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EARLY START WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Panetta, Karzai Meet In Kabul; Treating Inmates Like Kings; CDC Unveils Graphic Ads To Combat Smoking; "America's Rabbi" Runs For Congress; Goldman Sachs V.P. Op-Ed Sinks Stock; Virginia Tech Found Negligent; Blago's Bizarre Goodbye

Aired March 15, 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: Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Zoraida Sambolin. We're happy you're with us this morning. We are bringing you the news from A to A. It's 6 a.m. in the east here so let's get started.

BANFIELD: Blago as he's come to be known is not going away quietly. That is not only ex-governor of Illinois. He also a convicted felon and a little later on he was draped in U.S. flag after this farewell news conference that looked a little bit more like a staged political rally. We're going to give you the highlights.

SAMBOLIN: And rabbi, reality show star, adviser to his heirness, now, he is running for Congress. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is joining us live here.

And on to our top stories now, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta meets with Afghan President Harmid Karzai and there is new outrage over the mass killing of Afghan civilians allegedly by a U.S. soldier.

BANFIELD: Also making news, a school bus driver killed, 28 students injured when the bus that they were on crashed into a semi on the highway in Southern Pennsylvania. Six students had to be airlifted to the hospital.

SAMBOLIN: And two inmates pardoned by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour got drivers license and cars while they were still behind bars. All courtesy of the governor and his wife and his staff. Ed Lavandera with a CNN exclusive ahead.

BANFIELD: But up first, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai had been trying to ease some tensions after the killing of 16 Afghan civilians last weekend.

The two met in Kabul a short time ago. The American soldier who's accused in that massacre has now been whisked out of that country, taken to a military base in Kuwait. That has triggered more anger in Afghanistan, as well. Also some protests, as well, in that country.

Sara Sidner, our CNN correspondent is in Kabul following all of the developments and, amid all of this, the violence, the potential for violence, Sara, yesterday as Leon Panetta was addressing a number of the troops there, the Marines were asked to check their weapons outside of the facility where Leon Panetta was set to speak to them and that is just a really rare move. What was that about?

SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was really about showing that Afghan soldiers and the Marines are U.S. and U.K. soldiers are on the same footing because the Afghan soldiers aren't armed and they said this is something that is not a big deal when you asked the officials there with Mr. Panetta.

But it certainly is unusual. It's not something you would see normally on it. That was the reason that they gave. They wanted to make sure that the Afghan soldiers fell in the same footing as U.S. and U.K. soldiers.

For that reason, because they're trying to do this transition now to hand over the country to Afghan forces who they have been training now for years to try to get that up to speed, trained and equipped to take control of their own country so that in 2014, NATO troops and allies can leave the country to Afghans.

Let's talk a little bit about what happened today. We are seeing protests now in a place called Kalat. It's in Zabul Province, which is right next to Kandahar, which is where we saw this massacre on Sunday and this was sort of brought into place by religious leaders.

They're screaming slogans like "Death to America" and they want to see justice in their talking, of course, about the accused U.S. soldier who is accused of killing 16 people, including women and children.

That soldier has now been transferred out of Afghanistan. That is causing even more anger among the people here. We heard from some of the residents here in Kabul, basically saying this is just not right, that this person should be tried on Afghan soil.

We heard just a couple days ago from lawmakers here in Afghanistan asking the U.S. government to allow there to be a public trial here for the person accused, right here on Afghan soil.

That obviously is not going to happen. That soldier was transferred out last night and sent to Kuwait where there is more of a military legal structure in place to deal with that sort of thing -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It was interesting. I was talking to an officer yesterday who suggested that some of the witnesses who will be key in any kind of prosecution of that soldier, it would be too difficult to transfer them out of Afghanistan.

So there is actually a real likely possibility he could be brought back to Afghanistan to face trial. But in the interim, keeping him out of Afghanistan might be the safest bet for everybody involved in this process.

Sara, what I find really incredible and I'm not sure if Americans are going to be tuning into this sooner rather than later is that it was only weeks ago, some Korans were burned and mass hysteria emerged in that country.

Killings, violence, protests and yet this week, we've had 16 people killed, nine of them children and there doesn't seem to be the same level of outrage. Is it on the horizon? Is it different?

SIDNER: Yes, it's hard to really tell, but it seems that, you know, just to put it sort of colloquially, if you mess with someone's God, everyone can be angry about that. This situation happening -- isolated incident although we are talking about 16 civilians being slaughtered in the dead of night with no way to defend themselves.

But we aren't seeing the kind of reaction that you did with the Koran where there were literally huge protests in Kandahar itself that led to the death of 40 people, including four service members.

But it may be coming because we're starting to see little protests here and there that are popping up and, of course, Friday prayers coming up tomorrow and we are hearing that there could be more protests coming.

So, it's just a wait and see, but it is a good point to make -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Sara Sidner, doing the job for us in Kabul this morning. Thanks very much.

SAMBOLIN: It is 6 minutes past the hour here. It appears two of the inmates that were pardoned by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour got preferential treatment while they were still in custody, as well.

Not only from the governor, but from his wife and staff according to documents that were obtained exclusively by CNN. Here's Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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 driver's 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 either of these men need a driver's license?

To drive their newly purchased cars, of course. CNN has obtained these investigators 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 the salesman at this car dealership. It says, Marsha Barbour contacted him regarding the purchase of vehicles for Hooker and Gatlin.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Governor Barbour refused to comment on Ed's report. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety says it has reviewed the case and that no policies were broken.

BANFIELD: It's 8 minutes now past 6:00. Federal health officials unveiling a graphic, graphic anti-smoking campaign featuring tips from former smokers. Have a look for yourself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It began with my big toe. That was my first amputation that I had.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A vascular disease brought on by smoking.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My fingers started to go piece by piece.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: And if you think it is too graphic, you might want to consider this. According to the CDC, the tobacco industry spends $27 million every single day marketing cigarettes. If you do the math, that's about $10 billion every year.

SAMBOLIN: Pretty impactful there.

BANFIELD: Unbelievable. It's 9 minutes now past 6:00 on the East Coast. Still ahead, a guy who had his lottery win from his co- workers in the pool decides not to share and then gets taken to court. We'll tell you what happened.

SAMBOLIN: He is a rabbi with his own reality show and he's now running for Congress as a Republican. Rabbi joining us live in the studio.

BANFIELD: Once considered untouchable, Native American tribe gets a permit to kill the national bird. What's that about? There's more to that headline before you make a decision.

But, first, let's get a quick check on the travel forecast. Rob Marciano is looking at the map, checking it out, keeping us up to date. Hello.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, guys. Feels a lot more like May or June, doesn't it? Temps in the 80s and records falling yesterday, 86 in St. Louis. A lot of these temperatures 30 and in some cases, 40 degrees above average, 81 degrees in Chicago.

A little bit cooler today and a slice of a cool front coming through, but the overall trend will keep the heat pumping and in some of that area of heat will be some thunderstorms. We're seeing some of that right now across parts of Ohio.

A little bit cooler in New York, as well, 55, back to our cool front and storms coming across the west coast with rain and snow. That's a quick check on weather. It's 10 minutes after the hour. EARLY START is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: He's known as America's rabbi, but now Shmuley Boteach, right? Did I say that right? I sure did. He wants to be known as New Jersey's congressman.

The rabbi who was once the spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson announced that he is seeking the Republican nomination for New Jersey's 9th Congressional District and a key party committee is endorsing him and the rabbi is joining us this morning. Thank you.

RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH (R), CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS: Good morning.

SAMBOLIN: I wanted to get the correct pronunciation.

BOTEACH: You did it properly.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you for being with us here. You're an incredibly interesting man. You're a well-known rabbi. Some would say perhaps celebrity. Why are you running for Congress?

BOTEACH: Zoraida, we have to change the value discussion in the United States because the social obsession is killing us. If we're going to spend the next three decades as we have already talking about abortion, gay marriage, and other trifecta of contraception. My God, where is the focus going to be about really helping families?

Like introducing legislation that can make marital counseling tax deductible who can give couples in crisis, the financial incentives to get the help that they need. I cannot believe the distractions that are undermining us in the time of such great challenge.

You are showing clips from the TV show I just hosted. I just want run around the country trying to help families. Is the obsession over gay marriage really going to help heterosexual couples?

Fifty percent divorce rate, I am a child of divorce. What about growing narcissism among our youth? None of these things are being addressed. Or growing materialism?

None of these things are being addressed. We continue to come back to the same social values issue. But I want to change the conversation.

SAMBOLIN: Well, the conversation exists, right? Everybody is talking about the social issues.

So, where do you stand on those issues?

BOTEACH: Look, I'm an orthodox Jew who happens to have a gay brother. So, these things I have to wrestle with constantly. I may be for civil unions, but do I think gay marriage is the end of the republic? Of course, not. That's ridiculous.

The fact is that this is a distraction. And we're using something -- we're using the scapegoat to excuse our own heterosexual failures in marriage. Why isn't there a greater financial incentive for couples to simply get help? A lot of studies show that couples who are on the verge of divorce, once they get counseling, if they can afford it because it's not cheap, especially in times of economic turmoil like now -- they have a significant rate of recovery in their marriage.

I -- if we don't change the conversation, I just see greater division, greater partisanship. The fact is if you find the underlying values that define so many policies, there's less friction because we may -- we may disagree on how to get to those values, but we don't disagree on what the values should be. An American values had to be reestablished, not the silly distractions that are just ridiculous. It's almost shameful that we're having these conversations.

SAMBOLIN: You mention the reality show. So, how do you separate that -- the celebrity from this run for Congress?

BOTEACH: I'm not a celebrity. I'm a father of nine. Thank God. I love being around my children. I have a loving wife.

I did a show where I try to give families what I wish someone would have given me. My parents' divorce scarred me for life. And one out of two children in America is raised the way I was raised. I think that accounts why celebrities become so important.

Eighty percent of high school students were asked, what do you want to be when you grow up? And they said famous. They didn't even say famous for what, they just to get in front of the camera.

I think that lust for attention is compensation for an absence of love. If we have stronger families, I think that we'll have more wholesome youth. I don't know that college has to be four years any more. I was the rabbi at Oxford University for 11 years. It's a three-year course. It's a world famous university. Most of the European universities are three years.

Let's get students to volunteer for a year and get college credits for a year to combat the growing narcissism. Social media is wonderful, Twitter and Facebook.

But telling the whole world every single day what you do and what you're about and the corn flakes you ate for breakfast isn't necessarily going to inculcate selfishness. I think policy can begin to reflect some of those values.

SAMBOLIN: You mentioned something that's interesting -- nine children.

BOTEACH: Yes.

SAMBOLIN: And you famously said that you believe that mom and dad need to be at home in order to raise those kids. Running for Congress is going to take you away from home?

BOTEACH: Yes. That's why I spent a good few months contemplating this decision. I hope it's the right decision. Luckily the districts aren't huge and you're closer to home. But you can bring your kids to a lot of things and I like my children to actually see some of the civic responsibilities inherit in running.

By the way, there's something about running. You know, the fund-raising is all difficult and it's not pleasant, but being with people and especially being forced to go out of your comfort zone and meeting people who are ethnically different and religiously different, I think that could be a good education for kids.

But I freely admit that this is new for me and I don't know how it's going to turn out. I ask God's blessing that it turns out well. I don't mean with a victory. I hope the message is victorious, you know, and if I am, as well, that's great.

SAMBOLIN: But your chances in a Democratic district, you know --

BOTEACH: Very tough, very steep, uphill climb. But I think I'm getting into this because I feel this message has to be delivered, even if I end up not having that seat, I'll fight for the seat, but I think the message is still more important than that.

SAMBOLIN: We're running out of time here. I want to ask you very quickly. Who do you support in this GOP race?

BOTEACH: I'm not -- I think that there are a few decent, good choices and I'm more focused on my race than I am on that.

SAMBOLIN: I suspect people want to know.

BOTEACH: You have to give me a little bit of time. I am getting my feet wet in my own race, I'm not ready to -- I look, like anyone else, I follow the national races. But as soon as I know, you'll be the first I call.

SAMBOLIN: Rabbi, thank you so much. Good luck to you. Thank you for the blessing.

BANFIELD: Nice to see the rabbi. Lovely to see you in studio.

It is 18 minutes past 6:00. Time to check our top stories making news this morning, and Christine Romans is busy at work collecting them. She's here with us now.

Hi.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Ashleigh.

Hundreds of Afghans taking to the streets in southern Afghanistan, demonstrating overnight near the scene of the civilian massacre last weekend -- a massacre allegedly at the hands of American Army soldier.

At the same time, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai were meeting in Kabul trying to ease tensions.

Blag-voyage. 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. The highlights of his big good-bye are ahead. You don't want to miss that.

And for the first time ever, the U.S. government is allowing a Native American tribe to kill bald eagles. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have granted a permit to the Northern Arapahos in Wyoming to kill two bald eagles in a century's old religious ceremony, a ceremony that was previously outlawed.

And, you know, ladies, bald eagles have made such an amazing comeback over the past 25 years because of conservation efforts. It's really remarkable.

BANFIELD: They're off the endangered list, too. So, I -- all at the same time, it's hard to see that. But it's understandable as well because they are like every other animal to be treated the same, but for the fact that they have the popularity.

Christine, thank you for that.

It's now 20 minutes past 6:00/.

And there is some serious backlash for Goldman Sachs after one of their own quit and blasted the bank in a no hold's barred op-ed in "The New York Times" no less.

SAMBOLIN: Did you see this? Take a look, take a look. Geese gone wild. That's one. Officer, workers are fearing a dive bombing as they exit that building. We're going to tell you why this is happening.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Minding your business -- this is Greg Smith.

BANFIELD: Hello.

SAMBOLIN: You probably didn't know who he was until about a day ago. He is a Goldman Sachs vice president who resigned in the most public way imaginable, in an op-ed in "New York Times." And his description of the, quote, "toxic culture" the bank is making waves across Wall Street.

BANFIELD: Christine Romans has been following this one. You were on the phone. I saw your fingers dialing all your contacts at Goldman Sachs. You were getting the statement from Goldman Sachs.

ROMANS: Right.

BANFIELD: For anybody else.

ROMANS: The internal memo they sent to their clients and all that.

BANFIELD: Here's what I don't get. He's one guy. He's a young guy. He's not like he's been at that bank for 25 years, or in the business for 25 or 30 years, and it is just rippling through the industry.

ROMANS: Because, look -- I mean, this -- I mean, there have been hearings, there has been a huge SEC settlement with this company in about a year ago. But it's one guy, kind of an anonymous vice president who really has blown the reputation right now of this company and it's so interesting because this guy, no one ever heard of until yesterday has done more really to bring this back in the headlines after three years of the company trying to kind of manage the image.

That's interesting. It's unexpected, kind of a bomb going off inside.

And yesterday everyone was saying he was a top executive, et cetera, et cetera. Look, it's even kind of worse and that he's a guy that when I was talking to my sources yesterday, they never heard of it.

He is one of 12,000 who have this particular title.

BANFIELD: Right.

ROMANS: It's pretty interesting. One of the things that Goldman said in its internal memo, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it's unfortunate that an individual opinion about Goldman is amplified in a newspaper and speaks louder than the regular detail and intensive feedback you have provided the firm.

I know the company is looking into whether he complained before. I mean, he resigned, apparently -- according to "The New York Times," he resigned in an e-mail to his bosses 15 minutes before this was in "New York Times."

BANFIELD: Oh, Lord.

ROMANS: Did he bring up this question? If he was so concerned about the culture of Goldman Sachs being toxic and all about making money, even at the risk -- even at the risk your clients, you know, making money off of your clients, that was something he was concerned about.

I talked to the CEO from Goldman Sachs about this very issue before. And exactly two years ago, when they were under fire from Congress, this is what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: All right. So, that's the Goldman angle, what Goldman has to do. I mean, what they have been trying to do for two years. But this, guys, big debate about Greg Smith -- was this the ultimate act of loyalty or is this a guy trying to use some kind of a trampoline for a new career?

SAMBOLIN: Look at the effect he is having.

ROMANS: The stock was down 3.3 percent yesterday. It's actual real money. If Greg Smith still has Goldman Sachs, he hurt himself financially yesterday because the stock was down.

BANFIELD: Or just huge sour grapes. That is the other big question.

Christine, thank you. Good job.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SAMBOLIN: Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

Coming up: the deli owner who takes the law and a bat into his own hands. Even mace in the face cannot stop him from protecting his place.

BANFIELD: And, also, saved from grave conditions. A dog rescuer helps to rescue dozens of puppies from a puppy mill. We'll tell you the story behind this one.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 30 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. We're happy you're with us this morning. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: And I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

It's time to check the top stories of the morning at 6:31.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai meeting overnight in Kabul, trying to ease tensions from the mass killing of Afghan civilians allegedly at the hands of a U.S. soldier. The accused staff sergeant has been flown out of the country, to a U.S. base in Kuwait. And that is sparking protests this morning near the scene of last weekend's rampage.

SAMBOLIN: Five workers who pooled their money to buy lottery tickets will share a $20 million jackpot. A co-worker who bought the group's tickets claimed the winning ticket was just for him.

Yesterday, a jury in New Jersey disagreed and they decided the five workers should each get $4 million.

BANFIELD: A dog lover helped saved nearly 90 dogs from a disgusting puppy mill in North Carolina. The authorities alerted to the deplorable conditions by a customer who had bought a puppy at that location.

SAMBOLIN: Let's talk politics here.

Mitt Romney insists he still has the math on his side after stumbling in the Deep South. But a lot of Republican insiders and his rival Rick Santorum say math is no message.

Santorum is campaigning in Puerto. Sunday's primary there offers of 20 delegates.

Our Jim Acosta caught up with a very confident Santorum in San Juan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The Romney campaign came out with a memo that said that the delegate math is still not on your side despite what happened last night.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's pretty sad when all you have to do is do math instead of 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, he ain't going to be the nominee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: So, Mitt Romney is headed to Puerto Rico tomorrow. He is fund-raising in New York and he insists the losses in Alabama and Mississippi will not slow him down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm sorry. They have to go back and look at some other states that are actually 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 were forgetting there were a couple of other contests, including Hawaii, where I won. By the way, last night, I got more delegates than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's look at the delegates. The latest CNN delegate count: Romney 498, Santorum 239, Gingrich 139, Paul 69 -- 1,144 are needed to clinch the nomination.

Here in New York, let's talk to our political panel, panel, that is -- Dean Obeidallah, cofounder of the Arab American Comedy Festival; and live in Washington, D.C., conservative columnist Karin Agness; and in Atlanta, independent political analyst, Goldie Taylor.

Karen, I'm going to start with you and I'm going to start with the math.

Romney has been hammering that he has got the most delegates, so that he is the eventual nominee. Let's listen to what he said on FOX News yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm glad that I've got, I think, about twice as many delegates as anyone else in the process. Oh, and by the way, last night, I got more delegates than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Personally, I think the math is really simple here. But apparently Republicans are saying stop with the math speech. You know, Reagan had his shining city upon a hill and Romney has "we want more delegates," and you know, he's got this disconnect problem.

How can he change this message or should he change the message?

KARIN AGNESS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: We have to remember this is a contest for delegates. So, the math does matter.

I understand some people want to criticize him for not throwing out the fireworks and engaging on the really controversial issues of the day. But I think Romney is actually being smart to focus on what he needs to do now, which is to win the primary and put himself in a position to win the general election by staying focused on the big issues -- the economy, the jobs.

So, I actually think he is making a good strategic move to focus on this primary in the way that will set him up for success in the general election.

SAMBOLIN: So, you don't think he seems to disconnect with people when he talks about this math constantly?

AGNESS: Well, there's a lot of headlines out there about winning states versus winner-take-all state, proportion state, and it's confusing. And I think he's just trying to hone in on the message of, this is a contest, I'm going to win this contest and I think that's what he need to be doing.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dean, I'm going to switch gears with you. Santorum is working really hard in Puerto Rico, right, to get every last delegate there. And I'm going to give you full disclosure here, my parents are Puerto Rican and I actually went to school in Puerto Rico.

So, Rick Santorum was asked if he would back statehood, a Spanish along with English remain its official languages. And he said, quote, "Like any other state, there has to be compliance with this and any other federal law and that is that English has to be the principal language. There are other states with more than one language, such as Hawaii, but to be a state of the United States, English has to be the principal language."

First of all, that is not a federal law. Second of all, I can tell you from personal experience, I went to elementary school there, most of the books were in the English language and if you go around the island of Puerto Rican, and I think you have --

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, FREQUENT CONTRIBUTOR TO CNN.COM: I had.

SAMBOLIN: Most of the people speak what?

OBEIDALLAH: They speak English. And it's a great. It's a great island. I hope as a result of this comment Rick Santorum loses the vote of J. Lo and Rosie Perez and a big group of the 4 million Puerto Rican Americans who live in this country.

This is just a red meat of the Republican Party. This is saying, if you want to be an American, you have to speak English. It's no different than the other things that Rick Santorum wants to impose. I'm against regulation. I'm against big government.

But I want a federal amendment saying no gay marriage. I want to ban abortion, the case of everything, including rape and incest. I want our laws to correspond with the Bible.

Rick Santorum is the biggest hypocrite or at least a paradox I've ever seen in the candidate who says one thing and then actually wants something more, imposing his views on the rest of us, even things not based on our law.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Goldie, I'm going to stay on this issue, because it brings up a larger point here. And worries Republicans that they're losing the Latino vote. They don't have it.

So, let's look specifically at Mitt Romney in a matchup with Obama. The Pew Hispanic Research Center says Obama would have 68 percent and Romney 23 percent.

And Romney is making comments like the following. Let's listen and then I want you to weigh in on this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the DREAM Act, would I veto it? And the answer is yes.

The answer is self deportation, which is people can do better by going home because they can't find work here because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZORAIDA: All right. So, I want to be clear here, that immigration issues are not just Latino issues, but it can alienate Latino voters, right? And Republicans need them. How do they work this out?

GOLDIE TAYLOR, GOLDIE TAYLOR PROJECT: Well, quite certainly Mitt Romney has deported himself out of the White House. He just cannot become president of these United States without winning 40 percent of the Latino vote and, clearly, this Republican field, including Mitt Romney has done a lot more to alienate that entire segment of the population, including people who understand those issues who don't happen to be Latino or Hispanic.

And so, there is a real, real issue here for Republicans come this fall and I think the damage is permanent.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Karin, Dean, Goldie -- thank you so much for joining us this morning.

OBEIDALLAH: Thanks.

AGNESS: Great to be with you.

BANFIELD: It is 38 minutes now past 6:00.

And still ahead on EARLY START: A jury finds Virginia Tech negligent in the school's reaction to that shooting massacre back in 2007. We'll explain what that means for some of the families of the victims.

Take a look at your screen right now. Wow. That is a deli owner in Oregon saying, sorry, buddy. I am better than you in a head- to-head matchup. You want to rob my store. We'll show you what happens after that video unfreezes and how he defended his home turf. You do not want to miss it.

You're watching EARLY START.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Forty-two minutes past the hour.

A jury finds Virginia Tech University botched its response to the April 16th, 2007 massacre that left 33 people dead.

BANFIELD: And the evidence suggested that after the first shots were fired at that school, the facility took a full two hours before alerting students that there was actually a threat. The families of two of the victims were awarded a lot of money, $4 million each. And many are calling the verdict, or calling this justice that was long overdue.

Lori Haas' daughter, Emily, survived that attack. And Lori gave some of the final testimony yesterday on behalf of the two families who've actually filed the suit.

And Lori joins me now live from Richmond.

Lori, I'm curious. Emily was part of this, but you were not part of the suit, you were, instead, testifying on behalf of those two other families. What made you get involved in their case?

LORI HAAS, MOTHER OF SURVIVOR OF 2007 VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTINGS: The families have all been very supportive of the Prydes and the Petersons and their efforts to get the truth and accountability in this case. And I was happy to do so.

BANFIELD: There was a larger settlement back in 2008 that the school actually paid out $11 million to families of victims, and these two families opted out and, instead, did their own civil path.

Were you all involved in that larger settlement?

HAAS: Yes, my daughter was part of that settlement.

BANFIELD: Why do you suppose these two families decided they didn't want to be part of it?

HAAS: I think at the time there was a lot of pressure from the state and from officials at Virginia Tech and representatives of the state to settle. And it was determined, you know, by them, that this was the best they can do.

I think the families, the Prydes and Petersons, and understandably so, wanted more information and more accountability than the settlement offered them. And we respected their choice at that time and as they respected my daughter's choice at that time.

But this was a good move for them and frankly a good move for all the families. There were several families who regret that settlement.

BANFIELD: That was my next question. Is there a regret in your family's heart knowing now that these two families have had the justice that they received from the court?

HAAS: There's just some regret at not doing a better job at holding the university accountable for information, specifically, ask telling the families what happened that morning. And what went on and what they were talking about and what didn't happen, frankly, after the first two shootings.

So, this verdict has been a just verdict. It's been vindictive (ph), you know, for the families, and we're happy to see that the -- not only that the governor's panel find that the university aired in not issuing a warning.

And the Department of Education has found Virginia Tech in violation of clear (ph) act and not issuing a warning earlier and now a jury has. That's three strikes. I don't know what more we could ask for.

BANFIELD: It is always difficult to quantify justice. In these two particular cases, the settlement in 2008, it was $11 million to be split up by the victims' family members, and in yesterday's case, it's $4 million to be awarded to each of the families. And as I see it, there is this appeal to limit the $4 million to instead $100,000 suggesting that this is actually a legal cap.

So, that's still to play out, and it is possible that that $4 million award will be mitigated in some way. But I think, is justice in the money or is justice more in the message?

HAAS: I think justice is clearly in the message. The Prides and Petersons have said from day one, this is not about the money, as have most of the family members. It's not about the money, it's about the truth being told. The university knew at 7:30 a.m. that there was one mortally wounded, one deceased, and a gunman on the loose on campus, and they did nothing to inform students, staff, and faculty about that danger.

This has been clearly about what they did not do, and it was their responsibility to notify and warn the students of a gunman on the loose on campus, and they didn't do it.

BANFIELD: Lori, just quickly, how is your daughter, Emily?

HAAS: Emily is fine. Thank you for asking. She is living happily and working and is recently engaged and getting married this summer. So, we're very happy for her and excited.

BANFIELD: Our congratulations to you. I wish I could give you congratulations under different circumstances, but thanks so much for being with us this morning.

HAAS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Lori Haas joining us from Virginia.

SAMBOLIN: It is 47 minutes past the hour here. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning. Here is Christine Romans. Good morning.

ROMANS: Good morning, Ashleigh and Zoraida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): With Afghan anger rising, defense secretary, Leon Panetta, and President Harmid Karzai are meeting in Kabul. The U.S. soldier accused in that massacre of 16 Afghan civilians who was taken out of the country to a military base in Kuwait. Lawmakers are deciding -- are demanding that he faced justice on Afghan soil. Still, a very, very controversial subject.

The average price of unleaded gas 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 that tried to steal from. Surveillance video shows the suspect pepper-spraying the owner. The owner fought back, grabbed the baseball bat, repeatedly beat the robber, eventually chasing him out of the store.

And an overly protective Canada goose showing just who rules the roost in an office building. This is in St. Louis. The male is protecting a mother and her eggs that are nearby. So, when father goose is around, workers just have to duck there in St. Louis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: That is some kind of video, Christine Romans. Look at that. The guy waving him off, too. That's great. Thanks, Christine. Forty-eight minutes now past six o'clock. Soledad O'Brien joining us now with a look at what's coming up in just a few minutes on "Starting Point."

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST, "STARTING POINT": Hey, a lot of coming up this morning on "STARTING POINT."

Coming up right at the top of the hour, Rick Santorum kind of weighs into the English only debate. He's in Puerto Rico campaigning, and he says that Puerto Rico want to become a state, and they should make English the official language because it's federal law.

Well, it's not federal law. We're going to talk this morning to a congressman from Puerto Rico about that.

Also, you guys have been talking a lot about the fallout from Goldman Sachs. That letter that appeared in "The New York Times" yesterday. We're going to talk to a man who literally wrote the book on Goldman Sachs about the culture there and the impact that this letter could bring. All that and much more straight ahead this morning on "Starting Point." We'll see you right at the top of the hour.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: I have to go do What I have to go do, and this is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: Oh, did you think he was going to go quietly? Na-ah. Draped in the American flag, folks. Former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, planning his exit to federal prison this morning after supporters gave him a very bizarre goodbye.

6:52 on the East Coast. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. As you just saw on his last day of freedom for the next 14 years, anyway, Rod Blagojevich just kept talking.

SAMBOLIN: He did. Alina Cho joins us now with a whole lot more.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I hate to laugh, but, I mean, you really -- you just can't make it up, can you? Good morning. You know, Rod Blagojevich, remember, he's the former Illinois governor and former contestant on "The Apprentice" never shied away from the spotlight and this was no exception.

His slow walk to federal prison was a full-on media circus. Just look at this, 15 TV trucks lined the street. The event was even timed to the beginning of the five o'clock news so that all of the local stations conveniently could take it live. And ever the politician, Blagojevich shook hands. He signed autographs, and he even, yes, he even quoted the Bible.

You'll remember, back in 2008, Blagojevich was arrested and charged on 18 counts of corruption caught on tape for trying to sell Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat. After two trials, he was convicted, and in December of last year, sentenced to 14 years in prison. And here's what he had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLAGOJEVICH: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: The former governor has certainly made no secret that he thinks the prosecution was iniquitous, and that he's got the appeal. So, this legal saga yet to be determined.

CHO: No, far from over. I mean, you saw him. He was defiant. You know, he is appealing his conviction, by the way, during that entire process. He'll be sitting in a federal prison somewhere in suburban Denver as inmate number 40892-424. Now, Blagojevich, remember, he's the second governor in a row to serve prison time for corruption.

His predecessor, George Ryan, currently serving six and a half years for his conviction on fraud and racketeering in 2006. This is not something that is new to the state of Illinois, not by a long shot. But one thing that I found that was really interesting was that someone asked him, you know, are you scared to go to prison? And he said, it's not courage if you're not scared. I have faith in the rule of law, and I will be back.

BANFIELD: Take a look at those pictures, Alina.

SAMBOLIN: That's in Chicago. That's Ravenswood neighborhood, and that is Blagojevich's house, and this has been a media circus. The poor folks in that community are, you know, kind of used to this. So, maybe now, it will dissipate because there were constant media trucks in that area all the time. They're waiting for him to leave.

CHO: They had quite the final show yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes, they did. Yes, they did.

BANFIELD: I wonder if there'll be this kind of media circus at Chicago O'Hare where he's headed to get that flight to Denver.

CHO: Probably. Probably.

BANFIELD: Alina, thanks for following.

CHO: You bet.

BANFIELD: Appreciate it.

6:55 on the East Coast. Coming up at 7:30 on "Starting Point," someone who knows what it is like to do hard time for political corruption. Jack Abramoff, a former Republican lobbyist, and he's going to weigh in on whether Blago is in for an attitude adjustment. We will be right back.

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SAMBOLIN: That's it for us.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BANFIELD: Soledad O'Brien now picking up the torch, carrying on with "STARTING POINT." Hello there.

O'BRIEN: I am carrying the torch for you today, ladies.