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Senior Taliban Leader Killed in NATO Strike; Wildfire Emergency in Three California Counties; Worst Ever West Nile Outbreak; "Akin Has De-Legitimized My Rape"; Mothers Battle Attackers for Custody; "The Mind of Mitt"; Giving Back; Republicans Plan National Convention; Former Penn State President Speaks about Sandusky Scandal

Aired August 23, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, serious threat, tropical storm Isaac is barreling toward Florida. Tampa's mayor says he is prepared to order an evacuation during the Republican National Convention if needed.

Plus, year of violence. There are warnings going out this morning that anarchist groups may attack at both upcoming political conventions.

And on the offensive, the former Penn State president Graham Spanier is denying a cover-up ever took place. He talked to Jeff Toobin.

A packed show ahead. FEMA administrator Craig Fugate will be our guest, communications director of the RNC Sean Spicer will join us, campaign committee chair Steve Israel will be our guest, and football legend and NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs will talk to us, plus Disney actress Bridgette Menburg. STARTING POINT begins right now.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our starting point, that would be tropical storm Isaac, on track to strike Florida. Hurricane warnings are now in effect for Haiti. The storm already soaking San Juan, Puerto Rico. Isaac could become a category 1 hurricane by tomorrow. Let's get right to Rob Marciano in the CNN hurricane headquarters. Good morning, rob.

ROB MARCIANO, METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Soledad. This thing still has 40 miles per hour winds, pretty weak but a large storm with circulation and room to breathe and waters in the Caribbean are toasty for strengthening. Westerly movement of 12 miles an hour. That slowed down. Rain bans getting into Puerto Rico. It will miss Puerto Rico for the most part. Tropical storm warnings posted for conditions we expect over the next 24 hours and stretch back.

This thing is forecasted to track right over that, not likely almost as a hurricane but the rainfall will be the big deal. Every one of these lines are computer models. They got a little more clustered in the past 12 hours and that means higher confidence as we get towards the later part of the forecast period. Some of these going way to the right and now kind of converging at least on the western part of Florida and not necessarily good news for the RNC.

Forecast track, bring it to hurricane status here in the next day and a half and over Haiti, Port-au-Prince, hundreds of thousands without shelter there and heavy rains, 10 to 15 inches expected and getting into the Florida straits, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, potentially as a hurricane still here and then the cone of uncertainty brings anywhere across the peninsula potentially even towards New Orleans or the northern panhandle. We'll watch this carefully. If it takes this track and doesn't make direct landfall it will be stormy across Tampa and has been stormy the past several days and they have had a hard time setting up already.

O'BRIEN: Lots of worries about that. Rob Marciano, continue to watch it. They continue to watch it. Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

What happens if Isaac hits during the GOP convention? In just a few minutes we'll talk to Sean Spicer, the communications director for the Republican national convention. He is already in Tampa.

First, though, I want to get to John Berman. He has a look at the day's top stories for us. good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

They're hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Federal law enforcement is already on high alert for potential threats at the upcoming political convention sites. Intelligence bulletin obtained by CNN warns of violence by anarchist extremist groups and possibly using improvised explosive devices. Officials cite concerns about bridges and infrastructure in Tampa and charlotte where the Democrats will be holding their convention and also noting the anarchists have a history of trying to disrupt the major events.

"The Dark Knight" massacre suspect James Holmes due back in court this afternoon, the judge hearing arguments about whether the suspect's university records can be turned over to prosecutors. Prosecutors are seeking copies of about 100 pages of these education records. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in the Aurora shootings.

Flora Lee Corkins is facing 55 years in prison if convicted in the Family Research Council shooting. Prosecutors say he opened fire in the dc headquarters last week. The building manager was shot in the arm and still managed to wrestle the suspect so the ground. According to the criminal complaint Corkins targeted the FRC because he didn't like positions regarding the gay community.

This is controversial. An ex-Navy Seal catching the Pentagon by surprise. A man that claims he was a member of U.S. Navy seal team 6 is coming out with a book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The title, "No Easy Day," the release day September 11, 2012. The publisher says it is written under a pen name. The military says no one vetted this, and the author is no longer on active duty.

This is how she rolls, the NASA rover curiosity making its first test drive on mars. Look at the tracks to prove it. NASA's lead driver says the trip lasted roughly 16 minutes. Curiosity rolled about 15 feet forward, made a 120 degree turn and backed up eight feet and took more really cool pictures along the way.

O'BRIEN: I love that. I love following it. Thanks. Appreciate it.

Back to starting point this morning, which is tropical storm Isaac looming on the horizon. Today one city and political party keeping a close eye on that track with the Republican National Convention set to start in Tampa on Monday. Florida is still in the track, and with president Obama leading by three points in the most CNN poll of polls, the convention will be a critical location for Republicans to try to turn that trend around.

All of that brings us to Sean Spicer, the communications director of the Republican National Committee who joins us this morning. Nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. My understanding is that the convention center is in evacuation zone a which means that if this thing does become a category 1 hurricane, you would be de facto evacuated. What are the plans around that?

SEAN SPICER, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, all I am going to get into is say that we do have contingency plans to deal with weather related and other circumstances that may occur to ensure that, a, the business can go on at the RNC and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will become our nominees, and that the safety of the folks here attending it and in the Tampa Bay community are taken care of. We're hoping for the best. We have the plans in place should anything occur, and that's how we're going forward. We're going to keep looking forward to having a great convention. The Tampa Bay community here has done an unbelievable job welcoming us and becoming a great host for this convention and we want to make sure this goes fantastic.

O'BRIEN: Is cancelling on the list of options if it gets bad?

SPICER: No. There is no such thing as cancelling. As I said, we have contingency plans. Our first priorities is always going to be the safety of the people that are here in Tampa bay, both the visitors and the residents, the people that have volunteered to help make this a great event and in terms of the business of the rnc, which the number one thing is obviously nominating, officially nominating Mitt Romney as our presidential candidate and Paul Ryan as our vice presidential candidate. There are contingency plans in place and rules of the rnc in place that ensure that will always be able to occur.

O'BRIEN: OK, great. Let's move on. I want to play for you a new ad. It is from the Democratic National Committee, and it is called the Romney-Ryan-Akin platform for women. Listen.


PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am talking pro-life record. I stand by my pro-life record in congress. It is something I am proud of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Delegates in Florida voting today to include strong antiabortion language in the party platform to be presented in Tampa next week. There are no exceptions included for rape or incest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?



O'BRIEN: So clearly this is what has been done is what we were talking about at the beginning of the week. We expected would happen, Democrats were going to try to take the congressman Akin mess and connect it to Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. They have done that in that ad. What is the convention strategy that turns that around? Is there one?

SPICER: Well, it happened well before the convention. I think congressman Ryan, governor Romney, and everyone in the Republican party leader from our nominee to Senator McConnell, Senator Cornyn, the head of the senatorial campaign committee has come out in strong opposition to the comments that congressman Akin made, has called them indefensible, wrong, just not -- don't make sense. From every level we have denounced these comments. So I think any attempt to try to tie them is ridiculous on its face.

Second of all, with respect to the ad, the Republican Party is a proud pro-life party. We have been that way for decades, and if that's something they think is news, I am a little bit shocked.

But more importantly, I think again what this ad does is attempt to distract from issues that the people throughout the country are focused on and what Governor Romney and Paul Ryan are focused, which is first and foremost the economy and jobs.

O'BRIEN: No one is really talking about the economy and jobs right now. Let me ask you a question, because you said this is a pro-life party, everybody knows that and if it is coming as a surprise to people, that would surprise you. Let me play a little bit of what Paul Ryan said when he was asked a question on the airplane yesterday.


RYAN: I am proud of my record. Mitt Romney is going to be the president. The president sets policy. His policy has exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother. I am comfortable with it. It is a good step in the right direction.


O'BRIEN: What does that mean exactly, his policy is exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. "I am comfortable with it because it is a good step in the right direction." So, then, if it is not the completely right thing but it is the right direction, what would not thing that he would be comfortable with?

SPICER: Well, let's start at the top. The Republican Party is a pro- life party. Our platform is just a simple set of principles which say that the problem with the ad that you played is the Democrats are trying to take a simple set of principles, which is the Republican Party's pro-life. There is no additional language, so to talk about exceptions or whatever is not found in the platform.

We also have a principle that says we are for a balanced budget amendment. We don't get into details about whether we support cuts here or there.

O'BRIEN: That platform is more specific than you're making it sound. I will read it to you.

SPICER: No, it is not.

O'BRIEN: It is, though, really. Here is what says, the second part of it says "We support a human life amendment to the constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th amendment's protections apply to unborn children." That is far more specific. There is no exceptions written there, but clearly if you look at what has been proposed, I think it is HR-212 proposed on January 7th of 2011, it is very specific, the "bill to provide that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization." That's specific, isn't it?

SPICER: Right. So first it says what you just read to me says that we are pro-life party. It is the same language we have had in there since 1984, no difference, so somehow it is news to anyone is amazing. It states a general principle that we believe in the concept of life. Then within that there are different people within our party that say, OK, I support that but I believe there should be an exception for this or that.

What Mitt Romney believes is that there should be an exception for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Paul Ryan has said that he believes slightly that he is more or does not necessarily believe in all of those exceptions, but as the number two he is signing onto the number one's ticket. But within the party, even within that platform that adopted that there was a wide variety of whether or not what sort of that principle meant in terms of the exception. We're not -- it further goes on in the platform to talk about the fact each state shall adopt that leave those policies up to the states to adopt because again we are a state's right party. To try to read into it and say this means this and as you just did attach a specific piece of legislation is not with the platform says.

O'BRIEN: OK, I will agree to disagree on that part, Sean Spicer. Nice to talk to you as always. Thanks for being with us.

SPICER: It will. It is going to be great down here.

O'BRIEN: Fingers crossed.

Still ahead on starting point, a message for Congressman Akin who suggested that victims of rape can suddenly somehow biologically shut off the ability to conceive. We'll speak to a woman who was raped, became pregnant, and ended up keeping her baby and became a voice for other victims. Also, the former president of Penn State University is speaking for the first time about the Jerry Sandusky child sex case and claiming he had nothing to do with the cover-up.

Students dressing as gang members or pregnant woman during a school sponsored event and the long overdue backlash that followed. That's "Get Real" this morning. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: The former president of Penn State is speaking out today addressing accusations that he concealed allegations against convicted child sex predator Jerry Sandusky. Graham Spanier is not charged with a crime. He is cited in the report, that damning report by Louis Freeh who said that Spanier empowered Sandusky to attract victims to campus, ultimately failed to protect children for more than a decade. Jeff Toobin sat down with Spanier for an extensive interview and you can read it at the

O'BRIEN: I found in what he said to you, he is contradictory. Let's talk about the contradictions in what he says. He talks about Joe Paterno as being an important figure at the school and in the community and that clearly he was in charge, it was not Joe Paterno. He writes I always consulted with him because he had opinions and sometimes he would persuade me and sometimes I would persuade them. Anything you heard about how Joe was the boss of the university, not so. Contradictory.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Is it? I am not sure it is a total contradiction. Football coaches are powerful everywhere in college sports, but what Spanier was saying is he was powerful but I had the last word, I was the president, he was just a football coach.

O'BRIEN: I guess where I find it contradictory, he goes I didn't know all the information, a lot of things happening around me, no one came with the details, I was left in the dark about a lot of things. I am in charge but I am not in charge.

TOOBIN: He says I was in charge but I was not informed of everything. That's the heart of the accusation in the Freeh report against Spanier, that he knew or should have known that Jerry Sandusky was abusing children and he didn't do anything about it. That's the heart. That's why he is fired. That's why he is a disgraced figure today, and the interview with me was an attempt to say, no, I did not know and I should not have known.

I was surprised at his tone when he was talking about being called before the grand jury. It is almost like, you know, it actually sounded to me as if they were called before the grand jury all the time. Well, I was called before and would give them information and they didn't really want to talk to me. Grand jury appearances are --

TOOBIN: It is a big deal.

O'BRIEN: Huge deal. TOOBIN: It is a huge deal. In the context of an investigation for Jerry Sandusky doing something with children, I mean, again, he says it was unclear to him precisely what at that point. He says that when the grand jury raised the question of sodomy to him, he was thunder struck. He thought, wow, I had no idea this was going on. Why do you think grand juries sit? They don't sit to discuss horseplay. They sit to discuss crimes. And that was surprising to me that there was a certain naivety on his part, at a minimum.

O'BRIEN: Here is what he said in recording about the Freeh report.


GRAHAM SPANIER, FORMER PENN STATE PRESIDENT: The Freeh report is wrong. It's unfair. It's deeply flawed. It is as many errors and omissions. I know they had a lot of very good people on that team working on this. They interviewed, they say, over 430 people, many of those folks have spoken to me about their interviews. Many of them describe those interviews to me as a witch hunt.


O'BRIEN: He has a point in the fact that some of the biggest players were never interviewed and their comments never made it into the Freeh report.

TOOBIN: Mike McQueary for one, the person who is really the key figure in all of this because there are two incidents that Spanier is alleged to have known about, 1998 where he received some e-mails and that was the incident that was investigated by the police and they decided not to prosecute. In 2001 was the McQueary incident I think many people are familiar with, that's where McQueary said he walked into the showers in the football offices and saw Sandusky slapping, a clearly sexual situation with a young boy. What Spanier said to me is he only knew, was told, that this was something about horseplay. He was never told about sexual contact.

O'BRIEN: Horseplay in the shower.

TOOBIN: He didn't say in the shower.

O'BRIEN: Later in the interview he talks about --

TOOBIN: The shower is '98. What he said, the shower, "I knew there was some incident in the shower in '98." You may ask as I did why didn't you connect the dots?

O'BRIEN: He said high school-age he thought maybe. Horseplay he didn't pursue.

TOOBIN: He says he didn't pursue it. And he pointed out that in 2001 Sandusky no longer worked for Penn State, so they didn't have the same leverage they did before. It is a troubling story.

O'BRIEN: Fascinating.

TOOBIN: You can read the whole thing at

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it. Good work. I liked it.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, what do you do when an event meant to celebrate Latinos instead demeans them. It's our Get Real this morning. It's really disheartening. Our STARTING POINT team is heading in to talk about that and much more. Errol Louis is here, Hank Sheinkopf is with us, and Will Cain joins us. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Our team this morning, Errol Louis is back, and Hank Sheinkopf is with us, he's a Democratic strategist, and Will Cain is a columnist for John Berman sticks around with us.

Time for "Get Real" this morning. This is so disheartening. A high school in Anaheim, California, hosts something called senior week, students coming dressed as gang members, one as a pregnant woman pushing a baby stroller and others as border control. It is on the cover of the "L.A. Times" if we can show it. The high school taking a lot of heat for allowing demeaning -- can we drop the banner there so you can see it, senior week was supposed to be a celebration for the seniors, and it happened for the last three years at the school.

BERMAN: That's it, three years.

O'BRIEN: The racial breakdown of the school, 55 percent of the students are white, about 16 percent Latino, according to the l.a times database of California schools, so after three years and after lots of complaints, the officials have reacted and say the event will be replaced with an international week. Administrators will undergo diversity and sensitivity training. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has run out. The school is going to offer a class in ethnic studies.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Those two numbers are what's hard to reconcile. This has been going on for three years and 16 percent of the student body is Latino and 8 percent of the faculty is Latino. How did this go three years without complaint?

O'BRIEN: Apparently there was a student, a 19-year-old Jared Garcia Kessler who graduated last year, complained to a teacher he thought it was a disrespectful event, and the photos of the event would make their way into the year book and it was all considered to be very fun, and then finally I guess this third year he complained outside of the school.

CAIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: It all brought it to a head.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You have to figure between 80 and 95 of all teenagers are into vulgarity and bad taste and shocking adults.

O'BRIEN: You think after year one that would be like, OK, let's not do that again.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's the adults saying this is OK which makes it worse.

O'BRIEN: Now they're saying it is not. Everybody, let's go to diversity training they're saying now.

LOUIS: A little late.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on "starting point," the West Nile virus on track for the worst year ever. Who is at risk, where it is worse, we'll tell you next.

Also, the incredibly personal story of a woman who says she was raped and then became pregnant with her rapist's child, and she decided to keep the baby. But her ordeal did not end there. We'll tell you what happened. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. In just a few minutes, we're going to speak to a woman who is sharing her very personal story. She was raped. She became pregnant. She decided to keep her baby. This morning she has a message for Congressman Akin. We'll be talking to her live about her story straight ahead.

First though, John Berman has got a look at the day's top stories. Good morning again.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Good morning, Soledad. We're getting word of what is being called a major kill in Afghanistan. The coalition says a senior Taliban leader was among dozens of militants killed in a NATO air strike earlier this week in Kunar Province.

According to testimony from a Gitmo detainee that surfaced on Wikileaks, a man with the same name was instrumental of helping Osama Bin Laden escape from Torabora back in December 2001.

Governor Jerry Brown is declaring a state of emergency in three northern California counties because of those stubborn wildfires. About 25,000 acres burned and some 50 buildings destroyed. The emergency declarations in Northern California this clears the way for the use of more state resources to help battle those fires.

Get this, we may be in the middle of the worst ever outbreak of the West Nile virus. The CDC saying it is seeing the highest number of cases ever reported in the U.S. and this by the third week of August. The cases, they're trending upward.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is following the developments closely. Elizabeth, we hear worst ever. That sounds very bad here. How bad and where is it headed?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Worst ever, John, for this time of year, third week of August, never seen this number of cases.

Let's take a look at the jump that occurred just in this one week. Last week, the CDC telling us 26 deaths, that number jumped to 41. Again just in one week. The number of cases last week was 693. That jumped to 1,118 in the past week.

Now, most states have some West Nile activity, but five states really are the hot spots, and that is South Dakota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas has the most cases of all -- John.

BERMAN: And this is important, Elizabeth. What can we do to prevent getting West Nile?

COHEN: Right, the first thing is, we shouldn't freak out because there really are things you can do especially important to do these if you live in one of those hot spots.

Use a repellent that has Deet. Look in the ingredients. Dress in long sleeves and long pants especially when mosquitoes are really out in full force. That would be at dusk and dawn.

Really be careful at those two times, and drain standing water, kiddie pools, bird fountains, where mosquitoes love to breed. If you go to, you can see more information about protecting yourself and your family from West Nile virus.

BERMAN: All right, thanks, Elizabeth Cohen. These are important tips -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, thank you. We have been hearing lots about Congressman Todd Akin's controversial comments. But one thing we haven't heard very much is from the victims.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 5 percent of women become pregnant after they're raped. One of those women has come forward.

She wrote a powerful letter that now gone viral and part of it says this, "Representative Todd Akin's recent comments that legitimate rape rarely results in pregnancy not only flouts scientific fact, but for me, it cuts deeper. Akin has delegitimized my rape."

Shauna Prewitt is her name. She is now an attorney. She was 21 years old when she was raped and became pregnant. Her daughter is now 7 years old. She is in Chicago this morning where she joins us from.

Shauna, thanks for talking with us. We certainly appreciate it. Your letter is remarkable and I would encourage everyone who hasn't read it to go online and find it and take a look at it.

Your story is heartbreaking. Tell me about what happened, you're a college student, 21 years old. What happened?

SHAUNA PREWITT, ATTORNEY FOR RAPE VICTIMS: Right. I was raped, faced absolutely what was the worst experience of my life, found out about a month after that rape that I was pregnant from the rape. As I described in my letter I was feeling a lot of conflicting emotions, shock, scared, but I was also having this very strange emotion where I was feeling some kind of kinship or bond towards this life growing inside of me.

Then I correspondingly felt shame for feeling that. It was just a lot of conflicting emotions. I ultimately made the decision to have my daughter and I thought that once I made that decision that was kind of the end of the story for me.

O'BRIEN: In a lot of ways it was the beginning of the story.

PREWITT: And that life would go forward.

O'BRIEN: It really was the start of your story. I think you become a face of what people did not expect, number one, you kept the baby, and I think that would surprise people and you talk about that kinship.

The next thing was that I think was a surprise was that your rapist would try to get custody of the child. I think that's shocking frankly.

PREWITT: That's right. He filed for sole custody of her. I am very lucky that his parental rights were terminated so he is no longer or was never a part of our lives. But I fight today in my advocacy work for the past two years focused on helping other women who haven't been so lucky or aren't so lucky.

O'BRIEN: You write that there are 31 states, you say it would not be long before I would learn firsthand in the vast majority of states, 31, men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy.

I think that's stunning for a lot of people. Why do those laws exist? Why is it not so clear cut if you're a rapist, one would say, I think practically speaking termination of parental rights would seem obvious.

PREWITT: Yes, and that was the question that I had that when I wrote a paper in 2010 for the Georgetown Law Journal. It is the exact question I wanted to answer, why are these laws not more prevalent?

The conclusion that I came to through my paper was this notion that words have power, and that the way in which we speak about the raped woman, the way in which we speak about women who become pregnant through rape.

I think has made us suspicious of anyone like me or the 30 percent of other women who each year choose to keep and raise the children that they conceived through rape were are suspicious of them because they behave in a way that our dialog suggests they shouldn't. I think we're hesitant to pass the laws because frankly we don't think that women like me exist.

O'BRIEN: You mean acting in a way, meaning you decide to keep the child. I want to bring in Will Cain for a minute. You know, part of the words that I thought Shauna was going to talk about is really forcible rape, which has become an issue in the legislation certainly.

And clearly is an issue behind these 31 states, right? It is that nuance between if you will people who believe there are certain types of rape and that is what connects the legislation.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Shauna's story is certainly remarkable and amazing. When we read it all of us go how is this possible? As you said, Soledad, how is it possible the rapists retain parental rights. That strikes us against common sense.

As I go into it deep and I would love Shauna's perspective on this because she's well researched on this, but you know, this guides us back into this debate over forcible versus statutory rape because laws are blunt force instruments.

You can quickly envision a scenario where a 19-year-old and 16-year- old have consensual sex, which is statutory rape and say that mother wants to give the child up for adoption. Does the father have any parental rights I would like to have that child?

O'BRIEN: Shauna, this is something that's obviously an issue for you in your advocacy. Is this the kind of thing you're coming up against, that sort of complicated conversation about where some rights end and where some rights begin when what seems on its face so obvious, a rapist should not have access to the child born of rape to me at least?

PREWITT: Right. The basis of our constitution is the constitution affords people a constitutional right to parent their children. Now, the courts can interfere with that right where the legislator within their state has given them the authority to do so.

In a lot of these states there is authority to do so in cases of abuse of the child, neglect of the child, maybe abandonment of the child, and we don't have this specific rape conception notion.

And so without that kind of legislative authority, I think the courts are finding themselves in this difficult position of saying, you know, I want to act, but I don't really feel that I have the authority or the power to act.

O'BRIEN: Obviously a very complicated piece. Your story is amazing. People can find it was originally posted on We have reposted it on the opinion section of as well for anybody who would like to read it.

I thank you, Shauna, for joining us. I appreciate your time this morning.

PREWITT: I appreciate it. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You bet. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the mind of Mitt, the author of a new "Time" magazine story will join us live to talk about Mitt Romney's leadership style in business. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am often asked if I was granted a wish from a magic fairy would I wish my left biological legs back. I always say absolutely not. My bionic limbs are part of my creation. They have become part of my identity.

What is really fun is they're upgradeable. So every few months I get a hardware and software upgrade and as my biological body ages, my artificial limbs get better and better. So it is interesting that I am kind of getting better and better, at least that part of my body anyway.



O'BRIEN: Governor Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, trying to keep the controversial comments of Congressman Todd Akin from throwing them off their message.

Mitt Romney today is expected to unveil a comprehensive energy plan with a focus on fossil fuels. Paul Ryan is sticking to the game plan as well and talking up Mitt Romney's experience at Bain Capital. Listen.


REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WI, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: His entire career in business is a perfect example of someone with the skill and experience who created tens of thousands of jobs, who started small businesses, turned around failing businesses, created really successful businesses, sports authority, bright horizons, staples. You know what? When people reach success in our society, that's a good thing, that's not something we're to resent.


O'BRIEN: "Time" magazine takes a look at some of those statements and also at Mitt Romney's time at Bain. Barton Gellman wrote the cover story, "The Mind Of Mitt." He is an editor at large of the magazine. It's nice to have you with us this morning.

The point that I think Congressman Ryan was making and you examine in your article as well is really does business experience translate into government experience.

And what was the strategy that you saw in Mitt Romney's business experience? So tell me a little about that. What does the business record show you?

BARTON GELLMAN, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR AT LARGE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, the interesting thing is that Mitt Romney never talks about how exactly his business experience translates into letting him fix the economy.

What I wanted to understand is how he thinks about the world, how he focuses, how he works, and it turns out a big part of it if you want to make a lot of money is to select out from this large world of the business world a tiny fraction of things that you think you have a big advantage on.

He is very risk averse. So he wants to find the deal where all the forces are aligned in his favor, and he is exceptionally good at that. He is able to filter out everything else. That's one thing that is sort of a luxury he will not have in the White House.

O'BRIEN: Right, I was going to say being able to -- you write a lot about the analytical process, right. You can go through and really crunch the numbers and see where you feel comfortable with the risk. That seems like 180 degrees from what actual governing potentially could be like.

GELLMAN: Well, if you're the president, the problems that come to your desk are nothing but the tough ones. They are the ones where your advisers disagree, where the evidence is ambiguous or poor.

Where you have only the least worst choices to choose from, those are the deals that Mitt Romney tried very hard and very successfully to keep away from in his years making money.

CAIN: It seems to me that what we're pointing out here is essentially the concept of competitive advantage. Mitt Romney was very good at finding competitive advantage, and finding the appropriate risks to take in private enterprise.

But I don't think that just his business experience is the suggestion that gives him the ability to lead in the White House. Wouldn't it also be having been active in the private sector and I also understand the role government should play in the private sector?

GELLMAN: That's a big part of the argument. Look, there are plenty of transferable skills. You cannot have been successful at what he did without being a good judge of people, without understanding how to motivate people, without having strong negotiating skills, the strong analytic skills as well you want to see in a president.

What he did, though, that distinguishes him and that he talks about even now including recently in a magazine interview is that he loved the process of delving deep into the analysis. He loved the numbers. He loved examining the evidence. Honestly, as president you have to do that.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICS ANCHOR, NY1 NEWS: My question, Barton, was how do we close the loop when it comes to jobs? That's what everybody is concerned about. I mean, they throw out the name Staples. They throw out the name Sports Authority.

We know the brands, but I have been wondering for a year-and-a-half now where is the foreman from Sports Authority who will stand in front of a camera and say this guy got me my job. This guy kept me and my job.

Why doesn't the campaign come up with those people? Does Mitt Romney think of those people as the folks he has helped along the way?

GELLMAN: He certainly does think that and his campaign claims quite a bit of credit for building jobs at Staples, for example.

LOUIS: They're always abstract numbers. I am looking for a face.

GELLMAN: They are abstract numbers and look, Bain Capital's role at Staples was certainly positive. It was not that the driving role. I found a video in which on the eve of the opening of the first Staples Mitt Romney is talking in the back room crew.

And he's kind of admitting that he was about last to the table that Staples came to him and asked for money, Tom Stenberg did, and he did his usual thing. He delved into the numbers.

He delved deeper than anybody else did. He actually sent people around with adding machines back in those days door-to-door to find out what businesses were really spending on office supplies.

O'BRIEN: And last to the table because he was doing such great research to figure out actually if it was a good deal or not a good deal as opposed to following that.

GELLMAN: By the time he got there, Tom Stenberg already had 20 or 30 offers he said. Now Stenberg wanted him on his board because of Romney's business sense.

O'BRIEN: So that's why he ended up getting that deal. The cover story on "Time" is called "The Mind of Mitt." Thanks for coming in and talking to us. It's fascinating article.

Got to take a short break. Still ahead this morning, Disney star teams up with Target to help school kids who are in need. We're going to chat with Bridgit Mendler.

She is the star of the show "Good Luck Charlie." She's going to be joining us live. You're watching STARTING POINT. Got to take a break. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: As Teddy Duncan in Disney Channel's "Good Luck Charlie," Bridgit Mendler makes video diaries about her life and her family. She is trying to prepare her younger sister, Charlie, for what she has to look forward to when she grows up. Here is a little clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, Charlie. So exciting times for the Duncan family. Tomorrow you turn 3! If that wasn't exciting enough, one week ago the new baby was due. Let's see how that baby is doing now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you out!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Duncan kid number five is late.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And Duncan kid number two is getting on my nerves.


O'BRIEN: The show is so cute. In real life, Bridget is just as committed to helping the younger generation. She is working with Target on their back-to-school program.

She also has a new album on the way and in her free time, she is heading off to college. She is going to USC, which she's going to do fulltime.

Bridgit joins us now. Good morning, Bridgit. How are you going to do that? How are you possibly going to do full time college? The show has been renewed for another season. Explain. How is that going to work?



MENDLER: It is a lot. I did online high school for a while and still worked on the show. And that was a bit of a challenge. But I'll tell you, I'm not going to do full time college. I'm going to do some classes just to get it going. I think it's an important thing to pursue just at my own pace.

O'BRIEN: Education I know is really important to you. You've talked about your mom, who as you say was a full-time mom, a full-time student, and a full-time worker, which the math kind of adds up a little bit.

And I know your connection to Target, which has spent a lot of money and a lot of time in education and literally helping schools. What are you doing on that front?

MENDLER: Yes, I have been so excited to be working with Target for their "Give with Target" campaign. They approached me this summer and since then we've been going to schools around the country and giving out grants.

And they have really been committed to not only giving grants to schools, but to involving people through Facebook to vote for their own schools. And I am proud to announce that we have already reached $2.5 million in donations through Facebook.

So those kids did a great job online and that portion of the campaign is done with actually. And Target is going to continue to support schools through their billion dollars for education until 2015.

And we're continuing to give out the grants. I'm actually going to a school today. So I'm very excited.

O'BRIEN: Exciting for them because they are going to get some serious cash. You also in your other free time have an album that you're working on. It seems like every Disney actor, has an album, an actor, has a movie maybe. Is it acting that you love, music? What's your thing?

MENDLER: Well, I just have to say that Disney is great with providing opportunities for kids who have dreams in any of those entertainment fields. And for me also they have helped me to give back to causes that I really would like to work with.

And music is something that I have always been passionate about and I'm so thrilled to finally be able to share that music with people. And hopefully they respond to it well.

And I'm so proud to be among the other Disney artists who have created music. And I must say we all kind of have our own way of doing what we do, but we have fun.

O'BRIEN: That's great. Bridgit Mendler, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning. My daughters were so excited. They love you and the show is hilarious for adults too. It's very funny. Thank you for being with us.

MENDLER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Got to take a short break. Still ahead, Isaac turning closer to the state of Florida. We're expecting to hear from Florida's governor, Rick Scott. He's supposed to have a briefing live any minute now on how they preparing especially with the RNC in Tampa.

And Isaac is not only threat at the RNC, Congressman Steve Israel, will have the very latest on Vice President Joe Biden's big plans for Tampa. I'm not sure they think he is a threat at all. Hurricane Joe is coming in. They don't think he's a threat if you listen to Reince Priebus.

Also, a big health story getting headlines this morning, it's not the mother's age, but apparently how old the father is that could increase the risk of autism and schizophrenia and much more. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.