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DOMA on Trial; Petraeus Breaks Silence; Secret Service Makes History

Aired March 27, 2013 - 08:00   ET



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

Our STARTING POINT this morning: The Supreme Court taking up the Defense of Marriage Act. Justices are hours away now from hearing a case that could redefine marriage in America, just one day after they took up same-sex marriage in California.


JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: When did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage?


O'BRIEN: So are there any signs so far in how they will rule? We'll take a look at that this morning.

Then, David Petraeus is speaking out. We have the former CIA chief's first public words since the extramarital affair that cost his him job.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A woman takes over the Secret Service for the first time in the 104-year history. But can she turn around the culture and public image?

And the rescuer becomes the rescued. A dramatic highway crash caught on camera. Find out what happened in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Also later this hour, we'll meet Julia Stiles, the actress. She has a new movie out called "It's a Disaster." And it's comedy.

It's Wednesday, March 27. And STARTING POINT begins right now.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

Our team this morning: Roland Martin is with us. He's a contributor for CNN.

Chris Frates joins. He's a reporter for "National Journal".

Joe Solmonese is a former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, now the managing of Gavin/Solmonese.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is that historic supreme showdown over same sex marriage that's unfolding this morning in the Supreme Court, the justices are taking up DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and they're hearing arguments for and against its appeal. Now, DOMA denies same-sex couples access to federal benefits under it's definition of a marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

New CNN/ORC poll to share with you this morning, and it shows a majority of Americans, 56 percent believe the federal government should recognize same-sex marriages in states where it's legal. Crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns is outside the Supreme Court for us this morning.

Hey, Joe.


The federal Defense of Marriage Act has been in placed since 1996. It denies federal benefits to same-sex couples in nine states where same- sex marriage is legal. The question is whether that violates equal protection. This comes one day after the Supreme Court took up the controversial issue of California's Proposition 8.


JOHNS (voice-over): Same-sex marriage week at the Supreme Court day one. Culture war on the docket.

CHARLES COOPER, ATTORNEY: The place for the decision to be made regarding redefining marriage is with the people, not with the courts.

JOHNS: Charles Cooper, the lawyer in favor of California's Proposition 8, argued that traditional marriage must be preserved for straight couples because it's all about procreation.

But Justice Elena Kagan picked apart the premise, asking whether a state could deny a marriage to people over 55.

ELENA KAGAN, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: If you are over the age of 55, you don't help us serve the government's interest in regulating pro creation through marriage. So why is that different?

COOPER: Your Honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couple, both parties, to the couple are infertile and the traditional --

KAGAN: I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.

JOHNS: Justice Antonin Scalia repeatedly tried to pin down attorney Ted Olson on when gays and lesbians first got the right to marry.

SCALIA: I'm curious, when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage?

THEODORE OLSON, FORMER U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: May I answer this in the form of a rhetorical question? When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit interracial marriages?

JOHNS: The question even got raised as to whether same-sex marriage has been around long enough to understand its social impact.

Justice Anthony Kennedy questioned whether the court should have taken up the case at all. But he also seemed worried about almost 40,000 children of same-sex marriages in California.

ANTHONY KENNEDY, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: They want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case.


JOHNS: And Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen by many as very important here because he could be the swing vote in the event this is a close case. The court is not expected to decide these cases until some time in June -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Joe Johns for us this morning -- thank you, Joe.

New this morning: David Petraeus back in the public spotlight, apologizing for the affair that brought down his career. The disgraced former director of the CIA delivered a speech last night at the University of Southern California and said he hoped to move forward after, quote, "slipping my moorings."

Here's what he said.


DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret and apologize for the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends, and supporters.


O'BRIEN: The retired general has reportedly hired an agent, and shopping for a book deal. None of that is surprising.

I want to get right to Lee Reynolds. He attended the event last night where General Petraeus spoke. He's an Army reserve officer who served under General Petraeus in Iraq. He's currently an assistant professor of military science for the USC Army ROTC program.

It's nice to have you with us. Certainly appreciate it.

Are you surprised he started off his remarks last night with really, you know, a straight forward apology that was to those listening, but, of course, to a broader audience as well? LEE REYNOLDS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, USC ARMY ROTC PROGRAM: No, I wasn't surprised at all. I think, you know, he had to address the elephant in the room. We had all kinds of media that were there. And this is his first public appearance since he left the CIA.

So I think it made sense. I think it was appropriate. It was the right thing to do, and I was really inspired by his comments. You know, he took complete credit or, you know, blame for --

O'BRIEN: Blame, I guess, really, right?

REYNOLDS: Yes. He took blame for the incident and, you know, he -- said how much he regrets it and it was a personal affair. He needed to make things good with the family, but now, it's time to move on, and I thought also his comments saying that, you know, people are looking at him now a year later, in a different light.

But, you know, General Petraeus has so many great things he has done in his career. I think the man needs to be looked at, you for his whole body of work, not just for this one incident. But for all the great things that he's done for his country. He served our country in many capacities, you know, his whole adult life.

And that's how he needs to be assessed. You know, his whole body of work.

O'BRIEN: So hang on for one second for me, Lee. Let me turn to the panel for a moment.

You know, it's interesting what Lee said, sort of one year out. Now, people can sort of say, now let's -- with a broader lens, take a look at the man himself and not necessarily what everybody is sort of looking at him through the lens of this scandal that embroiled the CIA and came completely messy.

Do you guys agree with that?

CHRIS FRATES, NATIONAL JOURNAL: I think that's right. I think what we'll see with the book deal, he's shopping around Washington, trying to tell the broader story, trying to put his career in perspective and create a narrative that does talk about Petraeus the general, Petraeus the CIA director, and Petraeus the man who made a mistake.

Certainly, this will be something that folks remember him for. But I think he's trying to move on.

O'BRIEN: So, Lee, back to you if I can. I know you guys -- you attended the speech he gave -- or a dinner I guess he was attending the night before, and you had an opportunity to talk to him, because you know him personally. What did you talk about? Did he give you insight into his future?

REYNOLDS: Yes, he sponsored -- he really hosted a dinner for all of the ROTC staff at University of Southern California. And his focus, he really opened it up to us, if we had questions for him. You know, as part of the military profession, he knows he's had some great experiences and he wants us to -- really gave us the floor to ask questions.

But the focus really was on the military profession, on moving forward and some questions looking back at the war their rack and about his work with counterinsurgency and how he led the American forces through the surge. That was really the focus of our discussions.

O'BRIEN: Lee Reynolds is an assistant professor of military science for the USC Army ROTC program. Thanks for talking with us. It will be very interested to see what the kind of the next chapter of his life brings. It will be fascinating. Thank you, appreciate it.

REYNOLDS: Great. Well, thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Christine has got a look at other stories making news for us.

ROMANS: Good morning again, you guys.

New this morning, tensions escalating on the Korean peninsula. North Korea now claiming it has cut off an important hotline to the South. That's significant, because this allows South Koreans to cross to work at a jointly industrial complex in the North. Another hotline dealing with the Red Cross was cut off earlier this month.

CNN's Matthew Chance is following all of this for you. We'll bring it to you, and why this is so important, and what prompted this when he is available.

A desperate search is underway in Tennessee right now for a 16-month- old boy. Police issuing an AMBER alert for Landon Cole Barnes (ph) and his 26-year-old mother, Katie Lynn Barnes (ph). The boy was last seen at his grandfather's house yesterday afternoon. Police say the mother, who does not have custody is bipolar. She is not taking her medication.

Hours after the abduction, the mother texted her father saying she did not want to live.

Reports of another possible sinkhole in the same Florida neighborhood where a man was swallowed up and killed in his own bedroom. Two families who lived in this duplex in Seffner, Florida, evacuated yesterday after they discovered cracks in their floors and walls. Fire rescue and code enforcement officials came by to check the home. It's still not clear if the problems are caused by a sinkhole beneath the house.

A fire captain from Dayton, Ohio, in serious condition after attempting to rescue a driver a vehicle. Look what happens when another car comes crashing into them.


ROMANS: Captain Barry Crone (ph) was thrown 25 feet through the air. Fellow firefighters were able to carry him to safety, got him to a local hospital. We're told the 20-year veteran firefighter's injuries are not life-threatening. But certainly, that is the worst fear of first responders on those icy conditions, when you have cars along the side of the road.

It is spring, but you still need your jackets and scarves, even in Florida. A freeze warning has been issued for northern parts of the state, as temperatures drop to the upper 30s and mid 40s around Tampa Bay. The record low is 39, set back in 1894. A warm-up will begin by Friday with highs expected in the 70s.

All right. Twenty-seven down, six to go. There is some heat in Florida, and it's the Heat. LeBron James and the Heat continuing their historic run night, taking it to Chicago, they're for their 28th straight win against the struggling Bulls. If they get it, they'll just be five victories short of the all-time win record of 33 wins in a row set by the Los Angeles Lakers back in 1971. It's been 53 days since the Heat last lost a basketball game.

Looking at the rooster, the Knicks are on there. Bulls tonight, we'll have to see. A few more games to go.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Also, Dwyane Wade, every points he scores tonight in Chicago, he's going to give books to kids. So, hopefully, it's a huge night tonight. So, he's doing a great thing for education there as well. So --

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're rooting for him.

ROMANS: We like Dwayne Wade.

O'BRIEN: Yes, we do. Yes, we do. And I am telling you, I predicted the whole Heat thing, way back in the day.

MARTIN: You got five NBA teams.

O'BRIEN: No, I don't. Just the Heat and the Knicks, because I'm a New York girl.

MARTIN: Look at you, look at you.

O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT -- moving on -- for the first time in its 148-year history, a woman in charge of the Secret Service. Coming up next, we'll talk with a former Secret Service agent who works with the newly appointed head Julia Pearson. And Punxsutawney Phil is under fire.

We'll tell you about this story since last week when an Ohio prosecutor filed a lawsuit this morning Phil and his handler, Bill, Phil and Bill, I'm not making this up, will join us, because the whole thing has become a legal nightmare from their perspective.


O'BRIEN: That's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: For the first time this morning and the first time in a 148- year history, the secret service has a woman who's at the helm. Her name is Julia Pierson. She's a 30-year veteran of the service, and she was appointed yesterday by the president and takes over an agency that's recovering from a prostitution scandal.

And it raises some questions about the agency's male-dominated culture. President Obama said this. "Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency."

This morning, we're joined by former secret service agent, Dan Bongino. He has served three years under three administration, worked with Julia Pierson at the White House. It's nice to see you again. Always great to talk to you. So, I know that there's not a large percentage of women who are at the agency. Give me a sense of what Julia Pierson, who you know, will bring to this environment?

DAN BONGINO, FMR. SECRET SERVICE AGENT: Well, I think she's touched every operational outfit we have in the secret service. She's more than qualified, has a fantastic resume. You know, Soledad, the secret service is a very unique job. And I hate that word, unique. It's the most overused word in the English language, but in this case, it's perfectly appropriate.

There's nothing like us. We -- there's no other operational security element anywhere in the world that uses the kind of assets the secret service does. She's seen all of that. She's lived through it. She knows what it's like to stand out there on those long hours on the road, to miss birthdays and holidays, and really understood, you know, the trials and tribulations to the average rank and file agent. I think she'll be terrific.

O'BRIEN: So, there is a sense that -- and you and I have talked about this a lot over the past year that the agency might need a fix of the culture. Is that something that can be done from the top down? And, is it something that a woman can specifically do?

BONGINO: Well, you know, there's always a political component to these appointments of course. I don't want to take away from her accomplishments. I think she was a great pick, a great selection, but I've always disputed this male-dominated culture. You know, you and I have spoken about this topic probably four or five times on this show.

It's just not the case. I mean, the men in the secret service kind of laugh at this. They kind of -- they find it almost hysterical. My shift, when I worked for President Obama, my operational shift was over a quarter women. They weren't looked at as women agents. They were just looked at as agents.

O'BRIEN: I thought there was just 10 percent of the agency is female. Am I wrong on those stats? That's the stats that I have.

BONGINO: Right. I'm talking about my shift, not the entire agency at large. My shift when I worked -- I was on shift D, and I don't want to give away the specific numbers on my shift for operational reasons, but it was over a quarter women. And like I said, what we kind of found it funny. I mean, there were some shifts I worked on that only had one or two women.

The shift I was on at that particular time, though, was populated, a quarter by women, and the men find it kind of funny this illusionary masculine culture. It's just not true.

O'BRIEN: Well, how about the culture -- and again, you and I talked about this, right? The whole prosecution scandal was questioned around. Do you have the sense of guys being guys, going on these trips, et cetera, et cetera, that a woman being in charge will change? Am I reading too much into her appointment?

BONGINO: I think so. You know, obviously, we can, you know, put people in these boxes and the appointment, you know, black, white, male, female, but she was a good agent. Will she change things? I think so. You have to remember, she went up through the ranks and has that esprit de corps that I think only really the secret service has because we do a very unique job.

You know, other agencies are very proud, I'm sure, but I think the secret service has more than anything. They took a real black eye on this, Soledad. Now, she lived through that. You know, she knows the pain I experienced. It was the first time in my life when I told people I was a former secret service agent. There was a snicker.

That was devastating. That was very devastating to her as well. And that's why I think an inside pick, contrary to some of the other pundits who said we needed an outsider, it was the best selection. She knows what that's like and she's not going to let that happen again.

O'BRIEN: Dan Bongino, nice to have you with us. Appreciate it.

BONGINO: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Prince Harry is planning another trip to the United States. Don't expect naked party antiques.



O'BRIEN: No. Not like the last time he was here. it could be a little "Jersey Shore," though, in his future. We'll explain. Straight ahead.



ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, "Minding Your Business" this morning. Stock futures pointing to losses at the open. The Dow, of course, posts a triple digit gain yesterday, but it's 70 points to the pre- market. We'll see if the S&P 500 can get those just two points it needs to hit a record closing high today.

There's an old saying on Wall Street, sell in May and go away, but each of the past three years, stocks have dropped between 10 and 20 percent in April. Jeff Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial has ten indicators that he looks at to determine the health of the market. He tells us only two are waving red flags right now.

So, proceed with caution. It's nearly impossible to tell when this rally will end, but there's a growing number of bearers out there predicting a drop may be some time soon. Sell in May and go away, one of those time honor (ph) traditions on Wall Street.

O'BRIEN: Sell in May and go away on vacation because you just made a ton on money --


ROMANS: And then come back and go.

O'BRIEN: Trending this morning, Grammy-award winner, Dionne Warwick, is falling on some hard times despite selling millions of records over her 50-year career. The 72-year-old performer is filing for bankruptcy. It happened in New Jersey last week. She says her financial troubles to be blamed on bad management in the 1980s and 1990s that left her owing $10 million in tax penalties to the IRS and to the state of California.

And New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, promising to keep a close eye on Prince Harry. Someone needs to do it, might as well be the governor. The prince, as you know, has a little bit of a reputation from past visits to the U.S., including those naked pictures of him at the hotel in Vegas. The governor says there won't be any shenanigans when the prince tours the Jersey Shore towns that were devastated by hurricane Sandy in May.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I'm thrilled that he's willing to come. He wants to come and see the destruction himself, first hand, and he wants to be helpful. And I'm going to be spending the entire day with Prince Harry. And so believe me, nobody is going to get naked if I'm spending the entire day with him.



O'BRIEN: Prince is also going to make stops in Colorado, in Washington, D.C., New York, and in Connecticut during his trip. It's interesting to hear Chris Christie, he's always like -- really --

MARTIN, HOST: Such a tough guy. O'BRIEN: Such a tough guy and delivers a great line. I mean, you know, charming his voters every step of the way and doing --


MARTIN: -- and re-elected. That's the goal.

O'BRIEN: Not everybody has that. Every politician wants to be re- elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be no pictures of Prince Harry and Snooki anywhere in the entire --

O'BRIEN: You know he's going to do that, too, even though he didn't say it.

MARTIN: She might --


O'BRIEN: So, ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, more on the arrests in the horrific shooting death of a 13-month-old baby. We'll tell you now why the suspect's mother and aunt are now in custody.

Plus, a bipartisan group of senators are heading to the U.S./Mexico border. We'll tell you what they're hoping to accomplish there.

And then, Phil has some explaining to do. We're talking about Punxsutawney Phil and his handlers, Phil's forecast failed. Legal attacks, now, they're facing them and they're piling up. We'll talk about that right after the break.


O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. Just a few minutes, Punxsutawney Phil is going to join us live to answer for his labored (ph) early spring prediction.


O'BRIEN: He can't really speak, though, so I don't know how he'll actually literally answer.


O'BRIEN: Then, the actress, Julia Stiles, she joins us. She's got a new movie out. It's called "It's A Disaster," and it's about a disaster, a pending (ph) in disaster, but it's a comedy and it's very funny. First, though, Christine has got a look at some of today's news stories. Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning to both you -- all of you, rather.


ROMANS: You and Punxsutawney Phil. A defense lawyer is claiming it was Jodi Arias and not her murdered ex-boyfriend who was the victim in their volatile romance. Psychotherapist, Alyce LaViolette took the stand yesterday to discuss various forms of abuse and isolation in relationships. Here's some of what she told the court.


ALYCE LAVIOLETTE, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Isolation doesn't have to be as obvious as you never get to see anybody that you care about. Isolation can be that you're not talking to anybody about what's going on in your life. And that's common in domestically violent relationships, because they want people to like their partner.