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Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien

Penn State Accreditation in Jeopardy; Mitt Romney Picks Paul for Vice Presidential Running Mate; Interview with John Sununu; 7.7 Earthquake Off Coast Of Russia; Egyptian Journalist To Be Tried; Zimmerman's Lawyers Appeal For New Judge; Jesse Jackson Jr. Suffering From Bipolar Disorder; The Skinny On States' BMI Scores; How The Brain Handles Tough Times; Ryan On The Road; The Ryan Effect; Merriam Webster's Latest Definitions; Lost Pyramids Found?; President Obama Congratulates Team Curiosity; Olympic Flag Arrives In 2016 Host City

Aired August 14, 2012 - 07:00   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our "Starting Point" this morning, it is confirmed. The GOP rising star, Chris Christie, is going to be delivering the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in two weeks.

In jeopardy, the organization that accredits Penn State has put the university on warning status.

Record breaker, 17-foot long, one foot wide monster python discovered in the Florida everglades, 87 fertilized eggs are inside.

Packed show ahead this morning from the political arena, senior advisor to the Obama campaign, David Axelrod is going to join us live. From the Romney campaign, John Sununu, CNN chief political correspondent and anchor, Candy Crowley is going to be the first female presidential debate moderator in 20 years. She'll be joining us this morning, too.

Plus, Olympic gold medal diver, David Boudia, and from "Man Versus Food," Adam Richman, is our guest.

It's Tuesday, August 14th, and "Starting Point" begins right now.



O'BRIEN: Welcome everybody. Our starting point is the very busy day on the political front today. We're learning that the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, has been tapped to deliver the key note address at the Republican National Convention later this month. He says he's already been working on his speech, I think he's up to his fourth draft. He says America should expect very direct and hard truths when they hear it.

Paul Ryan heads to the suburbs of Denver today for his second solo campaign event since being tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate, and then he's going to head to Las Vegas tonight for a campaign rally and private fundraiser at the Venetian hotel. Day one of the trail a little bump for Ryan, he was heckled at the state fair and at one point protesters tried to climb onto stage. They were dragged off by police.

President Obama is doing everything he can to link Romney to Paul Ryan's controversial House budget plan. The president making an unscheduled stop at the Iowa state fair yesterday. He turned down the lure of face baked cinnamon rolls for pork and a beer. He didn't pass up the opportunity to tell Iowans that Ryan and his fellow Republicans are to blame for holding passage of a short term farm aid bill. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am told that Governor Romney's new running mate, Paul Ryan, might be around Iowa the next few days. He is one of the leaders of Congress standing in the way. So if you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm Bill is to Iowa and our rural communities.


O'BRIEN: The president continues to campaign in Iowa today while Mitt Romney's bus tour makes three stops in the state of Ohio. Coming up in just a few minutes, we'll be talking to senior Romney campaign adviser John Sununu who will weigh in on the bit political stories this morning.

First I want to get right to John Berman with a look at the rest of the day's top stories. Good morning.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. The man at the center of a deadly shootout near Texas A&M University has been identified as Thomas Kofle. Law enforcement officers were serving an eviction notice at a home just off campus when a man inside started shooting. The police returned fire and when it was over an officer, the gunman, and a civilian bystander were all dead and four others wounded. The suspect's mother said her son was ill and the family is devastated.

In the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse cover up Penn State has been warned its accreditation is in jeopardy. The organization that accredits school in the mid-Atlantic has asked Penn State to submit a report by the end of this month detailing the steps it's taking to comply with standards on leadership and governance as well as integrity.

A fast burning wildfire has burned at least two dozen structures in central Washington state, many more are threatened. The so called Taylor bridge fire has burned 2,800 acres about a 90 minute drive from set Seattle. Another fire near Ellenburg has burned one home and is threatening several other structures.

Five minutes going five times the speed of sound. It's very fast. And that's what engineers are hoping to achieve today over the Pacific Ocean as they test a hyper sonic, unmanned aircraft called the Wave-Rider. If the test goes well it could usher in the next generation of missiles and space craft and even passenger planes. So Soledad, imagine from New York to London in under an hour. Beat the tape delay for the Olympics.

O'BRIEN: First lady Michelle Obama appearing on the "Tonight Show" and setting the record straight on the kiss cam kerfuffle. She told Jay Leno that after getting booed for not taking part in the kiss cam tradition at a basketball game it was Malia who came to the rescue.


MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: She orchestrated that second try, because after the second half, we came back, she said, I've arranged for you to get another chance on the kiss cam.


MICHELLE OBAMA: And then she came and sat with us to make sure we didn't mess it up. She was like, get ready. It's coming. That's when she was like, OK, go, now. Kiss, do it.


BERMAN: Malia will give advice to Axelrod and David Plouffe soon.

O'BRIEN: Clearly she has a political future, photo op for mom and dad.

We return to our top story this morning. Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will meet with voters in Colorado before he heads off to Nevada. Mitt Romney is in Ohio. John Sununu is a senior Romney campaign adviser and also the former governor of New Hampshire. He joins us this morning. Thanks for being with us.


O'BRIEN: Let's start with Chris Christie being chosen as the key note speaker. What do you think?

SUNUNU: Let me start first of all with the clip you showed of the president. You're aiding and abetting his dishonesty. Paul Ryan and the Republicans did pass a bill to take care of the drought problem, but it's the democratic Senate that hasn't passed it. So when you show that clip and you show the president lying through his teeth, then you are aiding and abetting a distortion.

O'BRIEN: The original bill was not passed. Since you've taken us off track from my question.

SUNUNU: It was passed. The drought Bill was passed.

O'BRIEN: They will tell you they did not want to pass a Bill that was a short-term answer because what they had on the table earlier was a longer term provision, as you know, sir. Good morning, but let's talk about Chris Christie for a minute. How do you feel about that?

SUNUNU: Well, I think he's going to do great job of pointing out the disaster the economy is in, the 8.3 percent unemployment, the extremely low growth rate, the fact that American families have lost about $4300 each in the asset value over the last four years. That gasoline has doubled, and that the Ryan adds to the Romney ticket and we have two guys that understand what has to be done to save America. And they have the back bone and the will to do it and contrast that with the complete lack of courage in the Obama/Biden team. But other than that, it probably won't be very tough.

O'BRIEN: He has said that he's going to focus more on a why to elect Mitt Romney rather than talking about president Obama. I think he's on his fourth draft of that speech. Let's talk about what everybody is talking about now, which is the Ryan budget and the Ryan Medicare plan. You told Wolf yesterday, I believe, listen, Ryan is number two on the ticket. It's really all about the Romney plan.

SUNUNU: It is. The nominee is Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan joins Mitt Romney. The budget plan, the approach on Medicare and all of that is going to be the Romney plan. What he has is a man as his number two who understands the details of budgets who has demonstrated a willingness to take on tough issues and who knows how to communicate with the public --

O'BRIEN: Isn't the Ryan plan the Romney plan --

SUNUNU: No, it isn't.

O'BRIEN: Let me read you a quote.

SUNUNU: It isn't. You keep wanting to say it and I'm telling you, it's not.

O'BRIEN: Then let me read you a quote from Mitt Romney. This is from Ryan Lizza's article. On March 20th in Chicago, "I'm very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. He said, I think it would be marvelous if the Senate were to pick up Paul Ryan's budget and adopt it and pass it along to the president." That sounds like a lot of support. Am I wrong?

SUNUNU: It's support for the concepts that are in the Ryan plan. But Mitt Romney for six months has had on the table his package, his plan and his approach for dealing with Medicare. If all you want to do is keep repeating the garbage that comes out of the White House, then you've got a problem. The American public is going to see that the plan that is being put forward is the plan Mitt Romney has put forward.

O'BRIEN: Let's read then what comes out of, which I have right here. Key elements of mitt's plan, nothing changes for current seniors, Medicaid is reformed as a premium support system, repackaged as a fixed amount benefit they can use to purchase an insurance plan. All insurance plans must offer what Medicare provides today. This is from It sounds awfully like the Paul Ryan Medicare plan. SUNUNU: But it's very different. For example, when Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that. The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there. The Romney plan does not. That's a big difference.

O'BRIEN: But you know, and I understand that this is a Republican talking point because I've heard it repeated over and over again. And these numbers have been debunked as you know by congressional --

SUNUNU: No, they haven't.

O'BRIEN: Yes they have.

SUNUNU: I have the Congressional Budget Office right here dated July 24th from Doug Elmandorf. Read page 13 and 14 --

O'BRIEN: I can tell you what it says. It cuts a reduction in the expected rate of growth, which you know, not cutting budgets to the elderly, benefits will be improved, the focus is on hospitals and focus is on health insurance.

SUNUNU: He gutted the program by $711 million.

O'BRIEN: The expected rate of growth is being cut.

SUNUNU: It reduces services to Medicare beneficiaries currently on the package. What the difference is, is that Romney says no impact to anybody 55 or over. The -- it is clear in here that the reduction in services starts on January 1st, 2013. And Obama stole that money to put it in the --

O'BRIEN: The hospitals agreed to that and drug providers agreed to that because their theory is they will make up by the number of people that come into the system. It doesn't reduce or cut the benefits. The older people who --

SUNUNU: It does --


SUNUNU: Soledad, stop this. All you're doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there. If you're going to mouth what comes out of the White House.

O'BRIEN: I'm telling you what tells you. I'm telling what the CBO and CNN's independent analysis does.

SUNUNU: I have the CBO report right here.

O'BRIEN: And I'm telling you what it says. I've read it several times.

SUNUNU: Put a Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this. O'BRIEN: You know, let me tell you something, there is independent analysis that details what this is about.

SUNUNU: No, there isn't.

O'BRIEN: Yes, there is.


O'BRIEN: Sir, let me finish. There's independent analysis, fact, the CBO and CNN has already done its own independent analysis, and name calling to me and somehow acting as if by repeating a number of $716 billion that you can make that stick when that figure is being stolen from Medicare, that's not true. You can't just repeat it and make it true, sir.

SUNUNU: Reduction in services and reduction --

O'BRIEN: A reduction in the expected rate of growth, a reduction in the expected rate of growth.

SUNUNU: And reduction in services and reduction in support for Medicare advantage. That is taking money from the program.

O'BRIEN: Which by the way, Paul Ryan, right, has in his budget, which by the way --

SUNUNU: Mitt Romney does not.

O'BRIEN: Which Romney has said in the quote I just read to you, he thinks it's brilliant.

SUNUNU: But he likes the Ryan plan for its guts, but he has his own plan out there, which is carefully crafted to protect the seniors from 55 and up and does not take the $700 billion that Obama took.

O'BRIEN: John Sununu, always nice having you, pleasure.


O'BRIEN: It doesn't sound like he means it.

BERMAN: I just wish John Sununu would come out of his shell a little bit. He's very timid in the morning.

O'BRIEN: Every time we finish our conversation, he's a lot of fun to debate because he comes ready to talk numbers, as we like to do as well.

BERMAN: One of the things the Ryan plan, a lot more specifics than the Romney plan.

SUNUNU: The Romney plan is 1,000 words long, the Medicare part of it. I think that's a big challenge because no one knows the details of the Romney plan. BERMAN: So the Ryan plan fills the void so far in Mitt Romney proposals. And Mitt Romney has created some of this confusion himself by trying to distance himself from the Ryan plan and other times not trying to distance himself.

O'BRIEN: He's embraced it and distanced himself often in very --

BERMAN: So John Sununu is left to clean that up a little bit.

O'BRIEN: I think ultimately the question is, what do voters think? What's the message being sent to the voters in Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, places where there's a higher number of seniors, that's what the question is.

Coming up in our next hour, we'll talk to David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the Obama campaign. He'll weigh in on this debate as well.

Also covering the campaign trail, blazing her own trail, Candy Crowley of CNN going to be first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate. What took so long?

And take a look at this, a python that was found in the Florida everglades. It's a record breaker. We'll tell you just how big it is and what it was carrying. That's our Get Real. We're back in a moment.


ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Minding your Business this morning, bank fees are going up. A new study from looked at a variety of fees and every single category rose this year. Service fees average $12 a month now, that's up seven percent from last year. Overdraft fees, ATM fees and minimum balance requirements rose too.

Stock futures are looking up right now. Here's something to watch on Wall Street. Twilight star Robert Pattinson will ring the opening bell at the NYSE. A little star power there.

And most new luxury car models the latest front end crash test developed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Mercedes Benz and ES 350 and Audi A earned the worst rating. You always want to see your car get the check mark.

O'BRIEN: And how is the Chevy Suburban doing? Just checking. Thanks, Alison, appreciate it.

CNN's very own Candy Crowley will make history this campaign season becoming the first woman in 20 years and the second woman in al history to moderate a presidential debate. She's going to preside over the second debate at Hofstra University in New York.

The performance of the candidates at these debates could have a strong impact on voters come November. A new poll shows 57 percent of Americans consider the debates very important to their choice for president, the most of any factor. The primary debates were a major hurdle for Mitt Romney because of some comments and gaffes he made. But his performance improved over time. Debate coach Brett O'Donnell is the man who worked with Mitt Romney ahead of those debates and he joins us this morning. Always nice to see you. Thanks for being with us. Why 20 years since we've had a woman? What's that about?

BRETT O'DONNELL, DEBATE COACH: I don't know. I think there are a lot of -- Soledad, you should be moderating it. I think there are plenty of female journalists out there capable of moderating the debates. And I think it's a real honor for candy to have the town hall debate. That's the toughest of all to moderate.

O'BRIEN: Candy, we're so proud and excited for her to be moderating this debate. Tell me about the town hall format and who does that help and hurt?

O'DONNELL: Well, you know, I don't know that it favors one or the other. I think it will get a chance -- voters will get a chance in the town hall format to see how the candidates connect with voters in the audience. And so I think that's what makes the town hall format good for presidential debate because the candidates go out and do town halls, but sometimes they are more pre-set, prearranged then the town hall debate will be.

And so this is a chance to see how the candidates actually respond to voters in a live debate format. I think it's a good format for both candidates and we'll see who connects better to voters.

O'BRIEN: Presidential debates, when they polled people, 57 percent say it's very important in the choice for president. I always wonder if that's partly because what they are really saying, they watch for gaffes. You watch for mistakes and make judgments off those mistakes. We have a tiny clip of gaffes from President Obama and Mitt Romney as well. We'll play a little bit and we'll talk on the other side.



BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You're likeable enough, Hillary.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We went to the company and said, you can't have illegals working on the property. I'm running for office for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals.


O'BRIEN: So your job is to prep people for these kinds of debates. What is your number one rule to make it through a presidential debate?

O'DONNELL: Do no harm. That's the first rule. You want to make sure nothing happens in the debate that doesn't set the candidate back. And you want to then do something that moves the message forward. Debates are really message opportunities and the reason that audiences place such a premium on them is because they think it's a chance to see the candidates in a head to head format stripped of all of the campaign paraphernalia. They are not in ads, not a speech. It's a live moment that's on a neutral ground. And so I think that's why audiences play such a premium on them, not just they are looking for gaps, but that's important as well to avoid them as well.

O'BRIEN: Brett O'Donnell, looking forward to these debates, especially since candy will be moderating one of them. Good to see you.

O'DONNELL: Good to see you.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, Florida is accustomed to big snakes, but you will not believe this one. Look at that nasty thing that was discovered in the everglades. One scientist called it monstrous. It's our get real this morning.

Plus our team walking in, Bridget Siegel, Will Durst and Will Cain. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment. good morning, good morning.


O'BRIEN: Our team joining us this morning. Will Durst is with us, a comedian and political satirist, Bridgette Siegel is with us, formerly a Kerry-Edwards presidential campaign finance director, she's joining the panel this morning, and Will Cain is a columnist for good morning, Will. Nice to see you.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good to see you. Having a nice morning, Soledad?

O'BRIEN: I feel I need a stiff drink after my John Sununu interview.

But our get real chat --

CAIN: Chat, good word.


O'BRIEN: Argue, whatever. This python problem in the everglades --- that's an easy segue. An invasive species apparently eating everything, including al gators and deer. Not surprising when you look at the size of that thing. Scientists caught the biggest one they have seen, weighed 164.5 pounds carrying 87 eggs inside of it. Researchers are now studying to learn how they can stop the spread of this --

CAIN: Thankfully. Look at the eggs. It just started in 1979. First time pythons showed up in Florida and hundreds of thousands to hundreds of thousands of pythons in southern Florida.

O'BRIEN: Has no known predator, right?

CAIN: I don't know what would eat that.

WILL DURST, COMEDIAN: It's like a bad science fiction, out of the sci-fi channel.

O'BRIEN: Like that anaconda movie with Jennifer Lopez.

DURST: Or "Snakes on a Plane".

O'BRIEN: That's our get real. Don't go swimming in the everglades because that big thing could eat you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, the f-bomb is now in the dictionary.

DURST: Makes it OK.

O'BRIEN: No. You'll never believe what other words have made it into the mainstream dictionary. Plus, Mitt Romney's new running mate, talking about Paul Ryan heckled on his first day on the campaign trail. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Paul Ryan heckled in his debut as the vice presidential nominee. Listen.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Like I said, she must not be from Iowa. So --


O'BRIEN: And she's hauled off, both hauled off. He went on to continue his speech.

In just a few minutes, we're going to be talking to the editor in chief of, Erick Erickson is going to join us, talk about Ryan in the spotlight, his thoughts on the pick.

And his thoughts -- he actually was one of the very first to say that Ryan would be a good VP pick. He was out front, surprised he didn't necessarily be his pick, but he said he would be a good pick. We're going to talk about that straight ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's interesting about the Iowa State Fair, that's exactly the same place where Mitt Romney said corporations are people too. He was being heckled --

O'BRIEN: It's a tough crowd.

BERMAN: It's a freewheeling atmosphere. People go up there and speak, and they get heckled. I think Ryan handled it just like all good politicians handle it. O'BRIEN: You get those people out there and you move on with your message. Let's get to the top stories. John Berman has got that. Good morning again.

BERMAN: All right, looking at some of the stories making headlines this morning. A 7.7 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Eastern Russia is causing quite a few false positive reports of earthquakes in California.

Russian officials say there have been no injuries or no damage and there is no threat of a tsunami or significant aftershocks. The earthquake was said at about 100 miles out to sea and it could be felt as far away as Northern Japan.

The Egyptian government plans to put two journalists on trial for defaming and insulting President Mohamed Morsi. One is accused of inciting to kill the president. Prosecutors say the other is charged with spreading false information and rumors that threaten the security and stability of the country. Both are prohibited from leaving Egypt while they are under investigation.

Attorneys for accused killer, George Zimmerman, are pulling out all legal stops to get a new judge in the Trayvon Martin case. They've already asked Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester to step down, but he's refused so now they filed an appeal to have him removed. Zimmerman's lawyers claim Judge Lester cannot be impartial after revoking their client's bail back in June.

He's been on medical leave for more than two months and now we're learning that Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has bipolar disorder. Jackson is being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Doctors released a statement saying Jackson is responding well to treatment and regaining his strength. His staffers and doctors have not discussed the timetable for his possible return to office.

And in this morning's "A.M. House Call," where does your state stack up in the battle of the bulge? The "Trust For America's Health" and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 26 of the 30 states with the highest obesity levels are in the Midwest and south.

The worst offenders, Mississippi followed by Louisiana and then West Virginia. The study found that the leanest state is Colorado with sunny Hawaii second and Massachusetts third.

Fascinating findings about how your brain handles depression and stress. A study led by a Yale researcher found that the brain shrinks under those conditions.

It also found that depression blocks the formation of new nerve connections in the brain, which disrupts mental function and emotion. Researchers say it might explain why people with major depression deal with concentration and memory loss and diminished emotional response.

O'BRIEN: And on that happy note --

BERMAN: I know, trying to measure my brain right now. O'BRIEN: Wow, all right. Let's turn and get back to politics, shall we? The newly minted vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, visits a key swing state today.

He is hoping to turn all the buzz around his selection into actual votes. Congressman Ryan is going to campaign in Colorado. Didn't you say that was one of the healthiest states?

BERMAN: He's a healthy guy.

O'BRIEN: That comes a day after visiting Iowa. His message there hit a little bit of a bump when some protesters, a few, heckled him at the Iowa State Fair, which is not all that unusual for that state fair. Listen.


RYAN: It's funny, it's funny because Iowans and Wisconsinites we like to be respectful of one another and peaceful with one another and listen to each other. These ladies must not be from Iowa or Wisconsin.


O'BRIEN: And he just kept going. Erick Erickson was among the very first to suggest that Paul Ryan could be Romney's pick. He is also the editor in chief of and a CNN contributor.

It's nice to see you, Erick. Thanks for being with us. It must be nice to look back and say I was among the first to throw that name out there.

Before we talk about Paul Ryan, I want to ask you about Chris Christie though. We now know he is going to be doing the key note. What do you think of that?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think it's a good idea. They wanted to find a place for him and I think that's a really good place, gives him the spotlight. He is deeply popular with the base right now.

Polling suggests independents like him. He's actually polling ahead of Barack Obama in New Jersey. Can I just say that the whole shrinking brain and depression, when you're potty training a 3- year-old, you get the same result.

O'BRIEN: A lot of parents are like, yes, you do and I don't know it never comes back actually. Let's talk about polling when it comes to Ryan, a "USA Today"/Gallup poll shows this among independents, the reaction, excellent or pretty good as a choice 35 percent, fair, poor 43 percent, no opinion is quite a high number at 23 percent. What do those numbers tell you?

ERICKSON: That it's too early. I really think one of the worst trends in modern American polling is the instapoll where people have no clue who the guy is. I mean, the number two pick on Google searches after Saturday was Paul Ryan shirtless. I mean, come on.

O'BRIEN: What does that tell you?

ERICKSON: Tells you something.

CAIN: Hi, Erick. It's Will.


CAIN: Let me ask you this. Look, I'm excited about the Paul Ryan pick after you I think it's a great move in terms of leadership and in terms of devotion to principle. But I'm not sure it's a great move in terms of sheer politics.

We're talking this morning we have at this table about the concept of controlling the message, specifically regarding Medicare. Can Republicans control the message on Medicare and avoid having this to be a debate where the terms of the debate, are you or are you not throwing grandma off the cliff? Are you or are you not killing Medicare?

ERICKSON: Right. You know, I've talked to a lot of Republican strategists over the weekend and they make three points. First is that suddenly this race is no longer a referendum on the president.

It's a choice between two visions and a lot of Republican strategists don't have confidence that the Romney campaign is able to sell their choice.

Two, suddenly you're not talking about the economy anymore, you're talking about Medicare. Republicans don't necessarily win when you talk about Medicare.

And three, suddenly maybe Florida is in play, even stronger than it was. That's why they're going to send Paul Ryan down to Florida and probably have him campaign with his mom who was on Medicare living down there.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you a question about one of your colleagues, Ben Dominick wrote. He's wrote this. In choosing Ryan, the Romney team is indicating that they may very well be more desperate than they let on.

This is not a pick you make if you're confident, you're ahead or tied. If a kind of pick you make when you think you're behind. The headline is desperation. Do you think that's a fair analysis?

ERICKSON: I absolutely think it's a fair analysis. I don't think they would have gone with Paul Ryan unless they need to shake up the race. All along they've been thinking they want to go with boring old white guy and went with somewhat exciting, younger white guy.

I think it definitely shows in the swing states. They've got to shake it up a little bit. They got to make some inroads not just with independents, but they've got to solidify the race with conservatives.

The Romney campaign has made a number of missteps in the past few weeks with conservatives trying to get that back on track and trying to get Ryan out there.

They wanted a game changing shake up. You know, it is a pick that is risky because so many behind the scenes consultants affiliated with the Republican Party went on background to the "Politico," the "New York Times" and elsewhere, saying, we wish he hadn't had picked this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They keep calling it bold, but you know, bold is -- you got to be careful. I mean, whiskey for breakfast is bold. Forehead tattoos are bold.

O'BRIEN: I don't know. I think we'll talk about it --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is like gravitas earlier. Bold is the new adjective.

O'BRIEN: I think you're right. All right, Erick Erickson, always nice to have you. Thanks for being with us. Appreciate it.

Coming up in roughly 20 minutes, we're going to be talking with David Axelrod, senior adviser to the Obama campaign. He'll weigh in on all of this.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, you know, I don't like the word f bomb, but now it's in the dictionary. I'm not going to explain. Man cave is in the dictionary too. My son is 8 years old. He's in today.

There are some new words and phrases that are making it into the dictionary. We'll tell you what they are and what they mean because I have no idea.

Also back from London with a gold medal around his neck, well, metaphorically, maybe not literally, Olympic diver, David Boudia. You know, he was afraid of heights. He does the 10-meter dive and won the gold medal.

We'll talk how he was able to overcome his fear of heights and go from 18th place to winning the gold. It's amazing story. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It could be a game changer for language. Not really, that's just one of the new words. Collegiate dictionary is out with their newest words.

Some of them are familiar, like game changer, defined as newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity significantly.

Man cave, a room or space designed to according to the man of the house. Yes, whatever. My favorite is "Aha moment," which is in the dictionary. I actually thought the Oprah made this up, it's a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition or comprehension.

Remember, you know, Oprah was always talking about her aha moment. I think it came from the 1930s. That was a little bit stunning. Some of the other words in here, f-bomb, that seems a little --

CAIN: Interestingly they say that one coined by Mets catcher Gary Carter and not Oprah.

O'BRIEN: Of course, and underwater.


O'BRIEN: What does that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means you're dead, you're beat. But back in the '30s, it had a different meaning. It meant you were high, you were stoned. You were drunk.

CAIN: Exhausted. I'm often gassed when I walk of the stage trying to force Soledad O'Brien into an aha moment and drop f-bombs on my way out.

O'BRIEN: That was well done. You should not be gassed, meaning worn out. You should be gassed, excited, meaning we had another incredible debate. You know I like talking political philosophy with you, even though you're often wrong.

CAIN: Often as defined by rarely.

O'BRIEN: You're cracking me up today. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, long lost pyramids have been spotted in Egypt thanks to Google Earth. We knew they had some uses for that.

Plus, this is a man who started out being afraid of heights, but now David Boudia is one of the best platform divers in the world and wearing his medals. He's just back from London. Great to have you. Thanks for coming.


O'BRIEN: Congratulations to you. I've never seen an Olympic gold medal up close.

BOUDIA: They are really heavy.

O'BRIEN: Wow. They're really heavy.

CAIN: Bring it over here.

O'BRIEN: We'll pull up a chair for you. We're going to take a short break. David is going to join us in a moment.


BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. Checking your top stories. An archeologist says she thinks she has discovered the locations of some of Egypt's lost pyramids buried for centuries under the earth and she did it using Google Earth.

She says the two sites stand about 90 miles apart. Scientists are now looking at the images to see if they should examine further. I think the answer is yes.

President Obama called to congratulate NASA's "Curiosity" team saying they're work embodies the American spirit. He even gave a show out to Mohawk guy, the now famous flight director, Bobak Ferdowsi. You have to listen to this.


OBAMA (via telephone): I understand there's a special Mohawk guy that's working on the mission? I in the past thought about getting a Mohawk myself. My -- my team keeps on discouraging me.


BERMAN: You know, Bobak is on Twitter, he tweeted out later on it was the greatest day of his life to have the president joke with him like that.

Moving on now, touchdown in Rio, the Olympic flag arriving on Brazilian soil yesterday, it marks the start of four years of preparations for the 2016 summer games, which will be in Rio De Janeiro. The Olympic flag will be on public display at city hall. Get ready for Rio.

O'BRIEN: We are talking about London this morning. U.S. Olympic athletes returning after the really exciting summer games in London, one of them is standout diver, David Boudia.

He won a bronze in the synchronized 10-meter platform event with Nicholas McRory then on to win the gold in the 10-meter platform dive. It is one of the most coveted and most difficult dives to win.

The last American diver in fact to bring home a gold in the event was Greg Loganos and that was back in 1988. I remember watching that, amazing dive.

What you might not know about David Boudia is that he is afraid of heights. He battled that which is like so why are you a diver off of very tall things, David?

BOUDIA: I know. How ironic.


BOUDIA: Olympic champion, scared of heights. When I first started my diving career, I was 11 years old, and I was stuck up there when I was 12. You stick a kid up on a three-story building and he tell him to do three or four flips and dive in.

You know, they are going to be scared out of their mind. But it went back to the support that I had, my gymnastics coaches, and drew out the dives on pieces of paper. So when I went to practice, I was able to already do the dives in my head a thousand times.

O'BRIEN: Wow. It's amazing. You were in 18th place going into the semis. Is that right? And that's the last place that you can possibly be in to make it in order to make it into the next level.

BOUDIA: How is that for drama?

O'BRIEN: Believe me your story has a lot of drama this morning. So how did you do it? I mean, it was a total crazy moment. You know, barely making it into the semifinal event and then I was walked over to my coach and I saw him when I was at 17th place.

And I was like, this is where the Olympics end for me. And I was actually content, and I was totally understanding of God's sovereignty over it.

O'BRIEN: You thought you were done? This is it?

BOUDIA: I totally did. I went back to the room and was packing up my things. And saw my name in 18th, and I was like, all right, I have another shot at this.

So I woke up the next morning. It was a brand new day, morning, the sun came up. I was so relaxed. I was so at peace. I was so relaxed, so content. And the next 12 hours, I found myself on the top of the podium.

O'BRIEN: Will Cain is wearing your gold medal, by the way. Keep an eye on that.

CAIN: That's gold right there and they are much heavier. Everyone says this. They are much heavier than you would think. Thank you for letting me wear this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got the gold, and Bridgitte has the bronze. You couldn't have won three?

BOUDIA: I was only in two events. I'll come back after Rio. How is that?

CAIN: David, that calmness you just described, did that carry over into your final dive? You've done this I'm sure thousands of times. But for me, your final dive determined the gold, right?

You were up against the Chinese world champion. You go three stories up, hang your heels off the back of a three-story building and do this amazing dive. I just can't imagine doing that while calm.

BOUDIA: Well, the craziest thing about the whole competition about the Olympic finals is I didn't know where I was placed the entire time. Going into the last dive I had no idea I was point something away from the Great Britain diver.

I was totally relaxed. Had I known, I probably would have felt a lot more pressure. But I got out of the pool, walked over to my coach, and I could tell there was -- OK, maybe I'm in medal contention. I didn't know I was in gold medal contention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the final dive?

BOUDIA: What was the final dive? Well, I do two flips with 2 1/2 twists and try to dive in without a splash.

CAIN: It's completely ridiculous.

BOUDIA: We have synchronized diving. Do you want to try that?

O'BRIEN: What did Greg Louganis tell you? I know he's been a mentor to you and the team. I know that he was really specific sort of about where to put your focus because he thought you guys were kind of focusing on the wrong thing. What did he tell you?

BOUDIA: This whole experience, since 2008, has just been dramatic change. It was a total perspective change. We were so worried about getting medals in 2008 that we walked away without medals. So we switched our focus in 2012, and now we are walking away, USA diving with four medals.

O'BRIEN: And your focus was on --

BOUDIA: You know, just taking it one step at a time. We went in and did what we did in practice, and it turned out excellent for the United States diving team and definitely a very cool ending with the gold.

CAIN: I have to ask you before you go, there was an article about Olympians losing these things. Was this ever at any risk of being lost?

O'BRIEN: Just now.

BOUDIA: It's been in my pocket the entire time, but I am going to check twice before I leave.

O'BRIEN: Absolutely. You want to make sure you get that back from Will Cain. It's so great to have you. Thanks for being with us.

BOUDIA: Thank you for having me.

O'BRIEN: You have to really understand for those of you who just get to watch the games from a distance how proud we are as Americans to be able to cheer you on.

The representation that was happening in London was amazing. I mean, it was so great. If you have a kid you can sit next to and say, this is our nation competing, it's a remarkable thing.

BOUDIA: See so cool to be able to come home to an inspired generation.

O'BRIEN: We love it.

CAIN: You're so calm, it makes me nervous.

O'BRIEN: All right, we have to take a break. Thank you for coming in and get those medals back. Watch that gold medal.

Ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, is Paul Ryan, Romney's vice presidential choice helping or hurting President Obama's chances? A senior adviser to the Obama campaign, David Axelrod, is going to join us up next.

Plus, a warning for Penn State. The university is told that its accreditation is in jeopardy. CNN's senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin is going to be with us to weigh in on that. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.


O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning is defining Paul Ryan, a closer look at the newly minted vice presidential nominee's federal budget plan.

And heat wave. Triple digit temperatures baking folks from California to Arizona.

Plus, the roar of the future, the Air Force is testing a plane today that could go from New York to London in less than an hour. We're going to take you live to Pentagon this morning.

Packed show ahead. From the political arena, senior adviser to the Obama campaign, David Axelrod will be our guest.

CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley will be joining us. The first female presidential debate moderator since journalist Carole Simpson 20 years ago. Carole is also joining us.

And we're going to be talking to Adam Richman from "Man Versus Food." He is bringing food sandwiches, amazing sandwiches. I love a man who brings food to the set. That is the way to my heart, people, just throwing it out there for the panel.

It's Tuesday, August 14th and STARTING POINT begins right now.