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NFL Referees to Return; Interview with Tara Wall; NFL Ends Referee Lockout; New Book Criticizes Timothy Geithner; Life after Potter; Silliness over Substance?

Aired September 27, 2012 - 08:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Late-night talks meant experienced NFL refs will be back on the football field tonight, but will they be off their game?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Candidates coming out swinging. President Obama and Mitt Romney both in the same state again today, hammering each other on jobs. But Romney's behind now in every new poll this week, including several crucial swing states. So, what's the next move? The campaign's senior communications adviser joins us.

BERMAN: And it's a day "Harry Potter" fans have been anxiously waiting for, but they are in for a shock. Is J.K. Rowling's new adults-only book even worth the hype?

ROMANS: It's Thursday, September 27th. STARTING POINT begins right now.


ROMANS: All right. Good morning, everyone.

Our team this morning: Richard Socarides, a writer from the, former special advisor in the Clinton White House.

Suzy Welch is a "Reuters" columnist and a best-selling author. So nice to see you this morning, Suzy.

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

It is great to have you all guys here on Christmas morning, the morning -- I'm calling this morning after the NFL ref deal was made.

RYAN LIZZA, THE NEW YORKER: This morning, a big --



BERMAN: Thank you very much for that. Happy New Year, everyone, by the way.

It was a Hail Mary pass that started the uproar around now the prayers of millions of football fans have been answered. The NFL referee lockout is over finally. The blown call that blew minds across America on Monday night sure late fire, 48 hours after it happened, the league and the refs now have an eight-year collective bargaining agreement. They sealed the deal late last night.

ROMANS: Let's bring in our retired running back Tiki Barber. Also joining the conversation is former NFL referee Red Cashion. He's a veteran league official of more than 40 years, who's worked two Super Bowls. He is a man who knows what it's like to be in the zebra stripes.

Let me ask you first -- I mean, you were asked to help train these replacement refs. Now it's over but did they really ever have a chance in this game, in this high-stakes, high-speed game, to be able to keep up?

MASON "RED" CASHION, FORMER NFL REFEREE: Well, first of all, I am not involved in training any of the replacements, but, no, they don't, it just takes too much background and too much training to do that. It takes a player a long time to qualify to be a professional player in the NFL and the officials are the same thing. And no, they really didn't have a chance.

BERMAN: Now, we know the refs used the preseason a lot like players do. Tiki Barber was telling us about that. It takes time to get up to shape and get up to speed in the rules.

When the refs take the field tonight in Baltimore, you think they'll be ready?

CASHION: Oh, absolutely. These guys have been working every week, really since May, to get ready for the season through conference calls, through video, through meetings of their own. And that's something that the officials have done simply because they have enough pride in what they do they wanted to be ready. And they are ready.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, NEWYORKER.COM: Tiki, can I just ask you? It just seemed after that missed play to the owners, that this the most valuable thing that the owners have got, you know, the authenticity of the game was slipping away from them.

TIKE BARBER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AND FORMER NFL RUNNING BACK: I think you can't discount the media uproar, not just in sports media, but this resonated in regular media, and we are talking about it here. So --

SOCARIDES: President Clinton talking about it.

BARBER: The politicians were talking about it. We talked about that yesterday. So it resonated in people's minds in a much greater way than I think the league anticipated. The owners, who are businessmen themselves and probably saw some kind of hit happening to their business had to act. Roger Goodell obviously being the voice of that finally made a decision here to get this thing done and they did.

ROMANS: Tike, will the players be fined or coaches fined for actually hugging and kissing the refs when they come back? Is that against the rules? I'm not sure.

BARBER: No, it's not. Actually you probably -- you're not allowed to touch them. But I would love to see that, though.

SOCARIDES: Do players get along with these refs? I mean, is there a good relationship?

BARBER: You know what it is, it's a respect thing. What you saw the first few weeks of the season, why this was coming to a crux because the players and even the coaches did not respect these replacement referees and it was turning volatile in a lot of situations, not only between the players, but between the players and the coaches and the referees. That won't happen.

You will still get the arguments because they made a bad call and they messed something up. But it was much more of a high level of respect between these two groups.

BERMAN: Hey, Red, can I ask you? Have you ever seen referees so revered as the regular referees seemed to be revered no?

CASHION: No, not really. You know, one of the things that occurred out of this, two good points. First of all, I think there is an appreciation really of what the professional referee really does and what his qualifications are.

The second thing is with all of the publicity that's there, I think it's indicating -- I think a great indication of what the game has really become. It's truly Americans' game.

ROMANS: You used the word respect, Tiki. I want to ask Red about that.

I mean -- this is -- you have got to respect the decisions made on the field. You can be angry about them, but the level of respect that now we all have for these referees today, I guess can only go down from here for them. They must have an awareness than they are really under a microscope?

CASHION: Well, I would hope tonight at the game when the officials go on the field there san applause by the crowd first of all that the officials are back and at the same time to recognize the NFL for its effort to put the best product on the field that it can. And I think that's why the two sides got together.

SUZY WELCH, REUTERS COLUMNIST: That's the word it is the perfect product. The NFL is the perfect product. Every single week, Monday and Thursday, you gather on your couch and you see these games that go down to the wire. And it's because of the system, of course, enforces having these perfect games where these matches are so evenly tied.

I think what happened was the owners, this is a business story in many way, the owners were shocked. They are just monopolists and they do what monopolists do. They think, well, who can beat us?

They negotiated before. They negotiated with the players and with the TV networks and they always win.

BARBER: I think a different dynamic also, because owners of teams used to be owners of teams that what's they did. Now, they are more businessmen. So they have business principles that don't -- shouldn't apply to sports but they do apply to sports.

To your point, the league is only as good as its weakest link. The referees at this point were a very, very weak link. You have great players, you had coaching, media, the sports books, et cetera, the rest were bringing it down.

SOCARIDES: So crucial in this whole thing, why the missed call was so crucial. Exactly your point.

WELCH: What happened with that missed call, suddenly people thought, wait a minute, the people getting hurt here, the players and the fans. You are screwing with the customers.

BERMAN: I was being hurt.

ROMANS: Tears shed this past week.

They are also selling a story and they are selling a story with a fairly tale, maybe your team makes it that week or maybe it doesn't.

WELCH: Right.

ROMANS: The story was kind of off.

BARBER: You didn't trust the story anymore, because you didn't trust how it was being officiated or how it was being dictated.

LIZZA: The thing that surprised about whole thing is the salaries of the refs. Compared to what the other guys on the playing field are making, these guys are making under $200,000 a year average, right?

BERMAN: Let's ask about Red Cashion about that.

Red, you guys are part time. I don't think a lot of people know that you were part time. I don't think a lot of people that refs only work part time and have other jobs the rest of the year.

CASHION: Well, I'm not sure what part time means, I kept a record to have a couple years before I came off the field and I averaged 45 hours a week as far as the football was concerned. And that's pretty close to being full time.

But at the same time, we don't have any philosophers that are officials because they want people who make decisions every day. And you have to make them quick and you have to be ready to make them.

And so being an attorney or a doctor or a teacher or a money trader, you make those decisions during the week and, frankly, any decision is good practice for what you do on Sunday.

BERMAN: All right. Red Cashion, Tiki Barber, I don't think I have ever seen so many happy people in one place. it's great to have you --


BERMAN: We have so much bad news reporting every day this is good news. It's a nice change of pace.

CASHION: We are very happy. I want you to know that.

BERMAN: Thanks, Red. Thanks, Tiki.

ROMANS: All right. Now, a look at the rest of the day's top stories for you.

The Middle East front and center today at the United Nations. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas expected to campaign today for a bump up to nonmember observer status stopping short of seeking full statehood. Later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak to the assembly. He isn't expected to respond to Abbas but address a more immediate concern for Israel: Iran's nuclear ambitions.

BERMAN: A top Army general charged in a sex scandal, Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair is accused of wrongful sexual conduct and having inappropriate relationships with several female subordinates. A military hearing will determine if he will be court martialed. Sinclair served as deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan before being relieved of that duty in May.

ROMANS: President Obama's schedule hit a snag when Air Force One was forced to abort a landing. The plane was flyingthe President to a campaign convenient in Ohio but the pilot decided to pull up, circle around, try again.

Reporters on board say the jet hit bad weather and turbulence yesterday on approach to Toledo Express Airport. News crews on the ground were initially confused about what was going on. Moments later -- moments after this flyover, you could hear someone on the ground say, "Well, that was interesting."

Air Force One landed safely on a second try.

BERMAN: It was a long shot but could Jimmy Hoffa be buried under a driveway in Roseville, Michigan? Tomorrow, police investigators will drill through the concrete and test soil samples for human remains. They are working off a tip that a body was buried there around the time the Teamster leader disappeared in December of 1975.

Authorities say radar detected an anomaly underneath the concrete.

ROMANS: All right. There's a new chapter for "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling. Her new adult novel "The Casual Vacancy" is already a bestseller before going on sale today. Rowling tells ABC News this book deeply personal.


REPORTER: You have gone, it seems to me, from the ultimate fantasy to the ultimate reality.

J.K. ROWLING, AUTHOR: Yes, I think that's fair -- a very fair statement. I have gone from dragons and unicorns and all the fun that's involved in writing that, to a book that's intensely personal, that expresses a lot of my reality.


ROMANS: Now, this one is definitely not for children. It includes references to violence, sex, drug use, and swear words.

BERMAN: Yes, those are not for children.

Next on STARTING POINT, Mitt Romney falling you behindthe President in polls for three key swing states. And now, Newt Gingrich is calling his campaign a messaging failure. Is it possible to turn things I around from here?

Romney's senior communications adviser joins us next.

ROMANS: And the nation's top party school says, hey, not so fast. Why the officials at the University of Virginia want a recount.


JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: Next month, Stevie Wonder will perform at a fund-raiser for President Obama. After that, Stevie will return to his other gig, an NFL replacement ref.




Mitt Romney hits the swing states of Virginia and Pennsylvania, with 40 days, are you counting, Berman, until the election. The fight is truly in these battleground states. And the numbers right now are not in Mitt Romney's favor.

BERMAN: The latest Gallup tracking poll shows President Obama's lead growing again, up to six points nationally among registered voters in that poll.

Joining us now is Tara Wall. She is the senior communications adviser for the Romney campaign.

Great to have you here this morning, Tara.

TARA WALL, SR. COMM. ADVISER, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Thanks for having me once again.

BERMAN: So, Mitt Romney yesterday, your boss, was asked about these polls by ABC News. He said, "I'm very pleased with some polls, less so with other polls, but frankly, at this early stage, polls go up, polls go down. I'm tied in the national polls," he said. Both Gallup and Rasmussen have the numbers even.

Now, as the matter of actuality here, Gallup now has him trailing by six points. There are swing state polls from, you know, key swing states. We're talking Ohio, we're talking Virginia, we're talking Iowa, Colorado, that show him trailing now. Is there reason for the campaign to be concerned?

WALL: OK. Yes, you see this is what polls do. You know, we kind of find of feed the beast when we talk about each poll after poll after poll. And we've said all along that this was going to be, if I can borrow a phrase from our political director, a knife fight in phone booth, all the way down to the wire. And that's what it is.

I think that's what the polls do reflect overall. And, you have ebbs and flows. And you're going to have those ebbs and flows, particularly, at a national level. The battleground states, certainly, are certainly going to be a lot tighter. Again, as you mentioned, I mean, even just this week, Rasmussen had us dead even.

I think they had us dead even now. Gallup had us dead even now. They have us -- you know, they have some -- there's a little bit of a gap there, but look, we have a great ground game. We have a lot of enthusiasm with volunteers across the country, 65,000 volunteers across the country. I think we are poised. We're in a very good position and excited about what's to come.

BERMAN: You say it's a knife fight in a phone booth, but the question is, as of today, are you losing the knife fight in the phone booth? Gallup, again, has you down by six points, a fair amount, and it's not just Democrats or polls saying there could be a problem here. Its Republicans, Republicans who have endorsed Mitt Romney. Let's listen to what Newt Gingrich said on "The Situation Room" yesterday.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The Romney campaign has yet to find a thematic way of explaining itself and laying out in a clear, crisp way the difference between Romney and Obama.

They seem to have this overly methodical model where they go out and they keep saying the same thing and it doesn't -- the world's too fluid. The world's too sophisticated for that. It's clearly something that you can go out and you can communicate and you can do dramatically better than Romney's currently doing.

If you go back and watch the great wing campaigns, they have clear, vivid, explicit sense of direction for the future.


BERMAN: So, Newt Gingrich, he always has a lot to say, a lot to say about your campaign yesterday. What do you make of that?

WALL: God bless, Newt Gingrich. We love him. I mean, certainly, we welcome all opinions and, you know, viewpoints and people that, you know, support us. We welcome people to come out, support us, get on the ground with us, and some of our volunteers. Look, we're not going to, you know, wage this back and forth between who's conservative and Republicans within the party and all of that.

I think, again, these polls are what they are. They are a snapshot. We still got plenty of time. We've got a lot of ground to cover. And look, when Americans hear, you know, snippet, sound bits, I think it doesn't paint a fair picture.

You know, I spent my first part of my career in reporting and realize that as you cover these candidates and listen to these entire speeches and you hear what they stand for, it takes it out of the context of just some of these sound bites.

And so, as we go forward and we're spending these times, this is why you spend the time in the state, the people on the ground get a chance to hear the candidates, and then, to a larger degree, when you go to the debates and people hear how these candidates lay out their plans going forward and there's a clear indication between what these candidates stand for, big government, more government, or more of your take home pay, more focus on the middle class and keeping more of what you earn --

BERMAN: Hang on one second, Tara --

WALL: I think you'll see a lot more of that spelled out very distinctly in the coming days as we go into these debates.

BERMAN: Hang on one second, Tara, because I want to ask the guys here what they make of what Newt Gingrich said yesterday?

WELCH: I think that Newt Gingrich has gotten himself in this fray where polls are like the new trash talking. You know how players are standing right next to each other right before a game starts? I remember one time playing lacrosse and right before we faced off, the center for the other team said, "you're going to lose."

And it was completely unnerving. And that's what's going on with these polls. And what happens as we see now both sides getting wrapped up and talking about the polls instead of the issues. And it's like trash. You're going to lose. No you're going to lose. And it's just not about the issues. Every single day, there's multiple polls.

LIZZA: But Newt is on something.

WELCH: And maybe Newt Gingrich is on to something, without a doubt.

LIZZA: He's expressing what every other Republican is expressing right now, and that is that the Romney campaign probably (ph) loses. This will be the conventional wisdom. That they failed to develop a clear, consistent theme.

I haven't heard -- frankly, I haven't heard it from your guest, from Tara right now, what is that message that is going to defeat Obama other than just it's a bad economy so the voters should be turning against this guy? WELCH: You think it's about message or delivery?

ROMANS: I want to bring in the economy here, because you know, that has been a message, Tara, for so long is that it's been the economy, and you know, you don't want the Obama economy and our guy knows how to run a business and run an economy and run a state.

But we are seeing that the polling is showing us, back to the polling, you know, two-thirds of Americans say things really aren't great right now, but they're also saying a year ahead, they see things looking better, the housing market, the housing numbers starting to show some signs of life.

Three months in a row, housing prices going up. We're going to get some more data today, hopefully, that will show maybe some spark, you know, notwithstanding the fiscal cliff that is going to be happening in the American economy. So, how does that change your message for the Romney campaign?

WALL: Well, listen, I happen to agree with the assessment about the polling again. That goes back to my earlier point. I mean, the polls were feeding -- were literally feeding this beast here about polling. We're spending way too much time talking about it. The bottom line is this.

You know, I read a headline that said Obama defends his record. There is no -- I mean, if you are defending a record of failure, he has failed on every level. If you hold him to account to his own --

ROMANS: But people are saying the economy is starting to feel a little better. They're not losing money on their house anymore. I mean, it's not falling apart anymore.

WALL: Listen, if you holdthe President to his own standard by which he based himself saying that if he should only be a one-term president, if he does not deliverer on all of those things that he talked about relative to the economy, relative to jobs, relative to getting people back to work, all of those points that he, himself, if you hold him to that and his record, then we should not be re-electing him.

We should hold him to that. And that's what we're saying. We've had a community. We've had somebody who is a community organizer. It's time for a business leader. Let a business leader give it a shot.

SOCARIDES: Can I just say that, I mean, you know, she's making your point. The point is that, you know, they want this to be a referendum on whether or not President Obama has delivered, and it should be. I mean,the President has been president for four years. It should be partially a referendum.

But in a presidential election, which is so important, voters are going to have -- you know, want to look forward. They're only going to vote for somebody if that person has -- presents them a plan for what the next four years are going to look like. And this polling stuff is interesting. I mean, I think sometimes maybe some days we talk too much about it.

But it's what the horse race is about. The interesting question, I think, for the Romney campaign today is, are they going to do anything differently? I mean, they're clearly losing. This is slipping away from him. Are they going to do anything differently?

BERMAN: Tara, let's leave you with that. Are you going to do anything differently?

WALL: Well, listen, I think we have a great ground game. We are spreading the message far and wide. We're talking about recovery. We're talking about those five principles that will guide this Romney/Ryan administration relative to trade, economic, small business, education and a reformed tax code.

Those are the things that we're talking about. That's what America wants to hear. They want to be on a road to real recovery and not four more years of failure.

BERMAN: All right. Tara Wall from the Romney Campaign, thanks for joining us this morning.

WALL: You bet.

ROMANS: All right. Our "Tough Call" is next. Victoria's Secret racy or racist? The company under fire for its sexy little geisha getup, complete with chopsticks, apparently.


BERMAN: It is time for today's "Tough Call." Asian-Americans taking exception to Victoria's Secrets new "Go East" collection, particularly, skimpy little number known as the sexy little geisha. Many prominent Asian-American bloggers say they find the new line of lingerie offensive, and they accuse Victoria Secret of exploiting sexual stereotypes of Asian women.

The (INAUDIBLE) which I'm told comes from (INAUDIBLE) in chopsticks was taken down from the company's website, but Victoria Secret is not confirming whether they drop it from their inventories all together, and they have yet to release a statement on this.

ROMANS: But they enjoy all of the free publicity, I'm sure.

BERMAN: I am sure. So, guys, tough call here?

SOCARIDES: Listen, I think we have to accept that Victoria Secret is in the business of sexual stereotypes. I mean, that's where they sexually stereotype everybody.

WELCH: Well, I think that, you know, this is culturally offensive. I think if you're an Asian woman, you look at this, and you're sick and tired of this notion that you're a geisha and you have a certain affect with men.

But you know, I was walking by Victoria Secret windows the other day with my 17-year-old daughter, there was this incredible woman, you know, looking at you with her lingerie, and I thought -- I felt so sorry for my daughter at that moment, I thought, to be brought up with this image. It's bad for all women, frankly, these images of Victoria Secret. But they are business. This is what they sell --

SOCARIDES: I really think the most interesting about this "Tough Call" is the realization that all these companies that sell clothes and luxury goods and stuff like this are all sexualizing their products. I mean, look at companies like Abercrombie and Fitch. I mean, that kind of advertising -- Calvin Klein, that kind of advertising 20 years ago would have been like pornographic.

LIZZA: But that looks different, too, that they've added some kind of cultural stereotypes --



LIZZA: I'm just trying to get it what the difference here. everything that I -- you know, when I get the Victoria Secret catalog --


LIZZA: Everything is sexualize. So, what is the difference with this that makes it troubling?

WELCH: I think it's a cultural stereotype that has been something that Asian women have fought against for years, trying to be taken seriously in the work place and college situations.


SOCARIDES: And they're in this business of making these stereotypes about everybody. I mean, so, you know --

LIZZA: I defer (ph) to the group that's offended as to whether it's offensive or not, you know?


WELCH: Imagine if this was a Native American woman and they had some kind of sexy get-up for a Native-American woman --


WELCH: -- and they sexualize Pocahontas. This would not be a question. Everyone would agree, and they wouldn't even dare put it up, you know? So, I think to go and --

SOCARIDES: I don't think that. I think they would put it up.

BERMAN: I think luckily for Ryan, we're going to have to leave it here.


ROMANS: All right. Ahead on STARTING POINT --

LIZZA: But I don't know. I'm not that familiar with Victoria Secret.


ROMANS: TMI already.

OK. Bad word, bailout, now the former FDIC chair out with a new book that says the bailout was a bad idea for you. Find out why, next.

BERMAN: Plus, fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.



BERMAN: Playboy's list of party schools and why some aren't happy about it. You're watching STARTING POINT.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A look now at your top stories. And they are back, the referee lockout in the NFL is over. The league and its officials reaching an eight-year collective bargaining agreement, means the end of those replacement refs. What do the fans think now?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just glad the refs are back. I'm a big football fan and didn't like what was happening with the game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have the good refs back? Of course, you need good refs, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The refs looked challenged and overwhelmed. Great to see we will have the real refs back on the field. I'm excited. It's great for football, fans and everybody.


BERMAN: Every single one of those people will be complaining about the regular referees by next Monday. Nevertheless, the regular refs will be on the field for tonight's Ravens-Browns game in Baltimore.

ROMANS: A scathing report in "The L.A. Times" says the boy scouts of America doing damage control this morning. The found that the scouts failed to report hundreds of case of alleged abuse over a 20-year period. Now the scouts conducted a study saying the kids were safer with them than at home. The study was prepared by a psychiatric expert hired by the boy scouts. A former victim told us the scouts no longer practice what they preach, an expert says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TOM SCALES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VOICE TODAY INC.: They are teaching our young men to be trustworthy, brave, loyal. The mentors who are teaching them and frankly the people who were in charge today, where they have had that literally litigate to get access to the files to understand the extent of the damage to children. Clearly, they have lost their focus as a group and they certainly don't model the behaviors that they represent.


ROMANS: A sex abuse support group called SNAP is calling October boy scouts to oust anyone still in the Boy Scout house tried to cover up this abuse.

BERMAN: A big payout could be coming to college students pepper sprayed during Occupy Wall Street protest. You probably remember video. A police officer at the University of California at Davis spraying students the close range, 21 of those students sued. The university is offering to settle the case and pay each student $30,000.

ROMANS: "Playboy's" number one party school wants a recount. University of Virginia earned this honor. The rankings are based on sex, sports and nightlife, according to playboy but UVA isn't happy it, saying "It is far more important for the university to be known for our academic achievements in teaching and research." Here is the rest of the top five, in case, you want to go there Southern Cal, Florida, University of Texas, and Wisconsin.

And this just in, the latest reading on GDP growth for the second quarter -- 1.3 percent. Growth in the second quarter weaker than first thought. This isn't a good report, guys. Economists were expecting the number would be about 1.7 percent, according to the bureau of economic analysis and it means that the economy was barely growing, barely growing. We also just got a report from the labor department that says 359,000 jobless claims filed for the first time last week, 26,000 fewer than the week before, much less than expected. Economists were looking for 379,000 jobless claims there. But again that GDP number is the most important.

I want to bring in Sheila Bair, written this book "Bull by the Horns" former FDIC chairman. Let me ask you first, you don't want to be in this economy growing only 1.3 percent, four years after all we have been through. What do you think is happening here? Housing market getting better, GDP in the summer wasn't that good, just not growing the way we should be.

SHEILA BAIR, FORMER FDIC CHAIRMAN: We are not. I do think one of the issues, one of the reasons we have a sluggish economic recovery, the choices from 2008 and 2009, didn't fundamentally restructure some of the sick, failing institutions, pretty much propped up everyone, the sector was bloated already, weak banks they don't do a lot of lending don't want to take risks, they have bad lines on the books already.

ROMANS: Smaller bank, community banks, not as exposed to the mortgage bubble and the crisis, they are lending more. "The Wall Street Journal" just five of the 200 biggest metropolitan areas have more loans in 2011 than in 2006.

BAIR: It is. It is very bad and in fairness there is some reduction in demand as well but stale lot of problems with credit availability, small business.

ROMANS: Writing loan necessary 2006 we had no business to be doing.

BAIR: They wanted to tighten up a bit there is a tendency when you get in a downturn the other way, why you want healthy banks with healthy balance sheets to go out there and take few risks.

ROMANS: What were the mistakes made in 2000? This book, critical with people you were working with, Tim Geithner, probably not sending you a Christmas card.


BAIR: I don't think so anyway.

ROMANS: Tell me what are the mistakes made back then?

BAIR: First of all, two points to point out, everyone did what they thought was right. The fundamental fallacy is was if you brown the institution, make them profitable it will help rest of us, help the broader economy, and it just didn't turn out that watch. We averted a true cataclysm from occurring. But we didn't -- the credit lines were still pulled, the loans were still pulled.

ROMANS: We could have done it better?

BAIR: We could have done it better. We could have done more to clean up troubled loans, get them off bank balance sheets, should have you done far more on mortgage restructuring, glad see the housing market come back a little bit. It's a long time coming, still a lot of inventory to come on the market.

SOCARIDES: Can I ask you first of all, thank you for what you did standing up and being an independent voice, and I think you became an important independent voice of all Americans. I happen to agree with you, I think one thing that President Obama did he shouldn't have done, he should have put more independently monitored people, should have been more Shelias there. And thank you for writing this book. Do you think -- what do you think, looking back on it was the major thing did he wrong? I think you think did he some things right, right?

BAIR: I think in 2009 -- in 2008, we were potentially spinning out of control. There was a lot of uncertainty you didn't have a good information, didn't have a playbook, I can be more comfortable with the decisions made then, some I still disagree with. But in 2009, the system was stable. That was the time to do fundamental restructuring some of these sicker institutions. I think the public need to see there was going to be some accountability, that somebody was going to be lead to the pillory. It didn't happen.

SOCARIDES: Why is that? BAIR: I think again the philosophy was, and Tim had this philosophy in the Bush administration, too, that you make the big institutions healthy and that will take care of everybody else. And it is just not -- their interests and our interests two very different things.

SOCARIDES: Is that because there weren't enough non-bankers in charge? It seems like they put Wall Street in charge of --

ROMANS: The secretary was -- Timothy Geithner wasn't a banker.

BAIR: He has never worked for a Wall Street firm, but obviously Bob Rubin was his mentor and he learned a lot of his world perspective from Bob Rubin. And he was the head of the New York fed. The New York fed is a big financial institution, a quasigovernmental one, but it does -- I think is reflective of somewhat of a mindset, large institutions are the center of our universe, the old saying what is good for GM is good for the USA, and what is good for City Group is good for the USA. There is this mindset if you help them and make them profitable, it will help everybody else. And they are two very different things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheila, one thing about the book is a lot of criticism of Tim Geithner and the organizing principle of the book your philosophy versus his. It seems lining you let president off the hook, tend of the day president Obama hired this guy, he stuck with him at every turn, people said they should get rid of Tim Geithner. Why isn't there criticism of President Obama?

BAIR: Well, you know, I don't know. I think we had a relatively young president, obviously, coming in. He had not been in public service long time, he didn't really have his own people, so he drew from the Clinton administration and that meant the Bob Rubin folks who had run thing us in the past. But the problem is they had -- were responsible for a lot of this, this deregulatory philosophy and still have a very Wall Street, I think, centric focus.

So I can't speak forthe President, but I do -- I did have the chance to interact with him directly on a number of occasions. And what I heard him wanting is not necessarily what I saw his economic team pursuing. Sure, the buck stops there and he has to be accountable for the decisions his administration made. But it is not clear every egg was done with something he want to do.

SOCARIDES: So did they undermine the President?

BAIR: I wouldn't say that. The president should speak for himself on this. It's just that -- I think he represents Tim, I think they have a very good working relationship, and so I think he respects the fact that it's -- how high you're going to reach for a measure of success, because we didn't let the system go off the cliff, so we were patting ourselves on the back. The banks are making money, we made money off the TARP.

ROMANS: Shelia Bair, four years ago, we were talking about pulling our money out of bank accounts and now we are so far away from that let's talk about getting no interest. (CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: Shelia Bair. Thank you so much. Nice to see you.

BERMAN: We are talking about another book coming up -- from Harry Potter to sex, drugs and violence, J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults only is on sale today. But will you want to read it? We have the very first reviews, up next.


BERMAN: It has been five, long difficult years since the final "Harry Potter" book. In all, the seven "Harry Potter" books sold a staggering 450 million copies worldwide.


BERMAN: The movies grossed more than $7 billion worldwide making author J.K. Rowling a very, very rich woman.

ROMANS: But today a very big change. Her new novel is for adults and is on the shelves. It's called "The Casual Vacancy," and includes a lot of mature themes we're told. Someone who knows for sure Malcolm Jones who read it. He's with the "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast". One of the first to read the novel, it talks about sort of sex scandals and drugs and tell us a little bit is it good? Is it good?

MALCOLM JONES, CULTURE WRITER AND REPORTER, NEWSWEEK AND THE DAILY BEAST: I think it's a good read. It certainly was easy to read, just like the Harry Potter books were. It's -- it's set in a small town in England. It's about sort of political rivalries and back biting and sort of small town life. I mean, it's sort of a social satire in a lot of ways.

BERMAN: When you talked to Rowling a few times here. Why do you think she decided to go this way? She had such success writing kid's books, and I say kids' books. I read them and I loved them. But she had such success with that why go this way?

JONES: Well I think -- you know I know she probably, for her, it was probably a challenge. I mean, she had been writing for children. She did -- you know the world's most successful author for years. You know and yet, she -- this is one thing she hadn't done and there are certainly no, you know pressure on her to do anything. I mean, she never had to write another book if she doesn't want to.

But I mean the themes in the book, it's interesting because if you -- if you sort of step back from it, I mean the same things that applies in the Harry Potter books, which is like strong, powerful people oppressing weak people, you know, those same things can be transferred right into this book. I mean it's just done at a little bit mature level.

BERMAN: And with less magic.

JONES: With less magic, a lot less magic. WELCH: -- what guts it takes to be a person who is known for one thing, have everybody wanting you to write, maybe sort of Harry Porter for grownups, sort of fantasy and magic.

ROMANS: Right.

WELCH: And then to come out with a book with -- it sounds like social justice issues and so forth. And so I think even though, you know, she is so famous and she had so much to lose by writing it, she went ahead and did this. I guess my question for you would be having read it, if it wasn't written by her, would it be -- would it be worth buying?

I mean are we reading it because it's, oh what is she up to when she starts to write for adults? There are so many other better books by people who really do write for adults to read? Is it worth reading if you covered the name and there was a pen name on it? Would you -- would you want to read it?

LIZZA: "Casual Vacancy" or "50 Shades"?

JONES: Right, well I think -- I think it's a very good question. I mean yes there was -- there was every good chance that you know she was going to become like you know -- when Michael Jordan went off to play baseball. I mean -- but I mean, she is such a pro. I mean if you look at the Harry Potter books.

I mean, this book is the same way. I mean, she knows how to tell a story, she's extraordinarily methodical in the way she constructs things. And you know, there is never a moment in this book I don't think when you think oh, she is just completely lost the thread here. She's gone off the radar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But if it was written by somebody else, would you recommend it too?

JONES: I would. I mean, it's just a very solidly told story.

ROMANS: That's a big success for her. Malcolm Jones, culture writer and reporter, "Newsweek," and "The Daily Beast", nice to see you. Thank you.

JONES: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT you've seen the presidential candidates make the rounds on Leno, Letterman, "The View." And many make more of these shows. Are these interview just fluff or is this good strategy?

Coming up.


BERMAN: President Obama and Mitt Romney have been on a media blitz, a different kind of media blitz. Both men and their wives making regular appearances on late night comedy shows and entertainment programs like "The View" and "Access Hollywood."

ROMANS: This brings some questions about dodging the tough questions in exchange for the easy laugh. With Dr. Howard Kurtz, Washington Bureau chief of "The Daily Beast" and host of course CNN's "Reliable Sources"; and "The Daily Beast" contributor Lauren Ashburn. I mean, Obama is getting a little bit of criticism for sitting down with the ladies of "The View" but not meeting the people bilaterals at the -- at the U.N. General Assembly. And there seems to be -- the -- you know the replay of the quick, funny laugh line from the candidates instead of some of the tough questions.

Lauren, I mean, are they appealing to the masses so they don't have to answer tough questions?

LAUREN ASHBURN, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": I think so and you know I think it's actually a way to hold them accountable through their character. Because you really get a chance to see them in a way that you don't at a policy meeting or on the campaign trail. And you get this sense of who they are, people are going to invite them into their living room for four years.


DR. HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": But wouldn't we expect, wouldn't we expect that being candidates wise, wouldn't think they are just great, if Mitt can't win Ann over, he's got a problem.

SOCARIDES: But she shows something about herself and about them when she goes on, right? I mean, it's kind of interesting. I mean, I thought she's -- I think she's terrific when she does those interviews.

KURTZ: Yes as we've talked about on our Web site, I'm tired of this stuffed shirt journalism prognosticators looking down their nose at these program. This is where the pop culture is. Candidates who want to be like the President have to play in that culture to reach people who aren't watching CNN all day or tuning in to Sunday morning shows.

ASHBURN: Believe it or not most people aren't into politics 24/7.


ASHBURN: I know. Or the news.

BERMAN: But let me ask you this. Is there a risk in doing this in certain ways?

Let's play a clip of President Obama on David letterman. Because they had an exchange there and I want to get a sense whether you think this was the best possible President Obama he could be putting forward. Let's listen.



OBAMA: I feel good.

LETTERMAN: How much do you weigh?

OBAMA: You know -- about 180.

LETTERMAN: 180 looks good on you.

OBAMA: Thank you.

LETTERMAN: Because that's just about -- that's just about where I am and I don't look so good at 180.

OBAMA: You know, you look sharp.

LETTERMAN: You haven't seen me naked.


ROMANS: He is thinking there how to answer that, right? There is a moment where the President is like -- hmm. Where do I go with this?

BERMAN: So, is that smart for a president? Is that presidential, talk about naked David Letterman?

ASHBURN: He had no choice at that point. He has to show that he can play in this game. I mean this is a guy who plays nine dimensional chess for a living. And if you can't bat it back to a comedian, you know, you don't have any business being the President.

KURTZ: But you know, you are about holding institutions accountable. The media organizations that consider themselves the serious players here, you know, they ignore when there's a somewhat substantive discussion on Letterman or even Leno, on "The View."

ROMANS: And there was. He asked about the national debt. I've seen no one play the national debt clip.

KURTZ: Exactly. And so, what are the clips that get by? What are the things that go viral online. When Mitt gets asked about Snooki. When they talked about what do you wear to bed. We all partake of this.

ASHBURN: I really don't want to know.

LIZZA: Don't you think over the years, guys like Letterman and Leno and Stewart have become a little bit more serious and felt maybe a little bit more responsibility in these interviews as they have been sort of criticized for just allowing these guys to come into the soft venues?

I have noticed that since this started, since I have been covering things, maybe they have at least one or two serious questions now.

ASHBURN: I think they have to. I think it's not the right venue for it. I mean I think a press conference at the White House is probably a better place to be asking those questions but good for them. Good for them that they are actually trying to make some news on politics on these talk shows.

KURTZ: But they put out these gimmicks knowing that if they get the one answer on Snooki or what do you look like when you go to bed that is going to be cotton candy that everybody is going to gobble up. So they get to have it both ways.

And I agree they're getting more serious. Jon Stewart is a very good interviewer.

BERMAN: Let's be clear here. Despite the criticism that has been out there this week about President Obama not meeting with foreign leaders, doing these other interviews, you guys seem to think not only is it good strategy but it may be good for America that this is happening?

ASHBURN: I think so.

KURTZ: The President had a choice and the optics aren't great, let's face it. He had a choice. He could spend his time jaw boning with world leaders or he could campaign to save his job. And part of campaigning these days is going on program like "The View". They also both --

ASHBURN: I disagree.

KURTZ: You disagree?

ASHBURN: I totally disagree. No.

WELCH: There's a real hunger for people to know the candidates. To know them. They're both sort of unknowable men. Both Obama and Romney -- there's something about them that's mysterious. I don't if it's they are both sort of technocrats in some way. But people want to know them and these are these opportunities to say look, I am a regular guy. I'm hip.


ASHBURN: He should have been talking to world leaders, you can do both.


LIZZA: I don't like it. As one of the stuffed shirt prognosticators you described --

ASHBURN: Fox News is now going to say he didn't meet with world leaders and he went on "The View" and it gives Fox the opportunity to come down on him.

LIZZA: I agree and the only way to get them into more serious venues is to ridicule them and mock them and push back when they do the soft stuff.


ROMANS: -- on Arsenio Hall and look, that was a terrible thing.

They've been doing it for years.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you guys.


ROMANS: Lauren Ashburn, Howard Kurtz, nice to see you guys. Talk to you again soon.

BERMAN: And we will be back in a moment.


BERMAN: It is time for a very brief but very insightful "End Point". Ryan?

LIZZA: Well, brief at least. Romney's problems we're talking about, talking to his communications person before, Tara. I think simply it's the too negative on Obama and not enough positive about what he would do. Their theory of this race is that if you just attack Obama. If you just point out where he's failed, Mitt Romney wins by default and that's the strategic error of the 2012 campaign.

BERMAN: Ryan Lizza, Suzy Welch?

WELCH: Well, the numbers -- are you signing off.

BERMAN: Say it quickly.

WELCH: I think with the numbers we've got, I think you're right. And yet, there's something about the delivery along with the message; they have to come together.

SOCARIDES: I agree with everything they both said.

BERMAN: Thank you for being brief.

ROMANS: All right. CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello begins right now.

Good morning, Carol.