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September 5th, 2012
11:26 AM ET

Actor John Leguizamo on importance of arts funding, Latino issues and why it 'doesn't make sense' for Latinos to be Republican

Emmy Award-winning actor John Leguizamo is in Charlotte this week for the Democratic National Convention to promote the Creative Coalition, a non-profit organization advocating for public funding for the arts as an economic development resource.

“It’s always the first to go and the arts are actually what keeps us cutting edge against China and India,” Leguizamo tells Soledad O’Brien. “It’s been proven that for every dollar spent, you get seven dollars back that’s taxable from the arts. The iPod was created for what? For music.”

The Colombian American actor also weighs in on the DNC’s first Latino keynote speaker, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and on the Republican attempt to court Hispanic Americans.    

“[Julian Castro’s] going to be our president,” Leguizamo says. “That’s how you felt last night being a Latin man, just, wow, we’ve come a long way and we’re going to have our Obama, a Latin Obama.”  

“Latin people for Republicans are like roaches for raid,” he adds. “It doesn’t make sense. [Republicans are] not for us. You’re not for my values. We’re working class people mostly and blue collar. We’re your cops, we’re your firemen, we’re your carpenters and the things we need – we need to protect our unions, we need to protect our Medicare, we need to protect the working class person.”

September 5th, 2012
11:22 AM ET

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Obama experiencing same 'type of battles' with GOP when Clinton was President

Tonight, former President Bill Clinton is headlining the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. His highly anticipated speech could show he is the Democratic Party's best weapon in November. Last night we heard from a man who worked in the Clinton administration and served as President Obama's White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

Now the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel talks with Soledad O'Brien on "Starting Point" about trying to bring back the enthusiasm for hope and change that defined the Obama campaign in 2008.

"I saw the president make the tough calls in the situation room. And today our troops in Iraq have finally come home so America can do some nation building here at home. That was a change we believed in. That was a change we fought for. That was a change president Obama delivered," he says. "My goal last night was to give people I thought I had a unique perk as chief of staff worked for two presidents and give a front row seat in the Oval Office."

Emanuel also argues that President Obama needs more time in office to fix the rough economy.

"Until the middle class feel comfortable that they can own a home and save for retirement and send kids to college and pay for health care, the basic pillars of middle class, our work is not done," he says.

"I think the president has very clear responsibility, to layout a vision for the future and make clear the choices," he adds. "You will have in my view after this election an agreement between the parties about the shape and role of government."

Soledad also asks Emanuel to weigh in on a comment from RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who said on "Starting Point" fmr. President Clinton will help the GOP argument against Obama, because "he's going to illustrate to the American people that Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton." Emanuel shared his experience working in the Clinton White House.

"I was in the Clinton White House. Republican Congress voted against his entire budget in '93, to start the lay the groundwork for a balanced budget. They voted against the health care plan that President Obama finished. When he was sending troops to Kosovo and Europe to actually bring peace the first time in American history the Congress did not support a war even while the troops were in the air. They were not exactly partners in bringing back the 22 million jobs that were created in the private sector and a balanced budget in the efforts of what happened there. People may remember a period of time of bipartisanship. I was in the Clinton White House, that's not how we lived it. That's not how it happened. It was the same type of battles we have today against a party that put ideology over progress," he says.

September 5th, 2012
10:35 AM ET

Sandra Fluke on DNC speech preview, says women feel shift in US that's not in their favor and finds Romney's changing positions on abortion 'disturbing'

The Democratic National Convention is in full swing in Charlotte, North Carolina this week. Last night, First Lady Michelle Obama took center stage and appealed to women across the country. Tonight, Georgetown University graduate and women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke will speak at the DNC to rally support among women for the president as well. Fluke made headlines after conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh insulted her for supporting Obama’s health care law requiring contraception coverage.

Fluke joins Soledad O’Brien on “Starting Point” this morning to share her thoughts on whether there is a “war on women.”

“I do think that a lot of women feel like they’re under attack,” Fluke says. She refers to legislatures across the country trying to “limit access to reproductive healthcare, attacking fair pay, the way it was in Wisconsin, the Violence Against Women Act being controversial for the first time.”

“And women feel that,” she says. “I’ve talked to a lot of them across the country and they really do feel like this is a shift, and not in their favor.”

Fluke also addresses the latest poll showing a gain in support among women for Mitt Romney, but still leaving President Obama with a gain at 54% leaning Obama to 42% leaning Romney. She thinks there is a clear choice this November in regard to policies for women. “President Obama has always been ahead with woman throughout this campaign,” she says, “and I’m sure that he’s going to be ahead with them on Election Day.”

Fluke is uncertain about Mitt Romney’s views on abortion. “What I find disturbing about Mr. Romney’s position is that he’s taken so many different ones on the issue of access to abortion, she says. “And I don’t expect to see a leader moving and quivering with the political times."

September 5th, 2012
10:14 AM ET

Gov. Malloy says Romney's record 'fair game' to talk about, asks Rep. Chaffetz 'Where have you been on a jobs bill?'

As you have heard, the tone of the speeches here at the Democratic National Convention went from brazen attacks on the Romney campaign to inspirational speeches from First Lady Michelle Obama.

On "Starting Point" this morning, Governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT) talks to Soledad O’Brien about President Obama’s track record in office and the strong arguments against Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

"If you can't stand the heat you should stay out of the kitchen," Malloy says. "Mitt Romney has a record and we can talk about it. It's fair game to talk about. Speakers are going to do that. We're going to also talk about what the president has accomplished. And he's accomplished a great deal and actually much more than he gets credit for."

Gov. Malloy also challenges Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on his claims that the country is not better off with President Obama.

"Let's stop for a second. Which president saved the automobile industry? Your candidate wanted the automobile industry to go bankrupt. That's what he said. He wrote an editorial in the paper. That would have cost another million jobs. In fact it would have taken the great recession into the great depression. And by the way, when you talk about your desire to create jobs, where have you been on a jobs bill?"

Read the transcript from the interview after the jump.


September 4th, 2012
12:47 PM ET

Phila. Mayor Nutter & Tea Party Express's Amy Kremer debate Romney, Obama spending philosophies

Phila. Mayor Michael Nutter & Tea Party Express's Amy Kremer debate spending plans from Mitt Romney and President Obama.

September 4th, 2012
12:30 PM ET

VIDEO: North Carolina Gov. Perdue previews Democratic National Convention, predicts 'Obama will win America again'

Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC) on the message the Democratic party needs to deliver to voters at the Convention in Charlotte.

September 4th, 2012
12:19 PM ET

DNC chair Wasserman Schultz: 'Spare me if I don't really trust that Mitt Romney has been rooting for President Obama to succeed'

At 5:00pm Eastern this evening, the 2012 Democratic National Convention will officially be called to order. There are a series of speakers scheduled for the week, most notably First Lady Michelle Obama tonight and keynote speaker San Antonio's Mayor Julian Castro.

It will be the first time that a Latino gives the keynote speech of the Democratic National Convention. Throughout the week, Democrats are also going to try to convince voters that they are better off now than they were before President Obama took office.

DNC chairwoman and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) shares details on the agenda for the convention.

"Over the course of the week, you'll hear a very different tone than the one that you heard last week in Tampa, which was really essentially one nonstop series of attacks on President Obama," Wasserman Schultz says. "We're going to layout the case for moving the economy forward. President Obama and speakers throughout the week will talk about and have an honest conversation about where we were when he first took office and where we are now after four years of his policies and 29 straight months of job growth in the private sector. We need to continue to move forward and we've got a ways to go. But we're moving in the right direction and need to focus on rebuilding our economy from the middle class out and bottom up and not go back to the failed policies of the past."

Schultz also addresses Soledad's question as to whether Mitt Romney really attacked President Obama in his Republican National Convention speech.

"I was pretty disappointed [Romney] was as disingenuous as he was in saying that he had been rooting for President Obama to my home state, the night Mitt Romney won the primary, he said you have to remember what this election is really about, to his supporters and his answer was not creating jobs or getting the economy turned around, it was defeating Barack Obama.
So spare me if I don't really trust that Mitt Romney has been rooting for President Obama to succeed. We need to talk about how to move forward together and help make sure that everyone in America has an opportunity to be successful, not just people who already are like Mitt Romney has proposed," she says.

Schultz also addresses the main question of the convention: Are we better off than we were four years ago?

"Yes, we're absolutely better off. There's no question when President Obama took office, he inherited the largest set of problems of any president since FDR. The economy under President Bush and the previous six months had lost 3.5 million jobs and we were hemorrhaging 750,000 jobs a month when he took office. Now again after four years of President Obama's policies, not only do we stop the hemorrhaging, but we began to turn things around," she says.

September 4th, 2012
11:55 AM ET

Actor Jeff Bridges brings 'No Kid Hungry' campaign to DNC, says 'if we're not taking care of our kids, we're not taking care of our country'

"The Dude" himself, Oscar-winning actor and musician Jeff Bridges is lending his talents to this year's Democratic convention in Charlotte, NC. Bridges and his band, "The Abiders," performed last night at the Carolina Fest. He is also in town to promote his other passion project, which is ending childhood hunger with a screening of a documentary that he's narrated called "Hunger Hits Home."

He is an advocate for the "No Kid Hungry" campaign, which aims to educate low-income families about staying fit and healthy. Bridges joins Soledad on "Starting Point" with "Share Our Strength" founder Bill Shore to talk about the importance of working to end child hunger.

"If we're not taking care of our kids, we're not taking care of our country," Bridges says. "If another country was doing this to our kids, we'd be at war."

Soledad asks why both parties are not doing more to talk about working to end hunger in America.

"It's precisely the time when the problem is bigger than it's ever been, 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, 46 million Americans on food stamps, half of them being children," Shore says. "And it's a solvable problem, which is what I think the point that Jeff has been trying to make with the "No Kid Hungry" campaign - getting bipartisan support to say we have the food resources. If we can get these kids connected to them, we can solve hunger."

Shore adds, "less than half the kids that get lunch, less than half get breakfast even though they are eligible. And the obstacle is getting to school early to do it. Most of us can barely get the kids to school on time. So to get there early and have the stigma attached to going to school early. In some places like in Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa just announced to us they are moving breakfast from the cafeteria to the first 10 minutes of first period. And what they're finding is that every kid is in every seat on time. The teachers love it because everyone shows up. You get a guaranteed breakfast."

If you want to donate to the 'No Kid Hungry' campaign, you can text 'hungry' to 877877 or visit

September 4th, 2012
11:16 AM ET

Philadelphia Mayor Nutter says his speech will talk about 'real facts about the real president, Barack Obama,' details how stimulus helped his city

This year, many of the rising stars in the Democratic side aren't in Capitol Hill, they are from City Hall. More than a half dozen mayors scheduled to speak in Charlotte this week, and one is Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. This morning on "Starting Point," Nutter previews what he'll say in his speech.

"I'm going to talk about real facts about the real president, Barack Obama, the things he's done that I've experienced certainly in Philadelphia, particularly focused on education, investment in infrastructure, support for cities," he says. "More than 80% of the country's population lives in cities. Whether you're a Democrat or Republican, our job is to get things done and make things happen and support the public that we serve. We don't really have a lot of time for gridlock and talks and resolutions, and you can't continue doing as we see sometimes in Congress, just kind of kick the can down the road. Mayors, much like the president, we have to serve people, and the president has done that. And the commentary from earlier, people seem to forget where we were."

Nutter adds, "there has been progress and things would have been that much worse but for $787 billion economic recovery package, the largest in the history of the country, reforms on Wall Street. A lot of people talked about making health care affordable, president Barack Obama actually did it. Said he would end the two wars, did that. Killed bin Laden and GM is back and auto industry is saved when Mitt Romney said let it die. So he actually has a record."

In the clip below, Mayor Nutter details how the stimulus went to help shore up the economy in Philadelphia.

September 4th, 2012
10:49 AM ET

TIME humor columnist Joel Stein on up-and-coming events at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

TIME humor columnist Joel Stein talks to the "Starting Point" panel about up-and-coming events at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Stein who has participated in the liquor lobbying parties for both conventions says he is looking forward to going to "every caucus for every ethnicity today" at the DNC.

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