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Akin Uproar; Diana Nyad Out Of The Water; Republicans Urge Todd Akin to Drop U.S. Senate Bid; Interview with Steve Forbes; "Growing Pains" Star's New Mission; Building Inspiration; Coal Train Derails

Aired August 21, 2012 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning: is he going to quit?


REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.


O'BRIEN: Will Congressman Todd Akin's shocking comments about pregnancy and rape cost Republicans a Senate race in Missouri?

And enemy fire. An airplane hit by shrapnel from two rockets in Afghanistan.

And it's over. Hit by storms and then jelly fish and hypothermia, long distance swimmer Diana Nyad is calling it quits and that's happening right now.

A packed show for you this morning with former Republican candidate for president, Steve Forbes. He's going to join us. Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad's operations manager, Mark Sollinger will be our guest. And actor and director Kirk Cameron will be joining us.

It's Tuesday, August 21st. STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Out team this morning, Margaret Hoover is back. She's a former White House appointee in the Bush administration.

Nice to have you, Margaret.

Ron Brownstein is with us, editorial director of "The National Journal."

And Celeste Headlee is the anchor of "Your Vote 2012" on PBS World Channel.

John Berman is the CNN anchor bringing us all the news this morning.

Good morning. Welcome to everybody.

And, John, what do you got?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have some news out of Afghanistan this morning, Soledad.

Before that, we're going to talk about Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, right?

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's get to what he is saying, which is I'm not going anywhere, yet. That's what he's been saying so far -- at least not without a fight. His tremendous pressure of course coming from Republican leaders to quit the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. He says, though, he is staying in the race.

Akin's support from GOP leadership has really all but disappeared, as a result of what he said about rape and abortion. Listen.


AKIN: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child.


O'BRIEN: Congressman Akin is now fighting to salvage that Senate campaign. He's got a new ad out this morning, and it looks like this.


AKIN: The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold.


O'BRIEN: Akin's got about 11 hours to get his name off the ballot if he changes his mind.

CNN's Dana Bash is with us this morning. Erick Erickson is the editor in chief of They're both in our Washington bureau.

Erick, I'm going to start with you.

So, he says he's not a quitter. He's got until 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. You predicted that he was in fact going to drop out. Are you still that confident? You sounded confident yesterday.

ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: You know, a lot of his consultants were saying yesterday, very much he was going to drop out. The NRC has been sending signals, the NRCC, the congressional side and the Senate side has sent signals he was going to drop. A lot of people were very surprised by the evening where it he was walking it back.

Look, when you got a congressman from Missouri on the radio with Sean Hannity, and Sean Hannity is suggesting, Congressman, you need to drop out, you've gotten of gotten to the point where you're not getting any traction across the board from conservatives or Republicans.

The problem is -- I mean, as Dana can point out, his campaign is very insular around him. So, there's no guarantee that the consultant advice is really penetrating the campaign.

O'BRIEN: So, Dana, is that a problem? Some people who are his supporters would say, no, that's a strength. He doesn't need -- he's got money, he's got a team of people around him, many family members who work with him. He doesn't need that stamp of approval from the GOP. Or does he?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is a strength when you have, you know, sort of general support and your head is not on the chopping block, which it is now.

But it's basically a negative I think when you are somebody who relies on as Erick was saying apparently his son is one of his top advisers, his campaign manager, his wife is very close, and I was told that yesterday, he was hunkered down with his family trying to make a decision. When your family -- they are also your top political advisers, the insulation might be a little bit too much.

But when it comes to the Republican Party, Soledad, I think the point that Erick made should be underscored. It's not just that, quote- unquote, establishment trying to get him out because they want to win the Senate seat and they want to win the majority back. It is conservative talk radio hosts, it is Tea Party leaders, across the board. And I'm told the one thing that we should look for today perhaps are religious leaders. What are they going to do? Because he is a very religious man.

If they come to him, maybe that will be the thing that finally gets him out of the race.

O'BRIEN: You know, it's interesting. I was reading comments from the FRC yesterday, and they were actually blaming the Democrats, sort of saying that it was gotcha politics I think was the quote they used. And there was some conservative radio hosts that were actually over the weekend not really pushing him to go until really I think the GOP leadership made that hard core push.

And then he got -- let me ask you a question, the bigger issue, right, the reason we're talking about this, is because of the implications for the presidential politics, right, Erick?


O'BRIEN: What's the big problem here? ERICKSON: Well, if you've got the money pulled out -- there's an old rule from Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, when he was the Republican National Committee chairman, that if you want to win the presidency, you win Senate races, you also win governors races.

To build on those campaign structures, to be able to win the presidency. When you got a U.S. Senate race and that Senate candidate is now flailing about, embarrassing, you got the National Republican Senatorial Committee not putting money in. Karl Rove saying his group won't put money in. Well, that's more money that the party and the presidential campaign had to spend in a state they could otherwise spend elsewhere. It makes it -- it drags down the presidential ticket, as it drags down others on the ballot as well.

O'BRIEN: And more than that too.

RON BROWNSTEIN, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Let me suggest a different problem here. Missouri seems pretty safe with or without Akin on the ballot for Mitt Romney. Certainly the issue of Senate control is at risk if he stays on the ballot, because, obviously, Claire McCaskill is more competitive.

But I think the broader question, one thing that has held very strong for Obama in this campaign is the support among college educated white women or the most socially liberal part of the white electorate. He won 52 percent last time. He is polling at least that well this time at 60 percent or more in some key states, and that is in part after the big fights earlier this year about contraception, comments from outside of the campaign from Rick Santorum and Rush Limbaugh had a big effect. We talk about them earlier this year.

Is there a risk that the akin comments and the controversy around it seeps into the presidential ticket, especially with a link back to Paul Ryan and this question of defining forcible rape in legislation?

ERICKSON: Well, yes and no. First of all, keep perspective. A majority of Americans, including a majority of women, consider themselves pro-life. But at the same time, you have Todd Akin in that seat as the boogie man on this issue, using him as a proxy for Paul Ryan, using him as a proxy for Republicans, using his statement over and over, yes, then it becomes a problem for the Republican Party.

Frankly, a lot of the pro-life leaders I talked to last night are concerned this could do damage to a pro-life cause when a majority of Americans are pro-life. But you have this play over and over again, people get more skewed.

O'BRIEN: Hang on, Dana, for one second. I want to bring in Margaret for a second. Is that correct? The polling that I have seen seems split depending on the questions asked.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There's a lot of polling about whether the majority of Americans are pro-life or pro-choice. And, yes, in recent Gallup polling says a majority of Americans call themselves pro-life. But if you ask that group of people whether they are for overturning Roe versus Wade, they are not necessarily for overturning Roe versus Wade.

So, you got into -- what we do know is that the culture wars of the '70s or '80s don't define the younger generation or current politics nearly as much as they used to. People generally encourage people not to get an abortion, but they're not for making abortion completely illegal. They want restrictions but they also want it to still be permissible.

O'BRIEN: Well, Dana, let me ask you a question. We now know, or at least we have a version, of the draft of what's going to be the Republican platform on abortion. And that I think also kind of loops in this conversation, right?

What kind of a -- the draft obviously could change, because it's a draft. Is it problematic as these conversations are happening and that's part of the reason to get Akin out of the race from a GOP perspective as quickly as possible?

BASH: Absolutely, because as you mentioned, Peter Hamby got a copy of the draft, which does talk about effectively forcible rape, which was the terminology that was created a firestorm a few months ago and Republicans were forced to pull it out of a piece of legislation on Capitol Hill. But what Republicans who I have talked to about this particular controversy have said is that they made it strategic decision to completely bombard Akin with calls to get out from the highest levels, for several reasons.

But one of the reasons is because they wanted to separate the Republican Party as much as possible from him, make him an outlier, so that he doesn't get pulled in with Mitt Romney and other important Republicans in key races on the issues that really affect women, because that is clearly problematic.

But whether or not that is enough to try to really throw him under the bus and separate them out, you know, Democrats know full well -- that's why you saw the president come out yesterday and try to get in on this game. He and other Democrats think that this is an absolute winner. And they historically have polling to back that up.

BROWNSTEIN: Any day, I think both parties can agree, any day when unemployment 8.3 percent, any day they are talking about social issues is a good day for President Obama. But whether they talk about them or not, culture shapes voter preferences as much as class, and we will see a deep cultural divide in the vote in November.

ERICKSON: I really hope Joe Biden gave him great present -- I really hope Joe Biden gave Todd Akin a great present this week.

O'BRIEN: You know, we were thinking of that this morning, which is no one has mentioned -- you're the first person to mention Joe Biden this morning, and I'm sure like the vice president is like, oh, they have moved off of me and are talking about abortion.

BASH: We'll be back.

O'BRIEN: Erick Erickson -- (LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Erick Erickson this morning, Dana Bash as well, thanks, guys. I certainly appreciate it.

John Berman has got the day's top stories for us -- John.

BERMAN: And we're going to start with news out of Afghanistan this morning, where rockets fired at the main NATO airfield there, damaging the C-17 used by Joint Chief Chairman Martin Dempsey. The shrapnel hitting the plane at a time when the general was not onboard, but we are hearing now that two other people were hurt. The rocket also damaged a NATO chopper.

Dempsey later left Bagram on another aircraft. He was in Afghanistan for talks with NATO and Afghan commanders.

President Obama issues a stern warning to Syria: Don't even consider a chemical or biological attack, even moving the weapons, or you may provoke a military response from the U.S.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus, that would change my equation.


BERMAN: Military experts say the Syrian regime probably had the largest and most advanced chemical warfare program in the Arab world.

Literally, bogging down the economy. Low water levels are stalling traffic on a portion of the Mississippi River. An 11-mile stretch near Greenville, Mississippi, has been shut down for most vessels. The closure left 97 ships and barges stranded on Monday.

You know, in the Missouri, we are seeing ships more than 100 years old for the first time because the water is so low.

O'BRIEN: I know. That's crazy, getting stuck. What a mess there.

All right. John, thank you. Appreciate that.

Still ahead this morning, some breaking news: 62-year-old Diana Nyad is out. She's called it quits in her attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida this morning. We are trying to get a live update from her team. Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well. He did a documentary on Diana Nyad. We'll talk about what he was able to accomplish.

And the Rocket, Roger Clemens, returning to baseball. Not as a Yankee, not as a Red Sox, but as a Sugar Land Skeeter. What? Fifty years old, is it time for him to up? That's our tough call this morning.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Some breaking news on that daring journey by world famous long distance swimmer, Diana Nyad. She's now out of the water. Her record swim attempt is now over. She was trying to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West without a shark cage. She was halfway there after 60 hours in the water when she gave up. She's called it quits.

We've been following the 62-year-old's fourth attempt for a couple of days now. She faced jelly fish stings, and then there were those big storms that took them off course. When we last heard from her team, they had put the effort on pause because the weather was so bad. Mark Sollinger is the operational director for team Nyad.

He's in a boat traveling alongside Nyad and he joins us this morning by satellite phone. Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us as well. Gentlemen, thank you for talking -- Mark, are you there? Can you hear me? Tell me how Diana is doing.


O'BRIEN: Go ahead.

SOLLINGER: Diana is doing as well as someone who just spent 63 hours attempting something monumental and extremely dangerous. You know, that someone that is trying to do that would feel. She is -- her lips are very swollen. Her face is swollen. She is, you know, going through exhaustion. We have our med team checking on her, you know, regularly and monitoring her vitals.

O'BRIEN: You had some rough times. I was just mentioning a moment ago, the weather, the jelly fish. What was the final thing? What was the thing that made you say, you know what, we've got to yank it now, it's time to get her out of the water?

SOLLINGER: Yes. We had a lot going on last night. We had Diana getting stung by jelly fish. We had our shark team on full alert. Usually, we have two guys at a time. We had all four people in the water at the time assessing threats that we felt were there. We had an extremely difficult gulf stream, which was really throwing us off course.

And we were fighting to stay on and get back to. Plus, we had a huge squall, more of -- came through very quickly. A lot of lightning right on top of us. And it made it unsafe for not only Diana but any other member of the team to be in the water. So, at 12:55 p.m., we pulled her from the water, because it was a life threatening situation.

And this morning, after about three or four hours, the storm went through, we realized that to complete it, it was going to be anywhere from 28 to 40 hours. O'BRIEN: Wow.

SOLLINGER: And with all the threats continuing, Diana decided that it was not a risk that we wanted to --

O'BRIEN: All right. Mark, I'm losing you a little bit on the satellite phone, but it sounds to me like you said you guys crunch the numbers being taken off course, the lightning, the jelly fish stings, and realize you're looking at another 28 to 40 some odd hours. And that was not looking good.

Let's bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta now. So, Sanjay, I know you've done a lot of work following Diana Nyad. Obviously, two things I want to ask you. One, the jelly fish stings, it's not just annoying and it's not just even somewhat painful. It is very, very dangerous, right?

And number two, she's 62 years old. I mean, just the fact that she's been swimming for 60-plus hours is, I think, stunning. Even from a woman who has done this for her career.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. She turns 63 tomorrow in fact as well, Soledad. You know, she was hoping to get up on that Florida shore for her birthday. Yes. It's a remarkable thing. And you'll remember, I mean, she tried this many years ago when she was still in her late 20s and then didn't swim for 30 years.

And just took this up again in her 60s. It's remarkable from a medical standpoint. You're burning about 700 calories an hour. So, as doing some quick math, even with the swim that she just did, she burned about 42,000 calories. She's losing about half a liter of water every half hour. So, that's 120 liters of fluid that need to be replaced.

So, it's challenging for anybody, certainly, for her as well. But she -- you know I've talked to her many times over the last couple of years. And she trained hard. She did 24-hour swims as part of the training. But to the jelly fish sting point, Soledad, this is sort of what derailed her last time as well.

And, she covers much of her body now with this protective suit, but still, the jelly fish can sting her lips. They can even cause her tongue to swell. So, it can cause some significant problems. You're trying to, obviously, you know, do a very endurance athletic event and having a hard time breathing through your mouth, it can be very challenging, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Brutal. Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning. And Mark Sollinger was joining us by satellite phone until we lost a little bit of that connection there. Thanks, gentlemen. I appreciate your insight. That's such sad news. We were really rooting for her, and I know she wanted to send a message that, you know, anything is possible at the age of 62, 63. She really wanted to inspire. She calls it the AARP folks is what she said. So, we still love her and root for her.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Roger Clemens returning to baseball five years after he retired, 50 years old. And his career, of course, was tainted by allegations of steroid use. So, what's he thinking? What do you think? Is it a good call, is it a bad call? It's our "Tough Call" and that's coming up next.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Our "Tough Call" today, it turns out Roger Clemens isn't quite done with baseball yet. The Rocket making a comeback at the age of 50. Clemens just signed with the Sugarland Skeeters of the Independent Atlantic League. He is expected to start for the Texas minor league team on Saturday

Now, Clemens last pitched five years ago when he was with the Yankees. He's coming off, of course, a major legal victory. He was acquitted of lying to Congress about using performance enhancing drugs. So, could we see him back on a major league mound before long? So, motivation, I guess, is the question today. One, clearly loves the game. Or --


O'BRIEN: Or --

HEADLEE: You know, and the conspiracy theory is that, perhaps, what he really wants to do is get back in the major leagues. At least one more game under his belt that resets the clock. It takes five years from your last major league game before your up for consideration for the baseball the hall of fame.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This year, if he goes up this year, he's on the ballot along with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa.


BERMAN: So, everyone is looking at this year as the performance enhancing drug ballot, thinking the none of (INAUDIBLE) this year, he may want to separate himself from that pack and go up in five years.


HEADLEE: -- people's memories.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's a long climb from where he is -- presumably a team that was looking more for attendance, perhaps, kind of novelty than --

BERMAN: The Astros are in dead last place nearby.


BROWNSTEIN: The Astros are almost in the independent league at this point.

O'BRIEN: So, realistically, he could be asked to come and just pitch a game for the Astros --


O'BRIEN: Or he just loves the game, as I said.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Missouri Senate candidate, Todd Akin, apologizes again in a new TV ad. Stopping by our studios to weigh in on that to talk about his new book is Steve Forbes, publishing executive, two-time presidential candidate. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back with him in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. In just a few moments, we'll talk to kirk Cameron. We make he makes movies and dabbles in politics. We'll talk to him about both of those things straight ahead.

And Steve Forbes, publishing executive, two time presidential candidate, has a new book out. It's call "Freedom Manifesto, Why Free Markets are Moral and Big Government Isn't." We'll talk with him about that, also straight ahead.

But first, John Berman has a look at the day's top stories. John, good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. All eyes on the Caribbean, tropical storm warnings after a new depression forms in the Atlantic overnight. We want to get right to meteorologist Rob Marciano for the latest.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. A tropical storm did form overnight. It's like to become our next tropical storm, and if so it will be called Isaac. Here it is, 200 miles east of the Leeward Islands and moving to the west at 20 miles an hour. We have tropical storm warnings that were posted for the northern Leeward Isles. The next couple of days, it will be affecting those folks into the Caribbean. And then likely become a hurricane, maybe a category one or two status. Getting closer to the Gulf of Mexico in the U.S. so have to watch that. But it looks like the northern Caribbean islands will definitely be affected by this storm. Behind that, just another system off the African coastline. The question is will it make it all the way over. And across the southwestern gulf of Mexico, this little ditty. Not moving a whole lot, so not too worried about it at the moment. This stationary front not moving everywhere. Everywhere from the front south kind of rainy, including Florida, soggy day except up north. Looks to be a decent day from Chicago to New York.

BERMAN: Thank you, Rob. Republicans watching the storm tracks closely with the convention starting in Tampa next week.

Moving on now, State Representative from Arizona is calling it quits after he admitted to a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old boy at a rest stop. Kerry Gauthier won't face any charges because the boy was older than the legal age of consent and no money was exchanged. Police say the teenager responded to Gauthier's ad on Craigslist seeking sex with no strings attached.

On the campaign trail today, President Obama hitting two battleground states with events in Ohio and Nevada. Vice President Biden campaigning in Minnesota meantime. Mitt Romney spent a day fundraising in Texas, and Paul Ryan will be stumping in Pennsylvania.

Some good news, bad news for the Obama re-election campaign last month, really bad news bad news. Team Obama raised $49.2 million in July, but spent $59 million. Meantime, the Romney campaign is on a winning streak when it comes to fundraiser. Romney and his supporters collected $101 million in July, $25 million more than Obama, and his democratic fundraisers. That's three straight months for Romney outpacing Obama in fundraising. Now the Romney team has $60 million more in the bank than Obama. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: John, thank you.

Pressure now building on Missouri candidate todd akin to quit the race. He said he is not going down without a fight. He released a new ad this morning.


REP. TODD AKIN, (R) MISSOURI: The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold.


O'BRIEN: Steve Forbes is a publishing executive, two-time presidential candidate. He has written a new book called "The Freedom Manifesto: "Why Free Markets are Moral and Big Government Isn't." nice to see you.


O'BRIEN: He said the mistake I made was in my words. Do you think it's correct, he just misspoke?

FORBES: Well, quite a way to misspeak. And I don't think he'll get out today, despite that 5:00 p.m. deadline. What I think what he'll have to do in the next couple of weeks is see for himself that this campaign is not retrievable. The Republicans are putting pressure on him and doing the good cop, bad cop routine. Romney was the good cop. The others are the bad cop. I think in two or three weeks he'll call it quits.

O'BRIEN: You do? Is it clear that he would lose in the wake of these comments?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's not guaranteed in Missouri. But obviously, it becomes a lot more difficult after this to say the least than it would have been. You want the party to focus primarily on economic issues. But you have a core of the Republican voting bloc that are social conservatives, particularly evangelical Christians, who want these issues front and center. How do you manage that tension? How do you see that tension being managed by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan? And how does the party manage that going forward?

FORBES: Well, often, events determine that. In 1980, Ronald Reagan had social conservative support. Very strong pro-life as today in the Republican Party. But the economy was the issue. That's what he ran on. That's what he won on. And I think you're going to see the same thing here, particularly after Labor Day. People are going to focus as we do in this book, which I call it a list of names, is what kind of country do we want, one that is dominated by big government or free markets? Which direction? What is the best for the public good? Which best serves the public good? And that's the ultimate question I think that will be in the forefront, especially in October.

O'BRIEN: You often see, at least I see in some of the polling where people will see, entitlements bad, big government bad, except I want to keep my entitlement. So depending on how you ask that question, they are very much against entitlements. But when you ask about their entitlement, they want to keep it.

CELESTE HEADLEE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Don't change Medicare, but get the government out of my life.

O'BRIEN: Right. And when you look at the number of Americans who get some kind of entitlement, the number is huge. At least 50 percent. One in every other American has government in their life in some capacity. Do you think there's been a change?

FORBES: No. I think you can have very effective safety nets. The question is, can you have an economy that can thrive and be open to entrepreneurs, whether FedEx versus the post office. Take something like a Social Security. If you make changes now for younger people, where they have their own individual accounts with proper rules on diversification and the like, the system works. But you own it. Not the big politicians. Same thing with Medicare. How do you get control where you're in charge and not an unaccountable bureaucracy? And health care today, we don't have real free markets. The proof of it is when you go to a doctor or hospital and you ask in advance what it costs, you get a very strange look. It means you're either uninsured or a lunatic. What's the price to you? So the system goes haywire. We argue get more free markets. You can have effective safety nets as we demonstrated with food stamps and the like but have the abundance of free enterprise.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Can I ask you a company about crony capitalism? You talk about it a lot in your book. Republicans are talking about it. But I feel like Republicans are falling short of explaining what it means in the American system. We know that Berlusconi is risk because of his ties to media relations. But in the United States, it looks different. Examples of crony capitalism in the U.S. economy that we can fix?

FORBES: Well, the opposite, Apple. The poster child for crony capitalism, government cronyism, is obviously Solyndra. But there are other things as well. The banks system -- too big to fail. This Dodd-Frank will crush the big banks. That is not free markets at work. That is government at work. And the whole point of free markets is you only succeed if you meet the needs and wants of other people. With government cronyism, big government cronyism, you have to appeal to bureaucrats and politicians who make the decisions, not people in the marketplace. It's about freedom.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Is the economy getting better right now? Is it muddling along? The markets are telling us that the economy is getting better. And they are seeing through the worst of Europe and the worst of what looked like a summer slowdown in the U.S. Is it getting better?

FORBES: It's similar to a car on a highway. You should be going 70, 75 right now. You're puttering along at 25, 30. You're moving but not at the speed you should. This is the worst recovery from a sharp downturn, even when the bottom was reached initially we had a sharp upturn. We never got the sharp upturn.

ROMANS: Is 25 miles an hour enough for the president to win re- election?

FORBES: I think the economy will be the issue, and I think especially with Paul Ryan on the ticket who understands free markets, I think those issues will be at the fore. And I think you'll get the same kind of mandate that Ronald Reagan got in 1980 when he ran on massive tax cuts and deregulation, rebuilding America's foreign policy and military. I think you'll see the same thing here.


FORBES: It was 70 percent. Ronald Reagan got it down to 28 percent. And since then, big government has creeped it back up to 35 percent, effectively 40 percent when you include all of the complexities of the code in there. That's the marginal rate. And that's what determines prosperity, what you pay on the next dollar you earn. You can pay zero on your first x thousands of dollars, but if you pay 100 percent above that, you have a stagnant economy.

O'BRIEN: The book is called "Freedom Manifesto, Why Free Markets are Moral and Big Government Isn't." Steve Forbes, it's nice to have you with us this morning.

FORBES: Good to be with you, Soledad. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: CNN gearing up for special coverage of the Republican National Convention next week in Tampa. Don't forget to join us on Monday. Both "EARLY START" and STARTING POINT will be broadcasting our shows live from the convention center in Tampa as we continue to check in on that tropical storm warning. CNN is of course the place to be for the best political team on TV. Our live coverage of the RNC will kick off from Tampa at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, from teen heartthrob to outspoken Christian, Kirk Cameron with is with us this morning to talk about his new movie, the 2012 race, and Congressman Akin as well. You're watching "starting point." hi, kirk. Nice to see you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Well, back in the 1980s, Kirk Cameron was a teenaged heart throb as Mike Seaver on the hit show "Growing Pains." today he is best known for his support of conservative Christian values. He has produced a number of Christian theme projects including the "Left Behind" series and "Monumental," which advocates that god was uniquely involved in the founding of the United States. It's out now in DVD. Nice to have you with us.

KIRK CAMERON, ACTOR: Thank you. Good to be here.

O'BRIEN: I know last time we talked politics, and there's a lot to talk about. Let's start with Congressman Akin. What do you think, in the race? Out of the race?

CAMERON: I'm not a political strategist.

O'BRIEN: And yet everybody still weighs in even when they're not.

CAMERON: Sure, sure. You know, I would encourage people to sit down and watch the video. And I watched through the whole thing last night. And, you know, he clearly is a pro-life advocate, and for that I respect him. He said that he misspoke and mis-phrased something and he apologized. And I'm the kind of person that believes I would like to be evaluated by my entire career and my entire life, not two words that I would misspeak and then later apologize for. So he's in a tough spot.

O'BRIEN: Yes. I think everybody who -- certainly the GOP leadership would agree and they would like him out and others as well.

But I guess some of the -- what we were talking about earlier with Steve Forbes was he was doing all the nuance right, between the forcible rape and I'm sure since you have heard his comments now and he said sort of iterations of this, legitimate rape which he then said is forcible to talking about I guess, differentiating that from statutory rape and then there is sort of another clause.

Do you see it that way? Like there are these nuanced differences between kinds of rape or not?

CAMERON: Boy, rape is rape. You know, nobody is going to agree with -- with any kind of ok rape. And again, by watching the entire video, I get the sense there that this is a guy who is defending life and he wants to go to all lengths he can to protect the life of the unborn. And I think that's the message that comes through when I watch his video.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know Steve Forbes has sat in that chair a minute ago and was arguing the essence of conservatism should be to minimize the impact of the state on individuals, to reduce the role of government individual lives. As a social conservative, are you comfortable with that definition of conservatism?

CAMERON: I'd have to go back and listen to exactly what he said. But you know, I have actually learned a lot because I didn't grow up in a politically active home. So this wasn't something I grew up with.

However, as a father, just as a family man with six children, I have become very concerned about where is our country headed. Is it heading in the right direction? Do we need to turn things around? And that's why I spent a couple of years actually studying the very founding and the forefathers and even the -- the founding father of the forefathers, John Robinson and made this documentary called "Monumental" because I am in search of America's national treasure. I want to know the secret sauce, because most people seem to be pointing fingers and blaming each other.

BROWNSTEIN: So is the essence of that, giving people more freedom to do whatever they want, which seems you know, which is an argument -- there's a strain of modern conservatism that says that the essence -- the way the society prospers is by giving people more freedom across the board.


BROWNSTEIN: Hands off.


BROWNSTEIN: Are you comfortable with that?

CAMERON: Well, what I have -- again, I'm trying to be a student. And -- and the people I want to listen to are the men and women who built our country primarily. I think they did something unique. And what they -- what they taught me is that, yes, we ought to have freedom. We should all have freedom.

But freedom -- individual freedom doesn't work without self government. Without a real personal responsibility to do what's right over the long haul. And if you do that, in the long run, things will go well.

O'BRIEN: You talk about core ideals. I mean, part of that philosophy of these core ideals, one of which is religion, which you explore in the movie, which is now a DVD, "Monumental".


O'BRIEN: And I think it's so interesting because you point to these monuments and sort of the -- the evidence of sort of God's role in -- in these great monuments across the country.


O'BRIEN: At the same time, when these founding forefathers very aggressively were trying to keep separation of church and state, right? They came from roots of persecution.


O'BRIEN: Did you see that as a contradiction in what our forefathers, founding fathers, both believed and then very aggressively advocated against?

CAMERON: No. There was no contradiction there, because it comes down to a right understanding of what Jefferson meant when he said separation of church and state. And understanding the forefathers, they came out of this very tyrannical system where you had a top down church-run government that imposed religion upon people. They didn't want that. They were coming away from that and they wanted personal freedom to worship God as they knew was right.

And so they left us the reset button to properly understand the role of faith and religion in all of culture, including government. And it's encapsulated in the largest granite monument in the United States of America. It's sitting on a hill in Massachusetts. And it's hidden behind a forest of trees in a residential area. And it spells out their recipe for building and sustaining a free and just society.

O'BRIEN: I'm embarrassed. What monument is that?

CAMERON: The National Monument to the Forefathers. You have to go see it for yourself. Your jaw will drop. Tears came down to my eyes. And I said why have I never seen this, I mean, I've never heard of it? And most historians I've talked to have never actually been there to witness it with their own eyes.

O'BRIEN: God my parents dragged me across this nation to see the monuments --


CAMERON: Yes and that's the biggest one.

BROWNSTEIN: The famous ones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is the famous one.

O'BRIEN: Kirk Cameron, the DVD which is now out is called "Monumental: in search of America's national treasure".


O'BRIEN: It's nice to have you with us this morning to talk about it.

CAMERON: Thank you. Nice to be here.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate that.

CAMERON: Nice to meet all of you.

O'BRIEN: I've got to take a short break. Back in just a moment with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

You're watching STARTING POINT. See you in a minute.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. In this week's "Human Factor", a man who built a $200 billion empire driven by a very personal desire.

As Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains Ralph Braun may need a wheelchair, but he certainly is not confined by it.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each day, you'll find Ralph Braun at the headquarters of the company he founded in the 1970s, the Braun Corporation. He's been in business for 40 years. And he has clients around the globe.

But such a successful future seemed unlikely when he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy in 1946.

RALPH BRAUN, CEO/FOUNDER, THE BRAUN CORPORATION: Well, my parents were told that I would probably not live past my teens.

GUPTA: Braun grew up in rural Winamac, Indiana. He says back then, there were no sidewalks. People like Braun were not welcome.

BRAUN: Disabled people were looked at in the '40s and early '50s and whatever as most of the time they should just be sitting in a closet somewhere.

GUPTA: His way of becoming successful was born out of necessity. By that time, Braun was unable to walk, but he needed to be able to go to and from work. So he tapped his love of engineering cobbled together random parts and created a scooter so he could get on the road. The year was 1963.

BRAUN: The three-wheel over scooters that you see today in the supermarkets and wherever were -- were not -- there wasn't any such thing.

And so I built the first one, a four wheeler, which, you know, I call Frankenstein. And then I brought -- I built the second one, which was a three wheeler, in which was the bride of.

GUPTA: Today his company manufactures several thousand wheelchair accessible vehicles and lifts every year, and Braun is improving the lives of many people just like him all over the world.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


O'BRIEN: I've got to take a break. "End Point" up next. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

We're getting some breaking news information in to CNN. You're looking at some live pictures here, this is Ellicott City in Maryland just right outside of Baltimore. A CSX train which was hauling coal has derailed and it's fallen from a bridge. Apparently, we are told that two people have been killed, vehicles crushed in the parking lot where they have fallen in. It's unclear exactly the identity of those two, although we're being told that the people who were killed on the rail bridge were not railroad employees. Their identities, though, have not been released as of yet.

The CSX spokesman is saying to our affiliate in Washington the train was making its way from West Virginia to Baltimore. Unclear what caused the crash. They are investigating. They've got to clean up the coal. They're going to be bringing in a crane as well to try to right that train which has now derailed. We're going to obviously continue to follow this story as well.

And the breaking news as we brought you earlier today. Diana Nyad has called off her swim. She is now out of the water. You can see the pictures there. The jelly fish stings, the storm that they were dealing with over two days. A big, big problem for Nyad and her crew. This was her fourth attempt, and she said it was going to be her last attempt.

You can see how she's looking right now. It looks as if she was getting some medical attention, her lips swollen from jelly fish stings. That is our other breaking news that we're following.

We're going to hand it off to CNN NEWSROOM and Carol Costello, which begins right now. Both of these stories, I'm sure Carol will be following for you. Good morning Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You've got that right. Hello Soledad.