Retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who led the military relief effort for Hurricane Katrina, weighs in on the latest the damage from Hurricane Isaac.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La) on the flooding in Plaquemines Parish due to hurricane Isaac, evacuations and an overtopped levee.
Tonight at the Republican National Convention, vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan will take the state to address the party.
This morning on "Starting Point," Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) talks with John Berman about playing Ryan in debate preps with Vice President Joe Biden, and the latest on Hurricane Isaac. Van Hollen first addresses questions of whether President Obama should be campaigning while Hurricane Isaac is battering the Gulf Coast.
"The President has been on top of this storm from the beginning," he says. "He, just the other day, authorized the federal government to provide all support necessary through FEMA for this purposes. I know that he is tracking the storm very closely. The Republicans are having their convention here in Florida. The President is also talking about issues that face American families around the country. But he is always monitoring the storm. And as I said, he's provided all of the relief necessary, authorized all the relief necessary."
Van Hollen also weighs in on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's keynote speech at the convention on Tuesday night.
"What I heard Governor Christie talk about was we need more truth-telling. Unfortunately, I didn't hear any more truth-telling from him. And I think they're going to have to persuade the American people why it's brave to say that we're not going to ask the very wealthy in this country to pay one more penny to help reduce the deficit. In fact, they want to give another round of tax cuts to people like Mitt Romney, and that comes at the expense of everybody else," Van Hollen says.
Van Hollen also talked about the challenges of standing in for Ryan in the debate preps with Vice President Biden.
"When I'm talking about the Vice President, I will - I'll try and give their version of the story. But if you look at for example the Romney ad on Medicare, it's a total distortion of the facts. Because what Obamacare did was eliminate a lot of the overpayments to private insurance companies in Medicare and used the savings to strengthen Medicare benefits. They would turn back the clock on that and ask seniors to pay a lot more so that people like Mitt Romney can get another tax cut," he says.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) talks with John Berman on "Starting Point" this morning to reflect on Ann Romney's speech before the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, and preview Rep. Paul Ryan's speech tonight.
When it comes to Ann Romney's speech, Portman says she was working to grab the ears of undecided voters.
"She was talking to those folks who hadn't made their mind up yet," Portman says. "There are a lot of people out there, I think a lot more than the pollsters tell us. They may say they're for one candidate or another, but they're really wondering and it's enlarge measure because they aren't happy. They aren't happy with the direction of the economy, the direction of the country in general. I think what she was able to do is say, look, if you give my husband a chance, she talked about his hard work ethic, you know, the fact that he's going to work harder than anybody else, and that he's all about results and helping people to achieve something for themselves and their family. I think that's what people wanted to hear. And I thought she did a great job with that."
Portman is also deeply involved in the Romney campaign. He will be playing the part of President Obama in debate prep with Mitt Romney.
"The opportunity is to be tougher than the opponent so that halfway through the debate he says, well, that wasn't so bad," Portman says of his debate prep skills.
Last night at the Republican National Convention, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie delivered the keynote address. This morning, fmr. New York City Governor Rudy Giuliani weighs in on how Christie fared in his speech.
"I think his role here was not so much to support just Mitt Romney," Giuliani tells John Berman on "Starting Point." "His role as to keynote speaker was to set the background for what this campaign is going to be about, a contrast of ideas and ways of looking at government."
Berman asks Giuliani to respond to one point in last night's keynote speech, where Christie says: "We are demanding that our leaders stop tearing each other down and work together to take action on the big things facing America. Tonight we are going to do what my mother taught me. Tonight we're going to choose respect over love."
Giuliani responds, saying that what government today lacks is folks who can make tough decisions.
"That's what's lacking in government today," Giuliani says. "They can't make the tough decisions about Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. I was in front of a group of college students two months ago and said to them, how many of you think you're ever going to collect Social Security and Medicare? Four put up their hands, four out of 1,000. This is ridiculous. We know it's going broke but neither the president nor Congress can get it together to fix it, which is what Paul Ryan is challenging us to do and the Democrats are trying to say, he's going to throw granny off the cliff. Actual granny is going to be thrown off the cliff if he doesn't do anything about Medicare, which he seems afraid to do. I think that's the point [Christie] was trying to make."
Despite making landfall twice in the overnight hours, Hurricane Isaac is a very slow moving storm. National Hurricane Center's Richard Knabb tells Soledad O'Brien on "Starting Point" this morning that Hurricane Isaac's fierce winds and rainfall is far from over.
"For many people it's not even half over," Knabb says. "You're not seeing the center pass by you yet and once it does, you still have the southern half of the circulation to go. And this really slow motion overnight has really pointed out how long a duration this is going to be. It's still only moving at six miles per hour. So it is the large size and the slow motion that makes this category 1 hurricane seem worse than the category would tell you because the category only reflects the maximum sustained wind and for this one it's 80 miles per hour."
"But the rainfall, the storm surge and duration of the winds and duration of the rains, all of these things are not captured by the category. And for many people it's going to be all day today and into tonight and into tomorrow that the rains and the onshore flow causing the storm surge are going to persist," Knabb adds.
We've opened a live blog for "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" this morning, with Soledad live from the French Quarter as hurricane Isaac lashes the Gulf Coast. Soledad and our Starting Point producers will be moderating.
We encourage you to share your comments, ask questions, and maybe even record a webcam response to post to the feed.
A few ground rules:
* All comments and video submissions will be moderated, so please refrain from using any inappropriate language or gestures. We want to keep this a lively, interesting conversation.
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Editor's note: This post has been updated, after it was originally written prior to hurricane Isaac's landfall in New Orleans. Watch "Starting Point" at 7am on CNN for the latest on Isaac's track.
By "Starting Point" anchor Soledad O'Brien
The concrete is so clean on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal/Surge Barrier that it looks like they poured it yesterday. But the roiling clouds above it made it clear why it's completion in May was critical. It's about to face its first test.
They call it "the wall." It's a two mile stretch of concrete that's designed to keep the waters from the Gulf of Mexico from flooding into Lake Borgne then inundating New Orleans neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. A surge that took that same path destroyed homes and left a trail of dead during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
This massive post-Katrina effort by the Army Corps of Engineers with three 150' gates began in 2009. On Tuesday, the two doors were closed for the first time in anticipation of Hurricane Isaac.
"Last time the surge went into Lake Bourne and into the heart of the city," Col. Edward Fleming of the US Army Corps of Engineers tells me. "This wall is built to 26 feet high and we expect to see surge 8 to 10, maybe 15 feet."
Soledad and the Starting Point team document the behind-the-scenes work they're doing as they report on the latest in preps and track for hurricane Isaac.
Producers Rose Arce, Alexa Miranda and Miguel Susana contributed photos to this gallery.
Though all eyes are on hurricane Isaac as it nears the Gulf Coast, there's also a Republican National Convention going on and next week the Democratic National Convention will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina.
There's one man who is trying to bring both parties together in a very unique way. TV personality Ty Pennington explains to Soledad and John on "Starting Point."
As part of Craftsman House United, Pennington will lead the charge to build one half of a home during the Republican National Convention in Tampa today, and the other half of the home will be built during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte on Monday, September 3. The idea is for both sides of the political aisle to work together to build a home for a military veteran's family.
"We've had a lot of delegates that are coming out you know swinging hammers which is - which is a really cool thing," Pennington says. "I mean I think it's great that everybody wants to get involved. And so clearly, you know, I mean I don't think one side is weighing on the other. I think everyone can agree on is that someone who served our country like this could really us a deserving house. And so it's good to see that both sides of the house are coming together."
With hurricane Isaac nearing New Orleans, Pennington reflects on the rebuilding work he's done in the city after hurricane Katrina devastated the area. He says one thing he's learned is that New Orleans residents are resilient.
"To hear the stories and the businesses and the families, the people that just literally opened their arms and their hearts to help others, that's what really inspires us," Pennington says.