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Panetta, Karzai Meet in Kabul; New Outrage in Mississippi Pardon Case; Blagojevich Prepares For Prison

Aired March 15, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We are bringing you the news from A to Z. We are very happy you're with us.

It's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

We start with your top stories.

BANFIELD: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meeting overnight in Kabul. They were trying to diffuse tensions over the mass killings of those Afghan civilian, allegedly by an American army soldier who has now been moved out of Afghanistan.

SAMBOLIN: A deadly school bus crash in southern Pennsylvania. The bus driver was killed when the packed bus collided with a semi- truck on the highway. Twenty-eight students were injured. Six had to be air lifted to a hospital.

BANFIELD: Two inmates pardoned got driver's licenses and cars while they were still behind bars. All of this courtesy of the governor, his wife, and his staff.

Ed Lavandera with a CNN exclusive coming up.

SAMBOLIN: But, up first, with tensions rising in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meeting in Kabul overnight. The U.S. soldier accused in a mass killing of Afghan civilians has been moved out of the country to a military base in Kuwait. That's angered lawmakers who want the American to be tried on Afghan soil.

And, this morning, there's word of new protests, as well. There are so many new developments overnight.

Let's get right to CNN's Sara Sidner. She is live in Kabul.

Can we first start talking about this conversation that happened between Panetta and Karzai and what the outcome was of that?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. At this point in time, they haven't released exactly what the two talked about. But no doubt, the situation that happened on Sunday, the mass killing of 16 civilians in the dead of night allegedly by a U.S. soldier, that certainly came up.

And, also, we're talking about I'm sure the transition that you will see in 2014 with NATO troops leaving this country, or at least that is the plan. So I'm sure those two issues came up.

We are now seeing protests very near to where this massacre happened on Sunday, happening near the Panjwai district, in Kandahar. But the protest actually happening after religious leaders called on people to denounce the U.S. and to call for justice. These protests happening in another area, in another place called Zabul, which is the province near Kandahar.

And the protesters basically saying that they want the justice to be right here on Afghan soil. We also heard that from Afghan lawmakers. There's sure to be some pushback on this, but that obviously is not going to happen because as we reported overnight, this soldier has been taken out of here, transferred out of Afghanistan, taken to Kuwait.

The reasoning behind that seems to be legal, that they didn't have any real place, they said, to hold him here for much longer, nor sort of the legal framework, militarily, to deal with him. So they moved him out to Kuwait where they do have that in place, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And we also understand that there was an explosion of a vehicle. And perhaps it wasn't an explosion. I think it was set on fire when Panetta was arriving in that country.

Can you tell us about that?

SIDNER: Yes. There's been a lot of conflicting information. But, finally, we got to the bottom of it. But there is still an investigation going on.

Apparently, an employee at Camp Bastion, a civilian employee, stole a car, drove it on to the runway as Panetta's plane was taxing into that particular base there in Kandahar. The car ended up on fire, the driver ended up on fire and he has died actually. He also ended up hitting member of the International Security Assistance Force, injuring someone.

There's still no word on what his motive may have been. But a lot of concern there, though. They said that at no time was Mr. Panetta in any danger. We know that he was able to speak with U.S. and U.K. troops on ground, talking to them about really what the mission is going forward, saying that the mission is a transitional one now where Afghan soldiers need to be trained by NATO soldiers so that, you know, the U.S. and NATO allies can leave the country in the hands of Afghan forces -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Sara Sidner -- thank you very much, live in Kabul for us this morning.

BANFIELD: Four minutes now passed 5:00 a.m. on the East Coast. And a new wave of outrage in a Mississippi pardon's case is triggered by a CNN exclusive. Documents obtained by CNN show that two of the inmates who were pardoned by former Governor Haley Barbour may have received some pretty preferential treatment, not only by the governor, but by his wife and his staff, as well.

Here's Ed Lavandera.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days before these two Mississippi killers were pardoned by Haley Barbour, CNN has learned David Gatlin and Charles Hooker were issued brand new driver's licenses, even though they were still technically incarcerated working as trustees at the governor's mansion -- which begs the question how do two inmates get licenses while they're still in custody of the prison system.

(on camera): Well, Haley Barbour's chief security officer tells CNN he personally drove both men from the governor's mansion here over to the driver's license office himself.

(voice-over): Barbour's security chief suggests the licenses would help them find jobs. But why else would they need a driver's license? To drive their newly-purchased cars, of course.

CNN has obtained these investigator's reports from the Mississippi attorney general's office, which detail how Gatlin and Hooker also had cars ready for them the day they were pardoned. According to the report, Haley Barbour's wife called a salesman at this car dealership. It says, "Marsha Barbour contacted him regarding the purchase of vehicles for Hooker and Gatlin."

The salesman told investigators that the inmates had been brought to the dealership on January 6th, 2012, in a black Ford Crown Victoria to complete paperwork for the sale.

January 6th is the very day that their pardons were signed, but two days before the men were officially released. The salesman also stated that he delivered both vehicles to the governor's mansion.


BANFIELD: Ad the governor has refused to comment on Ed Lavandera's report. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety says it has been reviewed and that no policies were broken.

SAMBOLIN: Six minutes passed the hour here. Here's a look at the stories that are making news today.

Blago bidding farewell. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reports to prison today in Colorado. He was sentenced to 14 years on corruption charges, including the attempted sale of President Obama's former Senate seat and the attempted extortion of a children's hospital in Chicago. The highlights of his goodbye are straight ahead.

BANFIELD: And you can't miss them, honestly.

A new documentary about President Obama is going online today. And it's got a Hollywood touch to this. "The Road We've Traveled" is narrated by Tom Hanks and directed by Davis Guggenheim, who's the maker of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

Here is a quick sneak peek.


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


BANFIELD: Pardon the pun here, but it could be a game changer in the way the campaigns use social media. The film is being launched on a new YouTube platform that gives anyone viewing the page a number of options to share content or, of course -- wait for it -- to donate to the campaign.

SAMBOLIN: Federal health officials unveiling a graphic antismoking campaign featuring tips from former smokers. Take a look.


MARIE, 61, NEW YORK: It began with my big toe. That was my first amputation I had.

BRANDON, 31, NORTH DAKOTA: It was a vascular disease brought on by smoking.

MARIE: My fingers started to go piece by piece.


SAMBOLIN: Oh, wow. Well, according to the CDC, the tobacco industry spends $27 million a day on cigarette marketing. That's about $10 billion a year.

BANFIELD: It's eight minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

We're minding your business this morning.

U.S. markets losing some steam after that big ole rally on Tuesday. Markets closed mixed yesterday. The Dow and the NASDAQ closing higher, while the S&P, the one you need to follow for your 401(k), that was down.

SAMBOLIN: Christine Romans is here.

The rally fizzles a little bit yesterday, but we are still in a bull market?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: We are. You know, it's been about three, three and a half years now it's been a bull market. So, stocks have been going up. It's been good for your 401(k), even as you've been screaming at the banks for why they're not lending.

Also, yesterday, I want to talk about Goldman Sachs.


ROMANS: That's a stock that was down 3.5 percent, $2.2 billion of market cap of value of Goldman Sachs was gone yesterday after this surprise "Dear John" letter from an employee of the company who sent his resignation to his bosses and then put a "New York Times" op-ed and saying that the culture of Goldman Sachs was deteriorating. It was a toxic place where it was profits over their customers and that he didn't want to work there anymore.

This thing, of course, went viral. Goldman Sachs surrounded by camera crews yesterday in its Lower Manhattan headquarters.

This is what a Goldman Sachs internal memo to its employees sent out yesterday. "Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But it's unfortunate that an individual opinion about Goldman Sachs is amplified in a newspaper and speaks louder than the regular detailed and intensive feedback you have provided the firm."

This is Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn talking to their own employees. You know, they are looking into whether this Greg Smith had ever complained about this kind of behavior before -- before --

BANFIELD: The big outing?

ROMANS: Before he put it in "The New York Times," what kinds of -- whether he brought this up, you know, whether it would have been ignored, all of that kind of stuff. It's really interesting.

SAMBOLIN: Do we know anything about him? Who is he?

ROMANS: We know he went to Stanford. He's probably 32, 33 years old.

BANFIELD: So the big thing about him being a big ole executive, he's a kid.

ROMANS: No, no, no. He's -- it depends how old you are if you think of a kid. He's probably 32 or 33. He's been there 12 years. He started as an intern. He went through the program.

Look, he's someone called an executive director. That's why everyone was calling him an executive yesterday. The executive director is a vice president in the London office. There's about 12,000 vice presidents --

BANFIELD: And a dozen almost in the business.

ROMANS: He made a lot more money than the average American makes, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars probably. But he didn't make the big money by Wall Street standards.

You know, a couple of years ago, I talked to the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, when there was a huge hearing on Capitol Hill, where Carl Levin, Senator Levin, was tearing apart Goldman Sachs. In a way, Greg Smith, the guy no one ever heard of, has done more to hit the reputation of Goldman, because he works there, than any of all other steps.

But I want you to listen to what Lloyd Blankfein told me about how they were going to get it together and how Wall Street was going to get it together and the culture was going to change. Listen.


LLOYD BLANKFEIN, CEO, GOLDMAN SACHS: We'll survive only by putting our clients first in the interest of the broader community first. But there certainly is a rise in the suspicion that something is broken here and that we just don't have the standards and we have the industry and Goldman Sachs have a lot of work ahead of themselves to make the kinds of changes not just to convince people, but to make the kinds of changes that the -- that are warranted from the lessons of the last several years.


ROMANS: So the lessons of the last several years. And now, here they are again trying to kind of fix the public image in here.

You know, it's always been -- public image has always been secondary to clients. It's all about clients. This whole Greg Smith, "New York Times" op-ed, now, 24 hours old still is just buzzing, people saying, is the culture so broken that the clients will suffer, too.

SAMBOLIN: And he will commit career suicide in order to get that message out, right? I mean --

ROMANS: Or it's a trampoline for some new kind of career for him.

SAMBOLIN: I'm wondering about the motive of that.

BANFIELD: Big story there. I know everybody is trying to book that guy on every morning show.

ROMANS: I know, you never heard of the guy

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine. We appreciate that.

Twelve minutes passed the hour. Let's get a check of the weather now.

Rob Marciano is at CNN weather center in Atlanta.

Good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. The heat continues for at least a good chunk of the country. Not so much the Northeast. Check out these numbers. In some cases, 30 degrees above average, 84 degrees in Topeka, Kansas, Nashville seeing 83. These are all records, 82 degrees in Paducah.

We have some hundreds of records fall in the last three or four days and we'll probably see another couple of hundred or so in the next two days.

Evansville, Indiana, 82. Chicago, 81 degrees. If this trend continues, come Saint Patrick's Day, it will be the warmest Saint Patrick's Day Chicago has ever seen.

(INAUDIBLE) coming up. This is more of a May or June pattern, with its high pressure in control. We've got some weakness in there. So from time to time, there will be pockets of thunderstorms, some of which will be severe, that will roll through the area. And we're seeing that right now across parts of Ohio, east of Columbus, Cleveland, you're about to get hit some of thunderstorm. Some of these have had some quarter-sized hail.

Back door front, though, for the Northeast. So, you'll be a little bit cooler today.

The other thing this time of year, all you need to do is have the winds come off the ocean. Things cool down on a hurry. But the longer term trend keeps the hot air across the eastern two-thirds of the country and fairly cool and stormy for the West Coast.

Guys, back up to you.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: So this just in, the average price of unleaded now: $3.82 per gallon. Sorry about that. That's a one-cent jump from yesterday. Gas now is rising for the sixth day in a row.

I wish we could give you some better news there.

BANFIELD: Whole cent, too. That's a lot more than our average jump, which is somewhere around a half a cent or so. But that's a full cent, folks. Sorry.

Love fest on the South Lawn of the White House last night. President Obama paying tribute to British Prime Minister David Cameron at the star-studded state dinner, and called him a, quote, "trusted partner."


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I'd like to propose a toast. To her majesty, the queen on her diamond jubilee, to our dear friends, David and Samantha, and to the great purpose and design of our alliance -- may we remain now and always his faithful servants. Cheers, everyone.


BANFIELD: There were 360 people who were on the guest list, making that the biggest state dinner of the Obama presidency. And, by the way, that list, star-studded, including corporate heavyweight Warren Buffet. And look who's here, Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney. It looks like he's arriving single. Wow.

SAMBOLIN: There's a story.

BANFIELD: There's a big story. Let's see what A.J. Hammer does with that one. Mr. George Clooney, solo.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Still ahead: fear and chaos on board a pane.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of my way.


SAMBOLIN: There is new tape of a flight attendance's mental break down. Did you hear, threatening to kill passengers?

BANFIELD: And, also, you might say dude picked the wrong deli. Look at this, a thief macing the owner of a deli and the deli owner picking up a baseball bat. Wait until you see what happens after this freeze opens up. Let me say this. One hit ain't enough.

SAMBOLIN: And Blagojevich says good-bye in a very big way. He's not going out like a disgraced ex-governor. More like a rock star.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 5:18 a.m. on the East Coast.

That is a lovely picture of Atlanta Hartsfield Airport. You can see some of the planes possibly getting ready. Get some passengers on board and head out to the hopefully sunny skies. You're 57 degrees right now, going up to 81 degrees in Atlanta a little later on today.

SAMBOLIN: That may be the plane you're waiting for.

BANFIELD: Could be.

SAMBOLIN: I couldn't tell which one is, which airline it was.

BANFIELD: For all of you people in the airport waiting, good morning.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Good morning to you.

It is 19 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories making news this morning. Here is Christine Romans, again.

ROMANS: Good morning, ladies.

Hundreds of Afghans voicing their anger near the village where 16 civilians were killed allegedly by a U.S. Army soldier. Demonstration overnight in southern Afghanistan coincided with the President Hamid Karzai's meeting with the U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and his wife and staff may have given preferential treatment to two of the convicted murderers who were later pardoned. Documents obtained exclusively by CNN revealed former first lady, Marsha Barbour, called a car dealership to purchase vehicles for two convicted murderers just days before they were pardoned.

We're getting a new up close look at a flight attendant's meltdown on an American Airlines flight last week. It was captured on a passenger's cell phone video. And the flight attendant's voice is chillingly clear


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This has not happened to me since 9/11 and I'm not putting up with this.

Somebody call 911. I've got to kill passengers before takeoff!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've highly trained by the FAA.


ROMANS: The flight attendant says she was bipolar and had not taken her medication. American Airlines wouldn't comment on that, saying only that it's investigating this incident.

The Transportation Security Administration is modifying the screening process for elderly passengers starting Monday at four airports, people 75 years or older will not have to remove their shoes or their light outer wear. The goal here -- get this -- new expedited screening process rolled out across the country.

Grandma? Finally, keep your shoes on.

BANFIELD: It's about time, right? Holy cow.

All right, Christine, thank you so much.

It's 21 minutes now passed 5:00.

There was a deadly shooting in front of a courthouse in Texas and they are calling it a classic shoot out.

Here's how it went down: A man inside the courthouse was on trial for child sex assault and left the courthouse during a lunch break because he wasn't under any kind of bond or bail. Instead, he went over to his truck and he picked up a gun and then opened fire, and just kept on shooting as he was driving. In the end, four people ended up hit by the bullets. One person died. Police did actually apprehend him at one point.

It all went down at the courthouse in Beaumont, Texas.

And Carol Riley from the Beaumont Police Department is live with us now on the telephone.

Officer Riley, can you hear me?

CAROL RILEY, BEAUMONT POLICE DEPARTMENT (via telephone): Yes, ma'am. Good morning.

BANFIELD: This is -- good morning to you. What a remarkable story. Your police chief called this a real classic shoot out.

Can you run me down a little bit of what happened from the perspective of you and your fellow officers yesterday?

RILEY: Well, it was a very extensive scene.

The suspect was Bartholomew Granger. He's a 41-year-old black male from Houston. He was on trial for aggravated sexual assault to his 20-year-old daughter. And during the trial, the daughter had already testified and was coming back as a rebuttal witness. And he laid wait in the parking lot, opened fire on the daughter. Her mother -- and shot innocent bystanders and ended up killing a 79-year-old female.

BANFIELD: And that 79-year-old female has been named as Minnie Ray Seabolt. Was she connected to this trial in anyway? Or was she just so unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time?

RILEY: She was there with a friend bringing her to court and had nothing to do with the case.

BANFIELD: What about the 20-year-old daughter who allegedly was the target of her father, Bartholomew Granger. I had heard something along the lines of her not only being shot, but also hit by his car?

RILEY: Yes, he originally got out of the vehicle, shot her. He tried to shoot at the mother. He jumped in his truck, ran over the daughter in the parking lot as she went to try and sit up. And then just took off in the area in the vehicle and began shooting.

BANFIELD: Randomly at that point? I mean, after that targeted or alleged targeted incident, did it seem as though the other victims were just completely random?

RILEY: That's what witnesses were saying they felt like. At that point, he was trying to flee the scene and was just shooting randomly. Officers in the area responded and engaged him in gunfire.

BANFIELD: The gunfire, I heard -- this was 25 minutes of gunfire, I heard.

RILEY: It went on for quite some time. There were seven Beaumont officers that engaged and two Jefferson County deputies that engaged in the gunfire.

They were able to stable his vehicle and he fled into a nearby building where the hostages were actually able to take his gun from him. He had been shot in the gunfire in front of the courthouse.

BANFIELD: But it was the hostages who ultimately disarmed him and paved the way for him to be apprehended?

RILEY: Yes, it was. He had entered the building during business hours and the hostages were able to get his gun from him.

BANFIELD: Are they all OK?

RILEY: And open the doors.

They are OK. No one was injured. And the SWAT team was able to make injury when they got the gun.

BANFIELD: One last quick question, the 20-year-old daughter who was not only shot but hit by the car, do we know her condition?

RILEY: She's in critical condition. We're hoping she makes it through the night.

BANFIELD: Officer Carol Reilly, thanks very much for joining us and for lending us your perspective on this. Good luck to all of you and your fellow officers.

RILEY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Remarkable.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-five minutes passed the hour.

Still ahead, a guy who hid his lottery win from his co-workers who were part of a pool.

BANFIELD: That's nasty.

SAMBOLIN: Guess what? He has now been ordered to pay up.

And a dog lover makes a disturbing discovery that leads to the rescue of close to 100 puppies. That's a happy ending here.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is 29 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: I am Ashleigh Banfield.

And it's time to check your top stories making news this morning.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meeting overnight in Kabul, trying to ease tensions from the mass killing of Afghan civilians earlier this week, allegedly by a U.S. soldier. The accused staff sergeant has now been flown out of the country to a U.S. base in Kuwait. That's sparking protest this morning in a neighboring province where the rampage occurred.

Two pardoned, convicted killers apparently got preferential treatment from former Mississippi governor and his wife and staff. Documents obtained exclusively by CNN revealed former first lady, Marsha Barbour, called a car dealership to purchase vehicles for the two convicts right before they were pardoned.

BANFIELD: Heavy shelling in Syria this morning. Today marking the one-year anniversary of the mass protest that sparked deadly crack downs by the Bashar al-Assad regime in that country. The U.N. says more than 8,000 civilians have been killed, so far, in the government attacks.

SAMBOLIN: Everyone in the pool wins. A jury in New Jersey has ruled that five co-workers who regularly pooled their money to buy lottery tickets should share in a $20 million jackpot won by another worker who claimed he bought the ticket for himself.

BANFIELD: You've heard the expression new lease on life? How about this? A new leash on life for nearly 90 dogs that were rescued from a puppy mill in North Carolina. The dogs have been kept in cramped and filthy quarters, but authorities were alerted to the deplorable conditions by a customer who was buying a puppy.

SAMBOLIN: Hey, parents, listen up, and kids if you're up. A six-year-old girl in Virginia is the youngest ever to qualify for the Scripp's National Spelling Bee. Lori Anne Madison is her name. She won her regional competition beating out 20 other hopefuls, most of whom were nearly twice her age. That trophy a little bigger than she is, huh?

BANFIELD: How sweet is that? Six years old. Flowers and a trophy. Couldn't be more (INAUDIBLE). Congratulations, young lady.


BANFIELD (on-camera): Thirty-one minutes now passed 5:00 a.m. And after assess back in the south, Mitt Romney is insisting he still has math on his side, but Rick Santorum and Republican insiders are saying the problem with Romney, another message. That's their words. He, Mr. -- the senator, I should say, Senator Santorum campaigning in Puerto Rico. Sunday's primary there will offer up 20 delegates. And our Jim Acosta had a chance to catch up with the confident Santorum in San Juan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Then came out with the memo that said that the delegate math was still not on your caucus. What happened last night?

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's pretty sad when all you have is to do math instead of, you know, trying to go out there and win it on substance and win it on what Americans want to hear about it. We're a long, long way from over. And you know what, I suspect if we keep winning state after state after state, we'll be the nominee.


BANFIELD: Now, that's some kind of confidence, isn't it? For his part, Mitt Romney is going to be headed to the island. He'll join the former senator there as well. He's doing that tomorrow. Also, he's been very busy fundraising in New York. Lots of money in New York. Good place to be for it, but that contest isn't for a wild (ph), and he insists that his stumble in the south was just a bump in the road.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sorry. They have to go back and look at some other states that actually are kind of important. Let's say Florida, for instance, where I won, and Michigan, and Ohio, and Nevada, and New Hampshire. The list goes on. Last night, by the way, they're forgetting there were a couple of other contests including Hawaii where I won. Oh, and by the way, last night, I've got more delegates than anybody else.


BANFIELD: Well, there's that, because we do have the delegate count, and he is doing real well. Romney's a tough 498 delegates to Santorum's 239. Newt Gingrich following well and behind it at 139. And there's good old Ron Paul still hanging on at 69 delegates. And the big map means 1,144, because that's the number of delegates you need to clinch the nomination.

Here to talk about it in New York, Dean Obeidallah, co-founder of the Arab-American Comedy Festival and live in Washington, conservative columnist, Karin Agnes. And in Atlanta, independent political analyst, Goldie Taylor.

All right, you three, here's something we all at this office thought was rather intriguing. As Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator was in Puerto Rico where they speak Spanish, he had this to say about state hood and the requirements of an official language.

"Like any other state, there needs to be compliance with this and other federal law, and that is that English needs to be the principle language. There are other states with more than one language, like Hawaii, but to be a state of the United States, English must be the principle language.

Karin Agnes, last I checked, there was actually nothing codified in federal law that suggested this. And P.S., why would you say that in Puerto Rico?

KARIN AGNES, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Yes, good question. You know, there isn't a federal law mandating that English is our official language. However, there is a history of some of our states before they became states, making English their language. So, it's not completely out of left field, but it does seem like a little bit of a strategic mistake to focus solely on that issue in Puerto Rico.

BANFIELD: Yes, especially if you look at the Latino vote back in 2008, and we've got a quick look at just how it shook out between Republicans and Democrats. At least, Democrats meeting Obama and Republicans meeting McCain. And the Latino vote shook out to 67 percent voting for Obama back then and 31 percent voting for McCain.

So, I don't know if there's going to be a nice long memory when we get to the general, but, quickly Karin, those numbers don't bode well and that might not help.

AGNES: You're right. Exactly, and we're seeing these other Republicans, you know, you're trying to get some of these different minority groups that were really tough in the 2008 election, and comments like this maybe are not going to be very helpful.

BANFIELD: So, speaking of helpful comments, I've got a great one. We found this little nugget on the campaign trail from Newt Gingrich who had this to say about -- and let me just say this. Let me preface this by saying, "I'm a new American so there was no one more pious about loving the system than me." With that said, this is what Newt Gingrich had to say about our election and our political system. Have a listen.


NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And our political system is so methodically and deliberately stupid. I used that word deliberately. The willful avoidance of knowledge. It is astonishing.


BANFIELD: I don't know if it's more astonishing that someone would say that having basically worked in that stupid, political system for almost his whole adult life. Dean Obeidallah, how about that (ph)?

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, FREQUENT CONTRIBUTOR TO CNN.COM: Well, I think if he was winning, he'd say it's the smartest system in the country. Let's be honest. This is about a man who's now losing. He's almost marginalized the Republicans in the party according with the lead if you are conservative, because you want go on to coalesce everyone around Rick Santorum. It'll be great if he gave some festivity (ph) to this. So, I don't know what he means by stupid. Does he mean the president? Does he mean the government, the way it works, or this primary system? But, I mea, still --


OBEIDALLAH: He sounds bit.

BANFIELD: Maybe confusing. I will admit, it is not without his flaws. The Electoral College is really complex and confusing, and obviously, the popular vote doesn't always translate into the winner as we have seen at times in the past, but I think a lot of people are going to take issue with the word stupid.


BANFIELD: Here's something that was really interesting. All the way along in this primary season, we have heard people taking shots at Mitt Romney for being a rich guy. He, himself, has sort of put a slid in his mouth a few times about being a rich guy, being friends with the NASCAR owners and the NFL team owners as opposed to the, you know, fans and that sort of things.

So, he was asked on Fox News Channel about why he keeps doing that, just putting his foot in his mouth about being so rich, and listen to his response. It's fascinating.


ROMNEY: Hey, guess what? I made a lot of money. I've been very successful. I'm not going to apologize for that. I know the DNC tries to push this out, and they get it on the mainstream media networks and that's where you guys see it, and everybody laughs about it, because in this country, we want someone who can help other people become successful.


BANFIELD: Goldie Taylor, is he finally embracing being a rich guy ala Donald Trump like, hey, I'm rich, I made it. I came from nothing. Look at me now. Is he doing this and is it a good thing?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, INDEPENDENT POLITICAL ANALYST: I really can't say what I want to say right now.

BANFIELD: Say it, girl.



BANFIELD: Go for it.

TAYLOR: I can't say the last word. He really is, you know, truly -- he really is truly out of touch. He has not been able to connect with voters in a real way. He was here in the south and treated it like a foreign nation. You know, he says that these days may not be as important as maybe some of the others that he's won, but --

BANFIELD: Goldie, come on! Is that fair? I mean, he connected with me on that one. I want a really successful guy to run this country.

TAYLOR: With cheesy grits, too.


TAYLOR: No, I do want a successful guy to run this country. I do want a guy who believes in the American dream to run this country and to help other people, you know, capture and brace their own version of the American dream. But he has to understand and meet people where they are, not necessarily where he is, and that is Mitt Romney's problem.

BANFIELD: We have an old expression among my old college friends, that is let your freak flag fly. I don't know if that's what he's doing.


BANFIELD: There'll be some talk of it, anyway. Dean, Karin, Goldie, stick around. We're going to talk to you guys in the next hour. Appreciate all that.


SAMBOLIN: It is 38 minutes passed the hour.

Still to come, there he goes, former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich's last hurrah. It was a big one before heading up to the river for trying to sell a Senate seat.

Plus, a deadly owner won't stand for a robbery attempt. Stepping up to the plate to take a swing at crime, literally. You are watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you, Chicago. Look at that beautiful shot of the Chicago River. Oh, I miss you. Sixty-three degrees now. Later, hmm, it says here, 69, but I could have sworn Rob Marciano said it's going to be much, much, much warmer in Chicago. I'm going to check that for you.

So, why are we showing a shot of Chicago? Because we are talking about Rod Blagojevich. Goodbye, freedom. Hello, federal prison.

BANFIELD: I know why it might be warming up? All the hot air from him yesterday? He could not avoid it. The convicted former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, surrounded like a rock star. Very weird. Surrounded by supporters last night, because he's getting ready this morning to report to federal prison today to serve a 14- year sentence. Alina Cho has been working this story.

SAMBOLIN: He is consistent.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two things, you can't make it up.

BANFIELD: You can't

CHO: And only in America.

BANFIELD: I love you.


CHO: You lived there, you would know, Zoraida. Good morning, guys. Good morning, everybody. You know, Rod Blagojevich, of course, has never been one to shy away from the cameras. And true to fashion, his final public appearance before heading off to federal prison was a full-on media swan song. Just take a look at this.

Fifteen television trucks line the street. The event was even timed for the beginning of the five o'clock local news. So, all of the stations could take it live. We're talking 5:02 exactly. And ever the politician, Blagojevich shook hands. He signed autographs. He even, yes, he quoted the bible.

Now, remember, back in 2008, Blagojevich was arrested and charged on 18 counts of corruption, caught on tape trying to sell Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. After two trials, he was convicted in December of last year and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Yesterday, Blagojevich took responsibility for what he did.


ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I told the judge back in December, everything I talked about doing when it came to campaign fundraising and political horse-trading, I believe was on the right side of the law. The decision went against me. I am responsible for the things I've said.

I accept that decision as hard as it is, and the law as it stands right now is that I have to go do what I have to go do. And this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.


CHO: All right. Maybe not so much. He praised his wife for standing by him and talked about what his prison sentence will do to his kids.


BLAGOJEVICH: I have to confess, there are times when I just want to give up, but then, I look into the eyes of my daughters and I look at my little girls and I think that is not what a father is supposed to do. You're supposed to show them how you fight through adversity, and the key fight is you stand strong and you bear your crosses and you bear your burdens and that's what I hope maybe, maybe our kids can learn by, at least, in part from what's happening to us and the calamity that we're facing.




CHO: I'm speechless, honestly. Three women who have no trouble talking, completely speechless.

SAMBOLIN: I was watching his wife, actually, there. And, you know, she was really torn up as she has been from the very beginning. She was caught on tape also saying some things that you know?

CHO: That's right.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. We're very uncomfortable to listen to, but it's still tough to see, you know, them being pulled apart.

CHO: And it's not over yet.


CHO: I mean, these things never are, right?

BANFIELD: He's still vowing appeal.

CHO: That's right. Blagojevich says he will appeal his conviction. And during that process, by the way, he'll be sitting in a federal prison somewhere in suburban Denver known as inmate number -- ready for this -- 40892-424. And in case you forgot or didn't know this, Blagojevich is the second Illinois governor in a row to serve prison time for corruption.

His predecessor, George Ryan, also serving time, six and a half years for his 2006 racketeering and fraud convictions.

BANFIELD: But they don't get to hang out together, because they're not in the same place.

CHO: He's in Terre Haute, Indiana, but yes, it does continue. Someone did ask Blagojevich, you know, are you scared. And he said it's not courage if you're not scared. One onlooker said it was like watching a public execution, except it's not because he's appealing. And he says I have faith in the rule of law. I will be back. And, as I said, when you see what happened yesterday, only in America.

BANFIELD: Right. Right.

SAMBOLIN: The fourth Illinois governor.

CHO: It's unbelievable.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. It is pretty remarkable.

BANFIELD: And, you know, federal sentences, you serve almost the entire thing.

SAMBOLIN: I think it's 11.5 years that he has to serve.

CHO: Yes, and you don't get good behavior time like you do in other state cases and all the rest. He's going to be there a long time.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, Alina.

BANFIELD: Thank you. Good job.

SAMBOLIN: Forty-six minutes passed the hour. And still ahead, caught on tape. A deli owner beats a would-be thief like he is a pinata. I don't mean to make light of it.

BANFIELD: Also, don't mess his mother goose. Workers at an office building afraid to walk outside because of that? Look, no kidding. Oh, my Lord. That's incredible.


SAMBOLIN: That territorial is what it is. I love it. Love it.

BANFIELD: We're going to take you there and explain that one in just a moment.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Fifty minutes passed the hour here. Time to check stories that are making news this morning. Here is Miss Christine Romans. Good morning again.



ROMANS (voice-over): Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, and Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, meeting overnight in an effort to ease tension over the mass killing of Afghan civilians allegedly by an American soldier. That soldier has now left the country. U.S. military officials say he has been taken to a U.S. base in Kuwait.

The average price of unleaded now, $3.82 a gallon. That's a one cent jump from yesterday. Gas now rising for the sixth day in a row.

A would-be robber in Oregon picked the wrong deli to try to steal from. Surveillance video shows the suspect pepper spraying the owner of deli, and then, the owner fights back, grabbed the baseball bat and repeatedly beat the robber. Wow! Eventually, yes, chasing him out of the store. I think police say you're not supposed to do that, because it could end badly for everyone.

Anyway, workers at an office building in St. Louis have learned to duck when a Canada goose is around. Experts say it's an overly protected father and mother and her eggs are not very far off from there. The geese are very territorial, as you know. They're also protected species. I mean, come on. We get a look at it again. Look at this guy. He's just trying to have a cigarette break.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): You know what, I wouldn't be laughing if it was me. I know.

ROMANS: Those Canadians, right?

BANFIELD (voice-over): I know.


ROMANS: They think, by the way, a Canada goose is the only thing that's aggressive about Canada.



SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Is it? Come on. Really?

ROMANS (voice-over): Hockey and geese. That's all you've got that's aggressive.

BANFIELD (on-camera): Hockey and geese.


SAMBOLIN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Christine, thank you for that. That was awesome.

Still ahead at 5:52 in the east, a new species of frog, and we can say this about this little guy. Adorable. And he just might be a Yankee fan. I'm going to explain what that means. Pretty cool.

SAMBOLIN: And the government's new anti-smoking ad campaign. Showing smoking's really, really scary side. We're going to show more images with you. You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It's five minutes now before 6:00 on the east coast. We like to keep you in the pop culture loop, and we're taking a look at what's trending on the -- I always say the intraweb. I'm getting tired of that now. It's the web, social media. You know what it is.

Chad Ochocinco decided to take 200 of his not so closest friends out to dinner via Twitter. This is what he tweeted to his three million followers. Are you ready? "Dinner in New York tonight. First 200 people at Sylvia's Restaurant by 7:00 p.m. in Harlem, leave your money, credit cards at home. I got you this time."

Holy moley, take a look at the line, line out the door. Apparently, they had to turn away about 50 people, which is interesting considering that three million Twitter followers got the invitation to dinner. And if you've ever been to Sylvia's in New York, it is an iconic soul food spot. It is fabulous. I think had I gotten that tweet, I would have gone, for sure.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, absolutely. I've got a new restaurant to try.

BANFIELD: He's done this before, you know? Yes. And he also gave his phone number out to everybody. He gave his own personal cell phone number out to all of those people.

SAMBOLIN: Not very bright, Mr. Ochocinco.

So, a new species of frog discovered, not in the jungle, but look at this cutie pie. He's at Yankee stadium. Biologists say its natural habitat is the New York City area with the dead center of it being in the ball park. So, for years, they thought it was a leopard frog, but this frog has distinct DNA and a different croak.


SAMBOLIN: You can call it a Bronx cheer. So, this guy says he's one of the biologists working on this, he says this frog gave a repeated d croak, not the long snort by the leopard frog. When I first heard these frogs calling, it was so different I knew something was very off. In the middle of New York.

BANFIELD: I wonder what that frog survives on. What the food source is?

SAMBOLIN: Oh. You can only imagine.

BANFIELD: Dogs, popcorn, beer. I'm not sure.

SAMBOLIN: We were trying to decide this one, and we said the rats probably eat the frogs, right?

BANFIELD: Oh, no! I thought we said he was cute.

SAMBOLIN: Cute, cute.

BANFIELD: It's 57 minutes now passed five on the east coast. And coming up just ahead, the U.S. secretary of defense is meeting the Afghanistan president, all of this amid the new fury over a U.S. soldier's alleged bloody civilian rampage in that country. You're watching EARLY START.