Return to Transcripts main page


Romney And Ryan Campaigning Separately; Quake Rescues End In Iran; Evangelist Billy Graham In Hospital; "Happy And Glorious" Games End; No Man's Land?; Interview with Representative Nan Hayworth of New York; Interview with Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; Romney-Ryan On Medicare

Aired August 13, 2012 - 06:00   ET



ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Paul Ryan ready to hit the road. Mitt Romney's new running mate flying solo on the campaign trail today with Democrats sharpening their knives and ready to go on the attack.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tracking Tropical Storm Hector, it is moving in the Pacific and clocking in at 40-mile-per-hour winds.

SAMBOLIN: Saudi Arabia plans to put more women to work by creating a business zone exclusively for women. It is a real life no man's land.

BERMAN: It's a really interesting story.

SAMBOLIN: It really is. I can't wait to hear more about that.

BERMAN: All right, good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Glad to have with us this morning. It's 6:01 here in the east.

America gets up close and personal with Congressman Paul Ryan. That is starting today. Mitt Romney says he's very happy with his new running mate and Ryan seems moved by the appointment.

At one point, he teared up with emotion yesterday during a stop in Wisconsin. Last night on "60 Minutes", Ryan said Romney has been battling on an uneven playing field for too long.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Going to help him win this race so we can do it for the American people. We're going to split up more often than not and double our efforts.

So to me, it was one against two for a while. Now it's two against two. We're going to redouble our efforts and bring a message to the country, here's how you get the country back on track.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: President Obama leaves Chicago this morning to kick off a three-day bus tour across Iowa. And Vice President Biden has a campaign event in Durham, North Carolina.

Today, Paul Ryan will make his first solo appearance as Romney's running mate that will at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa. The same state where the president is.

While Romney's bus tour makes two stops in Florida today. That is where we find CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, joining us live this morning from Saint Augustine where a recharged, re-energized Mitt Romney will take the stage a little while, right, Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. That is something that we saw all weekend long. You know, basically there was a change in Mitt Romney that we saw almost immediately after he made the selection of Paul Ryan.

He was much looser with reporters and chatting with us on the campaign plane as we were crisscrossing the state of Virginia heading down in the North Carolina on Saturday.

And then I think what the campaign has been saying, what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been saying is that they like the way that they have changed the debate in this campaign.

For weeks, they've been talking about these personal attacks, these attacks on Mitt Romney's private business experience, now they feel they have a campaign that will be on issues, even if some of the issues and some of the proposals coming from Paul Ryan are somewhat controversial, this talk of partially privatizing Medicare.

Now Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have basically adopted some kind of version of that proposal as their own. It is something they'll be taking into the fall campaign. But I have to tell you, John and zoraida, the campaign also likes the visuals that are coming from the ticket.

They like the fact that they have a generation x vice presidential candidate with a young family. They were arranging a photo shoot with "People" magazine yesterday out on the campaign trail.

But you mentioned just a few moments ago that these two men will be splitting up and sort of trying to tag team the president and Joe Biden from different states at the same time and we saw them parting company last night, parting ways last night on an airport tarmac in Wisconsin.

They shook hands and went on their separate planes. But this was after what was a very emotional home coming for Paul Ryan in his home state of Wisconsin. He teared up about this event talking about his family and his rise to this position where he stands now. Here's what he had to say.


RYAN: I'm fifth generation from this state. My family came here back in the 1800s, made a go of it. It's where we've all raised our families ever since. This is such a phenomenal place to live, to work, and to raise your family. My veins run with cheese, bratwurst and a little spot of -- and some miller.


ACOSTA: Now the spotted cow, the linies and miller, I'm pretty sure John Berman might have caught onto this, I think those are all beer references, John. Home brewed beers from the state of Wisconsin. So we got a reference to that from Paul Ryan.

But make no mistake, this is going to be a bare knuckle campaign. You heard David Axelrod on one of the Sunday talk shows yesterday refer to Paul Ryan as a right wing ideologue.

That was much less guarded than what the president had to say. Basically, the president had to say, you know, we respect Paul Ryan, but we definitely disagree on these issues.

And they certainly we're going to see that playing out in the next couple of days. Mitt Romney here in Saint Augustine, he goes down to Miami later today where he'll be campaigning with Marco Rubio.

BERMAN: All right, Jim Acosta in Saint Augustine. By the way, my research does say that you are correct, about that Wisconsin beer. So thanks very much, Jim and enjoy your day in Florida.

I want to bring in Ron Brownstein right now who is a CNN senior political analyst and editorial director of the "National Journal."

Because Ron, you've been writing about something that Democrats have sort of been talking about from before Ryan was even picked. The title of your most recent piece is, why Ryan could make a Romney victory harder. Explain.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, Ryan clearly brings a lot of assets to the ticket. He is dynamic. He is very articulate and he is the intellectual leader of conservatives.

His budget plan has probably galvanized conservatives more than anything since the tax cuts in the 1970s. But the specifics of that budget plan could strain the GOP coalition, the modern GOP coalition as we've talked about, John, is much more dependent than it used to be on both blue collar and older voters.

While those voters are very dubious of transfer programs and government in general, they don't like welfare. They don't like food stamps. They don't like anything that is seen as transferring income from people who work who they say is not working.

They are much more supportive of middle class entitlements. If you look at polling, Paul Ryan has never been able to generate majority support for his proposal, which the house approved twice to convert Medicare into this premium in support of the voucher program.

In part because it faces large opposition from the same blue collar and older whites that Mitt Romney will need commanding margins to win in November.

BERMAN: And Ron, you've written a lot about the changing demographics of this country and we've been talking very recently about the rising minority vote in this country. Does Paul Ryan do anything to address that for the Republican ticket?

BROWNSTEIN: I think not. Look, by and large, you know, the Republicans have a number of problems with minority voters that are about a quarter of the entire electorate, 80 percent of them voted for Barack Obama in '08.

Polls show he's on track to do that again, which Republicans to win probably around 60 percent of whites to win. By and large, minority voters are more receptive to the safety net. I mean, they show more support for the safety net than many white voters, particularly post '08.

As they move in a more conservative direction and reaction to Obama. So this is really more a pick about kind of mobilizing that -- consolidating that conservative support among whites who are skeptical of government spending in general than it is about reaching out.

Paul Ryan is not really a reaching out kind of pick. He is more about a kind of galvanizing I think kind of pick.

BERMAN: And Ron, there's such amazing pictures this weekend with truly great energy on the trail between Romney and Ryan. But you're a presidential historian and been covering campaigns since FDR as we talked about last week.

And what I want to know is this. Will we still be talking about Paul Ryan every minute of every day and the Ryan plan on September 15th?

BROWNSTEIN: Short answer is not every minute of every day. We won't be talking about Paul Ryan, but I think the plan will matter. In the end, of course, this is going to be fundamentally about the candidates on the top of ticket.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, the vice presidential picks always fades in importance as it goes on. But what this has done, John, is that the Romney side has basically accepted a gauntlet that Obama wanted them to pick up.

For the first eight months of this year, Romney has tried to structure this campaign primarily as a retrospective referendum on Obama's performance over the past four years believing most people believe America has been on the wrong track economically.

What Obama has wanted to do desperately is convert this as much as possible into a forward looking choice. By selecting Ryan who offers such a stark choice on the future of the federal government, he would federal spending by 2050 back to its level not seen since 1950.

In essence, Romney has accepted that a construct in which the choice element of this will loom larger than it might have if he had a chosen a more kind of nondescript vice presidential nominee.

BERMAN: All right, very fun to talk about, a lot more to talk about. Ron, as always great to have you here. Ron Brownstein, editorial director of the "National Journal." Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It is 9 minutes past the hour. Rescue operations end in Northwest Iran after two strong earthquakes kill at least 300 people. The semi-official agency reporting another 3,000 people injured.

Eleven aftershocks followed. The deputy interior minister telling as far as 110 villages were damaged and there were some major historic monuments as well damaged. People were asked to spend the night outdoors they said as a safety precaution.

BERMAN: Evangelist Billy Graham is alert and in good spirits in a North Carolina hospital this morning. The 93-year-old preacher has been battling a pulmonary infection that's believed to be bronchitis. He was admitted into the hospital this weekend. Graham's spokesman says no date has been set right now for his discharge.

SAMBOLIN: In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a ceremony of cleansing and of rebirth. A Sikh temple resumed services exactly one week after a gunman open fire killing six people, including the temple president.

His son saying in his words, a coward tried to cause a race war, but ended up uniting people. The gunman, Wade Michael Page, killed himself after being wounded by police.

BERMAN: This morning, we're keeping a close watch on Tropical Storm Hector. It is now clocking in maximum winds at 40 miles per hour. Right now, the storm is still far off the coast of Mexico. Will that change?

CNN's Rob Marciano joins us now live. Rob, so where is Hector headed and could it gain strength?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It could gain strength. It's heading further off the coast of Mexico. There are a couple of other areas that might develop into something. You can see on the satellite picture falling apart, westerly moving 7 miles an hour.

Here's the forecast track from the National Hurricane Center. Not going to be becoming a hurricane and likely continuing to head out to sea. A little bit closer to home, but we're looking at heat advisories for the desert southwest.

We had some record highs yesterday across Phoenix down through Tucson and Palm Springs as well. We'll see them again today and this is the time of year where they do get a little bit of humidity.

So it's not the dry heat that we often talk about. Severe thunderstorms potentially across the midsection of the country. We're seeing some cool rains across Chicago right now.

Temperatures will be held down because of that only 71 degrees. Forecast high for Chi-town, 86. Good looking day in New York. Guys, back up to you.

BERMAN: It's glad to have that good looking day in New York. We deserve it. Thanks, Rob Marciano.

SAMBOLIN: Starting to feel a little like fall these days, right?

BERMAN: Football season.

SAMBOLIN: That's true.

Of course, it's the season of sports. Next stop, Rio, London promised to party and boy did it deliver. The Spice Girls, George Michael, Annie Lenox and appearance by Monte Python Great Eric Idle help close out the 2012 summer games.

In about a half hour, we're going to take you live to London for more on that grand finale.

BERMAN: All right, imagine this, a workplace staff with women only.

SAMBOLIN: I like that idea.

BERMAN: Saudi Arabia is now backing plans for female only firms. Officials say the plan would put more women to work and protect Islamic law. We'll explain in a full report just ahead.


BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 16 minutes after the hour. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Happy to have you with us.

Saudi Arabia is hoping to put more women in the workforce by creating a women-only business zone. The plan would boost women-run firms, creating an environment where women would work only with other women.

Officials say the plan would allow women to hold jobs without the risk of defying Islamic law.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now live.

And, Nic, Islamic does not prohibit women from working. So why do officials feel the need to create this special zone?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what it does do, it sets down that men and women cannot be working in the same place side by side. So, if you want to employ the half of your population that are women, you need to give them somewhere to do that. Right now, when you look at the statistics Saudi Arabia, only 15 percent are employed. When you measure that against the region here in United Arab Emirates, for example, 60 percent are employed. Malaysia, not so far away, another Muslim state, 50 percent of the population, almost of the female population are employed.

What Saudi Arabia has done in the past is produce a lot of female graduates, but when you look at the unemployed women in Saudi Arabia, 80 percent of them are graduates. The tiny handful that do manage to get jobs end up in the education sector, 95 percent of women are employed in the government sector, 85 percent in education.

So, what happens? Those that can't find jobs leave the country or stay at home dissatisfied.

So, this really addresses a very, very deep-rooted problem in Saudi Arabia that women really can't find anywhere to get in the work space. This provides, in a Saudi way, provides a solution for that.

SAMBOLIN: In the Saudi way.

And are they getting any assistance in setting up the businesses?

ROBERTSON: Well, what's happening a government body trying to establish a city where there will be businesses up to 50 different businesses, men and women can bid to run the businesses. But in the women-run business areas, it will be women only. That's about -- well, they are expecting perhaps 5,000 jobs in this one particular city, and investment they say of about of $130 million.

They're hoping to replicate this in 40 other cities. They are starting away from the capital. This female employment is slightly better in the capital, in the biggest cities.

So for the Saudis, you've got to look at this from where they are coming from is what their officials say. And that is, they want change, they want more women in the workplace, but they can't break the laws. They can't do it quickly because it's a very conservative country and plenty of people would like to shut them down quickly if they tried to do that.

SAMBOLIN: I suppose baby steps better than no steps at all. Nic Robertson, live for us, thank you.

BERMAN: It is now 19 minutes after the hour.

And I want you to get you up-to-date on the headlines.

Paul Ryan is hitting the road solo today, two days after being introduced as Mitt Romney's running mate. The congressman will be campaigning on his own in Des Moines, Iowa. Ryan enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome in his home state of Wisconsin, wiping tears before taking the stage to thank supporters.

SAMBOLIN: Gabby Giffords is back home this morning, 19 months after being shot during a political event. The former congresswoman and her husbands moved back to Tucson yesterday, they say permanently. Giffords had been spending most of her time in Houston while she was in rehab. Her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, tweeting, quote, "Gabby has been waiting for this day for a long time."

BERMAN: The commissioner of the NYPD tells "The New York Times" he believes police responded appropriately when they fatally shot a knife-welding man near Times Square. It happened in broad daylight over the weekend.

Police say 51-year-old Darius Kennedy threatened officers with an 11-inch knife and repeatedly resisted their attempts to arrest him.

SAMBOLIN: Stocks are set to fall today. What's driving a slowdown on Wall Street and what it means for you? That is coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: We are minding your business this morning.

Stocks are set to fall today. A new report on retail sales could drive trading. Sales have been declining lately because worried Americans haven't been shopping as much. And that hits economic growth.

BERMAN: Interesting good news.


BERMAN: Gamers delight, an oldie but goody could be coming back. The creator of the popular video game "Pitfall", one of my favorites, has a new game in the works.

Alison Kosik is in for Christine today.

And what's going on with this?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You don't recognize his name maybe, David Crane, but you do recognize the name of the game that he created that made his name so famous, "Pitfall". Remember that? 1982, it's the 30-year anniversary of "Pitfall".

You remember Harry, he used to move through the maze like jungle, jump over rattle snakes, those rolling logs, which I would always get caught on when I would play this game. It was one of the best selling games for Activision.

Well, guess what? He wants to design a new game with a jungle theme, too, kind of our modern twist on the old one. But he needs money. He says this could be produced under a million dollars, he's gone on to "Kickstarter". That's a fundraiser site for start up.

He's trying to hit $900,000 in funding. So far he's got $7500 in the pot. If you want to take part in this, I'm hearing, you could put in a minimum contribution of $15 and that means you could get a full version of the final game and maybe have an impact on the game as well.

He hopes this thing comes out by the end of next year. We shall see. You look excited.

BERMAN: You know, 1982, it's like gaming in 1982. It was awesome.

SAMBOLIN: All right. In this tough economic times, $100 million apartment, what is so special?

KOSIK: You know what's so special about it? The view.

There are 360-degree panoramic views of this $100 million apartment that's being listed here in New York City. It is the most expensive apartment ever listed here -- six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, look at that. The dining room set, it can seat 20 to 30 people, by the way. There's an elevator in there.

And you wonder who's interested in this now, who can afford this? There are locals who are showing interest. Foreign investors are also interested. Plenty of buyers.

But what you see there, that is the selling point, those views are tremendous. And also, check this out. If we can go back to the video, at the top the building where this apartment is, is this dome. If you live in the -- the top penthouse is where it is and you can control when the dome is lit up, kind of like the Empire State Building.


KOSIK: Play with the lights, there you go, play with the lights.

BERMAN: We'll look at the pictures. This is close as any of us we're ever going to get.

KOSIK: CNN Money has all the pictures, if you want to see it.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, Alison.

KOSIK: You got it.

BERMAN: All right. Politics now, Mitt Romney has picked his running mate. A lot of people are talking about it. And up next, we'll talk to key members of Congress from both sides, Representative Nan Hayworth, a Republican, and Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, they both know him well, but I bet they have different opinions on the pick, coming up next.

SAMBOLIN: I bet they do.


BERMAN: The Romney/Ryan team is hitting the campaign trial this morning, but they won't be traveling together. Meantime, prominent Republicans and Democrats continue to weigh in on Romney's V.P. choice. We'll hear live from both sides in just a moment.

SAMBOLIN: And find out how one man managed to sneak past the $100 million security system at JFK airport and walk right into the terminal undetected.

BERMAN: And this is not an action movie plot. Pentagon scientists are right now working to build the soldier of the future, real life super men, faster and stronger than the average human today. You'll have to check that one out.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're very happy to have you with us.

It is 31 minutes past the hour.

Top story: Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on the campaign trail today, separately. It was a whirlwind weekend that began with the two of them joining us to announce Ryan's addition to the ticket. Yesterday, the pair visited two swing states, including Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin where they were welcomed with -- you can hearing it -- roaring applause.

Romney told the crowd why he chose the congressman to be his running mate.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I wanted someone who was a leader. Leadership comes from character. This is a man who has real character who loves America, who has passion for America, who understands what it takes to get America on the right track. And this leader is going to help get America strong!


SAMBOLIN: Nan Hayworth is a Republican congresswoman from New York. She's member of the Financial Services Committee and is a Romney campaign surrogate.

We are delighted to have you. And it's Dr. Hayworth as well, right?


SAMBOLIN: All right. So, you know Paul Ryan really well. We're just getting to know him.

So, here are a couple of highlights that we've learned over the weekend, right? He is an extreme workout enthusiast, P90X workout. He's got a lot for P90X. He first took office at the age of 28.

And then, you know, we heard about the tragedy in his family when he was a teenager and found his father dead in bed. Dead of a heart attack.

But here are a lot of people that don't know him. As a matter of fact, there was an opinion poll that shows 54 percent of the people don't know who he is.


SAMBOLIN: You call him a friend.


SAMBOLIN: So, tell us a little bit about Paul Ryan.

HAYWORTH: Well, Paul Ryan is sincere. He's substantive. He's serious about what he does. He is deeply patriotic and he is courageous. He is principled.

He has presented a plan that really will fulfill the obligations we have to those most in need and those relying on our safety net. And still allow the economy to grow. And that's the key to making all of our future opportunities succeed. And the programs that we depend upon succeed. We have to have an economy that grows.

SAMBOLIN: Now, this is a young man. He's 42 years old. He has a young family.

Give us a little glimpse on that side of Paul Ryan.

HAYWORTH: Well, he's very dedicated to his family. And I think that is again an indication of his caring and his principles and his -- the responsible nature of someone like Paul Ryan. He is a great friend and mentor to members of the freshman class. Of course, he's one of the young guns who inspired so many of us like me, a citizen legislator to run for office.

And he has been the architect of and our teacher and mentor, he's been architect of a budget plan that actually will work for the United States.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk about that budget plan because you know, there is quite a bit of unpopularity behind it. And you actually ran on the budget plan.

So here are some of the details of it. It cuts nearly $6 trillion in spending, cuts tax revenues about $4 trillion, drops tax rates on wealthy and corporations to 25 percent.

Nonpartisan tax policy analysis of Ryan proposal similar to those of Romney plans and says that the wealthy would get the most tax cuts and bottom 20 percent would pay more.

What's your reaction to that?

HAYWORTH: Well, Zoraida, it's crucial to understand that under the current law, everybody is going to pay more, including folks in the lowest bracket. So the idea is not to make anybody pay more in taxes and it is not to burden those who can least afford to contribute to that but grow the economy so that everybody will benefit from greater revenues to the federal government, without impeding progress by having the federal government take more than we can afford to take.

SAMBOLIN: But, you know, something that everybody has highlighted is the cuts to Medicare particularly and then some of, you know, women's issues and health issues.

And you're a doctor, does that concern you?

HAYWORTH: Not at all. Because women's concerns are the same as those of every other American, primarily, they are that we have an economy that can accommodate their needs, their family's needs, that will allow them to have jobs and to have growth.

Medicare will be strengthened and stabilized by "The Pathway to Prosperity" budget which we did pass in the House of Representatives in both 2011 and 2012. In fact, it's to responsibly cares for those obligations that it doesn't come into full balance until 2037 because we have so much to do for Medicare and Social Security.

So it's a very responsible budget.

SAMBOLIN: Congressman Nan Hayworth, thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

HAYWORTH: My pleasure.

SAMBOLIN: Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. I want to get the Democratic response right now and Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen is the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, that is the committee chaired by Congressman Paul Ryan.

Representative Van Hollen is a surrogate for the Obama campaign. And Congressman, the first thing I want to ask you, you have worked closely with Paul Ryan on the budget committee. How is your working relationship? How do you get along?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: That's right, John. And I get along very well personally with Paul Ryan. He is a personable guy and we have lots of conversations.

And the issue of course during the campaign here is going to be what the American people think about the plan that he's authored because as Nan said, he is the chief architect of the House Republican plan. It's a very ideological plan. It's a very right wing plan. And I think it would have terrible consequences for the vast majority of the American people.

BERMAN: But it is a plan. Can you illustrate to me what the Obama plan is currently for Medicare?

VAN HOLLEN: Oh, absolutely. The president has put forward a plan that strengthens Medicare. Under the affordable care act, if you look at the Medicare actuary's number, the Obama plan extends the life of Medicare.

The difference is we do it in a very different way. We do it by starting to control the Medicare cost rather than simply transferring those costs on to seniors.

The thing about the Ryan plan is it's great for people like Mitt Romney. In fact, "Roll Call" newspaper did an independent analysis yesterday that showed under the Ryan road map, Mitt Romney's tax burden would go down to 1 percent at the same time under the Ryan budget plan. You're asking seniors who have $23,000 median income, seniors on Medicare to pay much higher costs over time.

Whereas, what the Obama plan does, what the Democratic proposal does is reduce the overall cost in the Medicare system by changing the payment incentives in the plan.

BERMAN: One of the things Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have done, go on offense, on the issue of Medicare. They say the only person who proposed cuts in Medicare is President Obama, who's plan over the next several years will actually remove $700 billion in funding for Medicare.

How do you respond to that?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, I'm glad you raised this. This is the grossest of hypocrisy.

What the Democrat plan is make savings in Medicare, by for example getting rid of the excessive subsidies into health plans. They were being subsidized in about 114 percent of the regular Medicare plan. It was a great bonanza, for some of the private insurance companies.

So we got rid of that and we recycled much of that savings into strengthening Medicare benefits, including what's called the donut hole. What's really hypocritical here is if you look at the Ryan budget, they took every penny of the savings that were part of the affordable care act of Medicare, every penny but don't recycle a single penny back into Medicare. They would reopen immediately the prescription drug donut hole for seniors on Medicare. They would require immediately seniors on Medicare to pay much higher costs for preventive services and I should say those things happen immediately under the Ryan plan, not 10 years from now.

BERMAN: One more question. A lot of people have been saying is that Paul Ryan changes the focus of this campaign to serious issues to matter to all Americans and also say what the Obama team has been doing in recent weeks is focusing on the trivial, Mitt Romney's tax returns they say are trivial. These are the arguments from Priorities USA ad about this man's health care.

Do you think there's any truth, any merit in the argument that the Obama team has been moving away -- this campaign away from issues that really matter to the American people?

VAN HOLLEN: No, in fact what the president has been talking about is the fact that his jobs plan has been sitting in front of the House Republican representatives since last September. We haven't had a single vote on his most recent jobs initiative. We had 37 votes in the House to repeal Obama care to repeal Affordable Care Act but not one -- I would say the Romney tax returns are very relevant because they do go the to heart of this issue. And I mentioned that Paul Ryan's plan would give Mitt Romney a huge tax break.

Now, who pays for that? If you're serious about long-term deficit reduction --

BERMAN: All right.

VAN HOLLEN: The way you have to make that up is by cutting everyone and everything else like seniors on Medicare, like education.


VAN HOLLEN: So, this does present very clear choices to the American public and I look forward to the debate.

BERMAN: All right. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland, an Obama supporter -- thanks so much for joining us.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Forty minutes past the hour.

A security system that costs $100 million. So, how did a man get through it undetected at one of the nation's busiest airports? The report just ahead.


SAMBOLIN: Top of the morning to you, Atlanta. Look how lovely your city looks. Sixty-two degrees right now, a little later 89, mostly sunny.

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It is 44 minutes after the hour, I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: The 2012 -- we're going to get you up to date with the morning top stories first here.

BERMAN: New this morning, Syrian rebels say the government has unleashed a massacre on its own people, with regime forces publicly executing 10 people in Damascus just this morning. Rebels say at least 33 people have been killed across the country so far today. And government snipers are preventing people from retrieving the bodies of the victims. Meantime, state-run TV has blamed terrorists for the attacks.

SAMBOLIN: The queen of the Indiana state fair, one of five people injured when a stage coach overturned.


BERMAN (voice-over): Meantime, state-run TV has blamed terrorists for the attacks.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The queen of the Indiana State fair, one of five people injured, when a stage coach overturned. Twenty-year- old Ericka Burkhart (ph) was riding on top of that stage coach next to the driver when it tipped over yesterday. All of the injuries are nonlife threatening.

But take a look at the pictures. The accident coming one day before the one-year anniversary of a stage collapse at the fair that killed seven people.

BERMAN: So much for the $100 million security system at JFK Airport. It seems the perimeter intrusion detection system is no match for a jet skier from Queens. That's according to the "New York Post." The reports Daniel Castillo's (ph) broke down the Jamaica Bay Friday night.

He ended up swimming three miles to shore, then, he climbed the airport's eight-foot perimeter fence, crossed two separate runways, and walked right into terminal three, all of this undetected.

Castillo was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing but only after he approached an airline worker and asked for help. The port authority is in charge of security at JFK Airport and says it is reviewing this incident.

SAMBOLIN: That's bizarre. He just needed some help, right, and he gets arrested.

NFL star, Chad Johnson, formerly known as Chad Ochocinco, is now a former Miami Dolphin. The team announcing it has terminated the wide receiver's contract after he was arrested at his Florida home for allegedly head butting his newlywed wife. Johnson married Evelyn Lozada of the reality show, "Basketball Wives" just last month.

According to the arrest report, Lozada was asking Johnson about a receipt for condoms when she found -- that she found when he grabbed her and head butted her causing a laceration. Johnson tells police Lozada head butted him.

BERMAN: Scientists in the Pentagon are reportedly researching gene manipulation to build the soldier of tomorrow. They're hoping to create troops who will, one day, be able to run at Olympic speeds and have super human strength. This sounds like Captain America.


BERMAN: All of this without requiring food or sleep or long periods of time.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.

BERMAN: The plans were revealed by novelist, Simon Conway, to the "Sunday Express." He says he was allowed behind the scenes and access to the defense department's advanced research projects agency.


BERMAN (on-camera): Really, it's Captain America. It's the plot of Captain America.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Gene manipulation. All right. Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "Starting Point." Welcome back.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, my gosh. Nice to be --


O'BRIEN: So, I'm always happy to be back. Anyway, we're going to talk about the VP pick, Paul Ryan, happened while I was off, breathing new life into Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Democrats, though, are pouncing on the choice. So, who is Paul Ryan? What does he stand for? How is it all going to play with the voters?

We have an all-star lineup this morning. We've got Congressman Randy Forbes. He's a Republican. Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, is going to join us. Both of them are from Virginia and the former White House press secretary to President Bush, Ari Fleischer, is our guest.

From team Obama, Delaware governor, Jack Markell, Maryland congressman, Chris Van Hollen, and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz all stopping by to talk to us live this morning.

Also, musical madness, the London Olympic Game close in style. It was a fun end, I thought. Now, it's all on to Rio. We're going to sit down this morning with Olympic gold medal skier, Picabo Street.

And heavy heart (ph) musical drama "Sparkle" will open this week. "Sparkle," I can't wait to see that. It features, of course, the big screen appearance of the late singer, Whitney Houston, her last performance. Spiritual leader turned film producer, T.D. Jakes, is going to be our guest this morning.

All that and much more ahead. We'll see you right after the short commercial break, and I'll see you at the top of the hour.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 51 minutes past the hour. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. We are talking about Paul Ryan and his Medicare proposal. At least one critic says it would end Medicare as we know it. Others speculated it will cause Mitt Romney challenges in winning senior citizens, including in a key state of Florida.

The two men on the 2012 Republican ticket addressed questions about Ryan's controversial proposal in a joint interview Sunday on CBS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it's there for current seniors, no changes, by the way, for current seniors or those nearing retirement, but looking for young people down the road and saying we're going to give you a bigger choice.


BERMAN: Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us right now. And Elizabeth, everyone is talking about Medicare and the so-called Ryan plan. So, put some meat on the bones for us. What does Medicare look like now and how exactly does Paul Ryan want to change it?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, John. Medicare right now is a federally funded program run by the federal government. It is very popular with seniors, and what the Ryan plan says is basically this. Starting in 2023, seniors can stay with Medicare the way that it is now or they can get a voucher from the federal government and use that voucher to buy a policy from a private insurance company.

Now, if that policy happens to cost more than what the voucher is for, the senior citizen would have to pay that money himself or herself. If that policy cost less, then that senior citizen could pocket the money.

BERMAN: But the number of the criticism seems to be the healthcare costs overall are rising faster than the amount that the vouchers will be. Is that the only criticism of the plan or are there others as well?

COHEN: Right. You got it. That's one of the big criticisms and then senior citizens would have to pay for that on their own. But there's another sort of more complex criticism, John, and this is it.

It's that if Medicare -- if this plan were to go -- were to actually go into function, what would happen is that wealthier, healthier senior citizens would opt for the private plan and that that would leave only poor unhealthy senior citizens in traditional Medicare and that's not financially sustainable. Medicare then would basically run out of money.

BERMAN: You know, the argument the Democrats are making it would break Medicare overall. Now, one of the few things to remember here, I think, for everyone is that, right now, Paul Ryan is not first name on the ticket. It's still a Romney-Ryan ticket even though we're talking about the Ryan plan.

What kind of space exists between Paul Ryan's plan and whatever plan Mitt Romney may have?

COHEN: You know, senior advisers to Romney were asked that this weekend, and they were a little bit murky on this. They said on the one hand, just like you said, it's the Romney/Ryan ticket. Mr. Romney will make his own decisions, but on the other end, they then said, well, but if the Ryan plan were part of the budget, Mr. Romney would sign it.

So, it's a little bit unclear exactly how Romney feels completely about this and whether he would definitely sign off on it.

BERMAN: So, trying to create at least some space there. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

COHEN: Thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Fifty-four minutes past the hour. Today's "Best Advice" comes from Senator Joe Lieberman. Coming up, he'll tell us his best way to start his morning.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. It's just a few minutes before the hour right now.

SAMBOLIN: And we wrap it up as always with "Best Advice." Today, it comes from Democratic senior -- or senator, excuse me, Joe Lieberman from Connecticut. Take a look.


SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, CONNECTICUT: So, the best advice that I ever got is -- I had a lot of good advice, is every day when you get up, feel blessed that you're alive. So, I start every day and this was in my upbringing by thanking God that I got another day and another opportunity to make the most of it.

At the end of the day, look back and see where you failed and where you succeeded and have the reassuring confidence that the Good Lord willing (ph), you'll get up the next morning and have another day.


SAMBOLIN: I love that.

BERMAN: Absolutely. You'll have another day.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Hopefully, you'll have another day. I like starting the day out, you know, with being thankful for the day and then with reflection at the end. We may have to take him up on that advice.

BERMAN: That is EARLY START for this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "Starting Point" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.

O'BRIEN: And good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, a campaign jolt. Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan, hitting the road, drawing huge energized crowds. On the attack, Democrats who are pouncing on the pick, blasting Ryan's stance on taxes and spending and entitlement programs. What is the so-called Ryan budget plan? We're going to talk about that.

And prayers for a quick recovery as 93-year-old evangelist, Billy Graham, is taken to the hospital. He has a lung infection.

We have a packed show. Spiritual leader turned movie producer, Bishop T.D. Jakes, will be joining us. Olympic gold medal skier, Picabo Street, Maryland congressman, Chris Van Hollen is our guest. Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell, and Democratic Party chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Shultz all joining us this morning.

It's Monday, August 13th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.