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Battle of the Tapes; Chicago Strike Over; Discrimination in Traditions?; Winklevoss Twins Interviewed; Military Policy of Each Presidential Candidate Examined; Managing the U.S. Military; 2012 IZOD IndyCar Champ

Aired September 19, 2012 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is the battle of the tapes. Mitt Romney is standing by his message after "those people" controversy. And President Obama is taking some digs to him on late night.

And back to school. Chicago teachers off the picket lines, back to class after a seven-day strike has come to an end.

And he is racing's newest champion. First American to win the Indy car title since 2006. Ryan Hunter Ray joins us to talk about his victory.

Plus, father/daughter dances and mother/son ball games all banned because of discrimination. That's our tough call this morning.

It's Wednesday, September 19th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of "BuzzFeed".

Will you sing happy birthday to me like Wyclef just did in our last hour?



O'BRIEN: Bridget Siegel is the former finance director of the Kerry presidential campaign.

Will Cain is gong to sing for me. He's as columnist for -- no?


O'BRIEN: I thought you would sing for me.

CAIN: I can't hear you. What's that?

O'BRIEN: John Berman is sticking around from "EARLY START," the show he anchors.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Are you telling me we have to sing?

O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly, and then you're going to run, right?

All right. On STARTING POINT this morning, Mitt Romney is not backing down from those comments he made in that secretly recorded video from a private fund-raiser. He says just under half the nation is not going to vote for him because they're dependent on the government.

Here he is on FOX News, first interview since the tapes were released. Listen.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I'm talking about a perspective of individuals who I'm not likely to get to support me. I recognize that those people, who are not paying income tax are going to say, gosh, this provision that Mitt keeps talking about, 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.


O'BRIEN: President Obama reacted to it during an appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" last night. Here's what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know what he was referring to. But I can tell you this -- when I won in 2008, 47 percent of the people voted for John McCain. They didn't vote for me. And what I said on election night was, even though you didn't vote for me, I hear your voices and I'm going to work as hard as I can to be your president.


O'BRIEN: Mark McKinnon is a contributor for "The Daily Beast," a former 2008 presidential adviser, wrote a new article about the fallout of that video for "The Daily Beast". It's online today.

Good morning. Nice to see you, as always.

Give me a sense of how bad this is. Your article says very, very, very bad.

MARK MCKINNON, THE DAILY BEAST: Happy birthday, Soledad.

Well, I started off this week -- I started off, actually, defending the campaign. This is kind of the post-Libya comment, because I remember being in this exact position in September of 2000. We came out of the conventions. Gore had a good convention, stepped on our bounce. We were three points down. Everybody was firing guns at the campaign, saying we should all be fired.

So, I'm familiar with this condition. And -- but when the tape comment came out, it really gave me pause, because when you start cynically writing off half the country as victims, that's not big. That's not presidential. That's not the sort of thing that we want to hear from a president.

So, there's a lot of us, I think, who are Republicans and independents who have been waiting for a moment, either at the convention, the convention speech, didn't really see it there. Maybe it will happen in the debates.

But, unfortunately, I'm afraid that this moment of the tapes reveals a side of Romney -- we were waiting for a moment of revelation. This, unfortunately, is one. But not the kind we were looking for.

O'BRIEN: You know, Erick Erickson, we were talking to him a little while ago. He said there's a big upside, that anybody who is reading doom and gloom into this could be completely missing the point. I'll play for what he said in our interview.


ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: There are a lot of people out there technically in the demographic of income taxes and government benefits who actually would agree with Mitt Romney on this issue. Whether it's the Gallup poll or the Pew poll or what-have-you on those issues, I think he's got to come out and own the comment. He can't back it up. He's going to have to explain what exactly he did mean in an articulate way.


O'BRIEN: So, the former governor has not tried to back off the comment. He has really spun it to people who don't -- that there's a lot of people who are not paying their fair share of taxes. Is Erick Erickson right? Do you think maybe even the people he's referring to theoretically don't see themselves as the people he is referring to?

MCKINNON: Well, I watched Erick Erickson grit his teeth this morning, trying to defend Mitt Romney. The problem with the number and the problem with this discussion, Soledad, is -- and Erick referred to this as well -- there are a huge number of that 47 percent who do not see themselves as dependent and who are not dependent. There are lots of those people who do pay taxes and they're people who don't see themselves as victims. Seniors don't see themselves as victims. Veterans don't see themselves as victims.

So, this whole notion of painting a broad swath of the American electorate as victims is highly problematic. So, you know, it's getting later and later in the game. And, you know, it's just getting more difficult to defend Mitt Romney for people like Erick Erickson and me to come out and defend this kind of behavior and these kind of statements. And it's getting harder and harder to support them. O'BRIEN: So Mitt Romney has said it was inarticulate, it wasn't well said. And other Republicans have come out and said that exact same thing. If you were advising him for his campaign, does he have to go further than that? Does he have to move off of it's just inarticulate? What would you tell him to do?

MCKINNON: Well, this is where I depart from Erick and from others on the doubling down strategy. You know, I want a moment of revelation about what Mitt Romney's heart really is and what does he really believe? What is his plan for the least among us?

You know, what -- other than considering -- does he really think that these people are victims? Because, you know, I want to se a true sense of had his character in something greater in terms of his vision, what he would do as president. So, my view is that there needs to be some sort of moment, some speech or some moment in the debate where we get a broader sense of does he care about this 47 percent and what would he do for the 47 percent as president? We know what he would do for the 53 percent. What about the rest of America?

CAIN: Hey, Mark. It's Will Cain.

Let's set aside the 47 percent for a moment if we can. Let me just ask you this -- is there a problem in this country of growing dependency on the government?

MCKINNON: Well, I think there is. I think part of the reason we have that problem is we've got an economic decline.

CAIN: Right.

MCKINNON: We've got huge -- not just decline. We've got a catastrophe out there. That's why we have more dependency. We do need policies that get us out of dependency.

CAIN: So, here's what I said, Mark --

MCKINNON: Yes, go ahead.

CAIN: So, here's what I said -- tell me how would you help Mitt Romney shape this message? Here's what I say -- there's a kernel of truth in what he said, right? There's a sentiment inside of what he said that's correct.

What he did wrong is he used the 47 percent of number, which conflated a number of people that don't pay taxes, the number of people that get a government check, the number of households, the percentage of households, and the percentage of people that are already going to vote for Barack Obama.

He conflated all these groups, which was wrong. But the sentiment is not wrong. So, how do you fix that?

MCKINNON: Exactly right. I think part of the way you fix that is to talk about some of the things that Romney is actually for that he hasn't talked enough about. For example, means testing. Why not talk about the fact that Romney supports the idea of means testing? I believe he supports it, for some entitlement programs.

Why not say those of us who have done well can and should give something back and if we have enough money at the end of our lives or later years of our lives, we don't need to take as much from the government. We don't need to be as dependent if we have more money. That's the kind of message he should be communicating.

BRIDGET SIEGEL, FORMER FINANCE DIRECTOR, KERRY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Isn't this what you got? You guys are looking for a sentiment or that moment of truth of Romney. Isn't that what you got? You got this sentiment, that he thinks 47 percent of the country or half of the country --

CAIN: That's the point. When you make a strong statement, you better make sure your facts are right, that you've got it correct. He just didn't get it correct.


O'BRIEN: Here's what Bridget is saying. You're saying, Will, he conflated, took all these statistics and mixed them up. Bridget is saying no, you heard from his heart and he thinks half the country is dependent.

And I guess, Mark, you're saying at some point we need to hear in a more articulate way, possibly, which is true? Which is the real Mitt Romney, if he expects people to vote for him? Is that kind of the point? Am I getting that right?

MCKINNON: That's exactly right. I think people are confused. Obviously, we're all confused. If we're confused you can imagine a lot of your viewers, a lot of voters are as well.

O'BRIEN: Mark McKinnon, always nice to have you, sir. Thank you for the birthday wishes, by the way. That's how you started it. I appreciate that.

All right. Other stories making news today. John Berman's got that for us.

Hey, John.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

Some very tense moment this morning for the U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke. Locke's official car surrounded by a group of about 50 protesters outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing, some of them throwing cups at the vehicle and jumping all over it. The car was damaged but the ambassador was not hurt. Chinese security guards were able to step in and help protect him.

You saw the launch right here live last hour. Now, the space shuttle Endeavour is high in the sky on its final mission. After 25 trips to the orbit over the past two decades, the retired shuttle took off at 7:22 Eastern from the Kennedy Space Center on the back of a NASA career jet. It will now make a cross country tour with a stop in Houston today and low flyovers through Friday.

The final destination, Los Angeles, at the California Science Center, it gets to California on Friday.

More Americans say they're feeling optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country. And that's helping trigger a spike in the polls for President Obama. The latest NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows the president with a five-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters. This survey was taken after the two conventions but before Romney's controversial 47 percent comments were released this week.

The president is also making some gains in key swing states. The Latest CBS/"New York Times" Quinnipiac poll has President Obama ahead of Mitt Romney 51 percent to 45 percent in Wisconsin, Paul Ryan's home state. In Virginia, the president has a four-point lead, 50 percent to 46 percent. And Colorado, it's essentially tied, 48 percent to 47 percent.

Lots to clean up this morning after a line of powerful storms along the East Coast. High winds and heavy rains left tens of thousands of people without power from Virginia to Washington, D.C. to New York. As much as nine inches of rain fell in some places.

All right. Can I get an arrgh from the car? Arrgh, arrgh!


BERMAN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We are brother and sister up here.

BERMAN: Why are we arrgh'ing this morning? Because it's International Talk Like A Pirate Day this morning.

O'BRIEN: Is it really?

BERMAN: The story goes that two swashbucklers, actually racket ball players, invented the holiday back in 1995.

BEN SMITH, BUZZFEED: All the way back in '95?

O'BRIEN: Generations now.

BERMAN: It's taken off, thank goodness, in social media. So, I agree when, you know --

O'BRIEN: Can I ask a question?


O'BRIEN: Is it always celebrated on September 19th?

BERMAN: We'll get our best people on that. It's not on the prompter.

O'BRIEN: I just want to know like, is it every year I'm going to be struggling and fighting with the people for International Pirate Talking Day?

SMITH: Absolutely. It's in honor of your birthday.

O'BRIEN: It's in honor of my birthday. I'll give it back. No, thanks. No, thank you.

All right.

BERMAN: There you have it.

Soledad, pirates, eye patch, yo-ho-ho, buried treasure, pillage and plunder. Pirates, back to you.

O'BRIEN: And we move on.

Ahead on STARTING POINT: You know, students and teachers are back in the classrooms in Chicago today. We'll take a look at how that strike finally ended in a live report, coming up next.

And then forget about father/daughter dances and mother/son ball games. They've been banned. Some say because it's gender discrimination. It's our tough call this morning.

Do you agree that a father/daughter dance is gender discrimination?

BERMAN: You want my opinion on this?

O'BRIEN: I'm going to ask your opinion.



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

It's up and at 'em for some of the 350,000 public school children in Chicago now. The teacher's union voted to suspend its seven-day strike, return to the classroom today. CNN's Kyung Lah bas been following the story for us. Both sides are claiming victory in this one. Is that even possible? Who really won, do you think, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, if you take a look at it, Soledad, you really can't tell, because both sides look like they had to give a little in order to get something. This is truly a compromised word we heard from both sides yesterday, both the union and the city, talking to teachers, they say.

Overwhelmingly, they are relieved that this is over. They're anxious to get back into the classroom saying, this is a deal that they can live with. Here's what one teacher told us.


ANDRE POELLINETZ, CHICAGO TEACHER: Everybody is happy to go back to work, get with the kids. It's been long enough. So, I think we've accomplished what we wanted to. A few people aren't happy, but you know, no matter what you do, nobody is going to be completely happy. So, I think, we've done the best we could.


LAH: So, the teachers come back into the classroom in just about an hour or so. This elementary school, you can see the lights are on already, Soledad, and parents are going to be shuffling off their kids just about now in Chicago.

O'BRIEN: Probably so happy to drop those kids back at school. But what happens with the seven days that they lost? Do they just tack that on to the end of the school year? How do they get it back?

LAH: They're going to try to figure out how they can jam it into what's left in the school year, and that's really going to be a challenge. That's something that parents say they're really going to have to work on. Those teachers are going to have to work on it. The entire community is going to just try to figure out how they're going to get all that time back in with the days that they have left.

And, you know, overwhelmingly, we are hearing that they're going to be able to do it, because they did only lose seven days.

O'BRIEN: Kyung Lah for us updating us on a story she's been camped out and covering. Thanks for that. We appreciate it.

Ahead this morning, one complaint ends father/daughter dances forever at a school. Is it too PC? Today's "Tough Call" up next. We're back in just a moment.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans. "Minding Your Business" this morning, U.S stock futures are up after the Bank of Japan announced more stimulus overnight. This follows, of course, the Federal Reserves' stimulus announcement last week. The S&P 500 index is up more than 14 percent so far this year.

But, Fedex is warning. It says global economic growth is stalling. It's going to get worse next year. Companies like FedEx are bellwethers for corporate earnings and certainly have a thumb on the pulse of global growth. Some of the risks they're worried about, the debt crisis in Europe affecting demand for Chinese exports and high fuel cost slowing down global trade.

New data released overnight by real estate website Zillow shows home prices dipped in August from the previous month, but home prices are still up 1.7 percent from a year ago according to Zillow. Now, foreclosures fell in August. This is good news. Six out of every 10,000 homes in the country are in some stage of foreclosure.

That's down from 6.4 out of every 10,000 in July. A report on existing home sales in August is due at 10:00 am eastern -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you. Well, you can forget about father/daughter dances and mother/son ball games certainly in Cranston, Rhode Island. They are now banned for the school district there. That's because the ACLU says that those events violate the state's gender discrimination laws.

They put out a statement that says this, "Public schools have no business fostering the notion that girls prefer to go to formal dances, boys prefer baseball games. This type of gender stereotyping only perpetuates outdated notions of girl and boy activities and is contrary to federal law."

So, that is our "Tough Call" this morning. Is this about gender discrimination, do you think? You're practically laughing --

-- that statement was actually just trolling Will Cain.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- with the girl and boy in quotes there. I mean, it seems to kind of go out of its way to infuriate conservatives, perhaps, in the way they put it. But I think, as we were saying before, I mean, you know, there's a logic to it, and a lot of kids who do not have a mother, who do not have a father, I mean, who obviously may not -- who put in tough decisions.


ROMANS: Sensitivity. Not necessarily gender discrimination, you know? And teachers should know what the situation is in their own classroom. But, I mean, whole generation of people grew up going to the mom prom, you know, boys going to a dance with their moms or you know, not just girls going to a dance with their dad, but boys --

O'BRIEN: So, it's less about gender discrimination and sort of the legality of it? And to me, about gender stereotyping is what the ACLU seems to say, right? Like, you know, why is it girls go to dances and boys go to -- why wouldn't a girl want to go to a baseball game, and then, maybe he --


O'BRIEN: What? Yes, what?

CAIN: What you're doing is you're bowing to sensitivity to such a degree that you're ending it for so many people that does benefit.

O'BRIEN: But you're not ending it?

CAIN: So, the father-daughter dance --

O'BRIEN: You're not ending it. You're opening it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Making it more inclusive --

CAIN: I'm offering exclusivity.


CAIN: Yes. Yes. But maybe call some father/daughter dance and allow some people to do it in ways that aren't traditionally --

O'BRIEN: -- right? So, your father is dead and you don't have a father. To go to the father/daughter dance might be a very --


CAIN: Are you kidding me? Kids are excluded from the father/daughter dance?

O'BRIEN: They don't have fathers, so they're not going to the father/daughter dance.

CAIN: I will be shocked if there are teachers and principals turning kids away. I would be shocked.

O'BRIEN: But here's the thing. I think ALCU has an interesting point on this, which is why assume that boys want to do baseball? Why not assume like girls might want to go to baseball games and that a dance could be fun to not only have dads and daughters but take your son. Everybody might want to go to a dance. Why not say, hey, we're having a dance. It's open to everybody.

ROMANS: -- mom prom. That happened in the Midwest a lot, right, where the boys and the moms would go to a dinner and dance together. I mean, so, it wasn't just father/daughter dances. They called it mom prom, you know?


O'BRIEN: I don't know. I don't -- you know, I draw the line at no cupcakes for birthday parties at school like that's where -- I feel that's over the top.

ROMANS: People to be doing stuff with their kids in the education environment. That's the other thing. So --


ROMANS: You know, we want them -- we don't want to be discouraging people from doing things with their kids because we need more of it, but --

O'BRIEN: That's what I meant to say.



O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you.

CAIN: Let's talk of things where to have a deeper exploration.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Oh, Will Cain admitting? CAIN: No, no, that's not what I did. I mean, the level of my disagreement is so deep that I can't get into it right now.


O'BRIEN: OK. I'll take that as a win.

Anyway, moving ahead, ahead on STARTING POINT is the question that's been debated for century. Did Jesus have a wife? We're revisiting it again. Details on a new historical finding to share with you.

And their fight over Facebook turned an Oscar-nominated -- turned into, became part of an Oscar-nominated movie, but now, the Winklevoss twins are getting back into social networking without Mark Zuckerberg, this time around. We'll tell you about their new venture. They're going to join us up next. And here they are. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We begin with John Berman, who has a look at some of the stories that are making news today. Hey.

BERMAN: Hey, Soledad. French official are urging restraint, beefing up security at some of their embassies and closing schools this morning. This after a weekly magazine known for its biting satire published cartoons predicting the Prophet Muhammad this morning. So far, no fallout. Last November the same magazine published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and its Paris office was destroyed by a firebomb.

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 violation, that report coming as early as today. The Republican-led house voted in June to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for withholding documents in this case. Family and friends have said they won't have closure until someone is held accountable for his death.

A federal judge has cleared the way for police in Arizona to enforce the most controversial part of its new immigration law. U.S. district judge Susan Bolton Tuesday upheld the section that allows people to question immigration status while enforcing other laws. Back in June the Supreme Court tossed out most other aspects of the law but let the so-called "show me your papers" provision stand.

And did Jesus have a wife? A historian at Harvard Divinity School says she's identified a rare fourth century religious text, a scrap of papyrus written in Coptic, which contains a line never seen before in scripture. It says "Jesus said to them "my wife." the scholar knows that this isn't evidence that he was married but suggest that early Chris may have believed he was.

O'BRIEN: That is so interesting.

Moving on, let's talk with the Winklevoss twins. They're getting back into social networking. You may remember that they claimed Facebook was their idea, and sued Mark Zuckerberg over that. The entire battle was chronicled in the movie "The Social Network" back in 2010. Here's a clip.


CAMERON WINKLEVOSS (PLAYED BY ACTOR ARMIE HAMMER): We know he stole our idea and lied to our faces for a month and a half.


C. WINKLEVOSS: Fine. He lied to our e-mail accounts and gave himself a 42-day head start, because he knows what apparently you don't, which is that getting there first is everything.

NARENDRA: I'm a competitive racer. I don't think you need to school me on the importance of getting there first, thank you.


O'BRIEN: This time, their first, making an adventure. Cameron, Tyler join us now. You're all in that clip. It's funny to watch your faces while that clip is playing. Did you think that that was -- the movie was an accurate portrayal? Was it weird to see yourselves portrayed?

CAMERON WINKLEVOSS: A little is surreal, I think. The movie was factual and based on real-life events. Of course, it's not a complete collection of the fact. It's a movie. But it's very much a true story.

O'BRIEN: You got a big payout, $65 million or so of which $45 million was in Facebook stock. And some of that money you're putting into this new -- I all it new because your investment is new, actual social network. Sum Zero is not new. Explain to me what the social network is.

DIVYA NARENDRA: I used to work at a hedge fund and at the time I realized there was a problem with finding high-quality information on various investments, be it stocks, bonds, what have you. It seemed like it would be useful to have a community setup where investors could share their research. And when I say professional, I'm referring to hedge fund analysts, private equity guys, people who do fundamental research, rigorous research all day. At the time, nothing of the sort existed. So in 2008 me and another college friend of mine created a site called Sum Zero that enabled these investors to share their research.

O'BRIEN: You guys have put $1 million of your money into this. Tell me, why do you think this is such a great deal? And why can't all those hedge fund investors just talk to each other? What has it done? This is a way to keep other people out, obviously. You have to be a member. I can't just dip in and listen in on this conversation, right?

NARENDRA: You can, actually. We started the site as being solely dedicated to professional investors, but as the company has evolved we've enabled nonprofessionals to sort of access small windows of the conversation. So even as an individual investor, you can join our newsletter or headlines page and you can still see sort of what are the professionals talking about.

O'BRIEN: Why did you invest $1 million in this company?

TYLER WINKLEVOSS: We believe in the product and the team. It's a unique, first time alternative to cell side research. We felt there was a distinct value proposition there.

O'BRIEN: Is that value proposition something that's going to make Sum Zero as big as Facebook or even half as big of Facebook.

T. WINKLEVOSS: It's not really a competitor of Facebook in that sense. It changes the way investors look at investing in other places.

C. WINKLEVOSS: So, yes, I think it's never going to have probably a million members. That's not really the goal. It's reall a quality game of getting that research together and then giving retail investors and everybody else a window into that world, which they otherwise would not have.

O'BRIEN: Outside it's giving the people into that world. Aren't these investors already meeting together? Aren't those things happening in the real world, you're just moving it online?

NARENDRA: If it wasn't happening in the real world, there would be less of an opportunity. It happens over the phone, at idea dinners, at conferences. If you're an analyst in the U.S. and let's say you're interested in learning more about a company that maybe is in Malaysia or some other country, you're not going to have somebody probably within your personal network that covers that company. So being able to go online and do a quick search makes your investment process that much easier so you don't necessarily have to spend money to travel across the globe to go find -- to at least get initial information about a company to understand whether it's worth putting more time and research into.

BERMAN: Is this free?

C. WINKLEVOSS: It can be.


BERMAN: How un-free is it?

NARENDRA: There's a newsletter that's free for everyone. If you're a by-side analyst you can sign on for free.

O'BRIEN: For other people it's a membership fee?

NARENDRA: The core community is free. For people who want news and sort of basic insight into what's going on in the community, there's a news page, essentially a blog. That's totally free. But if you're looking for more detail than would be available to just anyone, you do have to pay.

O'BRIEN: And you should be a hedge fund manager, too? You have to be in the business?

C. WINKLEVOSS: Not necessarily.

T. WINKLEVOSS: To subscribe to some of the research.

NARENDRA: People who contribute content don't pay because they're actually contributing ideas. The people who can't contribute content because we don't let them into the core community, they would have to pay.

O'BRIEN: Did you sell your Facebook stock?

C. WINKLEVOSS: We choose not to talk about settlement.

O'BRIEN: Is that a yes or a no?

C. WINKLEVOSS: That's a plead-the-fifth.

O'BRIEN: Interesting, interesting. Thanks for talking to us about Sum Zero. Maybe you'll get a billion followers. It could happen. Thanks for coming.

C. WINKLEVOSS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We have to take a short break. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, depending on who becomes the president of the United States, what exactly will be the future of the military? Barbara Starr will join us to take a look at both President Obama's plan and Mitt Romney's plan. Continuing in depth coverage of issues 2012, that's right after this.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. All this week, CNN is going in depth, exploring issues that impact voters. With 48 days until the election, our focus this morning is the military. Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr takes a look at the plans on both sides from President Obama and from Mitt Romney. Take a look.


BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: How many troops and what weapons are need to defend the nation? President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney each are making a different case. Governor Romney has said he wants to significantly add to our conventional forces.

ROMNEY: We must have a commitment not just to more ships and more aircraft, but also, in my view, to more members of our armed forces.

STARR: President Obama wants a smaller conventional force and $500 billion in Pentagon spending cuts over the next 10 years.

OBAMA: And so long as I'm commander in chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.

STARR: Let's start with the Romney plan. The candidate says he favors a larger force of naval ships and aircraft but has not said how he would pay for it. Romney has also said he wants to add 100,000 troops to the current force of 1.4 million.

Now for a look at Obama's plan. As part of $500 billion in spending cuts, President Obama says he wants to get rid of older ships and delay buying new ones. He also proposes cutting the army by some 66,000 and reducing the marine corps by another 20,000. Obama envisions continuing use of small special forces teams and unmanned drones, a signature weapon of the last decade. But Romney's surrogate and former DOD comptroller Dov Zakheim says not so fast.

DOV ZAKHEIM, ROMNEY SENIOR ADVISER: There's no objection, no ideological objection at all to having drones, unmanned aerial vehicle, unmanned sub surface vehicles, all kinds of unmanned vehicles. The issue is to what extent do you rely almost exclusively on drones and on special forces?

STARR: For President Obama, secret CIA drone attacks against militants in Pakistan and Yemen have had results without risking putting U.S. troops on the ground. He told CNN's Jessica Yellin.

OBAMA: It has to be a situation in which we can't capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.

PETER SINGER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: I don't think whether Obama or Romney wins we're going to see this technology go away or any greater minimized use of it because of their own approach. I think we've seen that President Obama's most definitely willing to utilize these. It's actually been a signature part of his counter-terrorism agenda. And it would be very hard for Romney to roll that back, even if he wanted to.


STARR: But no matter who is in the Oval Office, Obama or Romney, the bigger problem with this drone issue may be the international pushback from governments and human rights groups that increasingly are voicing their objections -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr. Thanks for Barbara for that report.

Coming up next on STARTING POINT, he's Indy racing's newest champion Ryan Hunter-Reay joins us up next.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back right after this and there he is.

Good morning nice to have you. Congratulations to you.


DAVID EAGLEMAN, NEURO SCIENTIST: I'm interested in neural law because it's really where the rubber hits the road in neuroscience, it's where we can make all the things we're learning about human behavior and how humans are different and translate that into social policy. How we actually are running the system here. I'm David Eagleman and I'm a neuroscientist.

At some point there will be a crime committed like the Virginia Tech shooting, or the Columbine shooting, or the Aurora movie theater shooting. And we will find that the perpetrator had a brain tumor. I'm not suggesting that any of those events were explained by brain tumors but at some point that will happen. And then society is going to have to deal with this very difficult question about this relationship between brain and behavior and this question of culpability.



O'BRIEN: IndyCar racing has a new champion Ryan Hunter-Reay won the world championship at the Auto Club Speedway in California last weekend after the point leader crashed. He's the first American to win the Indy Car title since 2006.

And this is what you won. It's nice to have you with us.

CAIN: The National Silver Cup.


O'BRIEN: This is the Aster Challenge Cup. It's not only massive it's super, super heavy. Tell me a little bit about how you're feeling now that you've walked away the winner with this tremendous honor.

HUNTER-REAY: First of all, the whole situation is a dream come true. You know, I've been an Indycar fan since I was 6 years old. And to win -- to win the Indycar championship, I -- I can't even -- still comprehend it. But yes isn't this cup beautiful? Aster Challenge Cup.

O'BRIEN: It's gorgeous.

HUNTER-REAY: It's first awarded to the IndyCar champion in 1915.

O'BRIEN: There's an inscription on the back that says Stutz Car driver Gil Anderson time, three hours, 24 minutes, 42 seconds average speed 102.6 per hour. What was your average speed when you were racing?

HUNTER-REAY: Well at Indianapolis this year, for example, we qualified somewhere in the -- in the range of 225 miles an hour, average.

O'BRIEN: It's kind of blown away Gil Anderson's record back in 1915. You won because as we mentioned the point leader crashed. When was the moment that you realize like, that's it. It's done? I'm going to win this thing.

HUNTER-REAY: Well, I had -- the team had gained the points lead earlier in the season and we lost it because of some bad -- some bad luck, you know, with a few races to go. And here we come down to the last race of Fontana, 17-point margin. And once Will crashed we actually still had to finish up a time. We were 13th in the race. We had to still finish fifth to win the championship.

So there was a lot of work to be done still. And it was a 500-mile race. Grueling race, just edge of your seat the whole time and we pulled it off by three points.

CAIN: Soledad? Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Where are you?

CAIN: Can I ask Ryan a question? So you talked about a lot of work to be done, you had to finish fifth in that final race to win this thing, to win the points championship. You finished fourth. Now what I read is you were running out of gas, right, towards the end of the race? You had to back off a little bit. How did you time it just right to finish and make sure you're going to finish in the top five?

HUNTER-REAY: Well there were so many factors lining up. Because the temperatures were really hot. You know, 103 degrees is what we saw for an ambient temperature that day. And the engines were really hot. So I mean, Chevy just delivered. The engine was overheating and it still gave me full power the entire time.

And yes at the end of the race we were running low on fuel. I mean just -- just the nerves involved in the whole thing and how many -- how much can go wrong. It -- it was unreal to bring it home like that. And bring the championship back to the U.S. You know it's being an American champion --

O'BRIEN: Why are Americans -- Americans underdogs when it comes to this?

HUNTER-REAY: Well, it's a very diverse series. You know it's drivers, top talent from around the world. We race on all types of different tracks. IndyCar is the only series in the world that races on street circuits, road courses, super speedways, short ovals. So to win a championship a team certainly has to be very -- certainly very diverse.

O'BRIEN: Mario Andretti he predicted you're going to win. When other people were not predicting you'll win. He was saying that you're going to win. What advise did he give you? I mean, the famous Mario Andretti takes you aside and says --

HUNTER-REAY: Well Mario and Michael both you know they're legends. And to -- to drive for them, to drive for Michael, it's an honor. But you get to actually you know pick their brains and understand what -- what made them champions and where their mindset is in such an important race. I mean you have to be mentally prepared to go to battle for -- for you know, almost four hours at 220 miles an hour. It takes a certain mindset. And I definitely got some advice from the best.

O'BRIEN: Well the trophy is absolutely gorgeous. Are you just going to carry this around New York City with you as you --

HUNTER-REAY: I plan on doing that.

O'BRIEN: Well, we -- we think that's a good idea. You deserve this. It's nice to have you this morning. We certainly appreciate it.

HUNTER-REAY: Thank you so much for having me on.

O'BRIEN: Ryan Hunter-Reay is our guest.

HUNTER-REAY: An absolute pleasure. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break. STARTING POINT is back in just a moment.


WYCLEF JEAN, SINGER: Happy birthday Soledad. Happy birthday Soledad --

O'BRIEN: Ok, this is the greatest day of my life.

JEAN: Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Oh, yes. Wyclef, yes. That makes this such a great day to have Wyclef on.

CAIN: OK. We'll let the viewers know, you've been fighting this tooth and nail. There's a cake for Soledad's birthday. She turned 27 today.

O'BRIEN: 24.

CAIN: 24, excuse me.

O'BRIEN: Two. That's 20, 19.

CAIN: We don't do things halfway. You got Wyclef Jean and a cake on your birthday.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And I'm going to be 26 tomorrow. No, I'm kidding.

All right. We've got to take a break for the show. Tomorrow on "STARTING POINT" Elijah Cummings, Congressman, is going to join us. He's going to have some reaction to that fast and Furious report that we're expecting to come out today.

And also Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks will talk about his home coffee machine. There's been tremendous competition on that front. Millions of dollars at stake. We'll talk about that. And Pastor Joel Osteen is going to join us. He's got a new book out.

CAIN: Do you know how many people tell me I look like Joel Osteen? Too many.

O'BRIEN: Really? I don't see it.

CAIN: That's right. Often. Often.

O'BRIEN: Well, I have to tell you this --

CAIN: We won't be on TV together tomorrow. I won't be here. So it could be suspicious.

O'BRIEN: The number of friends I have that are coming in so that they could meet the pastor tomorrow morning.

That's our story, what's ahead tomorrow.

Everybody have a great day. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

We'll see you back here tomorrow morning for STARTING POINT.

Hey Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad. Happy birthday.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Happening now in the "NEWSROOM", the message from Mitt. The Romney campaign attempting to get his campaign back on track this morning. An op-ed in "USA Today", a new attack on Obama, the President taking to late night to respond.