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Shooting At U.S. Embassy in Kabul; Five Days to Government Shutdown; Romney Captures Michigan Straw Poll; Cain Captures Florida Straw Poll; Obama Keeps Focus on Jobs; Two Years of "Lies and False Hope"; Amanda Knox Appeal Wrapping Up; Saudi Women Gain Right to Vote; Stacking the Deck for 2012; Government Shutdown Looming; Five People Found Dead In Indiana; Groupon IPO Trouble; NYT: Netflix Strikes Deal With Dreamworks

Aired September 26, 2011 - 06:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: A stir down on Capitol Hill could lead to a government shutdown. I'm Ali Velshi. Democrats and Republicans unable to come together even to help victims of wildfires and hurricanes, so can they possibly agree on a spending bill by Friday?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Carol Costello. Double trouble for Rick Perry. After a less than stellar debate performance last week, the Texas governor got whipped sadly in two straw polls this weekend leaving some observers wondering if he's beat too soon on this AMERICAN MORNING.

VELSHI: Good morning. Good morning. It is Monday, September the 26th.

COSTELLO: Monday. Christine has the day off. I'm sure she's celebrating the Detroit Lions third win of the season.

VELSHI: That's what I heard, yes.

COSTELLO: She calls me.

VELSHI: All right, we begin with breaking news right now. A shooting at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two people are dead, one of them is an American citizen. Let's get right to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.

He's monitoring the situation from our bureau in Abu Dhabi. Nick, this is an apparent breach of security inside a heavily guarded complex in Kabul. What do we know about it?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bear in mind where this was. This was a part of the U.S. embassy compound, an annex where the CIA has thought to have many employees working. What we know is that one of the Afghan employees of this annex started shooting according to a western official in various directions.

Now he was later shot dead. His victims appeared to have been one U.S. citizen, also an embassy employee and another one injured, not life threatening. He was subsequently moved to hospital. What we don't know is why this happened. Could it have been some kind of Taliban plot?

That's entirely unclear and investigations are ongoing or was it simply a personal dispute? How did this Afghan employee pass through security, get through procedures and get hold of a firearm to carry this out? So many questions, but certainly a significant breach of security right in the heart of Kabul's most secure area, Ali.

VELSHI: And it's not the first time, Nick. We saw this attack by the Hakanis on the embassy a little while ago. What's going on with respect to security at that complex?

WALSH: You know, it's really hard to tell how today's attack occurred. I think what is at issue is more the psychology of it. We've had this big lengthy attack on the embassy compound about 10, 15 days ago. We had the assassination of a key Afghan politician in a similar area just last week.

I think people are beginning to ask exactly how -- if this is the Taliban, if this is an insurgent plot, how is it possible that these things are getting quite so close to the heart of NATO's campaign?

And a psychological war frankly for Taliban usually useful here. They're showing no reaches. It's not limitless, but they can get right inside, exactly where America doesn't want them to be. Ali --

VELSHI: All right, Nick. Thanks very much. Of course, when you get more, let us know. Nick Paton Walsh following the story in Kabul from Abu Dhabi.

COSTELLO: In Washington, a political showdown could lead to a government shutdown. The Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House at odds over a stop gap spending bill that has to be passed by the end of week.

The sticking point, funding for FEMA to aid disaster victims. Democrats don't like charging it. Republicans insist on offsetting budget cuts to pay for it.


SEN. HARRY REID (D), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: We've done avert to government shutdown. I will make sure hundreds of thousands of Americans suffering from floods, wildfires and hurricanes get the relief they deserve. But it also maintains our position we should not have to kill jobs by disaster relief to people who need it.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR (R), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Harry Reid is holding a bill up with full funding of what is needed right now for no reason. No reason, but for politics. Again, this is why the people just don't have the respect for this institution in this town anymore.


COSTELLO: Later today, on its spending bill after blocking the House's measure on Friday.

VELSHI: Mitt Romney's fortunes maybe rising. The former Massachusetts governor is scoring an overwhelming victory over Rick Perry in Michigan straw poll over the weekend. Romney, a Michigan native is registering just over 50 percent of the vote with the Texas governor finishing far back in second place with 17 percent.

Perry also finished a distant second in Saturday's Florida straw poll to businessman, Herman Cain. Cain with a surprising 37 percent of the vote to Perry's 15 percent. Romney finished third in Florida with 14 percent.

Perry had been considered by many to be front-runner until his disappointing performance at Thursday night's GOP debate in Orlando. So how did Cain pull the upset off and what does it mean for the GOP race?

We will ask Herman Cain when he joins live right here on AMERICAN MORNING at 7:40 a.m. Eastern.

COSTELLO: In the meantime, President Obama is out west raising campaign cash and keeping the focus on his jobs plan. After a fundraiser in Seattle last night, the president will attend a series of events in California today beginning with a town hall at the headquarters of Linked In.

CNN's Dan Lothian live at the White House to tell us more. Good morning, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. About 250 people expected to be at that town hall. We're told the questions will be posed by members of Linked In, but also the CEO of that company will also be posing questions to the president.

The focus of that town hall will be on the economy and jobs. The president, again, will be making a public appeal to Congress to pass his jobs bill. But as you pointed out, this really is a balance not only between the president pushing this jobs bill, but trying to haul in a lot of cash for his campaign.

He's expected to pull in about $8 million through this three- state swing. The message from the president so far is that he knows that some of these supporters who were with him in 2008 have gotten quote, "dispirited," but that he wants them to push very hard, because he has more work to be done.

He says he's only half way through, and that the same enthusiasm that he got in 2008. He wants to see it repeated again in 2012. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We can either go back to the same ideas that the other side has peddled, old, worn out ideas that were tried throughout the last decade, or we can build an America that we talked about in 2008. An America where everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share. That's what this election's about.


LOTHIAN: The president also for the first time was being critical of the Republican candidates for president. He did not mention Texas Governor Rick Perry by name, but he did say that, quote, "you've seen a governor from a state that is on fire denying climate change."

The president is referring to many fires that they've had out there in that comment. The president also going on to say that this is a contest of values and that it is not enough that his supporters follow him, but also that they should push their family members and friends to make sure that they're getting all the adequate information about his record. Carol --

COSTELLO: It's tough to do when you're talking to a constituency with, what, 16 percent unemployment?

LOTHIAN: That's right. But you know, the president really is trying to make a broad appeal here to all the different groups. I mean, we've seen him over the weekend talking to the congressional Black Caucus.

At an interview with BET conducted last week runs tonight so focusing on African-Americans. Last week, there was so much said about the campaign pushing for the Jewish voters as well.

The president realizing that there are a lot of people out there who are not happy because they believe that a lot of the campaign promises, or at least some of them, have not been fulfilled. So the president's saying, listen, give me another chance again to fulfill this mission.

COSTELLO: Just one more. Dan Lothian reporting live from Washington. Thank you.

VELSHI: Two freed American hikers now back on U.S. soil and sliming their Iranian captors. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were held for 781 days, accused of espionage. After arriving home, they told reporters they weren't just prisoners of Iran. They were political pawns.


JOSH FATTAL, FREED AMERICAN HIKER: We want to be clear. They do not deserve undue credit for ending what they had no right and no justification to start in the first place. From the very start, the only reason we had been held hostage is because we are American.

SHANE BAUER, FREED AMERICAN HIKER: In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay.

They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S.

We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us, not for a moment.


VELSHI: Now, the two men said they had to go on hunger strikes just to get letters from their loved ones and they called their espionage trial in Iran a, quote, "total sham."

Apparently, one of the people they have to thank for their release is actor, Sean Penn. He reportedly lobbied Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who's an ally of Iran, on behalf of the two men.

COSTELLO: Let's talk about Amanda Knox, the American college student convicted of brutally murdering her housemate in Italy. A verdict could come in her appeal this week as the trial resumes today. The make or break piece of evidence, the DNA.

Matthew Chance has been covering this case. He is live in Italy this morning and you were tweeting about this case all weekend.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's been a fascinating case to cover, actually, and it's expected to come to an end either at the end of this week, more likely at the start of next week perhaps on Monday, October the 3rd. And so we're going to be watching that very closely.

Today, it's been a court session. It's one of those strange (INAUDIBLE) Italian justice system. A court session where the other injured parties in this case have been able to put across their points of view so we're talking about the lawyer representing the parents of the girl who was killed, Meredith Kircher.

But we're also talking about the woman who owns the house in which the murder took place. She is claiming financial compensation from Amanda Knox for the impact it's had on the value of her property.

Also a guy called Patrick Lomomba who's a bar owner this city of Perugia who was accused in the beginning of this whole situation by Amanda of being implicated in the murder. He is filing for financial damages because of the impact on his reputation as well.

So it's a slight diversion from the actual main issue of whether or not Amanda Knox and her one-time boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, are guilty of this murder. But nevertheless, that's what we're hearing about throughout the course of the day, Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Matthew Chance reporting live for us this morning. Thank you.

VELSHI: A symbolic milestone and a cultural change in Saudi Arabia. Saudi women have gained the right to vote and run for office in future elections. Only the second time in 50 years elections will be held this week, but the Saudi king says the change won't take effect until after the elections, and those haven't been scheduled. COSTELLO: Quit complaining and stop your crying. Tough talk from President Obama directed at African-American voters, but is tough love the right tactic to win back the White House in 2012? We'll ask our CNN contributor, Earle Lewis.

VELSHI: And our "Talk Back" question this morning, Bill Clinton helping or hurting President Obama? What he said that has Republicans cheering him. It's 11 minutes after the hour.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to press on for sake of all of those families who are struggling right now. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off the bedroom slipper, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying.


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: All right. CNN contributor, Errol Louis, with us this morning. Errol, he's back in campaign mode, obviously. He's good at that. Who was he talking to? I've been having this discussion on Twitter this morning.


VELSHI: Was he talking to Congressional Black Caucus members with whom he's had some tension? Was he just talking generally to say I'm going to press on so you should, too? Was he talking to Blacks? Who was he talking to?

LOUIS: I think he was talking to the leadership. He was talking to the caucus, first of all. I remember, actually, I was at the dinner right before he ran for president the first time. The caucus didn't back him.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: He was a member of the caucus.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: He started off that speech that night talking about how the civil rights leadership sort of treated him at arm's length. They were curious about him at first. They didn't really support him. So, I interpreted him as talking to the caucus and saying, look, you've got to get behind me.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: We've got to do this together. And, you know, he certainly wasn't talking to, you know, millions of people on the unemployment line.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: You know, he wasn't telling them to quit crying. He was talking to the people who had been criticizing him.

VELSHI: What is that? What is the complaining and grumbling and crying that he's talking about? Is it these members who had these town hall meetings and these job fairs almost like Rep. Maxine Waters drawing attention to the fact that they are paying attention to the plight of urban blacks, dot, dot, dot, maybe he isn't?

LOUIS: Exactly right. And it's not just somebody like a Maxine Waters. Yes, that's a complaint that you hear from her. She's a longtime member, well-known liberal from south central Los Angeles.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: When you hear it from an Emanuel Cleaver, though, who's the chair of the caucus, who used to be the mayor of Kansas City, in Missouri, in a swing state, a swing state that this president cannot win, unless, he gets big votes in Kansas City and in St. Louis.

You know, when you look at some of the other representatives who are complaining in some of these Midwest states in districts that he's really got to carry and carry big, it can be a real problem for him. So, he is, I think -- I took it as a shot across their bow, frankly, saying like, look, I'm the president. I want you to march with me. What he really means is you need to march behind me.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: You need to get in line. You need to get behind me. We need to do this together or nobody's going to be helped.

VELSHI: There are some numbers here I want to show you with respect to some polling. There is, you know, the president -- I don't know where it is, but we'll just put it up on the screen. All right. Let's take a look at this instead. This is the black unemployment rate. When President Obama took office, it was 12.7 percent. There's always been a swing between black unemployment and white unemployment in this country.

That swing has -- that spread has widened substantially. It's now 16.7 percent. That's the black unemployment rate. It's gotten worse, and the optics of it having gotten worse under a black president are something that President Obama's got to deal with. I can't draw the line as a business journalist. I don't think it's got anything to do with President Obama that it's gotten worse for black, but there are a whole lot of blacks who think, boy, that's really ironic and terrible.

LOUIS: It's terrible, but you and I followed this campaign in 2008 and subsequent events long enough to know that there was no point in which he got up and said, I'm going to narrow the gap between black and white unemployment. VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: He never said I'm going to eliminate unemployment. He said I'm going to do what I can to get America back to work.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: And that rising time we'll lift all (INAUDIBLE). I mean, it's the only message he can say as president of the United States.

VELSHI: It is unfortunate, though, that for all of this time where there's been this normal spread, the spread got worse. In other words, this recession, this economic situation, has hit African Americans worse than it's hit whites, and maybe, that's part of why its affecting some of his popularity, his support among Blacks?

A recent "Washington Post"/ABC poll says that 58 percent of blacks have a strongly favorable view of the president. That's a drop, according to their polling, from 83 percent just five months ago. What's changed so suddenly?

LOUIS: Well, I mean, I think some of it is the economic data, and look, frankly, some of it is the grumbling and the complaining. When you get this messaging coming out from people like Cornell West, from people like Tavis Smiley, they're having meetings. They're going on the radio.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: Hour after hour after hour, day after day, it takes its toll for sure. I mean, look, you and I both know that the number on Election Day is going to be close to 99 percent of the Black voters you're going to be for Barack Obama.

VELSHI: The issue is whether they turn out.

LOUIS: And how many and in what districts.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: And what states.

VELSHI: Is it, -- I mean, I guess, it's tough for the president to accept the argument that he's not interested in urban Black issues given that a lot of his history has been in urban Black issues?

LOUIS: All of his history, actually. I mean, he -- I don't know that he takes it personally because he's no drama Obama.

VELSHI: Right.

LOUIS: He doesn't really react that way. On the other hand, look, the folks who are doing the grumbling and complaining, this is the kind of politics that brought them into power.

VELSHI: Right. LOUIS: That is what they do. They complain against those who were in power. It's a little bit tricky now. The person who's in power, the former member of the caucus, somebody who's intimately familiar with their issues, who has actually been a much better political operator than any of them have been, and has done something they can only dream of.

It's becomes very hard for them to figure out how to criticize. It becomes internally (ph) hard for him to figure out how to get them to line up behind them.

VELSHI: But ultimately, if they get reelected, they've actually got to be out there saying, not enough is being done and I guess that's just politics.

LOUIS: That's exactly right. On the other hand, you know, you don't necessarily want to bother the president of the United States when he's busy and specifically ask for your help. That's something that anybody in the party is supposed to at least take serious regard for.

VELSHI: Errol, good to see you. Errol is a CNN contributor. He's also the co-editor of "Deadline Artist," America's greatest newspaper column, and a political anchor with New York's "New York 1." Good book, by the way. It hits book stands this month. Looking forward to reading it, Errol. Good to see you.

LOUIS: Thanks.

COSTELLO: Now's your chance to "Talk Back" on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, is Bill Clinton helping or hurting President Obama?

Bill Clinton, the last two-term Democratic president may have thrown cold water on President Obama's bid for a second-term. Clinton told the conservative website, "News Max" that now is not the time to raise taxes.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I personally don't believe we ought to be raising taxes or cutting spending, either one, until we get this economy off the ground. This has been a dead flat economy.


COSTELLO: But what about the so-called Buffett rule, the touchstone of Mr. Obama's deficit cutting plan? That won't solve the problem, Clinton said. As you could imagine, conservatives are thrilled. Congressman Eric Cantor saying, quote, "I hope President Obama will heed the advise of President Clinton and drop his demand for one of the largest tax increases in American history."

Now, hold on. In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Clinton said he would support the millionaires tax, and he blasted Republicans for their anti-tax any ideology. As for Obama's jobs bill, Clinton said, he was all for it. This isn't the first time Clinton has sent mixed messages that could derail a presidential campaign.

Hillary Clinton, anyone? In South Carolina, the former president set off a firestorm of criticism for comments that some considered racially insensitive. Obama won that primary. GOP strategist, Cheri Jacobus, writes on, "Slick Willie does it again. He has now managed the fancy footwork of both agreeing and disagreeing with President Obama at the same time." The White House is not commenting.

So, the "Talk Back" question today, is Bill Clinton helping or hurting Obama? I'll read your comments later this morning.

VELSHI: All right. Looking forward to seeing what you all have to say about that.

Coming up ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, stacking the political deck. How far will the GOP go to win the White House back in 2012? It's 23 minutes after the hour.


VELSHI: Twenty-six minutes after the hour. Welcome back. "Minding Your Business" right now.

If the markets in Europe are any indication, it could be in for a nice start after the Dow's worst week since 2008. U.S. stock futures are up right now, but in Asia, the market did close lower, knocking down -- it was knocked down by nagging fears over, yes, you named it, Europe's debt crisis.

Speaking of the European debt crisis, U.S. treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, warns us, quote, "the most serious risk now confronting the world economy." In a statement to the IMF, Geithner also said European leaders must do more to address the region's problems.

Well, based to be an overpaid CEO, the Academy of Management Journal Study the compensation of 590 CEOs from 1996 to 2005 and according to the "Wall Street Journal," the richest CEOs received the biggest raises year after year while underpaid CEOs tend to get either some of pay cuts or more modesty increases.

Groupon's on again off again IPO is, apparently, off again. According to the "Wall Street Journal," the deal giant is delaying the launch of its stock, the newscoming, after the COO resigned, and the company once again slashed its revenue outlook for 2010 by more than half.

Netflix appears to have scored a win after some expensive blunders. The "New York Times" is reporting that Netflix has signed a deal with Dreamworks to stream the studio's films starting in 2013.

AMERICAN MORNING will be back right after the break.


VELSHI: Good morning. We're passing the half hour -- time for this morning's top stories.

A shooting at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two people are dead, one an American citizen who works for the U.S. government. An embassy spokesman tells us an Afghan employee of the U.S. government was also killed. The motive or how this happen is still unclear.

COSTELLO: Five days and counting until a partial government shutdown, unless the House and Senate can agree on a spending plan by Friday. Democrats and Republicans are divided on how to fund FEMA for emergency disaster relief. Democrats are OK with charging it. Republicans want to offset the cost with spending cuts.

Strong showing this weekend by Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. Romney easily captures a Michigan straw poll by a three to one margin over Rick Perry, with Cain pulling off a shocker in Florida's straw poll, outpolling Perry by a better than 2-1 margin.

COSTELLO: Last year, they took back the House. Now, the GOP has its sights set on winning the White House. And efforts are underway in some key states to alter the political landscape and perhaps stack the deck for Republicans in 2012.



COSTELLO (voice-over): In 2008, candidate Obama won the majority of the popular vote in Pennsylvania and all of its electoral votes. That's because it's a winner-take-all state, but Pennsylvania Republicans want to scrap that.

A bill proposed by Pennsylvania Republican Senate leader Dominic Pileggi would award 18 of Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes to whoever gets the most votes in each congressional district. The other two electoral votes awarded to the winner of the overall popular vote.

Senator Pileggi says, quote, "This proposal will more fairly align Pennsylvania's electoral college votes with the votes of the popular vote."

If this system had been in place in 2008, Senator John McCain would have walked away with 10 electoral votes instead of zero. Not enough to change the 200 outcome, but in a close election, it could sway the result.

LARRY SABATO, UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: It's just an attempt to rig the system. It's what's done from time to time in states across the Union by both parties. In this case, it's the Republicans in Pennsylvania.

COSTELLO: There are other GOP efforts under way to change 2012 election rules. Five more states have moved to require voters to show state issued IDs, and swing states Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin -- all with Republican-controlled state governments have reduced the number of days for early voting, so have Georgia, Maine and West Virginia.

Why all the changes? Depends on which party you ask.

JENNIE BOWSER, NCSI SENIOR FELLOW: Politics always comes into play. In this case, the one side is saying we need these laws to prevent or reduce voter fraud, and the other side is crying foul, saying that it reduces voter turnout, particularly among our voters.

COSTELLO: Right now, efforts to change the rules are being led by Republicans, but Democrats have changed the rules to favor their party, too. Like in 2006 when Maryland state Democrats extended voting times in 21 selected locations, all leaning Democratic.

SABATO: The two parties conceive of election laws as being fair when they benefit their party. That's their definition of fairness.


COSTELLO: Isn't that always the case?


COSTELLO: Enough said.

VELSHI: All right.

Well, "Minding Your Business" -- protests in Greece turning violent as the country considers new cutbacks to secure another loan to keep the government from running out of money next month. Police used tear gas to break up the crowds yesterday in Athens. Much of the anger is directed at a new property tax that would be imposed on top of paying pension cuts.

A group of people protesting Wall Street greed are now screaming abuse after they were arrested over the weekend. The incident happened Saturday in Lower Manhattan. The protesters say they were pepper sprayed, roughed up and denied food and water. Police defending the arrests saying the marchers blocked traffic and ignored orders to stay on the sidewalks.

And here's an iReport from Saturday's demonstration. At one point, you can actually see a protester and police getting into a fight. You see that in the middle. At least 80 people were arrested.

COSTELLO: Of course, what you can't see is what came before the fight.

VELSHI: Yes. We don't know.

COSTELLO: We don't know.

Let's head to Atlanta and check in with Reynolds Wolf.

Any extreme weather on the horizon?

REYNOLDS WOLF, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, certainly had our share last night. In fact, as we go to our radar, you'll see what happened in parts of Mississippi eventually into Alabama and even to Tennessee. Strong line of storms moving right along the Mississippi River from Memphis, southward to Cleveland.

Now, in Cleveland, we had a possible tornado touched down just last night and with that we had structural damage. No reports of widespread injuries or fatalities, thankfully. But, certainly scary moments.

And speaking of tornadoes. Take a look at this video taken over the weekend. On Saturday, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, southward to about Milwaukee, you had reports of several sightings with these. A water spout you happen to see.

This one is very, very slowly from left to right on your screen, just a beautiful thing to see. Thankfully, well offshore. It didn't come close at all.

But there's a potential that we might see a few more these pop up into the afternoon hours across the Great Lakes again. Here's the reason why as we go back to the weather map, the big weather-maker we have, is this area of low pressure that's a trailing cold front, everything moving from west to east. Also right along the coast, we could see strong storms develop on the Carolinas. We've had rainy conditions there for the last five days. In fact, you take a look at this. Some places on the outer banks up to 10 inches of rainfall just over the last five days.

Something else that's going to stack up, not just the rain, but your delays, especially in Chicago, Detroit, you might have backups in excess of an hour, also backups in New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and all airports in Washington, D.C. due to those showers.

That's a wrap on the forecast. Let's pitch it back to you in New York.

VELSHI: All right. Thank you, Reynolds. Good to see you this morning.

Coming up ahead on AMERICAN MORNING: GOP leaders may put more pressure on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to get into the presidential race after Rick Perry's rock weekend. What does this guy got to say, Carol? He says no every time somebody asks him.

COSTELLO: Supposedly, he's considering it this time.

VELSHI: Yes. Wasn't he asked enough? COSTELLO: I guess so.

Bristol Palin gets in the face of a heckler and things got really ugly. And guess what? It was all caught on tape.

Thirty-seven minutes past the hour.



This is one of those stories that you can't really make up. Bristol Palin is fighting back against a heckler who got really rude and really personal. This video posted on happened while taping her new reality show for the Bio Channel.

A little context here, you can see. She's riding a mechanical bull in this scene. Check it out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ride Levi like that? Your mother's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bristol, what was that about?

BRISTOL PALIN: Repeat what you said to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're mother's a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) devil, dude.

PALIN: Yes, she's the devil. What did she do to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She lives, she breathes.

PALIN: You want her dead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, but ahh, you know what? If there was a hell which I don't believe there is one, she will be there.

PALIN: OK, why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's evil, she's evil, she --

PALIN: All right. Is this because you're a homosexual?


PALIN: That's why you hate her?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why'd you say I'm a homosexual?

PALIN: Because I can tell you are.


VELSHI: That kind of unwound real fast. This happened while she was taping her new reality show for the Bio Channel. The heckler identified as a 47-year-old talent manager who apparently hasn't kept it a secret that he's not a fan of Bristol's mom.

COSTELLO: Do you think it was a setup?

VELSHI: I never think -- you and I think we share a belief, these things don't just kind of happen. Political events -- you know how these things.

COSTELLO: It's a reality show. For goodness sakes.

VELSHI: Exactly.

COSTELLO: OK. That was interesting. Thank you for -- telling that story with a plum.

Let's talk more politics, shall we? Rick Perry said it himself. Florida is the state that picks presidents. That was before this weekend's Florida straw poll that saw the GOP front-runner get smoked by Herman Cain, who got more than one-third of the vote. So, what does that mean for the Republican race going forward, and do party leaders have Chris Christie on speed dial?

Joining us from Washington, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst; Shira Toeplitz, the politics writer for "Roll Call."

Do you guys want me to ask you about Bristol Palin first?


COSTELLO: Yes, I think we can skip that. I think I'll spare you that, too.

OK. Let's start with you, Ron. All weekend, everyone's been buzzing about this Herman Cain, Herman Cain's big win in the straw poll in Florida. But let's be honest. No one really believes Herman Cain is going to win the nomination.

But what does this say about Cain and about the rest of the Republican field?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, this is why Ouija boards, if they still make them, are probably a better predictor of who is going to be the presidential nominees of the party in straw polls.

Herman Cain is attracting an audience in the Republican Party, but he's on track to it be the commerce secretary if Republicans win the White House, not to be the nominee. The most interesting I think outcome from these two straw polls, both in Florida and Michigan, was they kind of confirmed a very difficult week for Rick Perry who emerged very strongly in the first blush of his Republican presidential campaign, but now is having to deliver on a day-by-day basis and being tested in way that he really hasn't been in Texas before and it's facing some stumble.

COSTELLO: He is facing some stumbles. And, Shira, I'd like to ask you this: so Rick Perry doesn't do well in this poll in Florida. But Florida is a state where Social Security is really an important issue. So, what does Rick Perry's failure in the straw poll have more to do this -- his lousy performance in the debate or his stand on Social Security?

SHIRA TOEPLITZ, ROLL CALL: You know, I think his position on Social Security might be part of it. I think his position on immigration might be a bigger part of it. He did not articulate that well during the debate and it was harmful coming into Florida.

But more importantly, if you read a lot of the quotes some of the activist gave, a lot of news media that was down there, a lot of the people who voted in this straw poll just thought he did terribly in the debate and it raises some concerns whether or not he can really go up against President Barack Obama, who despite his overall approval rating, is pretty good in a debate and is a very articulate speaker.

COSTELLO: OK. So, electability is an important factor for Republican voters. So, let's talk about that, because Mitt Romney, as far as I know, hasn't broken 30 percent anywhere. I guess he did in the Michigan straw poll, but he's from Michigan.

But anywho, since no Republican candidate seems to be ultra strong, the talk turns once again to Chris Christie and I hear this time the shadowy Republican people with lots of money are kind of like, intriguing him this time around. What have you heard, Ron?

BROWNSTEIN: It's hard to imagine he's really going to do it. You know, I think watching -- here's the paradox. Rick Perry's weakness is what is renewing -- Rick Perry's rough week, let's put it that way, is renewing these calls for Christie to enter the race.

But the difficulty Perry is having is a pretty cautionary moment for Christie himself. It's a reminder of how difficult it is to jump into this thing at this point without really having been on the national stage. On paper, Perry is a really strong fit for a big part of the Republican Party. But as we said, you've got to deliver it every day. And, while there is an audience for Christie, particularly, among donors in the northeast, it's not clear there's much space for him in the race. I think Romney occupies a lot of the terrain that he would try to take.

And also, as I said, I think the example of Perry shows how difficult it is to do this at a very late date, especially when you have no national network and you have not been a national candidate before.

COSTELLO: I'd like to talk about straw polls, in general, Shira, because honestly, this is just a Florida straw poll, which is really a popularity contest. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa poll. She came in dead last in Florida. She only had one percent.

So, what do straw polls really tell us? Anything at all?

TOEPLITZ: I think they're kind of short temperatures measures, thermometers basically, for that period of time that weekend, those activists. I can't emphasize this enough. We can't read too much into these, all right? I mean, if you look back at previous campaigns, candidates that have won straw polls really don't often end up winning the nomination depending on the state and the straw poll. This is what 2,500 people thought in Florida on this weekend several months. We all know, political professionals know, that the primary calendar really does pick the candidate. So, it really matters what happens in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina more than anything.

COSTELLO: And they're coming. Thanks to both of you for joining us this morning, Ron Brownstein and Shira Toeplitz.

VELSHI: You know, one of the things about Chris Christie is a lot of people, a lot of conservatives in the business community, have kept their power drive. They haven't gone out and backed one candidate. So, Ron makes the point, that he would offer a lot of the same stuff Romney does, Romney hasn't had that big, warm hug from the, you know, middle of the road conservative business community, which --

COSTELLO: No. Even when Rick Perry wasn't in the race, Mitt Romney didn't break 30 percent in support.


COSTELLO: So, that's a concern that he has.

VELSHI: But the person who isn't the candidate or didn't run or didn't win always has higher popularity than the person who did. I heard somebody telling me the other day, see, this is why we should have elected Hillary Clinton. Look at her approval rating. Her approval rating is going to be higher, she's not the president.

COSTELLO: That's right. She's not dealing with the economy and with an unemployment rate.


COSTELLO: As high as nine percent for most of us.

VELSHI: If I were Chris Christie, I'd be enjoying all the attention and thinking, I don't know if I want to get in on this mess.

COSTELLO: I'd be saying, thank you, thank you --

VELSHI: Yes. Yes.

COSTELLO: But I don't think so.


COSTELLO: Oh, it is 47 minutes past the hour. Just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING, is Bill Clinton helping or hurting President Obama? We asked you that question this morning. We will read your thoughts coming up.

VELSHI: And, it is literally the sting of defeat. Endurance swimmer, Diana Nyad, forced to cut her record swim from Cuba to Florida short this after a run-in with two giant jellyfish. We'll tell you about it on the other side. It's 48 minutes after the hour. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELSHI: Forty-nine minutes after the hour. Here's what you need to know to start your day.


VELSHI (voice-over): A shooting at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two people are dead, one of them an American citizen who works for the U.S. government.

The Senate votes today on a spending bill to keep the government operating through mid-November. The measure funds FEMA for disaster relief efforts without offsetting spending cuts. Something that the Republican-controlled House is refusing to do.

Five people shot and killed in two rural Indiana home. Police discovered the bodies after responding to a call about a child wandering the streets in Laurel, Indiana. They say they don't know if the shooter or shooters is among the dead. Neighbors are being warned to be vigilant until they find out what's going on.

Today, prosecutors in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray will ask a judge to allow testimony about investigators' failed attempts to question Murray in the weeks following Michael Jackson's death. Murray is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Opening statements in the trial begin tomorrow.

First woman from Africa to ever win The Nobel Peace Prize has died. Kenyan, Wangari Maathai has lost a long battle with cancer. She won the peace prize in 2004 spending her life campaigning for human rights and the empowerment of Africa's most impoverished people. Maathai was 71 years old.

Missouri lawmakers vote to repeal the so-called Facebook Law. The legislation prohibits teachers from talking to students on Facebook or social networking sites. Some say it infringes on free speech rights. Now, the governor will make the final decision.


VELSHI: That's the news you need to start your day. AMERICAN MORNING is back right after this break.


COSTELLO: It is 52 minutes past the hour. Good morning to you. We asked you to "Talk Back" on one of the big stories of the day. The question, is Bill Clinton helping or hurting President Obama?

This one from Philip, "Is the former president hurting President Obama? No. President Obama is doing that all on his own. People are politically disassociating themselves from our president and for good reason."

This from Jennifer, "He's not really saying anything he hasn't said in the past. Problem is that the Republicans would rather see President Obama defeated so they'll keep the economy locked up and blame him. The partisanship must end."

And this from Jeff, "Call me crazy, but I watched the same interview that you're talking about and my takeaway was Bill Clinton was an asset to the president. I'm thrilled to see more of him."

Keep the comments coming.

VELSHI: This disappointed me, this news. Forty hours, 67 nautical miles, and two Portuguese man-of-war stings. Endurance swimmer, Diana Nyad, forced to cut her swim short from Cuba to the Florida Keys.


DIANA NYAD, FORMER OLYMPIC SWIMMER: I trained so damn hard for it. I deserve it.


VELSHI: She said, "I trained so damn hard for it. I deserve it." The 62-year-old Nyad attempted to break the world record for swimming through 103 miles. Those were shark-infested waters. It was her third try since the late 1970s, but Mother Nature had other plans for her. Nyad took severe stings to the face and to body from giant jellyfish. She got back in the water after each one, but the medic said that if she did it again, it could be deadly.


NYAD: Oh, my God. The first night, I felt I was -- my back was paralyzed. I thought, wait a second. It's the Portuguese man-of-war stings. Oh, my God. I was in pain, in such pain. The lips, but also towards the front of the eyes, nose, entire face, God, just -- never, ever in my life have I known pain like that.


VELSHI: Now, you've seen her. That's not (ph) what she looks like normally. She's not --

COSTELLO: Doesn't have that poofy face.

VELSHI: Her whole face was swollen up from that. I mean, this woman amazed me. I'm not a swimmer. I have no particular interest in swimming. I would never do such a thing, but this woman is a force of nature and endurance.

COSTELLO: I know, but -- I mean, she's been bitten by jellyfish or stung by jellyfish before, and it's been just as painful. You know, you listen to her talking like that, and you're saying to yourself, I would never get back in that water after suffering that. Paralyzed her back in the water?

VELSHI: Yes, I know. But that's -- when you meet her, that's the kind of person she is. She's so driven with this, you know, this force to get it done. I'm a real admirer of hers.

COSTELLO: I bet she tries again.

VELSHI: She hasn't said whether she will or not, but we will keep a close eye of for her.

COSTELLO: We will.

A feel-good moment for you now from last weekend's baseball's regular season.

VELSHI: On the right --

COSTELLO: A foul ball into the stands in Arizona grabbed by a woman who gives it to her son, and she's instantly --


COSTELLO: She's instantly mom of the year. She gets a huge hug, and of course, a big hand from the crowd.

VELSHI: Look at that.

COSTELLO: Not letting go of that ball.


COSTELLO: Did I tell you the Detroit Lions won?

VELSHI: Oh, yes, yes. I heard that.

COSTELLO: The Tigers won, too, you know, on the baseball theme.

VELSHI: It's an early end to the baseball season this year. Their -- we're -- I was just looking at my playoff season tickets. I don't know. I've got extra tickets, too.

COSTELLO: You have playoff season tickets?

VELSHI: Yes. Yes.


VELSHI: Yes. You like these -- this Yankees team here?

COSTELLO: No. I hate the Yankees.



VELSHI: We're going to discuss our playoff plans in the break. We'll be right back.

COSTELLO: Detroit, they could play the Yankees.

VELSHI: They could. Then, we could go to the game together.

COSTELLO: That would be fun.

VELSHI: We can go to break anytime now.


VELSHI: Any time. Roll break.