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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Big Jobs Report Coming; Jobs Bill Brings House Together; Keystone Amendment Fails; Israel's Time Frame For Iran Attack; Prosecution Rests Webcam Spying Trial; Big Jobs Report Coming; Israel's Timeframe For Iran Attack

Aired March 9, 2012 - 06:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a hello and good morning to you, everyone. It's nice to have you here with EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans in for Zoraida Sambolin today. Happy Friday everybody. It's 6:00 a.m. in the east. Time to get started.

BANFIELD: Here are three words you probably hear a lot, jobs, jobs, jobs. You're going to hear more about it today because the big jobs report for February is due out in about a little over two hours. And you know what? The predictions are interesting, but could they boost or bite President Obama?

ROMANS: Also, Israel's prime minister is talking about a timetable for an attack on Iran. In a series of interviews talking about just when they could do something there, how many days, weeks, months, before time runs out.

BANFIELD: Here's something a surviving crime victim shouldn't have to feel, shocked after ruling that these four killers and a whole bunch of other criminals are going to be free to exercise their pardons after the Mississippi high court upheld the former governor's decision to let them out of jail.

ROMANS: It's like a gravity rocket aimed at the center of the earth. Jason Carroll gets a look at the capsule, there it is, that will take James Cameron on a dive seven miles deep.

BANFIELD: Gravity rocket, that's a brilliant way to say it. A gravity rocket that could squeeze you like a peanut if all things don't go well.

ROMANS: More like a grape.

BANFIELD: Scary stuff, but this guy is brave and he's going for it. Folks, we're going to fill you in on all of that.

But up first, like we said, it's the number one issue, your home. It's the number one issue on the campaign trail, jobs, and the lack thereof in this country.

But the jobs report for February is out in just a couple of hours. It affects everything, from Wall Street to oil prices. It might even tell you more about the presidential election than any pollster can do with his telephone. The candidates, they know it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The economy is getting stronger and the recovery is speeding up. 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. It's 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 paycheck, vote for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Normally you would see John King at a magic wall, but this morning, my friends, we have Christine Romans with the massive magic wall. You might even call it the monster wall.

ROMANS: Because it's a monster important report, the jobs report. What I'm trying to show you here, Ashleigh, is how far we've come and where we're going.

This report is more than just one month. This is a report that is putting into context a jobs trend that was truly horrifying for this country.

This is the end of the Bush administration. These are monthly job losses here at the end of 2008 that were horrific. You can see just how deep the hole was that we built. This line here is when Obama took office.

And this what it was like in the first months of his presidency, truly awful. Unemployment rate spiking, hundreds of thousands of jobs lost every single month.

Then you can see throughout 2009 into 2010, the bleeding stopped and you started to see some jobs gains. But everything was so tentative then you saw a pullback. We worried about a double dip recession.

Here have been slow, steady, jobs gains that gray bar right there is the expectation for 210,000 jobs created, Ashleigh, in February. Now, here's the thing. The president can take credit for a slowly improving jobs market over the last year, right?

But he can't take credit for strong jobs growth that got us back to where we need to be because that hasn't happened yet. So you will see politicizing of these numbers no matter what.

What this chart is meant to show you is where we've come from and what's it looked like, kind of the trajectory of the trend and sort of a real fact check of where we stand.

BANFIELD: You know, that little gray piece at the end there? The one that says -- the projection of -- stick around because you have to fill it in at 8:30 a.m.

ROMANS: Right, I will make that a bar for you that will be the real number at 8:30.

BANFIELD: A little higher or a little lower, not so sure yet, but at 8:30, Christine is going to have the actual number and give you the actual final Report on that.

Speaking of jobs, by the way, Christine, Democrats and the Republicans set aside their differences and decided to send that jobs bill to the Senate because the House passed it yesterday in a landslide, 390 to 23 was the final number there.

If you are wondering what the jobs bill is all about. It's sort of called the jump-start or businesses start-up act. It's supposed to make it easier for the small businesses, the mom and pop of us, to find investors and actually hire people by cutting through some of the SEC red tape that bugged us down in that effort.

The House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was on "JOHN KING USA." He was pretty excited about the compromise that they were able to put forth, but Nancy Pelosi was not super thrilled. She said this was a jobs bill light. Here's how they both depicted it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), 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), MINORITY LEADER: It's so meager. Trumpet, ta-ta-ta-ta, here comes the little king.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Stick to your day job. That singing was just OK. Majority Leader Harry Reid for his part said the Senate would move quickly to pass some similar legislation.

ROMANS: The Senate is shutting down a plan to fast track that controversial Keystone -- I was thinking about Goldie Taylor who is in South Beach. But Keystone pipeline, the measure would have allowed construction to start immediately on that. It failed to get the 60 votes it need for passage.

Republicans unanimously supported it. No surprise, only 11 Democrats votes for it. Four votes shy of passing. The president personally lobbied Democrats to oppose it. It's a proposed 1700-mile pipeline expansion. It's the dotted line there.

You can see the orange parts are already in, already there, already built. I would bring crude oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Supporters say it would cut U.S. dependence on Middle East oil.

Opponents say the crude is poor quality. The pipeline could leak. They don't like it for the environmental reasons and the likes so the fight continues.

BANFIELD: So the dotted ones were the ones that were already built.

ROMANS: The dotted one is what they want to do -- the extension, the solid one is there. We've got lots of pipelines in this country.

BANFIELD: It's long maybe inefficient. We like efficiency in America, don't we?

Let's talk a little overseas stuff because it's all interconnected, isn't it? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that he's going to give diplomatic pressure and sanctions a chance shall we say against Iran trying to make things work between those two countries.

In a series of TV interviews in Israel, Netanyahu said it is clear that time is running out. He did give a sort of a time frame, a bit of a time frame regarding that idea of attacking Iran over that whole nuclear threat issue.

(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)

BANFIELD: Iran says it is ready to talk about its nuclear program. We'll see if talk means letting in those inspectors and really when they let them in, letting them do their job.

The country supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei actually ended up praising President Obama. We don't hear that very often, folks, the supreme leader praising an American president because of Obama's efforts to dampen all the war talk.

For his part, the president here says that there is a, quote, "window of opportunity to try to resolve this crisis" and Khamenei said that was, and I'm going to say his words here, wise.

He also said this, "This talk is good talk and shows an exit from illusion." There are a lot of critics say that when the ayatollah talks it's all hot air though.

And Reza Sayah is live in Islamabad, Pakistan where I'm not sure how that message is resonating, but it will be fascinating, nonetheless -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, when Iran's supreme leader praises and compliments U.S. President Barack Obama it's going to mike headlines and that's what's happening here.

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei essentially saying that he welcomes Barack Obama's statements that Iran nuclear crisis can still be solve through diplomacy and not war.

Of course, for months now we've heard intense sabre rattling against Iran, fuelled mostly by Israeli leaders, three of the Republican presidential candidates and many U.S. congressmen essentially saying that the time for talk is nearing an end, that Iran is indeed building a bomb, and they should be stopped by any means necessary.

It's important to point out that not even the U.N.'s nuclear inspection agency is saying Iran is building a bomb. Even so there's still a lot of concern. This week President Obama essentially coming out and saying everybody calm down, take a deep breath.

Going to war is not a game. Let's allow diplomacy and sanctions to take its course. If you look at the past couple of days, you can see the rhetoric toning down considerably.

That could set the stage for the talks between the western powers, Russia and China on one side and Iran that could happen in the coming weeks -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It's interesting, usually when, well, Ahmadinejad sabre rattles the price of oil goes up and that's very helpful to a country that's struggling under these sanctions. So when the supreme leader starts to tamp that down, does that cause a problem within Iran and does that even matter to us?

SAYAH: Well, I don't think anything the supreme leader says in Iran at this point with respect to the nuclear program is going to cause any problems. His word is the final word. It's very difficult to get in his mind, but we've heard from Iran's leadership that they don't want a conflict especially a military conflict with the west.

Even so, as we mentioned before, the Israeli government mostly has been sabre rattling, calling for the consideration of a military attack. And there's been a lot of rhetoric in bluster.

And to cut through some of that bluster we should point out to our viewers that the top authorities on U.S. intelligence, people like James Clapper, the U.S. director of National Intelligence, has told Congress just last month that there's no evidence that Iran is building a bomb.

Ronald Burgess, the director of U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency saying we assess Iran is unlikely to provoke a conflict. These statements don't go along with the narrative that Iran is a threat to the world. It's important to remind our viewers that these statements are coming from top U.S. intelligence officials.

BANFIELD: And they're also juxtaposed with the IAEA that says, you know, something smells kind of fishy, those are my words, not theirs. They're far more eloquent that I.

But Reza, thanks very much for that. Appreciate it. Reza Sayah live in Islamabad for us this morning.

ROMANS: All right, coming up this morning, a new chapter begins in the Rutgers University webcam spying trial.

BANFIELD: And we have the good old fashion CNN-style coffee here, but you know those other shows that have Starbucks on them? Starbucks is trying to percolate a little more business with its own home brewing machine. I wonder if it will show up at an anchor set near you.

ROMANS: But first, let's get a quick check of your travel forecast. That's Rob Marciano. Good morning, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, guys. Listen, windy conditions, record breaking temperatures yesterday. That front now is pushing off to the east. The rains that were along the I-95 will be ending throughout the day.

But along down to the south, it's kind of hanging around. It will be a slow go to clear this stuff out. As a matter of fact, the rains will only increase across parts of the East Texas and the Arklatex over the weekend.

But that should eliminate your drought elsewhere, clear skies moving in. Not a bad weekend actually with seasonal temperatures, 40 in Chicago, 49 degrees in New York and 60 degrees once the rains move out in the west.

You're up to date weather wise. It's 12 minutes after the hour. EARLY START is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: So '80s. Wake up, Miami.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Erick Erickson and Goldie Taylor, they're down later both in Miami. It's going to rain later today. Chance of storms, 83.

BANFIELD: They're jamming to Loverboy, though, and "Working for the Weekend."

Why did we pick "Working for the Weekend"?

ROMANS: Friday in Miami is better than any other workday anywhere else, don't you think?

BANFIELD: You know what? I would -- yes, I would choose Miami over anywhere in Florida, frankly.

It's about 16 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast.

If you're just waking up we've got your top stories all down for you. We're going crunk on the top stories here.

Candidates and voters all waiting for the big February jobs report that's coming out at 8:30. Christine is going to break down those numbers for you.

The Labor Department is expecting to announce that the economy added -- here's our prediction -- around 210,000 jobs last month.

Also in the news, an agreement by most of Greece's private creditors is clearing the way for another mass financial bailout for the European Union. Why does that matter? It just does, folks. They agreed on a plan to restructure the Greek government bonds. And that ripple effect? Well, we'll just have to wait and see if it works.

There's no word on a possible motive for a deadly shooting at the University of Pittsburgh psychiatric center. Police say a man walked in with a pair of guns and just opened fire. One person was killed, seven people were hurt before he was shot dead by the campus police.

ROMANS: In New York City, the city is going to fight a judge's ruling, forcing it to pay $128 million for discriminating against minority Fire Department candidates. The federal government and a black firefighters group have argued that the FDNY's entrance exam was bias in favor of whites.

Green mountain coffee rosters seeing red this morning after Starbucks announces competition for its popular K-cup brewing machine. No word yet on just how much it's going to cost when it hits the market sometime this fall.

BANFIELD: It is 17 minutes past 6:00 right now.

And coming up, it's a trial that a lot of people are looking at because it has to do with web spying. But it also has to do with bias -- or does it? The defense is going to start its case in that issue over a gay student who committed suicide after that young man was alleged to have put the spy cam on him and it's all about why, why, why would you do it?

ROMANS: And as the U.S. hitchhikes with the Russians, China -- China is upping the heights in the space race. China wants to dominate a new frontier.

You're watching EARLY START.

BANFIELD: Those pictures never get old.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back. Good morning. It's 21 minutes past the hour. I'm Christine Romans, in for Zoraida Sambolin this morning.

BANFIELD: Nice to have you with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

And the big story here today that we're talking about, prosecution has rested its case in the webcam spying trial. You probably have heard something about this.

This man, a former Rutgers student, his name is Dharun Ravi, is on trial for a lot of things including bias intimidation and he's facing up to 10 years in prison because that's the most serious charge. He's accused of using a webcam to spy on his gay roommate. That roommate was 18-year-old Tyler Clementi. Tyler Clementi ended up jumping off bridge in New York and killing himself.

The jury in this case has viewed a lot of texts. It's also viewed nearly an hour long interrogation in a place interrogation room.

I want you to take a look at this. A detective here reading a Twitter message sent by Ravi to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DETECTIVE: Anyone with iChat, I dare you -- not "please don't" -- not "I'm warning you", I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12:00. Yes, it's happening again.

DHARUN RAVI: But obviously I said that in a sarcastic way, first of all. And second of all, I turned off my computer so they wouldn't be able to -- or I put it to sleep so they wouldn't be able to do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So, that's Dharun Ravi's explanation but this young man ended up committing suicide several days after learning that his roommate had been spying on him. It's still an allegation, folks. This trial is still ongoing.

But the defense now gets a really hard crack at this case to try to prove what was in the defendant's mind.

And joining us now is Midwin Charles. She's criminal defense attorney. She's also not just an attorney, she's a radio host, too, and she's just lovely. I know her. I love her.

Hi, Midwin.

MIDWIN CHARLES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Good morning, Ashleigh. Howa are you?

BANFIELD: I'm great. I can't wait to talk to you about this because when the prosecution has this case, all the headlines are, oh, man, this guy is going down. But that's because all you get to hear is the prosecution's version.

And now, we get to here Dharun Ravi's version. What is the headline going to be? What are his lawyers going to try to say to this jury to switch gears?

CHARLES: Well, I think the strongest charge is the bias intimidation charge because that carries a sentence of 10 years. So I think the defense is going to focus on the fact that he was not homophobic, he was not somebody who kind of looked down upon people who were gay or who had a sexual orientation, that was different.

And in fact, during cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses, he did a remarkable job of pointing out from those witnesses that Dharun Ravi is not homophobic. In fact, he had a close friend who was gay. So, I think that's going to be a huge focus of the defense.

BANFIELD: Can I just ask a really dumb question here? What does it matter? I mean, if he's homophobic or not, we're talking about a crime -- where does homophobic tendencies factor into evidence and what happened and why the young man jumped off the bridge?

CHARLES: OK. Well, one, no such thing as a dumb question, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Thank you. I got millions of them. They're all here. I got millions.

CHARLES: And, two, the bias intimidation is a hate crime. What that means is that prosecutors often have to get into the head of a defendant and determine whether or not they singled out the victim because of gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or religion.

And so, that's why finding out whether or not he is homophobic, his attitude towards gays is relevant. And it is very, very important -- at least with respect to the bias intimidation charge.

BANFIELD: And that's the one that's really critical here because that carries 10 years. This is really where it's going to get, the rubber is going to meet the road.

CHARLES: Yes.

BANFIELD: So, here's the deal, I'm never going to suggest for a moment that any of us is good enough to get into someone else's head. But the closest you can come is whatever evidence you can gather, say, text messages, conversations, witnesses, that sort of thing. And to that end, there is a text message I feel is going to play heavily in the defense's case.

Let me read part of it, and again, this is sort of a long message that we've cut down a bit. Dharun Ravi texted this to Tyler Clementi the day -- the day that Clementi he jumped off the bridge. I don't know at what point of the day, or even Tyler was able to read it.

But Dharun said this, "I've known that you were gay and I have no problem with it. I don't want your freshman year to be ruined because of a petty misunderstanding. It's adding to my guilt. You have a right to move if you wish, but I don't want you to feel pressured to without fully understanding the situation."

Isn't that what you call a really strong piece of evidence in the defense case?

CHARLES: Well, it's helpful. You know, the defense will say it's a strong helpful piece of evidence, but the prosecution will turn around and say, you know what? Look at the timing at which that was sent. It was sent after he found out that Tyler Clementi requested a change in rooms. He wanted a different --

BANFIELD: So what though? So what?

CHARLES: Well, what it does is it shows that, you know, what he's trying to kind of mitigate what happened and trying not to look like the bad guy and cover his tracks.

BANFIELD: Change of room isn't such a crime. He doesn't need to mitigate himself for a change of room.

CHARLES: Well, think about it, one of the charges is here is hindering apprehension. So, this is a guy who kind of is very good at trying to cover his tracks. He's alleged to have left about 86 text messages in trying to cover his tracks. So, interesting fact, I think.

But I think you're right. I think it's helpful to the defense but I can see how the prosecution can counter it.

BANFIELD: Yes. They always can, right? Especially a good one.

Midwin, good to see you, as always.

CHARLES: Good to see you, too.

BANFIELD: All right.

ROMANS: That little line about adding to my guilt.

BANFIELD: Adding to my guilt, meaning I feel bad about doing this to you. I have a feeling this is going to be a very interesting jury deliberation.

ROMANS: Yes.

All right. Still ahead, how good jobs numbers need to be played very carefully on the campaign trail for President Obama. If he's not careful, you know, people could say he's boasting about what has been a subpar recovery. We'll talk about the Obama jobs pickle here.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: It is 30 minutes past the hour, which means you might be waking up and starting your Friday, but it means we're 30 minutes until our Friday.

ROMANS: Five-mile run. No pressure, everyone. No pressure.

BANFIELD: I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans, in for Zoraida Sambolin.

Time to check the stories making news this morning.

Big February jobs report comes out at 8:30 Eastern Time. The Labor Department is expected to announce the economy added about 210,000 jobs last month. The jobless rate probably steady at 8.3 percent. We'll know for sure in two hours.

President Obama is urging restraint, but Israel's not backing down in the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laying out a time frame for military strike, saying it won't be day or weeks, but also not years.

A Keystone pipeline plan fails in the Senate by just four votes. The measure would have kick-started construction of that pipeline to bring crude oil from Canada's oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The president personally lobbied Democrats to vote against that.

BANFIELD: And China is trying to reach new heights with its space program. Officials there saying it's going to launch its first ever manned flight to dock at the space lab this summer. Long-term plans include building a manned space station and eventual landing on the moon, but not before we try to beat them to it -- if Newt Gingrich has his way.

By the way, speaking of Newt Gingrich and those folks on the campaign trail, there's something out there apparently suggesting we have a enthusiasm deficit, folks -- an enthusiasm deficit. Apparently, when it comes to the Republican voters nationwide, the turnout in the primaries in 13 states this year is down compared with the last two primary races in 2000 and 2008.

And please, folks, it's your right. It's your right in this country.

Go. Vote. Do it. It's fabulous. It's fun. You get a sticker.

ROMANS: You get a sticker.

BANFIELD: You do. It's great.

ROMANS: And then you get a new president eventually or the same president you had the last four years.

BANFIELD: It's up to you.

ROMANS: There you go.

Newt Gingrich immediate political future may depend on the outcome of primaries in Alabama and Mississippi next week. Rick Santorum is out to make it a two-man race, of course. Could Gingrich be a kingmaker? Our political panel to weigh in on that and all the other political topic this morning.

In Washington, Marjorie Clifton, Democratic strategist and national editor of GoVote.com. And West Palm Beach, Florida, Eric Erickson, editor of chief of RedState.com. And in Miami, Goldie Taylor, independent political analyst, managing editor of the Goldie Taylor Project.

Welcome, everyone.

Erick, I want to start with you.

Yesterday, Tony Perkins sent an e-mail to his followers saying Gingrich -- it's time for Gingrich to move on, to get out of the race. And take the position of a kingmaker. You said the very same thing about Rick Perry and then, of course, Rick Perry dropped out. Is it time for this to be a two-man race?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think a lot of conservatives are starting to see that. When you drill down into the exit polling from Ohio, it looks like the Newt Gingrich had gotten out before Ohio most of his voters would have gone to Rick Santorum. It would be an easy night for Santorum had Gingrich not been there.

Likewise, you look at Oklahoma and Tennessee, both states that Gingrich was expected to do very well in, he wound up not doing well in those. He didn't get 50 percent in his home state. And if you look at Alabama and Mississippi, it's pretty clear that Gingrich voters are dragging down Santorum, Santorum voters are dragging down Gingrich but united, they would be able to stop Mitt Romney in those states.

ROMANS: You know, Goldie, I want to bring you in and talk a little bit about the jobs report because this is something that, you know, you're likely to get 200,000 plus jobs today, according to economists, right? Which on its surface is good news.

But the president has the challenge of trumpeting these numbers while walking a very fine line and acknowledging that a lot of people are still underemployed, that Republicans do have a point that the unemployment rate still is too high. And Mitt Romney has recently even said something to that effect, you know, kind of taking some of the oomph out of the president's victory on the jobs front.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These days, the president and his team, they keep telling us things are getting better. But 24 million Americans are still struggling for work, they're high-fiving each other in the West Wing. But my friends, the truth is 8 percent unemployment is not the best America can do. It's just the best that this administration can do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: So, I think all of the press releases have already been written for everyone who wants to spin these numbers the way they want them on the trail today. So, how does the White House play, Goldie?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, GOLDIE TAYLOR PROJECT: I think you're right. I think the White House has a very fine line to walk on this, sure. We're in one of the worst economic downturns that we've seen in modern times. And it's going to take a lot, you know, really to get us out of this.

This is good news. You know, 200,000 additional jobs is always good news. It clearly is not enough. There are too many Americans still hurting out there. And so, sure, there's a fine line for this president to walk.

There's also a fine line for these GOP candidates to walk. On the one hand, they say that government, you know, can't create jobs. And on the other hand they're going to blame the White House for not creating jobs. So, I'm not really sure which one they want.

The fact is we've all got to work together and betting against Americans is never ever going to work.

ROMANS: And you're likely to see more government jobs lost in this report. I mean, we have seen that again and again and again. And more job cuts -- or more cuts from government from the budget will mean more government jobs lost. And that has been, of course, something that's been key in the Republican platform.

Marjorie, the House though and the Senate is going to take on, you know, this jobs act. The House passed this jobs act yesterday. And I'll tell you what people in the business world were saying. They were kind of yawning about this yesterday because four of these proposals have already been passed by the House and it doesn't really move the needle on the economy, yet they're trumpeting of this great show of bipartisanship.

You know, is it an important victory, this partisanship we're seeing, or is this just one small little move in a sea of partisanship?

MAJORJIE CLIFTON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think anything is a move right now. As we've seen the approval rating for Congress has been 4 percent and 7 percent and maybe 9 percent. So, they need any victories they can get at this point.

Again, what's enough right now, that's the question. And as you've just been talking, it's all about positioning and as many of us experience in our own relationship, it's about setting expectations. What's a reasonable bump in the economy given where we've been historically? Will this bill actually move the needle forward a little bit? Yes. But is it enough? Probably not.

And, you know, a third month now of improved numbers is absolutely a win for everyone.

ROMANS: Yes. Do you guys agree with me? I mean, we don't have time right now but a show of hands or nod or whatever. But do you guys agree with me that the jobs report and what with do on jobs here in the near term is probably the most important poll indicator in this election season. I mean, this is the number that everybody is following, yes?

CLIFTON: Yes.

ERICKSON: Yes.

TAYLOR: Yes, that and the gas prices.

ROMANS: That and gas prices, you're right. Absolutely.

And basically, I mean, I don't know how much control anybody has over any of those things right now in the near term, so they're all suggesting strategies accordingly.

All right. Thank you so much. Eric, Goldie, Marjorie, nice to see all of you this morning. Bright and early for us on a Friday. Happy Friday.

BANFIELD: Bright and early for them.

ROMANS: I know.

BANFIELD: Not bright and early for us. It's late, it's late.

It's 37 minutes past 6:00, folks.

And we've got another story for you that we've been telling you a lot about, but this is a little different, a little different twist. Violence that's raging in Syria. But no less, but listen to this, the rebel groups are saying 20 people were killed today, including women and children.

But now they're accusing the government of storming through villages not just to chase down the women and children -- no, no, no, they want to go after their own soldiers. Their own soldiers who defected because we keep hearing that's happening.

In the meantime, Bashar al-Assad's government is claiming that the attacks and those who they're looking for are terrorists, terrorists. Not just simple civilians.

And they say that those terrorists are carrying, get ready, ready? Israeli made weapons. And that they're using those Israeli made weapons to kill civilians.

Syria is also accusing its other neighbor Turkey of smuggling guns across the border. Talk about problems in that neighborhood.

And to that end, this is one of the worst places in the world to be a reporter. It's the worst place in the world to be a civilian at this point.

So, CNN's Arwa Damon, who was able to get inside Syria and has been doing just extraordinary work inside Syria is going to give us an extended look this Sunday. It's really unfiltered just as to how dangerous this situation is there for everyone involved.

It's one-hour special called "72 Hours Under Fire." It airs this Sunday, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

ROMANS: Her reporting is amazing. She is why --

BANFIELD: She's why we're in this job.

ROMANS: She's why we're in this job. But she's the one out there under pressure doing it. It's amazing.

BANFILED: Yes. And Nic Robertson has done it, too. And a few other reporters.

Obviously, we talked about Marie Colvin who lost her life doing this. I cannot express how dangerous and difficult it is to step over that border. That when you make that decision, you never know if you're coming out. That's Arwa's great story, coming up on Sunday.

Thirty-nine minutes now past 6:00.

And coming up also on this program, those pardons that made everybody see red. Four killers and a whole lot more criminals walking out from behind bars after being pardoned by Mississippi's governor. Others taking issue, taking it to court, and the Supreme Court in that state weighed in. We'll tell you what they decided overall.

And also, killer TV. "Sopranos" hit a hot list of influential programs. But can you guess which one was number one? You might be surprised at this one.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Good morning, Memphis. Get up, 40 degrees. It's going to be sunny and 62.

It's Friday. You've got about, you know, eight or nine hours to get some stuff done and then enjoy the weekend.

BANFIELD: She does not mince words. She said, get up, come on.

ROMANS: Get up, get moving.

BANFIELD: Get moving.

Six-forty-three on the East Coast. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone.

The Supreme Court in Mississippi has weighed in on something a lot of people have been talking about, those pardons. What did the Supreme Court decide to do? Upheld them. They're good. Haley Barbour's pardons -- they are good to go.

ROMANS: They didn't buy that technicality of putting it in the paper, huh?

BANFIELD: They didn't buy it. They did not buy it. They said it's a governor's right to do it, which means now four convicted killers and, oh, I don't know, 196 or so other prisoners are all free to go. Free at last.

Some of them worked as trustees so they got close to the governor and his staff while they were working in the mansion there. But the court just said, you know what, the pardon power that's given to our leaders, our governors just can't be, quote, "set aside or voided by judicial branch -- by the judicial branch".

CNN's Ed Lavandera has been on this story since the beginning.

I remember watching you in the cold, cold weather trying to get a comment from Haley Barbour, because he was on his way out of office. Everybody wanted to know what his answer was and what his explanations were. And I think he said to you, maybe I'll talk to you but you can stale stay out in fact cold.

I still tell feel like we're in the cold on this one.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, and I think we will be staying that way for quite some time. We're going to keep trying. He told us then that he would talk to us after the Supreme Court ruled.

He put out a statement yesterday saying that he was gratified and happen with the result that the Supreme Court had come to. But no expectation that he will sit down with us and answer many of the questions that still exist surrounding this case. It was a 6-3 decision, as you mentioned, Ashleigh, and they're basically saying that it was up to the government. Remember, the attorney general in Mississippi was arguing that they didn't put forth enough notice.

That the Mississippi law is that they had to have announced these pardons 30 days in advance of the pardon, and they felt the vast majority of this pardon situations, that that 30-day notice wasn't met. But the Supreme Court is basically saying that it is up to the governor, and the governor only to determine if 25 or 28 days is good enough. And if the governor deems that to be appropriate, then he had that discretion.

BANFIELD: So, Ed, so, what the Supreme Court was saying, yes, absolutely, that teeny-weeny little part of the Mississippi constitution there was an infraction there. And yes, they did sort of screw that up, but in the end, you're allowed to screw that up, it doesn't matter, because the governor is the king when it comes to these decisions. Is that what this means?

LAVANDERA: Essentially. I mean, all of this is over. And you know, one of descending (ph) judges, there are three judges that didn't agree with this ruling, basically called this in the words that the judge used, a stunning victory for convicted, lawless criminals. You can imagine that that hasn't gone over well with many people in Mississippi.

BANFIELD: So, what about those victims? I mean, there were some victims -- family members, there were some victims who survived even some of those killers' attempts. What's going on with them?

LAVANDERA: If you've been following this story closely, you probably have gotten to know a man by the name of Randy Walker quite well. He was shot in the head by David Gatlin who's one of those trustees that worked to the governor's mansion. He survived the attack where his friend was murdered. And Randy Walker spoke with Anderson Cooper last night. You just listen to the emotion and the power in his words.

(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 night marries.

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 hard to hear. Ed, real quickly, I always ask, it isn't over until it's over until you hit the U.S. Supreme Court. Not every case can go there. There's a lot that it takes to get that kind of, you know, an appellate issue. But is it over? Is that done or is anybody looking to push this further?

LAVANDERA: They might try to push. We haven't heard any of that yet. It's essentially over. And remember, there's five more people that were caught up and still in prison, hadn't been released yet. And they will be released by tomorrow. And that includes another murder, an accessory to murder, and another woman who is convicted of aggravated assault. So, that story continues.

BANFIELD: Now, I will add that it is an astounding story. Ed Lavandera, great work and staying on it right from the beginning. Thank you.

LAVANDERA: Thanks, guys. ROMANS: All right. It's 45 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning.

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ROMANS (voice-over): The candidates and voters all waiting for the big February jobs report. The labor department expected to announce the economy added 210,000 jobs last month. The jobless rate stayed at 8 1/2 percent. We'll have that at 8:30 eastern.

BANFIELD (voice-over): Forty-seven minutes past 6:00, and Israeli attack on Iran could happen in a matter of months? Really? According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a series of TV interviews in Israel, the Prime Minister said it's not maybe a matter of days or weeks, but it's also not a matter of years. So, some in between, folks.

He also added, though, that he hopes the diplomatic pressures succeeds, but he does say that Iran's nuclear threat must, and I will underline that, must be removed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS (on-camera): All right. Soledad O'Brien joins us now with a look at what's ahead on "Starting Point." Good morning, sunshine.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey. Good morning to both of you. We're coming to you live from south by southwest this morning in Austin, Texas. Of course, that is a music and film and text (ph) festival. So, this morning, no surprise, we're going to be talking to Lewis Black (ph), he's one of the co-founders of the festival.

We're here at the CNN Grill. You can see they're getting ready to make breakfast. That's the French toast down there. I'm going to try that this morning. To get a shot of our set, look who it is. Ali Velshi. Coming on the set this morning and joining our panel, of course. This is where all the magic is going to happen.

Also, we're going to talk to a guy who's launching a big craze for tech companies like to launch and talk to Posh Flemming (ph) about his company, Go Kit (ph). They're launching today here at south by southwest.

And also, the Chopras, Deepak and Gotham Chopra will talk about the film that they're debuting here at south by southwest.

Also, going to talk about those jobs numbers that you guys were talking about. Austan Goolsbee is the former top economic advisor for President Obama. We're going to speak to him about what the implications of these numbers will be when they come out.

And then, did you see this? a rap battle, a battle over rap between two lawmakers. Listen.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Jay-Z said it best and I'm going to quote it for you. I know my rights so you're going to need a warrant for that. And even went further to say, aren't you as sharp as tack. Are you a lawyer or something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respectfully disagree with the correction (INAUDIBLE). In that song, it was the officer who said aren't you sharp as a tack or something. You should try for lawyer or something. So, I got you on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Oh! What has it all come to? What has it come to when everybody is quoting Jay-Z and the lyrics of "99 Problems"? We're going to talk about that and much more this morning on STARTING POINT when you see us at the top of the hour. back in just a moment.

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BANFIELD: Yes, we did this, didn't we? (INAUDIBLE) yellow submarine. Yesterday, we told you the story about James Cameron and the gravity rocket heading to the very bottom of the earth. And, you're so fascinated with the geeky part of the gravity rocket, the actual tube that he's going down in. We decided to have Jason Carroll back.

ROMANS: I know. Jason Carroll has had like an inside look at this. What's the latest today?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, it's not yellow, it's Kawasaki green. So, let's get that straight first. Basically, you know, this is something that's been something years in development. You know, this is not something that happens overnight. This is something that Cameron has been working on with a team of engineers and deep sea experts as well as some of the folks from "National Geographic."

So, let's start taking a look at "Deep Sea Challenger." This is how he's going to get to the Mariana Trench. This is going to happen sometime this month. You see him climbing in there. A few stats about "Deep Sea Challenger." That's what's called -- there you see it. Big deep into the water. Twenty-four feet long, weighs 12 tons, made of a special type of syntactic foam.

It runs on lithium batteries. All this so it can withstand the pressures at challenger deep some 36,000 feet down. The idea is to spend as little time as possible descending and ascending and spend as much as time possible down there on the seafloor. Cameron talked to me about how the sub will move in the water and what safety measures are in place just in case something goes wrong.

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CARROLL: So, it does stay vertical --

JAMES CAMERON, DIRECTOR: Like a sea horse.

CARROLL: Like a sea horse.

CAMERON: Yes. It just stays up right, the water comes, you have a little fin (ph) on the back. It's the same idea. We're pushing from the center of a tall object. We just flight around like this. It's like a gravity rocket aimed at the center of the earth. It's designed to go down fast and come up fast.

If you do get stuck on the bottom for whatever reason, there's one last (INAUDIBLE) that brings you home, if your weights don't drop, there's a way to jettison. There are multiple ways to jettison. The very last one is you have to wait for a link to dissolve. It called galvanic time release. And it eventually dissolves in sea water and the weights fall off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: So, simple in way of coming back just in case something goes wrong. In addition to putting (INAUDIBLE) you know, this all about science. and there's a slurp gun. I know that's not a science term or a technical term, but there's a slurp gun they've got attached to this thing so he can literally suck in sea life, get the samples up to the scientists so will be up there on the ship so they can take a look at what's going on down there.

ROMANS: And when you think about the applications for what's alive in the Mariana Trench, you know? I mean, like, how you withstand that kind of pressure, low light, what kind of -- just --

CARROLL: And you know what that means, also, because it redefines what really life is all about. And if life can survive at those pressures, who knows what life may look like on other planets.

BANFIELD: Oh, it's a new frontier. It really is.

CARROLL: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: He's like Magellan. That's fabulous. All right. Jason Carroll, thank you for that.

CARROLL: You bet.

BANFIELD: Lots to come in just a moment.

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ROMANS: "Hill Street Blues" named the most influential shows. "Hill Street Blues" in television history. At a survey of critics, they say it changed the direction of television. Also in the top five, "I Love Lucy," "Sopranos," "The Tonight Show" and "Survivor."

BANFIELD: And just edged out, EARLY START. You know, we were really a contender at one point, but you know, "Hill Street Blues", can't get any better than that. Hey, so, that's pretty much where we stand. ROMANS: Yes.

BANFIELD: That's it for us.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans in for Zoraida today. Have a great weekend, everybody.

BANFIELD: And I'm Ashleigh Banfield. So, at this point, we're sending it down to Austin, Texas, where it is as warm as a Dutch oven. That's where Soledad O'Brien. That's the word of the day. I had to get it in. Another word of the day, Soledad.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Thank you for the word of the day. I appreciate that. Welcome, everybody.