indeed confirm that, that you are a community of peace.

I understand that both of you missed this incident by just moments. Can you tell me about that?

S. KALEKA: I was actually in Racine. I was actually headed that way. I know my brother, he missed it by a matter of minutes just because he happened to stop at a bank.

K. KALEKA: Yes. We usually teach a class in the mornings to little kids to teach them about the language and the culture. And, I literally stopped at the bank randomly to, you know, to make a deposit, and you know, you just never know.

You pull up, and they just start sealing off the streets and you find your family and you find out what happened. To this point, you can't believe it, you know? It's hard to really digest that this has happened to you in this place. Like, you're talking about Aurora one minute, and then the next minute, it's you and your family. And it's -- I just don't understand why this is happening. Why can't people just show each other love and care and treat each other as humans?

SAMBOLIN: I have to tell you --

K. KALEKA: I don't know -- I just don't know. I mean, in terms of guns, you know, there's always a debate. I just never thought it would be in a temple, you know, a place of worship. And, I don't want it to be where people have to carry a gun where they're worship. It's not right, you know?

People need to find a place of peace and to love each other without having to worry about these things. And for us, I don't know if we can.

SAMBOLIN: Well, your message is loud and clear this morning, I have to say that. You've been very effective in sharing that you are a community of peace and love. And I have to tell you that and on the heels of what has happened to you, we really appreciate that you've taken the time to talk to us this morning.

Simran Kaleka, Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Good luck to you, and we wish you peace.

S. KALEKA: Thank you.

K. KALEKA: Thank you.

VELSHI: Remarkable what he said. I mean, many Sikh men wear the turban, and he said, I don't normally wear it. And I thought it was important. We all had a reaction, Margaret, but you sort of honed in on that. It's like what an interesting thing. He's coming out and saying, I am who I am. If my people got shot because of the way I look, I'm going to look more like that today. That's my protest.

HOOVER: And what you hear so much in the Sikh community right now is a frustration that many people don't understand Sikhism, don't know what Sikhism.

VELSHI: Sure.

HOOVER: This is an opportunity for the Sikh community to educate Americans on who they are, what they stand for. They are a very peaceful religion out of India from the 15th century.

VELSHI: Right.

HOOVER: Things that probably most Americans didn't know Saturday.

VELSHI: Yes.

HOOVER: But a lot of Americans --

VELSHI: And a place of worship. I mean, it's not, to me, that different from the idea -- I mean, I know a place of worship is so sacred, but the same thing occurred to me with movie theater shootings. It's like you don't go to a movie theater --

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: It's a family place where you get peace.

SHEINKOPF: A family place you get peace, but as long as we have illegal guns running around this country and we have no way to control them, we're going to have more of these kinds of incidents, because there are enough crazy people to use them in the most amazing way.

HOOVER: Just for the record, we don't know if it was an illegal gun. And, I do think we should hold off on the gun debate. And we make this a gun debate a day after this massacre or do we let the families bury their dead and have some peace on this debate before we bring it into a policy debate?

SHEINKOPF: We should be talking about how we stop these things from happening again.

SAMBOLIN: Well, he alluded to that.

SHEINKOPF: Because it keeps happening again and again and again. This is not an isolated incident. This goes on and on. It's preposterous that a country as civilized as ours sees these kinds of incidents with guns all the time.

SAMBOLIN: There was a report that an official said that he owned the gun illegally, the one in the shooting was illegal. And he alluded to that, right? So, he talks about, you know, the gun issues versus a humanity event. So, Margaret, I think you're absolutely right.

At this moment, we kind of have to let the people -- and the fact that they came on and talked to us while they're grieving through this just in order to share, right? This is who we are. This is what we stand for, and this is an opportunity to educate. I thought was just remarkable.

FIELDEN: It reminds of a shooting a few years ago in an Amish school in Pennsylvania, and the interesting thing about that, I think, that we should all remember is the way that the community reacted to that and forgiving the killer.

Now, I'm not a big enough human to forgive somebody who would do this to my family, but I think picking up on your point what is the Sikh religion stand for, what is the opportunity that they have here to show the world of their ability to forgive and to be peaceful and to do something that the rest of us probably could never do. So, it will be interesting.

SHEINKOPF: Well, it's wonderful. Without the gun, we wouldn't be having this discussion today.

HOOVER: I wish we could have our Second Amendment debate tomorrow.

SHEINKOPF: Happy to do it.

VELSHI: I don't know. I don't think that debate is going away anytime soon.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

HOOVER: Let's give it a day.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. I'm with you, Margaret.

We're going to take a quick break here. STARTING POINT back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. It is all about the track and field at the Olympics today, which I enjoyed because it's the one thing I can understand even though I have no particular skill at doing any of this stuff. The big drama was this. The men's 100- meter race.

Jamaican's sprinter, Usain Bolt, ran away with the new Olympic record, 9.63 seconds, and three others finished under the 9.8 mark. I don't understand that. I don't even think I can think about a 100- meter race at 9.6 seconds. Zain Verjee has the big stories out of London. The race, to me, Zain, was a blur.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ali, if you blink, you miss it. That's basically the bottom line, OK? Now, I was there, and I didn't blink, and it was an amazing race, Ali. There were 80,000 people in the stadium behind me. Everybody roaring. The crowd was really behind Usain Bolt. They wanted him to win. you can see the paper here, 9.63 breathtaking seconds, the cover of "The Guardian." In "The Daily Mirror," it says "wonder bolt."

All day I've been hearing thunderbolt and the most popular headline of all, Ali, "lightning strikes twice." But you know, he looked really cool as a cucumber despite the many doubters that have said, you know, he's had a full start before. Yohan Blake from Jamaica has beaten him in the heat. He's got hamstring injuries.

He's not that committed, but he shut everyone up. I mean, you know, he was just so cool. He was laughing with the crowd. He was doing this, and everyone was cheering. It was electric. It was sensational, and actually seven of the eight finalists managed to finish actually under ten seconds which also was pretty amazing.

By the way also, another amazing person to look out for, Ali, Gabby Douglas today in the finals on the uneven bar. So, she faces Russia, China, and the UK. So, that's going to be a tough one for her. But we'll keep our fingers crossed.

VELSHI: You know, in sprinting, the Jamaicans do very well. Americans, obviously, have done very well. But as you know, this is something a lot of people don't know about us, Zain, because we don't often get to be on TV together. You and I are both Kenyans.

(LAUGHTER)

VERJEE: I know.

VELSHI: We're both born Kenyans . And that makes us great likely marathoners, right, because the Kenyans always run marathons.

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: So, if I ever had at compete for something, I'd go for the marathon.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: You got to see how Zoraida is looking at me, like, you didn't just say that.

(CROSSTALK)

VELSHI: To my fellow Kenyan --

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: Zain Verjee, thank you so much. I'm just telling you.

SAMBOLIN: That's a stretch.

VELSHI: All things being equal. If you and I went for a long run together, like a marathon --

SAMBOLIN: You should beat me?

VELSHI: I'm a Kenyan. I'm going to beat you.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: I'm in better shape than you are.

VELSHI: Notwithstanding our difference in physical shape.

SAMBOLIN: oh, my goodness.

VELSHI: By the way, let's take a quick look at the medal count. Yes, it is a stretch. China back on top with 61 overall medals, 30 golds. U.S. right behind with 60 medals, 28 golds. Great Britain is in third with 37 medals overall.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And next on STARTING POINT, a dilemma facing a lot of Americans. They like Chick-fil-A, but they don't like the anti-gay marriage stance taken by the company's president. A new website might have the solution to erase your guilt. It's our "tough Call."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Time for today's "Tough Call."

VELSHI: This is a "Tough Call." Sometimes, we have tough call on the show, and I think to myself while watching it, that --

SAMBOLIN: He's got a lot to say about this. So, there's a new website for people who love Chick-fil-A, like Ali, but hate that the company's president opposes same-sex marriage. It is called chickenoffset.com. It lets you donate money to gay rights campaign like it gets better to offset paying for a chicken sandwich.

Ted Frank, a busy activist and lawyer, created this. $1 gets you one chicken meal offset. $6 gets you ten offsets.

VELSHI: I was comparing it. It's probably not a very contemporary example to indulge in to Catholic Church where you could buy away your sins. And you looked at me like you thought I had three heads.

FIELDEN: Well, I think that we got some very bad and good things out of indulgences, including the Sistine Chapel and (INAUDIBLE).

HOOVER: And they support very good organizations, it gets better and they suggested freedom to marry. It is an organization that educates people about the value of marriage.

VELSHI: Hank, you get a chance to do that, right, they tell you at the bottom you can check the thing to say you are going to use this much carbon for your ticket, so you can offset it somehow?

FIELDEN: No, they don't do that. If you carry this logical argument to the end and you go right to the liberal argument, OK, don't stay in a Marriott hotel because they're anti-union, don't use x products because they pollute in the creation of it. How can people afford to do these things? I'm not doing the other things as well and it's a great swindle on the bottom because he tells you what it's really about. He's a trial lawyer so he's going to make money out of claims so this is an advertisement for him. But he's doing good by doing it. It fits the American philosophy of let's do well by doing well, folks, great.

VELSHI: And it's good food.

FIELDEN: Cholesterol indulgence is what you want.

SAMBOLIN: Eat the Chick-fil-A, it's good, and don't feel guilty. Is that the deal?

VELSHI: I'm not -- all I am telling you, and many people who have had this discussion, who have had very strong views about Chick- fil-A's position qualified it by saying, boy, that chicken is good.

SAMBOLIN: There's a place to have a same sex marriage argument and a place to eat chicken and they're not the same place. VELSHI: I am saying I am conflicted in the whole issue.

FIELDEN: How about instead of worrying about same sex marriage, let's talk about what the people are being paid hyped the counter every day.

VELSHI: If you start going down that road, so a lot of people say buy everything American, right? Stop buying things that are outsourced. If I did not buy things made in China, I would be naked and without any electronics right now.

FIELDEN: But you would be a great sprinter as a Kenyan.

VELSHI: I am sorry I introduced that at this hour of the morning.

SAMBOLIN: It's great. No encumbrances. You just go.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

VELSHI: That and shave my body and I'm set.

SAMBOLIN: Goodness.

VELSHI: I think it this might be time to take us to a commercial.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Greetings from Mars. The first photos beamed back from the red planet. It's courtesy of NASA's rover. Is there anyone out there? NASA's chief scientist is here to talk about what we could find and if we are ready to handle it. You are watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Welcome to STARTING POINT. Breaking news in the deadly tragedy at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. CNN has learned that the suspected shooter was former army soldier Wade Michael Page. He was 40 years old. Two officials tell us page served in the army but left. Another said he owned the gun used in the shooting legally. There's also word that he may have been a white supremacist.

SAMBOLIN: Six worshippers were killed and at least three others are in critical condition right now. Narinder Singh The chairman of the board of trustees for the Sikh coalition is joining us this morning. Thank you so much for being with us. And now we were chatting and you said you watched the interview we had on earlier, the niece and nephew of the president who was killed in the shooting. And what they wanted to do was educate. So we want to do the same this morning is to understand a little bit more about the Sikh community. And I want to add we are very sorry for your loss. It's just a horrible tragedy.

NARINDER SINGH, CHAIRDMAN, BOARD OF TRUSTEES, THE SIKH COALITION: I appreciate that be and one of the things our hearts goes out to the entire communities that were there, the families, the victims, the brave police officers who prevented an even bigger tragedy, we want to celebrate their commitment. And just the outpouring of support we've seen from across the country has been an inspiring part of this tragic aftermath.

VELSHI: Let's ask about the turban. The gentleman we interviewed said he didn't usually wear his turban. This has been some of the di discourse that in a post-9/11 world a lot of Sikhs were discriminated against where people were associating them with Taliban but Sikhs proudly wear this turban you are wearing.

SINGH: The Sikh religion has been around since the 1500s, 25 million people across the world, over 500,000 in the United States. The turban, the beard you see, most people you see are Sikhs. And the religion really focuses on these core beliefs of living an honest living in society, giving back to those less fortunate and living and remembering in the service of god. Also there's a huge focus on equality and fight for the justice of everyone not just Sikhs.

And so those values, I think, are universally American in terms of what we're trying to do as a community. and that's the untold story of the Sikhs. We've been part of this country for the last 100- plus years in all walks of life from doctors and lawyers to inventors and entrepreneurs. And part of this for us is around helping explain that story because it's such an important and American story.

SAMBOLIN: There's so much hate involved in this, right, and a lot of people are calling it perhaps a hate crime. How do you move forward from here?

SINGH: I think one of the things this is an important discourse, when we see these kinds of mass killings or things we immediately focus on the weapons and how them got this, justifiably so. If this is confirmed as a hate crime, I think we have a broader responsibility as a society. It's not. Then it's about the environment we created. It's about our schools, about our communities, about our governments, and the kinds of environments we create where we separate out Americans from other Americans. We create an other. And we have to address and look at those pieces and that's a large part of the work of the Sikh coalition since the years of 9/11.

SAMBOLIN: Can you talk about what are some of the misconceptions people have about Sikhs that you work in your coalition with correcting in the American public?

SINGH: So one of the biggest things is around just who we are. There's a confusion of who Sikhs are and the values we represent. I would say that's the biggest pieces that people have and the media is in no small way a part of this. You flash an image of a Sikh alongside what's happening. So I remember the days after 9/11 when even on CNN there was an image after man taken from a railroad car that was a Sikh and then hours later it was retracted that he had nothing to do with it. But the damage was done.

And so I think the image and the stereotype is the biggest piece and that association with terrorism or the other. It's been -- I grew up here in the United States. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I remember from the first Iran hostage situation to the first war in Iraq to, of course, 9/11 and in each case we became a symbol of the other.

VELSHI: Because it's a clear symbol.

SINGH: Yes. And it's not about mistaken identity. This shouldn't happen to anybody.

VELSHI: You are not saying that Sikhs are not Muslims and that's why you shouldn't be targeted. You are saying that you clearly look like an other and you become easy to identify.

SINGH: Whatever that other is, and I think that's a part of the dialogue here. And we have an even more general point of how do we represent others and so for us as Americans, as Sikhs, to me those are attacks on one of the fundamental principles of America, this notion of opportunity, that brought families from well before even Sikhs to this country because of that opportunity of inequality.

VELSHI: When you say you've been here for 100 years, many of the Sikhs came over like we associate the Chinese in the west to build the railways. They've been here for over 100 years, often served in India as soldiers. They were a very big part of the army and, in fact, there's a picture I wasn't able to find, if there's a picture I've seen where Sikh soldiers captured during World War I were lined up, targets placed on the turbans and shot. And so this has been a community dedicated to not only service but the protection of wherever they are.

SINGH: Sikhs have served this World War I, World War II and it's been part of one of the issues the Sikh coalition has taken on. We would like to see that service be recognized and served even more broadly.

And so at the coalition, for example, we've received thousands of reports over the last ten years on hate crimes, school bullying, work place discrimination, religious and racial profiling, for us addressing these was a first step to then starting to take place in a broader dialogue. We worked on the work place religion freedom act and other pieces because, again, it's about a dialogue that's broader than the Sikh community. It's about how we look at these issues as a country together.

SAMBOLIN: Well said. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. It's been a great education.

VELSHI: Thank you so much for having me.

SAMBOLIN: And ahead on STARTING POINT, it is personal, a new book revealing president people has developed a genuine dislike for Mitt Romney. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SAMBOLIN: Oh everybody is singing this morning. Welcome back to STARTING POINT that is Billy Joel "Only the Good Die Young" from Hank's play list. That's why you were singing along with me this morning.

SHEINKOPF: That's the only reason I came here was to sing that song. Why else would I be here?

VELSHI: Well, the race for the White House is apparently very personal for President Obama. A new e-book called "Obama's Last Stand" will be out in two weeks. In it author Glen Thrush of Politico says "Aides have picked up a level of anger in the President for Mitt Romney that he never had for Hillary Clinton or John McCain". Thrush writes that President Obama began the campaign with neutral feelings about Romney but quickly developed, quote, "A genuine disdain for the man". What do you make of this, Margaret?

HOOVER: I think it's helpful if you're going to be running against someone and saying -- saying terrible things about them in order to get the electorate to vote for you, to actually believe what you're saying.

VELSHI: Right.

HOOVER: And just really dislike the opponent that you're running against. Look, if there's any sign that the tone and tenor of the race has really changed since 2008, this is -- this is you know, all -- all stops are off right now. I mean, I think this is as we all know a very negative campaign.

All of the ads, the majority of the ads have been negative. They're going to continue to be negative and this just sort of feeds into that narrative that this is not the hope and change and the spirit of bringing the country together that we felt so much in 2008 when the President was running the first time.

VELSHI: Jay, this is I mean, of the -- of the initial field of Republican candidates for nomination, he was the second most agreeable guy, I mean other than Jon Huntsman.

FIELDEN: Sure. Well, I mean, I think that the sadness of this to me is that Obama, who I really admired at the beginning, is being a very big-hearted, kind of --

(CROSSTALK)

SHEINKOPF: Yes.

FIELDEN: -- above it all kind of guy. If he's fallen to having to hate somebody or really dislike them, it's just a sad thing. I mean what other part of life do you get that -- to get to do that? I mean the people you work with, the people in your family, you have to find something to like or admire about them. And these guys have to do the same for the sake of the rest of the country. If you hate people, it's not going to help anything. SHEINKOPF: Glen Thrush is a great reporter and if he's got it. It's accurate and you know what it tells you the whole story here which is that Obama -- that Romney has been laying a glove on Obama and Obama just doesn't like it because he's convinced he's right and the other guys has got to prove he's wrong. And when you're convinced you're that right, anybody who says you're wrong has got to be someone you dislike.

VELSHI: So it's like -- the point of Margaret Hoover, do you think it's a good thing?

SHEINKOPF: Do I think it's a good thing? Look, it's the nature of American politics. People run around all day long and I'm telling you and I've been in hundreds and hundreds of campaigns, they tell you, don't worry, it's not personal. Well, trust me, it's always personal ok. And this is personal.

HOOVER: Especially between the principles.

SHEINKOPF: Well, you don't want to lose your job.

HOOVER: Right.

SHEINKOPF: It's the greatest job in the world is be the President of the United States. Here is the guy that actually take it from your according to the polls; of course, you're going to dislike him.

HOOVER: Even President Obama's fundraising this last weekend was this could be the last birthday I have in the White House. Send me more money so I can have another birthday in the White House.

SHEINKOPF: They try that as a birthday thing.

FIELDEN: They ought to be willing -- the one thing that they ought to be to be willing to do is lose in order to stand up for some of the things they believe in.

VELSHI: Well, nobody -- but nobody is prepared to do that.

FIELDEN: I know. that's what I'm saying, I mean --

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VELSHI: Not a single congressman in this country.

FIELDEN: -- I mean, aren't there some things that you wouldn't do in order to lose you know.

SHEINKOPF: You're exactly right, all the data seems to point to one very simple conclusion which is people do anything not to lose.

VELSHI: Yes.

FIEDEN: Right. SHEINKOPF: They'll take any position, say anything and by the way, their whole reason for being in Congress is not to lose but to get re-elected.

VELSHI: But if -- if we can identify those who are prepared to lose by doing the right thing, that -- those are the people who everybody in America should vote for regardless of party.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, this disdain. All right. Thank you. Let's move on here. Ahead on STARTING POINT, what if science fiction isn't fiction? The "Curiosity" rover lands on Mars this morning to find out if life is possible. NASA's chief scientist is going to join us next.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

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SAMBOLIN: Oh welcome back to STARTING POINT.

VELSHI: Apparently, I'm talking too much.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. NASA's "Curiosity" rover is now on Mars. It landed overnight after traveling more than eight months, 352 million miles.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Touchdown confirmed.

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VELSHI: They seemed all very surprised by the whole thing despite how much work they put into it.

SAMBOLIN: They're excited.

VELSHI: This is the look -- these are the very first pictures, by the way, the pictures of the land, let's take a look at the first pictures that the rover has taken on Mars. Wow, Martians everywhere. The point is to find out if Mars can actually support life.

Jim Garvin is the chief scientist from NASA Goddard's Space Center. Jim, I mean congratulations, first of all. That was wild. That was, I mean, this is incredible. Your folks there looked a little more excited given how much work you put into this, did you not expect it to land?

JIM GARVIN, CHIEF SCIENTIST, NASA GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER: Well, we we're very confident but it took 11 years to get this spacecraft, this rover, this mission from conception to executing this landing.

So that's a long time. Like three Olympics have gone by since we started this. We're ready to go.

VELSHI: What are we thinking? What's your best case scenario for all of you who put the effort into this. Because as you know, you heard me talking, I'm expecting little green men to show up. That's not really what your expecting. What is your best case scenario that this rover finds?

GARVIN: We'd like to find the kind of chemical fingerprints of the signs that Mars could be a habitable world. Maybe at a different time, in a different place, you know, than earth. Then that would sort of tell us we're not alone.

And so this mission is all about understanding the record and rocks and soils on mars as if we were chemical fossil hunters. So we have to do a lot of driving. We have to do a lot of exploring with the magical instruments we have onboard to address that question.

SAMBOLIN: And you know, of course, everybody is talking about a manned trip -- astronauts, perhaps on Mars. You're testing radiation levels as well to see if that is a potentiality?

GARVIN: Yes. In fact we have 12 instruments on this amazing vehicle, "Curiosity", one of which measures the spectrum of radiation that a person if they were on Mars would experience and that's a real factor -- a health factor when we eventually get to send women and men to mars. We're path finding.

SAMBOLIN: And you know, I do want to talk about those. Is it seven minutes -- was that really important landing point that happened, could you walk us through that because this, if it would have failed, it would have been a huge failure.

GRAVIN: Well, sure. We've traveled for, as you said, hundreds of millions of miles in space since we launched last November and when we got close to Mars we had to separate our spacecraft, put it in configuration to land. We had seven minutes to go from 13,000 miles an hour, to essentially zero in the right place. And so we had to go through a whole series of, you know, almost gymnastic movements to be able to bring this vehicle to the point where this metric ton rover, the size of a car, could land on Mars in the right state in the right place to do our science. And that's kind of miraculous.

I mean it's kind of like winning a gold medal in the Olympics getting it right the first time, and we did.

SAMBOLIN: We could watch that video all day long. I mean these folks really excite body this moment in time. We can't wait to see what you find next. And you're going to be sharing pictures so we're really looking forward to that. Jim Garvin, chief scientist, NASA Goddard Space Center. We're really excited to have you. Good luck.

GARVIN: Thanks. We're ready to go.

VELSHI: He has reignited my excitement about this thing. I was very disappointed we weren't going to see little green Martians. I'm back in the game.

HOOVER: It's extraordinary. They're going to be there for one mars year which is over 600 days, collecting data and sending it back hopefully to earth.

FIELDEN: All right. I'm going to see conspiracy theory already but, you know, that little delay. Where is he? Is he in like Area 51 in New Mexico.

VELSHI: All right. "End Point" is next. We'll see you in a minute.

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It is time for the "End Point" and, Jay, we're going to give it to you today. The winner.

HOOVER: The winner. For the second time --

(CROSSTALK)

FIELDEN: Well, I wanted to bring up something slightly controversial which is the Olympic basketball team, the Americans, which I just find, you know, completely boring to watch in the sense that -- yes, I know.

HOOVER: Jaw dropping. Completely controversial.

FIELDEN: It reminds me of my favorite show "the office." the British version of course, Ricky Gervais who played David Bran and the name of his band is called "Foregone Conclusion". And I think that that really connects to what's going on.

SAMBOLIN: I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: I don't know. All right, Margaret, Hank and Jay, thank you so much for weighing in this morning.

And thanks for leaving us with that Jay.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.