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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Protests against Anti-Islamic Film Continue in Middle East; Mitt Romney Criticized for Comments on Administration Policy in Middle East; Fed Announces QE3; "Not An Ally, Not An Enemy"; Libyan Authorities Make Four Arrests; America's Deadliest Rock Concert
Aired September 14, 2012 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Soledad off today. She's back Monday. But our "starting point" for you -- bracing for another eruption of violence. New fury overnight, of course, fears of violence spreading as the Friday prayers draw massive, massive crowds together throughout the Muslim world.
We're calling up CNN's worldwide reach going live throughout the Middle East this morning in the way only CNN can.
BERMAN: Plus, hunting down the killers. Right now, there are four people under arrest for the fierce deadly accurate ambush in Benghazi, Libya. We are live outside the consulate there.
BALDWIN: And frayed relations. How should the U.S. answer the violence that's percolating there in the Middle East and what is the future of U.S. relations in the Arab world? All questions we'll address this morning.
BERMAN: We have a high profile roster of true experts and analysts joining us here only on CNN. Two former Assistant Secretary of States, Jamie Rubin and Richard Williamson, U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer, Robin Wright, a highly respected Middle East expert, and "Time" magazine's editor Bobby Ghosh.
BALDWIN: It is Friday, the 14th of September, and STARTING POINT begins right now.
BERMAN: And our starting point this morning: rage against America. Anti-American protests erupting in more countries overnight and with Friday prayers ending, U.S. embassies around the world are bracing for more this morning.
BALDWIN: Overnight, the anger and the defiance that began Wednesday over the anti-Muslim movie in the U.S. spreading, look at this map. Eleven countries, we're talking all the way from Egypt to as far west as Morocco and as far east as India.
BERMAN: Egypt the main hotspot right now where the violence first erupted three days ago. This morning there were more flashes, protesters setting fires, and the Egyptian military deploying tanks to calm things down. But we just learned that the Muslim Brotherhood has canceled nationwide protests, announcing instead that a protest will be held only in Tahrir square against that film about the prophet Muhammad.
BALDWIN: To Yemen, at least five protesters were killed. We showed you those pictures yesterday morning of the protest outside the U.S. embassy. They stormed that embassy and the capital city of Sana'a. They were climbing the walls, setting tires on fire. Water cannons pushing them back.
BERMAN: In Iran, hundreds of protesters have been gathering outside the Swiss embassy in Tehran, shouting "Death to the United States!" The Swiss embassy handles U.S. interests in Iran, and is being heavily guarded right now by police.
BALDWIN: As for the President, President Obama vowing all necessary steps, security being beefed up to protect U.S. citizens all around the world.
BERMAN: And, and a major development in Libya. The first arrests in connection with the attack that killed two well-respected American diplomats and two former Navy SEALs.
BALDWIN: We want to begin our worldwide coverage this morning out of Cairo with Ian Lee. Ian talk to me a little bit about this world via twitter from the Muslim Brotherhood that they are announcing the protests will only be held in Tahrir Square. Why is that?
IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, brook, what the Muslim Brotherhood is saying, is that by canceling the protests around Egypt, they hope to curb any violence that happens from those protests. But they said they're holding a symbolic protest in Tahrir Square. They also added that because it's symbolic, means there's not going to be a lot of people, a low turnout. You know, they can't have one protest in one place. That's going to draw people. But right now in Tahrir Square what we're seeing, we're seeing a couple thousand people in the square. So low numbers, according to Egypt standards, not really the numbers we've seen in previous protests.
BALDWIN: Do you think the Egyptians will abide by that?
LEE: Well, that's hard to tell. You know, the Muslim Brotherhood is just one group out of many here. And there are also other people who don't associate themselves with any sort of party. Right in front of the embassy right now there is somewhat of a lull in the clashes. The police have moved behind a large brick wall that's blocked off the street from the embassy, so protesters can't make their way there. But we're seeing clashes pick up and die down throughout the day. So, right now, we have a lull but it could change very quickly.
BERMAN: Ian, we have heard there were arrests overnight, as many as 37. It does seem that the regime is doing more to crack down on these protests right now. Yes?
LEE: Well that's exactly right, John. We've seen the regime respond a lot differently than we did Tuesday night. They have arrested 37, and 30 people have been charged with thuggery, with attacking police officers and destroying public property. But we're also seeing Egyptian security forces secure the embassy, secure the area around the embassy, and not allowing protesters to move any closer than about 30 yards away, where the big wall is.
BALDWIN: Ian Lee for us in Cairo. We'll be checking back in with you.
BERMAN: Moving on to Libya now, where authorities have announced four arrests and the city airport is reportedly shut down. This as the Obama administration is employing a full-court press to secure its diplomatic facilities. The President says those responsible for the attack that killed four Americans in Libya will be brought to justice.
BALDWIN: We now know all four victims have been identified. Let's go to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, these other two gentlemen who were killed, former Navy SEALs.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Former Navy SEALs, indeed, Brooke, today deeply mourned by their brothers in arms. The entire Navy SEAL community. The administration is looking at these four arrests. The Libyans now saying perhaps some of those arrested not directly involved in the attacks. But it's the kind of response the U.S. wants to see, and is part of this full-court press, if you will, across the region to press host governments, to, in the case of Libya, pursue the investigation. In the case of all of these countries, ensure that U.S. embassies around the world are protected by the host government. This is really the baseline of what is going on now and put in place any additional security measures that are needed.
But I think it's really important to look at some of the context, when you put that map up, of all the countries where there appears to be unrest, many of these places, the U.S. has to really assess what is going on. In some places, any of these -- some of these protests are very small. And in Afghanistan, for example, we've got reports, small and actually totally peaceful. So this is a very complex picture. In places like Jordan, often after Friday prayers there are, if you will, regular protests. People come out and protest against the government. It's fairly routine. So, this may -- and you see the cancellation of the nationwide protests by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
So I think this is an emerging picture. A lot of concern to make sure the embassies are protected, but also some context and perspective here, of a very complex picture across the Middle East and north Africa, perhaps different things going on in many of these countries.
BALDWIN: Barbara Starr, thank you.
BERMAN: All right, I want to bring in Jamie Rubin and Robin Wright. Jamie is a former Assistant U.S. Secretary of State and is currently a counselor to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Robin is a Middle East analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center and is the author of the book, "Rock the Casbah." Jamie, the Muslim Brotherhood calling off nationwide protests, apparently scaling down the reaction to that film. Why? What are we seeing here? JAMES RUBIN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I think what we're seeing is the government of Egypt, President Morsi, who was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, I'm sure they coordinate their activities, and I think they're responding to the phone call from President Obama. I think they realize that in the first 24 hours after this terrible tragedy, the images coming out of Egypt were not of a friend. They were mixed messages coming from the government in terms of condemning the attacks on the United States, while condemning the film that allegedly started all of this.
So on the streets in Egypt, you know, you're seeing, in a sense, the first wave of protests were democracy. The second wave of protests are Islamic extremism, and it's those two forces that will determine how they interact, how they develop, who wins the battles of the politics of extremism inside Egypt will determine for us whether Egypt ends up as a success story or not. But so far, they seem to be moving in the right direction.
BERMAN: Can President Mohammed Morsi, can his former political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, control what happens on the street?
RUBIN: No. But they can control whether they're a part of increasing the pressure. Certainly the President can send forces out, as he's now doing in strength, something they should have done right away when they realized that they couldn't protect the perimeter of the U.S. embassy. That's their responsibility. And in the early moments, the messages were expressions of understanding for why people were protesting, rather than rejecting the violence in terms of condemning it, and using the forces of government to protect the United States, and failing to do that raised questions about whether Egypt was going to remain a friend of the United States.
BALDWIN: Robin, I have a question for you, because speaking of twitter, it's incredible all this going back and forth. The tweets between the Muslim Brotherhood yesterday and of course the U.S. embassy in Cairo, basically the Muslim Brotherhood has been tweets. They have one in English, basically saying that they're relieved none of the U.S. embassy workers were harmed. Then they tweeted in Arabic, translated as "Egyptians, rise to defend the prophet." So U.S. embassy in Cairo tweeted back and they say this, "Thanks. By the way, have you checked out your own Arabic feeds. I hope you know we read those, too."
What do you make of this back and forth on twitter, robin? And also, just talk about how, I don't know, the challenge from -- for the Muslim Brotherhood handling domestic interests, obviously, but international issues, as well.
ROBIN WRIGHT, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, on the level of social media this was a force that was critical in rallying people to the streets to challenge the rule of dictators across the region. And it's also being use d and exploited to try to foment opposition over the sensitive film made in the United States.
But the bigger question is, how the Muslim Brotherhood has responded. So far, I think the thing that's striking is that the numbers that have turned out on the streets are still comparatively small, that this is a stark contrast to the tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, and in some countries millions of people who actually put their lives on the line to challenge autocrats, that you have very small fraction of people, so far, it could well grow in significant ways, but so far, it's been a very small sliver of society.
And that means that the majority of people have actually signaled that they want no part of this kind of demonstration, that they're looking for a different kind of era in the post-revolutionary base. The region is now moving into this critical moment of shaping and defining a new order. And rule of law is very much a part of it. They're all coping with how do you write a constitution? And the way this is handled on the streets will be very critical to this fragile process.
BERMAN: Jamie, Robin, there's a lot of talk today about something else the President has done in the last 48 hours. In addition to the phone call to Mohammed Morsi he did an interview where he described the U.S. relationship with Egypt, whether they're an ally or an enemy. I wonder if we can listen to that interview right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not possible that President Obama --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Well, that obviously was a different piece of sound than I was referring to. Let me talk about that. It was on the street there in Cairo, with protesters clearly blaming the Obama administration for the anti-Islamic film itself. How important is that? Is there trouble distinguishing between what happens in the United States and the official policy of the United States government?
RUBIN: Well, it is hard for people in that part of the world, it seems, to grasp the fact that something published on the Internet, put out on the Internet, is approved by the United States government. Obviously it is not. That's the whole point of the internet, is that it has the freedom and people to do this.
But in the age of modern communications, these things are going to happen, and it's going to require the leaders in that part of the world to educate their people about the distinction between individual acts that can be condemned, the messages in them, and the acts of government. Government can't prevent this sort of thing, as long as we believe in free speech, and that's something that is hard, obviously, in that part of the world, to understand.
BALDWIN: -- being lost because we've heard all the sound bites from the President, from Washington, from the State Department, very much so, vehemently condemning what happened. Yet the message somewhere between the U.S. and Egypt, it's not being heard. Robin, you agree?
WRIGHT: It's not being heard. But look we're in a process where a lot of these people don't understand some of the basics about freedom of the press. One of the big questions, I think, is what the United States will do about it and whether this is a potential hate crime that needs to be investigated in terms of what its intent was. We don't know a lot about the film. The forensics of figuring out how it was made, why it was made, I think are still to play out.
BERMAN: All right, Robin Wright in Washington, Jamie Rubin in New York. We're talking about this all morning. Thank you for being here with us this morning.
BALDWIN: The man behind this film that we keep talking about, this anti-Muslim film that sparked much of this violence has been identified. But, surprise, he's not coming forward. Miguel Marquez actually dug into this man. His name is Nakoula Bacile Nakoula. He has a shady past, and then knocked on the filmmakers door. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the best address we have for Sam Bacile, or Nakoula Bacile, whatever you want to call him. You can see all of the media is camped out here. We're going to try one more time to talk to him. Mr. Bacile, Mr. Nakoula? It's Miguel Marquez with CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Jewish groups they are blasting some of the early media coverage of this story, calling it irresponsible, potentially dangerous. Some news organizations initially reported that this film, loosely, was being financed by a hundred Jews. And on the campaign trail it looks like Mitt Romney is trying to move on. This after harsh criticism for the Obama administration for its response to the unrest in Libya and the Middle East. Romney was trying to pivot in an interview with ABC News after the President questioned whether the Republican nominee thought through the ramifications of his remarks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I said was exactly the same conclusion the White House reached, which was that the statement was inappropriate. That's why they backed away from it as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No direct response when the President says you shoot first and aim later?
ROMNEY: Well, this is politics. I'm not going to worry about the campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Obviously the issue is still following Romney during a rally in Virginia yesterday he was interrupted by a protesters who shouted "Why are you politicizing Libya?"
BALDWIN: We are going to talk about the violence, the ramifications, the politics here throughout this morning. This is still very much a developing throughout the Middle East. We're going to bring it to you all the latest obviously as it happens. But also ahead this morning here on STARTING POINT, the Fed stimulus plan, right? We have to talk about the economy. It is igniting Wall Street sending stocks leaping to five-year highs.
BERMAN: Big news. But is the Fed only artificially inflating the economy? Will the bold plan actually jolt your bottom line? These are big questions. You're watching STARTING POINT.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone. Issues 2012 now, CNN is going in-depth this week into the economic issues facing this country. And today, the Federal Reserve's new steps to juice our economic outlook.
BALDWIN: The central bank will buy billions of dollars in the mortgage-backed securities. That begins today. And apparently Wall Street really likes what it heard because investors sent stocks up to the highest levels in five years.
BERMAN: Christine Romans breaks this down for us as always. She is joining us here this morning with a box of doughnuts. Doughnuts for a reason.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Not just because you're being nice, because you're seeing a humongous sugar rush. You've got a big, big boom higher in stock, the economy on a sugar rush with doughnuts, doughnuts. The economy needs a square meal, right? And the Fed is giving them as much energy as it possibly can in the absence of an economy that's working on its own. So what it's going to do, the Fed is going to buy more doughnuts. It's going to buy back mortgage-backed securities, specifically it's going to keep mortgage rates low. It's going to pump money into the system. It hopes to encourage borrowing and more spending and eventually hiring.
It's buying $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities each month. It's called QE-3 and critics say QE-3 is nothing more than a big box of doughnuts. It's not real nutrition. But you know what? It's all we have right now. This does not use taxpayer money. Instead the Fed expands money supply, electronically crediting banks with more funds.
The Fed is not giving an end date. Translation there, the sugar rush will keep going until the economy gets better on its own. The Dow, the S&P 500, five-year highs. NASDAQ hit a 12-year high, the home builders rose 3 percent because they think this is going to be good for the housing market. But the stimulus could be a double-edged sword. The stimulus in place, the economy is so weak that it's not growing on its own, and so the Fed is trying to give it just a little jolt of sugar to keep it going.
BALDWIN: It sounds like Wall Street likes doughnuts. But this is the third stimulus, right?
ROMANS: A lot of doughnuts.
BERMAN: You look at the unemployment rate. You were talking about that, what was it the August jobs numbers. Still pretty high. What good will this do?
ROMANS: This is the reason why Ben Bernanke is doing this, because unemployment is still too high. It's the law of diminishing returns. With each dose of stimulus the effects lessen, again the doughnuts. Bernanke acknowledged that in June. He said policymakers are taking it into account. Yesterday he admitted this new dose of stimulus can help, but it won't cure everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: I want to be clear that while I think we can make a meaningful and significant contribution to this problem to reducing this problem, we can't solve it. We don't have the tools that are strong enough to solve the unemployment problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: So in the absence of a square meal, from either congress, or from the economy itself, from lending at banks, from small businesses hiring and big companies hiring, the Fed is stepping in and giving us more doughnuts.
BERMAN: To keep your metaphor going, they're giving doughnuts but saying it will be an unlimited supply, they will keep feeding as long as they have to. That is different.
BERMAN: That is different. That's telling us that they're concerned about what they see in the economy. They have this very tricky line to walk because they have to tell people it's time to be confident, we've got your back, we're going to keep feeding you, right? But then they've got to be worried about, if they keep feeding us doughnuts, what happens at the end? Inflation? Are we concerned about the fact that the Fed is the only game in town. It's pretty interesting. It's really interesting stuff.
BERMAN: Christine Romans, thank you. And thanks for bringing the doughnuts.
ROMANS: There's only 11 here because Jamie Rubin already took one.
BALDWIN: Thank you, Christine.
Happening right now, we want to take you back to those anti-American protests escalating in certain hot spots in the Mideast. And news this morning, Libya has arrested four people in the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. We're going to get you the latest through the region.
BERMAN: And perhaps on a lighter note, another clothes-off controversy for the royals. Yes, I just said that. This time the duchess Kate caught with her top off and the palace ready to take action. Details when STARTING POINT is back in a moment.
BALDWIN: We've got some new developments for you right now. We have just learned that Yemeni security forces have fired warning shots and water cannons. Apparently people in Yemen in the capital city are protesting, trying once again to reach the U.S. embassy there.
BERMAN: The protesters are calling for the expulsion of the U.S. envoy in Sana'a and burned the American flag there again today. Mohammed Jamjoom is monitoring this from the region. What is the latest?
MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, eyewitnesses telling us that a crowd of between 800 to 900 angry demonstrators went outside the U.S. embassy today in Sana'a, again, demonstrating against that film they say was insulting to Islam, denigrating to the prophet Muhammad. This is the second day of protests we're told, and security forces fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowd, and they also have deployed and used water cannons against that crowd, as well, to try to disperse them.
Still a lot of details we're trying to find out. We're trying to get a hold of U.S. officials at the embassy, as well. This is a worrying development. As of last night, even after the situation had calmed in the capital of Yemen we had learned that at least four protesters were killed as a result of those clashes yesterday. And there was a lot of concern by Yemeni officials, as well as U.S. officials last night, that protests could be happening yet again today. Now we know that they've happened. We're trying to find out if there are more protesters coming to the scene in the next few hours.
BALDWIN: Mohammed, I have a question. This is Brooke. We were talking to Ben Wedeman last night out of Cairo. He was saying the difference there in the protest lately is not just folks frustrated and angered over this particular film, but also sort of your street protesters, almost hijacking the protest. I'm curious if there's a differentiation in Sana'a.
JAMJOOM: Well, what we've heard out of Sana'a so far has been that most of these protesters gathered because they were upset, particularly about this film. What's interesting is what we've heard is that most of them haven't seen this film, haven't even seen any clips from this film. But they've seen footage of protests that have happened in other parts of the region. But, what's always a concern is Yemen. This is not a place that is immune to anti-American sentiment. And when there are large gatherings, and when there is anger being directed towards the U.S., or envoy or embassy it's easy to stoke anti-American sentiment that already exists there.
BERMAN: And Mohammed, this is the second straight day where we've seen these clashes with the security forces there. There does seem to be buy-in from the regime in Yemen to battle back these protesters.
JAMJOOM: Absolutely. Yesterday the President was very, very quick to issue a statement of apology to U.S. President Barack Obama as well as the American people. He said that this was unacceptable. He deployed a lot more security outside of the embassy, said there needed to be a thorough investigation and any perpetrators of this violence need to be brought to swift justice.
But the question is will the Yemeni security forces actually be able to control this angry tide? One of the most interesting things that happened yesterday was the question of how exactly was an angry mob of about 2,000 people able to get that close to the American embassy, how were they able to breach security and start scaling the wall? This is one of the most protected sites not just in Sana'a but in all of Yemen. The question was where were the Yemeni security forces to begin with? Why did they allow this crowd to get this close to the embassy?
BERMAN: Mohammed Jamjoom, it is great to have you in the region monitoring the events going on in Yemen. We'll check back with you in a little bit.
BALDWIN: Answer my question on security in Cairo, in Benghazi, and now Sana'a.
Coming up, we have to talk about the United States here and our role. How should the U.S. answer the violence there in the Middle East? Former ambassador to India, Tim Roemer, joins us live from Washington next.
BERMAN: And the State Department now sort of correcting President Obama, insisting that Egypt is, in fact, an ally of America. What is the future of U.S./Egyptian relations? STARTING POINT back in a moment.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. As we watch the events unfolding in the Middle East this morning, a lot of people in Washington and all around this country still parsing a comment by President Obama about the U.S. relationship with Egypt.
BALDWIN: Once again, in case you missed it, here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy. They are a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Yesterday afternoon, Spokesman Wright from the State Department to the Pentagon trying to explain that and using a very particular phrase to do it, quote/unquote, "legal term of art."
BERMAN: So, I'm not sure I know what that means.
BALDWIN: I don't know what that means, either.
BERMAN: We're going to bring in foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott. She is here to breakdown the diplomatic speak for us. Elise, what's the deal?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, a lot of things going on, guys. Basically, President Obama, I think, misspoke a little bit. Because basically what you heard Secretary of the State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland say yesterday, in fact, Egypt is what they call a non-NATO ally, a major non-NATO ally.
That means that the U.S. doesn't have any treaties with Egypt, per se, but does consider Egypt a major ally in terms of a very strategic partnership with this country. So even Jay Carney who yesterday, this White House Press Secretary, who said we don't have any treaties with Egypt, in April he called Egypt an important ally.
So I think what President Obama was trying to do here is send a message to Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi that, listen, we give you a lot of aid. We're talking about $30 billion or more in U.S. aid to Egypt every year. And that aid is not guaranteed if you're not going to if you're not going to condemn this violence that's taking place at the embassy and also protect our diplomatic facilities. The thing is, though, is that the U.S. is not necessarily allies with the government.
That's why the U.S. was willing to help get rid of President Hosni Mubarak even though he was an ally of the United States. U.S. is allies with countries, not governments. And that's why I think his comments have caused such a stir.
BERMAN: All right, Elise Labott in the State Department for us this morning, giving us some insight into what the President said.
Let's figure out some more about maybe what he meant from someone close to the President, part of his wider foreign policy team. Tim Roemer is a foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign. He's also a former ambassador to India under President Obama.
And Ambassador Roemer, is Egypt an ally of the United States? What did the President mean to say there?
AMBASSADOR TIM ROEMER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Well, good morning, John, and Brooke. It's nice to see you bright and early this morning.
Listen, I think what the President was feeling yesterday, given the tragic loss of our ambassador and our other three American family members, we feel like they're family, as Americans and prior to his conversation with President Morsi yesterday, I think he was feeling some frustration.
Our embassy had been attacked in Cairo. The President was very straightforward in his conversation with the President of Egypt yesterday, saying, we give you a lot of assistance. Here's what we expect back, a condemnation of the violence that took place against our embassy.
Better protection of our people. We want you to honor the alliance or the treaty that you have with Israel. We want to see progress on human rights and democracy. And with that $1.6 billion that the American people invest in our national security and assistance to the people of Egypt, we better see progress on all these things.
I think you'll see the legislative branch, and Congress, debate some of these things, rightfully so, in the next few days.
BALDWIN: So Mr. Ambassador, you know the President. Just once again underscore this line to our viewers. This is again what the President said. I don't think that we would consider them, Egypt, an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy.
So now, fast forward to this morning, we have now gotten word via Twitter from the Muslim Brotherhood that they're saying to the protesters. You can protest, but only protest in Tahrir Square. Do you think that was message sent by President Obama, message received, Muslim Brotherhood?
ROEMER: I think the President shows that he has been a steady, strong and decisive leader by the way he's handled that situation. Look, Brooke, you know this better than anybody following the news over the last four or five years.
The President has shown force when needed using our military and special ops, getting bin Laden, decimating al Qaeda through the drone program, he has shown balance in bringing our troops back from Iraq --
BALDWIN: Sure, but he was also sending a message, wasn't he?
ROEMER: He is sending a message. He's sending a message with the ships, destroyers that are in the North Mediterranean Sea, with the Marines going in to our embassy. You know, in Northern Africa.
He's sending a message by talking to all the presidents in the region, about what American values are, condemning the film. But also saying we will not tolerate attacks on our embassy, our consulates, and we want to see them doing the right thing and protecting this.
And we want to see peaceful action here, rather than what we've seen the last couple days. I think you see a very strong and decisive and steady president and, Brooke, yesterday we got good news on the Fed.
You've also seen the President talk about nation building here at home, in America, and trying to make sure we're getting jobs, and growth, and investing in the people here at home.
BERMAN: But Mr. Ambassador, the fact is the State Department, the Defense Department, had to do a little cleanup after the President's statement. They did clarify that Egypt is, in fact, still a non-NATO ally of the United States.
And the reason I bring this up is because President Obama himself criticized Mitt Romney. He said Governor Romney has a tendency to shoot first and aim later.
Couldn't this be an example of the President shooting first and aiming later when it comes to Egypt here? He shot first saying Egypt's not an ally then his administration had to clean it up the next day?
ROEMER: I would disagree politely this early in the morning, John, with your statement. First of all, I would say, Governor Romney, his trip overseas to Great Britain where he fumbled the Olympic issue, where he failed to thank our troops in his acceptance speech and recognize the great sacrifice that our families make in Afghanistan.
Jumping all over this tragedy within 24 hours and not having a period of respect and prayer, and mourning the loss of these four families, those are significant mistakes. Those reflect the kind of leadership that we may see from Governor Romney.
The President, on the other hand, I think he was sending a message. I think yesterday he was saying, look, I'm going to talk to the president of Egypt and I'm going to tell him what a partnership with the Egyptian people means.
BALDWIN: Let's talk --
ROEMER: What our expectations are, and they better protect our troops, they better respect Israel, they better move forward on democracy.
BALDWIN: So the President, of course, has a message, but so does Governor Romney. That brings me to something that someone who said --
ROEMER: What is that again, Brooke?
BALDWIN: Let me get to it, Ambassador Roemer. So we're going to be talking with the Romney campaign foreign policy adviser, Richard Williamson, a little later on the show. Here is what he said just yesterday. Let me read this for you, quote, "The President can't even keep track of who's our ally or not. This is amateur hour, it's amateur hour."
This was yesterday to "The Washington Post." But Ambassador Roemer, let's be honest, if Mitt Romney said this, the Obama camp would be all over him. Wouldn't they be scolding him? "And in 1989, Congress designated Egypt a major non-NATO ally." They'd be all over it.
ROEMER: Look, Brooke, again, I think we're getting in, you know, a little bit of the political season here. Hopefully, we can talk about foreign policy. The President was sending a firm message --
BALDWIN: I understand --
ROEMER: The president of Egypt --
BALDWIN: But, sir, with all due respect, would --
ROEMER: President Obama got that message yesterday, Brooke, and said contrary to what he'd been saying for days that he then condemned the violence.
BALDWIN: I understand. This is what -- forgive me for speaking over you. But this is what the Romney's team said and if Mitt Romney had said this about Egypt, do you agree that President Obama, in this election season, which you point out, would have jumped all over him?
ROEMER: I don't agree with that, Brooke. You know, I think the President, you know, after this tragedy, when we, you know, lost our ambassador and three other people of our families, did not make this a political season like Governor Romney did.
Governor Romney has made a score of mistakes in his foreign policy. I think he wants to hearken back to the playbook during the bush years of everything can be solved by intervention of our military. And that's not the course of action.
It's strength of our military, and our special operations, as the President has shown with the drone program, decimation of al Qaeda, getting bin Laden. It's also putting more troops into Afghanistan when need be, as the President's done.
And then set a firm timetable for them to come home. The Bush administration, and all due respect to the ambassador, who was quoted in "The Post" today, they have one playbook.
They have one page in the playbook and that is let's send our young men and women into war to solve the problem. In Iran, Syria, Libya, that's always their solution.
BERMAN: Ambassador Tim Roemer, thank you for being with us this morning. As you said, it is always nice to have you.
BALDWIN: We appreciate it.
ROEMER: Brooke you can always talk over me. No problem at all.
BALDWIN: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Thanks for waking up early with us.
ROEMER: Always nice to be on your show.
BALDWIN: Thank you. We'll be talking to Ambassador Williamson a little later and we'll see how he responds to that. Still a lot more happening this morning. STARTING POINT back in a moment.
BERMAN: Outrage against America is spreading across North Africa and the Middle East this morning with new developments unfolding this morning in Libya.
BALDWIN: Four men have been arrested and Libyan officials say they are suspected of instigating that attack on the U.S. Consulate that killed four Americans earlier this week.
I want to take you to Tripoli where Jomana Karadsheh joins us live. Jomana, what can you tell us about the suspects?
JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, we know little about the identity of these suspects. We heard yesterday from the Libyan prime minister speaking with CNN in an interview where he said that at least one of those men is a Libyan national, that the arrests took place yesterday in the city of Benghazi.
We know from Libyan officials that apparently it was photographs taken around the consulate on the night of the attack that led to these arrests. They said that some witnesses identified some of those in the pictures and they came forward with names.
That led to the arrests, but also conflicting reports regarding that. Today we're hearing from a senior Libyan official saying that those detained were not directly involved in the attack.
That they had links to the extremist group that possibly carried out that attack. So we should be finding out more in the coming hours from the Libyan government on the identity of those arrested.
BALDWIN: Jomana Karadsheh for us in Tripoli, thank you.
BERMAN: We are staying on top of the developing crisis in the Middle East all morning long.
Also, ahead on STARTING POINT, another story, remember these headlines? It was a great white concert that turned deadly. The Rhode Island night club fire that killed 100 people in just ten minutes.
Now, for the first time, we have inside information of exactly what happened from a man who knows this case better than anyone. Stay with us.
BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. You may remember this. It was one of the deadliest tragedies at a nightclub ever and much of what happened was captured in photos and videos that are really hard to forget.
It was February 20th, 2003 during a concert by the popular '80s rock band "Great White." It was at the Station Night Club in Rhode Island.
BALDWIN: This fire, you can see, here's the aftermath triggered by the band's pyrotechnics killed nearly 100 people in a matter of 10 minutes.
Now for the very first time, all these details of exactly what happened, what went wrong are now described in this new book. It's called "Killer Show," the author and attorney, John Barylick joins us now.
John, good morning. We both read the book. We were just sort of marveling it in all the intricacy and the detail that's now in this. You lived this for seven years. You're instrumental in getting that $176 million in settlement for these victims. What went wrong?
JOHN BARYLICK, AUTHOR, "KILLER SHOW": It was a combination of things. What we learned over those seven years of research is that it was not simply one blunder that caused this. It was the confluence of numerous instances of a band and club owners putting profit and convenience over safety which, combined, caused a fatal critical mass. The only encouraging thing is that if one person had done the right thing, it all could have been avoided.
BALDWIN: So much, it seems like, what you write, this perfect storm, the killer show, was this foam. Let me quote you from the book and you can show me what you have. Because the fire marshal goes through and you say, quote, "The fire marshal would testify after the fire that he, quote/unquote, did not see the 900-square feet of egg crate foam covering the entire west end of the Station Nightclub.
He did, however, notice the inward swinging stage door had been cited as a correctible violation on two previous inspections. That door was completely covered with the gray egg-foam material.
BARYLICH: It was pretty shocking. The polyurethane foam that was on the walls was a cheap packing foam such as I have here. It was not fire retardant.
BALDWIN: Hold it up.
BARYLICK: But it was put up in a clumsy attempt at sound proofing. The fire inspector and his delegates over three inspections over three years overlooked this substance that covered the entire west end of the club.
BERMAN: This is what just lit up like kindling, right?
BARYLICK: Absolutely. This is extremely flammable, but interestingly yields its energy rather quickly and would have burned out quite quickly.
What we did learn over seven years of research on this is that in parts of the club there was another substance behind the polyurethane.
That was polyethylene, which is much denser, much higher energy yield. Once the flames got through the polyurethane to the polyethylene, there was no putting them out.
BERMAN: What struck me and you said that had they done any one thing, this could have been prevented. There were years of sort of negligence here with inspections and corning cuttings, sprinklers that were never put in because they thought it was grandfathered. Explain this to me, what lessons can we learn here? How can this be prevented?
BALDWIN: I like going to concerts. Tell me what I need to be looking for.
BARYLICK: Well, I think the big take away for us as concert goers is that we are our best fire marshals. We have to look ourselves when you get to a venue, look at the building. Does it look well maintained? Are the staff well trained in any respect?
As you get to your seat, have you passed through any narrow pinch point that would be a problem getting out? Most important when you get to your seat, find the closest exit and share that information with your party. So that if anything goes wrong, you're heading to that exist immediately.
BALDWIN: You were in a show in Portland, Oregon recently and turned around, didn't you?
BARYLICK: Actually it was shortly after the fire. I was in Oregon. I was with friends, walked into a very populous club. It took about 10 minutes to make our way to the room we were going to. I looked around and said it took us 10 minutes and no one was in a hurry to get here. How would we ever get out?
BERMAN: You know, buy the CD. Listen to the music at home. That's the lesson there. Important lessons, John Barylick, thank you so much.
You are the author of the book "Killer Show," a lot of new details about the Station Nightclub fire in Rhode Island. Thanks for joining us.
BARYLICK: Thank you very much, John, Brooke.
BERMAN: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, we do have new reports of violence in Yemen happening right now. Meanwhile, the U.S. is securing embassies worldwide and now this, Libya has arrested four people in connection with the assault on the U.S. Consulate there.
BALDWIN: We are covering the story throughout the world here. Reporters at the Pentagon, State, Libya, Egypt here, don't miss a moment. Back after this.