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USA Men's Olympic Gymnast Team Fails to Medal; Mitt Romney Travels to Poland; Drew Peterson to Stand Trial for Third Wife's Death; Suspicious Object Near U.S. Embassy; Holmes Formally Charged; Zimmerman's Wife Arraignment Today; Study: Curry Spice May Prevent Diabetes; Migraines More Common Than We Think?; Romney Aide Curses At Reporters In Warsaw; Romney's Cold War Strategy; Tangle Over Tax Cuts; President Obama's Surprising Ancestor

Aired July 31, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have a packed show ahead, Olympic gymnast Alicia Sacramone, John Roethlisberger will join us, Paul Ham as well, and from Angie's List, Angie Hicks is our guest, and Congressman Elijah Cummings will be joining us. It's Tuesday, July 31, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Welcome everybody. We start with breaking news this morning, word of a suspicious item being investigated. It was found under a parked car near the U.S. embassy in Oslo, Norway. We're going to bring you more information as it becomes available to us, but we're told right now that they are investigating what they are calling a suspicious item, no better description than the word "item." Right now it is being investigated. We know it was under a car and that's about it. We'll continue to follow this for more information on that.

A wild day in London from extreme disappoint to a golden moment for an American teenager. We start though with a 16-year-old Chinese swimmer who did one lap faster than Ryan Lochte. It's raising some doping suspicions. Atika Shubert is live for us in London this morning. Hey, Atika, good morning to you.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. It was an incredible performance when she basically won at the 400 meter individual medley with stunning speed. She was literally for the last 50 meters faster than the U.S. gold winner in the same event, Ryan Lochte for the men's. So, as you can imagine, a lot of speculation into possible doping. Here's what the International Olympic Committee had to say about it.


ARNE LJUNGQVIST, CHAIRMAN, IOC MEDAL COMMISSION: So the sudden rise in the performance or a surprise win be primarily suspected for being a cheat, sport is a danger for sure because it partially ruins the charm of competitive sport if a surprise win is surrounded by suspicions and question marks.


SHUBERT: Now, in fact one of the strongest comments has come from John Leonard, the executive director of the world swimming coaches. He has said that her performance was incredible but also disturbing and suspicious. There will be a lot of people scrutinizing that in the time to come.

O'BRIEN: So, Atika, I assume they will test her. Is there a rule that they test sort of sporadically or test any winner or just tests anybody who seems to fall outside the bell curve of what would be a normal improvement in anybody's performance?

SHUBERT: I think the answer is all of the above. The athletes continue to get tested, not just in the run up to but afterwards. Remember, there was an Irish swimmer in the Atlanta Olympics who again broke all of the records, a stunning performance, but then was tested later and found to have actually violated the doping standards and banned from the sport tore several years. So we'll have to wait for the test results.

O'BRIEN: It's a remarkable performance, so disappointing if it was because of doping. Let's talk about the men's gymnastics team. What a disappoint. What happened?

SHUBERT: Yes, it really was. They were first in the trial. There were high hopes going in. They were so confident. Then basically disappointing appointments by Dan Leyva and John Orozco. Dan Leyva had to restart his routine, and that obviously a huge draw back. And then John Orozco landed sitting down rather than sitting up. Both of those places the U.S. in fifth place, a big disappoint, China came first and Japan won the silver after a recount, and Britain, the surprise out of all of this won the bronze, the first time for 100 years.

O'BRIEN: John Orozco known for sticking landings and doing clean landings. Let's talk about Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps.

SHUBERT: This is what everybody is looking forward to. He has the opportunity to become the world's greatest Olympian. He has so many medals already locked up. If he can win a medal at the 200 meter butterfly, he'll be tied for 18 medals, the most any one individual athlete has won.

He then has a second chance at the men's 100 meter freestyle. If he wins a medal there, that means he will have surpassed that goal and officially become the world's greatest Olympian.

But Missy Franklin, known as the new Phelps, she has won a gold and bronze and now we're looking to see whether she can also win a gold in today's 200 meter. So high hopes running on her. She hasn't done well in the run-up, though.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Atika, appreciate it. I'm very, very jealous of you getting to see all of that in person. In a couple of minutes we'll talk about gymnastic with Alicia Sacramone who won a silver with Team USA back in 2008. John Roethlisberger will also be our guest. He's a three time Olympic gymnast. He'll be joining me in just a few moment.

Other stories to get to this morning. Let's get right to Zoraida Sambolin. Good morning, Z.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Mitt Romney is in Warsaw, Poland, on a rocky three nation tour. He's delivering a foreign policy speech at Warsaw University, telling the Polish people America can learn a lot from them about turning around the economy.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When economists speak of Poland today, it's not to lament chronic problems but describe how this nation empowered the individual, lifted the heavy hand of government, and became the fastest growing economy in all of Europe.


SAMBOLIN: And Romney is still generating a few of the wrong kind of headlines on his trip. Palestinian officials call him, quote, "racist" for telling Israeli donors their culture is the reason they are more economically successful than the Palestinians. The White House pounced on that stumble, senior strategist David Axelrod tweeting, quote, "Is there anything about Romney's rolling ruckus that would inspire confidence in his ability to lead U.S. foreign policy?"

Serious fighting in Syria overnight. Government forces are stepping up the shelling of rebel held locations in Aleppo, Damascus, and Homs with rockets, artillery, and helicopter gunships. But rebels have been able to hold a grip on Aleppo as thousands continue to flee. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had strong words for the Assad regime speaking to CNN's Barbara Starr.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I'm sure deep down Assad knows he's in trouble and it's just a matter of time before he has to go.


PANETTA: I would say if you want to be able to protect yourself and your family, you better get the hell out now.


O'BRIEN: And Panetta meets today with Egypt's new president today, Mohamed Morsi.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's husband is deploying to Afghanistan. Michael Haley is an officer in the Army National Guard. Governor Haley's office says his one year deployment is expected to begin in January. Governor Haley said it is a, quote, "honor to watch him serve the country but there is not a military spouse who doesn't worry."

Right now at Penn State, the football team is starting its first season in more than 60 years without coach Paterno at the helm. They are holding their first preseason workout, and there's a rally at the school to show support for the players who decided to stay in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal. Two prominent members have announced they are leaving, quarterback Rob Bolden and safety Tim Buckley because of sanctions.

An African-American couple turned away from a mostly white church right before their wedding day have inspired unity. We first told you their story yesterday. Charles and Teandra Wilson were married by the church's pastor but in a different location. City leaders in Crystal Springs, Mississippi held a unity rally last night. Some of the members of the church did not want them to Mary there, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: That's a nice ending to the story, makes me feel better about their community, because that was disappointing to talk about yesterday.

Let's get to more about Team USA efforts at the Olympic Games. The women's gymnastics team will take part in the all-around tonight after the men's team collapsed. John Roethlisberger is a three time gymnast and Alicia Sacramone won the silver with the gymnastics team in 2008. They both join me this morning. John, what happened to the men? They went in with such a sense they were going to take it all and it all fell apart. What do you think went wrong?

JOHN ROETHLISBERGER, OLYMPIC GYMNAST: There's really never been this much positivity around a men's U.S. gymnastics team leading into a team finals. You know what happened? The Olympics happened and the sport of gymnastics happened. And that's how our sport is. Ask Alicia, I've been there too. It's so unforgiving. It's like Mother Nature. It's always in control. At the end of the day, gymnastics no matter how good you are or prepared you are, it can come up and bite you. That's what happened to the men. They had a little mistake on the floor and it shook their confidence a little bit and they went to horse and things fell apart a little bit and that's what makes the Olympics so special when you do succeed and makes it heartbreaking when things don't go right.

O'BRIEN: The agony of defeat. Dena Leyva said this when he was talking about his mess-up, frankly. He said "I'm someone who is very visual in his training. I've never been to an Olympic games before. Now I know what the feeling and air is going to taste like when I'm training. It's going to help me in training in the next four years leading up to Rio." What did you think of that explanation of what happened?

ROETHLISBERGER: Well, you know, that's for him to decide and let us know what he was going through and what his experience was like. But the thing about the Olympics, you might home get one chance. You have to mentally prepare yourself the best you can when you go on the floor. I know Alicia has probably done the same thing is you put yourself in that situation mentally. And once you get out there, you've got to mentally put yourself back in practice and I'm sure he was prepared for the competition. But it is a weird animal once you get out there. There's Olympic rings on the equipment and it's all over the venue, and all of a sudden the reality of where you are and what you are doing hits you and sometimes it can be overwhelming. O'BRIEN: Did it feel like that for you, Alicia, that everything was stamped with Olympic rings and you were never allowed to let up thinking this next thing really, really matters? What pressure.

ALICIA SACRAMONE, OLYMPIC GYMNAST: You are not going to forgive you're at the Olympic Games when you're there. There's the extra media hype and the pressure from wanting to be successful from your parents and friends and everybody. You want to go out and compete and have the best showing to come home with the medal. Sometimes your nerves get to you. I didn't have a picture perfect Olympic performance and I got so ahead of myself in for getting the Olympics is one more competition, it's not anything different from world championships or visa championships.

O'BRIEN: For those of us who watch, we would say it's Olympics, everything different. How do you think that will affect John Orozco and Dena Leyva, who have been shaken, as you said, John?

ROETHLISBERGER: You hope they can regroup. The funny thing about life in sport, some of the greatest lessons come at the lowest points. I'm hoping he can realize what happened and don't forget it or pretend it didn't happen. Just feel that sour disgusting feeling in your stomach and just take it home with you and put it in a little pocket in your bag. Every time you need to refocus, revisit that experience you had and try to get that laser focus he had at the trials. Unbelievable at the trials, same with John Orozco, you have to have a short memory in sports. It's like being at the masters, you just bogied a hole, and you've got to get a birdie and forget what happened.

O'BRIEN: Alicia, talk about the women as we were talking about the stunner with not having a chance to have Jordyn because I thought that was a real shocker. Now it's going to be Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman and that two per country rule. How do you think the women will do?

SACRAMONE: Our women's team is to unbelievably strong. It is sad Jordyn won't be competing in the all-around but it's great we have a strong enough country that we do have two girls to even qualify. I think they are going to do phenomenal. They both have worked so hard for this. And going as the two per country rule it affected me in Beijing. I couldn't compete in beam finals because the top three scores were -- it's hard because you want to compete in the best in the world and sometimes the best don't get to compete.

O'BRIEN: We're looking forward to seeing it. I love watching gymnastics. We are looking forward to seeing it. Alicia Sacramone and John Roethlisberger, thanks you for -- I think that's great advice you gave, not just for gymnastics, you've got to move on and keep trying to figure it out. Thanks, guys, appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, opening statements today in the Drew Peterson murder trial, accused of killing his third wife. Jurors won't be hearing much about his fourth wife, her body has never been found.

Our get real, Olympic fail, NBC spoils results of the biggest race of the day before it airs on TV. That's head. Stay with us.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": The London Olympics are finally underway. There is nothing like the thrill of seeing Team USA triumph in an Internet headline and then waiting to see it confirmed on NBC seven hours later. I mean the suspense. Did the cameras capture what happened? Did my cable go out?




SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. We are minding your business this morning. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve kick off a two-day meeting this morning. They're expected to keep interest rates near zero percent where they have been for four years. NASDAQ and S&P 500 futures all point higher, suggesting a bounce at the opening bell. Former Yahoo! interim CEO Ross Levinson is leaving the country. Google's Marisa Meyer beat out Levinson for that top spot. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Zoraida, thanks.

Opening arguments begin today in the much anticipated trial of ex-cop Drew Peterson. Peterson is charged with the murder of his third wife Kathleen Savio, found drowned in her bathtub. Her death was first ruled an accident. But the case was reopened in 2007 after Peterson's forth wife, Stacy disappeared. Peterson is not facing charges in that case. CNN's Ted Rowlands is live for us in Joliet, Illinois, this morning. Not an open and shut case. What can you tell us about that, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Soledad. In fact there's a very good chance when this is said and done Drew Peterson, the former ex-cop, will walk out of this courthouse a free man because it is such a challenging case for prosecutors. And the reason is two- fold. First off, there's no direct physical evidence that ties Peterson to his ex-wife's death. As you mentioned, it was first ruled an accident. There's an autopsy report that was done in 2004. And there was a jury that, coroner's jury that looked into the case at the time at the request of the family and came to the conclusion it was an accident, a huge hurdle for prosecutor.

And then there is the Stacy factor, the fourth wife. Prosecutors cannot bring that into this trial. It's a huge part of the overall equation but they can't talk about it. The defense team was talking about it outside the courthouse the other day. Take a listen to what they say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you make of the Stacy factor in this trial?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's on your witness list.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Stacy. We're hoping she shows up. Maybe she'll show up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She got the subpoena.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anybody think she's really alive?


ROWLANDS: Clearly, Soledad, the defense is very confident in this case. Prosecutors, though, will paint a picture of a man that threatened his ex-wife then carried out the threats. They do have hearsay statements that are very valuable that the judge is allowing in but it is an uphill climb for a guilty verdict here. Opening statements start in a few hours in Joliet. It should be a fascinating trial.

O'BRIEN: That is amazing to hear the defense attorney sort of mock a Stacy who's been missing. She had filed for divorce as well and is presumed dead, not to mention that the whole thing is around this other murder trial that's going on. That's really creepy. Ted Rowlands this morning, thank you for the update on that.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, here's a spoiler alert. NBC airs a promo with results of one of the biggest Olympic races before airing the actual event. It's our get real this morning. STARTING POINT team is heading in. Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, Democratic strategist Ken Sheinkopf, and Ryan Lizza, journalist from the "New Yorker." Welcome.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A woman who admitted she stole a baby from a Manhattan hospital 20 years ago has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. Carlina White became suspicious of her mother when she was an adult. She searched online and found her real identity on the website of a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

A man recovering with bites on both legs after what appears to be a shark attack off the Cape Cod. This video is from the "Cape Cod Times" of the man being carried from a stretcher. Witnesses saw a dorsal fin come out of the water before the attack. The man is expected to survive and keep both limbs.

First Pisa and now the Coliseum is leaning on its southern side, possibly because of a cracked foundation. They are saying it may need urgent repairs.

O'BRIEN: I wonder how they do that without destroying the integrity of the Coliseum.

SAMBOLIN: It's tough.

O'BRIEN: Zoraida, thank you.

Our team this morning, Republican congresswoman Nan Hayworth, only female physician a member of Congress and continuing to work as a physician?

REP. NAN HAYWORTH, (R) NEW YORK: Actually not but once a doctor, always a doctor, just not in office practice.

O'BRIEN: OK, and Democratic strategist Hank Shienkopf is back with is, and Ryan Lizza is a correspondent with the "New Yorker."

Our "Get Real" is the Olympics. Have you been watching Olympics?

LIZZA: Yes, my kids are obsessed with it.

O'BRIEN: What do you think of the tape delay?

LIZZA: There's a conflict between being a news organization whose job is to report what's going on and having the rights to covering and relaying the Olympics to the American people who don't want to know what happened until they see it at night. And so NBC doesn't seem to be -- they don't seem to quite have mastered this yet.

O'BRIEN: They are get a lot of heat because the tape delay, the events happen hours before the network airs them with social media, you can find out so you're constantly being spoiled. Biggest delay fail so far was missy Franklin's gold medal win, swimming phenom took the gold in the backstroke, six minutes before airing the race and the win, NBC aired a promo for the "Today" show which in the promo announced the win. People went crazy.

Despite all of the complaints, they have incredible ratings. On average 38.5 million people tuned in in the first three nights. That's about 5 million more people than watched the Beijing Olympics and 11 more than Athens. It's not such a fail ratings-wise, it's been doing well.

LIZZA: They've been killing it. One frustration I've had, rooting for the USA and love when we're winning, but the total and complete lack of coverage of the other winners.

O'BRIEN: That happens every year.

LIZZA: It's a little frustrating. When the U.S. gets a bronze and Chinese get a gold, you might as well not know who won the gold.

O'BRIEN: I wonder if that will change as the world becomes more local and people can understand and know and learn much more easily about Chinese swimmer or the weight lifter, I think that -- HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: These games are really very nationalistic in so many ways and Americans are obsessed with how they do as opposed to the rest of the world. We're going to keep focusing on that and they will be much more about gossip and entertainment, looking for who did what to whom. What the athlete ate for breakfast.

HAYWORTH: I'm going to guess that's the same in every country that's covering their own Olympics and I know when we were in Japan, and we had Matsui playing for the Yankees and every 15 minutes there would be the Matsui report.



O'BRIEN: I don't care, I love it all. I do not care the delay is driving me crazy.

LIZZA: You have to stay off twitter.

SHEINKOPF: North Korea they are making the dictator into the greatest champion --


O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, lawmakers are about to go on a five-week vacation. The nation is inching toward the fiscal cliff. We'll talk about because the threat of those tax cuts expiring for everybody at the end of the end of the year could be an issue. Are they going to cut a deal? We'll speak in just a moment to Congressman Elijah Cummings in just a moment.

Plus, president Obama's roots -- a new study shows he may be descended from the first African sleeve. Here's a twist nobody saw coming -- his mother's side, she's white and from Kansas. We'll explain. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Update on some breaking news that we've been following for you. A scare at a U.S. embassy in Oslo, Norway, what we have learned is that a suspicious item is now being investigated.

It was found under a parked car, large area around the embassy has now been evacuated. That is all we know at this hour. We're going to continue to bring you more information certainly as it becomes available.

Rest of the day's top stories, I want to get to Zoraida Sambolin for an update. Good morning again.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Aurora massacre suspect, James Holmes facing 24 counts of first degree murder this morning, two counts for each the 12 people he allegedly killed.

Twelve of those charges cite extreme indifference to human life. Twelve other cites deliberation. Holmes is also charged with 116 counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors say a decision on whether to seek the death penalty against him could be months away.

George Zimmerman's wife will not be in court today for her arraignment on perjury charges. Shellie Zimmerman's lawyer says she entered a written not guilty plea and a waiver on Friday.

Prosecutors say she lied about the family's finances at her husband's bond hearing in the Trayvon Martin case. The judge revoked her husband's bond and ordered him back to jail over it.

In your "A.M. House Call," researchers say a compound in curry spice may prevent diabetes in people who are high risk. The new study shows the compound may fight inflammation and cell damage. Researchers stressed the results are preliminary and the best way to prevent diabetes is through a healthy diet and of course, always exercise.

Migraines may be more common than we think. A new survey asks neurologists if they've gotten a migraine in the past year, 26 percent said yes, that's double the average population.

Researchers say that may be because the average person may not realize when they suffer from a migraine. But they also admit that it's possible neurologists have a higher risk of migraines.

And another hiccup for Mitt Romney's campaign this morning, the traveling press secretary for Romney, Rick Gorka, lost his cool and cursed at reporters near the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel your gaffes have overshadowed your trip?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show some respect. Show some respect.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We haven't had a chance to ask him question. This is a holy site for the Polish people.


SAMBOLIN: Reporters were trying to ask the candidate questions about the gaffes that he has committed on his overseas tour, but Gorka told reporters to show some respect at the holy site and to kiss his, you know what -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Tuckus, I believe my mother would say. He's right, it's a holy site. Reporters should not be shouting questions.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Really? You're not going to side with reporters on this?

O'BRIEN: I see the inappropriateness of it's a holy site, right? So people are literally screaming questions, but then to go ahead and say kiss my -- whatever, it's ridiculous.

I totally support reporters, right, to yell questions. I get it, you're covering a story. For you it is not a holy site. It is a location where you're trying to get an interview.

But still you can understand his point up to the point where he curses out the reporters and then you're like.

REPRESENTATIVE NAN HAYWORTH (R), NEW YORK: Never make yourself the issue.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question. What do you do -- you have a staffer who has done something like that. What would you do?

HAYWORTH: Well, you know, you have to take the whole team into account when -- this is what I do depends on also what everybody who speaks for me does. So if there's a problem, you have to take it by firm hand and I'm sure Governor Romney will have a word with the --

O'BRIEN: Rick Gorka.

LIZZA: You can tell and I've talked to some people on this trip that Romney campaign and reporters covering him are ready to kill each other. They haven't had questions since he was in the U.K., which doesn't seem that long ago.

But if you're following him spending all that money traveling around the world with Mitt Romney, your editors are back home saying what are you writing about? What are you asking him? Where are the interviews? And they are wondering why are we there?

O'BRIEN: He does tons of events and will not take question and has done that even early on in the primary process where it's very controlled, absolutely will not give access. It's an interesting strategy, wonder if it will pay off?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what? This confrontation will actually be of some help to Romney, a lot of polls in this country in targeted states where they've got to win to take on the president, more conservative, and this moment will have value in those electoral contests.

LIZZA: Well, sadly, that's probably true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know much about anything, but I do know about politics.

HAYWORTH: Poland is an important country. It's an important emerging economy. They've taken a distinct pro market bent, which has served them well. So obviously, it's a very wise decision for the Romney campaign to visit that country.

O'BRIEN: I don't know, yelling out a curse at a holy site may work against you.

LIZZA: Attacking the press does rally to your side. O'BRIEN: Ultimately, they're going to judge the governor. One would hope so.

All right, the House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a pair of rival bills each offering a different plan for the Bush era tax cuts, which, of course, are said to expire at the end of this year.

The Republican plan would extend cuts for all Americans. Democrats want an extension of tax breaks for individual and come up to families earning up to $250,000 a year and stop it there. The plan passed in the Senate last week. The clock is ticking and starting Friday, Congress will go on a five-week recess.

Congressman Elijah Cummings is a ranking Democrat on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee. He joins us this morning. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us. Certainly appreciate it.


O'BRIEN: The Senate passed that extended tax cuts for individuals, $200,000 -- $250,000 if you're talking about families. They would allow the upper limits to expire. Do you think that this has a chance at all in the House?

CUMMINGS: I think it's going to be very difficult. The Boehner -- Speaker Boehner has pretty much already said that it's dead on arrival. I think that's very, very unfortunate because basically what that's going to do -- basically what the Republicans are doing is holding hostage the tax cut for the middle class.

And basically going to place another $2,200 burden on people who are already struggling, the people I just watch going to work as I was on my way to the studio. So, you know, it's -- unfortunate we're in a place in Washington where right now where it seems like very little is going to be done.

Keep in mind, Soledad, we only have -- once we get past this week, we have less than ten days, I think it is, up until the election. That is legislative days --

O'BRIEN: Roughly that, that's correct. So House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said this. You're going to have 89 current members -- he is a Republican I should note from California.

You're going to have 89 current members of the Democratic Party who voted to extend the tax cuts the last time, that was 2010, who are going to have to answer why they are flip-flopping with a bad economy.

Do you think that's going to be a problem if you voted to extend it back in 2010?

CUMMINGS: No, because basically as far as I'm concerned we were held hostage back then too. I think basically, you know, people are -- they can see through this. I know my constituents do. You hear the Republicans say that they don't want to re-tax the job creators. I have seen absolutely no proof that these -- the tax policy of the president, by the way, which is now passed the Senate, is hurting anything other than that would hurt job creators.

As a matter of fact, in my committee, what we've seen over and over again is 29 hearings about regulations. So if -- I have not seen that taxes on the rich failing to extend tax cuts on the rich is making things any better for job creators.

And then they turn around and say, well, we don't want a situation where there are regulations. We've got a difficult situation here in Congress. I've got a feeling that a lot of things will not be resolved.

O'BRIEN: I have a feeling that your feeling is right is how my feeling is going. Let me ask a question of Nan Hayworth, a congresswoman from New York and she's on the panel today.

So I'm going to take a moment, Congressman, if you will. He says Republicans holding the middle class hostage. When you look at the polls, the polls actually show that by a significant margin.

People feel that it's OK to let those tax cuts expire on the people who are in the higher tax brackets and protect the middle class if you look at it from $200,000 down or $250,000 depending on individual or family.

HAYWORTH: Well, Soledad, everything we're doing in the House Majority and we do it with the votes we want to have as many votes from Democratic colleagues as possible, John Boehner especially is a ecumenical speaker.

But everything we're doing is aimed at helping the hard working Americans who desperately need an economy that works, the middle class, of course, prominently among them.

It does not help our economy, it doesn't help jobs to take more from our citizens at a time when we need every dollar that can remain in the pockets of the people who work and save and invest and contribute to their communities.

We need all of those dollars to stay there. Government takes -- the tax dollars that government demands from us are not the government's property.

And I think that message tends to be conveyed somehow, the tax breaks are going to cost us, no, it costs us to take funding from taxpayers in the form of taxes.

Federal government needs to restrain its own budget in the way our families have to right now. Stimulus resulted in an increase in the number of jobless Americans, unemployed, underemployed. The number of Americans in poverty has increased. It's record levels now.

O'BRIEN: Not because of the stimulus certainly, but because of the economic crash and the decline.

HAYWORTH: Yes, go ahead.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask one more question of Congressman Cummings before I let him go. How would you describe how Mitt Romney's trip has gone, started in London, made its way through Israel and he's now in Poland.

He's gotten some plaque from the press a moment ago we showed a little bit of shouting between his press guy --

CUMMINGS: I would summarize it, Soledad, not ready for prime time. Clearly, the comment in England about the Olympics, you would think someone who dealt with the Olympics here in the United States would be much more sensitive with regard to those kind of issues and going into a country and criticize the organizers.

And then the -- I found the Palestinian comment to be quite offensive. And I could understand the feelings of the Palestinians and now this fellow here in Poland making the comment he made, you know -- the one thing we're forgetting.

You've got a very frustrated press corps that had only had three questions answered by Mr. Romney during this trip. And it's basically consistent Romney stuff.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see if the press gets more questions answered or if that sort of just means fewer returns.

CUMMINGS: Same thing with the tax returns, Soledad. That's what I was getting at.

O'BRIEN: We're out of time. We will have you back. I'm sure as we constantly talk to you. We appreciate it.

CUMMINGS: I'm looking forward to it.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, discovery that could make President Obama's historic presidency even more historic in some ways. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. A new discovery could make President Obama's historic presidency even more groundbreaking. Genealogists are now saying that our first black president may be descended from one of the first African slaves in the country.

A man whose name is Joe Punch even more shocking is that the ancestry wouldn't be from his African side of the family, his father but instead it's from his mother, who was white.

Punch is the first documented case of slavery in the colonies. It's believed that he fathered a free child with a white woman in Virginia about 400 years ago.

Joseph Shumway is the lead genealogist for It's nice to have you. Thanks for being with us. So interesting, start us off with Mr. Punch, who eventually became the Bunches.

JOSEPH SHUMWAY, LEAD GENEALOGIST, ANCESTRY.COM: So we've been working on President Obama's family tree for the last four plus years since before he was elected president.

We're always looking for interesting stories to show people how interesting family history can be. As we worked on President Obama's family tree, we found that he was related to the family with the surname Bunch.

As we trace that family back further in time, we were able to find that DNA testing done recently by members of the Bunch family show that their ancestors were actually of African origin specifically in the West African region.

And that was a shocking discovery because previously we thought his mother's family was all of European descent. But with the African connection, we wanted to see, can we document this?

Could we actually put a name to that African ancestor, which led us to ultimately working two plus years of research, spending hundreds of hours of countless documents to ultimately come to the conclusion that his 11th great grandfather is a man named John Punch who as you said is the first documented African to have been enslaved in the American colony.

O'BRIEN: He was the slave who ran away and then was recaptured.

SHUMWAY: So he was a servant who was eventually going to be freed from his servitude. And because he tried to escape, he in 1640 was recaptured and given a sentence of lifetime servitude. That is the first case in documented history that we have record of that happening in the Americas.

O'BRIEN: How common was it back in the 1600s for a black African slave to have a child with a white woman?

SHUMWAY: It wasn't as uncommon as we might think? Actually the African population in colonial Virginia was very small. At that time, the racial attitudes hadn't really become as prejudice as they would later become because slavery didn't start in Virginia until 1661.

And so there were actually documented cases of interracial marriage back at that point. Later as slavery became more common place, the social paradigm changed and that is what set the president for slavery as we later came to know it.

LIZZA: Have you guys gotten any reaction from Obama or anyone around him or the White House? Have they talked to you about this?

SHUMWAY: We haven't heard a response yet. We would love to hear what they have to say and what the president thinks about this.

LIZZA: Before you announce it publicly, did you take it to them and see if they had any reaction?

SHUMWAY: We did not, actually.

O'BRIEN: So it will be interesting to see as they watch STARTING POINT as I know they do. I'm confident the first family does every morning.

LIZZA: It's kind of mind blowing that it's not just an African descendant, it's not just a slave descendant, but a historically significant person.

SHUMWAY: The most exciting thing about the discovery is where we have John Punch who is historically known and is the first documented slave and then we have him and then President Obama, our first African- American president, two very historically significant African- Americans being directly related to each other.

O'BRIEN: And through the mother. How common is that? I mean, I wonder --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes it a very American story, multiple cultures and races.

O'BRIEN: And she probably had no idea. I wonder how common that is for your average American family that's a white family to trace their roots back to some degree, to some African ancestry in this country?

SHUMWAY: It's really uncommon especially for a white family in colonial Virginia, nonetheless. So that was what made the exciting all the more exciting.


SHUMWAY: It's very uncommon to find that for a genealogist to have the opportunity to find this discovery. It's a highlight of a career no doubt.

LIZZA: You are 100 percent sure, right? Like you've crossed all T's and dotted the I's. There's no ambiguity here?

SHUMWAY: We have crossed all the T's and dotted the I's. We're extremely confident in the evidence that we've compiled. Ideally it would be great to have had a birth certificate from the early 1600s.

LIZZA: We don't want to get into that.

O'BRIEN: Let's not open that can of word worms again, please. The research has been well done and you never --

SHUMWAY: Absolutely. We're very confident in the work that we've done.

O'BRIEN: I want to trace my ancestry. Maybe we're related, Ryan, in some way? Wouldn't that be crazy?

LIZZA: Maybe we share a musical connection? O'BRIEN: That I doubt.

Well, thank you, Joseph. Really appreciate you joining us, is how they did the work through that organization. We've got to take a break. STARTING POINT is back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Coming up in our next hour of STARTING POINT, the worst drought to hit the U.S. in more than half a century is impacting millions in America's heartland. Christine Romans returns to her native Iowa to take an in depth look at all the heartache there

And a new problem for the Romney campaign. A spokesman says a word we cannot repeat on TV during the visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Poland, telling reporters to shove it and worse.

And former Olympic Champion Paul Hamm on the collapse of the U.S. men's gymnastics team at the London games. We're talking about all that and more. You're watching STARTING POINT. Got to take a short break. We're back in a moment.