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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Presidential Candidates Prepare for First Debate; JFK In His Own Words; Knicks Star Volunteers in Africa; Educating Afghanistan's Girls

Aired September 28, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Our STARTING POINT this morning: Lowering expectations. Is Mitt Romney already preparing for defeat before the debates even start? A surprising new memo obtained by CNN shows his surrogates are ready for the worst, yet it could be just spin. We're going to take a look at that.

Plus, a return of the refs. The end of last night's game looked similar to Sunday's botched game that created national uproar. But did the real refs make the right calls this time?

And eavesdropping on history. Newly released recordings from President Kennedy's Oval Office give insight into moments like the Cuban missile crisis. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: How advanced is this?

ARTHUR LUNDAHL, CIA ANALYST: Sir, we've never seen this kind of installation before.

KENNEDY: Not even in the Soviet Union?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: More of those recordings just ahead.

And he's not just a talented basketball player. Tyson Chandler from the New York Knicks has another passion. He'll join us to talk about photography.

It's Friday, September 28th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome, everybody. Our team this morning: Jose Baez is with us. He's an attorney, the author of "Presumed Guilty: Casey Anthony, the Inside Story." Abby Huntsman joins us. She's the host of "Huff Post Live," daughter of Governor Jon Huntsman. Richard Socarides is with us. I kind of mangled the name, didn't I? Socarides, sorry -- hey, I'm getting over a cold, come on, people. Writer at NewYorker.com, former special advisor in the Clinton White House and lawyer, practicing attorney, we just learned.

John Berman is host of "EARLY START," who sticks around and helps us with our news.

Starting point, this point: President Obama campaigning in D.C. today. Mitt Romney is going to meet with voters in Pennsylvania. The debates just days away. Mitt Romney or his campaign is trying to lower expectations. We have seen the same thing on the President Obama side as well. But there's new memo that's been obtained by CNN, where Romney adviser Beth Myers tells campaign surrogates there are several reasons why the President will likely win the first debate. One reason that's given is this -- "This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his political career. For Mitt Romney, it will be his first."

Jack Markell is Governor of Delaware. He's the Chairman of the National Governors Association. He supports President Obama's re- election campaign. It's nice to have you back with us. We certainly appreciate it.

You know, as much as we talk about and we have been talking about in the last hours, the Republicans doing this on the GOP side, kind of the same thing is happening on the Democratic side. Let's play a little tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: Mitt Romney, I think, has an advantage because he's been through 20 of these debates in the primaries over the last year. He even bragged that he was declared the winner in 16 of those debates. So, I think in that sense, having been through this much more recently than President Obama, I think he starts with an advantage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Here's what Jen Psaki said -- she's the Obama campaign spokeswoman -- yesterday, "I will just take this opportunity to say that Mitt Romney has been preparing earlier and with more focus than any presidential candidate in modern history, not John F. Kennedy, not President Bill Clinton, not President George Bush, not Ronald Reagan has prepared as much as he has. So there's no question he will have a lead on how prepared he is."

So you would think reading that, that President Obama has never really even successfully navigated a single debate. Isn't it simple what we're seeing here, as lower the bar, that way, everybody, you know -- you lower expectations so if anybody does pretty well, you win the game, you win the debate?

GOV. JACK MARKELL, (D) DELAWARE: Well, I mean, the facts are the facts. I think the one thing that we all remember from the Republican nominating process, was how many debates there were. I mean, as much as I didn't want to watch them, I kept finding myself watching them because I was amazed by all the things going on. But one after another after another, Romney did seem to win and he was declared the winner by most of the pundits. But in the end, it's about both of them going out there and doing the best they can.

O'BRIEN: But, you know, it's also how people perceive it as well. If you look at a CNN/ORC poll that talks about who's more likely to win the debates -- let's pop that one first. Obama -- 59 percent believe he will win the debate; Mitt Romney, 34 percent believe.

So, that's got to be a concerning number, right? If the expectation is very high, if you don't meet or reach above that, you have a problem. Are you worried about that?

MARKELL: Well, my guess is what people are really saying, they believe President Obama really understands their issues, their concerns. He's got a better plan for the future.

O'BRIEN: Governor, I'm going to stop you right there. I'm going to stop you right there, because that's not what they're saying in the poll. Honestly, please. It was so smooth, it was so smooth and yet so ridiculous, I have to stop you in the middle.

What they were asked is who is more likely to win the debate, 59 percent, a very healthy majority said it will be President Obama. So my question is: with all that expectation overwhelmingly he is going to win -- that's problematic, isn't it?

MARKELL: Look, I mean, in the end, the amount of time we spend talking about debates itself is sort of interesting to me. I mean, they're both going to go out. They're going to do what they can. I mean, again, the -- Mitt Romney has spent a lot more time for these debates, had all the debates earlier this year.

The President is a good communicator, there's no question about it. But in terms of debate one-on-one, Romney has had a lot more experience last year getting ready for this.

O'BRIEN: Yes, in terms of debate one-on-one, the President has done eight, where Mitt Romney has done none presidential one-on-one debates.

And here's from this Beth Myers memo. "Four years ago, Barack Obama faced John McCain on the debate stage, just four short years ago. According to Gallup, voters judged him the winner of each debate by double digit margins and their polling showed he one won it by an astounding 33-point margin."

Her point being, like, he's good at this. He's been good at it. He's done this a lot, maybe he hasn't had the primary debates, but he is going to be the winner. Do you think it's as simple, if you win the debate, you can win the election here?

MARKELL: Well, I think it's a lot more than that. I think people are going to -- people are looking for somebody who can be president and a good president. They're looking for somebody who understands the concerns of the middle class. They're looking for somebody who has a plan to build an economy for the middle class.

In the end, that's what this is going to come down to. The debates are an important moment but I think it's a lot more than who wins one debate or another debate.

ABBY HUNTSMAN, "HUFF POST LIVE": Governor Markell, it's Abby Huntsman here. What do you think Obama's biggest challenge will be? What do you think Romney's advisors are telling him, how can we knock him off the seat? Is he getting him to speak off-the-cuff? Is that his biggest challenge?

MARKELL: Look, I think you never know what questions are going to be asked, and certainly the President has not asked for, you know, my advice nor what I expect he will. But I think he's got a very good message to tell. And I think, you know, what I'm hoping what comes through the debate, is everybody remembering what a difficult situation he inherited. We were losing 750,000, 800,000 jobs a month when he came in. We've now had 30 months in a row of job growth and created over 5 million jobs during that time. That's really the story.

So my hope is the President his plenty of opportunities during the debates to make sure that message gets out there.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, NEWYORKER.COM: You know, I think that -- I actually think the Romney campaign is right. I think that Obama -- President Obama is good at this.

O'BRIEN: A former Clinton advisor.

SOCARIDES: I think President Obama is good at this. I mean, I think Romney had more practice. Governor Romney has better practice; he's more kind of loose about this. But President Obama will probably not make a mistake. I think he is favored and I think people are looking for Governor Romney, any little mistake he makes, people are going to go after it. So I think I would say to Governor Markell, you're looking pretty good going into this.

(CROSSTALK)

JOSE BAEZ, ATTORNEY: Why not come across strong?

O'BRIEN: That's an interesting question. Jose just said, why try to be the underdog? Because we see it on both sides. I guess I sort of understand the value. Why do that?

MARKELL: Well, to the effect the President has an advantage and to the extent your poll shows that, I think it's because people believe he's got a better message -- I mean, he's got a stronger message. So much of the debate is who's got the stronger message. The President has a better message and I'm not surprise the people think he could do better on that --

O'BRIEN: I'm not so sure the polls say that. I'm not sure the poll says that. I think the poll says, "Who do you think is more likely to win the debate?" and they're not asking who has a better message. That will be reflected in the debate. But we could argue that to 'til the cows come home.

HUNTSMAN: I tell you what? Romney has got to win the substance debate. That's the one area that he's got to win if he wants to be successful.

O'BRIEN: We'll see.

All right. Thank you, sir, Governor Markell.

MARKELL: That will be --

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, I'm sorry.

MARKELL: That will be very difficult.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is why the whole debate game is such a farce.

O'BRIEN: Governor, I always it when you come in person because then we could all sit around and physically beat up on you, too. Nice to have you, sir. Thank you for being with us.

I'm sure we will keep talking about the debate, there's a bunch of them in our future. CNN is going to, of course, have complete coverage of the first presidential debate, which is happening next Wednesday. You can watch it live on CNN. Also, CNN.com starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

There are other stories making news today outside of debate prep, believe it or not. John Berman has that for us.

BERMAN: Right. Elections are not created on curves. We'll just leave that there. Neither are football games.

And the NFL's real refs are feeling the love in Baltimore last night as they returned from the lockout, putting the replacement out (INAUDIBLE). They got a standing ovation from fans, that won't be the last time that happens, before the Ravens defeated Cleveland Browns, 23-16. This game featured no controversy, thankfully.

Terrorists were behind the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Earlier this morning, that conclusion reached by the Obama administration now more than two weeks after the attack. Four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says there are a lot of unanswered questions still.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: What terrorists were involved needs to be determined by the investigation. It clearly was a group of terrorists who conducted that attack against that facility.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Meanwhile, staff is being removed from the U.S. embassy in Tripoli due to security reasons.

The man who made the anti-Muslim film that ignited protests across the Muslim world is in custody in Los Angeles this morning, but authorities claimed it has nothing to do with that movie. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is being held on alleged parole violations in connection with his conviction for bank fraud. He was ordered not to use computer devices or use aliases without approval from his provision officer. Yes, he used a fake name to make "Innocence of Muslims".

Police are getting ready to dig into a driveway in suburban Detroit, searching for the possible human remains of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa again. He vanished 37 years ago. A tipster claims to have seen a body being buried at that house in Roseville, Michigan around the same time that Hoffa disappeared.

All right. It is politics "Saturday Night Live" style. Check out President Obama talking jobs.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who here has a job? There we go. There we go.

And what do you do, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a manager at Burger King.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go! Have an HOA.

And where were you four years ago? Probably working the counter, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a vice president for Bank of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: No matter what happens in the debate, "Saturday Night Live" will win the election.

O'BRIEN: Yes. As they did four years ago.

So there are some newly released secret recordings from President Kennedy's Oval Office that give insight into historic moments like the Cuban missile crisis. Listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

KENNEDY: How advanced is this?

LUNDAHL: Sir, we've never seen this kind of installation before.

KENNEDY: Not even in the Soviet Union?

(END AUDIO CLIP) O'BRIEN: The calmness with which they're speaking really belies how anxiety ridden this entire debate was. A historian who released the clips is going to talk with us next.

Also, are you a Sam Adams fan or maybe a Dos Equis fan? Are you just a fan of beer, John Berman? Well, apparently, your favorite brew could say a lot about your politics. Tough call, coming up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": According to a new poll, New Jersey voters actually support a proposed law that will require dog owners to put their animals in a safety restraint or crate in the car. You have to have your dog in the car with a seatbelt on. More bad news for Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

U.S. stocks futures are down, because of concerns again over Europe's debt crisis. But today marks the end of the third quarter and you don't have to be afraid of your 401(k) statement, at least, for now. The S&P 500 is up about six percent over the past three months.

A revision of Labor Department data takes away one talking point from the Republicans. President Obama is now a net job creator after government economists revised the data for 2011. It now appears 125,000 net new jobs have been created since Obama took office. About 4.3 million jobs were lost in Obama's first year and the new data show about 4.4 million jobs have been added back since then.

Mortgage rates hit record lows again. The 30-year fixed rate mortgage, 3.4 percent, the 15-year fix rate mortgage now 2.73 percent. This is according to Freddie Mac, and this is exactly what the fed said it wanted to do, Soledad, keep rates low.

O'BRIEN: Yes. All right. Christine, thank you.

It has been 50 years since John F. Kennedy was president, but newly released secret tapes from inside the oval office and other private conversations now offer a revealing look inside his presidency and a personal glimpse of the man as well. Listen to Candidate Kennedy a year before he was elected president speaking candidly with his friend, journalist Ben Bradlee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN BRADLEE, JOURNALIST: did you have any remote idea, Jack, that when you ran for Congress in 1946, that you'd run for president?

KENNEDY: No, I didn't. BRADLEE: Remote? Not even when you went to bed?

KENNEDY: Never, never, never. I thought I'd be governor of Massachusetts some day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Never, never. In July of 1962, JFK installed hidden recording systems in the oval office, in the cabinet room as well. And the result, 265 hours of recordings. Historian Ted Widmer, has written about this priceless archive in his new book "Listening In." It's nice to have you with us.

TED WIDMER, AUTHOR, "LISTENING IN: THE SECRET WHITE HOUSE RECORDINGS OF JFK": Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So remarkable. I mean, really, even just to hear that conversation with Ben Bradlee.

WIDMER: Well, we, historians, fantasize about being a fly on the wall. And now, we can be. These tape recordings are very sophisticated. It picked up extremely important conversations and all Americans can now listen in.

O'BRIEN: What was he trying to capture? I mean, what was the goal in having recordings of his conversation? Did he know that history would need this?

WIDMER: I think so. He never said. It was a very closely held secret. A tiny number of people knew. Most of his top advisors had no idea. But I think it was for history. He loved history. He was a publicist historian. He won a Pulitzer for profiles encourage and I think he was getting ready to write his memoirs for that long in the future day when he wouldn't be president anymore and he just wanted to capture the raw stuff of what was happening.

O'BRIEN: Some of the raw stuff happened at times where literally the nation was on edge about what would happen next, specifically, the Cuban missile crisis. Let's play a little piece, and I want you to tell me about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: How advance is this?

LUNDAHL: Sir, we've never seen this kind of installation before.

KENNEDY: Even in this soviet union?

LUNDAHL: No, sir. But from May of 1960 (ph), we've never had any U-2 coverage of the Soviet Union, so we do not know what kind of (INAUDIBLE).

KENNEDY: How do you know this is a medium range ballistic missile?

LUNDAHL: The length, sir. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What do you think it tells us? What does it reveal about him as a president managing in a crisis?

WIDMER: He was great in a crisis. He was especially strong in the Cuban missile crisis, and the entirety of the crisis is captured on these tapes. You really can't write about that crisis without listening. And that moment is the moment he's hearing for the first time about the missiles, October 16th.

And we've got a new 10 second fragment that has never been heard, that was off-limits, and reveals his daughter, Caroline, coming into the room and laughing a little bit with him before the meeting, this extremely serious meeting starts.

SOCARIDES: Can I ask -- what are the biggest surprises on these tapes about him as a person? Anything surprise you? I'm interested also, you know, Caroline Kennedy helped you with this, right? She wrote the introduction. What surprised her?

WIDMER: I can't answer for her. What surprised me was the length of the work day. I mean, long days covering every issue under the sun. Some of great importance like the Cuban missile crisis, a lot of domestic politics, a lot of meetings with senators to try to get his agenda through. But throughout, a capacity to learn.

He was a decisive president, and you get that feeling, but he was also evolving in the way we hope our presidents do. And on civil rights, especially, there was a lot of movement from 1962 when the tapes start to 1963. And it was all changing. And the White House had swung very much behind the civil rights movement by the fall of 1963.

SOCARIDES: He was very involved in the minutia of this, too, right?

WIDMER: Absolutely.

SOCARIDES: Just like our other boss, our boss, President Clinton.

WIDMER: Exactly. Now, there's an incredible moment in August 28th, 1963, the great Martin Luther King speech "I have a dream" had just happened and he invited King and the leaders to the White House, and they had a political strategy session where President Kennedy went through all the members of the House and Senate and what he thought their likelihood was to support civil rights.

And it was clear, he was on their side. He was driving it forward.

O'BRIEN: There's a little clip that exposes, I think, a personal side of the President as well. Let's play that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENNEDY: I wanted to do back to Jordan Marsh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, sir. KENNEDY: Then, I want that fellow's (ph) incompetent who had his picture taken next to Mrs. Kennedy's bad if that's what it is. I mean, he's a silly bastard. I wouldn't have him running a cat house.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Give us some context. He is furious, and it's all over a $5,000 bill for a hospital room, right?

WIDMER: A tiny expenditure built for the, you know, very legitimate reason to have a hospital room ready in case his wife went into labor. And he's furious at the waste and also at the possibility that this would get picked up by the media. So, he's chewing out a subordinate and it's very funny. And I can reveal a newsflash. The silly bastard has been located. He's still alive, and he loves that he made it into the book, and I'm looking forward to meeting him.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Can't reveal a name? Yes?

WIDMER: I don't remember his name.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: So, maybe he's (INAUDIBLE) go up the ladder in politics.

WIDMER: Right. Right.

O'BRIEN: Tim Widmer, it's nice to have you.

WIDMER: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: The book is called "Listening In." The tapes are amazing as well. Thank you.

WIDMER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate it.

Ahead this morning, here's a question for you. Are you a Heineken drinker? Are you a Sam Adams man or woman? Your beer preference could reveal who you're going to vote for. Our "Tough Call" is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Our "Tough Call" this morning: what kind of beer do you drink, Richard Socarides?

SOCARIDES: I don't drink beer. Wine.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: How about you, Jose?

BAEZ: I drink Heineken and Sam Adams. I'm on both sides.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: How about you, John?

BERMAN: I drink a lot of light beer, because I have to watch my figure.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: But Fat Tire out of Colorado. My sister-in-law works there, love it.

O'BRIEN: I don't know that Fat Tire made the survey. A new survey that was just published in the National Journal finds that people who drink Sam Adams, strongly Republican, more likely to vote. Heineken drinkers, on the other hand, staunchly Democratic. Survey says fans of Bud Light and Miller tend to be non-partisan. Americans who most often drink Dos Equis also are middle of the road.

BERMAN: Can I say my problem with this?

O'BRIEN: What?

BERMAN: Sam Adams is like, of course, the famous Boston beer. And it says that you can drink Sam Adams are more Republican. There are four Republicans roughly in Massachusetts. So --

O'BRIEN: Maybe that's -- you know, it's a national --

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTSMAN: -- but I think I'm more of Heineken. I'm not a huge beer drinker, but -

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- that you are not a beer drinker.

HUNTSMAN: I'm not, really, but if I had a choice, I'd probably pick a Heineken.

O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE), isn't it?

(CROSSTALK)

BAEZ: What do they say about the fruit-flavored beers?

BERMAN: Interesting.

O'BRIEN: There are fruit-flavored beers?

BAEZ: Of course.

O'BRIEN: I don't drink beer at all, so I didn't even know.

SOCARIDES: But this is all about marketing, right?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

SOCARIDES: It's -- it's a consumer product. They market to certain segments. The look of the product, the advertising, it all says something about who they're going after.

O'BRIEN: Oh, so you make sense, you say, because it's still correlated to who you're going to try to get as a consumer.

HUNTSMAN: Now, you would it drink them all. You're a balanced news reporter. I'd take all of them.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: You know, I try to be non-biased --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, he's a star on the court. Basketball, though, isn't his only talent. Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks showing off his other skills behind the camera. He's going to join us live straight ahead.

And then what went on behind closed doors during the financial crisis? A new book explores how President Obama and Congress tried to restore the economy and failed. Acclaimed doctor and journalist, Bob Woodward. Stick with us. He joins us live.

Welcome. Nice to see you, sir. Always great to have you. Appreciate it.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "THE PRICE OF POLITICS": How are you? Nice to see you.

O'BRIEN: Always great to have you. Appreciate it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're watching STARTING POINT. Let's get right to John Berman for a look at today's top stories. Good morning, again.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. President Obama will place a call to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, the first time they have spoken since that September attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Netanyahu has been pressuring the President to handle the nuclear threat from Iran by drawing a red line. The President has not obliged so far.

Earlier on STARTING POINT, we spoke with a Netanyahu spokesman about the U.S.-Israel relationship.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK REGEV, SPOKESMAN, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: The American position has been consistent. The U.S. says it will act to prevent a nuclear weapon, and that means if you're going to prevent it, it means you will do something beforehand. Our position and the United States position are almost identical. And we have to continue talking to see what we can do to prevent the Iranians from achieving a nuclear bomb.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: "Almost identical" -- interesting. Netanyahu warns it will be too late if something isn't done. I should add Mitt Romney will speak to Netanyahu as well.

Much of the case file for the Aurora move theater shooting will be made public this morning according to affiliate KUSA. Also family members of those killed in the massacre have until today to decide if they want to visit the theater before renovations begin. James Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder in the July rampage that killed 12 people and wounded 58 more. The theater should reopen around the end of the year.

Another morning at the New York JFK airport, but busy yesterday. A bomb scare called for one terminal to be evacuated and they found a grenade-type item. The passenger told them the item was fake but the terminal was evacuated anyway. It turned out to be a paper weight.

And someone we know with the answer to a trivia question on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What TV personality has been named one of the top 100 Irish-Americans and also a member of the national association of Hispanic journalists: Erin Burnett, Soledad O'Brien, Neil Cavuto, Rachel Maddow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said I wouldn't guess. Top 100 Irish Americans and Hispanic. It sounds like Soledad O'Brien.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: My god, Soledad O'Brien. How could you not get that? Like really.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

The question is out-of-play. I'm sure the answer -- you were right. Soledad O'Brien. That's OK. I understand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: How much did she lose? She lost out on 10 grand. Do you believe that?

O'BRIEN: Soledad O'Brien, Hispanic and Irish. How hard was that? Oh, well. Next time, I guess.

President Obama is nearing the end of his first term and despite his promise in 2008 to bring the two parties together, the past three-and- a-half years have been plagued by partisan gridlock. In his new book, "The Price of Politics," veteran "Washington Post" reporter Bob Woodward puts the focus squarely on the relationship between the President and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, saying their inability to make meaningful compromise has left many of the nation's problems for the most part unaddressed.

He writes this, "There was so much effort, most of it sincere, but so little result. Americans are now left with a still struggling economy in the midst of a presidential election. It's a world of the status quo, only worse." Bob Woodward joins us. It's nice to see you.

WOODWARD: I see you have a picture of Bob Woodruff of ABC up there. We get mixed up all the time.

O'BRIEN: What?

WOODWARD: It's just like you. No one knows your identity.

O'BRIEN: Come on. This is your 17th book. You've been in the business a really long time. We had the wrong graphic for you? That's insane.

BERMAN: I would say you're fairly well-known in these circles.

WOODWARD: He had that accident in Iraq and was seriously injured. I kept getting e-mails from people saying are you all right?

BERMAN: He is all right, by the way.

WOODWARD: He has really record and somebody who's taken the experience of Iraq and set up this foundation with his wife and helping wounded warriors.

O'BRIEN: One day we'll have him on the show, but today we have your new book.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: How did you get access? You are renowned for your note- taking an in-depth interviews and the scope of the people you talk to?

WOODWARD: I had the luxury of 18 months to work on this book and get the notes and the memos, interviewed the President for an hour and a half a couple of months ago for this, stepping through exactly what happened. To a certain extent, it's a legal wiretap into the White House, so you can see exactly what happened, the evolution of this.

And in a sense, the bottom line is it's hard on Obama and the Democrats and it's hard on the Republicans also. There is a war going on in each party. It's not been resolved. The people who get the short straw are those of us who live in this country because they haven't fixed the basic issue of the financial house of the U.S. government. We have too much debt and there's too much spending. We're going to go off the cliff someday if we don't get a handle on this. O'BRIEN: Let's begin where the book begins, which is highlighting conflicts between the White House and Republicans with the stimulus bill and health care. Everyone is looking very closely at the polls and who could win and who could potentially lose.

Here's what you write: "The polls certainly look good for Obama now. To counter that means there is no easier to compromise and appoint some on the left. As he listens, Obama's tone seems to change. 'Elections of consequences,' the President said, 'and, Eric, I won.'"

Talk to me about Eric Cantor's role and the conflict and the clash at this point?

WOODWARD: Cantor is the Majority Leader in the House, much closer to the Tea Party and conservative than Speaker John Boehner. This is part of the war. You see in this, in, I think, the President is tuned in to his own ambivalences. He realizes they have to cut spending, they have to do something the Republicans have been harping on. At the same time, as the President said to me, we have to worry about the vulnerable populations on Medicare, Medicaid, other entitlement programs.

So in the end, there's a political calculation. Let's postpone everything and both the Democrats and the Republicans, and particularly President Obama decide that. When you look at the numbers and the future we face, it's perilous. It is a time to just simply put, we're going to have to go borrow trillions of dollars on the global debt market next year. How do we do that when they couldn't do it last year? They couldn't reach some sort of agreement to say, kind of the Joe Biden way, one for you, one for me? Everyone was locked in their dogma?

O'BRIEN: In the beginning, not in the beginning of the book but in the beginning of Obama coming into office, he really -- there was a sense Boehner and Obama could work together.

WOODWARD: Yes.

O'BRIEN: That ended relatively quickly. What happened?

WOODWARD: It did. It ended -- Boehner reached out to the President. They had lots of meetings. I described their private meetings in detail. As Boehner said, at one of the first meetings, the President was drinking iced tea and chewing on a Nicorette because of his smoking habit, and there's Boehner over there having a cigarette and red wine, merlot. And in a since, they made some progress, but they did not get there. I chart in thousands of words, the exact negotiations, the phone calls. You see something that didn't get fixed. It is an eternal shame it didn't get fixed.

SOCARIDES: Why -- after this research it is harder today to make deals. You see the history of this, people are able to make deals when there are real people sitting across from each other. What is it about this moment or people that makes it impossible?

WOODWARD: Part of it is the Tea Party and the Republican House particularly, where they don't want to compromise at all, where they do not want anything that looks like a tax increase. But also on the Democratic side and the President, he does not want to cut these entitlement programs, I think out of conviction, but also out of politics. He's made the political calculation there are all these people in the entitlement programs, and if he's going to be the one standing firm, it will help him in his re-election effort.

When he's proposing cutting Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly takes care of more than 50 million people. Nancy Pelosi goes to the Oval Office and says if you're thinking of cutting that, you are going to make the Republicans look the same. We are going to -- we're going to eliminate the distinction. You are going to make the Republicans whole on the Paul Ryan budget, which was going to change at some point Medicare. And the President and the Democrats said, OK, let's push this off to the future. But you can only do that so long.

O'BRIEN: That's why it's called "The Price of Politics." What really we at the end of the day are paying for this negotiations. The book is fantastic. Bob Woodward, the real Bob Woodward. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for coming in to talk to us. We appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, New York Knicks big man and gold medalist, Tyson Chandler, is joining us, showing up behind the camera as well working with kids overseas. You're watching STARTING POINT. He's up next.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

New York Knicks star Tyson Chandler has had quite a year after leading the Knicks to their second straight playoff berth, he battled alongside Kobe Bryant and Lebron James to win a medal at the London Olympic Games. He didn't stop there, he could have but he didn't. Immediately after the games, he flew to Tanzania to do some work with UNICEF. Chandler chronicled the trip in photos and auctioned off the prints to benefit UNICEF this week.

He joins us this morning with Caryl Stern. She's the President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. It's nice to have you both with us.

TYSON CHANDLER, NEW YORK KNICKS: Thank you, Soledad.

CARYL STERN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, U.S. FUND FOR UNICEF: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Well, explain after -- you get a gold medal. And I'm going to guess, having interviewed a bunch of your colleagues after the Olympic Games, they went into the break, right? Because you got a break in the season.

CHANDLER: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And you went to Tanzania.

CHANDLER: Yes. O'BRIEN: Automatically went to work. Why?

CHANDLER: Well, I really wanted to see what was going on out there. Before I left, I had a meeting with UNICEF and I told them if I want to be speaking about something, I want to know exactly what I'm speaking about. So really I wanted to go out there and really just see what was going on.

O'BRIEN: Talk to me a little bit, Caryl, about Tanzania.

STERN: Even just to your first point, I thought it was awesome, that while everyone went to get their glory parade, you know, Tyson chose not to go home and comes to help us save kids. I mean, unbelievable.

O'BRIEN: Why did you want him to see Tanzania?

STERN: You know, we really wanted him to see the field, you know, to see that the difference of what poverty in a developing nation is really all about. To be able to touch kids and -- and talk to the kids and feel what's really happening out there so that he could come back and use the power of his podium to talk about it.

O'BRIEN: What did you see? What did you experience?

CHANDLER: Well, you know, I saw -- I saw a lot of kids obviously going through some tough things in life. But the thing that I took back was how courageous they were to stand up and tell their story. You know, a lot of them have tear-jerking stories, things that they're just dealing with and we really take for granted, just trying to go to school.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: There's a huge amount of children who live with HIV in Tanzania.

CHANDLER: Absolutely. We went to a clinic and we spoke with women that was dealing with HIV and they were trying to create a support group to help get the word out and know about HIV and things that they can do to help the children not come down with HIV.

O'BRIEN: We've got some amazing photos that you took in Tanzania and I want to show everyone that while I ask you about your photography skills. I think if I went up to this anybody on the screen said, Tyson Chandler, list for me what you think his skills are, I think -- almost nobody would say he's an amazing photographer. When did you decide I mean, how long have you been doing that?

CHANDLER: For about five years now.

O'BRIEN: Really?

CHANDLER: Yes, it just gotten more serious over the last couple of years, you know, coming to New York. My buddy Ari Marcopoulos is out here and he's really been helping and guiding me through the whole process. O'BRIEN: It's fantastic. And you were able to take some of those prints and leverage another great thing for UNICEF.

STERN: Absolutely. You know, the proceeds from the prints are going to save children's lives.

HUNTSMAN: What were the kids' reactions by looking at these photos? You're playing basketball with some of them. It's the cutest thing.

CHANDLER: It was, you know, it was such a great time. It was such great time, like I said, everything that -- it was great to be able to allow them to forget, you know, for just maybe a couple minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like here it looks like in the photos.

CHANDLER: Yes and we really enjoyed it. So right there, the little kid, you know she's a little a soccer goalie and you know we had the basketball clinic and I was trying to teach some of the kids how to play basketball. There's more football out there, which is our soccer.

O'BRIEN: Speaking of basketball, can we talk about the Knicks for a minute?

CHANDLER: Sure.

O'BRIEN: November, how does it look? What do you think?

CHANDLER: I'm excited. I'm excited. I thought we've got a nice group, we've got a nice mix of veteran guys who have won in the past and the young guys.

O'BRIEN: Jeremy Lin, he's a dear friend of yours. He's not there anymore.

CHANDLER: Yes, yes, Jeremy is no longer there. He's now in Houston, which you know I feel like he will have success out there. He brought energy to the Garden last year and that was amazing.

O'BRIEN: Well, good luck in the season. We'll be watching, Tyson Chandler with the New York Knicks.

CHANDLER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And Caryl Stern, who is the President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, great work. Thanks for joining us to talk about it. We appreciate it.

CHANDLER: Thank you for having us.

O'BRIEN: I've got to take a break.

Still ahead this morning, the Vatican is now adding to doubts that Jesus was married after a professor claimed she's found proof that Jesus had a wife.

You're watching STARTING POINT we're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone.

NASA scientists say they may have new evidence of water on Mars. They say rocks in the area where the "Curiosity" rover landed last month show signs of being formed in the presence of water perhaps there's tree. They think the water could have been between ankle and hip deep, though not on Tyson Chandler who just walked out.

The Vatican newspaper isn't buying a Harvard professor's claim that she found an ancient piece of scripture in which Jesus refers to "my wife". The professor says the purported Fourth Century papyrus fragment was written in Coptic, a Coptic language, and they say that is fake. So says the Vatican -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, well, each week we have been shining the spotlight on the top CNN Heroes of 2012 as you vote for the one who inspires you the most. Go to CNNHeroes.com. This week's honoree is risking her life to help young girls in Afghanistan get an education. Here's the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAZIA JAN, FOUNDER OF A GIRLS SCHOOL IN AFGHANISTAN: In Afghanistan, most of the girls have no voice. They are used as property of a family. The picture is very grim.

My name is Razia Jan and I am the founder of a girl's school in Afghanistan.

When we opened the school in 2008, 90 percent of them could not write their name. Today, 100 percent of them are educated. They can read, they can write.

I lived in the U.S. for over 38 years but I was really affected by 9/11. I really wanted to prove that Muslims are not terrorists. I came back here in 2002. Girls have been the most oppressed and I thought I have to do something.

It was a struggle in the beginning. I would sit with these men and I would tell them, don't marry them when they're 14 years old. They want to learn.

How do you write your father's name?

After five years now, the men, they are proud of their girls when they themselves can't write their name. Still, we have to take precautions. Some people are so much against girls getting educated.

We provide free education to over 350 girls. I think it's like a fire. It will grow. Every year, my hope becomes more, I think I can see the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: Don't forget to vote for your CNN hero at CNNheroes.com.

"End Points" up next. We're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: 45 seconds remaining, what's the take away from the day? Richard, I'm going to let you start.

SOCARIDES: I would say the take away from the week is that it's the week that the election slipped away from Governor Mitt Romney.

O'BRIEN: Well, only time will tell on that. What do you think Abby?

HUNTSMAN: I'm sitting next to two great lawyers. I know I can get away with anything in life and I will be just fine.

O'BRIEN: What do you think, Jose? I will give you the final word this morning.

BAEZ: Well, I want to take away from at least we can get -- now we can go back to football and stop talking about the refs.

O'BRIEN: That's right. When we're not talking about politics, we can talk about football and not talk about the bad plays that have been mangled.

Right, guys. I thank you. Have a great weekend, everybody.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now. We'll see you back here on Monday morning.

Hey Carol, good morning.