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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Romney Strikes Back; More Fallout From Romney Video; New Swing State Polls; Close Call For U.S. Ambassador To China; French Magazine Publishes Mohammed Cartoons; Interview with Delaware Governor Jack Markell; Endeavour Ready for Final Fight; "The Longest Way Home": Interview with Andrew McCarthy

Aired September 19, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Comments caught on tape now clarified Mitt Romney trying to turn his thoughts on the 47 -- from the 47 percent from a gaffe into a gain.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wind-whipped and soaked severe. Weather rips through the northeast. Thousands are waking up without power this morning.

BERMAN: Anxious moments for a U.S. ambassador. His car mobbed by protesters.

Good morning and welcome to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is 6:00 a.m. in the East. So, let's get started here.

We begin with the aftershocks from the Mitt Romney hidden camera comments at that fundraiser. He said nearly half of all the Americans see themselves as victims who believe they're entitled to government assistance and it's not his job to worry about those people. President Obama unleashed his first response overnight in an appearance with David Letterman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the things I've learned as president is you represent the entire country. And when I meet Republicans as I'm traveling around the country, they are hard- working family people who care deeply about this country, and my expectation is if you want to be president, you got to work for everybody, not just for some.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, Romney, for his part, isn't apologizing for what he said, just how he said it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I recognize that those people who are not paying income tax are going to say, gosh, this provision that Mitt keeps talking about of lowering income taxes, that's not going to be real attractive to them, and those that are dependent upon government and those that think government's job is to redistribute, I'm not going to get them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: And in this morning's editions of "USA Today," Romney wrote an op-ed in which he seemed to try and clarify his comments on dependency saying, "The dreamers and the entrepreneurs, not government, built this economy, and they can once again make it strong. My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom instead of creating a web of dependency. I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty."

CNN political reporter, Peter Hamby, is live in our Washington Bureau. And Peter, Romney is now scrambling to move past this controversy, now launching his own attacks based on a newly uncovered video of Obama back in 1998. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources, and hence, facilitate some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least, a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, how is he using that to his advantage now?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, the Romney campaign has close ties to this little web site that pushed sort of a YouTube video of this audio to that web site yesterday. This is their attempt to go on offense and change the subject and try to reframe the argument about the function raiser remarks to a debate between two visions of the economy. One a government centered vision versus sort of a private sector, small business thing.

You know, Obama believes in redistribution, and Romney believes, you know, in bringing people up, you know, through the private sector. The problem here, Zoraida, is that this audio is from 14 years ago whereas the audio from the fundraiser that came out yesterday is just from four months ago, during this campaign. Barack Obama can argue that, you know, he sort of changed since then.

But this, you know, the Romney campaign is trying to play this into a narrative where you might remember Obama said that he wants, you know -- you didn't build that, remember those remarks from a few months ago in Roanoke, that Obama believes that the government is at the center of things. So they think they can build a narrative here and try and change the subject. We'll see if that happens today.

That clip from David Letterman that you heard is certain to be played throughout the day today. The Obama campaign is very good at sort of pushing these negative stories into the following news cycle. SAMBOLIN: Both campaigns are, right?

HAMBY: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: That's what they do.

HAMBY: Yes, well, the Obama campaign is pretty good at it, though. They're very, very good at it.

SAMBOLIN: And so conservatives seem to be torn on how to react to Romney's fundraiser comments.

HAMBY: Yes. There's sort of a split going on in the Republican Party right now. You heard yesterday from Bill Kristol of the "Weekly Standard" calling Romney's comments arrogant.

Today there's a really biting op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" from Peggy Noonan. Listen to what she wrote about Mitt Romney's comments. She said it's time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It's not big, it's not brave, it's not thoughtfully tackling great issues.

It's always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet. He chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. Mitt, this isn't working.

The Romney campaign cares deeply about what "The Wall Street Journal" thinks about them and what Bill Kristol thinks about them. But there also are a lot of grassroots conservatives out there online and on talk radio who are saying, thank you, Mitt, for finally talking bluntly about what Barack Obama is doing to this country.

Listen to what Rush Limbaugh said yesterday, Zoraida, on his radio show about this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Could have been -- could be the opportunity for Romney and for that campaign to finally take gloves off and take the fear off and just start explaining conservatism, start explaining liberty to people, and what it means. And explain that they don't have to be in that 47 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAMBY: It's kind of like Mitt Romney sort of stumbled backwards to finally getting the Republican base to like him now. He's kind of embracing the strategy, going back to the redistribution comment. I mean, now he kind of has somewhat of a message to appeal to conservatives.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, folks are fired up, good and bad. New NBC poll shows Obama ahead 50 to 44. We should note that this was taken before the release of either tape. And Peter, you also have some new polling from swing states. Can you break those down for us?

HAMBY: Yes, absolutely. The CBS/"The New York Times" and Quinnipiac have some interesting new polls out today from Wisconsin, Virginia and Colorado. Three of those states that are going to decide the election.

In these states, Obama is winning in all of them. In Wisconsin, he's up 51-45. He's up 50 to 46 in Virginia and he's up just by a point in Colorado. And these poll numbers also show that Obama's winning basically across all categories.

He's, amid all this unrest in the Middle East, he's leading Romney by 10 points on that foreign policy number. And on the economy and jobs, Romney and Obama have essentially been tied throughout this campaign. That's one sort of bright spot for Romney, is that they -- voters see him as someone they trust in the economy. But Obama has sort of closed the gap there and has a narrow lead here.

One interesting thing, also, in these polls, Zoraida, going back to these fundraising comments, a majority of voters in all three of these states say that Romney's plans favor the rich. And if you look at Obama's numbers it's only like 5 percent, 6 percent, 7 percent think that about Barack Obama. So again these fund-raising comments reinforce pre-existing notions about Mitt Romney. And that's the worst thing a candidate -- that can happen to a candidate right now.

SAMBOLIN: No doubt. We really appreciate you digging deep into those polls. I know Berman earlier called you a poll addict.

HAMBY: So is Berman.

SAMBOLIN: So both of my dorks this morning. Thank you so much, Peter Hamby. We appreciate your time.

HAMBY: Thanks.

SAMBOLIN: So in the next half hour, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, an Obama campaign surrogate, will be joining us here in our new studio -- New York studio.

And at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien, the Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, joins her to talk about the challenges now facing the Romney campaign.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, back from the name calling here. It is the calm after the storm here in New York and all along the East Coast. In Virginia, torrential rain turned roads into rivers. There were tornado watches in some areas. Thunderstorms kicked up surf along the shoreline in Connecticut and the rain and gusty winds knocked out power to nearly 30,000 homes and businesses. In Maryland, powerful wind gusts toppled trees right over. The damage in some areas was extensive, but there were no reports of injuries.

SAMBOLIN: So let's get right to Rob Marciano -- Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It was extensive, guys, across a wide swath of real estate. We had tornado watches at one point seemingly from the Canadian border all the way down through the mid- Atlantic.

No tornado reports though, but plenty of winds both ahead, and during those thunderstorms that caused damage. Notably across the D.C. area where a lot of those power outages were, 61-mile-per-hour winds.

Atlantic City seeing 64-mile-per-hour winds and a lot of rainfall from the Tennessee Valley across the Appalachians and the Cumberland as well, and through the Allegheny, Pennsylvania, eight inches of rainfall there.

JFK saw a daily record of 1.5 inches of rainfall and most of that came at one point. Couple of showers left over, but I think we're starting to clear things out. The actual front with the storms, not too severe right now, but showers east of Cape Cod and down east Maine where it's still kind of gusty as far as winds go.

The front drapes down across parts of the south. We'll get out of this and then we'll get into some cooler, somewhat drier air, and then another pulse of some cooler air across the western great lakes. Temperatures this morning in some spots into the 30s, some patchy frost.

SAMBOLIN: Gosh.

MARCIANO: That's for sure.

SAMBOLIN: All right, thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

BERMAN: All right, 7 minutes after the hour right now. Some tense moments this morning for America's ambassador to China, Gary Locke. Locke's official car was surrounded by a group of about 50 protesters outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing., some of them jumping on the hood and throwing cups at the vehicle. Chinese security guards were forced to step in and protect him. We have Stan Grant standing by live in Beijing with this developing story.

Stan, you know, obviously we're very sensitive to demonstrations and protests against U.S. ambassadors and embassies around the world. But this appears to be something completely different.

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not at all tied to the protests we've seen relating to that video about Muslim people, but this is more about protests being carried out here against Japan. Now, the U.S. Embassy, where this incident took place, is right around the corner from the Japanese embassy.

That's been the site of some big protests in recent days as Japan and China square off over who owns an island in the East China Sea. What happens in this video, a small group of protesters moving in front of the U.S. Embassy, Chinese police are also there. Then you see Ambassador Gary Locke's car appear, the protesters move in front of the car, they blocked its way, the police try to move some of the protesters away. One of the protesters tried to grab hold of a U.S. flag on the front of the vehicle.

That's when things started to get a little bit more tense. You see the protesters being scuffled, scuffles break out, protesters move away then some projectiles are thrown at the car, including bottles. This goes on for several minutes until the Chinese military move in and finally dispersed the protesters. Now we understand that Ambassador Locke has not been injured in this.

But it does raise the stakes in this issue at a time when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in Beijing for high-level talks. The Chinese government has addressed this. They are trying to play this down. This is what the Chinese foreign ministry had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HONG LEI, CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN (through translator): The Chinese government has always abided by the Vienna Convention to protect the safety of foreign institutions and personnel in China. The relevant incident was merely an isolated case. Relevant Chinese authorities are investigating and will handle the result properly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRANT: Now, of course, U.S./China relations always tense. Right now, at a higher level, particularly with China becoming a red button issue in the U.S. presidential election -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Stan Grant in Beijing, thank you very much this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It's 9 minutes past the hour. It might be the last thing the world needs after the protests over a film insulting to Islam. Coming up a magazine taking a real risk by publishing something many fear will offend Muslims again today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. It's 13 minutes after the hour right now. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Glad to have you with us this morning. We have a developing story in Paris where French officials are pleading for restraint after a weekly magazine known for its biting satire published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

All this coming at a time when Muslims around the world are rioting over an anti-Islam movie produced here in America. So let's get right to Jim Bitterman. He is live in Paris this morning.

Jim, the last time the magazine did something like this, their Paris office was fire-bombed. I understand they had to bring in extra security last night. What's going on?

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in fact, since that firebombing there's been security around the headquarters here in Paris, but they did bring in extra cars, extra security police last night to surround the headquarters.

And some of the staff of the magazine have been under protection since that firebombing attack last November, including a cartoonist that we talked to this morning. He appeared here at CNN's headquarters with two bodyguards and he said he's been under 24-hour protective surveillance since last November basically because of the kind of flagrant cartoons this magazine does. It's known for these kinds of things. It skewers absolutely everybody, and in the same edition that had the controversial cartoon, the same weekly edition this morning that came out, there's also cartoons that skewered rape victims, if you could imagine that, and the Catholic Church, and made fun of a lot of other institutions here.

It's what they're known for. The cartoonist said he was almost surprised at the way the reaction has built. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

"LUZ", CHARLIE HEBDO CARTOONIST: There was a big French paranoia, of the media, that link us to -- into this the news right now. At the moment it's just -- it's just a big built by the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BITTERMANN: In fact, the cartoons were pretty flagrant, the ones that appeared this morning. They depict Muhammad in all sorts of rather obscene in some cases poses and as a consequence the Muslim community here is up in arms. They asked for restraint.

But by the same token, they say they condemn these things and they actually asked the government to withhold publication of the magazine last night. The government, however, made the argument that this is a country of freedom of press and they were going to allow the magazine to appear on the stands this morning, which it did -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I'm sure there's a lot of worries surrounding that.

Jim Bittermann, live in Paris for us -- thank you very much.

BERMAN: About a quarter past the hour right now, a lot of news to tell you about.

Christine Romans is here with the headlines.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again you two.

Mitt Romney not backing down from comments secretly recorded at a private fund-raiser, comments that have shaken up the presidential race. Romney says his remarks casting Obama supporters as dependent on government were an honest reflection of his campaign's message.

During an appearance last night on the Letterman show, President Obama suggested Romney was writing off a big chunk of the country.

The strike is over. Chicago teachers heading back to school this morning after seven days on the picket line. Union delegates agreed yesterday to suspend the strike and accept a new contract. The walkout affected some 350,000 Chicago public school students.

A federal judge has cleared the way for police in Arizona to enforce the most controversial part of the state's new immigration law. Tuesday's ruling upheld the section that allows police officers to question a person's immigration status while enforcing other laws. This is the so-called, "show me your papers" provision.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down many other key parts of the law, but said "show me your papers" that part of the law in Arizona could stand.

After 25 trips in orbit spanning two decades, the space shuttle Endeavour ready for its final flight after two days of weather delays.

BERMAN: Let's go.

ROMANS: It will be a cross-country tour. Endeavour and its NASA carrier jet scheduled to take off from Kennedy Space Center in just under an hour. The final destination: Los Angeles. The shuttle's new home: the California Science Center in downtown L.A. A live report from Kennedy Space Center in the next half hour.

BERMAN: Can we see the dramatic re-enactment again?

SAMBOLIN: You know what? Here's the deal -- they were supposed to fly yesterday, can you imagine with all those torrential winds.

ROMANS: Oh, yes. You're right. I'm sure it would have been a big delay.

Fifth graders and schoolchildren all over California can't wait for their annual trip.

BERMAN: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: It's kind of exciting.

ROMANS: It is.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Seventeen minutes past the hour. Coming up, more signs of a recovery in the housing market.

BERMAN: For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog CNN.com/EarlyStart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: We're minding your business this morning. U.S. stock futures are up after the Bank of Japan announced more stimulus overnight.

SAMBOLIN: Housing will be a big focus today throughout -- here in the United States. We already have some new numbers on home prices released overnight.

ROMANS: And the housing market is recovering, you guys, you know?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

ROMANS: And this is something that we've been seeing -- we just talked about the Bank of Japan and more stimulus. The Fed and its stimulus, the idea is to keep interest rates very low. Keep money going, to also help the housing markets.

Let me tell you what Zillow, this is the housing tracker say, you've had steady year of month over month pricing increases, maybe it didn't increase -- fell just a little bit in the month of August but the Zillow chief economists saying don't worry about it. It's still looking good year over year for housing prices. They have been going up. And foreclosures fell in August, as well.

So six out of every 10,000 homes are in foreclosure. That's down from, you know, 6.4 out of every 10,000 homes in July.

And we look at the trend, that shows you, this is a chart that's going down that's good when this chart goes down, because look at back in like 2001, you had two houses out of every 10,000. Look at how it spiked up in the crisis, now it's starting to come down.

SAMBOLIN: Did they mention the places that are hardest hit, like Florida, for example?

ROMANS: You know, some of these spots are a two-speed recovery. People with money and investors and foreigners are coming in and buying a lot of places for cash. You still have a lot of homes that are under water or foreclosed on, on some of those big hot spots. So, you're seeing two very different markets in some of those places.

I want to show you the broader home price picture, because you can have a recovery in home sales but not necessarily in prices. But you have seen that double dip. See those two valleys there, that was a double dip in home prices. Home prices have been coming up a little bit. So we're going to get more details this week about existing home sales, home prices and the like.

And it is recovering. It's not going to be a straight line up. Not everyone is going to feel it right away. But you're seeing a bottoming in the home and the home market -- maybe not what it used to be, right?

ROMANS: It shouldn't be what it used to be, because what it used to be was a mirage.

SAMBOLIN: A problem, yes.

BERMAN: If that's a good thing to know about our money, is there something else to one thing?

ROMANS: Yes, don't fight the fed. The one thing you need to know about your money today and maybe in the very near term, don't fight the Fed. It's an old saying on Wall Street. Look, central banks are trying to do what the economy itself and governments can't or won't do, keep the economy going. I don't know what the hangover is going to look like down the road from all this extraordinary stimulus. But for now, markets love it. Don't fight the Fed today.

You've got oil up, you've got gold up, you've got copper up, you've got stocks up. Stock futures are up all because of central banks, and the stimulus that they're putting into the economy.

BERMAN: All right. Christine Romans, thanks very much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: It is 24 minutes after the hour right now. And it is the tale of the tape that could have an impact on this election. The hidden camera remarks that Mitt Romney made at a private fund-raiser back in May.

Coming up, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, an Obama campaign surrogate, he will join us right here to talk about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Trying to turn a gaffe into a game. Governor Mitt Romney hitting the airwaves and the op-eds to explain his comments caught on tape about America's entitled 47 percent.

BERMAN: Waking up in the dark. Power crews hard at work in the Northeast after a round of strong storms leaves of tens of thousands without power.

SAMBOLIN: And a developing story. Trouble for a U.S. ambassador overseas. His car, surrounded by an angry mob of protesters.

Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. It's about 28 minutes after the hour right now.

And if you're up this early, you may have missed this last night. President Barack Obama, in the guest chair with David Letterman on "The Late Show" on CBS, and he directly commented on those secretly taped remarks that Mitt Romney made at a private fund-raiser back in May. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I think people want to make sure of, though, is that you're not writing of a big chunk of the country because the way our democracy works is a big country, and people disagree a lot. But one thing I've never tried to do and I think none of us can do in public office is suggest that because somebody doesn't agree with me, that they're victims, or they're unpatriotic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, of course, what the President was talking about was Romney's comment, uncovered by the liberal-leaning magazine "Mother Jones". These.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Now, Delaware Governor Jack Markell is here to talk more about that with us. He is a surrogate for the Obama campaign.

And, Governor, what I want to say is that Governor Mitt Romney has not backed down from these comments lately. In fact, he's saying there is a valid discussion to be had about the role of government in our lives and how many people are affected, and touched, and influenced, and in some cases supported by government.

There's a Gallup poll which talks about this, too, which Americans say 54 percent say that Americans are doing -- the government is doing too much right now. Government doing too much right now, too much a part of our lives.

Do you agree with that?

GOV. JACK MARKELL, (D) DELAWARE: Well, here's what I think. First of all, I was surprised that Mitt Romney said exactly what he said as he said it at the fund-raiser. I wasn't surprised that this is what he thinks, because it's entirely consistent with his policy of positions -- his embrace of the Ryan budget, kicking hundreds of thousands of kids out of Head Start, kicking students out of Pell Grants. So I think this is entirely consistent with where he's been all along.

BERMAN: But isn't there a valid discussion to be had about trying to have less government involved in some of our lives? Reduce dependency on government?

MARKELL: The President all along has been focused on how do we get the private sector going again? We'd all like to see as many people employed as possible in the private sector. But we also have to understand there's a role for government to play, to make sure that kids are being educated, to make sure that we're investing in infrastructure, to make sure we're helping people with job skills.

There is a role for government to play, particularly as we make the transition to get people going.

BERMAN: There seems to be a split among conservatives about whether this was a bad thing or a good thing for Mitt Romney. And there are some, including Rush Limbaugh, who said this is exactly the kind of thing Mitt Romney should be discussing. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIMBAUGH: This could have been -- could be the opportunity for Romney and for that campaign to finally take the gloves off and take the fear off and just start explaining conservatism, start explaining liberty to people, and what it means. And explain that they don't have to be in that 47 percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Comments?

MARKELL: Well, I'm sure that that's what Rush Limbaugh believes. I guess that's what Romney believes.

But if you're a senior citizen, if you're a student, if you're a veteran who's come back from war, he's talking about you. You're the 47 percent that he is saying, you know, you feel like you're entitled. You don't want to be working.

That's not the world I live in. It's not the world most Americans live in.

BERMAN: Another part of the Romney response to this is to bring out some tape they dug up from Barack Obama in 1998, discussing his philosophy of government and the idea of redistribution. I want to listen to that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, FROM YOUTUBE OCTOBER 1998)

OBAMA, THEN-ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: I think the trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources, and hence facility some redistribution, because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: What kind of redistribution does he believe in?

MARKELL: Well, first of all, I actually had the opportunity to listen to what he said in the 30 seconds prior to that.

BERMAN: So did I.

MARKELL: What he was talking about was the Chicago Housing Authority not being a model of efficiency. The school system back in 1998, this is when he was a state senator, not being, again, a model of efficiency.

I think what he was saying is let's make sure that we are running our state, our government organizations efficiently, make sure we're using the taxpayers money effectively, and then as a result, when you do this, it's the same thing with government today, you've got to figure out which resources you can free up so you can invest in things that matter. BERMAN: But Barack Obama over his career has discussed redistribution four years ago with Joe the plumber, the so-called Joe the plumber. He did talk about spreading the wealth. That's redistribution.

MARKELL: Look. The way that I -- what I heard him say is let's make sure we're spending money wisely so, in fact, we can be investing in our schools. So we can be investing in job training. So we can be investing in infrastructure.

The only way, especially in this enthusiast normal where times are so tough, that you're able to invest in things that are going to lead to a prosperous future, invest in the middle class, if you run things really efficiently.

BERMAN: All right. Governor Jack Markell of Delaware -- always great to have you up there. Thanks for being with us.

And at 7:00 Eastern on "STARTING POINT," the Republican governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, I bet you he has a different point of view. He will join Soledad O'Brien to talk about the challenges facing the Romney campaign in the face of these videotapes -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I bet you're right, John.

So some very tense moments this morning for the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke. Locke's official car surrounded by a group of about 60 protesters outside the U.S. embassy. This is in Beijing. They tried to pull a U.S. flag off the vehicle. Some of the demonstrators throwing cups at the vehicle, jumping on it, the car was damaged but the ambassador was not hurt. Chinese security guards were able to step in in order to protect him.

So the teachers' strike is finally over. Chicago educators and the students are heading back to school this morning after seven days on the picket lines, for the teachers. Union delegates agreed yesterday to suspend the strike and accept a new contract. The walkout affected some 350,000 Chicago public school students.

BERMAN: Lots of wind and rain. Lots of wind wreaking havoc across the Northeast overnight. The storms brought down power lines leaving thousands of people in the dark. We want to get right to meteorologist Rob Marciano.

Rob, it was strong last night.

MARCIANO: It was. We had winds both ahead of those storms that came through and during those storms. No reports of tornadoes but certainly winds that were strong enough to knock down a number of trees, tree limbs and certainly some power lines.

At one point, we had over 30,000 people without power around the D.C. area, where they had a 61-mile-per-hour wind gust there. As much as 54 miles an hour in Atlantic City and similar numbers at JFK.

Rainfall the other big issue from the Tennessee Valley where the brighter colors lit up on the radar, which estimate the amount of rainfall that we had anywhere from four to eight inches in some spots. We had one report of eight inches in Pennsylvania, and then some significant amounts stretching up into Upstate New York.

The rains for the most part have moved out. We're looking at still some showers left over across down east Maine. Still some gusty winds up there, as well.

And a couple leftover sprinkles moving across the Hudson Valley later on this morning. But for the most part the front is trying to push offshore and some showers down across parts of Florida. Behind this is going to be some cooler, more fall-like weather. In some cases, 15 to 20 degree drop in temperature across the Great Lakes with this system. And another pulse of cold air will be coming down and gets worse for the weekend.

But 60 degrees right now in New York -- not really feeling the temperature drop -- 45 right now in Pittsburgh, and in the 30s across parts of the Great Lakes.

There's your fall little punch.

BERMAN: Thanks, Rob.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks for the punch, Rob.

Thirty-six minutes past the hour. From "A Weekend at Bernie's" to a life on the road, actor and award winning travel writer Andrew McCarthy on his new book and his life story that may surprise you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: You are looking at Miami, just waking up this morning. It is 79 degrees there now. Later it will be 88. Hopefully, they will have good weather there.

Why? Because we are counting down to the final flight of space shuttle Endeavour. Endeavour's made 25 trips into orbit over the last two decades and after two days of weather delays, she will be making one more cross-country tour, starting today, on the back of a NASA carrier jet.

Liftoff is scheduled just a few moments from now, about half an hour from now at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. First, we're going to go, its first stop is Houston, then its final destination is Los Angeles.

John Zarrella is live from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning. Hey, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. You know, you're absolutely right. This is a big day for NASA, for Endeavour.

Here on the runway behind me, that's the shuttle landing facility where over the last quarter century, we've seen so many shuttles land. You mentioned Endeavour flew 25 flights, 123 million miles in all. It flew to the International Space Station repeatedly. It did satellite repair missions. The shuttle endeavor was also involved in the very first Hubble servicing mission, space telescope mission.

And as you mentioned, you know, this is going to be really a victory tour of sorts. When they leave here, expected about 7:15, clouds may be a little iffy. They may have to push it back a bit, but not much. It will be headed out over Mississippi. They're going to fly over the Stennis Space Flight Center.

From Stennis in Mississippi, they're going to fly over Michoud, the plant where they built the giant external tanks, so just outside of Louisiana, outside of New Orleans. Then on to Houston. Fly over to the Houston area. Flyovers of Galveston Island, and then finally landing at Ellington Field late this morning, which is right by the Johnson Space Center, where they will overnight.

Tomorrow they head out to California. A refueling mission at the Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso then over to White Sands Missile Range, and then into Dryden, where they will overnight again on Thursday night, tomorrow night, before heading into Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday.

So a huge victory tour. And you know, the last flight for the shuttle Endeavour really is also the last flight for the 747 carrier aircraft and we talked to one of the members of the crew about this being his final flight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY TAYLOR, NASA FLIGHT ENGINEER: This mission will be the final mission for the shuttle carrier aircraft and for me. I made my first flight in 1989 on shuttle carrier aircraft. I've been doing it a long time.

But it's going to be sad to see it come to an end. Very sad. I think the public is going to really miss it. And I know I'll miss it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: You know, when Endeavour gets out to California, John, it's going to sit at Los Angeles airport for a couple of weeks while they reconfigure it and then that big day in October when they will have to tow it 13 miles through the streets of Los Angeles to get it to the California Science Center.

SAMBOLIN: Wow.

ZARRELLA: Yes, that is going to be one big event, over the course of almost two days to go that 13 miles. With a couple stops along the way for, you know, some parading, and a lot of speeches, of course.

BERMAN: Maybe leave its footprint or handprint on the Hollywood Boulevard.

SAMBOLIN: I think that's a great idea.

BERMAN: John, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

ZARRELLA: Sure.

BERMAN: These final flights of the shuttle providing such a spectacular view for so many Americans across the country, really an end of an era.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, he actually got a little teary-eyed that pilot, right?

All right. Thank you for that. That was great.

Forty-four minutes past the hour. Let's get you up to date on this morning's top stories.

Mitt Romney trying to contain the damage from his 47 percent comments and going on the offensive. In a "USA Today" op-ed piece, Romney tries to clarify his remarks on dependency, saying, quote, "My course for the American economy will encourage private investment and personal freedom. Instead of creating a web of dependency I will pursue policies that grow our economy and lift Americans out of poverty.

BERMAN: A tense morning for the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke. Locke's official car was surrounded by a group of about 50 protesters outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing. They tried to pull a U.S. flag off the vehicle, and some of the demonstrators jumped on the car and threw cups at it.

The vehicle was damaged but the ambassador was not hurt. It's believed that Japan's dispute with China over territories in the East China Sea is what triggered these protests.

SAMBOLIN: Cleanup under way this morning big-time after a line of powerful storms struck along the East Coast. Lots of high winds, heavy rain, left tens of thousands without power. That's from Virginia to Washington, D.C. to New York. There were tornado watches across a number of states. As much as nine inches of rain fell in some of those areas.

BERMAN: After a 19-month investigation, the Justice Department's inspector general is expected to release a report on the botched "Fast and Furious" gun trafficking operation. That report coming possibly as early as today. The Republican-led House voted in June to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for withholding documents in the case.

Family members of the U.S. border patrol agent, Brian Terry, killed in connection with the gun smuggling operation, they have said they will not have closure until someone is held accountable for his death.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Forty-five minutes past the hour. Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, good morning, good morning. All right. Ahead this morning on "STARTING POINT," we're continuing to take a look at Governor Romney and his defense of his comments where he called nearly half of Americans victims who rely on government aid. This morning, we'll talk to RedState.com editor-in-chief, Erick Erickson.

He said he thinks this could actually be good for Governor Romney. He says this is the direction he should be taking his campaign. We'll talk about that.

Also, Governor Bob McDonnell will join us. He is re-launching the Romney campaign, talking about specifics from spending and debt. We're going to talk to him about some of those specifics this morning.

Plus, a French magazine is publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad even after violence was raging overseas in reaction to that anti-Islam internet video. So, will we see similar outrage? We'll bring you a live report on that from Paris this morning.

Plus, musician Wyclef Jean will join us. He's got a new memoir. I'm curious to know why now? I mean, why -- years later he's telling us about the Fugees, talks about his father, his childhood in Haiti, his superstar success, and also the breakup of the band, what caused it. We'll get into that and much more this morning on "STARTING POINT". We'll see you right at the top of the hour.

BERMAN: There's also one more thing about today.

O'BRIEN: (SINGING) Happy birthday to me.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I love my birthday so much.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Thrilled to be 25.

SAMBOLIN: Do that one more time.

O'BRIEN: My birthday dance?

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Coming up on "STARTING POINT", the birthday dance.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Meanwhile, 47 minutes after the hour. He is a long way from the brat pack these days. Coming up, we're talking to Andrew McCarthy. He is now an acclaimed travel writer about what he calls the longest way home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. Fifty minutes past the hour.

Plenty of people get cold feet before getting married, but our next guest decided to take off around the world when it happened to him. You know him from some of the most classic movies from the 1980s, "Pretty in Pink," "St. Elmo's Fire," "Weekend at Bernie's," but what you probably don't know is Andrew McCarthy is also an award-winning travel writer.

He chronicles his travels and the more inward journey that he took in his new book. It is called "The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest For The Courage To Settle Down." And Andrew McCarthy joins us this morning.

Thank you so much for being with us. We really appreciate it. A lot of people know you from your 1980s movies, but they had no idea, at least around here, that you were a travel writer. How did you make that leap?

ANDREW MCCARTHY, AUTHOR, "THE LONGEST WAY HOME": Yes, it's a strange career trajectory, isn't it? It just sort of happened. It was complete accident. You know, travel, I was a big traveler, and travel sort of changed my life, and it was just a passion of mine that I pursued.

And I met an editor of a magazine that I finally bombarded him, you know, to write for his magazine and eventually did and it took off from there.

SAMBOLIN: So, we have the image from the first story that you wrote, it was in Bermuda, talking about going for a swim with your dad, eating French toast for breakfast, and you grew into --

MCCARTHY: Captivating reading, isn't it?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. No, but you grew into someone who likes to travel alone. You describe yourself as a solitary person. But on your travels, there were some questions you were trying to answer, a lot of issues from your past. One of them, how do two people come together, perhaps? So, you got married last summer.

MCCARTHY: I did, yes.

SAMBOLIN: Did you find the answer?

MCCARTHY: Well, the whole book is really a question of trying -- taking that inward journey of like how do two people, how do people connect, how do we form intimacy? How do we commit? How do we form partnership? And I play that out by traveling the world. I mean, I answer questions. Some people go to therapy and some people have chats over coffee.

I find the answers to my questions when I go far from home, when the boot hits the ground, you know? So I asked that question and found out the answers as I was traveling the world. So, really, it's more of an internal journey than played out on Kilimanjaro or down the Amazon. That kind of thing.

SAMBOLIN: But there were some serious questions that you were dealing with, some serious issues. MCCARTHY: Yes. Once in awhile -- I was leaving to go to the Patagonia to write a story for magazine and we just decided to get married and I was feeling very lovey dovey, the way you do when you just decide that things like that. It's really sad to be leaving, but on another part of me, I was absolutely thrilled to be going alone. And I couldn't reconcile those two aspects of myself. That need for solitude and my own thing and the need and the yearning to be together, you know, with someone else. And so, I just -- that paradox was difficult to me to comprehend in myself. So, that's what I try to address in the book.

SAMBOLIN: And so how did -- what was your awakening there?

MCCARTHY: I suppose I -- the event of the book is really whenever I come back from the trip, I'm a better version of myself, you know? And I have more access to, I suppose, my love, you know? And if I bring home a better version of me, then that's a good thing.

SAMBOLIN: So, you've likened solo travel to infidelity.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCARTHY: I do think that.

SAMBOLIN: I need you to explain that one.

MCCARTHY: No, I do think that because when you travel alone, particularly, I don't mean vacation to a wonderful spot -- I just mean going out into the world alone, I think you're very -- it's a very private experience between you and whatever you encounter in the world. And when you come back, you have is really stories. You can't communicate that, te essence of that experience that happens to you when you're out alone in the world.

So, it is leaving behind everything that you know at home and going out for a very private experience. You know, you can't really communicate that.

SAMBOLIN: Do you travel with your wife and kids now?

MCCARTHY: I do. Yes, they make me.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCARTHY: No, I loved it. I took my son to the Sahara for a story, my daughter to Tahiti, my wife, we just went -- you know, we go to Paris.

SAMBOLIN: And we have beautiful pictures of you when you got married which is very nice also.

MCCARTHY: Yes. It finally happened. Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Good luck to you, Andrew. It's really nice to have you with us this morning. Andrew McCarthy, the book, "The Longest Way Home: One Man's Global Quest For The Courage To Settle Down." Thank you for being with us. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back. Are we going to John? Which one are we doing? Do we want to --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: It is just a few minutes before the hour right now, and as always, we wrap it up with "Best Advice."

SAMBOLIN: Here's Christine.

ROMANS: All right. So, today, guys, we hear from a 1980s icon who says he's talking from experience. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIRK CAMERON, FORMER TEEN STAR: Hey, this is Kirk Cameron. This is the best advice I have for you. Fashions resurge, they come back around. If the mullet and parachute pants ever come back in style, don't go there. Take it from a guy who knows.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And I'm going to spend my morning thinking about John Berman in parachute pants and a mullet.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: No. I never had a mullet, never had parachute pants. Let the record show.

ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: You can search any internet in the world, you'll never find any sign of it.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Calling your mom, calling your wife!

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: That's all. We better leave.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: That's all for EARLY START this morning. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. "STARTING POINT" with Soledad O'Brien starts right now.