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Isaac on Track for Florida; Interview with Congressman Steve Israel; Interview with Kay Bailey Hutchison; Navy Seal to Publish Book on Bin Laden Killing

Aired August 23, 2012 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, everybody. Welcome.

Our STARTING POINT this morning: it's a very serious threat. Tropical storm Isaac is barreling towards Florida. Tampa's mayor says he is prepared to order an evacuation if he has to during the RNC.

Plus, fear of violence. Warnings going out this morning that anarchist groups could attack at both upcoming political conventions. We'll talk about that.

And tell-all book. A U.S. commando involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has written an inside account of the still classified mission. Also, questions raised (ph) this morning as well.

We have a packed show. We're going to be talking to FEMA administrator Craig Fugate. Also, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, Steve Israel. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is going to join us. And football legend and NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs is our guest.

It's Thursday, August 23rd. STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, welcome, welcome to our team.

Errol Louis is joining us. He covers politics and anchor of New York 1 News.

Hank Sheinkopf is with us. He's a Democratic strategist.

Will Cain is a columnist for the conservative

John Berman is a CNN "EARLY START" anchor. He's bringing us the news this morning.

Our STARTING POINT today is all about Isaac. And it is on track to strike Florida. Hurricane warnings are now in effect now 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 for an update of what's happening there.

Hey, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning again, Soledad.

The 8:00 a.m. advisory in now for the National Hurricane Center, holding the strength of this at 40 miles an hour. There's a NOAA P3 aircraft in there right now reporting back from the storm. But it's in the open waters now south of Puerto Rico, south of San Juan specifically, by about 225 miles an hour. It's heading to the west at 13.

So, it should strengthen. It's got some warm water to deal with, just a bit of dry air. Here's the radar, San Juan, much of Puerto Rico, getting some of the heavier bands as they kind of rotate in. But the direct hit from this will not affect San Juan or these islands.

But there are tropical storm warnings that are posted for the northern Caribbean islands. And hurricane warnings have been issued for the island of Hispaniola, and it does include Haiti on all the coasts there.

Here are the forecast models tracking this storm over Haiti and Cuba and towards the Florida Peninsula. They have converged a little bit overnight, so our confidence has built up a little bit as far as the track of this thing. Less likely to go east towards the Carolinas at this point. A little bit more likely to go west into the Gulf of Mexico.

All right. We stopped the map here. Tomorrow afternoon, it gets into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as potentially a category 1 storm. We're talking about thousands of people still without shelter. And 10 to 15 inches of rainfall on top of that wind. Not a good situation.

We fast forward to Sunday night and Monday morning. Stop the map at the Florida Keys potentially, category 1 storm at this point. And notice that the entire peninsula of Florida is in the cone of uncertainty as is much of Gulf of Mexico. And we can't rule out New Orleans, Biloxi, Pensacola -- those areas still in play as well.

But, obviously, the track has not changed much, Soledad. Tampa very close to the forecast at this point.

O'BRIEN: Oh my goodness!

So for Tampa, the Republican National Convention is a big problem there. But when you talk about Haiti, of course, lots of people, thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, still in tents. I mean, what are they going to do with a category 1 hurricane headed right for Haiti?

And then New Orleans approaching the seventh anniversary of Katrina. That's got to be just emotionally devastating for people there. All right. Rob, thank you for the update. Appreciate it. In a few minutes, we're going to be talking to the FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, get an update on the storm plans.

First, I want to get right to John. He's got the day's top stories.

Good morning, again, John.

BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad.

Federal law enforcement on alert for potential violence at the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions. An intelligence bulletin issued by the FBI and Homeland Security warns of anarchist groups possibly using improvised explosive devices. Officials have concerns about bridges and infrastructure as potential targets in both Tampa and Charlotte.

Former Penn State President Graham Spanier is speaking out for the first time on the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. The report that accused him of helping cover it up and his own past as a child abuse victim. He told ABC News when Sandusky acted suspiciously with a boy in the team showers in 2001, Spanier says he was only made aware that Sandusky had engaged in what he called horseplay.


REPORTER: Didn't you have a moral obligation to find out who that child was and find out what happened?

GRAHAM SPANIER, FORMER PENN STATE PRESIDENT: I didn't conjure up anything more than what I would have thought of as simple horseplay. So, no, I didn't think of anything more than that.


BERMAN: Spanier's attorney blasted the Freeh report, calling the university-funded review, quote, "a flat-out distortion of facts infused with bias and innuendo." It accused Spanier of being complicit in the alleged cover-up of the child sexual abuse scandal.

A member of the U.S. Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden has written a first-hand account of the operation. In this new book, it's triggering new worries about the release of classified the intelligence. The title, "No Easy Day." Its release date, September 11th, 2012.

The publisher says it's written under a pen name. The military says no one vetted the book, and the author they say is no longer on active duty.

A new study getting a lot of attention today. It says older dads hand down more altered DNA to their kids, and that could leave children of older fathers more at risk for diseases, including schizophrenia and autism. The study report in "The Journal Nature" found that each added year of age resulted in two extra new mutations. I think the study will raise a lot of questions."

O'BRIEN: Well, absolutely, fascinating, right, because people are kind of trying to figure out those large numbers when it comes to autism. You know, are there just better ways of figuring out who is autistic or has that been a change? And how does that correlate to people who are women giving birth when they are older, all of that.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Fascinating story I saw this morning, older men have more prevalence for mutations passed on. But while that has bad short-term implications, higher risk of autism, evolutionary-wise, it's positive. Mutations will push us forward. Kind of interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless you're living with the mutations.

CAIN: Long-term. Big picture. Evolution.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk politics. Political junkies watching tropical storm Isaac as close as anybody.

President Obama is leading by three points in CNN's brand-new poll of polls. And so, Republicans certainly will be looking for a convention bounce and hoping that the convention isn't overtaken by the storm.

Congressman Steve Israel is a Democrat, and he is from New York. The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as well.

Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us. You have --

REP. STEVE ISRAEL (D), NEW YORK: Great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: -- in Tampa as it looks as we just heard from Rob Marciano as sort of the focal point potentially for this thing that looks like it's going to turn into a hurricane. We have been joking a little bit hurricane Joe, also potentially in Tampa.

Why would Joe Biden be in Tampa?

ISRAEL: Well, Joe Biden is a relentless fighter for the middle class. He is somebody who has travelled into middle class communities throughout this country, and asserting the stark contrast between the president and a Democratic Congress that will fight for the middle class on Medicare, and a Republican Congress that has relentlessly tried to hurt the middle class and seniors on Medicare, with a Paul Ryan budget that would end the Medicare benefit in order to protect millionaires, and that would raise taxes on the middle class while cutting taxes for those millionaires.

That's a contrast that we want to talk about at every opportunity.

O'BRIEN: So the answer is you're sending him to -- he's going to Tampa so that he can be on camera at the same time the Republican convention is on TV, essentially, is the answer to that question. ISRAEL: Well, the answer is to talk about those contrasts, sure.

O'BRIEN: Reince Priebus says number one, it doesn't really matter. He thinks that his appearance or presence in Tampa won't matter.

And he also said this. "The nice thing about going first," because the RNC is a week before the DNC, "is that whatever they're going to do to us we can do 10 times over to them." Them would you be, in this case. "You never know where we are going to be. I'm a big believer in if they punch us, we put on the brass knuckles and punch back."

Reince Priebus has been a guest a bunch of times. He is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. He said that to BuzzFeed on the 21st. What's your response to that?

ISRAEL: My response is he's going to need more than brass knuckles in order to defend the indefensible. He is going to need more than brass knuckles to explain to people why they have embraced at their convention a Ryan budget that ends the Medicare benefit for seniors in order to fund bigger tax cuts for millionaires. It's going to take a heck of a lot more than brass knuckles to defend that.

And why they are about to push this economy off a cliff, the Congressional Budget Office just reported yesterday that they may send us back into a recession by not passing a budget that extends tax cuts for millionaires because they want to hold the middle class hostage in order to get those tax cuts for millionaires.

O'BRIEN: As you well know, the Congressional Office Budget report does not say exactly what you just said. They do say that the fiscal cliff is looming, and I think that people would say there's plenty of blame to go around. We know today that Republicans are pointing their fingers very squarely at the president for that. Democrats are pointing their fingers very squarely at the House and Republicans for that.

You know, how is it -- isn't the answer that actually everyone s to blame on this? IU mean, everybody voted for that. A large number, right?

ISRAEL: No, no, Soledad, no. With all the respect in the world, on three separate occasions, we offered a compromise to the Republicans that John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, agreed to. It was big. It was bold. It was balanced.

It reduced debt. It cut spending. But it also said that if you're a millionaire, you're going to a little bit more in order to protect Medicare and in order to protect the middle class. On each occasion, John Boehner went back to his Tea Party caucus and his Tea Party caucus rejected compromise.

We are ready, willing, and able to go back to that compromise. We need a Republican Party that is willing to compromise with us.

O'BRIEN: But the president signed off on the deal. I'm not mistaken about that.

ISRAEL: This hurricane that is bearing down on Tampa -- I'm sorry?

O'BRIEN: Will Cain, hold on one second. Am I wrong about this? Didn't the president sign off on this deal?

I mean, there are many fingers on this problem is how I read it. Am I wrong about that?

CAIN: There are many fingers on the problem that leading us to the fiscal cliff?

O'BRIEN: Fiscal cliff that is coming --

CAIN: No, you're not wrong about that.

O'BRIEN: OK. So when he says that it is a one-sided problem, it seems to me that we certainly have Republican finger prints al over it in the sequestration issue but the Democrats as well. And the Democratic strategist is nodding his head yes.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: The deal is, get Joe Biden and let him go to the state with lots of retirees and blame the Republicans during their convention for the problem is a pretty good political move.

And the congressman is sticking straight to the message on this. Create class warfare, get the retirees angry at Ryan and move forward. Does it work? It may work.

CAIN: We don't strong political moves. We need honest debate. And I like Steve so much. He comes on the show, and he and I have a back and forth. But saying things like the Ryan budget wants to end the Medicare guarantee for seniors is just simply not isn't true.

We have said over and over again, it doesn't touch anyone over the age of 55. If you want to talk about what the long-term implications of it are, but to say it ends it for seniors it's just not true.

O'BRIEN: Well, it ends it as it is for seniors in the year 2023 --

CAIN: But you understand the statement that it ends it for seniors is designed to affect people who are voting today at the age of 65. In truth, who it's talking about is me.

SHEINKOPF: Unless people have no brains to look forward into the future. You're saying forget about the next couple of years and plan ahead.

CAIN: You act like you don't understand the political implications of it.

O'BRIEN: Oh, I did not say I fully understand the political implication, which is why everybody is trying to grab this football, right? If you can figure out how to get your hands on the football that is Medicare and you can get the Medicare messaging and scare people to a large degree. But all these things have a toe in truth and a toe outside of truth.

Congressman, let me ask him a final question. What is going to happen with this fiscal cliff? You know, we talk about the CBO report. It's dire. It's one of the scariest things that you can read. You look at the numbers that they are throwing out there. We are in huge, huge trouble resolved.

What is the resolution which is not point fingers at the other guy? Give me a real resolution.

ISRAEL: Listen, you know what? Sometimes when you have somebody who is holding somebody hostage, you don't blame the hostage. You point the finger at the hostage taker.

With all the respect in the world, here is the resolution. This doesn't have to happen. On three occasions we said -- let's cut spending by trillions of dollars. Let's get some revenues. Not from the middle class, but let's balance the budget by going back to the Clinton tax rates on the rich, which produce 23 million jobs and the most prosperous middle class in recent history.

That's the formula that worked. It's the formula that House Democrats want to embrace. It's the formula that John Boehner agreed to.

And it's the formula that the extreme Tea Party Congress rejected. They are willing to end the Medicare benefit, to end the guaranteed Medicare benefit, turn it into a voucher, and at the same time --

O'BRIEN: In 2023. Right? Let's put that in, in 2023.

ISRAEL: They are wrong in 2023, and they are wrong now. They are wrong in 2023, Soledad, and they are wrong now.

O'BRIEN: Steve Israel joins us this morning. He is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Thank you for talking with us. We always appreciate it.

ISRAEL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a break. Still ahead this morning, the Republican response from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. She'll be our guest, straight ahead. >

Also ahead this morning, on alert for Isaac. We've been talking about it all day. The storm is expected to slam into Florida. It could be a big problem for the Republican national convention.

We're going to listen to Governor Rick Scott. He's going to be updating everybody about the situation there. Of course he is the governor of Florida.

And Craig Fugate is going to join us. He is the administrator of FEMA. He'll be telling us the plans there.

Also, take a look at this cute kid. Adorable, 5-year-old, in trouble because of the dress code. Oklahoma principal says it is a matter of safety that he does not wear that t-shirt. I think it's the University of Michigan.

CAIN: It is.

O'BRIEN: Well, he shouldn't have worn it and we're going to tell you why.

You're watching STARTING POINT, back in a moment.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.



GOV. RICK SCOTT, (R) FLORIDA: -- concerned about the potential impact anywhere, not just Tampa. While the nation is focused on Tampa and the Republican National Convention, my job is to ensure we are prepared for an emergency in every community in Florida. It's still too early to predict where Isaac could make landfall. It could strike almost anywhere in Florida or in some of our neighboring states.

Now, put aside the RNC Convention for a moment, Florida has a lot of experience dealing with hurricanes. We're going to be prepared for Isaac in the event it does impact our state, in the event it does become a hurricane. Florida's emergency response officials protect 19 million residents who live and work here, and as you know, we have 87 million tourists that come visit here.

So, we'll have, on any given day, hundreds of thousands of visitors to our state's beaches, theme parks, and other attractions. Preparation is key to success. That includes emergency preparations by state and local officials, and individuals and families, they have to be prepared. Every family has to have a plan. They need to be vigilant. They need to heed emergency warnings and instructions.

Every family should be prepared to sustain themselves for up to 72 hours. For more information on that, you can go to Now, Isaac is a unique storm in this regard. It has the potential to threaten a major convention, designated a special national security event. That's why I have convened local, state, federal, and convention officials for a twice daily briefing.

The goal is to make sure everyone has the best information available. A complete picture of the situation. Everything needed to make a good decision. These officials have been working together to plan the convention for the past 18 months. The possibility for a hurricane has been part of that planning process.

All that's required for those plans to be activated is there to be a hurricane, and hopefully, that will not happen. Isaac continues to have the potential to track toward the Florida Keys, Southwest Florida, Tampa, and the Florida panhandle. This morning, I issued two directives to Bryan Koon, the state emergency operations director. First, to activate --


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You're looking at Governor Rick Scott of Florida. He is advising folks on what to do as they look at some of these weather maps which show that what is now a tropical storm is very likely going to turn into a hurricane as it heads toward Haiti and the island of Hispaniola, and potentially, could slam into Tampa, Florida as a Category 1 hurricane.

And the key to that right there is that the convention center, which is where the Republican National Convention is going to be held, is in an area that if, indeed, a Category I hurricane does hit Tampa, they would have to be evacuated. Let's get right to the FEMA administrator, Craig Fugate, joins us. Before working for FEMA, he ran Florida's division of emergency management.

It's nice to talk to you, sir. We just heard from the governor there that, in fact, a lot of these conversations had been going on and planning that potentially would include well, what happens if a hurricane hits, have been going on. The only part -- the only thing that's required, the governor said, for activation is that, in fact, a hurricane hits.

Give me a little bit about these briefings that the governor talked about. He said local, federal, state officials now meeting twice a day in briefings.

CRAIG FUGATE, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Well, actually, the state used their statewide hurricane exercise earlier this year to actually exercise what would happen if a hurricane threatened the RNC. Again, we're in support of secret service of the state on this. So, it's pretty much, you know, we're prepared.

We know what the plans are. We have our staff in place. We'll see what Isaac brings. But I think the governor's point is really key. People focus on Tampa. If you remember hurricane Charlie, everybody focused on Tampa. Hurricane Charlie hit Punta Gorda. It hit Port Charlotte. It did not hit Tampa.

So, right now, our concern outside of the Caribbean, first up, will be the Florida Keys. And again, people need to be ready, as the governor said, have a plan and be ready to act if the hurricane or the storm threatens them.

O'BRIEN: One of the reasons, of course, everybody is focused on Tampa, which as the governor said, that it's a unique situation, because you have a major convention, which involves, you know, which has deemed a special national security event as well, all at the same time. Something like 55,000 people are supposed to come in.

I think for people who don't know how you deal with a hurricane, who are not familiar with that, what do you tell them? What's the advice?

FUGATE: Well, again, I think this is one area where Florida is actually ahead of the country because they deal with so much tourism during hurricane season. But this is something that they do. It's part of the plans with the hotels and the convention centers to make sure they have information. And they give the people the information knowing that that they may not be familiar with hurricanes or know the plans.

So, this is built-in. I mean, you look at the tourist designated areas in Florida. This is part of everybody's plan is how do you make sure that tourist populations get the information they need to be safe when the storm threatens.

O'BRIEN: Well, certainly, it was a problem we know when hurricane Katrina, where the tourists often felt like they were the last people to understand what was happening except for get out of the hotel, and you sort of have nowhere to go. What do you think is the likelihood and maybe it's too early to say with the maps the way they are, but what do you think is the likelihood that the convention is going to have to be moved or it's going to have to be cancelled?

FUGATE: It's -- you know, people are spending a lot of time talking about that. I wish they'd be talking about making sure that the people in the keys are getting ready and that people in Southwest Florida are getting ready. And again, as we pointed out, this may actually get into the gulf and be a threat for more of the Gulf Coast.

So, everybody wants to focus on one point. If you have a plan, you have your supplies, you know what to do, monitor the storm, act if the threat requires action. But otherwise, monitor the storm and make sure you're ready.

O'BRIEN: All right. We'll repeat that, because I think you're very right. We're talking about it because, of course, it's a big deal for the Republican National Convention. But as you point out, folks in the keys need to be very well aware as well. People in the Gulf Coast who clearly watch this stuff all the time, same thing and in South Florida.

Thank you, sir. Nice to see you. Craig Fugate joining us. He's the FEMA administrator. Appreciate your time.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, the West Nile virus spikes. It's now on track for its worst year ever. We'll tell you where it's hitting hardest. That's straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: "Tough Call" this morning. Dress code violation. Cooper Barton -- let's show his picture. He is kind of your average five-year-old kid. Cute. Kindergarten, Oklahoma City, cheers for the University of Michigan Wolverines apparently and showed off his pride with this T-shirt at his school, and that's when the problems began.

At Cooper's school, you can only wear college apparel if it's from a team from Oklahoma. The school district says they adopted that policy because they were trying to cut down on gang violence. Listen.


SHANNON BARTON, COOPER'S MOTHER: He told me that they had made him turn it inside out, because it said Michigan. He was a little embarrassed.


O'BRIEN: Well, apparently, the gang violence, you know, was a problem in the school district.


O'BRIEN: Hence our "Tough Call," because there was a rule, right, that said you're only allowed to wear, you know, certain kinds of clothes because what they didn't want to have is these competing school things that were used as -- what's the right word, for people who are -- coding really for gang fights, right?

So, now, maybe no one -- Little Cooper, surely to me, going on a limb (ph) doesn't look like he's sort of gotten in the whole gang thing. You know, and I think his parents are obviously clearly stunned by it. But, isn't some of this -- there is a policy. At the end of the day, this is where sort of policy hits reality, and you know?

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And you find out the policy is absurd.


O'BRIEN: Is it absurd, though? I mean, in the big picture, is it absurd policy to make sure that older students are not, you know --

CAIN: You're exempting this scenario, the kindergartner. You're saying at the high school level. Is it reasonable for Oklahoma to say, you can only wear Oklahoma based schools attire? No.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- for all Oklahoma schools are rivals, too. I don't understand if there's going to be (INAUDIBLE) Oklahoma versus Oklahoma State versus Tulsa?

O'BRIEN: Apparently, the coding of the gangs was coming from the schools outside of Oklahoma. That was the issue. So, there was a rule, and then a five-year-old broke it.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICS ANCHOR, NY1 NEWS: Lazy (ph) rule making gives you a bad rule.

HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: AND THOSE terrible kindergartners are out there running wild. O'BRIEN: Kindergartners can be very tough. I have many of them.


O'BRIEN: All right. Still ahead this morning, who's hiring? We're awaiting those new jobless numbers. We're going to bring them to you as soon as we get them.

Plus, the Texas Republican senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, will be our guest.

LOUIS: She's a long horn.

O'BRIEN: Yes, she is. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.

She better not wear the sweatshirt, though, when she goes to kindergarten.


O'BRIEN: Breaking news to get to this morning. Looking at live pictures from Maricopa County, Arizona, massive flooding there. That's a van stuck in some deep water. There's a state of emergency that's been declared there. Three Arizona counties actually are under flash flood warnings, including Maricopa County, about 35 miles south of Phoenix. Obviously we are watching what's happening as heavy rains have left the residents there in quite a bit of a mess.

Other stories making news, John Berman has that for us.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Soledad. This just in. We are still waiting on the unemployment numbers filing for the first time. We'll get those to you as soon as we have them.

Governor Jerry Brown declares a state of emergency in California. Wildfires have destroyed 25,000 acres. The emergency declarations in northern California may clear the way for the use of more state resources to help battle the fires.

This is concerning a lot of people here. We may be in the middle of the worst ever U.S. outbreak of West Nile virus. The CDC says it is seeing the highest number of cases ever reported by the third week of August. And the cases are trending upward right now. And 38 states have reported cases so far. And the most people infected in these states, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: John, thank you very much.

We are going to be talking about Representative Todd Akin, who will not be attending the Republican national convention in Tampa next week, though the Missouri Senate candidate says he is going to stay in his race, at least for now. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. TODD AKIN, (R) MISSOURI: The party voters took a look at our hearts, understood who we were, had a chance to meet us in many, many different ways and made a decision. And it makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs as opposed to election process.


O'BRIEN: The convention is set to kick off in just four days. Republican leaders are doing all they can to distance themselves from Akin and the outrage over his comments on rape. Including Governor Romney, who will attempt to change the subject with a speech on energy policy a little bit later today. Analysts say that Romney can leave the controversy behind if he can make a big splash at the convention, ramping up the pressure for the presumptive nominee.

Joining us from Dallas, Texas, this morning is Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Nice to see you. Thank you for being with us. I want to start with West Nile virus, because John was just updating us on what's happening there in Texas, clearly the epicenter. Are you getting a sense that it's under control? Or how are you feel being that?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) TEXAS: Well, they have started doing aerial spraying. That was a tough decision for the officials. But they decided that 18 deaths in this area, 218 cases, it was just too much. And they decided to do it. And therefore, I think we are beginning to get it under control. But it has been a nightmare really, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Following that story, it has been incredible. Let me ask you about the storm as well, Isaac, which is a tropical storm but looks like it's going to become a hurricane, category 1 at least. How worried are you about that considering you're heading down to Tampa for that?

HUTCHISON: Right. Well, I think the governor speaking earlier on your show said that they are doing everything they can. They are experienced in this, as we certainly are in Texas as well in handling issues like hurricanes. But of course I know a lot of people are going to be wary. A lot of times, Soledad, these hurricanes dissipate, they go in a different direction. So people shouldn't panic right now. People should just keep their plans and what happens will be certainly -- there will be plenty of time to prepare and evacuate if necessary. But the chances of that are really very slim. And I don't think people should panic.

O'BRIEN: They definitely veer. We know that. And everybody is watching it, so that's I guess good news at this point.

Let me ask you about Congressman Akin. You were among the first to call for him to step down. As you know, he has said no thank you. Here is what Mark McKinnon, who was on our show yesterday wrote. "Thank you, Todd Akin, just as Republicans were opening their show and hoping to widen the tent, you have managed to attract attention to yourself and your caveman views. Hear that sound, GOP? That's women running for the exits, and the big tent collapsing." Do you worry that the big tent is in fact collapsing around you?

HUTCHISON: Well, I think women are smart enough, Soledad, to know that one person who is really out of the mainstream in my personal opinion doesn't represent the party. The party is a party that has welcomed women. We have addressed women's issues. And I don't think women are going to think that this person who clearly had an outrageous interview is the party. And I think a lot of women in the party are concerned about -- well, a lot of women in America are concerned about the economy. And this campaign should be about president Obama's record. And it's just a diversion to have this come up, especially right before our convention. There's no doubt about that.

O'BRIEN: The sort of timing, though, I think was problematic when the draft of the GOP platform was released right at the same time practically. And I'll read that, the platform, on abortion to you. It says "The faithful to the self-evident truths enshrined in the declaration of independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th amendment protections apply to unborn children."

Is this really just kind of laying out the conflict that is within the GOP, that you have -- that is costing potential votes, I guess I'd say, that you have people, you know, that delineation between right to life, you know, we've heard obviously clearly right to life party, but people who have either support exceptions or support alternate views that want to be under that big tent that Mark was referring to.

HUTCHISON: Well, I think, Soledad, that it's clear that the Republican Party is a pro-life party. And we do value life. And we do believe that the unborn have a right to life.

But I also think that there are many people in the Republican Party as in America who think that there should be exceptions for the life of the mother. She is a person too. And we must remember there are two lives here. And we also certainly reach out to rape victims. There are just a lot of decisions that need to be made on a personal basis. But I don't think that anything that was said in the platform is against the focus on protecting life whenever possible. And I think most people agree with that.

O'BRIEN: Kay Bailey Hutchison joining us this morning. Nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us. We always appreciate your time, senator.

HUTCHISON: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, he says he was there when Osama bin Laden was killed. A former Navy SEAL writing a tell- all book about that raid that is still classified. And Washington was totally surprised, we hear, by that news. We'll bring you a live report from the Pentagon is up next. You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: It's the first account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden from someone who was actually there. A man claims he was a member of the U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six coming out with a book about some of the most thrilling 38 minutes in modern military history. And just like the raid, no one saw it coming. Its release date is on September 11 of 2012, coming up.

Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with this. Barbara, one, a big shocker at the Pentagon that in fact this book is coming from a Navy SEAL or a former Navy SEAL is being released. First of all, what's the fallout from that?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, you know, let's look at the book cover right off the top. The title of this book is going to be "no easy day." that actually is kind of pretty much the attitude around the Pentagon. Nothing seems to be easy these days here for the military. They did not know this book was coming, we are told. They just heard about it a couple of days ago. So why? Because the author did not put it through for security review. Normally, even if you are out, even if you're retired, these kinds of books should be submitted traditionally for a review for classified material, inadvertently being in a manuscript.

O'BRIEN: Do they know who the author is? I know he is using a pen name.

STARR: His pen name is Mark Owen. But he says he is the team leader, one of the team leaders that night. There were only so many team leaders so they have a good idea who it is. He is working with another writer who is very respected by the U.S. military. So by all accounts this is the real deal, first-hand account how it was on the ground.

O'BRIEN: But there's been much going back and forth about the leaks and the revealing of things that should not have been revealed. This is the first time somebody on the ground -- this is not a leak. It's just a tell. What does that do to that debate?

STARR: What about all of the tell-alls? You've got movies. You have the new Osama bin Laden movie by Kathryn Bigelow coming up that the government gave a little help. You've been covering it. This committee of former military people out there that is criticizing the administration for talking. And now of course you have a Navy SEAL talking about all of this. What is this doing?

Well, you know, Admiral William McCraven, the top op guy in Special Operations, is very concerned about this, we've been told. He thinks that there's -- you know that people need to ratchet back. He wants America to understand what they do for a living and what they -- what kind of roles they perform, but there's a lot of concern in the community.

You have a lot of guys out there Soledad still out on the line, still working very much covertly, not for very much money, and they are not cashing in. They are still out there doing it. Their families are sending them off on deployment after deployment. The question is, is all of this cashing in going to start affecting morale?

O'BRIEN: Yes, big question there. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon this morning. Thanks Barbara I appreciate it.

STARR: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, he is the legendary coach of the Washington Redskins. Now he is a Nascar championship team owner. Still ahead, Joe Gibbs will sit down with us. You're watching STARTING POINT.

We're back in a moment.


ROMANS: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans.

Just in to STARTING POINT -- 372,000 unemployment claims were filed for the first time last week that is up 4,000 from the week before and higher than economists expected. That's according to the Labor Department -- rather.

The Congressional Budget Office says the so-called fiscal cliff of huge spending cuts and huge tax increases next year would drive the country into a recession. That means lost jobs, closed businesses and dramatic cuts to the military and programs like preschool and food aid for the elderly.

The CBO now predicts the economy would contract half of one percent next year and the jobless rate -- and this is the new part of the forecast -- the jobless rate would reach nine percent by the end of the year if Congress doesn't fix it.

Middle class families are poorer and have lower incomes than 10 years ago. This is according to a huge report from the Pew Research Center. This is the first time this has happened since World War II.

Middle class net worth is down over the past decade, dropping 28 percent to $93,000. Middle class income is down as well, dropping about $3,500 to more than $69,000. And 85 percent of people say it's more difficult now to maintain their lifestyle compared with 10 years ago.

O'BRIEN: So that $69,000 is a family?

ROMANS: That's a family of three, a family of three that's right.

A bright spot though, for you, in the housing market at least today. The new housing data out from Zillow says about 30.9 percent of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages in the second quarter. That's down a little bit, that's an improvement, fewer people are underwater on their loan. The report also says nearly half of all borrowers under the age of 40 are underwater.


ROMANS: So younger borrows are much more likely to be underwater probably because they bought during that time that was a big bubble.

O'BRIEN: And don't have the financial resources behind them to get out of that. Wow, wow, wow.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine thank you.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Well, Nascar fans are gearing up for the next big race in 2012 Sprint Cup series. The Irwin Tools Night Race is set for Saturday night at the Bristol Motors Speedway which is in Tennessee. Just three races left for drivers to qualify for this year's Sprint Cup championship. Fans will be keeping an eye on driver Kyle Busch. Two consecutive first place finishes in the race in 2009, then again in 2010. He is a member of the Joe Gibbs Racing Team. It's owned by NFL hall of fame coach who joins us now from the Bristol Motors Speedway. Nice to see you sir, thanks for talking with us.

So your team has won three Nascar championships since you founded it back in 1992. You know, I think it's kind of unusual to be successful in sort of one sporting event and then switch to a completely different and some might argue completely unrelated sport and be successful wildly in that as well. Why do you think it's worked for you?

JOE GIBBS, TEAM OWNER, NASCAR CHAMPIONSHIP: Soledad, thank you for having me on.

Now to be quite truthful, my secret is just this. Surround yourself with good people. Pick the right people.

In football, if I picked the right football players, they made me look good. And it's the same thing over here in racing. So I've loved both sports. I'm here. I'm excited being at Bristol here. M&Ms is just trying to make race day more fun. We're going to pick four people that get to sit in these lounge seats. It's going to be awesome. So I'm excited about being here this morning.

BERMAN: Coach, John Berman here. We were talking on the set about the difference between Nascar and football. And Will Cain and I were trying to decide, what's harder to deal with? Are football players harder to deal with than race car drivers? Or are race car drivers worse? Be honest with us now.

CAIN: Yes and who's tougher, Tony Stewart or Charles Mann and Dexter Manly?

BERMAN: That's a great question. GIBBS: You picked that? I've got to tell you it's toss-up. It's a toss-up. Here's what I have learned. Here -- here is what I have learned. I've learned that one thing that does not -- never changes is our character, this character of people.

And you know, when you deal with football players or you deal with race car drivers, it winds up being complicated. Some guys wear their emotions on their sleeve they're going to get you in trouble at different times. But I've found that it's exactly the same. Anybody's good in football would be good in racing. Anybody good in racing would be good in football really.


O'BRIEN: I don't know that Warren Sapp who we had on yesterday was going to fit in one of those little cars.

SHEINKOPF: It doesn't seem likely. It doesn't seem likely.

GIBBS: That might -- that might be a problem. That might be a problem.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question, though. A little bit about football. How closely are you still involved? I mean, have you now moved on to Nascar and this is your passion and you spend every waking moment focused on your drivers and being successful there? Or are you still sort of in both worlds?

GIBBS: Yes. I've got to tell you, if you're involved in Nascar as an owner -- I got both my boys, JD and Coy, are in racing with us. We have a motor cross team. We are a full-time, nonstop, ok; trying to keep our race team and everything pointed in the right direction. We're in a battle.

We're coming down here with three races left trying to get in the playoffs, with Kyle Busch and Joey Logano trying to win a race. It's fun for me. It's exciting.

But I'm kind of consumed with Nascar. This is where I spend my time.

ROMANS: It's really the ultimate reinvention, isn't it? I mean, reinventing careers. I mean that's -- that's excellent. What are the similarities for you?

GIBBS: I tell people -- you wouldn't believe it -- I was worried to death about coming to Nascar. Something I had no experience in. And when I came over here, people would walk up to me and they would say, you're not going to believe this. And I would say, yes, I can. I've already gone through that in football. And it winds up -- it winds up being exactly the same.

O'BRIEN: That is so funny.

GIBBS: Somebody stole our coffee one morning when I was at Nascar. And that -- and in football, I used to sleep at the office. I went in one morning, and they were looking around, and somebody stole the coffee.

O'BRIEN: So you mean literally --

GIBBS: We thought -- we found one -- we found one of the players that made $600,000 a year walking out the door with the coffee the next week.

O'BRIEN: So literally exactly the same?

GIBBS: Fast forward to racing. I'm in a race here about two years. One morning I went in. I don't sleep at the office. I went in, I'm looking for the coffee and the secretary walks around the corner and she goes, you're not going to believe it. And I said, yes, I will, somebody stole the coffee. So it's exactly the same. Everything is the same in both sports.

O'BRIEN: Exactly, exactly -- literally the same. That's so funny. Joe Gibbs, nice to see you. Good luck. We look forward to hearing some good news from you about your race and your drivers.

GIBBS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: He, of course, is a national championship team owner and a former NFL football coach joining us this morning.

Other news to get to this morning. We're watching flooding rescue in Maricopa County -- we showed you some of those pictures earlier. This is now a rescue operation underway. We have seen that water rise a little bit. Obviously, they are having some serious problem with the heavy rains. Maricopa is roughly 35 miles south of Phoenix. We'll keep following that story for you and bring that to you when we come back after this break.


O'BRIEN: Breaking news to CNN. Live pictures from Scottsdale, Arizona where a flood rescue is getting underway right now. We're told that our affiliate, KTVK, by them that at least one person is stuck in this minivan. And as we have been watching this for the last 30 minutes or so, we've seen the water rising there. Heavy rains has been the problem.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello picks up the story for us this morning and much more. Hey Carol, good morning.