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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Margaret Thatcher Dies; Red Meat and Heart Disease; Gun Control Battle on the Hill; Gun Control Battle on the Hill; Anthony Bourdain: "Parts Unknown"

Aired April 8, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. We're following breaking news this -- this morning. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is dead. Thatcher was England's first and only female prime minister. She was called as, you know, the Iron Lady for her personal and political toughness. Only British prime minister of the 20th Century to win three consecutive terms.

Our Max Foster joins us from London. And we're just getting a statement, and Max, from David Cameron's office, the prime minister now, and saying it -- it is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Lady Thatcher. We've lost a great leader, a great prime minister and a great Briton.

MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Yes. He was part of the Conservative Party as was she. And a towering figure she was in British politics. And no one really has really lift up to that level of leadership. She was decisive certainly. Lots of people criticizing her for the ruthless way she carried out her policies, but there are also people around the world who will say that those policies had a long-term beneficial impact.

She was particularly into the European Union, for example, and we're seeing how the European Eurozone is breaking down right now. People in Argentina won't be a supporter because she beat them in a war over the Falklands and that issue has flared up again recently. Of course Argentina wants the Falklands back and this will play into that debate again. It just really shows about what a towering figure she was in international policy.

In terms of this part of the world, she threw her support between -- behind Mikhail Gorbachev who broke down the Soviet Union. Without Thatcher support, would he have been able to do that at the time he did it? It's pretty doubtful. So she is described as a great leader, but not necessarily liked.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: No, not all. All right. Max Foster, thank you so much for being with us.

Again, as Christine just said, a statement from the prime minister's office right now saying, "It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of Lady Thatcher today." This from Prime Minister David Cameron. "We've lost a great leader, a great prime minister, and a great Briton."

Our Sandra Endo takes a look back at the life of Margaret Thatcher.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): She was a grocer's daughter who became the first female prime minister of Great Britain. Margaret Thatcher was called the Iron Lady for her personal and political strength. The tarry leader swept into office in 1979 with the promise of transforming the British economy which was suffering from strikes and inflation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided there was no alternative to tough medicine, it was going to have to be sustained for some time. And it was accepted because there was no alternative.

ENDO: She cut taxes, privatized state industries, and deregulated financial markets. Opponents accused the prime minister of widening the gap between the rich and poor. Thatcher also restored Britain's clout in world affairs and built a special bond with her American counterpart and political soul mate, Ronald Reagan.

The leaders had their disagreement but shared similar conservative world views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was closer ideologically and warmer personally than any relationship between any other British prime minister and any other American president.

ENDO: Thatcher convinced Reagan that Mikhail Gorbachev was a Soviet leader they could do business with.

MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: He was willing to admit that some things were wrong in the Soviet Union, which was very unusual.

ENDO: And Reagan backed the prime minister in Britain's 1982 Falklands war with Argentina. The conflict caused 255 British lives and cemented Thatcher's reputation as a resolute leader.

THATCHER: A prime minister never expects to send people into battle. I was agonized over it. But you couldn't leave our people captive of a military juncture of the Argentine.

ENDO: Thatcher was the only British prime minister in the 20th century to serve three consecutive terms. In 1990 after a leadership struggle within her own party, Thatcher was forced to resign. Though no longer on the front lines, Thatcher still had political sway as Baroness Thatcher sitting in Britain's Upper Chamber of the House of Lords.

Later in life as her health deteriorated, public appearances became rare. But Thatcher's reputation was already set as a dominant figure of the 20th century whose influence is still being felt today.

I'm Sandra Endo, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: As we said, Lady Thatcher played such a big role in Great Britain, but also was an iconic figure here in the United States, as well, particularly for members I think of the Republican Party.

We're joined now by Mary Bono Mack and former Congressman Connie Mack, both former members of Congress, both Republicans.

And, Connie, let me ask you because your father was a member of Congress in the House and in the Senate during the 1980s. And Margaret Thatcher played a very big role, you know, like I said, in the Republican Party in some ways.

CONNIE MACK (R), FORMER FLORIDA REPRESENTATIVE: She was a -- she was a superstar. She was someone that people looked up to not just in England and not just in the United States, but around the world. And because she had this strength of character, right? I mean, when she spoke, you knew that she was talking about something she really believed in and the relationship between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan is one that I think will go down in the history books. And because of that relationship and the way that they worked together, the Cold War ending.

BERMAN: You said there is a picture of Margaret in your parents' house.

C. MACK: Yes, we've got a picture. I was just there this weekend and on the wall is a picture of Margaret Thatcher, my mom and my dad, and my mom is shaking her hand. And -- you know, my mom is this little tiny lady but I was proud of her for, you know, meeting Margaret Thatcher. And my mother and father talked about her as someone who was very strong, very dynamic.

Almost not -- you didn't think of her as a woman or a man. You thought of her as an incredible leader, a strength of character that we're missing around the world these days.

ROMANS: What's that great line you had earlier?

BERMAN: In politics if you're looking for words, you know, ask a man. If you want action, talk to a woman.

(LAUGHTER)

C. MACK: That's right. That's right.

ROMANS: You know what's interesting because at I look at some of the footage, you know, of the period with Ronald Reagan and with Lady -- the Prime Minister Thatcher, it brings me back to a very brittle and tense time in American politics where these two leaders really were navigating waters that potentially could have been disastrous for Americans.

MARY BONO MACK (R), FORMER CALIFORNIA REPRESENTATIVE: That's right. And as Connie said, the partnership there, you know, has been already chronicled in the history books and I think it's going to even -- with the (INAUDIBLE) of history behind it I think it's going to get bigger and better. But when you do, you think back and you let -- recognize her strength of character when they called her the iron lady. Although as Russian journalists I think who said that originally, it almost became a term of endearment.

C. MACK: Sure.

M. MACK: But when you think about the First Gulf War, when she encouraged President Bush, you know, let's not -- you shouldn't go all wobbly on this. She really had so much strength during very difficult times. And for me, as a female politician, she was a role model.

ROMANS: Yes.

M. MACK: If anybody could have it all, she almost did. If women can. You think about what she did. And when I -- you know, when I had the opportunity to run for office, she really was a huge source of inspiration for me. Not her policies, but the fact that a woman could lead with as much strength and conviction as the man, as President Reagan did. And I think that was -- that was just pretty incredible.

BERMAN: Again --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: The only woman, right? And three consecutive terms. So yes, quite a lady. I just wanted to piggyback on the whole Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and how they were so similar. They were actually called soul mates. Reagan called her the best man in England. And she called him the second most important man in my life. So --

C. MACK: There is no doubt that Ronald Reagan would not have the legacy that he has here in the United States if it wasn't for the relationship that he had with Margaret Thatcher .

BERMAN: All right. The news again this morning, if you have not heard yet. Our breaking news. Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of Great Britain, dead at the age of 87. The British media saying they believe it was a stroke.

ROMANS: All right. Let's get to Zoraida again with more and what else is happening today.

Good morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to all of you. A new study released Sunday shows an alarming link between a dietary compound found in red meat and heart disease. Now we've heard before that it's the fat in red meat that can be bad for your heart. But this is something very different. And it's getting a lot of attention this morning.

Let's bring in senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

And Elizabeth, what exactly is this compound in red meat that is supposed to be so bad for us? ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Zoraida, the chemical is called carnitine. And researchers are just now beginning to go focus in on it. And I think this study surprised a lot of people. It looked at what carnitine does in the body. It -- to make a long story short, it converts to a chemical called TMAO, and when they looked at human beings who -- they looked at their TMAO levels and they found that those with high TMAO levels were more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke.

And again a lot of researchers are stunned at this because they were so focused on the fat in meat. Now we talked to the meat industry about this and they said, look, lots of things can lead to a heart attack. There are many, many different factors. Genetics, for example. And so this was their conclusion from this study which, you know, didn't say a lot of good things about their product.

So their conclusion is this study should not prompt any dietary changes in consumers who enjoy red meat should continue to do so with confidence -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: So that is getting a huge thumbs up on the set this morning. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

ROMANS: Everything in moderation. Everything in moderation.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, indeed.

C. MACK: Not when it comes to your steak.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: Not when it comes to your steak. All right.

ROMANS: We've got red meat -- red blooded American over here.

All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, we're following a breaking news this morning that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died. And President Obama heading to Connecticut today to push for stronger gun control laws. We're continuing our conversation with Mary Bono Mack and Connie Mack next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. President Obama continues his big push for federal gun control laws. Today he speaks in Hartford, Connecticut, which of course is just a short ways away from Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 people including 20 children were murdered.

We're joined again by former representatives Mary Bono Mack and Connie Mack. Former Republican members of Congress.

And news this morning that we're waking up to in the "Washington Post" is there may be a new partnership brewing in the Senate between West Virginia's Democratic Joe Manchin and also Republican Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania. They're talking about reaching some kind of deal on background checks. There will be universal background checks, they'd be limited background checks. I suppose the limitations would be no background checks on family member to family member sales and also some hunters could be exempt, as well.

But is this kind of limited deal -- is that something you think Republicans could support?

C. MACK: You know, I think it's worth -- it's too early to tell. I mean you've got them in a strong coalition of members of the Senate who have joined together on a filibuster. So this is a long way from being over. And the president -- the problem isn't necessarily just with Republicans. It's Republicans and Democrats who are -- don't see eye to eye with what the administration is trying to push.

BERMAN: Mary, let me ask you because occasionally -- occasionally you're more moderate than your husband, I can say.

(CROSSTALK)

M. MACK: You mean this morning or?

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: In general. In life, let's say. But one of the things about this deal is that there are those who say this could get some Republican votes in a Senate, maybe enough to get past the filibuster that Connie was talking about.

M. MACK: Well, you know, for me now that I don't serve in office, I might have a little bit different perspective I'd like to put out there right now. I've been supportive of background checks in the past and some sort of controls. But you know right now I'm concerned that this is a quick political fix and that I do believe people want to come together, get this issue off the table and be done with it and move on.

But I don't feel as a -- as a mother and grandmother that this is necessarily the answer in our society. And I have big concerns that it's a political fix and that we'll not look at the real issues behind why this violence is occurring .

And I think it's critical that those in Congress and the administration start asking why are these things happening to begin with. Is it the gun? I mean, I'm willing to accept that if they can prove that. But is there something bigger at play here, the mental health of our children 15 to 25, what's happening.

And that's a robust conversation I think we need in our country and my fear is the passage of this bill is going to take that off the table.

ROMANS: Do you think there's a big enough or robust enough conversation being had about mental -- mental health and mental illness? Because when you look at the Connecticut laws this week, you know a James Holmes or an Adam Lanza, they're not going to read the law before they go steal someone else's gun.

M. MACK: Exactly. I don't believe that there's enough of a conversation. Not just this issue, but you can look at a whole other host of issues that is happening in this age group. Prescription drug abuse, the epidemic that's occurring. So many kids right now are -- they are suffering, they're hurting, they are emotionally hurting and we're really not doing enough in that regard.

So for me, we should be talking more about it. Again, you know if this bill passes, you know, more power to them. But my fear is it takes this whole issue off the table. Now guess what Connie and I disagreed with this last night. And we just started talking to each other again right now.

C. MACK: Yes sure.

M. MACK: But we went around and around and around on this. And the hard thing with gun checks is how do you do this? Do you suddenly say somebody is going through a brutal breakup or a divorce so therefore they should -- they should be on the list?

C. MACK: I think part of the issue here is whatever Washington passes, it's not going to solve the problem. You're still going to have people who are going to want to do evil, bad things to other people. And you can pass all kinds of laws, but all you end up doing is restricting the rights of law abiding citizens instead of actually getting to the point of the problem. I think that's what Mary is saying, too.

ROMANS: How do you make sure 26 kids -- 20 kids and six teachers aren't the collateral damage for not infringing on other people's rights. What is the balance -- what is the sensible balance?

C. MACK: There has been a lot of proposals about how to protect our schools. And we can do a lot better job of making sure that our schools are protected. And that includes people at our schools who are armed and ready to defend.

BERMAN: Connie Mack, Mary Bono Mack, thank you so much for being with us this morning. We really appreciate it.

M. MACK: Thanks guys.

C. MACK: Thank you.

BERMAN: Ahead on STARTING POINT -- chef, author, TV personality, outstanding individual, Anthony Bourdain is a man for all seasons. He's also now our CNN colleague and he's here to talk to us about his new show "PARTS UNKNOWN". He's taking over here for a lot of good reasons on Sunday night. We'll be back in a moment.

You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right so this is super exciting. Take world renowned chef and bestselling author, Anthony Bourdain, mix him with global travels and locations off the beaten path and you have a recipe for a show that you will not want to miss. "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN" premieres on CNN -- right here on CNN this coming Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern Time.

ROMANS: And how many times when someone introduces Anthony Bourdain is the word "recipe" somewhere -- "recipe" poured there somewhere. It's part cuisine part culture, the first show offers an inside look at Myanmar. Here's a sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, "PARTS UNKNOWN": I already tried this other crispy little bird, I'm all over it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good head, good beaks too. Good beaks, crispy and tender.

BOURDAIN: And they have rides. Check this out. Ok. It's Ferris Wheel, but the power source not unusual for these parts is not electric. It isn't gas.

Oh, man, are you kidding me?

It's human power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, so we're terrified and shocked right now.

ROMANS: What was that you were eating, a bird?

BOURDAIN: Yes a little fried crispy bird.

ROMANS: They just fried the whole bird.

BOURDAIN: Everything.

ROMANS: How was it?

BOURDAIN: Oh delicious.

ROMANS: Really -- taste like chicken?

BOURDAIN: Better.

BERMAN: So you've done a travel show on another unnamed network now for eight years. But this new show here on CNN premiering Sunday night at 9:00, "PARTS UNKNOWN" tell us why this is different.

BOURDAIN: Well, first of all, I get to go -- with CNN, I've get to go to all the places that I would never would have been able to go with any other network that doesn't have the kind of international infrastructure and experience.

So just off the top of my head, places like Congo, Libya, Myanmar, would have been very, very tricky to do elsewhere. So I'm able to go place I never ever would have able to go and look at these cultures in either a bigger picture or more narrow focus as I choose. ROMANS: It's cultures, it's cuisine -- it must be politics. You're talking about places where you have to navigate politics to navigate culture and the kitchen.

BOURDAIN: I -- look I'm a chef, I'm not a journalist. I try to not talk about politics but it intrudes. There is nothing more political than food, meaning what people are eating and what they're not eating. And when you shoot in places like the Congo or Libya, politics tends to intrude hourly.

BERMAN: I think the first show's Myanmar?

BOURDAIN: Myanmar, yes.

BERMAN: And what's the most exciting bit about that visit?

BOURDAIN: Well for me, it's an enormous and beautiful country that very, very few westerners have seen or visited. It's been closed off from the rest of the world -- a pariah state for as long as I've been alive. And until just a little over a year ago, a western film crew if discovered would have been kicked out of the country.

So we're really one of the first crews to have gone in and really shown a big -- not all, but a big slice of a country that a lot of people haven't seen and is incredibly gorgeous.

ROMANS: So we're seeing all this food that looks delicious. You can give us a little bit of a sneak peek as to the culture and food?

BOURDAIN: People ask me what's the food like in Myanmar. It's not kind of like anything. It's a lot of contrast of flavors and particularly textures are balanced in a really interesting way. I'm not a big salad guy, but salads in Myanmar are worth the trip for.

ROMANS: What about Congo? I mean this is such a -- you said trying to explain the history of a Congo in a 42-minute episode and here I'm asking to you tell me about Congo in a minute and a half.

BOURDAIN: Most terrifying stressful physically difficult shoot of my life. I'm obsessed with Joseph Conrad and "Heart of Darkness" and "Apocalypse Now", so there was that sort of childlike cinematic romantic obsession with this very, very difficult subject.

ROMANS: Why was it physically difficult?

BOURDAIN: There is no infrastructure. There's 49 different rebel groups fighting it out. The last people in the world you want to encounter in the Congo are the police and armed forces. It is a struggle for the Congolese to live every day and it's a struggle to shoot there. But it's going to be a very exciting, very visual show.

BERMAN: That will be fantastic to see. It's a very big deal for CNN. We're very glad that you're coming here. And when this was announced months ago now, one of the things you said is that you would not be cooking barbecue with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM". Now that you've been here a while, you want to back off that statement and is it something you would consider cooking barbecue with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM"?

BOURDAIN: It's totally on my bucket list.

ROMANS: Where do you want to go?

BOURDAIN: Well --

ROMANS: You've been all over the world. Is there some place you haven't been that you really want to go?

BOURDAIN: I would love to see the situation -- political situation change up in Iran to shoot there. I've heard great report -- I've heard from chef friends who have been that beyond the fact that the government is loathsome, that the people are lovely and the food is fantastic and it's a country worth visiting. It's not a place I think I'll be going anytime soon. But I'd love to shoot there.

Syria.

BERMAN: You pick all the hot spots.

BOURDAIN: Well, I regularly do shows in places like Spain and Paris and (inaudible) where I'm shoveling a lot of very expensive good food in my face. I kind of like to change it up by showing the other side as well.

BERMAN: Yes. How often are you on the road now? You have a young child.

BOURDAIN: Yes. Too much. I mean over 250 days a year. I try to mix it up.

ROMANS: How are you greeted when you go someplace like Congo for example, or Myanmar? I mean to you find there is this period where you have to win the trust of people to really get a real close look at the cuisine?

BOURAIN: It's funny. I think we over the years I make friends faster and easier than journalists. It's an advantage because all I do I show up looking to eat whatever you have to offer. People are generally proud of their food. And that's really eat and drink -- show a willingness to eat and drink with people without fear or prejudice and they open up to you in ways that I think somebody visiting driven by a story, you know, may not get.

Plus we put a lot of time in. For a four-minute scene that's four hours of eating and drinking with our subjects and that tends to loosen people up.

BERMAN: The work shows on screen and we're really grateful that you came in this morning. We're happy to have you. Anthony Bourdain, thank you so much for being here.

BOURDAIN: Thank you.

BERMAN: "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN" premiers Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern time right here on CNN.

ROMANS: STARTING POINT back in a moment with more on the passing of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back everyone. We want to update the breaking news we've been following all morning. We learned just about an hour ago that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87. Her spokeswoman confirms she died this morning after she suffered a stroke.

CNN has learned her funeral will be held at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. She will receive a ceremony -- a ceremonial funeral with full military honors -- not a state funeral and she will be cremated privately.

ROMANS: Carol Costello is going to continue to follow the death of Lady Thatcher on "CNN NEWSROOM" starting right now.