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Democrats Prepare for National Convention; Interview with Michael Nutter; Interview with Beverly Perdue; The Jimmy Carter Comparison; President Obama's First Term; Investigators: Sniper Acted Alone; Red Cross And Assad Meet; Fighter Jet's Bomb Hits Rebel Stronghold; Syria Clashes Kill 248 People; Secretary Clinton In Beijing For Talks; Prince Harry Steps Out; Will Betty White Speak At DNC?; "The Dude" Drops In On DNC

Aired September 4, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, first up, the first lady. How Michelle Obama plans to make the case tonight that her husband deserves a second term?

And remember this name, rising star, Julian Castro, the first Latino to snag the coveted spot tonight. That same role launched then little known state senator Barack Obama into the national spotlight. Is Castro next?

Plus, "No Easy Day," that's the name of the controversial memoir of a Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama Bin Laden. It hits bookshelves today. It's already number one.

Lots to talk about this morning among our guests, North Carolina's governor, Bev Perdue. Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will be back with us. Ted Strickland, the co-chair of President Obama's re-election campaign will join us. And academy award winning actor, Jeff Bridges, is with us.

It's Tuesday, September 4th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.



O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our team this morning, we're heavy on the women. I like that, Dana Bash is with us, the CNN senior Congressional correspondent. Michael Nutter is the Democratic Mayor of Philadelphia. It's nice to have you, Mr. Mayor. Thank you for being with us.

Margaret Hoover is with us. She's a former White House appointee in the Bush administration. Nice to see you, Margaret. And Charles Blow is a "New York Times" columnist. Great to have you.

Our STARTING POINT is it's show-time in Charlotte. The Democratic National Convention will gavel to order this afternoon. We'll hear from keynote speaker Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio. He's also a twin. His brother is in politics as well. Also we want to focus on first lady Michelle Obama. She has a speech in prime time, and her job will be very similar to Ann Romney's job, which is accentuate the personal in highlighting President Obama in this case as a father and family man. Dana Bash, what do you expect her to say?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Looking back four years ago, she was kind of seen as a potential liability. She was kind of harsh and the goal was to soften her. Now she's so much more popular --

O'BRIEN: He wishes he had her approval numbers.

BASH: She's more popular than any politician, which tends to happen with first ladies. So kind of validate for her husband. And her speech will talk about her own accomplishments and some of the things she's done in the White House with children and with --

O'BRIEN: The whole health thing.

BASH: -- nutrition and things like that. Those are some of the things I'm told she'll talk about.

O'BRIEN: The big event will be Julian Castro's speech. I didn't realize that's the first time a Latino -- that stuns me for Democrats and Republicans. I find it shocking.

BASH: It is given how important that section of the electorate is and how fast it's growing. He's 37 years old. He's an identical twin.

O'BRIEN: His brother likes to say he's the better looking one.

BASH: And people will be able to judge that because he's going to introduce Julian tonight.

And they have an amazing story. And as you said, not unlike the story that we heard from then kind of unknown Barack Obama in 2004 when he gave the keynote, he's going to talk about his personal history and Mexican-American roots and grandmother who came to the country and about how he kind of understood and got to know about politics at a very young age with his twin brother by going around with his mother.

O'BRIEN: Both of them are very well educated, I think they were both 37 years old.

BASH: I think they are going to be 38 later this month.

O'BRIEN: September 16th, a couple of days from mine. Everybody take note of that.

There's 74,000 person outdoor stadium right around here, which means that the outdoor stadium part could be problematic because the weather is not -- yesterday that was no joke for a downpour.

BASH: Wow. It sure was. We were worried about the weather in Tampa, nothing compared to here. They are going to make a decision I'm told as early as this morning whether or not they are going to have to bail on that huge outdoor speech.

O'BRIEN: Where would they move everybody?

BASH: Back into the convention center.

O'BRIEN: Do they seat 74,000 people?

BASH: That's the problem. I think it seats maybe half that. And the issue is that they have obviously a potential for rain, but also the whole concept of this outdoor speech is fitting all these people in, but doing a big grass roots operation. They were very successful at it four years ago and signed people up and got information about their voting record and how they can help volunteer where they are from.

O'BRIEN: The visual is bad if they are soaked by rain clearly.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The visual is also bad if you have a 74,000 person stadium not full. One of the things we know about the campaign this time around, enthusiasm is dragging compared to '08 numbers. So the visual of having a partially empty stadium --

O'BRIEN: What does that mean, 61 percent say they are enthusiastic?

HOOVER: Say they are enthusiastic about voting for Barack Obama in 2008 versus 31 percent now. So there's a 22 percent differential in enthusiasm rating amongst Democrats. All of this to say it might be safer to go ahead and move it inside. It will be full and dry and YOU won't have the problem of potentially damaging optics.

BASH: I asked the exact question of somebody organizing last night.

O'BRIEN: The numbers game.

BASH: And the answer was, they feel that they would be confident that they could figure it. They've got lots of buses bringing people in. You know that right?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, (D) PHILADELPHIA: Absolutely. Notwithstanding what any poll may say, the president of the United States is making this address Thursday night we feel very confident that the stadium will be full. And so it's really more about the weather than it is about whether you're going to fill a stadium or not. He is the president making one of the most important speeches given where we are right now at this time. No doubt that the stadium will be full. Certainly you don't want people rained on.

O'BRIEN: Charles, can I ask about the enthusiasm number. You're my numbers guy. So you're prepared for the whole morning. I'll throw it your way.


O'BRIEN: What does that really mean? If you look at the enthusiasm numbers the number for enthusiasm for Mitt Romney I think is 51 percent when they asked Republicans and when I do anecdotal questioning, everybody seems to be like -- on this election overall. Is it a measure of incumbent that people are less enthusiastic or overall?

CHARLES BASH, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: I think it's right that it is a measure of overall. This is not a history-making election in the way that 2008 was a history-making election. You knew that there was going to be a new guy regardless. There was not an incumbent who had a chance running. Also, Barack Obama was a singular kind of figure. If he were to win and he did, it would make history. And that created its own sort of energy.

And towards the end of the election, and this is why I've started to chafe yesterday about the four years later question, because you have to have absolute amnesia to not realize that we thought the economy was falling apart. And we -- and people started to say, we actually need a person to save the country. That was the last two months of that election was the country literally may be in danger.

O'BRIEN: I stopped going to the gym in September of '08 because I remember being so stressed watching the monitors, it was freaking me out.

BASH: It was an incredible thing. The DOW -- if you were an individual investor in 2008, the DOW towards the beginning of 2008 in January was approaching 12,000. By November of 2008, the DOW was about 7,500. If you're an individual investor or you are close to retirement and had a 401(k), you were freaking out.

And we had McCain suspended his campaign, said I'm going back to Washington. So it was a real part of what was happening in the country, and people were very much engaged not simply because of the election and that we had to go out and vote in November, but because your money was evaporating in front of you.

O'BRIEN: We're going to talk more about that. We want to get first to Christine romans with the other stories making news today.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

Hollywood remembering actor Michael Clarke Duncan this morning. He died yesterday. Duncan was a mountain of a man, but fellow actors say he was truly a gentle giant. Clarke appeared in dozens of movies, but his signature role as a death row inmate in "The Green Mile" that earned him a supporting actor nomination. Duncan never recovered from a heart attack he suffered in July. Michael Clarke Duncan was 54 years old.

Jurors in the Drew Peterson murder trial will hear closing arguments this morning after listening to five weeks of evidence now. The former police sergeant from Chicago is charged with drowning his third wife, Kathleen Savio in 2004. The case was considered an accident until his fourth wife, Stacey, disappeared three years later.

It's been a week since hurricane Isaac hit southeast Louisiana. Many homeowners are just realizing the extent of the devastation, not in New Orleans where the levees held but west of the city in places like LaPlace where it took days for the water to recede.


TOMMY DEAN, LAPLACE RESIDENT: It would be nice if they would have put levee protection around our area as well as New Orleans. All they did was protect New Orleans. They didn't protect the outer lying areas so the water had nowhere to go. It had to come this way. We have over 10,000 homes out here in LaPlace affected like this. It's a major disaster here.


ROMANS: President Obama toured the area assuring victims help and answers are on the way.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are getting on the case very quickly about figuring out what exactly happened here, what can we do to make sure it doesn't happen again, and expediting decisions that need to be made.


ROMANS: And 125,000 people are still without power. Later we'll talk with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The Secret Service and Detroit police looking for the man in this surveillance photo. He is considered a person of interest in connection with the theft of vice president Joe Biden's U-Haul. It was stolen Sunday near a Detroit hotel and since been recovered. It contained portable metal detectors for Biden's Labor Day speech yesterday.

And today is the day despite warnings from the Pentagon, the book "No Easy Day," a retired Navy SEAL's act of the raid of Osama bin Laden. The book hit store shelves today. The release date was moved up from September 11. The Pentagon already worried about loose lips threatened legal action against the author whose pen name is Mark Owen. They say he violated an agreement not to divulge military secret, to say nothing of the code of the SEALs to keep their mission secret. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: But it's the violation part that's going to get him in serious legal trouble I'm sure. Thank you, Christine, I appreciate that.

This year many of the rising stars in the Democratic side aren't in Capitol Hill, they are from city hall. More than a half dozen mayors scheduled to speak in Charlotte this week, and one is Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, (D) PHILADELPHIA: Good morning. O'BRIEN: So you're going to give a speech. Are you talking --

NUTTER: Wednesday night.

O'BRIEN: Wednesday night, which will be a big night. What's your message? We've gotten word that people will come out as pit bulls and attack dogs. What's your strategy?

NUTTER: I'm just a really nice guy, Soledad.


O'BRIEN: Really? OK.

NUTTER: I'm going to talk about real facts about the real president, Barack Obama, the things he's done that I've experienced certainly in Philadelphia, particularly focused on education, investment in infrastructure, support for cities. More than 80 percent of the country's population lives in cities. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, our job is to get things done and make things happen and support the public that we serve.

So we don't really have a lot of time for gridlock and talks and resolutions, and you can't continue doing as we see sometimes in congress, just kind of kick the can down the road. Mayors, much like the president, we have to serve people, and the president has done that. And the commentary from earlier, people seem to forget where we were.

O'BRIEN: Charles called it amnesia.

NUTTER: January of 2009, before the president had really taken his hand down from taking the oath of office, 700,000 jobs lost. We have 29 straight months of job growth, 4.4 million jobs created. The president's initiatives on education and support for infrastructure, all of those are facts and they have made a difference.

O'BRIEN: Some of the issue is how people feel. If you look at the unemployment numbers in your city, for example, they've gone up. So when you're asking people --

NUTTER: Gone up and come down.

O'BRIEN: And come down, but still higher than they were in 2009. So that's sort of the problematic part of this, right?

NUTTER: And if you're unemployed or lost your home or lost your health care or pension, you're still upset, and the president gets that. A little more support and cooperation in the Congress, the president doesn't rule by fee at, many of the initiatives have been blocked by House Republicans who do not want this president to be successful.

Nonetheless, there has been progress and things would have been that much worse but for $787 billion economic recovery package, the largest in the history of the country, reforms on Wall Street. A lot of people talked about making health care affordable, president Barack Obama actually did it. Said he would end the two wars, did that. Killed bin Laden and GM is back and auto industry is saved when Mitt Romney said let it die. So he actually has a record.

O'BRIEN: When you look at polling, whether or not the RNC, Republican National Convention, gave a bump to Mitt Romney, it really did not. Some individual places it did but overall nationally it did not. What do the Democrats have to do to get a bump out of this?

NUTTER: I think we have to continue to actually talk about the president's record. Part of the reason why I think the other guy didn't get much of a bump because he didn't talk about anything or put out anything of any substance.

O'BRIEN: Margaret has rolled her eyes massively.



O'BRIEN: I think it was like an, oh, please.

HOOVER: What's really interesting about that, looking back over the last three election cycles, no candidate, democrat or Republican, has gotten a bump. John Kerry went down after two points after his convention. That speaks to a potential problem for both candidates in that by the time we're here where we are in the calendar, that a lot of people's positions are already hardened. So it is going to be a real struggle to get -- find those undecided voters and convince them.

O'BRIEN: Or is the nation so divided?

BASH: You're divided, but it's also about rallying troops. I think conventions these days are really about rallying the base. Can you energize people to get them out to knock on doors, because the numbers may not move in terms of percentages of people who say that they are for one candidate or the other, but you can get a few more people excited about the candidacy.

HOOVER: And if you can turn out your base --

BASH: That's correct. Mayor Nutter --


HOOVER: You talk about the president's record and talked specifically about the stimulus dollars which you made good use of. I wonder if you can talk about how that was relevant to Philadelphia and what it did to Philadelphia?

NUTTER: As Soledad talked about, many cities across America, unemployment did go up, national unemployment went up then it started to come down. It helped to stabilize the economy in Philadelphia, whether it's over in education and medicine which are big and for in schools, bridges, roads.

HOOVER: Did it go to shovel ready projects in your city? In some places mayors used those to fill budget gaps.

NUTTER: For us it was pretty much shovel ready projects and as the president said, at times there aren't projects that aren't I'm wait for the next dollar to come through the door. We did put people to work. We're helping to close the digital divide, 77 new computer centers putting people to work and gave people access to the internet, just one of many things.

BASH: I think that's an important thing that people, it's a very hard thing to sell. The idea that stimulus saved jobs. Things would have been much worse had there not --

O'BRIEN: This will be --

BASH: It prevented layoffs, particularly in a public sector jobs.

O'BRIEN: This will be the message that the Democrats or whoever hopes to win has to get out. We have to take a commercial break. We can keep discussing this. I also want to remind folks that CNN's primetime coverage of the democratic National Convention kicks off tonight at 7:00 p.m. eastern with Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper. At the 7:00 p.m. hour -- is that right -- Michelle Obama -- no, 10:00 p.m. hour. And then at midnight Piers Morgan will wrap up from the CNN grill.

Look who's coming up to talk to us this morning. Governor Bev Perdue will talk about the big challenge for Mitt Romney, who's leading in a poll here in North Carolina. We're going to ask you why is that? Was it a mistake for the DNC to hold their event here in your state?


O'BRIEN: I was sure you were going to say that. We'll discuss that right after this commercial break. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: And welcome back to STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live from Charlotte, North Carolina, the Democratic National Convention kicking off today. Back in 2008, President Obama won North Carolina, but only by 14,000 votes. This year it could be another tight race. The most recent CNN poll has President Obama and Mitt Romney in a statistical dead heat in the tar heel state. The newest state poll taken during the Republican convention shows Mitt Romney has the lead at 47 percent over president Obama's 43 percent. Joining us this morning one of tonight's speakers, North Carolina governor and Democrat Bev Perdue. Nice to have you with us.

PERDUE: I like the digs here in Charlotte. It looks good.

O'BRIEN: We like them very much as well. They are not outside with the rain yesterday.

PERDUE: It doesn't rain in North Carolina. O'BRIEN: Really? I have a hairdo from yesterday that would say that's not true.

PERDUE: We do have humidity.

O'BRIEN: You do.

Let's talk about the bump I was talking about out of the RNC, across the board you didn't see a bump for mitt Romney but did see it here in North Carolina.

PERDUE: I think the people in North Carolina are beginning to get engaged in the race. Everybody in the state has heard about the democratic convention coming to Charlotte for more than a year. Quite naturally they've begin thinking about the Republican convention. But he who bumps last, bumps best. We'll just see. We think we've got a great message to deliver to the people of America. We feel like as people begin to focus for the fall election, this is a huge choice and America and North Carolinians want to go forward. Our races are always close, it's an equally divided state. I believe the message will win the day for the president.

O'BRIEN: The amendment about marriage passed in May, and that made having the location here sort of controversial. There's some people who say if you look at that and the bump, maybe what you could read into that, this state is going to go for mitt Romney and not going to go for president Obama. He won by a sliver last time around.

PERDUE: I do think the state will go for Barack Obama. I believe he'll win America again and re-elected and win North Carolina. There's a cheer choice in the race and the folks in North Carolina are focusing on that choice. Do you want to go backwards that caused the economy to implode, or do you want to go forward? The president has made tremendous progress.

We all understand folks are struggling, but we at the end of the day we're focusing on things that have gotten us thus far in the last 29 months of job growth.

O'BRIEN: Unemployment is 9.6 percent. Is that going to be an impossible sell?

PERDUE: Our unemployment is higher than average because the manufacturing base is higher than average. And during the economy we imported unemployment more than 300,000 people moved to North Carolina. The bottom line is North Carolina is a great state. We are one of eight states triple a bond rated and red hot, more and more people come here, poised to be the seventh largest state in America. We have created during my administration more than 100,000 jobs, $23 billion. Our biotech industry is a $66 billion industry with more than 400,000 jobs.

O'BRIEN: How come president Obama isn't running away with the state with numbers like that? Why are the polls not saying, oh, my goodness, in the x number of years this state has done so well? PERDUE: This state is equally divided. Remember in 2008, people in this community woke up to Wachovia, one of the biggest banks in the world, imploding overnight, our world changed in North Carolina. We didn't just lose hundreds and thousands of regular jobs. We lost financial services, one of our big, big brands.

And so we've struggled and bounced back. I believe the attitude in North Carolina is one of optimism. We look forward to the future and feel great about what we're doing, although we know there are lots of people in our state who are displaced, and that's why we continue to focus on education and workforce-training to help folks out of work get job skills for the 21st century.

O'BRIEN: Is it going to rain on Thursday?

PERDUE: I can do a lot of things but not predict the weather.


O'BRIEN: Thanks for being here.

PERDUE: Thank you, and welcome to North Carolina.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it. Still ahead, the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz will be back with us. She'll talk about how testimonies can sway the undecided voters this time around.

So what is the most important requirement for being middle class? We'll tell you. That's up next. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live from the CNN grill in Charlotte, North Carolina. We're back in just a moment.


ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans minding your business this morning. The ratings agency Moody's putting the European Union on notice for a downgrade. Moody's says the EU countries are more concerned about their own individual debt problems than the EU as a whole. European stocks are down this morning.

Markets reopened after the Labor Day holiday and U.S. stock futures are lower. September is a historically bad month for stocks, but it's been a great year so far. The S&P 500 is up nearly 12 percent so far this year.

And 86 percent of Americans think having a secure job is what you need to be considered part of the middle class. That's according to a new poll from Pugh Research Center. It's a very different picture from 20 years ago. Back in 1991, owning a home was what put you in the middle class over anything else, and having two or more cars was also seen as an important key to the middle class life. Back then only 33 percent said a white collar job made you part of the middle class.

ROMANS: -- then only 33 percent said a white collar job made you part of the middle class. Soledad, it used to be you just assumed you had a chance of getting a job in the economy. Now that's the big concern.

O'BRIEN: It's a big assumption too. Christine Romans for us. Thank you, Christine.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, making the case for four more years, President Obama and the Democrats unveil their party's platform as the convention kicks off today.

We're going to talk this morning with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. She is the chair of the Democratic National Committee. She talks about this week's critical goal.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live from the CNN Grill in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hi. Nice to have you with us. Appreciate it. We're going to put you here next to me. We're back in just a moment, everybody.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live this morning from the CNN Grill in Charlotte, North Carolina.

At 5:00 Eastern this evening, the 2012 Democratic convention will officially be called to order. There are a series of speakers, most notably, First Lady Michelle Obama tonight and key note speaker San Antonio's Mayor Julian Castro.

It will be the first time that a Latino gives the keynote speech of the DNC or even the RNC I think also. Throughout the week, Democrats are also going to try to convince voters that they are better off now than they were before President Obama took office.

Joining us this morning to talk more about that is DNC chairwoman and Florida Congressman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. She's going to be the one gavelling in the convention.

So what does that mean, your job is to call it to order, what happens?

REPRESENTATIVE DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I call the convention's order and deal with procedural business, layout the beginning and the theme of us having the most open inclusive participatory convention in history and then turn gavel over after having nominated Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to be the permanent convention chair and then we move forward with an exciting convention.

O'BRIEN: How much is tone going to be critical? I mean, if you're kicking it off and sorts of reaching the crescendo of the first lady speaking. What's the expected tone? I heard pit bull, attack the RNC. Mayor Nutter said he's a kind and gentleman and friendly. He's not going to attack anybody. What does it have to be? SCHULTZ: Over the course of the week, you'll hear a very different tone than the one that you heard last week in Tampa, which was really essentially one nonstop series of attacks on President Obama.

We're going to layout the case for moving the economy forward. President Obama and speakers throughout the week will talk about and have an honest conversation about where we were when he first took office and where we are now after four years of his policies and 29 straight months of job growth in the private sector.

We need to continue to move forward and we've got a ways to go. But we're moving in the right direction and need to focus on rebuilding our economy from the middle class out and bottom up and not go back to the failed policies of the past.

O'BRIEN: I didn't think Mitt Romney in his speech attacked the president. I thought his tone was very much of a -- he's an extremely nice man. We just need to try another option. I know you know attacks.

SCHULTZ: I do have familiarity with attacks, but leading up to the speech, I'm not sure there was a single positive thing that was said about what the Republicans had to offer.

Mitt Romney, you know, I was pretty disappointed he was as disingenuous as he was in saying that he had been rooting for President Obama to succeed.

I mean, Soledad, in my home state, the night Mitt Romney won the primary, he said you have to remember what this election is really about, to his supporters and his answer was not creating jobs or getting the economy turned around, it was defeating Barack Obama.

So spare me if I don't really trust that Mitt Romney has been rooting for President Obama to succeed. So we need to talk about how to move forward together and help make sure that everyone in America has an opportunity to be successful, not just people who already are like Mitt Romney has proposed.

O'BRIEN: Paul Ryan has liked to invoke the name Jimmy Carter. I'm going to play a little clip of what Paul Ryan has been saying and then what Joe Biden has responded to. Let's listen.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The president can say a lot of things and he will, but he can't tell you that you're better off. Simply put, the Jimmy Carter years looked like the good old days compared to where we are right now.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You want to know whether we're better off, I've got a little bumper sticker for you, Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: This is going to be the, are you better off question is going to be, I think, sort of the strategy from both sides moving forward?

SCHULTZ: Yes, we're absolutely better off. There's no question when President Obama took office, he inherited the largest set of problems of any president since FDR.

The economy under President Bush and the previous six months had lost 3.5 million jobs and we were hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs a month when he took office. Now again after four years of President Obama's policies, not only do we stop the hemorrhaging, but we began to turn things around.

Besides the 29 straight months of job growth in the private sector and more than 4.5 million jobs created and counting, resurgence in the manufacturing sector.

We're creating jobs in manufacturing for the first time since the 1990s and Americans are beginning to in the housing crisis know they can remain in their homes although we still need more confidence in that market.

Unlike Mitt Romney's proposal, which is we just let it hit rock bottom and have investors sell the properties for a property and let Detroit go bankrupt after President Obama rescued the American automobile industry. So clearly --

O'BRIEN: What he said was a managed bankruptcy, would not have done that, but as you know --

SCHULTZ: He should we should not rescue the automobile industry and the managed bankruptcy was preposterous if you ask any economist or any automobile expert at the time, a managed bankruptcy, without government assistance was not going to be possible.

So the economy was about to go over a cliff. Now we've stabilized things and begun to turn things around and need to work together so that everyone who wants to succeed has an opportunity to succeed.

We have to continue to invest as President Obama has said in an education and innovation. And make sure that America can out educate and out compete and out innovate the rest of the world.

O'BRIEN: Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz joining us this morning. Nice to see you. We look forward to seeing you at 5:00 when you're at that big podium.

If you want to know what it's like to really experience the Democratic National Convention from the inside, you can join the CNN Election Roundtable with Wolf Blitzer and CNN's political team.

Submit your questions, get answers in real time in this live virtual chat, don't miss it at 12:00 Noon Eastern. Go to

Still ahead this morning, let's get to Christine Romans for a look at what else is happening around the world and our top stories. Hi, Christine.

ROMANS: Good morning, Soledad. Investigators say they believe a suspected sniper who terrorized in north western Washington State acted alone. He was killed after a standoff with sheriff's deputies yesterday.

They are trying to fig out why this unidentified 60-year- old fired on his neighbors and armored police vehicles. The "Seattle Times" reports that one man was treated for a gunshot wound to the calf and was later released.

This morning the Red Cross met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to discuss humanitarian operations in that world ravage country. This comes after a camera man in Syria says he caught the moment a fighter jet dropped a bomb on the rebel strong hold.

The Syrian opposition says air strikes yesterday destroyed a building killing an entire family and others. In total opposition groups say 248 people were killed in clashes yesterday.

Activists say August was the bloodiest month of the crackdown, 5,000 people killed. Still a Syrian government official is calling on citizens who have fled the country to come home. He says they have nothing to fear.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is taking a strong message of cooperation and partnership to Beijing today. She'll call on China and Southeast Asian countries to agree to a code of conduct in order to resolve their dispute in the South China Seas. She is also expected to address Beijing's concerns over U.S. efforts to increase its presence in the Pacific.

Out of the shadows and back into the royal spotlight. Britain's Prince Harry was surrounded by kids in London yesterday attending an awards dinner for a sick children's charity. The 27- year-old prince has been laying low since naked photos of him partying in Las Vegas were leaked.

Should you buy organic? A new study from Stanford says it depends. Researchers found organic produce has the same number of vitamins and minerals.

But the lead researcher says organics are 30 percent less likely to have pesticide residue contamination. The study also found a 33 percent higher risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria in nonorganic pork and chicken -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you very much.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Oscar-winning actor and musician, Jeff Bridges is going to stop by the CNN Grill. He's already gotten the party started here in Charlotte. You heard him play yesterday, but he's got a serious issue he wants to talk about.

Also the Democrats are calling for Betty White to make their day at the DNC. How would the "Golden Girl" do compared to Clint Eastwood? That would be an interesting match-up really when you think about it. You're watching STARTING POINT coming to you live in the CNN Grill in Charlotte. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT -- almost said the starting point grill. What a good idea. New online petition is calling for Betty White to speak here at the Democratic convention, 5,500 people so far have signed on at

Says Clint Eastwood the Republican's mystery guest gave a bad name is what the petition said, to older Americans everywhere with his quote, "absurd and awkward to watch skit."

The 90-year-old Betty White is eight years older than Clint Eastwood. She endorsed President Obama back in May. Do you think they have to do an answer to Clint Eastwood or is it one of those just better left alone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bad name to mystery guest. Scratch the whole thing off. We're done.

O'BRIEN: I'm not vetting speeches ahead of time.

BASH: Remember, online petitions work. Betty White was on "Saturday Night Live" as a host because of that Facebook campaign remember to get her on. And by the way, she also followed scripts when she was there. If they do decide --

O'BRIEN: She could be strong.

BASH: She should be comfortable with it.

O'BRIEN: The 5,500 is a little anemic in terms of support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It shows that this is keeping this issue alive. By President Obama even piping in and saying this chair is taken, responding to the fact --

BASH: The most tweeted tweet on the entire convention. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It shows there is engagement, back and forth rather than just letting it die.

O'BRIEN: It was so weird. I don't know you can let it die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Took advantage of it. It's the night of Romney's speech so you take -- distract.

BASH: Real quick, that it wasn't as weird in the hall. It was like a Clint Eastwood performance on TV I saw it. O'BRIEN: It was very awkward watching it in a hotel room and thinking, wow, reminded me of my crazy uncle at my wedding. Where are we going with the speech, Uncle?

All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Oscar-winning actor and musician, Jeff Bridges is going to join us, kicked off the convention last night with a concert in downtown Charlotte.

Not the only reason he's in town. He's going to join us up next. You're watching STARTING POINT live in the CNN Grill in Charlotte, North Carolina. Good morning, nice to see you.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live here in Charlotte, North Carolina. The dude himself, Oscar-winning actor and musician Jeff Bridges is lending his talents to this year's Democratic convention.

Bridges and his band, "The Abiders," performed last night at the Carolina Fest. It's a music festival here in town. He is also in town to promote his other passion project, which is ending childhood hunger with a screening of a documentary that he's narrated called "Hunger Hits Home."

He is an advocate for the no kid hungry campaign, which aims to educate low income families about staying fit and healthy. He is here along with the founder of "Share Our Strength," Bill Shore.

It's nice to have you both with us. Let's talk about the concert first before we get to that terrible issue of child hunger, which just breaks my heart. It kind of (inaudible) a little bit.

JEFF BRIDGES, ACTOR: We got about halfway through and then here comes the rain. I saw my brother in the audience. I invited him.

O'BRIEN: The rain dance.

BRIDGES: Doing the reverse rain dance. It didn't seem to work.

O'BRIEN: It wasn't his strength, I didn't think. You guys are here to talk about -- and you were in Tampa too talking about childhood hunger. It's been interesting to me from both campaigns. You don't hear much about poverty or hunger on the Romney or Obama side. It's sort of like not discussed.

BILL SHORE, FOUNDER AND CEO, SHARE OUR STRENGTH: And it's precisely the time when the problem is bigger than it's ever been, 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, 46 million Americans on food stamps, half of them being children.

And it's a solvable problem, which is what I think the point that Jeff has been trying to make with the no kid hungry campaign, getting bipartisan support to say we have the food resources. If we can get these kids connected to them, we can solve hunger.

O'BRIEN: What did you do in Tampa and what will you be doing here?

BRIDGES: The upside of the thing is we do have bipartisan support. Governor McDonnell of Virginia, who is the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he is onboard.

His state of Virginia is a no kid hungry state. And we have Governor Dion and Governor Snyder who are also Republicans. So that was heartening. And wanted to go there and support them and encourage more Republican governors to come onboard.

Because talk about patriotism, you know, if we're not taking care of our kids, we're not taking care of our country. If another country was doing this to our kids, we'd be at war, right, 16 million kids, one in five.

O'BRIEN: Who's anti-kid?

SHORE: The real issue is that these kids are not only vulnerable but voiceless. They don't make political action committee contributions. They don't have lobbyists.

hen you go into a governor's office and tell them that these programs are in place, like school breakfast and summer meals and the snack food stamp program, but not as many kids are enrolled.

They're shocked and only because these kids haven't had an opportunity to have a voice in their office. And most of them, Democrats and Republicans, want to do the right thing if they understand what it is.

O'BRIEN: What's the biggest, most -- I know you focus on innovative solutions. What's the most innovative solution you've seen that can keep the millions of children from going to bed hungry?

BRIDGES: The school breakfast is right up there. In the classroom, you know. That's the big thing.

SHORE: Rather than the cafeteria.

BRIDGES: And also summer meals. A lot of kids depend on school for their nutrition. When school is out, you know, they don't get that food they need.

O'BRIEN: When you say school breakfast in the classroom, not in the cafeteria, I don't get it.

SHORE: Less than half the kids that get lunch, less than half get breakfast even though they are eligible. And the obstacle is getting to school early to do it. Most of us can barely get the kids to school on time.

So to get there early and have the stigma attached to going to school early. In some places like in Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa just announced to us they are moving breakfast from the cafeteria to the first 10 minutes of first period.

And what they're finding is that every kid is in every seat on time. The teachers love it because everyone shows up. You get a guaranteed breakfast.

O'BRIEN: It doesn't indicate which kid is getting breakfast for free.

BRIDGES: As a kid, it's embarrassing to be saying, you're the poor kid who can't afford to eat.

O'BRIEN: We were talking about Clint Eastwood a moment ago. And you were in a film with him.

BRIDGES: Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: First of all what, did you think of that, as an actor?

BRIDGES: I thought it was an interesting hair choice, for one thing.

O'BRIEN: That's the first thing I noticed. No gel.

BRIDGES: But it was an interesting choice. His acting was pretty good. You know, I thought he really seemed like there was somebody in the chair. It was a little, you know, hard hearted. I don't agree with his politics, but he is a splendid actor, great director.

O'BRIEN: Do you think the DNC should do a similar --

BRIDGES: I had a flash of Obama doing like a little puppet, you know --

O'BRIEN: The president doing a puppet?

BRIDGES: A ventriloquist thing. But, no, I thought Obama handled it very well.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to guess there will be no skit with a puppet.

BRIDGES: He sat in his chair and he said, this seat is taken. I liked that.

O'BRIEN: You would like to see Betty White?

BRIDGES: There you go.

O'BRIEN: See, there's a poll online for that.

BRIDGES: But I think it will open a whole new thing, you know?

O'BRIEN: It could happen. So nice to have you talk to us about this project.

BRIDGES: Great to be here, Soledad. O'BRIEN: People learned a lot about child hunger. It's heartbreaking.

BRIDGES: And one of the things folks can do to get more involved is to text hungry 877877 or go to and take the no kid hungry pledge. And let me give it to you real quick.

It is, I believe that no child in America should go hungry. And by taking this pledge, I'm adding my voice to the national movement of people who are committed to end childhood hunger in America. And we can do it, but we need you guys.

O'BRIEN: It's a great passion. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it.

We got to take a short break. Still ahead this morning, First Lady Michelle Obama is going to be in the spotlight tonight. Will she show the president's softer side in her big speech this evening? We'll take a look at that.

Plus, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is also getting ready for his speech on the convention floor. And sources are telling us that he's getting ready to be tough.

He's going to stop by our CNN Grill live, coming up next. You're watching STARTING POINT live from Charlotte, North Carolina. We'll see you just the other side of this break.