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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Big February Jobs Report; Timetable for Attack; China Expanding Its Space Program; Mississippi Court: Barbour Pardons Valid

Aired March 9, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Hello. And good morning, everyone. Happy Friday. It is Friday.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Say it one more time.

BANFIELD: Should I say it like Rebecca Black?

ROMANS: You can sing it, you can say it, you can think it, it's just Friday

BANFIELD: We kind of look alike, right? It's Christine Romans doing the duty.

I'm Ashleigh Banfield, this is Christine Romans.

ROMANS: Zoraida has got the day off. I'm filling in for her.

It's 5:00 a.m. in the east. Let's get started.

BANFIELD: Usually it's her. She's the one who says this over and over -- jobs, jobs, jobs. But you know what? Jobs is the big story today.

The big report, remember the last one we told you that was real good, we have another one out for you. As good? Anything negative? We're going to get the low down on it all? Is it going to boost or bite President Obama?

ROMANS: Also, we're talking Iran and Israel's stance on Iran. The prime minister of Israel talking about a timetable for on an attack on Iran, giving a series of interviews and sort of laying out how many days, weeks, months, who knows for sanctions to take hold. But seriously, the pressure and the heat on that situation.

BANFIELD: And attention Pennsylvania. Take a look at this. A little plane coming in and it is not a good story, folks. The landing gear, look, it's not down.

ROMANS: Wow.

BANFIELD: How did it end? You'll see this, but you'll hear more about it in just a moment.

ROMANS: Wow.

And Bobbi Kristina speaking to Oprah. That's right, Whitney's only daughter. The first time she's opening up about her mom, Whitney Houston since her death.

And some are asking: is it too soon? Just a month, Oprah nabs this big interview. Is it too soon for this little girl -- well, 19- year-old young woman to be speaking.

BANFIELD: We'll talk about that and everything else. It's only one minute past 5:00 and you're already up to date. And we got more.

At first, issue right now, number one in your home, on the campaign trail, it's all about the jobs story. And here it is. We have the February numbers. Just a few hours from now, the official numbers coming out and expecting everything on your menu. Wall Street, oil prices, hey, what's in the grocery store too? It could tell us more about the presidential election than any poll can actually tell you, too.

And the candidates, they know that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The economy's getting stronger and the recovery is speeding up and the question now is: how do we make sure that it keeps going.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This, for me -- this is not just about numbers and tax policy. This is about getting Americans good jobs with rising incomes.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a choice that we're going to make in this election. Is it going to be about jobs? Yes, it will be about jobs. Is it going to be about growing this economy? Yes, it's going to be about growing this economy.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you prefer food stamps and unemployment? Vote for Obama. If you prefer jobs and a paycheck? Vote for us.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BANFIELD: So that's the stump and here's the fact. In about three hours, you're going to hear the real numbers. But you and all of your friends in this business are always hard at work trying to get ahead of the stats and predict them, right?

ROMANS: That's right. So, 210,000 is what economists on average think happened in terms of job creation in the month of February, a short month with 210,000. Folks, that would be enough jobs created to absorb all the new entrants into the workforce and eat into that big hole we made from the recession. The unemployment rate forecast at 8.3 percent.

I want to give you some context and this is why you have a White House that's careful about being too optimistic about the job situation. There's something that's called underemployment. And that means people who are unemployed, people who are working part time and want to work full time. People, over the last year, maybe dipped into the labor market looking for a job, but they're not really looking now, but they could be working.

That number is 14.6 percent for men, 15.5 percent for women. Think about that. So, even as the jobs numbers get better, a lot of you out there are saying I don't feel it yet.

And when you look at education, you can see someone with a bachelor's degree, 8.1 percent is their under employment rate. Look at some of those other folks, high school, some college nearing double digits.

Look by race and you can see African-American underemployment, 23 percent. Can you imagine, almost a quarter of the African-American demographic is underemployed in this country? Twenty-one percent for Hispanic, 12.3 percent for white.

And that, Ashleigh, is why these numbers are so incredibly important politically and also economically to your kitchen table economics, we can look at an 8.3 percent unemployment rate. That only tells a little part of the story. And that's what you'll see on the campaign trail today, slicing and dicing of these numbers to try to prove what you heard Newt Gingrich there, those two choices of the voters.

BANFIELD: The food stamp president or the --

ROMANS: Or job president.

BANFIELD: Interesting. Well, I'm sure that it will take until, what, 8:31 until this comes out?

ROMANS: I have a feeling that there are already press releases that have written and we haven't seen the jobs report yet.

BANFIELD: That's a Dewey versus Truman press release, right?

ROMANS: Right.

BANFIELD: So, Christine is going to have a full jobs report breakdown on it at 8:32 and throughout the day as well.

You're not going home this early Friday.

ROMANS: No, I'm not. And we've actually got some really new cool graphics, interactive graphics, to show you that I'm very proud of. So, we're going to be able to really show you inside the jobs market, all of those different slices that depend on who you are, where you live.

BANFIELD: You know, Christine is a winsome woman but she's also very geeky.

ROMANS: And that is the word of the day. You are so good. You can always do it within the first five minutes.

BANFIELD: Nailed on 5:05, crew, appreciation?

(APPLAUSE)

ROMANS: Winsome, not geeky. Winsome was the word of the day.

BANFIELD: Jobs, Democrats, Republicans set aside their differences at least to send the jobs bill to the Senate. They passed it in the House. They passed it in the House yesterday. Landslide, actually, 390-23. So, Senate bound.

Jobs bill is really the jump start or the Business Startup Act as they like to call it.

It's essentially something that would make it easier for those little mom and pop businesses out there to get investors and basically get more workers by getting the red tape out of the way. All of that SEC red tape.

The House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is pretty thrilled about it. On "JOHN KING, USA," he was applauding it. But Nancy Pelosi did a bit of Debbie Downer mocking it, saying it's a bit about jobs bill lite. Here are both sides.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: This bill I think reflects Congress actually beginning to come together, both sides trying to set aside differences and rally around what we know needs to happen and that is to get entrepreneurs, small businessmen and women back into the game of job creation.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: It's meager -- tun ta ta ta -- here comes the little king.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: The little king. All right.

Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would move quickly to pass similar legislation.

ROMANS: The Senate shutting down a plan to fast track the controversial Keystone Pipeline project. That measure would have allowed construction to start immediately on this pipeline extension.

It fails to get 60 votes needed for passage. Republicans unanimously supported it. I think only 11 Democrats voted for this, so four votes shy of passing.

The president personally lobbied Democrats to oppose this thing.

It's a proposed 1,700-mile pipeline expansion. You can see it there. Right -- the yellow part of the bottom and all the way, that stuff going up to Hardisty. Is that Calgary? You tell me.

BANFIELD: Calgary -- probably north of Calgary, actually.

ROMANS: Crude oil from Canada -- right -- to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Supporters said it would cut U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. They say the crude is poor quality. The pipeline could leak. They're really worried about the pipeline leaking.

I'll tell you something interesting. A lot of people who are in the oil business are saying, do you know how many pipe lines we have traversing this country? I mean, it's not good for us to have leaking pipe lines so we're on it.

Also TransCanada, people who are -- own the pipeline or the company behind the pipeline, they've started to work on other parts of it that they can do.

BANFIELD: That's what I find so fascinating. That is one big piece of optimism. If you're building the second part of the pipeline, before you don't have the first part of the pipeline.

ROMANS: The Keystone thing is not over. We'll be hearing about it more.

BANFIELD: By the way -- listen, all of this talk about environmentalism. I like environmentalism just like the next guy. But in the same sense, this is 2012. Don't we build better pipelines than we did 20 years ago?

ROMANS: Well, I certainly think everybody has to be on notice that it has to be absolutely perfect. Some environmentalists say raising all of this awareness has made the plans and proposals better. So --

BANFIELD: Well, hope they cross their T's and dot their I's.

By the way, overseas, if we're going to talk about oil, we can't talk about oil without talking overseas. And Israel's prime minister is talking about his concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

Benjamin Netanyahu did a bunch of TV interviews in Israel and some tune is changing here, folks. He says he hopes there won't be a war and that diplomatic pressure on Iran actually works. That sounds like something we heard in the White House last week.

But Bibi also gave a time frame for an Israeli attack on Iran to remove that nuclear threat. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I am not standing with a stopwatch in hand. It is not a matter of days or weeks but also not a matter of years. Everybody understands this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So while he speaks, though, today, Iran says it's ready to talk about the nuclear program too. And in an unexpected twist, the supreme leader in Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised President Obama -- are you ready for that? Don't hear that very often.

He actually praised those efforts to try to tamp down all that war talk. President Obama says there's a window of opportunity to try to resolve the crisis and Khamenei says that's pretty wise.

Have a look at this. He said this. "This talk is good talk and shows an exit from illusion."

Reza Sayah is live in Islamabad, Pakistan.

I don't know the last time I've heard good speak, good speak going back and forth between these countries. But I also know it's just talk, Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Could it be that all of a sudden everyone's getting along suddenly? I doubt it, but when an Iranian leader comes out and praises U.S. President Barack Obama it gets some attention. That's what's happened here.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei essentially saying that he welcomes President Obama's statement that we should give diplomacy a chance to solve Iran's nuclear crisis.

Of course, for weeks we had heard intense bluster and rhetoric against Iran mostly fueled by Israeli leaders. Three of the Republican presidential candidates and many members of the U.S. Congress essentially saying the time for talk is over. We should consider attacking Iran.

And President Obama this week came out and said, relax. Going to war is not a joke. The facts show that Iran is not an immediate threat and let's let diplomacy and the sanctions take its course. The supreme leader saying I like what he's thinking.

And if you look at the past couple of days, Ashleigh, you can see the rhetoric toning down considerably. That sets the stage for another round of talks between the Western powers, Russia, and China and Iran to try to reach a negotiated deal.

BANFIELD: Reza, one question I think would have to be asked. There's often a discrepancy between what the supreme leaders says, Khamenei, and what the president says. And when Ahmadinejad speaks it's a lot different.

Do we know where he was during all of this last communication or has he weighed in at all in this kind speak towards our president?

SAYAH: Well, here's what everyone should know. There's a reason that Ayatollah Khamenei is named the supreme leader. The final decisions rest with him. Any decision that has to do with the nuclear program rests with Ayatollah Khamenei.

Now, it's impossible to get inside his mind, get inside the supreme leader's mind and see what he's thinking about the nuclear program and if he has decided to build a bomb. And I think that's the problem with this Iran debate. There's a lot of speculation, political commentary, bluster and rhetoric that sometimes could distort reality.

If you look at the facts, the facts show that there's no evidence made public that Iran is actually building a bomb. That doesn't mean many countries aren't very worried that they one day will have the capability. Now, how to stop that nuclear program, that's the dilemma.

Many observers say it has to be a negotiated deal where Iran can at least project itself as having gained something, not project itself as a loser, as a country that has cowed down to the U.S.

BANFIELD: So many will say it is real hard to collect evidence from an alleged crime scene when you can't get near the tape. But, Reza, thanks very much. Appreciate it.,

ROMANS: Meantime, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is calling Iran the most radical regime in the world and he's criticizing President Obama's approach to the crisis.

Last night, Santorum told CNN's Piers Morgan the question of Iran's nuclear ambitions really isn't a question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: You know, it's just hard to have any reasonable person look at what's going on in Iran, look at the sanctions that they're taking, look at the isolation that's going on, the threat to the stability of the government that some of the sanctions is causing. The problems to the people of the country that the sanctions are causing and have a country that has 200 years of oil and gas to power their country for as long as the eye can see and yet they're building nuclear facilities?

You know, it's like, you know, Casablanca, you know, when the guy walks into the Rick's Cafe and says, oh, there's gambling going on here. I mean, we know what's happening. Now the question is, how far along are they?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Rick Santorum is going to be a guest tonight on "JOHN KING, USA." That's 6:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

BANFIELD: Here was a store bring we talked a lot about in the last couple of months. The Mississippi pardons story and finally a real vindication for Governor Haley Barbour in that state.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has decided to uphold all of his pardons.

ROMANS: I mean, that's a right of a governor, right?

BANFIELD: It is a right of a governor. There was a sticky wicket in this one, you know? This was --

ROMANS: They didn't notify.

BANFIELD: They didn't notify. They didn't notify a lot of the families that some of these inmates were going to be pardoned. And some of them were killers, folks -- more than 200 pardons. The ones that were convicted killers created the biggest controversy.

But the court said, you know what? I know the state attorney general challenged this based on that little loophole, based on the fact those many inmates didn't file notices in their local papers telling all those victims and the public that these crimes had been committed and that they were going to be let out, but too bad -- just plain and simple, too bad. Court ruled in the governor's favor saying the governor has this ultimate power.

And you know what? It may not be set aside or voided by the judicial branch, meaning we just can't come in and on that technicality swoop in and change it all.

And some of the convicted killers, they were working, here's four of them -- just take a peek -- they were working in the governor's mansion, something called a trustee. Trustee is someone who gets basically trusted and they get a lot of leeway. And they make friends sometimes with the governor and his staff. It's often a pipeline to release.

Randy Walker was one of them. And he shot and nearly killed -- Randy Walker was nearly shot and killed, pardon me, by David Gatlin. Randy Walker was a victim. David Gatlin was the killer and also was pardoned.

He talked to CNN's Anderson Cooper last night about what's about to happen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY WALKER, SHOT BY FELON WHO RECEIVED PARDON: David Gatlin only served 17 years six months and three days for a life plus 30 sentence. He should have never gotten out of jail. It happened for me. I'm still living it every day.

I can't be pardoned from the scars I have. I can't be pardoned from the nightmares. I can't be pardoned from looking over my shoulder wondering where this guy is. You know, none of that.

There's no magic pill for me to take. There's no magic pardon pill for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So Randy Walker survived a killer's efforts and now has to live with the fact that that killer is going to be out there.

Later on "STARTING POINT" at 8:00 a.m., Soledad O'Brien will have a chance to talk to Randy Walker about the Mississippi pardons, and how he's going to have to live with it in the coming days.

ROMANS: I can't wait for Haley Barbour really fully explains it us. Was it a question of forgiveness? What was his -- we still don't know. He has been stalked by reporters. I haven't heard a good explanation.

All right. Is that all you have, sun? Many saying the big solar storm was just a dud.

BANFIELD: A flameout.

ROMANS: I guess that's better than the end of modern civilization. You still got to use your phone. You could still fly in an airplane.

It was the biggest solar flare up in five years. It really only made a minor impact -- really pretty pictures. It didn't mess up satellites, cell phones, the power grid, lights.

A researcher says the earth's magnetic field weakened the impact of the solar flare. So, score one for earth.

"USA Today" reports the solar storm earned the lowest of five possible ratings on a geomagnetic intensity scale.

BANFIELD: Oh, you really know what a geo -- this is what she does all night.

ROMANS: It was in "USA Today." Still, gave us some pretty good pictures. Geomagnetic intensity scale. That's my word of the day.

BANFIELD: Every 15 minutes she geeks out. You have lost the official title of chief geek.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I like that. Anybody throws words like that out of 5:00 a.m.

ROMANS: That gets his attention.

MARCIANO: Go take a cold shower.

Good morning, ladies.

This wind storm did not wimp out across the northeast. Check out the video coming from New Bedford, Mass., where winds were gusting over 50 miles an hour. The obligatory shot of the Sunoco gas station, and the rooftop flown off. So that was strong enough to do that.

Some isolated wind damage and some isolated power outages. You know it if you lived in the Northeast yesterday. Certainly had some gusty winds -- 49 mile an hour wind gusts in Newark, 45 in Philly, at LaGuardia you saw 36 mile an hour wind gusts.

So, the breezy condition will continue today, but there will be a chillier wind. You know, everything moves a little bit faster up north, right? Including this cold front, you'll be done with it, seeing mostly clear skies and dry weather across the I-95. But slicing back down to the south, little bit slower. We'll try to hear it. It's hanging.

And the rains will continue across parts of the South as this front moves a little bit slower down there. Some snows, though, across the Northeast. And the rain will continue across northeastern Texas, the ArkLaTex region. It's going to be a wet, soggy weekend for you.

Atlanta, if you're traveling through the city, morning rain showers and some clouds, Dallas and Chicago maybe some wind as well. There's your clearing skies.

High pressure building. And it should be a decent weekend for a good chunk of the eastern half of the country. Seasonable temperatures, 49 degrees in New York City, it will be 60 degrees once this rain moves out -- ladies.

BANFIELD: It's like August. Not really.

ROMANS: It's awesome.

BANFIELD: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right. It's, what, 18 minutes after the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

The candidates and voters all waiting for the big February jobs report. It's about three hours from now. The Labor Department is expected to announce the economy added about 210,000 jobs last month. The jobless rate stayed steady at 8.3 percent.

BANFIELD: And Greece clears the final hurdle to bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The creditors have agreed to a plan to restructure the Greek government bonds, a move which is absolutely vital to this country's financial future.

ROMANS: Thousands of U.S. homeowners getting new reductions on their mortgages from Bank of America. B of A reaching a deal with the government expanding on last month's $26 billion settlement. Bank of America will now use part of that money to provide deeper principal reductions to some 200,000 homeowners.

And it's law now. Do you know it's going to be law that all these banks have to start being nicer to you when you try to deal with them on your homeowner's stuff.

BANFIELD: So, you can legislate morality? I didn't know that.

ROMANS: They have to answer the phone. You've got to have one person to talk to. I mean, homeowners have been crazed about this for years. So, now they have to clean up their behavior.

BANFIELD: Good news. We like that.

Still ahead at 19 minutes past 5:00, have you seen this documentary? It has gone viral and if you haven't seen it, check your inbox. It's probably there.

ROMANS: Forty million have looked at this.

BANFIELD: Forty million?

ROMANS: Yes.

BANFIELD: Good Lord.

The goal is pretty simple, folks. Put the world's most wanted warlord, Uganda's Joseph Kony, behind bars and this year.

ROMANS: All right. The coffee wars. Starbucks is moving into green mountain turf. We'll tell you what it means for your early morning cup of Joe.

You're watching EARLY START.

BANFIELD: Cup of Joe. You can't say that on this network.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Twenty-three minutes now -- oops, just turned 23 minutes past 5:00. I don't want to make you late.

Listen, there's a story you need to know about. The organization behind a hugely viral video, "Kony 2012," is responding to the increasing backlash. "Kony 2012" is a video campaign by a group called Invisible Children to put African warlord Joseph Kony behind bars.

If you can believe it, it didn't take long. But 49 million people have viewed it on YouTube. Here's a quick clip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: For 26 years, Kony has been kidnapping children into his rebel group, the LRA -- turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into child soldiers. He makes them mutilate people's faces and he forces them to kill their own parents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: This has taken off so quickly. The cause is getting some really high profile support, too. Oprah Winfrey is now spreading awareness through Twitter.

Here's what she said: "Have watched the film, had them on show last year, made big donation. Kony 2012."

She, in fact, gave them $2 million and other celebrities too are weighing in on this. Justin Bieber, Rihanna, jumping in ands voicing support, too.

BANFIELD: The movement is facing harsh criticism. Invisible Children accused of misrepresenting facts, exaggerating the scale of Kony's abductions and murders, ignoring atrocities by Uganda's army as well. The group is accused of misusing funds, spending too much money making films and bracelets, not enough direct action.

The filmmakers responding to those claims on CNN's Piers Morgan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON RUSSELL, FILMMAKER, CO-FOUNDER, "INVISIBLE CHILDREN": It costs money to make powerful movies, we know that. And so we spend about 1/3 of the fundraising dollars on the movie to make it amazing. And then we spend one-third on the movement. The movement is actual volunteers around the world, our vans that tour the movie to high school and colleges, T-shirts, Web sites to make it powerful and aggressive.

And, finally, the third is the mission, which is to end the war, to stop Kony and rehabilitate the war affected children through education, reintegration and building jobs for the community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: I mean, those two gentlemen there are winning the war of arguments, the harsh backlash isn't resonating. Forty-nine million people are watching this video saying, let's get this guy. Come on. Let's get this guy.

BANFIELD: It's like the Arab spring. All of a sudden, the power is coming from Twitter.

ROMANS: Social media, man.

BANFIELD: By the way, to that end, those guys are saying that all the finances are available on their Web site if you want to look at it.

But in the meantime, Joseph Kony, he's a bad dude. That's what it comes down to. He is a bad, bad man. He's been indicted by the International Court for war crimes, but he is on the loose. Nobody knows where he is. At least, nobody who can do anything about it.

President Obama, however, has authorized deployment of 100 -- 100 Special Forces to try to track him down. You just know now that this is out there all around the world a lot of people know what he looks like and maybe know just how bad the story is.

ROMANS: A lot of people know more about Uganda today than they did two weeks ago. That's an important thing about social media.

BANFIELD: We knew a lot back in the '60s with Idi Amin. Now, it's the resurgence of information.

ROMANS: Coming up on EARLY START: space is the place, says China. China has decided to expand exploration of final frontier.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: The guitars are intense.

BANFIELD: A lot of guitar.

It's 5:30 in the morning.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome back EARLY START. It is exactly 5:30 on the east coast. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans in for Zoraida. Today, we got a three-day weekend. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Big February jobs report out in about two and a half hours. The labor department is expected to announce the economy added about 210,000 jobs last month.

The defense is expected to begin presenting its case today in the Rutgers web cam spying case in New Jersey. Dharun Ravi is accused of invading his roommate's privacy by putting Tyler Clementi's intimate encounter with another man on the internet. Clementi, later, committed suicide.

China is getting back into the space race big time. Chinese officials announced that China will launch its first manned flight to dock at its space lab this summer. Long-term plans include building a manned space station by 2020, and eventually, a moon landing.

And Starbucks unveiling its own version of a single cup coffee brewing machine. No price has been given for the new Verismo. Goes on sale this fall. It will compete directly with Green Mountain's popular Keurig machine. It currently dominates the single cup market.

BANFIELD (voice-over): The Republican presidential candidates are stumping deep in the heart of Dixie. I think it's actually deep in the heart of Texas, but we're changing it to Dixie for the purposes of this newscast. The primaries in Mississippi and Alabama are next Tuesday. Rick Santorum is hoping to emerge, once and for all, the sole anti-Romney candidate and make this a two-man race and boot Newt Gingrich out of there. masses (ph) effort, anyway.

When President Obama ran, he promised not to hire any lobbyist. Remember that? It was a big, big deal. But guess what, the White House just decided to hire a long-time lobbyist. His name is Steve Ricchetti. He's working -- will be working as a chief counselor for Vice President Biden. So, what's up with that? That's kind of critical, isn't it?

(END VIDEOTAPE) BANFIELD (voice-over): Our political panel set to weigh in on all of this. In Washington, Marjorie Clifton, Democratic strategist and national editor of govote.com. In West Palm Beach, Florida, Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com. I'm guessing you're just getting an early weekend start by coming to us from Florida like that, right, Erick? Is that your story?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF REDSTATE.COM: Totally.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: You are one honest man. I love it. And in Miami, I smell a rat. You're both in Florida. All right. The independent, Goldie Taylor, political analyst and managing editor of the Goldie Taylor Project.

All right. Marjorie, I want to start with you, OK? You Democrat you. Steve Ricchetti, what the what the? He is a lobbyist. I know he de-lobbyist registered, right? So, that makes it legal. But isn't that just a loophole and isn't that just hypocrisy at its finest?

MARJORIE CLIFTON, NATIONAL EDITOR, GOVOTE.COM: Well, that's Washington, right?

BANFIELD: No. No, I don't want you to say that. Give me something better.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFTON: Well, I will say this, that it's hard to go anywhere in this entire city without running into an attorney or a lobbyist. And they're everywhere. And, you know, we had the same issue before, and Gingrich has managed to overcome the same issue of having worked with Fannie Mae. And I'm wondering if -- I mean, he does have the history. I will say this, he came out of the Clinton administration --

BANFIELD: Ricchetti.

CLIFTON: Yes.

BANFIELD: Yes.

CLIFTON: So, he was, first and foremost, part of the Clinton administration and very successfully so. So, he does have the track record that I think will be useful to the Obama administration, but it does create a little bit of an image problem --

BANFIELD: A little bit? A little bit, Marjorie? Hold that thought.

CLIFTON: Oh, absolutely.

BANFIELD: OK. Hold that thought for a minute, because this is the image problem I think the Democrats are going to have to chew on big time. Have a listen to President Obama. It's called the mash up, we'd like to say, on the stump in 2008 about lobbyists. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you are ready for change, then we can go ahead and tell the lobbyists their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. They haven't funded my campaign. They will not run my White House.

The problem we've got in Washington has to be fixed. The problem of lobbyists and special interests and big money dominating the agenda.

At the beginning of this campaign, I said I would not take PAC money, I would not take money from federal lobbyists. They have not funded my campaign. They will not run our White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Get that last part? I can see coming out in some GOP campaign ads in the next few months. "They will not run our White House." There is no amount of Florida sunshine that can disinfect those comments, is there, Erick?

ERICKSON: No, not really. You know, he's not the first lobbyist. I'm actually kind of surprised by some of the media reports on this, because going back to 2009, the president started giving what the White House was calling waivers to allow lobbyists to come in on several things, and it's not just lobbyists.

He talked about big money. The "Washington Post" has done a story that roughly 80 percent of the people who gave Barack Obama or bundled $500,000 or more have gotten jobs in the administration --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: -- while it sounds ugly to the guy on the street like me, and I'm real pedestrian when it comes to politics. I just report on this stuff. I've never worked in your business. But aren't these people really, really good at what they do? They're smart. They know everybody. Aren't they the guys that kind of know how to get things done?

ERICKSON: Oh, you know that's what people were saying in 2008. In fact, some of the Democrats in 2008, go back to the press reports, were kind of scratching their head over Barack Obama saying this. So -- but he's the one who said it. The other --

BANFIELD: He is, indeed.

ERICKSON: -- the others didn't. So, he's trying to have it both ways in a lot of these issues saying, no lobbyists, no big money, and then, 80 percent of the people who bundled 500,000 or more have gotten jobs.

BANFIELD: You are good with your talking points, my friend. You get those in down (ph) no matter what question I ask you. All right -- ERICKSON: It's early. I had to study up.

BANFIELD: You know, it's 5:35 in the morning and you are acing it, my friend.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFTON: He must have not gone to bed.

BANFIELD: Let me move on to something kind of fun. This is adorable. There was this little moment that played out on the campaign trail, and I don't think anybody expected it, because there's no secret that Mitt Romney has a bit of an image problem when it comes to being real stiff, but this might change all of that. It was a radio interview, and it had to do with all things breakfast cereal. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VOICE OF MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You're keeping me up at night. Not much keeps me up at night. I must admit that by the end of the day --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're tired?

ROMNEY: I am tired and I always -- I always eat something at the end of the day. My favorite is cold cereal. So, I try to eat some cold cereal at the end of the day. A kind of full tummy and a long day puts me right to bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. What kind of cereal do you like? We're big cereal fans right here. What's your cereal?

ROMNEY: Well, you know, I like Honey Nut Cheerios.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go.

ROMNEY: And I like Honey Nut Chex. And let's see, I like Cris Bix (ph). I mean, I like -- of course, I love anything with sugar in it I like the most, you know, sugar pops and honey smacks and all that, but I don't eat as much of that as the Honey Nut Cheerios.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Get some cocoa pebbles if it's a really rough day. That's how you handle it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: So, here's -- I was about to ask you. Wasn't it a bit weird that he said full tummy, you know, at that age. But, while he was speaking, Christine Romans was whispering over me, I like Honey Nut Cheerios, too.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: And isn't that the point here? Isn't that the point that we all kind of like Honey Nut Cheerios ant isn't it adorable that he does, too. What do you think, Goldie Taylor? Is this a good thing that, all of a sudden, he's human?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's a good thing. I think it humanizes him, probably, for the first time. The point is he's a dad. And so, he speaks in terms of tummies and potties. I mean, I think that's kind of a natural thing.

What I took from him yesterday is that he was, you know, campaigning across the south and said that he loved grits. Well, see, I've got to have him over now for grits, and corn bread, and some collard greens.

BANFIELD: He had you at hello, did he, Goldie?

TAYLOR: He had me at hello. He said he loved grits. And so, yes, I think it does humanize him for the first time. If he can keep this up, then he can foster a brand new narrative for himself. But I think if he falls back on some of the other things about Cadillacs, and you know, things that people don't really connect with, then he's got problems.

BANFIELD: And you know, everybody likes that about trump. I don't get it. They love that Trump is just crazy rich, but they don't love that Romney is crazy rich. All right. Marjorie, Erick, and Goldie, stand by. We're going to talk to you a little bit later. Thanks for all those comments and for the tummy factor. Appreciate that. We'll see you in a bit.

ROMANS: Now, that we're both hungry.

BANFIELD: I know.

ROMANS: Ahead on EARLY START, Whitney Houston, her only daughter, Bobbi Kristina, is speaking out. It's her first interview since her mother's death. She sits down with Oprah. We'll tell you what we can expect.

BANFIELD: And also, some pretty tense moments just before you get to this situation on the tarmac. If you notice, that plane's on its belly. Aren't you supposed to land on landing gear? And what happens when you radio ahead saying, I don't have any? We'll show you how this thing turned out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Forty-one minutes past the hour. Whitney Houston's only daughter gives her first interview to Oprah Winfrey. This Sunday, it's on Oprah's OWN Network. It's exactly a month to the day of Whitney Houston's death. Oprah also sits down with Whitney's closest confidante, it's her sister-in-law, Patricia Houston. E-Online posted a sneak peek of that part of the show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST: Did you think that drugs would end up taking her? Did you think that? PATRICIA HOUSTON, WHITNEY HOUSTON'S SISTER-IN-LAW: The handwriting was kind of on the wall. I would be kidding myself to say, otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Allison Samuels was scheduled to interview Houston when her body was discovered. She joins us live now. Welcome to the program. It seems so soon for Bobbi Kristina to be doing this interview, but everyone wants to hear from this young woman.

ALLISON SAMUELS, SENIOR WRITER, NEWSWEEK AND THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. I think, you know, everyone wants to know that she's OK. They want to know the entire family is OK. And people know how much Whitney really loved her daughter, how close they were. So, I think, you know, it's obvious why people would want to see her right now, but I did question why at three and a half weeks.

It'll be four weeks on Sunday, but Oprah did this last week. So, I sort of wonder how she's processed such, you know, important person in her life passing in such a short period of time.

ROMANS: You know, Oprah Winfrey is known for asking very tough questions gracefully. And she's known for asking the tough questions. And there's still a lot of tough questions about how Whitney Houston died, what happened to her voice and her vision and her potential for such a young age.

It's not the first sort of big Oprah event for this family as well. Oprah's conversation with Whitney back in 2009 was really a highlight of her last years. Listen to this part.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WINFREY: What was your drug of choice?

WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER: Cocaine.

WINFREY: Cocaine?

HOUSTON: Yes. Marijuana. That's it. He liked to drink. I wasn't a drinker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: She's talking about Bobby Brown, of course, her ex- husband and the father of Bobbi Kristina. Is there any chance, do you think, that Oprah doesn't ask this kind of question to Bobbi Kristina?

SAMUELS: I think Oprah will be very, very conservative in her questions with Bobbi Kristina. I mean, she is still a little girl. People are very concerned about her. People see her as Whitney's child. I can see her asking her brother that. I can see her asking the sister-in-law that, but I think she'll soft shoe it a little bit with Bobbi Kristina. This is a fragile girl who -- you know, I think she's had her own problems in dealing with substance abuse. That's sort of been reported. So, I think Oprah will definitely, you know, soft shoe it a little bit with her.

ROMANS: The fine line here is to build up a grieving young woman, to also get a good and, you know, fulfilling interview because so many fans want to know, you know, how this young woman is doing but also to be honest, honest to the interviewing craft.

SAMUELS: I also was surprised that they wouldn't have waited until the toxicology report was released, because then you have to come back out again depending on what's on it and talk about it again. So, I was a little sort of surprised that they didn't wait until that so they could sort of deal with the whole thing at one time.

But I think Bobbi Kristina and Sissy Houston, in particular, feel like they needed to edit Whitney's story. They needed to control it. And they felt that too many people have been sort of saying things and the family hadn't had a chance to sort of give their point.

ROMANS: Do you think that we're going to get some more insight from Bobbi Kristina about what's going on within the family now, her relationship with Bobby Brown, what was happening between Sissy Houston and Aretha Franklin and some of the reported but also sort of patted away or debunked talk of rifts (ph) between the close inner circle of Whitney Houston?

SAMUELS: I don't think that you're going to get that much into it, because I think the problem is is that they don't want that discussed. They want to sort of squash all those rumors. And, hopefully, they had that conversation with Oprah so that she sort of goes around that. But I don't think Bobbi Kristina can sort of bring any kind of, you know, clarity to that situation.

I think she's still grieving. I think she's still in shock, so I'm not really sure what kind of clarity she can really bring at three and a half weeks. That's sort of my concern.

ROMANS: Wow! Three and a half weeks. Allison Samuels, senior writer in "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast, "really nice to see you today. Thank you.

SAMUELS: Thank you.

BANFIELD: So, it is now 45 minutes past 5:00 a.m., and you probably fly. We fly a lot, and the last thing you want to hear is, our landing gear's not down, folks, so brace yourself. See this plane? That's what the people on board heard and the call went out ahead to the airport. When we come back, you will find out how it all turned out.

ROMANS: How hard is that pilot's heart beating right there, right?

All right. Radio silence during Rush Limbaugh commercial breaks. Fallout from the Sandra Fluke comments. We're going to tell you more about that. You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: So dark in Pittsburgh.

BANFIELD: Yes. Isn't it, though? Good morning, Pittsburgh. Huey Lewis And the News, "Working For A Living" wake you up. It's going to be 31 degrees if you're opening your eyes. But fear not, folks, you're going to warm all the way up to a sunny day and 43.

ROMANS: It's 49 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Candidates and voters all waiting for the big jobs report --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: The labor department expected to announce the economy added 210,000 jobs last month. 8.3 percent unemployment rate. Expected to stay steady.

Mississippi's Supreme Court ruling those controversial pardons including four convicted killers, they should be carried out. They can stand. They are legal. Haley Barbour issued them during his final days in office. The state's attorney general had asked the court to void those pardons.

BANFIELD (voice-over): So, the plane's coming in for a landing. Take a look at your screen

ROMANS: Wow.

BANFIELD: The landing gear, look closely, do you see it?

ROMANS: No.

BANFIELD: Because it's not down, folks. Small plane making this landing at Johns Town Airport in Pennsylvania. The reason we don't have the landing is that the camera got obscured by a building, but you can see the aftermath. Yikes! The emergency call paid off ahead of time. They didn't think things were going to end well, but after circling to burn some fuel, the plane came down, belly landing.

Emergency crews were there. Not sure what the snowplow was going to do, but all hands on deck on that one. And glad to report today, folks, that the folks on that plane thanking God and Allah and Yahweh and everybody else they want to thank for being alive.

ROMANS: Just getting a drink.

BANFIELD: Just getting your good, stiff rum.

And how about this radio silence? Radio silence. We don't usually say that with regard to Rush Limbaugh, but more than five minutes of dead air was planned during the commercial break on Rush Limbaugh's show because dozens of companies pulled ads after the conservative talk show host called Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, a slut for saying that healthcare plans should cover contraception.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: I think (INAUDIBLE) said a lot of those ads, too, were like public service announcements, the things that did run were not paid ads in many cases.

BANFIELD: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. Still ahead, Peyton Manning, he didn't get his $28 million from the Colts, but I don't think he's crying about it.

BANFIELD: I think he's doing OK, right?

ROMANS: And he's still a pretty big tipper as well.

And James Cameron planning a seven-mile ocean dive. Jason Carroll got an exclusive look at what will take him to the deepest part of the earth.

BANFIELD: Look at that. How would you like to be in that going down lower than the height of Everest?

ROMANS: Close second to being in a plane with no landing gear.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: You like the heavy guitars. We got you some Aerosmith.

ROMANS: A girl with head banger in Iowa (ph), you know? You have to love that kind of stuff. All right. We're keeping you in the pop culture loop this morning. Taking a look at what's trending on the web, social media.

On Google, pink slime in your beef. It's gross. USDA whistleblower says that 70 percent of the ground beef that we buy at the super market can change something called pink slime. It's a stellar, right? Look, a lot of food has lots of different fillers. It makes us think it tastes good.

BANFIELD: Or makes it bigger.

ROMANS: Right. The stuff is so gross that McDonald's and Burger King swore off using it in January. It's a ground up blend of beef scraps, apparently, connective tissue. BANFIELD: Oh, please.

ROMANS: Other trimmings have been treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill germs. That's a compound that's used to make homemade bombs, by the way.

BANFIELD: God!

ROMANS: I know. Report from the daily says the U.S. Department of Agriculture has signed a deal to buy seven pounds of pink slime for a school lunch program. It sounds really gross --

BANFIELD: That's got to be a typo. That's got to be a -- more than that. Seven million. Seven million pounds.

ROMANS: Did I say 7,000?

BANFIELD: Seven points.

ROMANS: I would have been OK with seven.

BANFIELD: Seven pounds.

ROMANS: Seven per person. No, I'm just kidding. But, look, there's a lot of fillers in your food. You'd be surprised.

BANFIELD: So, as disgusting as you just described it, and the ammonium --

ROMANS: It's what makes it pink. When you take a hamburger, you know, the pink --

BANFIELD: It's OK. We're OK with this? I mean, the FDA is OK with it because it's safe? Is that the only deal? The ammonium hydroxide is not a problem? She's silent. That means it's a problem.

ROMANS: It's just I'm not eating meat today.

BANFIELD: Yes. That's why you go to the organics department.

ROMANS: OK. Change the picture so we'll stop talking about the beef.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: So, this guy, not only is he a star on the field, but he's a star if he walks into your section of a restaurant. I was a waitress once and I always wanted this customer, Peyton Manning, dropping a cool $200 tip even though he just lost his big fat bonus.

Apparently, he's doing OK, because not only did he give his waiter at the Angus Barn in Raleigh, North Carolina, a $200 tip, he gave that tip on top of the 18 percent automatic gratuity that was already on the 700-plus bill. How nice is that?

And as a nice thing to do, I'm guessing, the waiter took a picture of the bill with the tip and posted it on his Facebook I think as if to say, "Look at Peyton Manning, what a great dude. He did this for me." But then it got so much attraction it went viral, and the restaurant fired him.

ROMANS: No?

BANFIELD: I know. I know. I'm here to say --

ROMANS: Why? Because it's like a doctor, you can't talk about your patients?

BANFIELD: I guess. It seemed like -- you know, it went on one of those websites that usually posts the non-tippers like Tiger Woods has been out there for being a bad tipper. And I guess, this was one of the ones that was a good tipper, but he still got fired. I hope he gets his job back.

ROMANS: That's a terrible end of that story.

BANFIELD: Yes.

ROMANS: All right. Still ahead, the critical jobs report coming in about 8:30 Eastern Time. This is a number that affects everything from, I don't know, the entire presidential race. How you feel about your own personal economy if you do or don't have a job. We're expecting to hear that in just a couple of hours.

BANFIELD: Iran's supreme leader, the ayatollah praising the great Satan (ph), and that's not a typo? Really?

ROMANS: No, it's not. He's praising, even as Netanyahu and Israel is stepping up the heat with the timeline for potential attack inside Iran. Iran is praising the United States.

BANFIELD: That's remarkable. We got here (ph) more on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)