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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Candidates Prepare for First Debate; Arnold Schwarzenegger Tells All in New Book; Presidential Candidates Prepare for First Debate; Interview with Adam Schiff; Interview with Ted Poe; Ryan Dodges Tax Plan Questions; "Half the Sky" Now a Movement

Aired October 1, 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, debate showdown. President Obama and Mitt Romney preparing to face off, each one downplaying expectations. Why the first debate may be the most important of them all.

Mixed messages. White House officials insist President Obama has always treated the Libya attack on the U.S. consulate as a terrorist attack. Republicans say that is just not the case.

And Schwarzenegger's secret. Bodybuilder-turned-movie-star-turned- politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger, opens up about the affair with his housekeeper and he admits this was one in a fairly long list of lies.

It's a packed show for you this morning. Republican Congressman Ted Poe of Texas is our guest. Democratic Adam Schiff of California will join. Journalist Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas Kristof on their new documentary, "Half the Sky."

It's Monday, October 1st. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Our team with us this morning: Richard Socarides is a writer for NewYorker.com. He's also former senior advisor to President Clinton. Ron Brownstein is the editorial director of "National Journal". And Kellyanne Conway joins us -- I think for the first time, right, Kellyanne?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, PRESIDENT, THE POLLING COMPANY/WOMANTREND: Yes.

O'BRIEN: President of the polling company/Woman Trend.

It's nice to have you all with us this morning. I hope you all had a good weekend?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, NEWYORKER.COM: Kelly and I, we've been on TV together before. We've had quite the time. Couple of fun times together.

O'BRIEN: I'm glad I put you together this morning, then.

SOCARIDES: Yes.

O'BRIEN: All right. Our STARTING POINT this morning, two days, can you believe it? It's two days until the first presidential debate. Both sides have been working very hard to lower the expectations for exactly how they're going to do.

It seems like somebody forgot to tell New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he's been setting the bar pretty high for Mitt Romney. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: He's had a tough couple of weeks. Let's be honest. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and come on this morning and sugarcoat the last couple weeks. They've been tough.

But here's the great news for Republicans: we have a candidate who's going to do extraordinarily well on Wednesday night. He's going to contrast what his view is and what the president's record, the president's view for the future.

And this whole race is going to be turned upside-down come Thursday morning. Wednesday night's the restart of this campaign. I think you're going to see those numbers start to move right back in the other direction.

I have absolute confidence when we get to Thursday morning, George, you're going to be shaking your head saying it's a brand-new race.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That was pretty much a tour through the Sunday morning talk circuit.

Let's get to Republican congressman from Texas, Ted Poe.

It's nice to see you again, sir. Thank you for talking with us.

It seems to me --

REP. TED POE (R), TEXAS: Good morning, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: It seems to me that Chris Christie didn't quite get the message, because everybody else has been working on both sides to try to lower expectations for both men. And now, Chris Christie's like, we're going to win this one. Do you think that's a mistake?

POE: No, I don't. The expectations are most Americans believe President Obama's going to win the debates. That's why it's a great opportunity for Governor Romney to have an upset. He needs an upset. I think that he can do that on this debate and the next two debates. We go back historically, we remember it was a game changer when President Kennedy debated Richard Nixon. Same was true with Ronald Reagan when he debated Jimmy Carter. So, it can make a difference.

Mitt Romney needs to come out and be very aggressive about the president's policies and his solutions. And I think he will do real good.

O'BRIEN: We know they've been rehearsing zingers or at least we're told by a "New York Times" report this morning that Mitt Romney has been practicing zingers. I guess practicing them on some of his aides as well.

You just talked about substance. Others have been focusing on -- well, really it's the moments and the zingers that make the difference.

Which do you think it is?

POE: There has to be a sense throughout -- at the end of the debate, the viewer will have a sense as to who can be the better leader for the United States. And Mitt Romney has to come across as -- well, he can do a better job leading the United States on domestic policies.

So, it's an impression that the viewer will get overall. It will be the zingers. But it will be really the impression. Who can create the better impression of leadership and that person will win the debate.

SOCARIDES: I must say, it was really something to hear some anonymous spokesperson say that Governor Romney had been rehearsing the spontaneous moments that they were going to do.

O'BRIEN: I'm sure he's not the first politician -- let me ask Congressman Poe, is that -- is that do -- politicians do that in general? I have to imagine all politicians rehearse those spontaneous moments. Am I right or am I wrong?

POE: Yes, of course. I think most people in a speech have a one- liner, so to speak. They wait for the right time to use the one- liner. You never know when it'll come up. I do think politicians do that.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Congressman, I'm interested on your thought here. Mitt Romney spent two years making the case against President Obama's first term. He had three days of a national convention and acceptance speech to do so.

Is this a question of simply restating the arguments he's already made for a larger audience, or does he have to take this debate in a new place, in a new direction?

POE: I think the debate is really the game changer for Governor Romney. He needs to do very well. I think he will do very well. And it's all in how he communicates his message.

I think he will do a better job than he has in the last two years of communicating that message. He has to do a better job.

O'BRIEN: What makes you say that? I'm curious about the --

CONWAY: We know he's capable of it. He took it to Newt Gingrich, the best debater.

O'BRIEN: But let me finish my point. Then you're welcome to -- you just said, for two years, he's been trying to hone this message at a time when I think as a big surprise to a lot of people, the president's doing better on the economy than he probably deserves to be doing.

BROWNSTEIN: Even in the polling.

O'BRIEN: So what makes you think in a high pressure environment, his first presidential debate he's actually going to deliver?

CONWAY: It's the first time he's able to take the case right to the guy he's opposing. It's the first time -- and I believe President Obama's style is to sort of look out to the audience and the questioner and us at home.

I believe Mitt Romney needs to turn to President Obama the way he did to Newt Gingrich in Florida. Mitt Romney was on fire in that one debate. He really took it to Newt. He was relentless.

I was Newt's senior adviser at the time. It was very unexpected. We know he's capable of it.

SOCARIDES: If you're a Romney supporter, you've got to believe this, right? Because the race is slipping away from him. You got to believe he can have --

O'BRIEN: It's 49 percent/47 percent.

SOCARIDES: That poll is an outlier.

O'BRIEN: You don't like that poll.

SOCARIDES: No, I mean, listen, you've got to believe -- if you're a Romney supporter, you've got to believe this could be the moment. I just think this image of Romney going up to people randomly and saying things like, you know, are you better of than you were four years ago --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'm not going to separate the two of them. I take it back. I take it back.

BROWNSTEIN: To me that's the core question.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Just a moment ago I was saying I was so happy to have you sitting next to each other. Go ahead, Ron. Save me.

BROWNSTEIN: That's the core of the question of the debate. Romney has spent two years trying to make the case President Obama's first term is a failure. Republicans by and large I think have come to a realization they cannot beat him solely on that argument.

In our poll "The Heartland Monitor" poll that came out Friday, a third of the country says we're worse off than we were four years ago. Therefore, Romney -- a third says they're better off. Obama overwhelmingly.

A third says they're no better and Obama is winning among those no better by 20 points, which means Romney is ultimately failing people who are ambivalent about Obama.

O'BRIEN: So, let's bring it back to Congressman Poe.

BROWNSTEIN: That was my question for him. Romney has spent so much time trying to convince people the last four years are a failure. Isn't the larger task for him in this debate to convince him that he would produce a better outcome over the next four years than the president?

O'BRIEN: Congressman? I'm not sure if you heard that with all of our infighting. He's like, are they done yet?

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'll translate for you, sir. You heard what he said, which is you have to move away from the economy's failing to -- this is what I'm going to do for you?

POE: Yes. He has to create in the debate an image that he can do a better job overall as leader of the United States. That is his challenge. It's a bigger issue than specifics. It's how he's -- the impression that he gives after that debate, what the American viewer thinks and whether it's going to be an upset, whether he upsets the person that's in charge who's supposed to win the debate.

Remember, it is a debate, which means it's confrontational. We'll see how good he does on casting himself as a better leader overall in leading the United States. He has to move to that direction in my opinion. And he will.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Ted Poe, nice to see you. Thank you for that.

You know, that was great insight, because we've been talking about these debates for a while. But I think what he said all of the above. You have to be great in the moment. You have to have some substance. You have to be able to be more presidential. You have to attack but not be too aggressive.

BROWNSTEIN: Other than that, relax.

O'BRIEN: Other than that, easy day. All right. All right. SOCARIDES: Don't look at your watch.

O'BRIEN: President Obama and Mitt Romney will face off as American voters have a chance to weigh their choice for the first presidential debate. It's going to be on Wednesday night. Watch it 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN or CNN.com.

John Berman's got a look at some of the other stories making news. He's in D.C., getting ready for Wednesday's debate coverage.

Good morning to you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

A suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan overnight kills 14 people. Three of the victims were NATO service members. The Taliban is claiming responsibility. Officials say the bomber targeted a joint patrol by NATO and Afghan security forces in Khost City using a motorcycle packed with explosives.

The attack comes amid a grim milestone, a day after two Americans died. There have now been 2,000 U.S. military members killed in Afghanistan.

On the final day of the U.N. General Assembly session, world leaders will hear from Syria's foreign minister. He is expected to deliver a vigorous defense of President Bashar al Assad's handling of the crisis that has now engulfed Syria for the past 18 months and, of course, has spiraled into a civil war.

The Supreme Court opened its new term this morning at 10:00. It is a big one. Some important cases the court may decide include affirmative action, same-sex marriage and voting rights.

Yesterday, six of the nine justices attended the red mass at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. That is held every year just before the start of the court's new session.

We expect an announcement today about the mystery surrounding Jimmy Hoffa's remains. Investigators are waiting for tests on mud and clay samples from a home in suburban Detroit. They searched under a shed there on Friday.

Now, you'll remember a tipster claims he saw what appeared to be a body being buried at that site the day after the former teamster's chief disappeared back in 1975.

The Super Bowl champion New York Giants are off to a shaky start. I'm happy about that. They lost their second game of the season to a division rival on a 54-yard field goal attempt came up short. The Eagles won, 19-17.

The Atlanta Falcons are perfect at 4-0. Matt Ryan booting a 40-yard field goal with just five seconds left, giving Atlanta a dramatic 30- 28 comeback win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. And Green Bay against New Orleans. Green Bay took a 28-27 fourth quarter lead when a blown call by the real refs almost cost Green Bay another game. The Saints clearly fumbled this late kickoff. But officials missed it. Green Bay had no challenges left.

So, the Saints kept the ball. They went on to try a potential game winning field goal. But they missed.

So the Packers got their second win of the season and avoided another embarrassing loss. For the refs, that would be.

Now, a collapse for the ages. The United States Ryder Cup team -- this was awful. The Europeans roared back from a 10-4 deficit late Saturday to stage a stunning 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 comeback win at Medinah yesterday. Germany's Martin Kaymer sunk that pressure filled five- foot putt on the final hole to seal the victory. Europe has now one seven out of the last nine Ryder Cups.

Aside from the abject shame of losing, Soledad, the worst part is we have to listen to Piers Morgan gloat about this for the next several days.

O'BRIEN: That was the most depressing sports round-up that I've ever heard from you, John. Starting with the Giants losing.

BROWNSTEIN: I have never seen John Berman as outraged about anything in all the years I've known him as this Ryder Cup collapse. It seems like he is deeply morally offended him. No one does sideline frustration like Tom Coughlin. How expressive is that.

CONWAY: E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles. Bragging rights in the Big Apple. I love it.

O'BRIEN: John, thanks.

This morning, Arnold Schwarzenegger -- did you see his interview last night on "60 Minutes"? Answering questions about his failed marriage, his affairs, the fact that he was performing same-sex marriages while he was in office while publicly he was actually speaking out against them. We're going to hear a little bit of that interview straight ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A new tell-all book called "Total Recall" has everybody talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger's history of lying, which includes, of course, the big one, his affair with his housekeeper. Schwarzenegger talked about it all with "60 Minutes" last night. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FMR. GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA/AUTHOR: I think it was the stupidest thing I've done in the whole relationship. LESLEY STAHL, HOST, "60 MINUTES" (voice-over): It was the secret he kept from his wife, Maria Shriver, and the public, for years.

SCHWARZENEGGER: It was terrible. I inflicted tremendous pain on Maria and unbelievable pain on the kids.

STAHL (voice-over): The most painful chapter from Arnold Schwarzenegger's new memoir, "Total Recall" -- the moment when he admitted to Shriver that he had fathered a child behind her back with the family's housekeeper, Mildred Baena.

SCHWARZENEGGER: She then said, hey, I think that Joseph is your kid. Am I off here on this or not? And I said, you're absolutely correct.

STAHL (voice-over): Shriver confronted her husband about the affair in a counseling session the day after he left office in 2011. Schwarzenegger admits she raised suspicions before but he hadn't been truthful.

(on camera): So you lied to her?

SCHWARZENEGGER: You can say that.

STAHL (voice-over): Baena remained the couple's housekeeper, working for the woman she had betrayed.

(on camera): Even after you realized it?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Mm-hmm.

STAHL: Was that strange?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Very difficult. Strange. I mean, bizarre. I mean, everything else, whatever you want to call it. But it's the best way I could handle it.

STAHL (voice-over): Schwarzenegger also writes of a quote, "hot affair with actress Brigitte Nielsen", his co-star in the 1985 "Red Sonja". He was already living with Shriver at the time.

(on camera): She knew?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes.

STAHL: So it's a recurring issue with you?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I'm not perfect.

STAHL (voice-over): Affairs weren't the only secrets. Schwarzenegger also admits he tried to hide open heart surgery from Shriver and says he didn't tell her about his run for governor until days before he announced it.

SCHWARZENEGGER: She started shaking and she had tears in her eyes. I realized that I was stepping into something that was much deeper than just me running and her being a supportive wife. STAHL (voice-over): She ultimately gave up her journalism career to campaign with her husband. Now, years later, his time in office over, Schwarzenegger says he'll always live with the regret of what he did to his family.

SCHWARZENEGGER: That is something I will always look back and say, how could you have done that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So we tried to get a response from Maria Shriver about the "60 Minutes" interview but her spokesman said there would be no comment.

And a couple of interesting points here. I spoke this morning to Christopher John Farley, he's the editor of the "Speakeasy" blog for "The Wall Street Journal". And a couple of things he said. One of them was that Arnold Schwarzenegger actually alludes to in his book of them getting back together again. What that means, who knows. But he says, in his mind, that he sees that the two of them will get back together again.

And then, when Maria found out about that child, it was during couples counseling. They were supposed to go to counseling in order to transition from him being a governor and them going back into private life. But the first question that she had that was asked was, "Is this your child? Because I believe this is your child."

BROWNSTEIN: It's as if she was waiting to ask that question.

O'BRIEN: Well, he even said the kid started to look like him as he got older and then it became clear.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, I actually think he accomplished a lot of good things as governor. But, really, the big question this book begs is why write the book? He's already a multimillionaire. He's as famous as he's going to be.

O'BRIEN: His launching his institute and he's moving into a new phase.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You got to answer the question. No, I disagree.

Here's what I think: you have to answer the question. The way to do it is do your one media tour of the book and the next time you're doing whatever it is you're relaunching, you say, I've already spoken about it. In fact, it's in my book.

SOCARIDES: The book was a much softer explanation of this, but that interview last night was devastating. Because at one point he basically says, "Yes, I've lied -- all this lying has worked for me all my life. I got everything I wanted. But then he says, it didn't work for the people around me.

O'BRIEN: Yes, no, because it took everybody -- collateral damage everywhere. He's going to be an actor. No one's going to care.

CONWAY: Exactly. Nobody cares if a movie star lies, perhaps as you say, but everybody expects a politician to lie and that's what he was. And so he played right into that stereotype. And I thought one of the most devastating things he said, eye-opening to me, was he told Maria Shriver three days before he announced for governor he was going to do that.

O'BRIEN: Can you imagine?

CONWAY: It's just sort of like, "By the way, honey, I'm going to run for governor."

BROWNSTEIN: The great Gary Cohn at the "L.A. Times" did that fabulous report on Schwarzenegger's behavior on sets. And she stood with him and was critical at that moment and --

CONWAY: Gave up her career, as well.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: That's the one voice that we don't hear, right? And I suspect that we never will hear.

CONWAY: And he knows that. He knows he's got the one-way megaphone on this with this book. She's not going to comment. She's too gracious.

O'BRIEN: It's too bad.

SOCARIDES: Never explain, never complain.

O'BRIEN: All right, still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Ann Romney revealing her one concern about her husband's ability to serve as president. Did she say too much? It's today's Tough Call.

Plus, which stocks are far and away the biggest winners and losers this year? Christine Romans will join us, tell us where to put our money. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans. In today's Smart is the New Rich, did you miss another great quarter for stocks? Retail investors have been pulling money out of stocks for months now. If you did, you missed a big move in the quarter. The Dow, The S&P 500, the NASDAQ all posted strong gains over the past three months. All three are up for the year. The NASDAQ, look at that, up nearly 18 percent so far this year.

Best sectors in the third quarter: energy, consumer discretionary - that's things like luxury goods, hotels, other non-essential goods and services. Financials did well, banks, information technology, telecom services. Some of that telecom rally is on the iPhone.

The biggest, most widely held stocks, look at these -- Apple up 11 percent. Exxon Mobil up 6 percent. GE up 11 percent in the quarter.

O'BRIEN: Yay.

ROMANS: There you go. Credit the Fed. Herculean Federal Reserve stimulus measures have money rushing into stocks, pushing interest rates to historic lows. Stock investors, anyone refinancing a mortgage or shopping for a car loan, you're having a great quarter -- had a great quarter. Savers, you did not. The national average interest rate for a one-year CD, 0.3 percent. Savings account, it's so little I'm not even going to read those numbers. They're so small.

O'BRIEN: Don't even bother.

ROMANS: So the savers are really getting creamed.

But what's next for stocks? That's what everyone wants to know.

SOCARIDES: How high can Apple go?

ROMANS: I don't know. Some were disappointed, actually. Thought they would have sold more of those iPhones. It's p 64 percent on the year, Apple, so it's had a really good run.

But what happens next for stock overall? We got to get through the election. And some -- there's a committee of stock pickers over at S&P who say just getting through the election could be good enough for stocks to go a little bit higher.

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

All right, our Tough Call this morning -- Ann Romney, was she a little bit off message? Listen to her response when CNN's Nevada affiliate, KTVN, asked her what her concerns were about her husband being president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: I have all the confidence in the world in his ability, in his decisiveness, in his leadership skills, in his understanding of the economy. My biggest concern, obviously, would just be for the -- his mental well-being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So how did you read that?

CONWAY: What she said after that was she used the word "emotional", which I think is what she meant the first time. She just meant, gosh, the barrage of criticism. That you don't just need the fire in your belly anymore, you need the fire in your throat.

O'BRIEN: It's challenging.

So many people are attacking that today. You know, the 47 percent thing I actually thought was not a misstatement. But I do think she just framed it wrong. She meant - (CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: I think this is -- she's getting a rough deal on this because she's clearly just saying -- what she means is this is a hard job. This is my guy. I'm worried about him.

BROWNSTEIN: And her job, as part of the hard job, is to help, you know, keep him --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Emotionally. I completely agree. I couldn't understand why people are running with the ball on that.

SOCARIDES: People run with the ball on everything.

O'BRIEN: That, too. I hate politics. We end as we began.

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: Well, also, everybody is so skeptically and cynically presumes the worst in everybody's parsed words. And I think that's problematic.

O'BRIEN: How can you take a spouse, right, campaigning in a grueling campaign and take anything off that?

CONWAY: Everybody can't have it both ways, Soledad. It's like, make the guy more human, show his emotions. She says, "I'm worried about his emotional well-being." What did you mean by that?

SOCARIDES: I think she comes across generally though as very authentic. You know, I've said this before. I think she's very likable. But this is not really kind of the way you'd want to say this.

O'BRIEN: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: It's actually probably like Obama, very even-keeled.

ROMANS: It's that question when you're in a job interview, "What's your biggest weakness?" And you're like forced -- she's forced in a TV interview to say what is she worried about. She's got to come up with something. That's what she comes up with.

O'BRIEN: All right, well, still ahead on STARTING POINT, both campaigns are trying to win friends and lower expectations in the days leading up to the first presidential debate. We'll talk to California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff about that. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Let's open the channel to chats during commercial break. I like that. That's a sign of a good show. Let's get started this morning John Berman, who's live in Washington, D.C. he's getting ready for Wednesday's debate coverage. He's got a look at the day's top stories for us, though, this morning.

BERMAN: I feel so left out of the conversation out there. You have to fill me in on what I'm missing.

A search is under way this morning for a brother and sister in Unionville, Tennessee. The nine-year-old girl and seven-year-old brother were presumed killed in a house fire that took the lives of their grandparents last week but their bodies have not been recovered. A statewide amber alert has been issued for them.

A decade after the D.C. sniper shooting spree, a show of remorse from prison this morning. Lee Boyd Malvo is now 27. In a phone interview he told "The Washington Post" he remembers each of the 13 people he and John Allen Mohammed shot in 2002. Ten of them died. During the interview Malvo described one moment he says he will never forget.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE BOYD MALVO, CONVICTED SNIPER: It is the worst sort of pain I have ever seen in my life, his eyes. It's the worst words -- do not possess the depth in which to fully convey that emotion. And what I felt when I saw it. You see, like, the worst piece of scum on the planet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Mohammed was executed in 2009 for the crimes. Malvo is serving a life sentence without parole.

According to a study conducted by Pennsylvania, the law's photo I.D. requirement could exclude more than 750,000 people from voting. Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a judge to assess whether all eligible voters would be able to obtain the allowable forms of I.D.

Guess who would vote for president Obama if he was able to cast a ballot in November -- Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. He called President Obama, quote a good guy. Chavez says he would like to transition to normal relations with the U.S. he is up for re-election next Sunday. Soledad, not exactly a coveted endorsement there. The Hugo Chavez primary now won by president Obama.

O'BRIEN: John, thank you.

This morning both presidential candidates are preparing for the first of three debates with their campaigns. The debate, of course, happening on Wednesday, the first one. Each debate has a topic. Wednesday's topic is the economy and domestic policy. Mitt Romney also looking ahead, though, to the final debate which will focus on foreign policy.

There's word this morning that he's going to give a major foreign policy speech soon after that first debate. Representative Adam Schiff is a Democrat from California. He's also a member of the appropriations committee and a senior member of the intelligence committee. Nice to have you, sir. Thank you for being with us this morning. I want to start --

REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA: Thank you. Great to be with you.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate that. I want to start by focusing you on Mitt Romney's op-ed which focuses on Libya. He writes this. The Arab spring presented an opportunity to help move millions of people from oppression to freedom. But it also presented grave risks. We needed a strategy for success, but the president offered none. Now he seeks to downplay the significance of the calamities of the past few weeks. How devastating do you think is, considering all the focus that has been on Libya over the last week, how devastating do you think this is for the president?

SCHIFF: Well, I don't think it's devastating for the president. It's certainly devastating to all of us to lose an ambassador. That's a real injury to the country. That's not a political issue. I think the president has established real credibility and strength on national security. Americans trust this president for good reason. He's demonstrated he'll go to any ends to bring to justice those responsible for killing Americans. He's a determined leader respected around the world.

We have a tendency I think sometimes to think that we can control all events around the globe. We wish that were the case. It's not. The president has said all along in terms of the Arab spring that they were going to be, you know, serious challenges ahead in the near term and mid-term. But I share the conviction that I think in the long term this is a positive change that we're seeing these countries take responsibility and want to have their own representative democracy.

O'BRIEN: I believe his political point in his op-ed, though, was less about we can't control what happened and more about in the week plus after Benghazi, it was still very unclear exactly what happened. And as far as I can tell, it's taken a long time for people to be forthcoming about whether it was a terror attack and exactly the kind of specific security that the ambassador had.

I mean, you know who's got a great timeline from September 27th is "The Washington Post." fantastic. They really, you know, September 11th it happens. By September 16th secretary rice's spokeswoman is still -- when she's asked, you don't regard it as an act of terrorism, she's saying I don't think we know enough. I don't think we know enough. We know now they did know enough, that within 24 hours there were notifications, that in fact this was terror. Why has it taken so long?

SCHIFF: Well, it is frustrating because we want to get to the bottom of it right away. In all of the intelligence briefings I have attended, intelligence officials were very careful to caution us that this was the best initial assessment. That they were still going to have to wait for a lot more information. And, you know, in our rush to get information, you know, we tend to discount those disclaimers. But the reality is, we are still gathering information. It's a difficult region. The main concern I have, frankly, is that we still may not have good access of our FBI agents and other investigators to the site.

But I don't think when you say there's been a long delay in being forthcoming, I don't think there's been a delay in being forthcoming. I think the administration has shared information the best that they had at the time. We continue to try to learn just what parts of this were spontaneous and what parts of this was preplanned. Was this a situation where Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda affiliated organizations and militias in Libya were looking for the right opportunity and took it when it presented itself, or were the demonstrations themselves part of the planning? So we're still trying to get the answers to those questions. But, again, I think our ambassador, the intelligence community and others have been very careful to caution, look, we want to give you the information as we get it. But you have to know this could change because our information is still coming in.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, what I don't understand about this story is there seems to be a suggestion in some of the discussion that there was somehow an ulterior motive on behalf of the administration to delay reporting on this. I don't understand, like, what would they possibly have to gain.

O'BRIEN: That's an interesting --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The accusation is there were threats of terrorism and they were insufficiently vigilant in responding to them. There would certainly be a motivation for downplaying the role of terrorism.

O'BRIEN: I point everybody to "The Washington Post" on September 2 27th. There's clearly a reluctance to use the "t" word of terror. A lot of whatever the opposite of reluctance, enthusiasm, to talk a little bit about this videotape, this anti-Islam movie. I mean, that really --

SCHIFF: I think the real question -- the real question is not so much do we describe this as an act of terror. From my point of view, shooting mortars at an embassy is an act of terror in and of itself. The question is, how much planning, how spontaneous? Did we have information that indicated we should have done more? Those are very legitimate questions which, you know, not only the intelligence communities, but the panel set up with Ambassador Pickering will get to the bottom of. I think the most important point is how much planning went into this. Whether we call it terrorism, it seems to me pretty self-apparent the minute you're shooting mortars at an embassy, that's an act of terror.

O'BRIEN: Representative Adam Schiff is a democrat from California. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for your time.

SCHIFF: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: A reminder you can watch complete coverage of the first presidential debate right here on CNN and CNN.com. It starts at 7:00 p.m. eastern on Wednesday. Of course, we'll have the complete debate post-game. I like the way we call it a postgame on "starting point" on Thursday morning.

Coming up next, Paul Ryan, was he dodging the question? We'll tell you why the Republican VP nominee refused to try to do the math to explain Mitt Romney's tax plan.

And also, what brought together a half dozen Hollywood stars including Meg Ryan and America Ferrera and Olivia Wilde? The movement behind the new documentary "Half the Sky." We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: If you're digging around for details in the Romney/Ryan tax plan you might need a bigger shovel. When pressed in an interview on FOX News the VP nominee says he doesn't have time to explain the numbers. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's been a traditional Democrat and Republican consensus that lowering the tax base by broadening the tax base works and you can.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You haven't given me the math.

RYAN: No, no let me just tell you. Well, I don't have the -- it would take me too long to go through all of the math.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, the Tax Policy Center in Washington has concluded that one of the reasons it might take too long to go through the math is because it's mathematically impossible as they conclude for the Romney/Ryan tax plan to work without adding a tax burden on the middle class or bloating the deficit.

You know I think any time you're saying on the air, by the way, the Chris Wallace's interview with him I thought was just a really excellent interview. But any time you're talking about a tax plan and you say "I don't have time to do the math for you"?

BROWNSTEIN: You know the Tax Policy Center case is very specific and empirical. It says that the cost of cutting tax rates 20 percent for the people at the top exceeds the value of withdrawing every deduction that they are now available for except for the reduced rates for capital gains which he says he doesn't want to touch.

So the response for that from the Romney campaign is largely the same. Well, growth would change the dynamic -- that kind of dynamic scoring that you know has been a debate in Washington for 30 years. That's where Ryan did not want to go.

CONWAY: I think what Paul Ryan was saying --

(CROSSTALK) SOCARIDES: It's like what Bill Clinton said during the convention speech, Bill Clinton you know had that great line about arithmetic.

CONWAY: Right, right.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

SOCARIDES: That was it. Where's the arithmetic. Where is the math? I'll bet you they'll have today -- where is the math?

CONWAY: But hold on. All he's really saying is you can't put it in a sound bite. And --

O'BRIEN: No. That's not what he's saying.

SOCARIDES: No.

CONWAY: But he should have said, he should have said here's the quick math. And if you want to know more, here's the Web site.

O'BRIEN: But there's no quick math. That's the point, that's Ron's point. There is no quick math.

BROWNSTEIN: Unless you're saying their math doesn't add up for that -- the Republican argument largely is about growth. And it's about extending down the deductions that you would -- that you would eliminate in terms of down the income ladder. But there is no -- the Tax Policy Center is very clear, very specific, that there are not enough deductions to offset the cost. And we have not seen that specific argument rebutted.

O'BRIEN: And that's because it's not just I don't have time to give you the math. It's a debate that's going to be really --

(CROSSTALK)

CONWAY: And they should talk about math, Soledad. They should talk about the employment rate, the deficit spiraling. All these things people understand and voted against in 2010.

O'BRIEN: Kellyanne, we're not doing Republican talking points. We're talking about this one specific thing on the taxes. And I think that that particular narrow focus is going to be problematic if they cannot articulate an answer to it. Because when people hear taxes they say "I need details because I pay taxes. And I want to know exactly what's going to happen if you're elected."

I speak for America -- no. But I certainly speak for myself and paying taxes. And that's what I want to know.

SOCARIDES: Speaking only for Soledad O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: All right, speaking only sadly for myself. We move on. Ahead on STARTING POINT, they are the kind of experiences in fact you'd assume that nobody could survive. Young women sold into sexual slavery. Those women though are fighting back. I'm going to share the emotional stories behind the new documentary "Half the Sky".

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone.

A couple of stories you cannot miss this morning. We're going a little bit high brow on you right now.

Assault charges have been dropped against the man accused of choking Lindsay Lohan over cell phone pictures. The actress told police she and a congressional aide fought in a New York hotel room after she took away his phone. Both have filed harassing claims against each other. That's a strange one.

This, a gross one. For Justin Bieber the show must go on. He threw up twice during the kickoff of his national tour. But the Biebs just kept on performing. You can't hold him back afterward he tweeted a line from the movie "Anchor Man". He said, "Milk was a bad choice." Yes it's a nice picture for this morning thank you.

Soledad back to you.

O'BRIEN: The video, stop with the pictures.

BERMAN: Stop it now.

O'BRIEN: Stop. Morning time, breakfast time. All right, John, thank you.

A popular bestseller is now a powerful documentary. It's in its 25th printing. "Half the Sky" explores some unimaginable horrors and challenges facing women around the world. It's been now turned into a two-part documentary which features celebrities meeting with survivors and also those who are trying to help.

For example, here's Olivia Wilde in Kenya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLIVIA WILDE, ACTRESS: I thought, that's really what I want to do. I want to go and see things for myself.

NICHOLAS KRISTOF, AUTHOR: You've had the traffickers hold a gun to your head.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Joining us this morning, authors of the book -- Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The documentary airs tonight on PBS and tomorrow night as well. It's nice to have you but the book is amazing. I know that Richard had a chance to see the documentary.

KRISTOF: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: And he's been raving about it for the last several days.

KRISTOF: It's so exciting to see this finally come to pass after all these years. Sensational.

O'BRIEN: So when you're writing the book you talked about individual women's stories. And sort of the horrors that they had to overcome. And sort of what input really helped them. "Half the Sky" we should mention comes from women holding up half the sky.

KRISTOF: A Chinese saying. That's right.

O'BRIEN: Exactly. So tell me a little bit about what you loved about your research in the book that made you think this needs to be a documentary.

SHERYL WUDUNN, CO-AUTHOR, "HALF THE SKY": Well, It really started many, many years ago when we were in China. And we had found out that there were some problems in the countryside with women. We had covered Tiananmen Square, we saw students killed on campus which was a horrible thing.

But the next year when we went to the countryside we started discovering that there were 30 million missing female girls, female babies, from the Chinese population which was a stunning number.

O'BRIEN: 30 million.

WUDUNN: 30 million. Partly through infanticide, probably because a lot of the Chinese mothers abort female fetuses when they discover that it's a female. But still that was a huge number. We did a lot of reporting on that. We thought that it was just China. And so this is China -- a very big, complicated country.

We moved to Japan. And we started discovering a lot of discrimination against women there as well in Japan and Korea. Nick went down to Cambodia and discovered sex trafficking. We thought this was just Asia. And so then --

O'BRIEN: You realize it's the globe. It's the globe.

WUDUNN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: So what made you focus on these women's stories? In the book what was the story that was the most moving to you?

KRISTOF: I think what we found is that there's so many problems. There's no silver bullet. But maybe the best leverage you have to address all these problems is to educate girls, bring those educated women into the formal labor force. There were so many heroic women around the world who we saw.

And we wanted to be able -- what we have essentially is a little spotlight. We want to be able to spotlight those. There's so many Americans who would like to engage in this issue but they're worried about corruption. They're worried about ineffectiveness. If we can connect those well-meaning Americans with all these extraordinary, heroic people out there, that's an incredible service.

BROWNSTEIN: It was incredible journalism. I think your column has reinvented the forum. I mean it's just been an incredible, path- breaking, genre-shattering kind of way.

But let me ask you, when you look at these societies, what differentiates the societies where opportunity has expanded for women and where these issues are being dealt with from those that don't?

WUDUNN: It's exactly what Nick was saying earlier. It's education. Then also giving opportunity to women on the job front. Jobs and education -- what we care about here.

KRISTOF: Education. Educating girls is incredibly powerful.

BROWNSTEIN: What causes society to choose to do that as opposed to those who don't.

WUDUNN: They have to recognize that it's important. Look at what happened to China. When they started, they realized that education, of course, they had the Confucian background so they knew that education was very important.

But they said that everybody could get educated including the girls. And then they said everybody can go into the work force including women.

O'BRIEN: What was stunning to me was the small amount of help that can change someone's life story.

KRISTOF: Just buying a school uniform for a girl that costs about $15. It will dramatically increase the chance that she is going to stay in school for the next few years which reduces the chance she's going to get HIV which will give her more capacity to generate income, support her family --

O'BRIEN: Less likely to have children early which mean she can -- I mean all of those things.

CONWAY: Since you started this how much is social media helping? Are they getting their stories out in a more powerful --

WUDUNN: Well, you can't get as much of a full story out as you can in a documentary.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISTOF: Absolutely.

CONWAY: Start the conversation.

WUDUNN: Exactly. KRISTOF: Absolutely. You can start with Twitter and Facebook, people have been incredibly supportive spreading the word about the documentary.

O'BRIEN: It airs tonight --

KRISTOF: Tonight and tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: -- and tomorrow on PBS. It's called "Half the Sky". Sheryl WuDunn and Nick Kristof, nice to have you with us. We certainly appreciate it.

KRISTOF: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Got to take a short break. "End Point" is up next, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: It's time for "End Point". Kelly Anne is our newbie. You get to take the whole 30 seconds. What have you got?

CONWAY: Wow. I'll give the guys some rebuttal. I was very happy to hear my colleagues talk about math being a more important subject than biology or chemistry because we constantly hear you have to be likable and connect with women. I think this race will come down to a couple of million women in some swing states, probably fewer than that now, who are conflicted between how they feel and what they know.

How they feel is that they like President Obama. They think he's tried hard. He's done a good job. Maybe four years isn't enough per Bill Clinton. What they know is that things have not gotten better for them personally. Many of them believe the number show that.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: That is exactly right.

CONWAY: And I think it's going to come down to the ads.

O'BRIEN: And that is exactly what Wednesday night will be all about. Kelly Anne, nicely put.

Tomorrow on STARTING POINT we take a look at -- who are we talking to? Len Berman is going to join us. We'll talk to him. And actor Carrie Ellis is going to celebrating the 25th anniversary of "The Princess Bride". I suddenly feel old.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

We'll see you back here tomorrow morning.