Return to Transcripts main page


The World Stage; Blown Call By Replacement Refs; Documentary Examines Schools with High Dropout Rates; Victor Cruz, Mama's Boy; Motocross without a Sound

Aired September 25, 2012 - 08:00   ET



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

Our STARTING POINT this morning: Getting in the world stage. President Obama speaks before the world leaders today. He's not going to be meeting with foreign dignitaries one-on-one. Instead, he'll be sitting on the couch at "The View." Is he sending the wrong tone during the election season? We'll talk about that.

It's the bad call heard around the football world. The end of the Seahawks-Packers games -- fans, players, and coaches outraged. Is it time for the replacement refs to pack it in and get the professionals back on the field?

I bet this guy has something to say about those refs. New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz will join us live. He's a mama's boy apparently, too. Got a new Campbell's commercial. You have to be a mama's boy to be one of those.

It's Tuesday, September 25th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Cue the salsa music any time we think about mentioning Victor Cruz.

Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning, Chrystia Freedman is with us. She's editor at "Thompson Reuters Digital".

Don Baer is former communications director in the Clinton White House.

Margaret Hoover is a former White House appointee in the Bush administration.

Elise Labott is CNN foreign affairs reporter.

"EARLY START" anchor, John Berman, sticking around, helping us out with news this morning.

Nice to have you all.

Let's talk about international diplomacy and election year politics, kind of colliding today.

The president is going to be speaking to the U.N. General Assembly in just two hours. And our excerpts that have been released recently, the president talks about the U.S. consulate attack in Libya which the Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. He says this, "Today, we must affirm our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens and not by his killers. Today, we must declare violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations."

Let's get right to Richard Roth at the U.N. this morning.

Good morning, Richard.


Here at the United Nations, the general assembly gathering. September fall, in New York. President Obama, foreign policy on the world stage. You may have talked to the ladies of "The View" yesterday. He'll get a view of 192 other member countries.

The flags are up outside the United Nations headquarters and world delegates are beginning to arrive here on the ground.

As you mentioned, President Obama is going to address the turmoil in the Middle East and killings of U.S. Ambassador Stevens and the demonstrations that have occurred in U.S. embassies and missions. He is going to say in effect that a video should not have provoked all of this. The attacks of the last two weeks he is expected to say are, quote, "not simply an assault on America. They are an assault on the very ideals upon which the U.N. was founded."

Of course, for the United States, Iran remains a major issue. President Obama, who arrived yesterday, says he expects to say that time is not unlimited regarding Iran and its nuclear program. America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy and we believe there is, quote, "still time and space to do so." He also says make no mistake. One of the purposes of the United Nations is to see we harness the power for peace. A nuclear armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran was in the U.N. building yesterday. In interviews, he again strongly criticized Israel and the members of the U.N. Security Council, including the United States.

Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: Richard Roth for us this morning -- thank you very much for the update and preview. We appreciate it.

Ahead of the president's speech, the Romney campaign is amping up their attacks on the president's foreign policy. Vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan drawing a parallel to the Iran hostage crisis in 1979.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He made the case the power of his personality and his persuasion powers would calm things in the Muslim world, would make things -- would make people respect us and like us that much more. I mean, they are on TV and it's not -- it reminds you of 1979 Tehran, but they are burning our flags and capitals all around the world. They are storming our embassies. We've lost four of our diplomats.


O'BRIEN: Wolf Blitzer, who covered 1979 Tehran, would say not quite so much. At least certainly not at this stage yet. He spent a lot of time there and he says that's overstating it.

Also, some criticism today about why the president is not meeting with any world leaders face to face. He will, though, make a stop at "The View."

Robert Wexler is former Democratic congressman from Florida. He is now president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. He's also an Obama supporter.

Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us.


O'BRIEN: Why is he not doing any of these one-on-one meetings when you look back historically, President Bush met with a list of leaders? Even just last year, President Obama himself was meeting with 11 leaders. Why not meetings one-on-one? Seems critical now?

WEXLER: Well, it is critical. The president constantly engages with leaders all across the world. In the last few weeks, he has talked at great length with the president of Egypt, with the prime minister of Israel, with leaders in Libya, in Yemen, in Afghanistan. He has talked with Prime Minister Erdogan in Turkey, who issued a strong statement for the condemnation of the violence for instance. And a number of Muslim leaders across the world have issued statements like that at the behest of President Obama.

So this is a president that has actually a stellar record on foreign policy, and is constantly engaged with his peers across the world in Europe and Asia and so forth.

O'BRIEN: So, Congressman, hold on one second, because I'm sitting next to Elise Labott.

He basically says he meets with people all the time constantly. There's no need to do it right now and the U.N. General Assembly is meeting. Do you think that's a fair assessment?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: I think it is an error in judgment President Obama made. I mean, it is true that he does talk to and meet with leaders around the world. But this is one of the most critical weeks everyone talks about meeting with world leaders. You have so much going on in the region.

You have, obviously, talking about Iran, and fears that Israel is going to launch a nuclear strike on Iran. It is not that the Secretary Clinton who is handling these meetings isn't capable of doing it, but at this time, you kind of want to see leadership from the president and it looks as if the president is saying I checked this box. I'm sewn up the foreign policy aspect and want to connect with the American viewers in a different way.

O'BRIEN: Go back to the congressman.

He -- there's a quote from President Obama from the interview he did on "60 Minutes." I'm going to play it for you. He's talking about national security, specifically about Israel. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Let's see what I have done since I came into office. I said I'd end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we'd go after al Qaeda. They had been decimated in the Fatah. That we go after bin Laden. He's gone.

So I have executed on my foreign policy and it's one that the American people largely agree with. You know, if Governor Romney is suggesting we should start another war, he should say so.

When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. I am going to block out any noise that's out there.


O'BRIEN: Was he calling Benjamin Netanyahu noise and his calls to have a meeting and have a continuing dialogue on this?

WEXLER: Not at all. And, in fact, he president's record with respect to strong support for Israel I would argue, maybe one of his finest accomplishments in office, security and military and intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel under President Obama's leadership is actually historic.

Talk to the people in the southern Israeli town of Sderot and Ashkelon, how they are now protected by the Iron Dome anti-missile system which President Obama has been instrumental in helping to pay for.

Israel's military qualitative edge continues to be extremely strong. We have had the largest joint military exercises between the United States and Israel under President Obama's leadership and there is more to come, whether it is financial assistance, whether -- the U.N. last year, President Obama is essentially stopped the unilateral Palestinian effort regarding their quest for statehood without negotiations with the Israelis, President Obama made the strongest pro-Israel statement has ever made in the U.N.

O'BRIEN: All this would lead one to believe you have been hearing only rave reviews from Benjamin Netanyahu which as you know is completely not the case.

WEXLER: Well, actually Prime Minister Netanyahu has called the cooperation between the United States and Israel historic. President Shimon Peres, the beloved the president of Israel, has in fact raved about the relationship between President Obama and the state of Israel. Israel's most decorated soldier, its defense minister, Ehud Barak, has done that. President Obama --

O'BRIEN: If you were to take a look at comments over the past, let's say three months, that would not be the tone, certainly, for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Elise, you want to jump in.

LABOTT: Well, I think that this is the whole thing about maybe why President Obama isn't meeting with any world leaders because he does want to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I mean, he has heard some real tough criticism from Prime Minister Netanyahu about not setting so-called red lines from Iran. What it would take to get the U.S. involved in military action. And he wasn't inclined to give the prime minister a hearing after hearing that.

So, he said I'm not going meet with anybody. I'm not going to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

O'BRIEN: Before we run of time, Congressman, my last question for you -- when you look at the approval numbers on how the president is handling foreign policy, 49 percent now say the president is doing a good job, 49 percent say doing a good job among registered voters, 54 percent in August. So, a month's drop is roughly within the standard of deviation, but still, it's a downward trend.

How worried are you about the number?

WEXLER: I'm not worried because of the president's record on foreign policy, on -- in total is quite strong. The president himself said it. He took out Osama bin Laden. Colonel Gadhafi is gone in Libya. Two-thirds of al Qaeda's leadership has been eliminated. He responsibly ended the war in Iraq.

O'BRIEN: All true. And the numbers -- none of that changed since we have seen the numbers change and dropped five points.

WEXLER: That's true. The American people are concerned. They are concerned about a changing world. They want steady leadership. They want leadership that is strong -- which President Obama's provided. But it would -- also sober and measured.

But, of course, the American people are concerned when they see violence, when they learn that our ambassador has been killed, when they see the American flag being burned. Americans rightly get anxious.

That's why President Obama, it is so important for him at the U.N. today to make a very strong statement which he will about American leadership in the world, about taking the initiative, about condemning uncertain terms the violence against the United States and our diplomatic forces and also condemning the substance and content of this video that has at least contributed to this situation.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Robert Wexler is the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace -- it's nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us.

WEXLER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: There are other stories making news, and John has got that for us.


With tensions on the rise between Israel and Iran, Iran's president now claims when he said Israel should be wiped off the map, he didn't mean it literally. Exclusive interview last night on CNN's Piers Morgan, listen to Ahmadinejad attempt to clarify what he meant.


MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): When we say to be wiped, we say for occupation to be wiped off this world, for war-seeking to be wiped out and eradicated, the killing of women and children to be eradicated and we proposed the way. We proposed the path. The path is to recognize the right of the Palestinians to self- governance.


BERMAN: Ahmadinejad speaks about of the U.N. General Assembly tomorrow on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur. That has a lot of people upset.

A disturbing case of alleged sexual hazing on a soccer team, three players and the team at La Puente High School in southern California are making these accusations. Two of them say they were beaten with a stick or javelin and at least in one case the stick was allegedly used to sexually abuse one of them. Four alleged attackers, fellow students, were cited and released.

An arrest in the case of a missing University of Florida freshman whose whereabouts are still a mystery. Christian Aguilar disappeared Thursday after what police said was a fight over a woman.

Pedro Bravo is called the person of interest but he's already been taken into custody and charged with depriving a victim of medical care. Why? He told police he left Aguilar beaten and unconscious along the roadside. Gainesville Police say Aguilar may be dead.

As we mentioned, after President Obama's U.N. speech, you will see him and the first lady stopping by "The View."

Here is a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would it be disastrous for the country if Mitt Romney were elected?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think America is so strong and we have so much going for us that we can survive a lot. And -- but the American people don't want to just survive. We want everybody to thrive. We want folks to have a shot at success.

So the question becomes: whose policies are more likely to lead us to where we want to go?


BERMAN: Now, when asked whether she would ever consider running for president, both she and the president, both Michelle Obama and the president, agreed that Michelle doesn't have the patience for the job. The president agreed that was a little interesting to say the least.

GOP challenger Mitt Romney will deliver a speech of the Clinton Global Initiative meeting in about an hour. He is expected to hit the president hard on foreign policy, much like yesterday on the campaign trail.


MITT ROMNEY, ( R ) PREDIENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said that the developments of the Middle East are bumps in the road.

These are not bumps in the road. These are human lives. These are developments we do not want to see. This is time for the president who will shape events in the Middle East not just be merciful, or be at mercy of the events of the Middle East.


BERMAN: Now, White House spokesman Jay Carney calls Romney's comments desperate and offensive. The president will also speak at the Clinton Global Initiative later today after Mitt Romney does.

O'BRIEN: So here is a list of where the candidates have been. This is from Dana Milbank in "The Washington." He's wrote an editorial.

The president has not held a former news conference in the White House in more than six months. But he's found places in his calendar for Leno, for Letterman, for Jimmy Fallon, for "People," for "Entertainment Tonight and we just saw "The View." Mitt Romney has had an opportunity to sit down on the set of "Live with Kelly and Michael." and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and also -- I think -- he talked about the people worried about going on "The View" because they were sharp-tongued women. So he may be or may not appear he'll up there.

But really, there's less talk about substance, I think, and much more sort of -- sitting down with people on "The View." LABOTT: And I mean, if you look at Dana Millbank is one of the greatest commentators about, you know, American politics and what's going on in Washington, and he points out that they're going on this and you would think they want to connect with viewers to get their policies across. They're talking about things like, you know, boxers or briefs, you know?

O'BRIEN: Snooki.

LABOTT: Snooki.

O'BRIEN: Chocolate milk.

LABOTT: Michelle Obama, are you ready to tuck Barack Obama in? I mean, as an American, I mean, are these the kind of things that we want to be hearing or do we want, you know, them to be connecting in a different way? And I think it's just really interesting that what they're saying is that Miss Jersey Shore culture, if you will. These are the things that are going to get them a bump in the polls.

O'BRIEN: You covered the state department. Maybe they're gailing (ph) on people who don't cover the state department who may be want to hear about Snooki. I mean, truly, like, you know, we'll have a conversation about this a little bit later this morning when it's our "Tough Call," because I think that raises a good point. What do Americans really want to hear on the campaign trail?

LABOTT: I think -- that if you -- yes, President Obama is campaigning for re-election, but he's also still the president of the United States, and he still has a job to do. And so, clearly, he's saying that re-election right now is taking priority over some of the work that needs to be done. I mean, --

O'BRIEN: Clearly, clearly. All right. We got to take a short break. We're going to continue this conversation, because I think this is a worth well debate.

Ahead this morning, outcry over those replacement NFL refs could be at the breaking point. Last night, Packers/Seahawks game, players, and coaches and fans all outraged. We'll talk about that straight ahead on STARTING POINT.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" today.

U.S. stock futures are flat ahead of the opening bell. Stocks are stuck near five-year highs as the world assesses how well economies are growing here.

Toys "R" Us is hiring 45,000 seasonal workers for the upcoming holiday shopping season. Five thousand more than last year. Toys "R" Us and other discounters are also loosening up their layaway plans bracing for another holiday shopping season amid very high unemployment. Listen up, bacon lovers. Do not panic about reports this morning from the U.K. of a bacon shortage. The U.S. is not running out of bacon. USDA data showed record amounts of pork in the U.S. Because of a drought this summer, a retail prices could go higher next year, though, you will pay up for your bacon. But don't lose any sleep about this report from the U.K. Trade Association that says a bacon shortage is unavoidable.

BERMAN: Thank you.


ROMANS: Big story this morning.


DON BAER, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CLINTON WHITE HOUSE: I had bacon in London on Sunday, and there was plenty of it.

ROMANS: OK. There you go. Perfect.


O'BRIEN: Maybe you guys ate it all.



O'BRIEN: Hence our story this morning. I'm connecting the dots. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, new reasons that the replacement refs might need to go away. Giants star, Victor Cruz, is going to weigh in for us on this controversy this morning. We're going to talk to him, straight ahead. Stay with us.


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

Fans and players feared it would happen, and now it has, a blown call by the NFL's replacement refs, changing the outcome of a game. This is the play. The NFL is going to have to explain this morning. It was Packer/Seahawks Monday night football. Final play of the game.

Greenbay five-point lead, Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, tries a desperation Hail Mary pass seems to be intercepted in the end zone. Replacement ref calls it a game-winning touchdown. What? Decision is somehow upheld even though they spent ten minutes reviewing the video.

Seahawks steal a win from the Packers. The final score was 14-12. Let's go to the experts now. Let's go to our own experts.


O'BRIEN: Giants star, Victor Cruz, is joining us morning. So, you just saw that. And I know you're watching it last night as well. VICTOR CRUZ, N.Y. GIANTS WIDE RECEIVER: I was -- that's tough, man. It's tough as an athlete just to watch it, and it's tough -- you know, if I have to play in that game, I'd be pretty upset to be on the losing end of it. But it's something that, you know, something that we have to deal with now with these replacement refs.

And you know, just praying they get these calls right, and unfortunately, this wasn't one of those times last night.

O'BRIEN: Seems like a little distraction from playing football, to be also praying for the refs to get the call right.

CRUZ: Yes. It's tough, especially as an athlete. You know, you're going out there playing and you know, you got enough things to worry about when you're trying to catch the football and, you know, make plays as my position does. And to go out there and have another thing to worry about in the rest, you know, in the midst of doing all these other things, is definitely tough.

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, EDITOR, THOMPSON REUTERS DIGITAL: Has it changed the way you play? Do you have sort of a strategy that says the refs are different so my game will be different?

CRUZ: Not really, because I try to go out there and just not really pay attention to that because then I'll be -- you know, it will take me out of my game. So, I just try go out there and continue to play my game and continue do what I'm doing, and hopefully, the refs will play up to my speed.

BERMAN: But how much do you guys (INAUDIBLE) better now, because we just saw a full weekend of really, really, you know, bad calls here.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What's going on in the locker room? What are you, guys, saying in the locker room?

CRUZ: The funny thing is we're all watching because, you know, we get ESPN and all that in the locker room. So, we're all huddled that watching and we're like looking at each other like, man, let's hope we keep winning (ph) by two-plus touchdowns. So, we don't want to go through one of those --

O'BRIEN: So, maybe that's a new strategy, a wide margin of victory. So, in the Patriots game, you're sitting next to a rabid Patriots fans -- I'm sorry to out you.




O'BRIEN: But I am rabid Giants fan -- yes, exactly. So, have you -- what kinds of calls have you seen? Have you seen where -- it was a bad call by some of these refs in games that you played in?

CRUZ: Not necessarily bad calls. I've seen a lot of missed calls, like when you go back and watch the film, there's a lot of blatant calls that are out there that are just being missed. That just comes to the refs that's not being trained to see certain things because they haven't had, you know, a lot of them haven't been in the NFL and they played (ph) in these other leagues, so their eyes aren't training to see specific calls.

BERMAN: Do you have a newfound respect for the regular refs now?

CRUZ: Most definitely.


CRUZ: To see some of these calls is tough. And, I tried to ref like little league games in my town, and that doesn't work out very well. So --

HOOVER: How much longer do you think it goes?

CRUZ: After last night, I can't see another -- no more than two more weeks of this. I can't see it.


CRUZ: I think they've got to come to a decision quickly.

O'BRIEN: Because the lingerie (ph) league, apparently, says they're not taking the replacement refs either.


They're done. Victor Cruz is going to stick around with us for a little bit. Lots more to talk about. "Dancing with the Stars," he turned it down. We're going to ask him why, and also, a new commercial. People say you're a mama's boy. And Campbell's commercial will prove that. That and much more still ahead with him.

Also, we're going to be talking about hundreds of thousands of students who drop out of school every year. A new series takes a look at why this crisis is happening at a school that was called a dropout factory.

And she's the secretary of cool. Madeleine Albright, apparently, also can drum.


O'BRIEN: -- and can drum. Talk about what she was doing there in that photo straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You are watching STARTING POINT. We begin with John Berman with a look at the day's top stories. Good morning.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. Less than two hours from now, President Obama takes the stage at the United Nations General Assembly to deliver a speech that will be followed around the world and here at home. The president will address the consulate attack in Libya that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others as well as violence targeting the American embassies around the world. We got a preview of the speech. Here is a look at a quote. "To date we must affirm our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens and not by his killers. Today we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations."

Two staff sergeants will be court-martialed over this video described as deplorable and disgusting, U.S. marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters last year and posing for pictures with the corpses. Staff sergeants were charged with the incident and for failing to supervise junior troops. Three other means have already been punished in this case.

On second thought, the Army Corps of Engineers is not liable for billions of dollars for hurricane Katrina flood damage, specifically in the lower Ninth Ward in St. Bernard parish. That's what a federal appeals court decided, reversing a decision made back in March. The court similar you don't know from damages. It cited a provision that protect it is federal agencies from lawsuits but makes a discretionary call.

Stop what you are doing and check out this amazing video of a water spout. This was captured Saturday along a beach on Lake Michigan. It was one of several recorded in the area at the time. While impressive to witnesses, the national weather service warns that it is never a good idea to try to get closer for a bitter view. Do not try this at home.

Finally, call this drum diplomacy. Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright wowed the crowd at a competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington late Sunday night after receiving an award for a longtime supporter of the Jazz Foundation. Albright sat down and pounded away at the drum set. She also --

O'BRIEN: Can we hear that?

BERMAN: I'm dying to hear it. She goes on a long jam apparently.

O'BRIEN: We heard --

BAER: She did "Wipe out."


O'BRIEN: We heard a lot about her diplomatic skills, not so much about the drumming.

HOOVER: Threat in the background.


BAER: She is a Renaissance woman. She can cover a lot of ground.

O'BRIEN: Clearly. Let's talk about teenagers in this country may be less prepared than ever to continue their education, reading scores on SAT tests for the class of 2012 reached a decade of four decade low. Experts are blaming decline on the record number of students taking the college entrance exam. Many of them can't afford programs to help improve their scores.

But more than 3 million students each year drop out of high school when they attended commonly called dropout factories. There are 1,500 dropout factories nationwide. Definition is where fewer than 60 percent of the students will graduate. In a new documentary on PBS's "Frontline" they spent time at one of those schools, Sharpstown High School in Houston, Texas. They followed four students to the verge of dropping out, including this young man whose name is Lawrence.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't even appreciate what I do for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think everybody --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never done you that way. I never turned my back on you. OK, so that's why you're doing it? OK. So do you want to withdraw, because you obviously don't want to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because you are disrespectful and rude. And we cannot --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to take this test. You keep force it like I have to take this test.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said you don't have to take the test.

I just don't think he can do school. He is disrespectful and rude to everybody. After everything I have done for him and the support I have given him, it just pisses me off.


O'BRIEN: The Sharpstown High School principal Rob Gasperello is joining us this morning. He is in Houston. In New York is the producer of that frontline piece, Frank Koughan. Nice to have you with us. We certainly appreciate it. Frank, I'm going to start with you before I get to the principal of Sharpstown High School. He was talking about a test. The teacher was going back and forth about whether or not he would have to take the test. Give us context for that.

FRANK KOUGHAN, PRODUCER, "DROPOUT NATION": It's basically the SATs. They were offering them at school that day. Lawrence showed up that morning completely unaware the SATs were that day. So there's a long scene with the principal and the teacher there trying to talk him into just taking the test. Even whether he passes or fails, it doesn't matter, just get out there and take it. But Lawrence is a student that just has a lot of pent-up anger and emotional issues that really get in the way of him doing school properly.

O'BRIEN: Which is pretty much the case for many of the students, frankly, at these dropout factories. Let me ask a question to the principal. Your teacher in the video clip we showed very, very frustrated. How often is that sort of interchange we just saw with Lawrence and the teacher happening at these kinds of schools? Is that just sort of a daily occurrence?

ROB GASPARELLO, PRINCIPAL, SHARPSTOWN HIGH SCHOOL: I don't think it is a daily occurrence. It happens, but there is a lot more situations that are very positive where we turn it around. You saw Lawrence in that clip, who was very frustrated and brings a lot of anger to school. But there are a lot of students who we sort of redirect that anger and get them on the right track.

O'BRIEN: So we just heard, Frank, that he says listen, that's not always the case. That there are lots of students, they are able to turn behind and get them on the right track. Do you think that's true? Have you seen that in the making of this documentary?

KOUGHAN: Absolutely. That's absolutely the case. And -- I worry we almost stack the deck against Sharpstown by following especially problematic kids for the course of the documentary. Yes, but they have as many successes if not more.

O'BRIEN: What are some of the problems they are dealing with?

KOUGHAN: Everything. Really every problem you can think of. It seems like 75 percent of the problems these kids are dealing with are all outside of the school. They are all home-life related, work-life related, gangs, drugs. They are not classroom problems. They bring these problems to school and become classroom problems.

O'BRIEN: You are at Apollo school, right? And --


O'BRIEN: Many years ago I did a story on Roland Pryor who put a lot of effort into trying to bring education reform. How have you found his policies playing out since you are there, how is it working out for you? What have you seen?

GASPARELLO: Well, we have seen in the last two years suns we have been at Sharpstown, amazing turnaround, and think the two-hour documentary that frontline did will show that. Despite the fact that kids come to us with anger, poverty, lots of tough life situations, they can be successful. And we have proven that, and through helping them feel capable, connected and cared for, and having that adult mentor at the school.

We can no longer just sit and hope -- kids conform to what we want them to be. We have to be flexible enough to make sure that we are meeting their needs. Those needs are just out will really tough. And we do everything we can on a daily basis to figure out ways to meet them by providing longer hours and providing programs that help get them back on track, longer school days, SAT prep classes, twilight academies where students can work because of the bread winner in the family and 5:00.

O'BRIEN: Have you have been able to turn around you school, your particular school is not a dropout factory anymore or on the path to one?

GASPARELLO: We are not where we want to be but absolutely have done that. We changed the culture. Not only are we not a dropout factory, our kids are completing school and at a rate of about 88 percent. And we also are looking at college. Last year our senior graduating class, almost 100 percent of them applied to a two or four-year college. Did all of them go? Absolutely not. Our goal is to be the purveyors of hope. Kids drop out because they lose hope and that there is nothing out there for them. We want them looking past --

O'BRIEN: I was going to ask Frank a question what you just said. You just said our goal is to be the purveyors of hope to these students. Take us back to Lawrence. I mean, can you tell us? I don't want to give away the ending of your documentary but he's such a typical teenage boy and obviously frayed of taking a test that he's completely unprepared for. He wants to stay in school. Can you tell? He is pushing back against dropping out. Yet, he's not respectful and kind of doesn't want to be there. What happens to him?

KOUGHAN: Totally. And the thing about Lawrence is he's a kid that does want to make it. But he has so much that's lined up against him, including himself. He is his own biggest obstacle. There's one scene where Lawrence has another tantrum in school and goes storming out of the school and I'm sitting there thinking we just saw Lawrence drop out. You know. This -- he is not coming back. And the principal says he will be back tomorrow because this is the best thing he has.

O'BRIEN: For many students it is a sad thing do, that's their lifeline. The documentary looks amazing. Ron Gasparello, the principal of Sharpstown High School, nice to see you, sir. Frank, thank you for bringing a bit of your documentary to us. We appreciate it. The documentary "Dropout Nation" will appear on PBS this evening at 9:00.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Victor Cruz is standing by and will be talking to us, breakout star for the New York Giants. He has a new commercial which is called "Mama's Boy." We will ask him about that, straight ahead.


O'BRIEN: Every time we think of you we play a little salsa. Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I love it. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz is back with us. Not only is he a Super Bowl champion -- hold on a second. John, the Giants won the Super Bowl.

BERMAN: Yes, I was there. I saw it.

O'BRIEN: Your Patriots did not.

BERMAN: Yes, thank you. Thank you for that.

O'BRIEN: I wanted to highlight that.

He holds the team record for most receiving yards in a season. But a new ad campaign for Campbell's really says he is a mama's boy. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Victor, Victor I've got your Campbell's chunky soup.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is mom? I'm the Giant's mascot.

CRUZ: We don't have a mascot.


CRUZ: Thanks, mom.

CRUZ: Mom.


CRUZ: Grandma?



O'BRIEN: That's a very, very cute ad. So tell me what -- what made you want to do that?

CRUZ: I was just -- you know, it's just an ad that I followed all my life, you know. My career, from Donovan McNabb to Michael Strahan and watched them do this thing with, you know, some with their moms, some without. But it's just a tremendous -- a tremendous ad to be a part of. Campbell's Chunky Soup is such a tremendous -- you know a tremendous campaign to be a part of.

And I'm just humbled to be -- to be one of the athletes that -- that they chose to be a part of.

O'BRIEN: Your mom and your grandma looked like they are hysterical. Are they?

CRUZ: Unfortunately that wasn't my mom and grandma in the actual commercial.

O'BRIEN: What?

CRUZ: Well, my mom didn't want to put the mascot outfit. She was like I'm not putting that on.

O'BRIEN: She's like my hair, my hair.

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your mom wants to look great when she is on TV right.

CRUZ: Exactly she wants her face shows, she want her hair to be flowing. So she was like you know I will pass on.

BAER: They should have rewritten the ad.

HOOVER: Yes. There should have been a (inaudible). they will look good.

CRUZ: There we go. There we go, right?

HOOVER: -- they'll look good.


CRUZ: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about the whole salsa thing? Obviously I remember first touchdown in the Super Bowl. There you are. Amazing.

CRUZ: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Yes, my Giants won the Super Bowl, John. Tell me how that whole salsa little dance started.

CRUZ: Well, it started on our week three against the Philadelphia Eagles when I was getting my first start in the NFL. And my coach, Coach Sullivan, who was our quarterback coach at the time was like man, you've got to doing something to represent your culture, your heritage when you get in the end zone. And I was like coach, I don't know, what do you want me to do? I can't just go in there and make some rice and beans.

O'BRIEN: Do it, do it.

CRUZ: So the coach says no, you've got to dance. You've got to dance a little salsa. You know what you have to do and I was like -- coach, I just want to catch the football but along to score a touchdown and you're dancing in the end zone. So I got my first catch, I'm going up the sideline. I'm about three yards away from the end zone. And I look up and I'm like man, I have to do this dance.

So I break out the dance. And you know, just like my grandmother taught me how to dance salsa. She was -- you know she was very influential in that. Her phone instantly blew up right after the game. She became a celebrity. So it was like -- it was a feel-good time.

O'BRIEN: And it became your thing.

CRUZ: Yes.

O'BRIEN: How come then you turned down "Dancing with the Stars"? because I would have thought that -- I mean and I'm sure they felt the same thing. They are like, look, he can dance. Bring him on.

CRUZ: I just felt like it's something that, you know, can come later on. I wanted to focus on my career, I wanted to focus on football. Focus on my craft that I was -- that I was doing at the time. And -- and you know, hopefully down the line, a couple of years down the line, when -- you know, I'm -- towards the kind of the tail end of my career, something like that, then I'll do it.

BERMAN: You really came out of nowhere. I mean you say you didn't have your first start until like three games into the season last year.

CRUZ: Yes.

BERMAN: You came out of nowhere. Do you think that makes you appreciate it more?

CRUZ: Most definitely. Every day I wake up -- even to this day I wake up and I'm thankful, I'm excited to go to work, I'm thankful that I have a job. Because, you know, a year ago, if it wasn't for that week three game who knows where I would be.

So I wake up thankful every day and you know brushing my teeth and excited to go play football.

O'BRIEN: And we love to hear that.

Great to have you. Victor Cruz with us this morning. We've got to take a short break and we're back in just a moment.

Thanks for being with us.

CRUZ: No problem.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone.

A couple of stories to tell you about this morning. He sparked outrage with his comments about what he called legitimate rape and pregnancy. Not to mention strange biology. Today is the deadline for Congressman Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race. However, Akin has vowed to stay in, despite the national GOP pulling funding and calls for him to dropout.

So blink and you might miss it. Amtrak is conducting tests this week of its high-speed Acela train at even higher speeds. Transit normally runs at about 130 to 150 miles per hour; are being pushed to 165 miles per hour along the northeast corridor between Maryland and Massachusetts. I'm sure everyone here is wondering if the WIFI will work. That's what you guys are wondering right now -- Soledad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking forward to it. How long does the trip between Washington and New York take?

O'BRIEN: Right. BERMAN: Is it three hours or less?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now under three hours.


HOOVER: Yes, because there's only so much of the rail states that they can actually go with those accelerated speeds as well because the rails themselves are so old.

BAER: I'll take every bit they can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Maybe you can get us to two and a half hours.

O'BRIEN: Done. I'll take it.

BAER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Motorcycles are dangerous enough. When you add dirt, muddy dirt track and four other -- 40 other riders are going at top speeds, the stakes actually can be very high. So imagine being on that track and then not being able to hear anything at all around you.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more in his "Human Factor" report.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: For Ashley Fiolek, motocross racing is in her blood.

ASHLEY FIOLEK, MOTOCROSS RACER: My dad used to race. And he brought me watch one race. And I was three years old and I fell in love.

GUPTA: But there is something different about Ashley. She can't hear a thing. Ashley was born completely deaf. She speaks to us through a sign language translator and her friend Natalie.

FIOLEK: I don't know how it would be riding hearing. I grew up and I was born deaf.

GUPTA: In a sport that prides itself on making noise and hearing your opponents coming can be the difference between winning and losing, Ashley stands alone.

FIOLEK: But she really has to hold my lines when I'm riding because -- it is really hard to see if someone is coming up behind me.

GUPTA: She uses the vibrations of the engine to make sure she is in the right gear. At this race, Ashley who's the only deaf rider ever to compete in motocross, was trying for her fourth championship title.

FIOLEK: I feel really good. Hit every drop and the big double. I hope I can win and hope to be a champion.

GUPTA: And she achieved just that. Beating out her closest rival for the national championship. But for Ashley it is about more than just winning.

FIOLEK: I think it's really cool to be a role model to the deaf communities and it is a cool feeling to have people look up to you.

GUPTA: And for Natalie, her friend's impact, is obvious as well.

NATALIE, FRIEND OF ASHLEY FIOLEK: She is very important in women's motocross. And an idol for all these young girls, whether she is deaf or not, you know, she is -- like -- she is smaller than I am and she can ride a dirt bike like that. It is crazy.

GUPTA: Proof that anything is possible.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.


O'BRIEN: "End Point's" up next. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: It is time for "End Point". Who wants to start?

HOOVER: I'll go.


HOOVER: We have -- we talked about these banality circus. They are going on "The View", they're going on Regis and Michael. Is there this worth their while, the presidential candidates? Shouldn't we talk about substantive things.

Look, I get that they have to do the banality circus. I get that they have to show up. But I want the President of the United States to also be doing the real stuff on the side at the same time. And that's the question --


HOOVER: He's not even having the bilateral meetings at the U.N. and is he doing other things? Especially on the world stage now. I think that's the question that I have.

O'BRIEN: And both candidates talked to CNN before the RNC and DNC certainly. And we also know that they've done this long "60 minutes" debate. But there certainly has been a lot of time in the calendar to do late night shows. Maybe the strategy is, you know, that's where the voters are.

FREELAND: I'm the world's most boring person.

O'BRIEN: No, no.

FREELAND: I am, actually. But I actually think that we have to give these guy as break. No one can accuse either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney of being substanceless candidates or individuals. These are both incredibly smart technocrats who know a lot about a lot of things. And if they are trying to reach out to voters then, you know --

O'BRIEN: I've got 15 seconds left --


BAER: Let's remember two things. One we are headed into the debates, you know. Three presidential, one vice presidential; the whole month will be locked with issues and serious things.

Number two, isn't it interesting the way that foreign policy has now become critical to this election. Everyone said it would never be the --


O'BRIEN: "CNN NEWSROOM with Carol Costello" begins right now.

We'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning.

Hey Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Soledad and good morning to you.