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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Flooding Hits Parts of Gulf Coast; Paul Ryan Gives Speech to Republican National Convention; Paul Ryan Revealed; Tornado Warnings in Effect
Aired August 30, 2012 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What is missing is leadership in the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our STARTING POINT this morning is the Republican National Convention.
Let's get right to John Berman. He's at the CNN grill in Tampa.
Hey, John. Good morning.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.
Mitt Romney is set to take really the giant step forward tonight on the road to the White House tonight. He accepts his party's nomination officially as the Republican nominee, just down the path way here live in Tampa.
Last night was Paul Ryan's night. Romney's running mate took direct aim at President Obama and he made the case for the GOP ticket. The other big speech of the night came from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She really lit up the crowd last night.
CNN White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is here with me to sum up what happened.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And also, you know, a lot of this had to do with the economy, the comments from Paul Ryan. He is the House budget chairman after all. And certainly the campaign feels he is a good messenger to talk about that.
But I think we've talked about that a lot this morning. So, let's talk about faith because that did come up. We heard from Mike Huckabee, he was talking about how he is an evangelical, and yet the differences between him and Governor Romney are not very -- they're not very far apart. And we also heard Paul Ryan is a Catholic, talking about this.
Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Mitt and I also go to different churches, but at any church, the best kind of preaching is done by example. And I've been watching that example.
RYAN: The man who will accept your nomination tomorrow is prayerful and faithful and honorable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: He said basically they may not have the same religion, but they have the same values. And we're expecting that Governor Romney will touch on this topic tonight. His aides say this is not a faith speech, but certainly it's an important part of his life, and this is something that he will discuss as well.
BERMAN: One of the other targets for Paul Ryan last night seemed to be the very aura of President Obama.
KEILAR: That's right. Sort of this iconic aura I guess you can say we saw in 2008, and especially what this meant to young voters. He basically said that President Obama has let down this very key constituency. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So he was talking about empty promises, really trying to chip away at some of the support of this key constituency that President Obama himself has been courting just this week.
BERMAN: We are joined now by a longtime Romney adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, from the great city of Boston.
Thank you for joining us right now. I think it's safe to say you were happy with Paul Ryan last night?
ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY ADVISER: Well, we thought he gave a great speech. He had a high hurdle to get over because we had some terrific speeches earlier from Governor Susanna Martinez from New Mexico, who talked about her challenges and the fact that she like a lot of Republican governors balanced her budget without raising taxes. And, of course, Condi Rice, who understands that a strong America in the world starts with a strong economy at home.
But, Paul Ryan, this was a big moment for him, and he delivered.
BERMAN: You think he delivered. You said he gave a great speech. The question is, did he give a factual speech.
Among the things he discussed was that G.M. plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, one that ultimately did close down. President Obama visited in 2008. I want to listen to what Paul Ryan said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years. That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: You know, Eric, that the decision to close that plant was made in June of 2008, when President Bush was in office. What Paul Ryan said there was clearly misleading.
FEHRNSTROM: Well, no. He didn't talk about Obama closing the plant. He said that candidate Obama went there in 2008, and what he said was with government assistance, we can keep this plant open for another 100 years.
Here we are four years into his administration. That plant is still closed. I think it's a symbol of a recovery that hasn't materialized for the people of Janesville, Wisconsin, just as it hasn't materialized for Americans everywhere.
BERMAN: He left the impression that President Obama shut that plant down.
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I would encourage people to go back and look at what candidate Obama said in 2008. What he said was with his recovery program, with government assistance, we can keep that plant open for 100 years. Four years later, it's still shuttered. I think it's a symbol of a broken economy under this president.
BERMAN: There were some other examples last night where Paul Ryan seemed to take some liberty with the facts or at least the history of it. Let's listen to what he said about the Simpson-Bowles commission to reduce the debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: He created a new bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: He's criticizing President Obama for doing nothing on Simpson-Bowles. Paul Ryan voted against Simpson-Bowles. Did he do less than nothing?
FEHRNSTROM: And then Paul Ryan brought forth his own deficit reduction plan. That's not something this president did. Instead, he kicked the can down the road. This is why so many people have lost faith in this president.
BERMAN: But he stood in the way of the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, and then criticized the president for not taking action on it.
FEHRNSTROM: There can be disagreements on how to put the budget on a path toward fiscal balance. But the important thing is, what is your plan? And Paul Ryan had a plan. He brought it forward.
There's an obligation on the part of people in Congress if they reject Simpson-Bowles to talk about what they will put in its place. Paul Ryan did that.
What this president did was what so many people before him have done, which is to form a commission, and when the commission comes forward with a report they don't take action on the report. They put it on a shelf where he gathers dust.
BERMAN: It was voted against though. A commission came out with something, but Paul Ryan voted against it.
FEHRNSTROM: And then he put forward his own deficit reduction plan. It's not as if he did not address the deficit situation. This president promised he would cut the deficit in half. Instead, all he's given us is a trail of trillion dollar deficit.
BERMAN: He would say he hasn't gotten any cooperation from the Republicans in Congress and would cut the debt and deficit if Republicans would talk to him about taxes on the top 1 percent.
FEHRNSTROM: Well, then let's get down to brass tacks. He has an obligation to sit down with the leaders of Congress, members of the opposition party, try to find common ground. He hasn't done that.
BERMAN: Eric, this is the first time you've been on STARTING POINT since March, when you said something that got a lot of attention. Let's just take a quick listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: I don't need to tell you that became a thing for a little while in this campaign. Everyone was talking about it. People called it a gaffe and what not. But I also want to play some sound for from what some Republicans are saying about this convention right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: I think Thursday, he'll have a chance to what I call reintroduce himself to the American people.
GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: To be able to reintroduce Governor Romney to the American people.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Governor Romney has a chance at this convention and going forward to reconnect with people.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BERMAN: Reintroduce, reintroduce, reconnect -- is it really that different than Etch-a-Sketch?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, look, the point I was making back then is that the campaign in the general election would be different than the primary campaign in this sense. In the primary campaign, we had eight opponents. We were talking about the legislative record of some of those opponents like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
Today, we're in a different situation. It's a one-on-one contest with President Obama. And I think what we're looking forward is the opportunity to debate the president in October three times. And I think what people will se in that setting is a person in Mitt Romney who is extraordinarily qualified to lead at a time of crisis in this country. He has a plan to put America back to work. And we can compare that to the failures of the Obama administration over the last four years in creating jobs and getting this economy going.
BERMAN: Tonight is the big speech. Just a short while ago you told me he is a little hoarse.
FEHRNSTROM: Yes. He's a little hoarse. He's been traveling around the country, of course, campaigning. He gave a speech yesterday in Indianapolis. So -- but I think what we're going to see tonight --
BERMAN: What's the one thing that will surprise us the most?
FEHRNSTROM: I think you'll see a person who is extraordinarily qualified, capable to lead. He has acquired a set of skills over a long career in the private sector, leading the Olympic Games, being a governor of a state. It's those qualities that will lead him to be able to confront the leading issue was our time, which is the economy.
BERMAN: And also, he listens to elevator music, according to Paul Ryan.
FEHRNSTROM: I think that was a charming moment from last night. We are looking forward to both of them being out there and campaigning.
BERMAN: Eric, it's great to have you here this morning. Thank you for coming back to STARTING POINT. Come back very soon.
FEHRNSTROM: I appreciate it.
BERMAN: I should say we're going to have Stephanie Cutter with us in a little while. We have plenty of questions for her too. Believe you me.
Right now, I want to go back to New York with Christine Romans with the rest of today's stories.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right. Thanks, John. Can't wait for that.
Meanwhile, tropical storm Isaac moving across Louisiana this morning. A flash flood emergency has been issued for Slidell, Louisiana. That will last until 9:00 a.m. local time. Evacuations are currently underway. And nearly 1 million customers are without power now in four states.
Isaac is still a major threat this morning. Let's bring in meteorologist Karen Maginnis in the city hurricane headquarters. Good morning.
KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. Yes, we keep shifting our focus back and forth where the emergencies are taking place. And right now, it is Slidell.
What we are looking at in the vicinity of New Orleans is some of the training effect tapping that moisture from the Gulf of Mexico -- we are just receiving word right now as I speak that there is a tornado on the ground as we speak in Pascagoula, Mississippi. There is a watch, I tornado watch, in effect for portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. But a tornado on the ground. And we're going to give you some of that updated information as we receive it.
But here is the latest regarding tropical storm Isaac. It is moving a little faster now. That's good news. But that rain shield is primarily on that eastern quadrant of tropical storm Isaac. But for New Orleans, the rain is tapering off. You'll see longer gaps between those bands of moisture.
But these bands of moisture are the same ones that have some of those embedded cells in them that have produced the tornadoes that have been reported this morning in Mississippi. We had reports of damage coming out of some portions of Mississippi. And right now, just a few minutes ago, we just received word out of Pascagoula there was a tornado reported on the ground. Some of the wind gusts reported, associated with tropical storm Isaac, now New Orleans.
Winds have been gusting in the past hour up to 40 miles an hour. Slidell, the flooding emergency, the old town area. It looks like the levees have not been breached. It's just that the bayous have overfilled and backfilled some of those back areas around the bayou. They say that they are on the alert.
Christine, about 80 percent of the old town area is reporting some type of flooding. We'll keep you updated on both fronts now.
ROMANS: So tornadic activity and flooding showing, Karen, this is still a very serious situation there from tropical storm Isaac. Thanks.
ROMANS: And, you know, the new national average now for a gallon of regular gasoline is up two cents over the past 24 hours, $3.83 a gallon. Midwest and southern states saw the biggest increases because most of their gas comes from the gulf where output was cut because of Isaac. Gas prices, though, are expected to ease -- they're expected to come down early next week as refineries and pipelines in the Gulf go back online.
A Florida appeals court has granted George Zimmerman's request for a new judge in his murder trial. Zimmerman's attorneys asked that Judge Kenneth Lester be removed because of disparages comments he made about their client in a July bail order.
They say Zimmerman's right to a fair trail was at risk and the appeals court agreed. George Zimmerman is now facing second degree murder charges for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin back in February. Those are the other stories making news.
Back to Soledad now in St. Bernard Parish -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, thank you very much. We are continuing to cover what is now tropical storm Isaac. And the rain picks up and then seems to dissipate and then picks up again. The winds not as bad as yesterday, but it's really strong.
We're actually seeing some action. It looks like they are going to start putting some boats back into the water behind this wall behind me to do a run through the neighborhoods in Plaquemines Parish which is right behind that wall. I'm coming to you from St. Bernard Parish.
I want to get to Rob Marciano. He is at the port of New Orleans.
So, Rob, obviously, the big story today is flooding. And the rain coming down in sheets, you know, sporadically, is certainly not going to help there.
ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No. it's not. But the fact that it's sporadic has eased some of the pressures on these pumps.
We were here before the storm started. The water you see behind me was not there. It was much lower, and there was dry land you could actually stand on.
But take a look at this pumping station. The pipes on either side of me, some of them are not working right now. But during the height of the storm, all of these were pumping. And any one of them can pump at 8,000 gallons per second, pumping fresh water, rain water, out from the city, up on over the floodwalls.
Speaking of floodwall, these gates were dropped right before the storm hit. Each of the 11 floodgates weighs 20 tons. And that is keeping the surge from Lake Pontchartrain out of the city. They don't have these all around the lake. In areas to our west and north, and specifically LaPlace, they have a dramatic flooding situation happening.
We went up there yesterday. Looked at some pictures from the I- 10 exits there, unable to get there from this direction. You have to go over to Baton Rouge and side streets to get there.
Well, hundreds of rescues happening. Some video from the Coast Guard. They were brought in last night to pluck some people off rooftops. A couple and their dog were rescued by the coast guard. Dramatic video there. This is what they had to say about their experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he had a harder time because he had the bigger dog, which I'm sure she --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gives you more of an appreciation for what these guys do. I can tell you that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are god.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Topnotch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God in a helicopter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARCIANO: A multiagency effort underway there in Laplace. And the flooding that came from this lake, kind of a storm surge, on the backside, that's the worst that the sheriff says he's ever seen, including Katrina and including Gustav. The last time it flooded there in Gustav, that water didn't drain for over a week, Soledad. So you're talking about a serious situation on that part of the lake. And on the north side now, we're getting a milder storm surge with the south winds. So everybody getting it from al angles, including New Orleans. And of course down where you are in Plaquemines Parish. Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes, we are certainly feeling it. I want to show folks a shot -- thank you, Rob Marciano, he's at the Port of New Orleans. I want to show folks a shot of members of the National Guard. I believe that's Louisiana National Guard. If you head behind this wall, that is heading right into Plaquemines Parish.
Right where they are going right now, there is about 15 feet of water still standing there. It's been blocked by this wall behind me. They are just now, as the sun's has come up and the weather, as Rob said, is not great, but certainly is an improvement over yesterday. They're going to put their boats back in the water, do a run-through and make sure there are no people left in the subdivisions that are now submerged in Plaquemines Parish. We were talking to the parish president a little bit earlier, who said he thought that actually there -- he believes there are no more people that need to be rescued but they're goign to do a run through again and make sure.
Still ahead this morning, and obviously keep following what's happening with what is now Tropical Storm Isaac as it makes its way through. And our other top story this morning is the Republican National Convention. Former governor Mitt Romney is going to be making his big speech tonight. We'll preview that ahead and much more. Stay with us.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. Tonight, Mitt Romney will give the biggest speech of his political career, one he has been waiting for for years. He will accept his party's nomination for the presidency of the United States. Then he'll try to convince voters to choose him in November. Last night, it was his running mate's opportunity.
Congressman Paul Ryan, he gave a rousing speech, really, and it got better as it went along. He ended with a standing ovation there. Some people were saying, though, that itt wasn't even the best speech of the night, that Condoleezza Rice stole the show. I want to bring in right now our friends here at STARTING POINT, Will Cain, a CNN contributor, a columnist for theblaze.com. Also Roland Martin, CNN contributor and host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin".
One of the things we've been talking about all morning and a lot of people are talking about in the political world today is some factually-challenged statements Paul Ryan may have made in his speech.
ROLAND MARTIN, HOST, WASHINGTON WATCH WITH ROLAND MARTIN: How much time have we got?
BERMAN: One of them was he said that President Obama went to a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin where Paul Ryan's from and essentially said that this plant can stay open. Paul Ryan said that the President was involved or implied the President was involved with shutting it down. There's some controversy down. Will Cain, tell me why it's not wrong.
WILL CAIN, COLUMNIST, THEBLAZE.COM: Yes, that word or this word "lie" has been forwarded several times this morning, John. You used the term "factually-challenged". But it wasn't factually inaccurate what Paul Ryan said. He said that President Obama showed up at that plant and said that, "I believe that the government is here to help you. This plant will be here for the next 100 years." That happened. He didn't say that President Obama shut down the plant.
What it was was an indictment on the deeper level, which is a debate that I would love to have -- we all should have -- is should the government be there to support industries when they fail? Should it pick winners and losers? And can it succeed when it does? Because this is an example where it did not work.
MARTIN: Two words, "imply" and "infer". "Infer" means I heard something and I'm inferring what you said. No, he implied it. And so Will can dance around it and I'm not -- no, you are dancing. I'm not going to call someone a lie; I'm not going to say, well, because, right, he was on the edge of truth. And so he clearly implied it and he wanted to leave the impression with the public that it was President Obama who was a part of shutting this plant down when he wasn't even in office. Now, I don't understand why it's that hard to be clear, to have some level of clarity there.
BERMAN: Is it possible you're both right here? Is it possible that what he said was true, but --
MARTIN: It's called dancing on the edge of truth. And so --
CAIN: You're the one dealing with implications. You're not dealing with the actual statement that was said.
MARTIN: Will, he was very clear in what he was trying to imply. And that is he was trying to link the plant closing with President Obama. You know it and I know it.
BERMAN: You know, there was this implication game also with the Bowles-Simpson Commission. I just talked to Eric Fehrnstrom, a key Romney adviser. Paul Ryan criticized President Obama for not acting on Bowles-Simpson, when Paul Ryan voted against it.
CAIN: Yes but I would say that you have to look at it in two ways. First of all, they had different roles. President Obama is the one that empanelled that blue ribbon commission. Paul Ryan sat on it. That doesn't mean he can't condemn President Obama or criticize him for voting against or not supporting the exact panel that he put together. That's one criticism. Second, Paul Ryan, yes, did vote against Bowles-Simpson. But then, what did he do afterwards? Came out with his own plan to reduce the debt and deficit.
MARTIN: There was once a guy who ran for President who once said, "I voted for it, then later voted against it." Republicans blasted him. He was Senator John Kerry. And so, look, you said -- you clearly sat on it. And keep in mind, many Republicans called for that type of commission before; ran from it after it was already put in place. Democrats and Republicans say, "Oh, great ideas, but we really don't want to implement what they are talking about."
BERMAN: I think sadly we have to end this without any resolution, gentlemen. But I'm sure we'll take it up again soon.
CAIN: Yes, really?
MARTIN: Yes, just put "Will Cain Dancing on the Edge of Truth."
BERMAN: Live at the CNN Grill, no resolutions. Soledad, while they are fighting, back to you in New Orleans.
O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. I was going to say a storm at the CNN Grill. A storm where I am as well. It just doesn't end.
Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we'll continue our special coverage both from the RNC and also of what is now Tropical Storm Isaac as we are feeling the aftereffects as rain and wind comes in. We'll update out what's happening not only in the state of Louisiana but in Mississippi as well. Stay with us. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live this morning from St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana. Grand Isle is a Barrier Island also in Louisiana. It took a direct hit from Hurricane Isaac, which is now downgraded to a tropical storm. The damage is widespread around that island; it's still covered by several feet of water. Ed Lavandera went in before the storm and stuck it out with some homeowners during the storm. We were very worried about you, Ed. How is it looking now in Grand Isle?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have finally seen the rain stop. It was gusting pretty strong from time-to-time, but it is quite a dramatic difference from what we experienced here for, Soledad, simply almost 24 hours ago. More than 24 hours ago. Probably got up to 36 (INAUDIBEL) where we saw the storm-like conditions here on the island, which was engulfed.
What we are dealing with here is a lot of water. But as long as the wind keeps pushing out of the south as strong as it is right now, and these aren't tropical storm winds by any means, I don't want to give people the wrong impression here, but the wind is definitely gusting pretty strongly and pushing that water and that's definitely slowing down the process of letting this water recede back into the Gulf of Mexico.
So we are still dealing with that. Now that the sun has come up, we're going to probably start to be able to get you some pictures of just how high the water is here in places. Four or five feet in some areas. Basically from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the bay side we saw a great deal of water, soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, Ed Lavandera for us this morning. Ed, thank you. And I should point out that as we've been sitting, certainly as the homeowners have been doing more, standing in all of this water, all of our gear gets inundated and some of those audio problems are because of that. That's Ed Lavandera in Grand Isle where they suffered a lot of damage there as well.
As we continue here on STARTING POINT, we're going to continue to update you on the various areas and what they are doing as the story really is the flooding in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. We'll take you -- we'll talk to a family that really feels very lucky to be alive. They were plucked out of the waters here after they ran up to their attic in Plaquemines Parish. Their 8-year-old daughter was rescued and was with them. They caught her rescue on tape. We'll share that with you straight ahead.
Also, last night's speech by now Vice Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan. You heard Republicans this morning say it was terrific. Well, what did the Obama camp think? We're goign to check in with Stephanie Cutter. This morning, she's with Deputy Campaign Manager for Presdient Obama. She'll be joining us straight ahead.
We're back in just a moment, right after this short commercial break.
O'BRIEN: Hey, everybody. Welcome to STARTING POINT. You're watching a special edition as we come to you live this morning from St. Bernard parish, Louisiana. In just a few moments we are talking to a family this morning feeling very lucky to be alive this morning. When the floodwaters were rising they ran up to their attic with their eight-year-old daughter. Their rescue was caught on tape. We'll share that with you straight ahead.
Also, what does the Obama camp think about vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's speech where he bashed President Obama? Stephanie Cutter, who is a deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, will join us live straight ahead.
First, though, an update on some of the top stories making news. Christine Romans has that for us. Good morning.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Soledad. Tropical storm Isaac moving across Louisiana this morning and spawning serious tornado threats with reports of one on the ground. A flash flood emergency has been issued for Slidell, Louisiana, until 9:00 a.m. local time. Evacuations are currently underway. Let's bring in Karen Maginnis in the CNN hurricane center for the very latest.
KAREN MAGINNIS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We are attacking this system on several fronts. We've got the long-term issue of the flooding in the basin or the bowl that is known as New Orleans in southeastern Louisiana. But now we're watching several other immediate things that are going on, one out of Slidell. And then the latest one that I told you about just about 20 minutes ago of a tornado that was on the ground in Pascagoula. Pascagoula is right down here. It's essentially between Biloxi and Dolphin Island, right along the coast. Now that has moved off toward the north. And by the way, there was a report of a tornado on the ground on market boulevard, Pascagoula. It may still be on the ground, but that shift is more towards the north now.
Let's look at what's happening in Slidell. And the rainfall there has been quite heavy as well as these bands of precipitation move through, dropping heavy amounts of rainfall in a very short period of time. I'm going to give you a perspective on Google earth. Slidell is right across the river, right across Lake Pontchartrain. Slidell is a low-lying area, as you'd expect, but they have seen a tremendous amount of rainfall. And the old town region, they have seen two to three feet of water there. The pumping station there cannot keep up.
ROMANS: Thanks, Karen. All of that water will move inland. Of course, the drought stricken areas need the water desperately, but the downpours from Isaac won't necessarily help. Some moisture ahead of the winter planting of wheat could be helpful, but the rainfall expected could knock down crops already weak from the worst drought in 50 years. Plus, crop diseases thrive in very dry or very wet field conditions.
The West Nile virus is now responsible for 66 deaths across the U.S. this year. The CDC says almost 1,600 cases have been reported so far. That's the highest number of cases through the last week of August since the mosquito-borne virus was first detected in the U.S. some 13 years ago.
A 100-year-old man is offering his apologies this morning after his car jumped the curb near a Los Angeles elementary school sending nine kids and two adults to the hospital. None of the injuries were life threatening. It was mostly bumps and bruises, but terrifying. The man's daughter says Preston Carter, who turns 101 next month, won't be driving anymore.
President Obama is already big on Facebook and twitter. Now he is giving Reddit a try. He spent about 30 minutes on the social media site yesterday, answering 10 questions submitted by Reddit users. Of course, some folks need to be convinced that it was really the president. His identity was confirmed by a moderator with the handle "Drunken Economist," and then more formally by the president's official twitter account. Soledad?
O'BRIEN: Yes. They just did not believe "Drunken Economist." Christine, thank you.
A storm surges and storms are still threatening Plaquemines parish where the levees have overtopped. Some of the waters are up to 14 feet. One family ran up to their attic. They were ultimately rescued by a neighbor. Rafael Delgadillo took a cellphone video as the eight-year-old daughter was lifted to safety. You can take a look at it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Rafael is joining us this morning. Nice to talk to you. You must have been absolutely terrified to be handing off your eight-year-old daughter in a rescue operation in bad weather and terrifying conditions. How did it feel? And how are you doing today?
RAFAEL DELGADILLO, RESIDENT, LOUISIANA: Honestly, I wasn't too terrified just because these are people that I trust with my daughter's life frequently. They are good friends of mine. So I wasn't as terrified as people think. But everyone is just fine.
O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about what happened. I'm sorry. Go ahead. Finish your thought.
DELGADILLO: Everyone is doing fine right now. My wife and daughter are still asleep. But we are doing really good right now.
O'BRIEN: I'm so glad to hear that. So tell me how you knew there was a problem. When were you aware that in fact the levees had been overtopped and water was rushing into your home?
DELGADILLO: Well, we got the phone call I want to say around 2:00 in the morning. We got the phone call that the levee broke. And when that happened, we were just prepared. And next thing you know, we started seeing water coming in the house. As soon as I started seeing the water, I had my wife wake up our daughter and take her up to the attic. My wife followed her. I moved all my water and food and blankets and pillows up to the attic, got the dog and cats up there. And then we just went up to the attic and waited.
My neighbor called me a little bit later, asked if we were OK. We said we were ok. And he just said hang tight. We'll be there in the morning with a chain saw and a boat to get you out. So that's kind of what we did.
O'BRIEN: Gosh, you make it sound like it was so calm and circumstances that I think the rest of us would be absolutely freaking out in. I think a lot of people would say, why did you stay? Is it because it was a category 1 hurricane and you thought that would be something that wouldn't cause a lot of damage?
DELGADILLO: That is part of it. The other part of it was during Katrina, the house that I'm in didn't take in any water. It's a little higher than all the other houses. In fact, a lot of my friends and neighbors put a lot of their tractors and farm equipment and four wheelers around my house knowing that it was higher ground. So we really weren't expected to take that much water. So it did shock us all.
ROMANS: All right, an amazing story there. We're having some technical difficulties from Louisiana, but an amazing story there. He and his daughter rescued yesterday.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, as we continue our coverage of tropical storm Isaac live from Louisiana, several areas along the coast dealing now with major flooding this morning. And now we're getting new tornado warnings. We'll take you live to Gulfport, Mississippi, next for the very latest on the disaster there. You're watching STARTING POINT.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I am John Berman live at the CNN grill in Tampa, the site of the Republican national convention, where tonight it is Mitt Romney's big night. He will accept the party's nomination for president here. But this morning we're talking about his running mate, Paul Ryan, who gave a very big, very well received speech last night, that cut into the president, his policies, and the very aura that surrounds him. There was another big speech last night too from Condoleezza Rice.
I want to bring in right now a panel of all-star individuals, fine people all of them. Will Cain is a CNN contributor and columnist for TheBlaze.com, Brianna Keilar, White House correspondent, and Roland Martin, who is a CNN contributor and also the radio host. How are you, guys?
MARTIN: All good.
BERMAN: Name one thing Mitt Romney needs to do tonight, Roland.
MARTIN: Show a pulse. No, I mean, he needs to show more than just I am a policy wonk, that I get you. I will speak for you, represent you, no matter who you are if I'm in the oval office. If he can reach a little bit of Ann Romney's speech, he can probably do that.
BERMAN: Will, I think this may be something you agree with Roland on.
CAIN: No, I'll be contrarian.
MARTIN: Well, that's a shocker.
CAIN: I'm going to say this, you know what he needs to do he needs to project competency and that's ok if that comes off as sober. We keep setting a bar for Mitt Romney asking him to be someone he's not. He doesn't need to go out and be a rah-rah, be a rock star. You put Chris Christie on the stage to do things like that. Go be yourself. Maybe this is a time for competency and sober solutions.
BERMAN: Brianna let me ask you this in a different way since you cover the White House. What's the one thing from Mitt Romney that the White House is most frightened to see perhaps?
KEILAR: I think it's the economic message certainly. I think that they feel pretty safe when it comes to things like likability. And you said the polls, you know but I think -- I think they feel they are pretty safe that they have the candidate that voters connect to, and polls show that.
But I think obviously it's the economic message. And that's probably what they're going to hit back hardest on as we saw with Paul Ryan.
BERMAN: We've been talking all morning about Paul Ryan's speech, which did fire up the crowd last night. There were some instances where people have taken issue with some of the facts in his speech. One of them was on the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, where Paul Ryan criticized the President for not acting on it, even though Paul Ryan himself voted against the findings in that debt commission.
I did ask senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom about this issue a few moments ago. Let's listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Paul Ryan voted against Simpson-Bowles. Did he do less than nothing? ERIC FEHRNSTROM, MITT ROMNEY'S SENIOR ADVISER: And then Paul Ryan brought forward his own deficit reduction plan. That's not something that this President did. Instead, he kicked the can down the road. And this is why so many people have lost faith in this President.
BERMAN: But he stood in the way. He stood in the way of the Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission and then criticized the President for not taking action on it.
FEHRNSTROM: There can be disagreements about how to reduce some of the deficit and how to put the budget on a bat toward fiscal balance. The important thing is, what is your plan? And Paul Ryan had a plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Roland, you do not seem impressed with Eric -- Roland you don't seem with Eric Fehrnstrom's argument there.
MARTIN: No, I'm not. That's the Mr. Etch-a-Sketch guy. No the bottom line is, you can dance around it, but it's a thing called facts. And so I know his job is to spin. And the bottom line is, you can't say one thing and do another.
We just talked to Congressman Chris Van Hollen. And he laid it out, he said, look, you criticize the President for something that you voted against. Seriously, stop.
BERMAN: But the President -- but -- but Paul Ryan has made proposals to cut the deficit.
MARTIN: Right and according to Congressman Van Hollen, that Erskine -- Mr. Erskine --
BERMAN: Erskine Bowles. The Bowles-Simpson.
MARTIN: Erskine Bowles that guy, he said that the President's budget is much closer to what they did than what the Ryan budget is. That's the guy who was half of the commission.
BERMAN: Guys, do you want a piece of this action?
CAIN: Oh I'll this --
KEILAR: I was going to say it's kind of splitting hairs. I will -- I will go out, I don't think I'm going out on a limb here.
MARTIN: Don't bring up hair with Will.
KEILAR: It's certain -- it's very nice. But I don't think it's -- I don't it's -- I think it is splitting hairs a little bit to say that that sort of argument, that it's ok to disagree with it but the President didn't act on his own.
(CROSSTALK) KEILAR: It is just a little hair splitty, if you will.
CAIN: Look, I -- I'm not going to do spin, as Roland said. I wasn't happy when Paul Ryan voted against Simpson-Bowles. I wish he would have voted for it.
However, I think his criticism -- you got -- we continue to search for hypocrisy. Being on the commission and voting against it is different than being the President that empanels the commission and then not supporting it. I think there's room for criticism there.
BERMAN: All right, quickly halftime report. We're not -- we're more than halfway through the convention but -- but we still have some time to go. I want your all-star right now, your convention all-star. Who's had the best moment?
CAIN: Well, I think Chris Christie. But I kind of came in expecting that. So he fulfilled my expectation. But I will say this, the one surprise, I thought Susana Martinez the governor of New Mexico last night was really good. Every -- everyone at this convention very surprise -- it was President Barack Obama in 2004 he stole the show. I'm not saying Susana Martinez stole the show, but she was really good.
BERMAN: Brianna all-star.
KEILAR: Condoleezza Rice because I think that it's easier to poke holes in the President on the economy, than it is on foreign policy he's had some successes. But she did a pretty -- pretty convincing job.
MARTIN: Easy -- the GOP house band, they finally played a bunch of Motown versus playing smooth jazz like they did in 2008.
BERMAN: GOP House Band and G.E. Smith formerly of the "Saturday Night Live" band.
MARTIN: I mean they needed a little more soul singing "My Girl" but at least they were able to get through Motown. So I wasn't dancing.
BERMAN: Roland Martin on the record supporting the Republican band.
MARTIN: Yes thank you for having a (inaudible) in a soul.
KEILAR: I think we can all support that.
BERMAN: All right guys thank you very much.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, our coverage of tropical storm Isaac continues. Mississippi is not yet in the clear right now. There are some major flooding, some strong winds. And now get this, tornado warnings. We'll take you live to Gulfport, Mississippi, next. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: And welcome back to STARTING POINT.
We're getting word this morning, one person, one person has died in connection with tropical storm Isaac. The National Weather Service says it happened in Picayune, Mississippi, after a tree fell on top of a car.
And now a tornado warning is in effect for Jackson County after a tornado touched ground on Market Street in Pascagoula, Mississippi. David Mattingly is in Gulfport, Mississippi for us this morning. What's the latest, David?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, those updates you just gave just show how much trouble and how much pain can still be associated with this storm. It can hurt you in so many different ways. We've seen continued flooding all across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
But just take a look at what was happening here just a little over an hour ago, just absolutely torrential rain. I mean, this could have been identical to what we were showing you yesterday morning at this time.
But we're still getting a lot of rain. And the -- the storms that we've been seeing are just coming in, continuing to come in, in waves. We've seen tornadoes touching down. Early -- one on the ground just a short time ago to the east of us. Earlier here in Gulfport, there was one yesterday touching down, damaging a home here.
Flooding, of course, forcing so many people out of their homes because the storm stayed in one place for so long, the floodwaters came up much higher than anyone had anticipated. But there are this morning some small signs of improvement. The winds have died down a little bit, even though they are still strong enough to be considered tropical storm winds.
But behind me, you might notice that the waves behind me have actually retreated. The storm surge from the storm actually moving back this morning. Signs also -- the -- the -- the curfew has been lifted across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
So soon people will be able to get back out on the roads, back to their homes. And actually Christine be able to start doing some assessment and getting taken care of some of the damage that has happened from this long, long storm.
ROMANS: All right. David Mattingly in Gulfport.
And again, as people start to assess the damage, be very careful. You can see from the wind and from the waves behind him that this is still a dangerous situation. Thanks, David. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: And welcome back to our continuing coverage of what is now tropical storm Isaac. The rain has come in, the wind; obviously, the clouds, all that, is what knocked us off a moment ago off our satellite. We have some pictures to share with you, if I can, coming to us from the National Weather Service telling us that the one person now is dead in connection with the storm. A tree fell on top of a car in Picayune, Mississippi.
Also tornado warnings in effect for Jackson County until the top of the hour, after a tornado touched down there in Pascagoula, Mississippi. So we're watching that. The National Weather Service in New Orleans issuing some flash flood emergency service -- emergency -- flash flood emergency warnings for Slidell, Louisiana -- that's what I'm trying to say -- until 9:00 a.m. local time
Evacuations continue underway in Interstate 55 now closed in both directions. I-10 in Laplace to the Highway 51 and business exit in Pascagoula. And nearly a million customers we're told are without power in four states. So lots going on here. And as I said, the rain coming in is going to make it a little tougher for the folks who are going back into the water to rescue.
I want to show you, if I can, up on this wall now that the light has come up -- I won't say the sun has come out but the light -- you can see what they're dealing with. You can see that the water has receded where the flooding happened. But you can see the tops of the homes now. So they are still dealing with lots and lots of water and lots of flooding there.
Obviously the other big story is happening in Tampa, Florida. And I'll be heading back there in just a couple of hours for the Republican National Convention. Mitt Romney's big speech tonight. We're going to catch that.
Keep it here on CNN. Our primetime coverage kicks off tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Wolf Blitzer. Then, during our 10:00 p.m. hour, Mitt Romney will formally accept his party's nomination for President. And at midnight Piers Morgan will put the wrap on the 2012 Republican National Convention.
"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello starts right now. I'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning. Hey Carol.