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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Showtime in Charlotte; Interview with Ted Strickland; Interview With Mitch Landrieu; Interview with Amy Kremer

Aired September 4, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Our STARTING POINT this morning: first up, the first lady. How Michelle Obama plans to make the case that her husband deserves a second term.

And help is on the way. President Barack Obama consoles victims of hurricane Isaac as dangerous heat, blackouts, and flooding persists along the Gulf Coast.

"No Easy Day". That's the highly anticipated memoir of that Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama bin Laden, is in stores today. Already, it's number one. It's even beating out "Fifty Shades of Grey." I don't know how I feel about that.

Also, lots to talk about with our guests this morning at CNN Grill.

The former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland is going to join us, the co-chair of the president's re-election campaign.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will check in with us.

And "TIME" magazine humor writer Joel Stein is our guest.

It's Tuesday, September 4th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Dana Bash is with us. She's CNN senior congressional correspondent.

Mayor Michael Nutter joins. He's the Democratic mayor of Philadelphia.

Amy Kremer is with us. She's the Chair of the Tea Party Express. It's nice to see you, Amy. Thanks for being with us.

Ryan Lizza is a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker."

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

Our STARTING POINT this morning -- the nation about to be reintroduced to President Barack Obama. And that job is going to fall to the first lady as she takes the stage tonight at the DNC, the Democratic National Convention. She's going to follow the San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. He's giving the keynote address.

Earlier, I said that here have been -- he's the first Latino. But only on the DNC side. Not on the RNC side. There's some Latino I think in 1984 on the RNC side. So, I correct that.

The president's speech is going to -- the first lady's speech rather is going to set the tone for the convention. She's got to make the case for why Americans should trust the president to lead the country for another four years.

So, Dana, that could be a lot of pressure on the first lady. Of course, first lady has a high approval rating. That will make things a little bit easy. What do you think she has to say?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She's going to have to do something similar to what Ann Romney did for Mitt Romney, but it's not as critical. You know, what Ann Romney had to do was try to bridge the gender gap and make somebody who seems distant a little bit more human.

What Michelle Obama has to do is to try to kind of lend her husband some of her popularity right now, because she is incredibly popular. But she also is somebody who over the past four years has had her own agenda inside the White House. Not controversial things. Actually, maybe I shouldn't say that, maybe some things are controversial -- childhood obesity, nutrition, things like that.

But she is somebody who can be a great validator for the president and for his agenda.

O'BRIEN: Julian Castro, what is he going to say?

BASH: He is 37 years old. He has an identical twin. I think we saw a picture up there of his brother, who is actually also running for the House of Representatives. They're both --

O'BRIEN: Joaquin.

BASH: Exactly. They are both politicians. He is going to, I'm told, give an inspirational speech. It is already being compared to the speech that Barack Obama gave in 2004 before he was even senator.

O'BRIEN: Before he has delivered it.

BASH: But if I'm the mayor, I would not love that. The expectations are incredibly high.

But he does have a personal story to tell about his grandmother, who came from Mexico. And he also I'm told is going to give kind of a biting dissertation of the differences between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, but do it in a soaring way, not do it in a pit bull way.

O'BRIEN: A lot of pressure on him.

Joining us in just a couple of minutes, we're going to be talking to one of tonight's speakers, the former governor of Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland. He's going to be our guest as well.

We got other stories that are making news this morning, believe it or not, outside of politics. Can you believe it? You wouldn't know it here in Charlotte, but exists. Christine Romans has those for us.

Hi, Christine. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.

Friends, family, and Hollywood this morning remembering actor Michael Clarke Duncan. He died yesterday. Clarke appeared in dozens of movies, but his signature role was the death row inmate in "The Green Mile". That earned him a supporting actor nomination. Duncan never recovered from a heart attack he suffered back in July.

Michael Clarke Duncan was 54 years old.

Jurors in the Drew Peterson murder trial will hear closing arguments this morning. They listened to five weeks now of testimony, endured three near mistrials and even coordinated their wardrobes. The former police sergeant from suburban Chicago is charged with drowning his third wife, Kathleen Savio, in 2004. The case was considered an accident until Peterson's fourth wife, Stacey, disappeared three years later.

It's just 5 percent contained. Flames are burning through Angeles National Forest in southern California. Firefighters are hoping to gain some ground today, though. Thousands of visitors had to evacuate the popular camp ground over the weekend. For now, the fire is burning in a wilderness area and it's away from homes.

Louisiana residents are trying to rebuild today in blistering heat with no air conditioning. This as President Obama promised health and answers for thousands who lost everything in the flooding caused by hurricane Isaac. Yesterday, the president toured LaPlace, about 30 miles west of New Orleans. He praised rescuers and volunteers helping in the recovery effort. In less than 10 minutes, we'll talk live with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Joe Biden's U-Haul has been found. Now, Secret Service and Detroit police are looking for a person of interest who might have stolen it. See that man in a green shirt, dark shorts? The Feds are asking for public help for identifying him. He was seen near the U- Haul when it was stolen Sunday morning near a Detroit hotel. A Detroit TV station reports it contained portable metal detectors for Biden's Labor Day speech there yesterday.

Despite warnings from the Pentagon, a retired Navy SEAL's account of the read that killed Osama in Laden, it will be on store shelves today. The book is generating so much hype that he release date was moved up from 9/11. The Pentagon already worried about loose lips has threatened legal action against the author, whose pen name is Mark Owen, telling him he violated an agreement not to divulge military secrets -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, thank you for that update.

So before arriving here in Charlotte to accept the party nomination on Thursday, President Obama is campaigning in Virginia today. He's fresh off a visit to Ohio, a key swing state, where Mitt Romney was also stumping this weekend. That is no coincidence, of course. The most recent polling there has the president and Mitt Romney in a tie at 45 percent.

The former governor of Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland, is one of tonight's speakers. He's also the national co-chair of the Obama campaign.

It's nice to have you with us.

TED STRICKLAND (D), FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: Great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: So, I've heard rumors that you're going to come out on the attack when you deliver your speech. Is that true?

STRICKLAND: Well, I'm going to speak the truth and talk about the president. And what he's done. And I'm going to talk about Ohio.

O'BRIEN: He's not going to say.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: So, yes. You're going to come out and be hard.

STRICKLAND: Well, I don't know if I'll be hard. But, yes, I'll be hard.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: OK. So give us a little preview of what the speech is. Give me the heart of it.

STRICKLAND: It's a fairly short speech, as you know. Time is precious. But I'm going to talk about what's happened in Ohio and who's responsible for Ohio's economic rebound. It wasn't former Governor Ted Strickland. It wasn't current Governor John Kasich. It was Barack Obama who saved the auto industry.

And that's responsible we believe for at least in a related way one out of every eight jobs in Ohio. And the auto industry is doing really well. Investments are being made. Thousands of people are working as a result. And the president is responsible for that.

O'BRIEN: There are many people who wanted this event held in Ohio. And some who said having it here is a mistake.

STRICKLAND: Well, Charlotte is a great city. We're having a good time.

We would like to have a national convention in Ohio at some point. But, you know, this is a nice city. And we're all getting along well. And I think we're a unified party. And so --

BASH: Pop-up video.

O'BRIEN: It's a nice city.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Well, deliver Ohio, you know, and I think you have a really good chance, right?

STRICKLAND: Well, tell me you, Ohio is in great shape. Great ground game for the Obama campaign in Ohio. We have over 140 some offices open throughout Ohio.

I have never seen a ground game like we have going in Ohio right now. And I think that will make the difference. It will be very close. But I think the president's going to win Ohio, and consequently he will win the presidency once again.

O'BRIEN: When you look at the ratings for Mitt Romney's speech, I thought the numbers were interesting. Twenty percent said they thought it was excellent, 18 percent said good, 21 percent said just OK. If you look at the ones that said poor and terrible and no opinion, you know, that was roughly 42 percent -- if you add those all together.

How important is the speech? When you look overall, there was no national bump to Mitt Romney's speech. Are we past that day where you're going to bump out of the convention?

STRICKLAND: Well, I can understand why there wasn't a national bump. I think it was an OK speech but it wasn't an outstanding speech.

I think the president will give an outstanding speech. I think he will talk candidly and directly to the American people about what's at stake. And I would hope certainly that we come out of this convention with a slight bump.

But the undecided vote is so small. I mean, people have largely made up their minds.

BASH: So do you agree that this is a base election? At this point, you talked about the ground game in Ohio.

STRICKLAND: Yes, yes.

BASH: Just making sure that every single Democrat or Democratic leaning voter votes.

STRICKLAND: That's right. That's right. I think that's where we are, because the country is polarized. And so each side has got, you know, their supporters locked in. I don't know what percentage of voters are really open to being convinced.

But that ground game, going door-to-door, talking neighbor to neighbor, really getting people out to vote, I think will make the difference in Ohio. And I'm confident. I'm very confident that we're going to pull this off in Ohio.

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: Governor, there's a lot of talk today about Obama in his second term and what specifically he'll do. We haven't heard that. What are three things very specifically that President Obama will do if he's re-elected?

STRICKLAND: Well, he's going to emphasize tax fairness. And that means no longer giving large tax breaks to the wealthiest among us, but looking out for the working middle class. And I think that's something that he will focus on. Tax reform in his second term. Certainly jobs and continuing the effort.

Now, people say are we better off than we were four years ago? America is better off than we were four years ago. Four years ago, we were losing 750,000 to 800,000 jobs a month. We've had 29 consecutive months of private sector job growth. That means we're better off. More people are working.

And I think, at least, in Ohio, there's more optimism and a sense of hopefulness.

LIZZA: Anything besides tax reform?

STRICKLAND: Yes. You know, continued efforts towards job creation. And that means the right kind of investments in transportation and infrastructure, funding education. Making sure we have the ability of our young people to get a college education. That means supporting things like Pell Grants and so forth.

And the whole energy sector, that's hugely important. And I believe in a second Obama term, this country will move toward energy independence. And, you know, I know the other side is talking about that.

But the president has an all-of-the-above energy program. He is willing to invest in all forms of energy. We use a lot of energy. We ought to produce a lot of energy. And it's happening in America and certainly happening in Ohio.

AMY KREMER, CHAIR OF THE TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Governor, with all due respect, how can you not give any credit to the Republican Governor Kasich for what's going on in Ohio? And just recently, the conservative movement is strong there and they passed the initiative -- to health care freedom initiative where they don't want Obamacare in Ohio?

STRICKLAND: Yes, yes. That initiative was on the ballot at the same time that Senate bill 5 repeal was on the ballot. All of our efforts went into repealing Senate bill 5 by a huge, huge margin. And Ohioans are benefiting from Obamacare. Seniors are getting that donut hole closed. Children are not being denied coverage because of preexisting conditions.

There's a lot of really good things -- young people are able to stay on their parents' insurance as a result of Obamacare. Medicare is being strengthened. The life of Medicare will be extended by eight years as a result of the president's plan.

Now I'm not saying I'm not giving the Republicans any credit. But in Ohio, I can speak for Ohio. Ohio's economy is coming back. We have an unemployment rate less than the national average.

John Kasich went on TV and said that Ohio was 38th when he became governor. That's not true. Ohio was sixth in the nation. First in the Midwest. The recovery in Ohio started in 2010 as a result of the auto rescue, and as a result of the Recovery Act and the investments that we were able to make with that.

O'BRIEN: We've got to get to commercial break. But we'll continue this conversation. And I think it's getting that message out.

I mean, this debate is the debate, I would imagine.

BASH: She fell of her chair when she heard the word "investment."

O'BRIEN: We'll take a short break. Don't raise any new issues for me, Dana.

The CNN primetime coverage of the Democratic National Convention is going to kick off tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time with Wolf Blitzer, and Anderson Cooper, and the rest of CNN's political team.

Then at 10:00 hour, the first lady, Michelle Obama, is going to address the delegates.

And then at midnight, Piers Morgan will wrap it up the first night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention, all right here on CNN.

We've got to take a short break. Still ahead, though, on STARTING POINT, President Obama tells the victims of hurricane Isaac along the Gulf Coast that help is on the way. We'll take you live to New Orleans, speaking with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, straight ahead.

Did the levees pass the test? And what about outside of those levees?

You're watching STARTING POINT, coming to you live from the CNN Grill in Charlotte, North Carolina. Back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

President Obama Continues his road to Charlotte tour today with a campaign stop in Virginia. Yesterday, he visited the New Orleans area to see some of the damage that was done by hurricane Isaac.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, right now, we're still in recovery mode. And, that means that our biggest priority is helping the house people who've been displaced, making sure that they've got the resources they need to re- enroll their kids in school, make sure that they're able to get to their jobs, make sure that they can have the kind of support that they need to get restarted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Most of the city's residents have regained power since that Category 1 storm hit last week. More than 2,000 people, though, are still in shelters, because of flooding across coastal Louisiana. New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, met with the president. He joins us now from New Orleans. Nice to see you, Mr. Mayor. Thanks for talking with us.

MITCH LANDRIEU, (D) NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Update us on the status of New Orleans. I know you've lost power, and I know outside of New Orleans there's been lots of flooding. I spent a lot of time in Plaquemines Parish. How is it doing as it is right now?

LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, 97 percent of the power is restored, and we expect to get the other three percent up really, really soon. So, as it says, in New Orleans proper, we're doing fine. I think the big story is, number one, President Obama's team has really been fantastic. The White House has been involved from day one. Secretary Napolitano has been on it, Craig Fugate.

And the cooperation between the federal state and the local agencies have been really good this time. And the levees held, which is the big story, I think, nationally. They held as they were designed. The floodgates held as they were designed. And that's been a good part of the story. But every one of these storms brings something that you didn't expect.

Plaquemines Parish, as you know, which is a little way south of New Orleans, and St. John the Baptist Parish got hurt really, really hard. And one tight area outside of the levee in Orleans got hit hard, too. So, a Cat 1 in some entities (ph) can be worse than a Cat 3 or a Cat 5.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question what the folks in Laplace are saying. You know, they're saying that the protection of New Orleans actually ended up really hurting Laplace, because all the water was sort of forced away from New Orleans and forced right into them. Is that accurate?

LANDRIEU: Yes. Well, you hear that theory. And of course, I don't know that we know the answer to that. We talked to the president about this yesterday. The corps of engineers is going to do an after action report. They're going to do surveys. That's going to be peer reviewed. We'll begin to understand that.

The bigger picture, though, is that New Orleans is a coastal parish, just like Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist Parish. It's really important that all of us stay healthy. And the reason is that this particular part of the country is feeding the rest of the country with energy.

I mean, with area that provides a nation's energy security and national security. So, it's important that this entire area be protected when the storms come so that we can continue to do that for the country.

O'BRIEN: Jay Carney who's a spokesperson for the White House said this. "When it comes to kinds of choices politicians make in Washington and what their priorities are, it is worth noting that last year there was an effort to underfund the money that's used to provide relief to Americans when they've been hit by disasters."

And that effort was led by Congressman Paul Ryan who's now running to be vice president of the United States. No surprise, a Ryan spokesperson, came back with this. "Paul Ryan believes providing aid to victims of natural disasters is a critical obligation and should be treated as a high priority within a fiscally responsible budget. It's sad the White House would stoop to using this heartbreaking event as an opportunity to distort his record and play politics."

A Romney-Ryan administration will ensure there's disaster funding for those in need, period. One, what is the political situation around the funding for these very things that protected, you know, New Orleans, and obviously, other cities as well?

LANDRIEU: Well, I would say two things about it. First of all, we should never leave anybody behind in a storm or any catastrophic event, no matter where it is in the country. And so, it's really important that emergency funding is there all of the time. And that you don't have to go back into Congress to get appropriations during the middle of storms or in the middle of catastrophic events.

That's a bad idea. But the bigger point here is whether or not Congress is going to spend the money necessary to build the infrastructure that protects these areas since you don't have an emergency. So, for example, one of the great stories of this is that -- and you saw it, there's a wall that was built that's 1.8 miles long. It cost $1 billion to build. We actually -- this country built it in one year. It's 26 feet high. And then, it provided 4,000 jobs. It's those kinds of major infrastructure investments and the $10 billion that was spent in the levees that protected New Orleans and saved the 700,000 people that are in both of these parishes.

And so, it's really important, and I know Mayor Mike Nutter is sitting right next to you, that Congress get about the business of rebuilding the infrastructure of the United States of America. The energy grid is another potential problem.

And if we don't spend that money on infrastructure and make it robust and resilient, then we're all going to be coming in and rescuing people who should have never been in harm's way together. And our kind of request to Congress is to get off the dime and to invest and make America strong again so that we can protect ourselves.

O'BRIEN: Mayor Mitch Landrieu joining us this morning from New Orleans. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking to us. Always appreciate that.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. OK.

O'BRIEN: We got to take a short break. We're going to talk a little bit more about what he said. That wall is amazing. I walked that two-mile stretch. It's remarkable. And it's that path of water that took out New Orleans and the (INAUDIBLE) parts of St. Bernard parish. It's really an incredible thing to see.

Not just the Democrats, though. The Tea Party is in town, too. That's why Amy Kramer is with us. Could they be a liability, though, in courting independents to the GOP? We're going to talk with the Tea Party Express woman, Amy, about what she has in store this week for her folks.

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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, he is unknown to much of the country, but that could change tonight. Coming up, an up close and personal look at rising star, Julian Castro, as he prepares to deliver the speech of his life, the keynote address here at the Democratic National Convention.

Also, the Democrats aren't the only party in town. Up next, Tea Party Express chairwoman, Amy Kramer, explains why she's here in Charlotte this week.

And comedy at the convention. Could "Golden Girl," Betty White, do better than Clint Eastwood -- better? That's an interesting term -- here in Charlotte? You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll take a look at that question as well. Coming to you live from the CNN Grill, we're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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. We are covering the Democratic National Convention, which begins tonight at 5:00 Eastern Time. Vice President Joe Biden will arrive in town today. First Lady Michelle Obama is tonight's headlined speaker. Also we'll hear from the keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. He is the first Latino to hold the coveted role at the DNC. An estimated 40,000 people are in Charlotte for the event. I believe it. The streets, you can't even get past the people sometimes.

Not just Democrats but members of the Tea Party are here as well. One of them a team member this morning, the Chair of the Tea Party Express, Amy Kremer. We were emailing when I was heading down to cover the storms and missed each other at the RNC. Let's talk a little bit about why you're here as a Tea Party at the DNC. What's your strategy?

KREMER: Well, we just want to get our message out there that we want fiscal responsibility. And believe it or not, we have Democrats and independents that identify with the Tea Party movement as well. We're not focused on the social issues whatsoever. It is all about fiscal responsibility.

And, look, Republicans are just as responsible as the Democrats for getting us into the position we're in right now. Everybody says, where were you during the Bush administration when the spending was out of control? Well, there was no Tea Party per se, but there was definitely an undercurrent, and that's how had started bubbling up because people were frustrated with the spending.

We need true fiscal reform here in this country. With Medicare -- I mean, you can't balance the United States budget dealing with just discretionary spending. We've got to deal with entitlement programs. And it's a real conversation that we need to have.

O'BRIEN: People don't want to vote for anybody who's going to take away their entitlement program. At the end of the day, you can poll people and they'll say, yes, we need to deal with entitlement programs. And then you say we want to take part of your entitlement program, and invariably they do not want that.

KREMER: But, Soledad, the thing is, I think that the American people are ready to have this conversation. Look, people engage when it affects them personally. And we can say that, you know, that jobs are being created and so on and so forth. But the real thing is that the median income is down $4,000 from four years ago. People are out of work. They can't afford to put food on their table, gas in their cars. It's really affecting them.

And the jobs that are being created are lower wage jobs. We cannot continue down this path. And that's why people are paying attention. And now people ever going out there to the internet and doing the research and getting information themselves. It's all about educating people on these issues, and that's what we want to do. That's why we're here. And Americans are ready for this because it's affecting them.

O'BRIEN: But what could affect them as well, when you talk about entitlements, if you look at some of the proposals to Medicare for example, I think it's a congressional budget office which says that you're looking at potentially $6,000 more out-of- pocket under the Romney-Ryan plan. I believe I'm quoting the right source on that. The numbers are correct. So those things are not not connected. How much money you'll put out and the fact that you're bringing home less is very much connected to cutting entitlement when it's your own entitlement that could be changed.

KREMER: But here is the thing. The Medicare board of trustees issued a report issued last May of 2011 that said if Medicare is not reformed by 2024 it will be bankrupt. I think it's irresponsible for both parties. And party politics got us into this mess. It's irresponsible for both parties to continue to kick this can down the road. Look, I was a former flight attendant.

O'BRIEN: Never happen in an election year, right?

KREMER: But it's a conversation that we need to have. And what I was going to say is I was a flight attendant. We had a great pension at the airline I worked for. And they came and said, we can't afford this anymore. We're going to convert it to a 401(k). Of course the flight attendants were up in arms. We didn't have a union. But it was either that or the airline would go bankrupt and none of us would have jobs.

So it's not going to be easy. No one ever said it would be easy. But it has to be done, because my parents just retired and I don't want them in 12 or 14 years to have nothing. I mean, it's not responsible.

O'BRIEN: Is that a bit of a flawed analogy to the airline industry, because you're talking about other pots of money elsewhere. Part of the conversation is, well, why are you cutting it from this? Why don't you cut it from that? Which is not analogous to the airline industry. Here you can say maybe we should cut welfare. Maybe we should cut military. Maybe we should cut education. Isn't that part of the challenge?

KREMER: Well, the economy is very complex and complicated. And I'm not an economist or an analyst on the budget. But I think that there are things we can do. We have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Why don't we lower that corporate tax rate, give people incentive to come back here, reinvest in the companies, and create jobs again? And then there will be more money coming into the system to cover some of these things. Why don't we do that?

There are answers. We can do this. But it's a conversation that we need to have. And the answer is not to continue to spend more. And that's all we're doing is spending more. It's spend more, spend more, spend more. At the end of the day, you can't spend your way into prosperity or spend your way out of debt. It doesn't happen. You can't do it in your household budget. Businesses can't do it. How can the United States budget do it?

O'BRIEN: Can you invest your way out? If we invest in infrastructure? We can invest our way into more jobs and infrastructure. More jobs means people have money to put back into the economy, and that is -- I'm not an economist either. So obviously we have two non-economists talking about the economy.

KREMER: But the thing is, what we're hearing from this administration means more spending. There is no more money. Are we going to continue to borrow money from China until China says no more money? I mean, it's coming to that point.

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, (D) PHILADELPHIA: Let's talk about the $5 trillion that Mr. Romney is going to add on to the debt by giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. You must be against that.

KREMER: I think that -- I mean, at the end of the day, it's this class warfare that the administration and the left wants to play. It's pitting the rich against the middle class.

NUTTER: It's not about the rich against the middle class.

KREMER: It is. That's all we hear.

NUTTER: Mr. Romney says he wants to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires which will cost $5 trillion in debt. You must be against that, right? Because you're against spending.

KREMER: I am against spending.

NUTTER: So you must be against that policy.

KREMER: I am against increasing our debt and our deficit. And this president ran and said he would cut our deficit in half by the first term. And if not, it would be a one-term proposition. And he hasn't done that.

NUTTER: But the debt went up under the previous administration as well.

KREMER: Not as much as it has under this. We're going to cross $16 trillion in debt this week.

NUTTER: Up is up. Let's at least acknowledge that. It went up under the Bush administration.

KREMER: And I just said a few minutes ago that Republicans and Democrats were responsible for it. NUTTER: And Mr. Romney wants $5 trillion more in debt to give millionaires and billionaires who don't need a tax cut more benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So can I ask you a question? You pointed out that under the Bush years is really when the Tea Party started getting upset with Republicans on spending, right?

KREMER: Yes. There was an undercurrent, social media, blogging, that sort of thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And got worse in your opinion under Obama. But as someone that represents the Tea Party, why should Tea Party voters trust Mitt Romney to be any better than George W. Bush on those issues?

KREMER: I'm not here to compare George W. Bush and Governor Romney. But I know that the past four years are not working. We have increased our debt by $6 trillion, I believe, $5 trillion to $6 trillion. Unemployment has gone up. The median household income is down $4,000. People are out of work. Kids can't find jobs. The unemployment rate for the youth is 17.1 percent across the country. It's not working.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were in a recession before the president came into office, 700,000 jobs lost in January of 2009 almost before he finished -- he was sworn in. A lot has happened over the last four years, and you can't lay all of that just at his doorstep.

O'BRIEN: And I want to get the answer to that.

(CROSSTALK)

KREMER: We haven't even mentioned the fact that this president, under the first two years, he had a Democrat- controlled Senate and house. He could have done anything he wanted. And instead, what he did, slammed Obama care down our throats. And polling still shows that Americans don't want it. They not it repealed.

NUTTER: And 30 million more people will be covered under affordable care act. And he actually did it.

O'BRIEN: Mayor Nutter, you are just ignoring me.

NUTTER: I'm sorry.

O'BRIEN: You're not even slightly sorry. I know you're kicking him under the table. We are hitting a commercial break. But I think this will be the core of what is being discussed. We'll keep this conversation going and also answer Ryan's question about, so what's the case for Mitt Romney here? We have to take a short break, though, first.

Also I want to remind folks that if you want to know what it's really like to experience the Democratic National Convention from the inside, go to CNN's roundtable. It's a live virtual chat. Don't miss that. It's a CNN election roundtable starting at noon eastern. Go to CNN.com/roundtable.

Still ahead, remember Julian Castro? Don't forget that name. He is the first Latino to snag the coveted keynote spot here at the DNC. You're watching STARTING POINT. We'll keep our conversation going from here as well. It's the CNN Grill from Charlotte. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, coming to you live from the CNN Grill in Charlotte, North Carolina. Julian Castro will be delivering the keynote address today, and we can expect that his message will be -- I think he has the classic immigrant story. As we saw from Senator Marco Rubio, that same, here's where I am from, I'm the face of America, I think you'll see a similar thing from Julian Castro.

BASH: And he is somebody that is young. He is the grandson of an immigrant from Mexico. And he is going to talk about how, you know, they did it by pulling up by their boot straps. But also he is going to help Democrats or at least try and help Democrats hold onto the vast majority of Latino voters as they have right now.

NUTTER: But, Soledad, I'll also say that it's not just the story. He's a big city mayor. He is doing things. He's getting things done. He is representing the interest of his constituents as well. I have worked with Mayor Castro. Again, one of the reasons at least at our convention you are seeing more and more mayors playing a variety of roles, whether it's the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as our chairperson, certainly we are here in Charlotte with Mayor Fox and the things he's been doing.

O'BRIEN: We'll talk to him later this week too.

NUTTER: Part of the story is about this job, whether it's president, governor, mayor, is about getting things done, making things happen. And that's part of the message I'm sure that Mayor Castro is going to bring as well.

I mean, again, one of the reasons at least at our convention you are seeing more mayors playing a variety of roles, whether it's the Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who is our chairperson. Certainly we're here in Charlotte with Mayor Fox and the things that he's been doing.

O'BRIEN: We'll talk to him later this week too. NUTTER: I think part of -- part of the story is about this job, whether it's president, governor, mayor, is about getting things done. Making things happen. And that's part of the message I'm sure that Mayor Castro is going to bring as well.

O'BRIEN: Amy, let me ask you a question. Because someone sent to me this tweet -- I swear to God I can't see anything anymore -- that you sent out at the end of August at 10:55 p.m. "Huge difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama is that Mitt loves America. We need a president that loves this country." I think that's from -- I missed this one, but someone forwarded it to me.

Do you think that President Obama doesn't love this country? What does that mean?

KREMER: I think that he is more about a global -- being a global -- oh, what's the word? Being more one world, global, with you know other countries and it's not about the shining city on the hill, the greatness that has always been America that our founding fathers were about. I do believe that. I -- I mean, I absolutely believe it. I'm not going to run from that.

Look, I mean, President Obama, and I know I'm going to take a lot of heat for this, but he's never run anything. Mitt Romney, you asked me what is the case for Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney time and time again has taken companies that are failing and turned them around to make them successful.

I mean, he turned the Salt Lake City Olympics around. He ran the state of Massachusetts. Because what I'm saying is we are -- we are failing. We are about to go off this fiscal cliff. And we need somebody that can turn it around.

President Obama has not turned it around. I'm sorry he hasn't --

NUTTER: But the Governor has also -- but the Governor has also taken over companies and put people out of work. At the expense of losing jobs and making money for himself and for his investors. If you're going to tell one side of the story, tell the other side.

KREMER: I mean and you know and President Obama's energy policy, if it's -- and in President Obama's energy policy if it's implemented, it's going to cost -- I mean let me see. I have the numbers right here because I'm not very good with numbers. But it's going to cost us 7.3 million jobs by 2020. And $1 trillion in compliance costs between 2020 and 2030.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I just never understand what any of that has to do with loving the nation. I mean, I honestly, I always feel like that's a code word for something else.

(CROSSTALK)

KREMER: I just I mean, I don't feel like he is --

NUTTER: What is the basis for questioning the President's love for this country? How can you say that?

KREMER: I just I don't believe that he loves America the way that we do.

NUTTER: Based on what? We who?

KREMER: He is more about one world -- I mean more about --

NUTTER: What does that mean?

KREMER: I just explained it to you.

NUTTER: Well, clearly, I'm not understanding.

KREMER: Well, I mean, don't know how else to explain it.

LIZZA: His foreign policy -- his foreign policy that you look at it and say, oh that's Obama wants America to be gone and he wants one world?

KREMER: I mean we are not leading. We're waiting on others to tell us what to do. That's never been the American way.

LIZZA: What specifically? What specifically?

KREMER: I believe it was Syria. Was it Syria that or one of the conflicts where we -- the French told us we could go and do what we needed to do. Were -- that's -- that's not the American way. We need to lead.

NUTTER: Well, maybe this is America now.

KREMER: But this is the thing the foreign policy -- it's not about foreign policy we're never all going to agree on foreign policy. But why the Tea Party Movement has been so successful is because of the fiscal responsibility.

LIZZA: I think what you're saying is leading from behind, right?

KREMER: Yes.

LIZZA: So I was the journalist that actually reported that quote. So the leading from behind is something that was told to me. And actually, what it refers to is the strategy in the UN, the U.S. led a coalition in the UN to get military authorization to topple Gadhafi.

So the quote actually is the opposite of what you're saying. It actually refers to the strategy that Obama used in the UN to get all of the nations to support the U.S.'s use of force resolution because after the Bush years, it was really hard for the U.S. to go to the UN and get support because Bush was really, really unpopular.

O'BRIEN: But people didn't care about foreign policy. I guess my question is, when I hear somebody say that someone doesn't love the country, and you know I'm very susceptible to the dog whistle thing.

KREMER: The what?

O'BRIEN: That dog whistle that there is a message in that. When someone says that somebody doesn't love the country and you're talking about the President I just find that to be a very odd comment.

KREMER: I don't believe -- I mean look, we're sitting -- I mean we're sitting here, is our goal really in this administration to be the leader that we always have been, to be that shining city on the hill?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: What does that have to do with love for your country? Mitt loves his country and President Obama doesn't?

KREMER: If you love this country and you want to restore our heritage and that sort of thing, you go out there and you lead. You don't wait on others to tell you what to do. And you take those bold steps. I mean, I don't think that that's what the objective of this administration is.

O'BRIEN: So I'm going to stop you there. Mr. Mayor, stop. Because I have had so many people screaming in my ear that we have so gone over. I thank you for this conversation. We've got to take a break. We're back on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT.

And we are covering the Democratic National Convention live this week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Joining us now, Joel Stein. We met at the RNC. You're dressed a little more casually. Now you're like a southern gentleman. What's going on?

JOEL STEIN, COLUMNIST, "TIME" MAGAZINE: You know I -- there were some comments online. I realized I had to step up my game. O'BRIEN: That you look sloppy?

STEIN: I was a little sloppy.

BASH: Are you wearing this?

STEIN: No, no, I keep this deep in the closet. Only when I'm in the south do I pull this out.

O'BRIEN: You're a slacker only in the Hamptons maybe. So compare and contrast -- RNC, DNC.

STEIN: It's the same people. I guess, if you dropped an alien in both, I don't think they could tell which one they were at. It's very uptight people. The people from college who did like college Democrats, and college Republicans, they always wore khaki. I can't tell them apart.

This city is easier to navigate. That's the main difference.

O'BRIEN: It's a little easier than Tampa?

STEIN: Yes, that's how I judge conventions.

O'BRIEN: And it's sort of less spread out too has been my experience.

STEIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I mean, you know, maybe just because I'm in the hotel across the street for once.

STEIN: I've heard. You shouldn't tell everyone that.

O'BRIEN: I know, really? Why?

STEIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Jealousy?

STEIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Oh I'm just bragging.

STEIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Because in Tampa we drove for like a day.

STEIN: They made you drive?

O'BRIEN: A little bit, yes.

STEIN: Really. O'BRIEN: Yes, yes but then I went to cover the hurricane.

STEIN: I heard the Fox News people were right across the street in Tampa.

O'BRIEN: I'm fairly confident of that. So tell me what you have found to be the most engaging, exciting party here?

STEIN: You know I got here yesterday, I've only been to one party.

O'BRIEN: Oh so how was that one?

STEIN: It was the liquor lobby party. I always make sure to go to the liquor lobby party.

O'BRIEN: And you went to that at the RNC too.

STEIN: Yes, yes that's my primary commitment at these conventions. I am in the pocket of the liquor lobby.

O'BRIEN: Clearly does this count as work for you?

STEIN: I don't know what counts as work for me. It's confusing. We're at a grill and a beer here, it's like who is working?

BASH: And what time is it?

O'BRIEN: We're working.

BASH: It's in the morning. Always at the bar.

O'BRIEN: I'm working. The bar isn't open yet for us.

STEIN: There is so much money in politics I feel like I should get my share. If I have to drink the liquor lobby's liquor, as a taxpayer --

O'BRIEN: Because you're working?

STEIN: Yes. Yes.

O'BRIEN: You're investigating.

STEIN: I'm investigating the lobbyist situation, yeah.

BASH: What did you find out?

STEIN: Cigars don't go too heavy on it early in the evening. The liquor lobby has important things to say to America. There are a lot of tax issues.

O'BRIEN: And they are?

STEIN: There are a lot of tariff issues. I think they are the first people, people turn to when they want to raise taxes. And it's wrong. I'm here to talk about that.

O'BRIEN: I feel like all of the other stuff you said before you got to wrong was very unclear. And kind of -- tariff issues?

STEIN: They gave me some talking points but I was drinking and I have forgotten.

O'BRIEN: You just want to come away with it's all wrong. They are good people.

STEIN: They're -- yes. That's it.

O'BRIEN: It's all wrong.

STEIN: That was the main feeling I got.

O'BRIEN: See and I haven't been bought up by the liquor lobby like you have. Well, what are you looking forward to? What's your big --

STEIN: Well, today, I'm going to -- it's a big tent. The Democratic Party. So I'm going to go try and go to every caucus for every ethnicity today.

O'BRIEN: There are 14 caucuses.

STEIN: And yes. And there are -- there are new ones.

O'BRIEN: You will not be blending at many of them.

STEIN: No.

O'BRIEN: Women's caucus.

BUSH: Do they have a white Jewish guy from New York City caucus?

O'BRIEN: Not yet.

STEIN: They have a Jewish caucus. I'm sure they are all white guys from New York City.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: But the 13 others might be harder to sneak into. Let us know how that goes.

STEIN: Yes. I know. I'm going to report back. That's the important reporting I'm doing today. Very well.

O'BRIEN: Because it's work.

STEIN: It is. It will be work.

O'BRIEN: We're going to take a break. We're back right after this. Work. Work.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All other interesting things.

Coming up tomorrow on "STARTING POINT", Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is going to will join us. Congressman Jim Clyburn of Columbia. San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro is going to join us after he has given his big speech. We'll be able to talk to him about that. Georgetown law student, birth control crusader and liberal activist Sandra Fluke will be joining us. And the Republican congressman from North Carolina, Patrick McHenry, will be with us.

All that and much more tomorrow on STARTING POINT.

Now it's time to get to "CNN Newsroom" with Zoraida Sambolin. It begins right now. Hey, Zee. Good morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you, Soledad. Thank you.

And happening now in the Newsroom, battling books on the Osama bin Laden raid. As "No Easy Day" is released today, special ops veterans respond with their book called "No Easy Op". New questions this morning as accusations of bad blood and bitterness fly.