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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Obama Law School Video; Risking Life For Liberty; Weekly Unemployment Claims up Slightly; Numbers Show Republicans Rely Heavily on Older White Voters; The GOP's Minority Problem; Rita Moreno Live

Aired March 8, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: This is Iran's cleanup job. There are some new images that some people say shows Iran hiding radioactive waist from a nuclear test. We'll talk about that this morning.

Also, have you felt the impact yet? The largest solar storm in five years is hammering the earth right now. It could disrupt everything from flights to power grid.

Plus, we'll tell you about Andrew Breitbart's last work.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA: Open up your hearts and your minds to the words of Professor Derrick Bell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's a videotape of President Obama back in the 1990s. Is it much of a bombshell at all? We'll talk about that straight ahead as well.

And a year after the Arab spring, disturbing information that things might not have changed especially for women. Those are our starting points for this Thursday -- I said Friday earlier. You guys didn't correct me. Thank you.

It's March 8th. Thursday. Twitter corrected me. But everybody else didn't here.

What are we listening to? Whose song? This is Beyonce. It's on my playlist.

AMY HOLMES, GBTV ANCHOR: Women run this world.

JAY THOMAS, SIRIUS RADIO: That's fine, as long as they do the laundry.

CARLOS DIAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You had it. You were so close. Come on. You're killing us.

O'BRIEN: Jay Thomas joins us, actor and Sirius Radio talk show host.

THOMAS: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Amy Holmes is with us as well. She's an anchor from GBTV's "Real News." Ands Errol Louis is a host of New York 1's "Inside City Hall".

You're worried about Sirius and solar flares.

THOMAS: I'm taking the day off. Why can't we just take a day off? We live in this incredible atmosphere. We want everything to work perfectly. Everything has to always go fast, so just take a day off.

HOLMES: Will you call my boss?

O'BRIEN: I'm going to continue to anchor my show right now then and I'll take a day off. Thanks for the advice.

THOMAS: It's a signal from God that we're supposed to slow down. Whoever runs the universe is saying, you know, cut it out.

O'BRIEN: Whoever runs the universe is not the person yelling in my ear get to Carlos and news.

Good morning.

CARLOS DIAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm going to give you news if you don't mind.

THOMAS: No, fine. Go ahead.

DIAZ: All right. Let's get to some world news, shall we?

New satellite images raising more fears about Iran's nuclear program. Two Western diplomats tell CNN that satellite images show large trucks and earth moving vehicles at a suspected nuclear testing site. And the timing is important because U.N. inspectors have tried and failed to go to that site. Tehran only decided on Monday that they would be let in.

The director general of International Atomic Energy -- the agency involved tells our Matthew Chance that Iran is hiding something.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YUKIYA AMANO, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: Iran is not telling us everything, that is my impression. So we have to -- we are asking Iran to engage with us proactively and Iran has a case to answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAZ: Scary reports out of Syria right now. Reports of at least eight people killed today as government forces shelled several cities with the Assad regime doing everything it can to crush the rebellion. Meantime, a high ranking official has defected to the opposition. Syria's deputy oil minister posted a video on YouTube saying he was, quote, "joining the revolution of this noble people who will not accept injustice." Have you seen these stunning images from NASA this morning? It's the biggest solar storm in five years, shooting out of the sun. The worst of these waves battering our planet right now. Space weather experts say it could really mess with the magnetic field today and Jay's show on Sirius satellite radio. It can disrupt satellites and power grids and communications over the next 24 hours.

But the northern lights never looked as stunning as they did last night. Check that out right there.

Whitney Houston left everything to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, but the singer's will does not mention specific assets. Houston's money will be put into a trust.

Now, Bobbi Kristina is 19 years old now. She'll receive part of the money when she turns 21. More of it when she's 25. And she'll get the balance of that money and those assets when she turns 30.

President Obama's re-election campaign will release a 17-minute documentary next week on the president's first term in office. Here's a clip from the trailer which was just released this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: How do we understand this president and his time in office? Do we look at the day's headlines or do we remember what we, as a country, have been through?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAZ: Sounds like Tom Hanks' voice right there. The film's director was an Oscar winner for Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth".

And she won't score any points for originality, but Jessica Simpson is very pregnant and very naked on the cover of "Elle" magazine this month. It's not anything we haven't seen before. This is Demi Moore from 1991 on "Vanity Fair". Hello.

In case, you're wondering in the "Elle" interview, Jessica Simpson does revel that she's carrying a girl.

THOAMS: That's what I look like without Spanx on.

DIAZ: Jessica Simpson is due in a few weeks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I think that's a pretty picture. I like when the women do that. I never felt cute.

HOLMES: The belly. That one.

O'BRIEN: Oh, for God's sake, it's his baby. Sure. Why? It's like -- you don't think that's artistic.

THOMAS: Do we have a name for the father?

DIAZ: Former tight end for the 49ers. O'BRIEN: I think that that's a nice picture. She looks good. I never felt sexy when I was pregnant.

DIAZ: But you weren't CGI'ed like that picture is.

O'BRIEN: They promised me they would photoshop it.

DIAZ: There's some photoshopping going on there. I just --

O'BRIEN: She looks good. Congratulations to the happy couple.

Moving on.

Let's talk about this --

HOLMES: Sad advertising again.

O'BRIEN: The Andrew Breitbart story.

You know, just weeks before his sudden death, the conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, was talking at CPAC. He said he had a bombshell videotape that he claimed would damage the president. Here's what he said.

THOMAS: Then he died.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDREW BREITBART, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: I've got videos. This election we're going to vet him from his college days to show you --

(APPLAUSE)

BREITBART: -- why -- to show you why racial division and class warfare are central to what hope and change was sold in 2008.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So that's Andrew Breitbart talking at CPAC. He was a guest on our show. He joined our panel at CPAC as well.

So, is this the videotape? This is from BuzzFeed. This is a clip from PBS's Boston affiliate WGBH. It shows President Obama back in his Harvard Law School years speaking at a rally in support of racial equality among the faculty at Harvard Law School, giving a glowing introduction to Professor Derrick Bell, who was the first tenured African American professor of law at Harvard University.

Now, Breitbart's video clip from that introduction then shows Obama's friend, Charles Ogletree, another Harvard professor, commenting on this clip. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA: Open up your hearts and your minds to the work of Professor Derrick Bell.

CHARLES OGLETREE, HARVARD PROFESSOR: Now what makes this so interesting when you think about it, of course we hear this throughout the 2008 campaign. I don't care if they find it now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: -- this morning is Joel Pollak. He is the editor in chief of Breitbart.com. Nice to have you joining us.

So, is this -- is this the video that Andrew Breitbart was talking about at CPAC? Is that it, what I just showed?

JOEL POLLAK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BREITBART.COM: That is one of the materials Andrew Breitbart was talking about.

By the way, those weren't his last words and this is not his final bombshell. This is the beginning of a vetting process that begins with Andrew Breitbart's probe into Barack Obama's time in Chicago and will continue. We're not just vetting Barack Obama. We're also vetting the other candidates.

The mainstream media won't and didn't vet Barack Obama and that's why Andrew Breitbart threw down the gauntlet there at CPAC.

O'BRIEN: OK. So then let's go back to the clips that I just showed. What part of that was the bombshell? Because I missed it. I don't get it. What was a bombshell?

POLLAK: Well, the bombshell is the revelation of the relationship between Obama and Derrick Bell. Obama didn't just lead a protest --

O'BRIEN: OK. So he's a Harvard law student and Harvard law professor, yes?

POLLAK: That's correct. And Derrick Bell is the Jeremiah Wright of academia. He passed away but during his lifetime he developed a theory called critical race theory which holds that the civil rights movement was a sham and that white supremacy is the order and it must be overthrown. Barack Obama --

O'BRIEN: So, that is a complete misreading. I'll stop you there for a second. Then I'll let you continue.

That is a complete misreading of critical race theory, as you know. That's an actual theory. You could Google it and someone would give you a good definition of it. So, that's not correct.

POLLAK: Well, in what way -- in what way is it a critical misreading? Can you explain to me? Do you what critical -- explain to your readers what critical theory race is.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to ask you to continue on. I'm just going to point out that that is inaccurate. Keep going. Tell me what the bombshell is. I haven't seen it -- POLLAK: Well, wait a minute. You've made a claim -- you've made a claim that my characterization of critical race theory is the opposite of Martin Luther King, is inaccurate. You're telling your viewers that. But you're not telling why it is.

O'BRIEN: Critical race theory looks into the intersection of race and politics and the law -- and as a legal academic who would study this and write about it, he would advance the theory about what exactly happened when the law was examined in terms of racial politics.

There is no white supremacy in that. It is a theory. It's an academic theory. And as one of the leading academics at Harvard Law School, he was one of the people as part of that conversation. So that is a short definition of it. Now, go on.

POLLAK: I'm glad we've got you saying that on tape because that's a complete misrepresentation.

Critical race theory is all about white supremacy. Critical race theory holds that civil rights laws are ineffective, that racial equality is impossible because the legal and constitutional system --

O'BRIEN: What I just said the intersection of race and politics when it comes to under the law --

POLLAK: You said white supremacy is not part of it.

O'BRIEN: I'm trying to figure out what the bombshell is. Get back on track. What's the bombshell?

POLLAK: No, this is critical. This is critical.

O'BRIEN: It's not critical.

POLLAK: This is critical. You can't derail this, Soledad. White supremacy is the heart of critical race theory and Obama knew it.

And by the time Obama embraced him at Harvard Law School, Derrick Bell had already given a speech in Chicago just two months before that caused a sensation which was about how white supremacy was still the order of the day and that black people were fooling themselves if they thought civil rights and equality were achievable goals. He said this.

And one of the people who came to his defense, by the way, was Jeremiah Wright with whom Bell had correspondence over the years. It is a connection that is very important.

O'BRIEN: So your point, you're trying to make the point that Derrick Bell was somehow a serious radical. So, what you're trying to say is by connecting President Obama to Derrick Bell, a Harvard law student to a Harvard law professor, the first black tenured professor at Harvard Law School, you're trying to make that connection? Is that the bombshell?

POLLAK: Don't believe me, believe Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who said that Derrick Bell had a blind spot for anti-Semitism. Don't believe me, believe one of Derrick Bell's --

O'BRIEN: There are plenty of people who debated -- there are plenty of people who debated that theory. There's no question about it. But if your point -- if your bombshell is that Derrick Bell is a radical, is that what you're trying to say? I'm trying to understand what the bombshell is because I haven't seen a bombshell yet.

POLLAK: The bombshell -- the bombshell is happening right here on this program where we've got a story and you're not interested in telling your viewers who Derrick Bell actually is. You want to come in and obfuscate and tell me I don't know what critical race theory is, that white supremacy has nothing to do with it, that Barack Obama was just embracing a guy.

This is about Barack Obama's connection to a radical legal theory that he didn't just embrace when he was a student at Harvard. When he was a teacher at the University of Chicago, he forced his students to read Derrick Bell, including some of the most --

O'BRIEN: A lot of law students read Derrick bell. You really do not understand critical race theory, number one --

THOMAS: Can I say something as a white person? What are you frightened of?

O'BRIEN: I don't know.

THOMAS: Are you frightened that some black people are going to do something to you? You have a group of individuals -- if you and I were black we would be madder than hell, but we're not. And so, we are white people. There are more white people than black people.

And so there's a struggle that's been going on and so in a struggle you talk about a lot of things. There's anger. There's resentment.

And so, what are you frightened of? What do you think Barack Obama's going to do? Is there a secret black movement that's going to start killing white people? What are you talking about? As a white guy.

POLLAK: I'm glad you played the racism card. You've accused me of being a racist.

THOMAS: White. I've accused you of being white. It's all I've accused you of.

POLLAK: No, you've accused me of being afraid of black people. And it doesn't deserve a response. But let me respond anyway.

THOMAS: Sure.

POLLAK: No, I'm not afraid of black people are going to be violent and take over the country. What I'm pointing out is that there's a pattern in Barack Obama's associations with Derrick Bell, with Reverend Wright, and it carries over into his governance because his Justice Department won't treat black civil rights violators the same way it treats white civil rights violators. That there's a racial pattern in which justice is enforced and it gives us a sense of how Barack Obama thinks about these issues.

At every point when he could have followed the path of Martin Luther King, he through in his lot with the Jeremiah Wrights and Derrick Bells of the world. And it's important not because of what Obama believes but it's important to vet the media. The mainstream media covered this --

THOMAS: So, you want him to take it easy on the white supremacist groups?

POLLAK: That's exactly the opposite.

THOMAS: Is that it? I'm just asking. You know, I mean it. I'm just asking.

POLLAK: Yes. Why don't you just ask the question -- why don't you ask the question without knowing a thing about me or what I believe. This is typical mainstream media behavior. I'm challenging you --

THOMAS: I'm just looking at your skin. That's all I'm looking at. I'm just talking white (inaudible).

POLLAK: So you're judging me by the color of my skin.

THOMAS: Yes, I am.

POLLAK: Yes. That's exactly -- you know, that's exactly what Andrew Breitbart --

HOLMES: If I could interject -

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS: You're watching Rush Limbaugh, listening to Rush Limbaugh, and I release it and say this guy's an idiot, because he listens to Rush Limbaugh.

POLLAK: You know, I bet you don't even know what time -- I bet you don't even know what time Rush Limbaugh airs.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: I think there's a different point also that needs to be discussed, which is why are we looking at this video in 2012? Why didn't we see it in 2008?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It was on 2008.

HOLMES: We didn't see the --

O'BRIEN: It was on the internet for four years.

HOLMES: We didn't see the entirety --

THOMAS: Jeremiah Wright was more divisive. HOLMES: I followed the 2008 election very closely, as you know, at this organization. This video in its entirety was not a part of the political discussion.

O'BRIEN: It was in a documentary that aired right before the election.

HOLMES: Hold on. Soledad, in the documentary it showed video, no audio, and only small clips with voiceovers. Just the raw video. Why didn't we see this?

O'BRIEN: Of what? Of hugging Derrick Bell, a renowned Harvard law professor of when he died --

HOLMES: Hold on. This would be something for the public to decide, not for the media to decide. And I think that that is a worthy discussion to have, which is that the media as a gatekeeper of information here did not allow this to be put into the public square. For then candidate Mr. Obama, tell us about your days at college. What were your thoughts about it? How have you evolved?

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS: George Bush hugged Kenneth Lay (ph), and we found out he was a horrible --

HOLMES: And we talked all about it.

(CROSSTALK)

ERROL LOUIS, HOST, NY1'S "INSIDE CITY HALL": These will be interesting questions. I actually was on the Harvard campus around this time --

O'BRIEN: Me too.

LOUIS: -- when they were developing critical race theory and so forth. It certainly wasn't some sort of radical movement. It was a bunch of professors basically talking to other professors. The students could listen in. The students would participate.

HOLMES: Was it a worthy conversation in 2008?

O'BRIEN: Hang on. Let him finish.

LOUIS: The fact that Breitbart and what's left of his organization now wants to sort of posthumously smear Derrick Bell, and then, sort of by implication, bridge that to -- into the presidential campaign, I would predict it's going to be irrelevant. I mean, we know a lot about this president.

I don't think you're going to take the selective snippet from the Breitbart organization and overwhelm what hundreds of millions of people now know about the president from four years of governance.

HOLMES: I absolutely agree with that. My point is this. Listen, when I was in college, I was a vegetarian and an animal rights activist, and now, I love prime rib. So, I'm not saying that's an indictment of President Obama or Derrick Bell. What I am saying is that this is an indictment of the mainstream media that did not open this conversation back in 2008 with the full video, with the full audio.

O'BRIEN: But --

HOLMES: It did not. We didn't have this conversation before the American people. We didn't broach this to the then candidate, Senator Obama, to discuss his background.

O'BRIEN: I want to go back to Joel because when we started, Joel, you said this is one of numerous bombshells. So, I bet you and I are going to be talking a lot over the next couple of months if you got a lot of different bombshells. Give me a preview of what else is coming.

POLLAK: Well, I think in the coming days ahead, you're going to learn exactly what Derrick Bell was about, what critical race theory was about. And yes, it was a radical movement. That's why Charles Ogletree (ph) said that he wanted to keep this video hidden. That he kept it hidden --

O'BRIEN: So, an audience that was shooting it and they laughed. If you watch that clip -- by the way, the entire audience is White, it looks, like from the back of their heads in that videotape. It's being shot, and they laugh. You don't think that that was --

POLLAK: Wait. So, you want to judge the reactions of the audience by their race? You know that, Soledad --

O'BRIEN: I'm only pointing out a fact. I'm only pointing out a fact, which is when you see the audience, it's a bunch of White people, and he says it's being shot, and he laughs. They laugh also.

POLLAK: First of all --

O'BRIEN: You know, we're obviously going to have to --

POLLAK: Well, first of all, if it was a bunch of White people, that would be the first time an all White audience had attended a lecture at the WEVD (ph) Voice Center for African-American studies at Harvard University.

O'BRIEN: You know what, someone was talking in my ear, so I couldn't hear everything you said, but the question we should get back to is, what do you think, ultimately, is coming? Give me previews that we can discuss it as the days and weeks come ahead.

POLLAK: What's coming is what Andrew Breitbart called the vetting. We're going to go through the past of Barack Obama and the present, the four years that he's been in office relating to his economic performance, his encroachment upon constitutional rights, his foreign policy, and it's not just about Democrats. We're going after Republican candidates as well. Anybody who would lead this country has to be properly vetted, and we cannot have what happened last time. I think Amy Holmes is exactly on the money. It's not about the mainstream media deciding these issues for us, it's about citizens deciding for themselves.

And if the media won't expose what's going on, then citizen journalists will come to the fore, and we will expose the truth --

O'BRIEN: We are, I'm sure, looking forward to all of that coming forward. It's nice to have you. Joel Pollak is the editor-in-chief of Breitbart.com.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, after just a year, the Arab spring, we're looking at the state of women in the Middle East today. It's International Women's Day, and there's some surprising news that women's rights may not be improving at all. We're going to talk to a blogger who is on the front lines in Cairo coming up next.

And then, how winning a million dollars in lotto spelled problems for this woman, because she's on food stamps and wants to stay on food stamps. We're going to talk about that. We're listening to Errol's playlist. Joyce Sims, "All in All." You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's been a year since Arab spring started in Egypt. Today, we mark International Women's Day, taking a look at women's rights in that part of the country, and why some people say it hasn't improved at all.

Dalia Ziada is a blogger and a poet who is on the frontlines in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution last year. She is currently the Egypt director of the American Islamic Congress, and she's in New York because she's being honored at the Third Annual Women in the World Summit tonight. It's nice to have you. Thank you.

DALIA ZIADA, EGYPT DIRECTOR, AMERICAN ISLAMIC CONGRESS: Nice to be with you.

O'BRIEN: And congratulations to you. You're going to be honored for fighting for women's civil rights in the Middle East. So, how would you describe the opportunities that exist for the women in Egypt today?

ZIADA: Unfortunately, after the revolution, it's so disappointing what happened to the women in Egypt. Everyone, including the military, which is now the interim ruler of the country, and even the other political forces in the country, including the liberals, are purposefully marginalizing women in response to the patriotical mentality of the society, and instead of challenging it.

This is putting the women in a very critical situation. We have to fight for having their honest peace. They have to have a voice.

O'BRIEN: So, what happened? When you were fighting originally in the Arab spring, it was men and women together fighting together for a common cause. Where did that unravel and not move into, you know, sort of the real political structure?

ZIADA: Those 18 days of revolution was like heaven for women, actually. Women were there side by side with men. No one cared if you are a woman or you are a man, if you wearing a veil or not. They are only caring that you're an Egyptian, you're believing in what you do, and you're here to oust this dictatorship. I remember many times when we were in the square, we were inspiring our men partners that we are women and we are here so they incest on remaining in the square and keeping fighting.

But what happened immediately after the revolution is that the patriotical mentality again dominated the scene, and also, the rise of Islamist (ph) and this extremist version of Islamism that we are seeing on the rise now in Egypt enhances this patriotical mentality. So, you can see women now are crashed between two big stones, extremism on one side and patriotical mentality on the other side.

O'BRIEN: You ran for the parliament which is one percent female, I believe. And half the population in Egypt is female. So, if it's the visual, the crushing between the two stones, what's the way out?

ZIADA: Yes. Actually, my experience running for parliament was a tough one because it showed me how politicians tend to deal with women. Unfortunately, including the most liberal parties, I belong to a liberal party. But they only see women as a way of decoration, a way of showing the public that they believe in women rights and they are more open minded, you know, just to attract some votes.

Rather than giving women real power to have a seat. Most of the liberal party, for example, were claiming the Islamist parties for putting women at the very bottom of their listers, which you call tickets here, at the very bottom of the listers and not having their (INAUDIBLE). But look at the liberal parties and the leftist parties, it's the same.

They never wanted to have women on the top of the list simply because the society does not accept it, and people will not vote for us if we are having women on the top of the list. So, it was a big challenge.

O'BRIEN: As you know, Hamid Karzai is getting flak today because he's endorsed, the statement that has come out of meeting out of Afghanistan, of 150 Muslim clerics, and some of the things that he's endorsed sound like a complete throw back. Tell me a little bit about what your reaction is to that.

ZIADA: Actually, when I see countries like Afghanistan that was once a secular country, and now, you know, we all know how Afghanistan looks like, especially in regard to women rights and human rights and civil rights in general. I've become really concerned about my country, which I don't want to be over pessimistic, but I'm seeing it heading in that direction.

Now, we are about to write our constitution and the people who are dominating the constitution committee are mostly from the Muslim brotherhood and the Salafi groups who recently, for example, said we should stop in a parliament, in parliament, and they said we should stop educating our children English language, because it's an invasion to their mind.

So, this is how they are thinking. This is how they are treating the concept of opening to the wallet, and also, they consider civil rights and women rights and all these issues western concepts that is invading our society.

O'BRIEN: You sound very pessimistic. We congratulate you on your work. Dalia Ziada, the Egypt director of the American Islamic Conference. It's nice to have you with us --

ZIADA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: -- to talk with us (ph) the future for Egypt.

Still much more ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, from rags to riches to both. A lotto winner hits the big and says she's still on food stamps and makes no apologies for it. Should she be kicked off of food stamps?

And a move to discharge Rush Limbaugh. A powerful senator wants him off of armed forces radio. We're going to talk about that straight ahead on STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right, Dire Straits this hour starting with this portion of the show. That's off of Errol's play list. You can see our entire play list at CNN.com/startingpoint.

Much more to get to on STARTING POINT this morning. Where are the minorities in the GOP primaries? If you look at the numbers, they're not there. There's a large number of older white voters. What does that mean? What are the long term implications for the RNC? We're going to talk about that this morning.

And then this is a man who asked a woman out on a date and robbed her. This would qualify for the worst date ever. We'll tell you about that.

And then Hollywood's legend Rita Moreno is going to join us. she's going strong on Broadway and TV. We're excited to have her join our panel. Stay tuned. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: We've got a good play list this morning. We're rocking out with The Killers. We're going to get right to Christine Romans because the weekly jobless report is in. Christine has a look.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It looks a little worse than last week as 8,000 people filed for unemployment benefits last week than the week before. So that means 362,000 new to the unemployment line for the first time last week, higher than we were expecting. It's another week, Soledad, below the key 400,000 level. That's the sign of a labor market moving in the right direction.

Futures are still higher. Tomorrow's the big day, though. The Labor Department releases that jobs report for February. Economists surveyed by CNN money, 19 economists suspect that the economy added 210,000 jobs last month and that the unemployment rate stayed unchanged at 8.3 percent.

O'BRIEN: Christine, thank you very much. Let's get to headlines. Carlos has those.

CARLOS DIAZ, HLN CORRESPONDENT: Is it always this heated around here? This is a very stressful morning.

O'BRIEN: We still have 23 minutes.

DIAZ: Take a deep breath.

(CROSSTALK)

DIAZ: Let's join hands.

JAY THOMAS, ACTOR: We almost had white on white violence. I mean, I --

O'BRIEN: He said you're playing the race card. That was kind of funny.

THOMAS: Yes.

DIAZ: A white guy against a white guy playing the race card.

Democrats and Republicans, they're city setting aside their differences to vote on a jobs bill in the house. The legislation is designed to help small businesses, especially start-ups. There's little or no controversy. Lawmakers and the president, they all agree that this jobs act is good. It's comprised of six measures aimed at removing barriers to small business investment.

A stunning new report from the surgeon general on kids and smoking -- it suggests tobacco companies are skirting the law and targeting young people. The report says the once steady decline in youth smoking has slowed or stalled in recent years and each day 1,000 people under 18 smoke their first cigarette. Plus numbers show two people start smoking for every one person who dies from tobacco use. It's the first surgeon general report on kids and tobacco use since 1994.

All right, first he asked you out. Then he robs you blind. Police in Florida are on the hunt for a guy who calls himself the Romeo burglar. Here he is on surveillance video breaking into the house of a woman he just asked out on a date. The victim, who police did not identify, said the guy called himself Marciano Valentino. He asked her out to lunch at an Appleby's. And when she waited there for him to show up, he and a partner of his broke in and stole over $5,000 worth of electronics from her home, including her iPad and her laptop.

When he did show up the guy allegedly stuck her with the bill and then took her iPhone on the way out. So he took all of her stuff and got a free lunch and a free phone.

O'BRIEN: He's a teenager.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is accepting a date for lunch at Appleby's.

O'BRIEN: I've had many a perfectly fine male at Appleby's. Her first mistake was being a teenager.

THOMAS: The story is what I would start. You start one where you know the guy's no good from the beginning.

O'BRIEN: On eHarmony?

THOMAS: On Facebook he only had a mug shot. She should have known.

(LAUGHTER)

DIAZ: Finally this morning she hit it big in the Michigan lottery and got a new house, new car, and her regular old monthly welfare check. That's right, Amanda Clayton still collects $200 a month in state food assistance. A local Detroit station caught up with Clayton while she was shopping on a shopping spree. She told a reporter she thought it was OK because even though she hit the lottery, she technically didn't have a job.

O'BRIEN: It's OK because it's legal. That's why it's OK. She continues to get the checks. It's not illegal for her to do this.

DIAZ: CNN affiliate WDIV spoke with the Michigan department of human services, and the department released a statement saying in part under DHS policy a recipient of food assistance benefits must notify the state within ten days of any asset or income change. DHS relies on clients being forthcoming about their actual financial status. If they are not and they continue to accept benefits, they may face criminal investigation and are required to pay back those benefits. The state says Clayton ton has now been removed from public assistance.

And of course here's the big thing. You have to be the one to tell the state, you know what, I've got money now. I'm good. That's the crazy thing with this.

THOMAS: She'll be back. It doesn't sound like somebody who's going to hold on to much of that lottery money. When it's all gone, I'm sure she'll be back to DHS.

O'BRIEN: Right, crazy stories. This is strange news today. Let's talk a little bit about the GOP primary.

THOMAS: Solar flare.

O'BRIEN: That might be the reason. Two months into the primary season and an interesting pattern is developing, one that unless it changes, experts say, it could be a problem for the GOP. According to CNN exit polls in this campaign white people have cast at least 90 percent of the vote except in the states of Florida and Arizona. The majority of voters have been over the age of 50 in Florida and Nevada -- 70 percent of the ballots were cast by voters 50 plus.

Ron Brownstein is the editorial director of "National Journal." He writes about this as he talks about 2012. So all of these numbers, of course, are important because they could portend bad things for the GOP. Are you talking bad things this election cycle or really down the road?

RON BROWNSTEIN, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Right. Right, you have to look at both, near term and long term. As you point out, overwhelmingly white primaries and predominantly older primaries. Soledad, we are look living through the most profound demographic change. When Bill Clinton was first elected in 1992 only 12 percent was nonwhite. When Barack Obama was elected it was 26 percent in 2008. And he won 80 percent combined of all of those minority voters. That allowed him to win the presidency even while winning only 43 percent of whites. In fact he is the first person ever to win the White House, and he won it comfortably by losing whites by double digits.

Fast forward two years later. Republicans had a very big election, their best midterm election since 1938 by winning 60 percent of whites, the most they had ever won. In a midterm election it tends to be older and whiter, the electorate.

So it is still possible in the near term, yes, to squeeze out a victory by maximizing the vote among whites. But if you look at the long term, even in 2012 in the presidential race when the bigger electorate is voting, if you let the Democrats continue to win 80 percent of nonwhite voters, the math gets very difficult for Republicans, especially as that minority share of the electorate continues to grow.

O'BRIEN: Talk about the numbers that you crunched looking at the exit polls that have already had their primaries.

BROWNSTEIN: We've had 14 states with exit polls. In all but two of them, as you noted, at least 90 percent of the vote in the Republican primary has been white. And in all but four of them at least 94 percent of the vote has been white. Now that includes states that are very diverse. In Virginia in 2008 only 70 percent of all voters were white in the general election, 94 percent in the Republican primary. In South Carolina only 71 percent of all voters were white in 2008, 98 percent in the Republican primary. Nevada 68 percent in 2008 were white, 90 percent in the Republican primary.

So what you're seeing is a Republican coalition now that is overwhelmingly dependent on the votes of whites. In fact, if you go back to 2008, 90 percent of John McCain's votes came from white. And as I say, in the near term if you drive up that white support to the kind of level we saw in 2010, you can still have a good election.

The challenge for Republicans is twofold. You can't count on that level of support among whites in every election. As I said, 2010 was their best showing ever in a midterm. You don't want to have to do that every two years.

And secondly, that minority share of the vote as it continues to grow because of demography makes the math more daunting. If Barack Obama wins as big a share of the minority vote as he did in 2008 and it grows as much to 28 percent in 2012, which is what his campaign expects, he could lose 60 percent of whites and still win.

So the imperative, I think the imperative for Republicans to improve their showing in minority communities, especially Hispanics, is clear. What the data shows is that they are not attracting voters yet to participate in these primaries.

O'BRIEN: I have to get Amy shaking her head, no, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only because I think there is another element, particularly with the GOP primaries that needs to be taken into consideration, that we've seen, of course, this enthusiasm gap, and that President Obama had the benefit of a lot of first-time voters who tended to be young and minority. And oh rather I supposed to be looking over here.

And with this enthusiasm gap, is it surprising that the people who are turning out for these primaries are going to be older, white folks? We know that older people vote in much higher numbers than young people.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, older people vote in higher numbers than young people in an off year election. You know in 2010, the share of the vote that seniors represented was unusually high. That's going to go back down in 2012, Amy. I mean there's going to be --

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: But you're using -- you're using the GOP primary right now as the basis of your information.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. No, right I'm saying that --

HOLMES: And what I'm saying is that there are other factors and elements that might be driving those racial numbers.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, you know, when you go into states that are 30 percent non-white in their general election profiles and you are looking at white share of the vote in these primaries at 95 percent, 98 percent, 97 percent, 98 percent, I think it's pretty clear that whatever these candidates are not engaging minority voters.

And by the way, you know those polls about Latinos say the same thing, lots of trouble right now. Not guaranteed forever. But they do need to improve this in probably in 2012 and certainly beyond.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Ron Brownstein for us this morning. Nice to see you Ron, thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, the legendary actress Rita Moreno is going to join us, 80 years old and not -- there she is. She's going to join us in just a second. We're going to bring her out.

We're back in just a moment stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRAN DRESCHER, ACTRESS: He storms out the front door like I did something wrong.

RITA MORENO, ACTRESS: Well, you did. You were horribly insensitive to your husband.

DRESCHER: He's not my husband. We sleep in separate rooms. We no longer have sex.

MORENO: Darling, all relationships go through phases. You have different needs, you change, you grow.

DRESCHER: Yes, well, I can't grow what he needs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Legendary actress Rita Moreno in TV Land's "Happily Divorced" which kicked off its second season this week. Moreno, of course the winner of a Grammy, an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award. And she joins us this morning. The joke there, of course, is that the show is really based on Fran Drescher's life.

MORENO: It is, she was married for 18 years to her husband who one day said I'm gay. And it's called "Happily Divorced" for a reason, because they can't end the series, they can't afford to leave home. They have to stay there. And it's hilarious. It's very salty too. It's quite salty.

O'BRIEN: I'm not surprised with her and with you in it as well.

MORENO: It's fun for me which as a Puerto Rican woman or Hispanic woman is that I am playing her mother.

O'BRIEN: We noticed the accent.

MORENO: Prom queen and I just love to talk like that. And I'm getting more and more to talk, more and more through my nose. It's getting a little scary.

O'BRIEN: And New Yorkers love it.

JAY THOMAS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Rita, do you think in 18 years you would have spotted if your husband was gay or not in an 18-year marriage?

MORENO: Well, how do you know she didn't? You're making an assumption.

THOMAS: I talked to her the other day and she said they had such a nice relationship she didn't want to really bring it up.

(CROSSTALK)

MORENO: I have to tell you something. They still produce, co-produce and co-write. And he -- they are so loving. They nuzzle and they hug. And he's very protective of her. If her dress isn't sitting straight, if her hair is sticking out, he's there. They're wonderful together. It's lovely.

O'BRIEN: So it's perfect. How do I find that man?

MORENO: Actually, it is. That element is also included in the show, which is nice.

THOMAS: Well, my wife wishes I were gay so I could leave her alone.

HOLMES: Well, you need her to do the laundry.

THOMAS: Yes.

MORENO: Here is the wonderful part for me is that my character and Robert Walden who plays my husband and we are her parents and they have made us sexually active which I love because nobody ever does that anymore.

O'BRIEN: No, no.

MORENO: With people my age, what, you know did my ovaries turn to dust or what?

O'BRIEN: You're 80 years old.

MORENO: I'm 80.

O'BRIEN: Is it exhausting to do a show like that? I mean, that must be hard.

MORENO: oh, I get wired. No, no listen, I just did my one woman show about my life.

O'BRIEN: I know.

MORENO: It's called "Life without Makeup".

O'BRIEN: Right.

MORENO: Which I think is a great title and which I hope to bring to New York. And I danced and I danced a little piece of America. I danced a little piece of the mambo at the gym. I don't know by the time I get to New York if I can do that. O'BRIEN: Yes, you can. Yes you can.

MORENO: So I'll be probably be 82 or something like that.

O'BRIEN: Yes, you can. You've won an Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Oscar.

MORENO: Two Emmys, but who's counting.

O'BRIEN: No I'm counting. Let me change that. Two Emmys, sorry, a Grammy.

THOMAS: She got the --

O'BRIEN: Where do you keep them? Like a case? A big case?

MORENO: I used to keep -- oh, God, no. That's so ostentatious.

O'BRIEN: Really.

MORENO: Oh, no, no. No they're on a shelf in the living room. For years I kept them in a carton.

O'BRIEN: Why?

MORENO: And when I married my husband he said, what are you doing? And he said something that really meant something to me. I always felt it was ostentatious, I really did. I get shy about certain things even though I'm a big loud mouth.

O'BRIEN: I think you should put it on a chain around your neck.

MORENO: I have a teeny-weenie little gold Oscar that they give only to people who have won them. And when he said to me that was marvelous, he said, you know, you didn't buy these, you earned them.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

MORENO: And I said, that's right.

O'BRIEN: I love it.

MORENO: So now they're on a shelf in the living room. And they're pretty gorgeous.

O'BRIEN: Can we talk politics for a second? You just heard Ron Brownstein talking about the Latino vote and the lack of minorities in the GOP. You were cutting your eyes. Why? What were you mad about?

MORENO: Oh I'm -- no, I'm not mad.

O'BRIEN: No, you didn't. Did some of our debate --

MORENO: I think the Republicans have a really serious problem and I think -- I think they've alienated a lot of Latinos. I don't know about the black situation, but I know that they've alienated a lot of -- forget the Cubans. That's another country, literally, but I think they're going to be in a lot of trouble.

I think Obama is going to be in a little bit of trouble too. You know I've killed myself for him. And I think -- I think --

O'BRIEN: How do you see the race --

MORENO: I think it's fascinating.

O'BRIEN: Who emerges as nominee --

MORENO: I was glued to the set.

O'BRIEN: Is it Mitt Romney as the nominee?

MORENO: Oh I think so.

O'BRIEN: Ok.

MORENO: Don't you think so?

THOMAS: It looks that way.

O'BRIEN: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney.

MORENO: Yes. Yes.

O'BRIEN: What do you --

MORENO: As long as it's not Sarah Palin.

O'BRIEN: We never know.

MORENO: Oh, dear. She really scares the hell out of me. So does Rush Limbaugh. He's a strange man. I think he's very disturbed. I seriously do.

THOMAS: You don't think it's entertainment.

MORENO: I mean, I think it must be hard to live in a rage that way. The man is so angry. He's so filled with angst. How do you, you know, you wake up in the morning and you're angry.

O'BRIEN: But is it a show? It's just a show.

MORENO: How come he's never had a heart attack.

HOLMES: With that comment, something that I have found so alarming is how we just sort of accept to actually men speaking about women this way and it's on the left, and it's on the right, it's in entertainment, it in politics that these terms used hurled at women is just to me outrageous.

MORENO: Slut? Really?

HOLMES: Yes it's outrageous. O'BRIEN: I think Michele Bachmann was right when she said there's often outrage on one side and not on the other. That is very -- that is very true. People will be very outraged. And sort like, so the answer is not lowering the outrage, the answer is raising the outrage on all fronts. I think they're right.

HOLMES: Where did civility go between the sexes?

MORENO: But I think he's broken so many barriers in that respect. And I think you know he's the guy who leads a lot of people on the extreme right. And if he does it, it's ok. Because that's -- they're a very special person. I think he's the one who's really started all of that.

O'BRIEN: It will be interesting to see where it all goes. I love having you. And now when you bring your show to New York you're going to let us come.

MORENO: I love being had. A true pleasure, especially by you.

O'BRIEN: Our ""End Point"" --

THOMAS: Well I have a confession.

O'BRIEN: Hold on, save it for the commercial. Hold on. Hold on. Wow. Ok. Save that for the commercial. Our "End Point" is --

MORENO: Do you have sexual fantasies?

THOMAS: No. No.

O'BRIEN: The end as we started. Our "End Point" is next.

MORENO: Don't go away.

O'BRIEN: Don't go away. Our "End Point" is next.

Kenny Chesney, "Somewhere with you" we leave you with for the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Another one written by (INAUDIBLE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: All right. Time for "End Point". We're going to let you do our guest "End Point". You have 20 seconds.

MORENO: I think Rush Limbaugh ought to take a sedative because the man lives in a world of rage. Not a good thing. I'm surprised he hasn't had a heart attack.

I'm turning it over to you.

CARLOS DIAZ: Oh no. We're going over here. We're going over here.

ERROL LOUIS, HOST, NYT'S "INSIDE CITY HALL": The jobs numbers. Watch the numbers today. Watch the numbers tomorrow. That will tell you more about the presidential election than all of the polls that you're going to see over the next week.

O'BRIEN: I agree with you. Thank you for keeping it brief. Thank you to our panelists.

Tomorrow, I'll see you at South by Southwest, the music festival. That's where we're doing the show from live tomorrow. Let's get right to "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello.

See you at 7:00 tomorrow morning everybody. Hey Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Soledad. Thank you.