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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Presidential Campaigns Heat Up Rhetoric; Interview with Dannel Malloy; Powerball Lotto Jackpot Reaches Over $20 Million; Texas Shooter Had Mental Health Issues; Deadly Home Explosion; Plane Pileup; "Joe The Plumber" Ignites Firestorm; "Deferred Action" Now In Effect; President's "Stopgap Measure"; Too Taboo For Tebow?; Exploring "The New New Deal"

Aired August 15, 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: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, lashing out. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're going to put you all back in chains.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Both the Romney and Obama camps attacking each other with some of the nastiest rhetoric yet in the race for the White House. We're going to talk this morning about tone and substance.

Plus, fear and chaos, a bomb hitting in a fuel truck rocks Syria this morning where U.N. observers being targeted.

An outbreak. The West Nile virus is spreading faster than ever across the entire U.S. A state of emergency is now in effect in the state of Texas.

A packed show for you this morning. Connecticut's governor, Dannell Malloy, joins us. The former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty is with us. Wildlife expert, Ron Magill is joining us as well. And from the movie "Lawless" actor Dane Fahon joins us. It's Wednesday, August 15, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Our STARTING POINT this morning, the race for the White House getting uglier and nastier. Mitt Romney now calling President Obama angry and desperate and a disgrace. The White House countering by suggesting the former Massachusetts governor is becoming unhinged. It was Vice President Joe Biden who lit the latest fuse on the firestorm. Here's what he said about Mitt Romney in southern Virginia yesterday morning. Remember, there were hundreds of African-Americans in the crowd there, about 50 percent of the crowd was African-American. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: He said the first 100 days he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. He's going to put y' all back in chains.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK, as I said, about half of the crowd there African- American. Obama spokesperson defended the vice president saying he was using a metaphor but the comment got Mitt Romney and the Republicans riled up and Joe Biden got back in the fray explaining what he meant. Listen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Another outrageous charge, this came a few hours ago in Virginia. And the White House sinks a little bit lower. His campaign and surrogates have made wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency.

BIDEN: If you want to know what's outrageous, it's their policies, and the effects of their policies on middle class Americans. That's what's outrageous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK. So we're talking about a 10-hour window here. Then after Romney's speech, another Obama spokesman, Ben Labolt, released this statement saying this, "Governor Romney's comments tonight seem unhinged and particularly strange coming at a time when he's pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false."

Meantime President Obama and first lady will speak at two campaign stops in Iowa. The vice president Mr. Biden will be attending a rally at Virginia tech and Mitt Romney will be fund raising in North Carolina and Alabama. And Paul Ryan, now on the Romney ticket, heads to Ohio for a campaign rally at Miami university. That's what the day looks like.

President Obama's favorite TV show, the HBO series "The Wire", the cast will be hosting a fund raising for the Obama re-election campaign on Martha's Vineyard. The president will not be in attendance. I'll spell to Dannel Malloy about the bitter battle of words. First, before we get to that, let's get to the rest of the top stories with John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. There was a huge blast behind a hotel where U.N. monitors are staying. Syrian state TV reporting an explosive device on a diesel tanker detonated behind the building in Damascus. The U.N. monitors are said to be safe, but three people were reportedly injured. Throughout the country opposition groups say 34 have been killed in the violence so far today.

Right now there are 62 out of control wildfires burning in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Washington state and California, and in Idaho a firefighter has been killed. We have heartbreaking video from two fires just north of San Francisco. Three buildings have been destroyed and 500 homes are threatened. In Washington State, the National Guard has been activated. Let's bring in meteorologist Rob Marciano. Rob these pictures are breath taking.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: That one in central Washington, the worst fire that I have seen in decades. The winds will die but the heat is going to crank up and that's going to be the main story over the next couple of days, the heat that's been built across southern California. Redding had a record high of 112, Phoenix, 113, and Red Bluff, California, 112.

Tomorrow and Friday, heat watches have been posted, likely to go to heat warnings from Eugene, Oregon up to Portland, temperatures could reach 100 degrees, near 90 or better in Seattle and just down the road from Seattle is where that essential Washington fire is burning. The heat will stay out west actually to the east a little bit of cooling but that doesn't do any favors for the fires burning in the intermountain west.

BERMAN: Rob Marciano, thanks very much.

A state of emergency in effect in Dallas after the nation's worst outbreak of West Nile virus as 16 people have died and 200 have been infected with West Nile. In the next hour, Soledad will talk with Dr. Beth Bell from the CDC and our own chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta about the spread that is get being worse.

The Curiosity could start rolling first. They are getting a software update, a process NASA has called a brain transplant. It landed on mars August 6th and beaming back images of the surface of the gale crater ever since.

I lost the fact it's getting a software upgrade. This is the mars curiosity rover. Very impressive.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it is.

Back to our top story, both the Romney and Obama campaigns going on offensive, at the same time the rhetoric getting uglier than ever. Let's get right to Dannel Malloy live in Hartford, Connecticut. We were talking about Joe Biden and the comments he made, 50 percent of the population is African-American and used to be the former home of the confederacy seat and has a history with racial issues. When you hear words like unshackled, unchained, slave, all of these phrases politicians throw around, some say those are metaphors, but others say that's coded language. Do you think it's fine for the vice president to use these kinds of words in a speech to that audience?

GOV. DANNEL MALLOY, (D) CONNECTICUT: Well, I think that the terminology you're talking about is in fact used in every day conversation and politics. You know, the Romney folks talked about unshackling the economy. That's a reality.

Let's talk about what's important. The Ryan/Romney budget is a frontal attack on the middle class in America. On senior citizens, it would end Medicare as we know it. What's going on here is really radical politics being played out on a national level. You could not have a more stark difference between two parties than we currently have. In selecting Paul Ryan, the president -- the person who wants to be the president of the United States has chosen a candidate whose own budget was attacked by the Catholic Bishops Council.

O'BRIEN: Before we talk about the budget-- we'll get to that in a moment -- I want to go back to the racial coding thing, that's what the debate and war of words was over yesterday. And what I find sometimes hip critical is that when someone is attacking governor Romney or one of the -- for example, television commercial, I think it was last week talked about the welfare to work claim and people came out and said the same thing, there was racial coding in that. We can understand the messaging going on. On one side it's forgiven and on the other side it's not, that there's a double standard I think people would say. Is that not true?

MALLOY: I actually -- I think the coverage you're talking about with respect to the hypocritical things the Romney administration has says about wanting people to go back to work is just that, hypocritical. It is in fact a pretty broadside attack on programs and on states that want to put people back to work. I think he was called out for specifics.

Here what we're talking about is semantics. Whether you like the semantics or not, there is a reality that in the Ryan budget financial controls get slashed. Wall Street gets unchained. That's a reality. Whether the semantics of the moment are appropriate, what we need to examine in this campaign is what is actually being advocated by the various candidates.

O'BRIEN: Let's listen to Paul Ryan being interviewed by Brit Hume on FOX yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You're not saying that you don't contemplate in your budget planning significant savings over $500 billion in Medicare then, are you?

PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, we can get into complicated baseline issues, but that's the current law. What we do is keep what the current law in our budget.

HUME: But it is the case in the budget you passed through the House of Representatives, significant savings of upwards of 500 in Medicare?

RYAN: We do not add cuts to Medicare program in the budget.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: It's a little bit confusing but he uses the word keep the current law in our budget, which means they are calculating the house budget with the same $716 billion that everybody has been fighting over, the decrease in the rate of spending growth in Medicare that would come from regulating hospital services and private medical care. He's saying the $716 billion is in his budget as well, but he's saying that's the law. Is that an accurate way to calculate that?

MALLOY: There's two things going on here. One, what he then denied, in his budget he does go beyond that and changes Medicare and switches it to a voucher system. Instead of getting an insurance policy or making sure your bills goring to paid, you'll get a voucher that helps you pay for insurance if you can find it. That's a very different system in America. Medicare is one of the most successful programs that's keeping elderly out of poverty.

O'BRIEN: But it's going bankrupt.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Let me finish my point and I'll let you finish. When people say it's going to kill Medicare, really it's going to change Medicare with the goal the Republicans would say of trying to make it solvent.

MALLOY: Soledad, the reality is, is that the fix that has been proposed in the plan that has been adopted actually fixes Medicare through 2024. There's plenty of time to fix it for the eternity of that we're going to have elderly Americans. To take 45 million Americans and put them on a voucher system as opposed to making sure that their benefits will be provided is utterly and fantastically ridiculous. They know it. That's why they're running away from it. You just heard Mr. Ryan deny that he goes that much further than the current plan.

So let's go back to the $700 billion in savings. Most of that is coming out of program cost and expense, much of it going to insurance companies. That's the reality. He doesn't want to talk about what he's actually proposed because what he has proposed is very scary to millions of Americans. You know, we're talking about putting a whole bunch of our senior citizens in the doughnut hole where their drug prescriptions won't be paid for. That's in this plan. We're talking about dismembering the controls placed on Wall Street so we can make sure we don't have another Republican collapse in our economy. Let us remember, that George Bush was president when our economy collapsed. George Bush's administration had in fact done away with a lot of controls that were designed to forecast problems in the economy. There are certain realities in the Ryan budget which they have to run away from. Why Ryan got chosen, I'm not sure.

O'BRIEN: We will discuss this with the former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty who will obviously counter what you're saying later. Governor Malloy thank you for talking with us. We appreciate that.

MALLOY: Great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: We'll talk to Tim Pawlenty in the 8:00 hour.

Coming up on STARTING POINT, $320 million and counting, the Powerball jackpot affects 22 states and approaching a record. Live from New York where people are buying tickets right now. No surprise, I'll be among them -- how long does this show go for?

Also, a burglary has happened at the home of the late Steve Jobs foiled though with the help of Apple technology, at least that's what the police are saying. We'll tell you what happened there.

And every step you take your smartphone knows exactly where you've been and know it may know where you're going to be.

BERMAN: That's crazy.

Or maybe it's very smart. We'll take a look. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Poppy Harlow minding your business. We could see the marriage between Apple and cable. Various reports saying it will allow Apple TV watchers to watch regular and cable channels and record programs using their cable box. This could significantly boost the popularity of Apple TV, whose greatest asset to date has been of connectivity with Apple devices.

And the rumor mill is abuzz about the next iPhone, as always, Apple is tight lipped and isn't revealing details or dates. But the blog says preorders for the iphone will likely begin on September 12th, the same day the device is expected to be unveiled. The iphone 5 will be released in the U.S. on September 21st.

And an interesting story here, a suspect is in custody for allegedly robbing the home of the late Steve jobs. The man allegedly took $60,000 worth of items, including iPads, Macs and Jobs' wallet. The suspect was caught when he tried to connect to the internet using the devices and Apple investigators tracked him, obviously. Just a crazy, bizarre story.

O'BRIEN: What a great way to nab a guy who's done a bad thing. Poppy, appreciate it.

Tonight's Powerball jackpot, $320 million. With that kind of money at stake, there's no surprise people who want to play are coming up with crazy ways to spend the jackpot should they win. Jason Carroll is probably one of them. Asking folks, what would you do -- tell me you have not bought a ticket. I know you have.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know I did. Here's mine right here. I only bought three. That's all it takes, just takes one actually, one winning ticket. We've been talking to people what they would do with the money. We heard all sorts of things. They would quit their jobs or buy an apartment. I want to bring in Charlene McMillan. She just bought her tickets this morning. We were talking about what you would do. You say you have the winning ticket.

MCMILLAN: Yes, I have the winning ticket.

CARROLL: What about mine?

MCMILLAN: You might as well give it up. This is the winning ticket.

CARROLL: If you win, what will you do?

MCMILLAN: I think the first thing I would do would give to homeless women. And the rest of the money, I don't know. That's so much money I can't think right now.

CARROLL: I know you said earlier and you are a witness to this Soledad, I said I hit, you quit. You hit, that means I get to quit?

MCMILLAN: Yes.

CARROLL: How much are you giving me because you know we're live?

MCMILLAN: $1.15.

(LAUGHTER)

CARROLL: Charlene, thank you very much. She's tough, isn't she?

O'BRIEN: No love from Charlene at all. But I like the way it's so much money I can't think as if she's won it. When we check in again, I want to know what you'll do and how much you'll give to me.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, you can already use your cell phone to get directions, but what if your cell phone knows where you're going to be, like tomorrow? It's our "Get Real" and it's straight ahead. Our STARTING POINT team heading in to talk about that and much more. Bridgette Siegel is with us, Ben Smith, and Margaret Hoover. You are watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right, our team this morning, Bridget Siegel is with us, the author of domestic affairs, former Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign finance director. Ben Smith is the editor and chief of Buzz Feed, and Margaret Hoover is a former White House appoint in the Bush administration.

Our "Get Real," obviously your cellphone is great if you need to Google map your directions or figure out what restaurant to go to, GPS if you're stuck somewhere. But your phone also apparently knows not only where you've been but where you're going. It will predict where you will be in the next 24 hours. A team British researchers used this algorithm that uses tracking data to figure out where they are going to be tomorrow. Even if you break from your routine, the phone can figure out where you're going to be. So companies could in theory be able to predict your movements in the future. The team, which is from the University of Birmingham in the U.K., won the Nokia mobile challenge. The question is legally you know that would never ever fly but it's kind of interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have privacy concerns about being tracked, turn off the location services device in your phone, the battery will last longer anyway.

O'BRIEN: I think for a lot of people, how many times have we done stories where they are trying to track a guy who's fled and the law enforcement is searching for that person and able to do it that way. But to be able to calculate that with their friends' phones I think is interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has all of the makings of a Bruce Willis movie.

BEN SMITH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The ads that have been following you across the internet. If you shop for shoes on Tuesday, those shoes will follow you for a week. That's now going to follow you around your physical life as well.

O'BRIEN: People don't go anywhere different, right? If we were to map where we go, guess what, we're all going the same places as yesterday.

SMITH: I try to turn off the location services but then I cave in. By the end of the day, they know everything. You have to give it up.

O'BRIEN: I turn it off until I need a map.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: To big brother watching your every move. We want to know about our big stories. You can feel free to send us a quick video, roughly 20 seconds in total. If you have a point to make, we'll call it "My end point" and we'll include it at the end of our show. Send it to CNN.com/startingpoint if you want to submit your video.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, a pileup at the airport, and we're not talking about cars. Two planes in what is kind of an awkward position after a collision on the ramp.

And dream jobs, young illegal immigrants lining up to stay longer and live and work in the United States. The dream doesn't last forever. We'll talk about what happened yesterday, the first day this happened.

Plus, first there was Tebowing and now there's this. Let's keep that shot up for just a minute, shall we? You know how much I love Tim Tebow before the shirtless picture of him. But some people are upset. I don't know who those crazy people are. You're watching STARTING POINT. I love that man. I really do.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, environment. You're watching STARTING POINT. It's a big day for dreamers, 2 million young adults who came to the United States as undocumented children will be able to start applying for deferred deportation, meaning they'll be able to go to college, join the military, get a job, but only for two years. So question is, what does it actually accomplish? We debate this on both sides this morning. Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois is with us and also Dan Stein, he is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. First, we want to get to John Berman for today's top stories. John, good morning.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

The suspect in a deadly shooting near the Texas A&M campus struggled for years with mental health issues. Thomas Caffall's mother said they became worried when he quit his job in January and said he'd never work again. Police say Caffall killed two people before he was fatally shot by officers who were serving an eviction notice.

Still no word on exactly what caused a deadly house explosion on New York's Long Island. This two story home was completely destroyed. An 18-month-old boy killed inside. At least 14 people were hospitalized. Investigators say the blast may be gas related. They also found two 200-pound propane tanks in the rubble.

You have to look at this plane pileup. It happened at Nashville International Airport. Two private jets collided on a ramp and one ended up completely on top of the other.

Now we want to know how this happened. No one was on board either aircraft. Authorities say one plane was being towed when it broke loose and rolled into a second, just parked on top of the plane there. It's hard to imagine.

O'BRIEN: It's on top of the plane, didn't just hit the plane.

BERMAN: It looked like two planes making out to me. It's a bizarre photo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unseemly position.

O'BRIEN: How did that happen without them leaving the ground? That seems impossible.

BERMAN: Mayhem at the Nashville International Airport. Moving on to this, Samuel Wurzelbacher is better known as "Joe the Plumber." He has his unique, some may say, offensive solution to America's illegal immigration problem.

Wurzelbacher is running for Congress in Ohio. He was attending a fundraiser in Arizona for a local Senate candidate when he stirred things up with this comment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAMUEL WURZELBACHER (R), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: For years I've said you know, put a damn fence on the border going to Mexico and start shooting. I'm running for Congress and that's how I feel. I'm going speak like I would speak and not worry about being politically correct.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: I think the start shooting part of that comment is what raised some eyebrows. Wurzelbacher was asked later if he would like to retract the comment. He refused.

O'BRIEN: Wait a minute. So he's running for Congress and he wants to shoot people -- I mean, I find that just stunning that this is where the tenor of the debate has gone to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure if this serious -- but it certainly feels like irresponsible rhetoric.

O'BRIEN: It also doesn't feel like it's a joke, right? You can't say that he made a gaffe or a joke. He's given the opportunity and reiterates it and then he says I'm not going to take it back.

Because sometimes I do think these people make mistakes and say something kiddingly which is idiotic. He says that's how he feels. I think that's insane.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think you're right. I think that is representative of the tone and tenor of the debate and how the debate and the seriousness of the debate. And the sincerity of the debate has slipped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's also how the guy's 15 minutes ended four years and it's kind of still running in this twilight, but in the congressional campaigns, the most extreme, the craziest folks are the ones we're going to hear about for next few months.

BERMAN: This is how he rolls. I mean, this is how -- when he's campaigning. This is not unusual for him.

O'BRIEN: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I had the pleasure of sitting with him at a dinner and this is how he talks and this is how he is. You know, the citizens of Ohio in his district will have to decide --

O'BRIEN: Fine people of Ohio should definitely be listening to that carefully. It actually brings us to our conversations today about really as you say, kind of I think the anger and tenor about the debate over immigration to what is historic opportunity for hundreds and thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

They've been lining up now across the country trying to apply for what's known as Deferred Action. The program goes into effect today and gives 2 million illegal immigrants who are brought to the United States as children a chance to avoid deportation for two years.

They can obtain work permits and Social Security numbers even apply for financial aid for college. The program, you'll remember, was announced by President Obama back in June. It came after Congress failed to pass the Dream Act. Here's what he said then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stop-gap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The president used the authority to change the Department of Homeland Security's policy. Republicans say you're giving amnesty basically to illegal immigrants without Congress' approval.

We're going to bring in Congressman Luis Gutierrez in just a moment. He is from Illinois. First though, we're going to talk to Dan Stein. He is the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, against the policy. He joins us live from D.C. this morning. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

DAN STEIN, PRESIDENT, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: Great to see you.

O'BRIEN: We certainly appreciate it. I know you're not a fan of this program, but it's happening now anyway. Governor Romney has said this about the president's executive order. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people have asked if I will let stand the president's executive order. The answer is that I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president's temporary measure. As president, I won't settle for stop-gap measures. I'll work with Republicans and Democrats to build a long-term solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So that's a bit vague. What would you like to see happen to this group of young people whose parents brought them across the border?

STEIN: Well, for about the last 25 years, we've been hoping that the parents and their kids would respect U.S. immigration law and not be here obviously. Congress can't legislate around the idea that the rule of law is never going to be respected.

So the president said for three years, Soledad, I don't have the legal authority to do this. But here it is six months about before the election and all of a sudden he's claiming this brand-new unconstitutional authority to create a whole new immigration category and then run ads on Spanish language TV trying to take credit for it.

Now, in principle, the idea behind the Dream Act might have made sense, keeping in mind Congress has now rejected it twice, if it had been accompanied with a balance set of reform measures to curtail overall immigration downstream.

And actually begin enforcing the law so he didn't replicate the problem. But what the president is now doing is on his own motion, on authority, just saying I have the right to rewrite the law, ignore the law --

O'BRIEN: You're clearly annoyed with the president and --

STEIN: Remember --

O'BRIEN: You would hope that the parents and the kids themselves would respect the rule of law. What would your solution be today? Obviously, I'm going to tell you, as you mentioned, last 25 years the people are not returning in mass or self-deporting back to Mexico.

So what would you do now with children whose parents brought them across the border and now they have no documents and they are in the country illegally right now?

STEIN: Well, I would do what most countries do, which is if you give people an amnesty, you have six months to get your affairs in order and please understand that you will get your education back in your home country where you're a citizen and you can bloom where you're planted.

The basic principle of the rule of the law and the fact that it's respected is why immigrants have wanted to come to this country for 200 years. If we abandon the core principle and allow the process to serve by an executive who says I'm not going to enforce the law and taxpayers will pay.

They don't seem to care about fraud. There's not even an interview requirement. Then Soledad, what happens, as you pointed out last hour, the president is giving a -- creating a database, but he can't guarantee any future immigration status. In a sense, he's overpromising something he can't deliver.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about that with Congressman Luis Gutierrez who joins us well. Two things I want to ask, Congressman. You just heard from Mr. Stein, bloom where you're planted.

You get six months and you should just go home and try to get your degree there would be his strategy. You obviously don't think that's a workable strategy. Why not?

REPRESENTATIVE LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: Well, look, Soledad, these are young people, much more American than they are immigrant. Anybody that's going to go out to the lines at Navy Pier here in Chicago and interview them is going to see that stark reality.

So what we are doing is the kind of like the paperwork is catching up with the reality of their status here in the United States of America. They came as children. They are not responsible for being here in this country.

So what the president has said, look, let's use our enforcement on really criminal alien foreigners here in the country and allow these people. And Soledad, I would like to say, the Dream Act was passed in the House of Representatives, 216 to 208.

Fifty-five senators two weeks later voted for cloture. But the Republicans insisted on 60 votes. So both the Senate and the House in the majority have already voted to adopt this.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a quick question about this paperwork thing, right. There is a concern that if you fill out paperwork and then there's a new president comes into office, we heard from Mitt Romney what he said about this specifically, is kind of vague.

Well, now, you've gone from being undocumented to being documented by yourself in some capacity in theory maybe you could -- someone could use those documents to then deport you, correct? I mean, isn't that a risk?

GUTIERREZ: That is certainly a risk. It is not something that realistically is potentially going to happen. Look, Soledad. Those kids are going to line up by the thousands today. By the hundreds of thousands they will receive their work permits.

Here's what we've learned in America. If you live in secrecy and if live in the shadows, then you are truly at risk of being deported and harmed by the government.

The young people have gone out there, shown who they are, spoken to you and the press and shown America, two-thirds of Americans agree with the president's decision.

The fact is in the Latino community, people are ecstatic to see that young people and that there is a reversal of the policies of deportation, deportation and deportation. They are American in everything but a piece of paper.

And they are lining up across America to get that -- it's an irreversible process. Let me just say. They are calling my office, they are in line. You're going to see an irreversible process that is going to lead to their parents one day receiving their documentation.

O'BRIEN: We're going to talk to a lot of those young people. Congressman Louis Gutierrez joining us and also Dan Stein, the president of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform joining us as well. Thank you, gentlemen, appreciate it.

Got to take a break, but still ahead this morning, it was a massive response to an epic economic collapse. Three years later, both sides are still arguing about the stimulus and whether or not it worked. We're going to talk to an author of a new book who says it transformed America and American politics.

And Tim Tebow, let's go back to about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Transforming America.

O'BRIEN: Talk about transformation. BERMAN: Back up.

O'BRIEN: But seriously, some people think that this pose and you know he talks about Jesus a lot and his faith in God. Some people say this pose looks like Jesus on the cross.

BERMAN: We ran out of swimmers?

O'BRIEN: And they are mad about it. We're going to talk about that straight ahead. We're back in just a moment. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me the ukulele is truly the instrument of peace because you can't possibly be angry when you're strumming a ukulele, it's very difficult.

When you can pick up an instrument, just do that. It's like, I made that sound. That thing that just made the room light up or made everyone smile, I just created that. And there's a joy in that and I wish everyone could feel that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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O'BRIEN: So Tim Tebow has taken over ESPN and sports Talk radio, he is now on the cover of "GQ" magazine and it says "Brothers, have you accepted Tim Tebow as your Sunday savior."

The photo inside the magazine really is what's getting most of the attention. It's Tim Tebow shirtless, striking a pose. Arms outstretched and there are critics who say that this pose reminds them of Jesus on the cross.

And because, of course, he's very devout and talks a lot about God and Jesus, they think in some way -- I don't know if they think he's putting himself in the Jesus role. Let's put it that way.

One sports radio host in New York tore into him for that photo, saying that he's a narcissist and fraud and it's a sexy Jesus shot. I'm not sure it's a sexy -- it's a sexy shot, not a sexy Jesus shot.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You have been strong about your support. But I never heard you make a good reasoned argument for it until just now.

O'BRIEN: I always make a good reasoned argument.

HOOVER: You've been affirmative, but hadn't put the meat on the bones. What you just made a case for, his attitude and his demeanor --

O'BRIEN: I love any time anybody says something to him that's mean or take him down. He always sort of responds, you know, at a higher level. He's nice about it. A genuinely seems like a nice guy.

I don't mind the Tebowing. I think it's nice and he seems sincerely into his religion and seems very grateful for God for what he's been able to accomplish. It seems authentic and you're mocking me.

BERMAN: Look, I love watching the option, which is an offensive plan in college.

O'BRIEN: And that too.

BERMAN: I loved watching that in Denver. He's not that good as a pro quarterback.

O'BRIEN: I'm saying as a football star to have my sons look at someone who's not a jerk, who's not cursing, who seems like a good guy who thanks God for all of things he's gotten in his life. Why is that bad? The option --

BERMAN: If I'm in a Jets locker room, I'm upset this guy is always on the back page of the sports page. He's the one on "GQ". I just think overtime --

O'BRIEN: If you're in the Jets locker room, you shouldn't be worried about the "GQ." You'd be worried about the Jets offense and defense, right?

HOOVER: If your Mark Sanchez, you should be worried that Tim Tebow is on the cover of "GQ."

O'BRIEN: We've got to move on. I'm being yelled at in my ear. Happy birthday, by the way, Tim Tebow. He's 25.

All right, still ahead this morning, the author of a new book says President Obama's stimulus has been an astonishing and completely unrecognized success.

But if he's right, why is everyone still bashing him? Mike Grunwald is author of "The New New Deal." He is the senior correspondent for "Time" magazine. He is joining us next. STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It has been three years since President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package was passed. Still a lightning rod topic, though.

A recent report from the credit ratings agency Fitch says the stimulus helped prevent the recession from becoming a depression. Critics on the campaign trail maintain it didn't work. Here's Senator Rob Portman of Ohio just yesterday.

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SENATOR ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: President Obama was saying, if you shove that trillion dollar stimulus through the Congress, that grew the size and scope of government bigger, then we're going to create jobs, he said. And in fact, you know what he said? He said that as of right now in 2012, unemployment would be 5.6 percent. Folks, it's 15 percent higher. Is it working?

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O'BRIEN: Now a new book looks into how the stimulus was passed and what happened after it went into effect. Mike Grunwald is the author. It's called "The New New Deal." He's also a senior correspondent for "Time" magazine joins us this morning. It's nice to see you. Thank you for being with us.

MIKE GRUNWALD, AUTHOR, "THE NEW NEW DEAL": Thanks so much for having me.

O'BRIEN: You compare the new deal under Roosevelt in 1933 when unemployment was, I guess, up to 25 percent, up from 3 percent or so before the crash, obviously, to the U.S. Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

And both had the same goals in some ways, right? Safety net, reinvest, save a failing economy, but there are huge differences too. What were the big differences between the new deal and the new new deal?

GRUNWALD: Sure. One of the big differences was that, you know, in November, December, January, when -- after Obama was elected, but before he took office, sort of the financial earthquake had hit. But the economic tsunami hadn't really hit the shore.

So in the fourth quarter of 2008, GDP had crashed at a 9 percent annual rate. So that's depression territory. I mean, at that rate, you would have lost the entire economy of Canada in one year.

So today, we say, you know, it's only growing 2 percent. It's not good enough and it isn't. But, you know, we were essentially in depression numbers. While when FDR took over, there had been a depression for two years.

Everybody knew it. Everybody knew whose fault it was. The numbers were awful. For Obama, it was really after he took office that, you know, January 2009, right before he, you know, put his hand on the bible, we lost 800,000 jobs. And it turned out that was the worst month of the entire --

O'BRIEN: But you heard Rob Portman there, he is talking about jobs. And I think that's been a big issue and the messaging in the recovery, is that the jobs thing has not become -- I mean, under Roosevelt, you had 4 million jobs created, correct?

GRUNWALD: Well, he just hired.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. And when you look now, of course, you don't have that. Why not? Why has the jobs piece been the real challenge? GRUNWALD: Well, you do have 2 million to 3 million jobs that have been created. I think the problem is they lost 8 million jobs right before. And as Vice President Biden says in his quirky way, this wasn't the horse that was supposed to carry the whole sleigh.

This was essentially, it was first of all designed to break the freefall, and it did that. Right after -- like I said, it was the worst month right before it passed. The next quarter was the biggest improvement in jobs numbers in 30 years.

The problem was it was improving from such a horrible level that it was still pretty bad. Then you had the sort of as they were doing the short-term recovery act stuff, they were also doing this reinvestment.

So there's all this long-term recovery stuff, unbelievable investments in clean energy, $90 billion when we had just spending a few billion for the year race to the top for education to try to reform the public schools. Health I.T. so that this pen and paper --

HOOVER: So any time you spend $700 billion, almost $ 800 billion into the economy, of course, you're going to see proponents would see or people who argue would say you're going to see benefits. You put that much money in the economy, of course, you're going to see benefits.

GRUNWALD: That's a good admission.

HOOVER: But the argument against it is that the reason this was sold to the public is that if you did this much money, thrust it into the economy, you would see unemployment not hit 8 percent. And here we are four years later, and unemployment is above 8 percent.

GRUNWALD: Well, of course they made a very stupid prediction, where they said this would keep unemployment below 8 percent. It actually went above 8 percent before the money even went out. The situation was -- I mentioned that GDP crashed 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

At the time, the numbers -- they thought it was 4 percent. So everybody knew things were bad. Everybody knew things were awful. People had no idea just how incredibly horrific things were. So it's an absolutely fair criticism that they didn't know how bad things were.

That they overstated out good things were going to be afterwards, that it didn't live up to the hype. But I think parenthood is the only thing in life that lives up to the hype.

What it did do is create change. This is really kind of the purest distillation of what Obama meant by change.

O'BRIEN: "The New New Deal: The Hidden Story Of Change," which is always a problem if it's a hidden story. You're trying to get out there. Mike Grunwald is the author. It's nice to have you with us this morning. Thank you so much. GRUNWALD: Thanks so much for having me.

O'BRIEN: Got to take a break. Still ahead this morning, getting ugly, ugly, Mitt Romney lashing out at President Obama telling him to take his heat back to Chicago.

The Obama camp in turn saying Governor Romney is unhinged. We're going to hear from the former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty straight ahead. He's joining us.

And remember we were talking about this 17-foot pregnant python found in the everglades? Well, it's a big problem in the massive snake invasion. What we'll do about it is the question. We'll talk about that. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

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