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Thousands to March for Trayvon Martin; The Healthcare Debate; Santorum Rips Romney

Aired March 26, 2012 - 05:00   ET


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


We are bringing you the news from A to Z. It's 5:00 a.m. here in the East.

We start with your top stories:

Voices are getting louder. Crowds are also getting larger. The biggest rally yet planned for Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida -- one month after the unarmed teenager was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a man who was never charged in that death.

BANFIELD: The Supreme Court begins hearing arguments this morning as 26 states challenge President Obama's health care overhaul. At the heart of the debate? Whether the individual insurance mandate is constitutional.

SAMBOLIN: And President Obama is joining leaders of more than 50 nations in Seoul, South Korea, this morning for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. The president kicking things off with a stinging warning to North Korea.

BANFIELD: A developing story from Afghanistan. NATO officials say a gunman wearing an army uniform, an Afghan army uniform, killed two coalition members in southern Afghanistan before he himself was shot dead. This follows the shooting rampage by a U.S. Army soldier that killed up to 17 Afghan villagers just earlier on this month.

SAMBOLIN: And Chile rocked by a major earthquake, the 7.1 magnitude quake shook buildings in the capital of Santiago and triggered a coastal evacuation. Take a look at that. Three injuries have been reported, no major damage however.

BANFIELD: One minute past 5:00.

It has become emotional. It's become racial. It's become political.

And today, thousands are expected to march in the biggest rally yet, a rally for justice for Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager who was killed one month ago by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. The march begins with a rally at 4:00 p.m. outside the First United Methodist Church in Sanford, Florida. Crowds will then make their way to the Civic Center, about a half mile away.

It's at the Civic Center where city officials will be holding a town hall meeting. It's also where Trayvon's parents are expected to speak.

Yesterday, worshippers in churches right across the country wore hoodies, something that has become a symbol of the whole fight.

CNN's Martin Savidge is live in Sanford, Florida, this morning -- where they're expecting a lot of people, aren't they, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Ashleigh, indeed.

Yes, the city commissioners' meeting, it should be pointed out, had been had on the calendar for some time. But, of course, in light of the tragic shooting, now, they decided to clear the entire agenda. The meeting is now solely focused on the Trayvon Martin shooting.

And they are expecting a very large crowd. In fact, that's why they had to move it from the original place they hold their meetings to the Civic Center. And, in fact, they think the Civic center could then, in fact, overflow. And so, they're going to set up a JumboTron inside the park where we are right now just in case.

And it's not just the number of people they're expected to overflow. It's the passion that is also expected to overflow, which is why the family of Trayvon Martin has put out a statement in advance of tonight saying, please, they ask everyone, be civil to one another. There are concerns that perhaps people's passions, people's emotions could get out of hand at this particular meeting.

So everyone is asked to be on their best behavior despite the fact that there are a lot of people who are very, very upset and plan to be there -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Martin, it's one thing to ask people to be on their best behavior and it's another thing to bring out the big guns and start lining the streets with police. Do we know anything about the city's plans for additional security today?

SAVIDGE: Well, I mean, the only thing we know for certain is that, one, they've requested that people act on their best behavior. There will be additional law enforcement, of course, that's standing by, just in case to handle any sort of circumstance that could arise. We also just noticed that a truck has pulled up here with additional fencing.

So, every precaution the city can take, they will take.

BANFIELD: Well, let's hope everything stays peaceful.

Martin Savidge for us in Sanford this morning, thank you.

Also want to let you know that a little later on today, Brian Palmer from "Slate" magazine is going to join us. He's been looking into stories about neighborhood watches and whether or not they actually have an effect on reducing the crime rate. We'll talk to him at 6:30 this morning.

SAMBOLIN: It is four minutes past the hour here.

Two years after signing his health care overhaul into law, President Obama and the American people will soon find out if it is indeed constitutional. The Supreme Court begins hearing arguments at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. Twenty-six of the 50 states are challenging the measure. It will be six hours of arguments and then that is over the next three days. A ruling is expected in June.

The individual mandate says most Americans must buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. Is that constitutional?

Dan Lothian has the very latest for us.


You know, the White House believes that it is constitutional, and what they're saying and they've been saying now for the past two years is that there are a lot of benefits of this new law, that young people between 21 and 26 years old who move back in with their parents will be covered, that seniors will have better coverage, and that everyone being covered will bring down the overall cost of health care insurance.

But, of course, Republicans have been pushing back, saying that all of these things that the White House is talking about in terms of the benefits of this new law simply aren't panning out. And in the end, it will be a much more expensive law.

Now, what will be heard in the court today will be what's called the Anti-Injunction Act. And, essentially, as you pointed out, those who do not take this coverage, which everyone must have insurance coverage by 2014, those who do not, will face a penalty of $700 a year. But, of course, since no one has been penalized yet, can, in fact, this be ruled on -- the constitutionality of this be ruled on?

So, that's essentially what the court will be looking at today. And, in essence, this could sort of stop the whole case in its tracks, delay it for several years.

Now, one of the top advisers at the White House, David Plouffe, was on "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday, was asked about what the White House is doing right now to prepare for this case if they do lose.

Here's what he had to say.


DAVID PLOUFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I don't want to get ahead of the court. We haven't even had arguments yet, much less a decision. Obviously, the mandate is an important part of the law --

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S "STATE OF THE UNION: You've got to be thinking --

PLOUFFE: Well, I don't want to get into -- you know, we're focused right now, obviously, our solicitor general going to put forth a very powerful case for why this law is constitutional, why it's important.


LOTHIAN: White House officials saying they believe that they will prevail in this case. And, again, they're focused on implementing all the aspects of this new law. Again, the coverage whereby everyone must get insurance health coverage won't take effect until 2014.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Dan Lothian, live in Washington, D.C. for us -- thank you very much.

BANFIELD: Seven minutes past 5:00, and this is about the time we always get that nasty little sign that tells us where the gas prices are today. As if you couldn't guess -- sorry, up again.

AAA has just announced that the national average --

SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness.

BANFIELD: -- three dollars and ninety cents a gallon. If you're wondering, that's just up three-tenths of a cent but we're less than a quarter shy of the all-time high for gas set back in 2008, which was $4.11 a gallon. Gas prices, though, it's all about where you live too, because there's several parts of the country, mostly in the West and the Northeast, where they're already seeing $4 a gallon and even higher and have been for quite some time as well.

So, sorry to be the bearer of that bad news. Kind of feels like Groundhog Day when we give that one out.

SAMBOLIN: It does. Every day, it's same thing.

All right. Seven minutes past the hour here. Time for your EARLY START day book, the stories we'll be watching throughout the day for you.

Opening arguments are scheduled on a landmark sex abuse case involving two Philadelphia priests, including Monsignor William Lynn. He is the first Catholic Church official to be tried for allegedly covering up abusive behavior by priests. Lynn was responsible for investigating reports of sex abuse in the Philadelphia diocese.

BANFIELD: Pope Benedict XVI visits Cuba today on his first trip to Spanish-speaking Latin America. Yesterday, he led 400,000 Catholics in an open-air mass in Mexico. Just 80 percent Catholic. Take a look at the shots. Wow.

He asked Mexican Catholics to, quote, "boldly promote peace across the country". Much to the onlookers' delight -- check it out, in the Pope mobile, he put on a sombrero. That's great.

I'm not sure he knew. It's like frontwards or backwards. But there you go. He stayed on.

Look at those crowds --

SAMBOLIN: Incredible.

BANFIELD: -- in the shot.

SAMBOLIN: All right. And Tim Tebow officially arrives in New York City today. The New York Jets will formally introduce their new number two quarterback at a news conference at team headquarters in Florham Park, New Jersey. The Jets acquired Tim Tebow in a trade with the Denver Broncos after the Broncos signed Peyton Manning.

BANFIELD: It is now nine minutes past 5:00.

And still ahead on EARLY START: we're hearing for the first time from the wife of that Army staff sergeant who is accused in the massacre of Afghan civilians. We're going to find out a little bit about that, and also what it's like to be an army wife in this day and age. Also, some new details about the alleged attack as well.

SAMBOLIN: And he has reached the deepest spot on earth. Did you know about this? We have an update on James Cameron's historic dive seven miles under the sea.

BANFIELD: Got an appetite for "Hunger"? Apparently, you're not alone. There were a lot of people who saw this movie. So, how did it rate on the record-breaking scale? We're going to let you know how "Hunger Games" pulled off this weekend.

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is now 12 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast. Time to check the top stories making news this morning with Christine Romans.

Hello there.


The biggest rally yet planned for Trayvon Martin today in Sanford, Florida. The unarmed teen was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a man who was never charged in that death. Yesterday, churchgoers across the country wore hoodies to show support and demand justice. George Zimmerman's lawyer says the killing was justified, telling ABC that Zimmerman's nose was broken and his back was bruised after he was injured in the confrontation.

Afghan officials say the U.S. paid $50,000 to the families of each villager killed in the shooting rampage there and $11,000 to those who were wounded. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is charged with 17 counts of murder.

In an NBC, rather, interview, Karilyn Bales says her husband could never be that cold blooded.


KARILYN BALES, BALES WIFE: He loves children. He's like a big kid himself.

MATT LAUER, NBC NEWS: He is accused of killing nine children.

BALES: Right.

LAUER: Innocent children.

BALES: It's unbelievable to me. I have no idea what happened, but he would not -- he loves children and he would not do that.


ROMANS: Meantime, military investigators believe Bales carried out the massacre in two phases, returning to his base after the first attack.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is recovering from heart transplant surgery this weekend. Cheney waited more than 20 months on a list for a transplant. At age 71, he was nearing the age limit. We'll talk to CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about Cheney's heart transplant in the next hour.

Moviegoers gorging on "The Hunger Games." The film opened with a staggering $155 million take at the box office. That's the biggest ever opening for a movie that's not a sequel. If you add in the nearly $60 million it made outside the U.S., "The Hunger Games" had a weekend haul all around the world of almost $215 million. That's a big, big weekend at the box office.

BANFIELD: I've got to se this thing.

SAMBOLIN: My son went to see it.

BANFIELD: And he loved it, right?

SAMBOLIN: Yes. But he said the book is better. Go figure, from my 13-year-old. I was pretty impressed.

BANFIELD: I worry that if I go, it means I'll have to go to all three of them, right? Three or four? Whatever it is. I hate being that committed.

ROMANS: Well, after this weekend, there will be another, I promise you.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my gosh, unbelievable.

BANFIELD: I think we're on the same track, Christina. I go to "Lorax," anything that's Disney or Pixar.

ROMANS: I know, I know.

SAMBOLIN: That's typically where you are.

Thank you, Christine. I appreciate it.

All right. Let's get a check of your travel weather. Here is Rob Marciano live for us.

Good morning to you.


That pesky storm that was slowly moving across the country all last week is still affecting the East Coast, the back side of which across parts of North Carolina. This brought some severe weather to the Carolinas yesterday and some showers across the outer banks. But it is slowly moving out to sea, finally.

We do have some big changes in the offing. Windy conditions across the Northeast today, and finally a little dose of March reality, cold temperatures tonight. Temps would be in the 20s and 30s, freeze warnings have been posted for a good chunk of the Northeast. Then, we'll rebound into some heat.

Speaking of -- Albuquerque, New Mexico, yesterday, 85 degrees record high there; 75 in Colorado Springs, and in Denver, Colorado, for some record high temperatures. So, the heat continues across the midsection, a little bit cooler across the Northeast, and a storm system that moved through southern California yesterday heads into the Rockies and a fire threat with windy conditions here, gusts 60 to 70 miles an hour, extreme fire danger in Denver proper as a matter of fact.

All right. We go further out west, or east depending on your perspective, to Guam where James Cameron got down to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench there, over 35,000 deep underneath the sea. That is as far deep as Mt. Everest is tall, actually deeper than that.

It did so yesterday afternoon, about 5:00 or so Eastern Time. This has been done before, guys, but the first man to do it solo. James Cameron, obviously a Hollywood director but a deep sea diver as well. Jason Carroll reporting on this a couple of weeks past and he made it down there yesterday.

BANFIELD: And he tweeted, Rob. He tweeted from down there, Rob.

MARCIANO: Listen, if you're going to do something, you're going to break records, you might as well tweet while you're doing it.

BANFIELD: I can't get reception on Metro North. Who's getting reception Mt. Everest deep under the ocean?

SAMBOLIN: I'm just happy he's OK, you know? We were really worried about traveling solo down there and never making it back up again. So good for him. How exciting.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Rob.

MARCIANO: All right, guys.

BANFIELD: Hey, it's 17 minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast.

And do you know how many people actually paid taxes in this country? The truth about taxes and who actually pays what.

SAMBOLIN: And like an old-school Shaq slam dunk, look at this. Whoa, the former home of the Magic comes crashing down.

BANFIELD: I love that stuff.

SAMBOLIN: You're watching EARLY START.

BANFIELD: I can't get enough.

SAMBOLIN: I don't want to be anywhere near it.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back.

Twenty minutes past the hour here. We are minding your business this morning.

U.S. markets closing higher across the board on Friday. The Dow and S&P 500 up about a third of a percent. The NASDAQ up a little less. Stocks are having a strong year so far. So, there is some concern it's time for a pullback.

BANFIELD: We're going to switch gears. We're going to bring in Christine Romans now to talk taxes because 'tis the season. I did my taxes a couple weeks ago.

ROMANS: It's easy?

BANFIELD: First time I've ever been early. First time.

ROMANS: Oh, wow. Well, I tell you that in Washington, it's always tax season because we're talking about tax policy and how to change it. You'll hear all these big claims that are quite political.

I want to give you a fact check. And you can see this in "Money" magazine. It's very well done. Truth or fiction about taxes. You'll hear this a lot that about half of Americans don't pay federal income tax.


ROMANS: Half of Americans. And that is actually true. They don't pay federal income tax, 46.4 percent of taxpayers do not pay federal income tax.

But they pay payroll taxes out of their paycheck, you know? Many of these people are elderly. So, they don't pay taxes because they are elderly, or they are very, very poor, low income.

So, when you talk to people about how to broaden the tax base and get more people to pay into the federal coffers, keep that all in mind.

There's another thing, too. We talk about how Warren Buffett, he just paid 17 percent effective tax rate and that rich people aren't paying their fair share.

Well, look at this, the tax rate for the top 400 filers in 1995 was 30 percent. In 2008, it was 18 percent. Last year, it was even less for some because a lot of one-time breaks for all of your investment income.

The thing is, the very, very richest people in the country pay less than people who work hard and make money with their hands or with their brains because they're making money with their money and that's taxed differently in this country.

Let's talk about the corporate tax rate. You've heard this so much, right, that the corporate tax rate is too high and it needs to be lowered? Well, the U.S. on paper's tax rate is 39.2 percent. Compare that with the average for all the other rich countries, 29 percent.

But what a company is actually paying is more like 27 percent in this country, 27.7 percent -- pretty much in line with the rests of the world. And guess what? Last year, they paid even less than that big companies, more like 12 percent, because of -- again, goodies in the tax code, one-time goodies in the tax code, meant to help companies.

So there is nothing simple about taxes. I've said it on television a million times. Nothing simple about taxes. And if you hear from the campaign trail or from politicians that this is it simple, this is how we fix it, just remember --

SAMBOLIN: Well, I like you clearing up do half of us really pay no taxes? There's the truth behind the statement.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: And we all got that big lesson with Mitt Romney's tax rate that -- yes, that's the way it works, you know? Sometimes there's a whole different system for tax in businesses, effective tax rates can change.

ROMANS: Taxing -- making money with money is taxed much, much less.

BANFIELD: That's right. All right. Christine, thanks so much.

Twenty-three minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. We're getting an early read on your local papers.

We always get the big old stack and we like to get you up-to- date. This morning, we have the headlines from Detroit and from Atlanta. Detroit first, and it ain't good news I hate to say. Deadline day in Detroit. City leaders there are real worried about their budget there and they are scrambling to get some semblance of a financial plan because they're facing a $45 million deficit in the Motor City.

And guess when they're going to run out of cash. Ready? Mid next month.

Well, the state recommends a fix of -- when I say mid next month, I should correct that -- mid-May. So, you know, about six to eight weeks from now. City is going to recommend a fix of its oven, actually the state is going to recommend a fix to its own to the governor.

But bigger problem here? The Detroit mayor is not feeling well. Dave Bing has been hospitalized. He's had intestinal surgery. So, he's not sort of there to helm all of. So, we'll have to keep an eye on how Detroit does.

SAMBOLIN: All right. An investigation uncovers possible widespread cheating on standardized activities in public schools. This time this is across the country. According to the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," it's a seven-month investigation, 196 of the nation's 3,125 largest school districts had a high degree, a high degree, of suspicious results on test scores.

It suggests cheating but does not prove cheating. Most extreme test score swings in school systems are in Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, and Mobile County, Alabama.

I can give you one example here, in Houston, the test results for the entire grades of students jumped two three or more times of the amount expected in one year alone. And so, when children move to a new grade the next year, their scores actually plummeted. The findings suggest the gains were not due to learning. Huge investigation there.

BANFIELD: I think the "Journal Constitution" has said that this is a big problem for the No Child Left Behind thing, where the schools have been forced into -- not the students here. We want to very clears -- this isn't the kids doing this. These are the schools doing this.

SAMBOLIN: The administration. Exactly.

BANFIELD: Right. To try to get their scores up so that they can get the funding that they need and continue their programs the way they want them because of the No Child Left Behind. I'm sure there's a lot of debate over that. But let's not indict the kids.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, no, no. They're clear. It's the administration absolutely.

BANFIELD: Twenty-five minutes past 5:00.

And up next on EARLY START, Rick Santorum saying some things you might expect from a sweater vest-wearing guy. Lashing out at Mitt Romney, but then really lashing out at reporters. I don't even know if we can tell you the word, but we can let you know kind of what it was.

SAMBOLIN: And, hey, look, you recognize that guy? He won!

You're watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is now 20 minutes past 5:00. Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

It's time to check the stories that are making news this morning for you.

Rallies will mark one month since Trayvon's Martin's death today. The unarmed teenage who was gunned down by George Zimmerman. That's Trayvon Martin. Yesterday, churchgoers across the United States wore hoodies to show their support and to demand justice.

George Zimmerman's lawyer says the killing was justified telling ABC that Zimmerman's nose was broken, and he had a cut on the back of his head after a confrontation.

BANFIELD: The Supreme Court begins hearing arguments at 10:00 this morning as 26 states begin their challenge of President Obama's healthcare overhaul. A ruling is expected on the matter around June. At the heart of the debate? Whether the individual healthcare insurance mandate is even constitutional. It would require most Americans to buy healthcare insurance or face a tax penalty.

SAMBOLIN: Wow! Like a Shaquille O'Neal slam dunk, there it goes. Orlando's Amway Arena got it done in under ten seconds. It was the old home of the Orlando Magic. The building imploded in front of hundreds of people. A man two blocks away was actually hit in the leg with a piece of shrapnel from the blast but was not seriously hurt.


And he's back. For the first time, listen to the cheers, in over two years, Tiger Woods is a winner on the PGA tour. He ended the drought at the Arnold Palmer (ph) invitational yesterday with a five- stroke victory. Tiger finding his form just two weeks before the Master's tees off. SAMBOLIN: It is 31 minutes past the hour. It seems the closer Mitt Romney comes to securing the Republican nomination, the nastier the attacks get from Rick Santorum. Santorum wasting no time after winning Louisiana, the primary on Saturday, he is campaigning in Wisconsin. We see him there yesterday.

Wisconsin's primary is next week on April 3rd, 42 delegates are at stake there. Maryland and Washington, D.C., holding primaries on April 3rd as well. And listen to this. Santorum ripping Romney with voters in Racine.


RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Why would we put someone up who is uniquely -- pick any other Republican in the country! He is the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama. Why would Wisconsin want to vote for someone like that?



SAMBOLIN: CNN political editor, Paul Steinhauser, is live in Washington for us. We want to talk about a lot here, the fact that he got snippy with "The New York Times." but let's start with the math and the delegate count and what he faces, an uphill battle.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. He faces a very tough route to the nomination. Take a look, this is our CNN estimate. Other networks have similar ones, as well, and you can see right here, Zoraida, that he is pretty far behind when it comes to the delegate count. Mitt Romney way ahead right there, 568 according to our estimate.

And look, Romney is just about halfway now to the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Rick Santorum at 261, you know, less than half of what Romney has. You heard that sound you just played there just now from Wisconsin last night.

What Santorum is saying is that Romney would be the worst candidate because, because he is -- of his stance on healthcare and what he passed, so-called Romneycare back in Massachusetts, which many Republicans say was the inspiration for what the president passed on the national level. And that's why Rick Santorum continues to say over and over that Mitt Romney would be a tainted candidate in a way that he would not do well against Barack Obama in the fall.

The delegate count you just saw right there, that's tough for Rick Santorum, even though he had that big win in Louisiana. Also, the calendar you just mentioned the calendar, you looked at April, almost every contest other than, maybe, Pennsylvania, his home state looks unfavorable for Santorum.

And you're also seeing more and more people starting to really rally around Mitt Romney. You saw that yesterday from Senator Lindsey Graham. He was on our own "State of the Union" saying something very favorable about Romney. And today, Zoraida, we've learned that Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a Tea Party senator, you can say, will be officially endorsing Romney -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And do you think Santorum then is responding to all of this? Maybe that's why he's getting a little bit snippy?

STEINHAUSER: It seems that way to a degree, because I think he keeps getting frustrated with the media saying that it's basically over. He did get a little tough -- snippy, I guess, you could say last night with a "New York Times" reporter who asking about those comments you just played, and he said that he was being distorted, but listen, he said what he said. We just heard it -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Paul Steinhauser, live for us in Washington. Thank you.


BANFIELD: It is now 34 minutes past five o'clock.

The U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear arguments beginning at 10 o'clock eastern this morning on the Affordable Care Act. Opponents call that Obamacare. No matter what you think about it, it is hotly contested and very highly partisan. And it's healthcare, that bill that was signed into law by President Obama two years ago.

Facing legal challenges from 26 states, the arguments will be long, folks. It's rare when you hear six hours over three days of oral arguments before the nine, but that's the schedule. And, it's in three parts. So, let me get you a little bit of primmer on all of this. Today, here's what's going to happen.

The issue of whether this case should even be heard at all or whether it has to wait until 2015 because that's when that individual insurance healthcare mandate actually takes effect and can be challenged.

So, we may have to wait altogether. Tomorrow, the central issue of the case is that mandate. You know that thing you've heard about, you need to buy insurance or you'll be penalized? That's the issue tomorrow. And on Wednesday, a bit of a double-header. In the morning, if we clear Tuesday and the mandate is ruled unconstitutional, well then, what happens to the whole law?

Does the whole thing get thrown out all some 3,000 pages of it? And then, finally, the question of states and whether they're being pushed, coerced by the federal government to expand their state-run Medicaid programs because of the threat of a loss of federal funding?

Hopefully, that's got you up to speed on the essential issues. The administration was really out this weekend saying it feels good about its chances. Have a listen.


DAVID PLOUFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: We're confident that it's going to be upheld. You had Democratic and Republican jurists upheld it in lower court decision, including two very prominent conservative jurists.


BANFIELD: Well, Republicans, obviously though, are hoping for a very different outcome. Have a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: The process was bad. The substance is going over it like a lead balloon. You know, the vice president whispered to the president when they signed the bill two years ago, this is a big F-ing deal. Well, now it's become a big F-ing mess for the Democratic Party and the country as a whole.


BANFIELD: Lindsey Graham saying F-ing. Holy Moly! The court's decision isn't expected this week or next week. Probably not until some time closer to June, but joing me now to talk about this is Dr. William Winkenwerder who is the former COO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and he also served as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs from October 2001 through April 2007 under President Bush.

Doctor, thanks so much for being with us. I know you're no fan of this bill. So, let's just get that out of the way right off the bat.


BANFIELD: But I don't want to talk about the politics so much of the bill as it's been sort of ripped by both sides for the last two years. I want to talk about the legalities because that's what's at stake this week. How do you think this individual mandate argument is going to play out?

WINKENWERDER: Well, it's a great question. I think it's going to be a close case either way, either striking down the individual mandate or upholding it. And we've seen that in the lower courts, in the appellate courts, and it looks like it's going to be a close case. That's what I would say.

BANFIELD: And I looked at these lower courts. One of the federal appeals courts found it was unconstitutional. But two others said it was a proper exercise of the Congressional mandate. And then, a third ruled against the states on technical grounds.

So, it's a bit of a mix mash there, but it's looking more towards the positive sign that this bill can actually come out of this challenge through all of these states and what they've sort of said is unfair. WINKENWERDER: I would disagree with that. I think I would cast my best prediction slightly in the direction of the court coming to the conclusion that the mandate is unconstitutional.

BANFIELD: How come?

WINKENWERDER: Because it's the conception of federal power. And really, this whole legal challenge is about the issue of federal power. How much power does Congress have under the constitution? And, as you know, those powers are what they call enumerated. They're listed. And among those is certain power within the commerce clause, but it's never been expanded to this point, at least, that's how most people on one side of the issues see it.

BANFIELD: And I think some of those people see that regulating commerce and the economy has long been in the purview of the federal government.

WINKENWERDER: Well, it has, but it hasn't been to the point of compelling individual actions, and that's where this really gets to the root of the issue. So, it really is about federal power, and that's the same issue with the Medicaid program and how far can the Congress go expanding Medicaid where that imposes costs on the state government.

And right now, you know, states spend about 25, 30 percent of their entire budgets on Medicaid. So, with the expansion of that, you could conceptually have the federal government driving a big portion of state government budgets, which means that states might have to raise taxes on their citizens, and that would be derivative of federal power. So, that's not really how the constitution and the separation of powers was envisioned.

BANFIELD: Let me bring this down to something that everybody can understand, because whenever we're told --


BANFIELD: -- you have to buy something, we get our hackles up.


BANFIELD: And a lot of people are arguing that you can't force a person to buy a product that he or she may not want. But when it comes to healthcare, it's not like we don't all need to partake in it at some point in our lives. At some point, we're all going to need some kind of healthcare, so doesn't that sort of shift this from being just a widget to actually a service that we, as a society, all need to pay for?

WINKENWERDER: Well, it does. And that's why it's a close call, I believe. And, on the other hand, people do get healthcare. They're not denied. They get --

BANFIELD: Yes, but we've got to pay for it if they're not paying for it, and I think that's where people get upset. WINKENWERDER: Well, that's right. And that's really where on the conservative side, early on, there were those who said that individuals have some responsibility to help pay for their own healthcare. Now, there are many ways we could do that without imposing a mandate of the sort that this law has.

So -- but individual responsibility is important, and that's part of what we're going to debate here.

BANFIELD: You know, I had a feeling that in our very short time together this morning, we were not going to be able to solve this issue, but you do great job at bringing some light to a very complex series of issues. Thank you, doctor.

WINKENWERDER: Thank you. It's a tough issue.

BANFIELD: It is indeed. I'll look

WINKENWERDER: It will be exciting and interesting to watch.

BANFIELD: Heck yes. I never thought I'd say that about three days of oral arguments.

WINKENWERDER: Yes. Who would have thought, you know? Six hours of oral arguments, and the whole country is going to be watching closely.

BANFIELD: Break out popcorn. Thanks, doctor.


BANFIELD: Nice to see you.

SAMBOLIN: You know, people were waiting in line since Friday to try to get a ticket to be in the courtroom.


SAMBOLIN: So, there are a lot of people who are very excited about this.

BANFIELD: The greatest nerds on earth, I like to call us, the people who love watching court. And I'm one of those real nerds. And you know what, nerds of the world unite. (INAUDIBLE)

SAMBOLIN: All right. It's 41 minutes past the hour here. Calls for justice from underneath a hoodie. Reverend Jamal Harris Bryant (ph) who helped organize the rally for Trayvon Martin is going to join us shortly here.

And also, coming up, wedding crasher. The queen!

BANFIELD: Seriously?

SAMBOLIN: The queen pops in on a couple of commoners. You're watching EARLY START. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 45 minutes after the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning. Here is Christine Romans. Good morning again.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies. The biggest rally yet planned for Trayvon Martin today in Sanford, Florida.


ROMANS (voice-over): The unarmed black teen was shot and killed by George Zimmerman one month ago. Zimmerman's attorney now speaking saying the public has only heard part of the story. He told ABC News that his client's nose was broken in the scuffle with Trayvon.

President Obama and leaders of more than 50 nations are in Seoul, South Korea this morning for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, and even before the official welcoming ceremony, the president was talking tough to North Korea.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There will be no rewards for provocations. Those days are over.


ROMANS: The president promising to pursue further nuclear arms cuts with Russia. He's attending a working dinner with other world leaders.

You may know him as the guy ringside with the cigar in his mouth and the fedora on his head. Hall of Fame boxing writer, Burt Sugar, died yesterday of cardiac arrest. He wrote more than 80 books and was a publisher and editor of "Boxing Illustrated," and later, "The Ring" magazine. He even made a cameo in the last "Rocky" movie. He was 74 years old.

Queen Elizabeth wedding crasher. She unexpectedly dropped in on a wedding while in Manchester on official business. The bride and groom -- they looked ready though. They bowed and curtsied to the queen following appropriate protocol. They say she was invited almost as a goof, you guys, and they didn't think she would come.

But the queen said she wanted to meet the couple since she was going to be in Manchester anyway.


ROMANS (on-camera): Wow! That's already the big pressure day and then the queen shows up.

BANFIELD: I love it!

SAMBOLIN: What a talker for the rest of your life. The queen attended my wedding.

ROMANS: I know. What a souvenir?

BANFIELD: I just can't believe they thought to invite her. I think that's the coolest part of all of this.

ROMANS: I know. It's funny because some other British couples I know they say they routinely invite the queen just in case.

BANFIELD: Yes. I don't think that reached the rest of the commonwealth.


BANFIELD: I'm pretty sure.

SAMBOLIN: But you never know, right? When they're in the area, there she goes. She drops by. That's a very cool story. Thank you, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: You're in the neighborhood, drop on in.


All right. Forty-seven minutes past the hour here. We're keeping you in the pop culture loop this morning by taking a look at what's trending on the web and in social media. Kazakhstan shooting team demanding an apology after getting the "Borat" treatment.


BANFIELD (voice-over): No, they didn't!

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): This happened at a tournament in Kuwait. It was a spoof of the national anthem from the film "Borat." it was played instead of the real one during the medal ceremony. Apparently, this is what happened. Someone downloaded the parody from the web they say by mistake.

Also got the Serbian national anthem wrong. Later, they redid the ceremony with the real anthem.


BANFIELD (on-camera): But how about that winner just standing there stoically and not making a big deal of it. Good for her. That's embarrassing.

All right. So, this is one that you will probably be looking for on YouTube and forwarding around if you liked the whole Susan Boyle thing on "Britain's Got Talent." You have got to see this. He may look like a head-banger. He may look like he doesn't know how to sing.


BANFIELD (voice-over): But take a look and listen.


BANFIELD: Look at the audience.


BANFIELD: Look at Simon Cowell.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Amazing.

BANFIELD: Yes. Awesome! Seventeen years old, folks. His name is Jonathan Antoine. Get used to that name. Absolute showstopper on "Britain's Got Talent."

SAMBOLIN: Just let it go.

BANFIELD: Look at the audience.

SAMBOLIN: That's incredible.

BANFIELD: That's his partner Charlotte and Simon Cowell said, listen, "you don't need Charlotte." But he says, yes, I do. She has stood up for me through teasing, through people have been mean to me. She has always been there for me, and he is not dropping Charlotte from the act, which is awesome.


BANFIELD (on-camera): But remember this is the kind of show that produced Susan Boyle who's been an absolute international sensation, so let's hear it for Jonathan Antoine (ph).

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Loved it.

BANFIELD: Isn't that great?


BANFIELD: It's already been viewed millions of times on YouTube. So, make it a million and one.

SAMBOLIN: And still ahead, the wife of the man accused in the Afghanistan massacre is speaking out. She's saying that he loves children and would not do what he is accused of doing. You are watching EARLY START.


BANFIELD: It is 5:52. You're watching EARLY START. And this week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against President Obama's healthcare overhaul. Court is going to have to decide whether sweeping changes are constitutional. SAMBOLIN: And that decision will likely affect every American and may play a role in this year's election as well. Our Dan Lothian has that story.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It took a bruising battle to get to the signing. President Obama barely got the Affordable Care Act, his signature accomplishment, across the finish line, but at a high cost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Barack Obama is anti-American.

LOTHIAN: The Tea Party found its voice and set out to dismantle what had been a cornerstone of the president's 2008 campaign.

OBAMA: It's not a mandate on government to provide health insurance, it's a mandate on individuals to purchase it.

LOTHIAN: Once in office, the president pushed hard to sell the plan to the country.

OBAMA: We need health care reform because it's central to our economic future.

LOTHIAN: And to Congress.

OBAMA: The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed.

LOTHIAN: But the time for bickering had only just begun. And in one dramatic moment, some argue reached a new low.

OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegal.



LOTHIAN: Republican congressman, Joe Wilson, shouted the feelings of many Americans, some of whom joined the Tea Party in protesting what they dubbed Obamacare as intrusive and illegal. Now, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments on several parts of the new law, including the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase insurance.

WILLIAM GALSTON, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Health care touches every single American, every single family.

LOTHIAN: William Galston served in the Clinton White House and is now at the Brookings Institution.

GALSTON: If the court decides to strike down even a piece of the law, we will see a replay of a political debate that we haven't seen for three-quarters of a century. This is a game for extremely high stakes, not only for the president, not only for the 2012 election, but also for the institution of the Supreme Court itself.

LOTHIAN: The Obama administration's justice department plans to vigorously defend the new law in court against a coalition of 26 states that the president told American public media's marketplace was motivated by politics.

OBAMA: Because, frankly, these lawsuits that were filed were basically uniformly filed by Republicans who wanted to score political points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm calling in support of President Obama's campaign.

LOTHIAN: Meanwhile, the president's re-election campaign and the DNC are defending healthcare reform in battleground states like Ohio, through mailings, online, and with phone banks.

BILL FINNEGAN, OBAMA SUPPORTER: I'm helping them to understand the good things about the legislation.

LOTHIAN: But as the president visited Ohio last week, the RNC launched its own attack on healthcare with TV and web ads.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Higher costs for taxpayers, another broken promise by Obama.

LOTHIAN (on-camera): The Affordable Care Act remains unpopular, but polls show support is up for the new law slightly over last year, even though Americans remain divided. On the left, many believe it doesn't go far enough. On the right, they believe it goes too far.

Dan Lothian, CNN, the White House.


BANFIELD: And coming up, new calls for justice one month after Trayvon Martin was gunned down in Florida, this, by a neighborhood watch captain. So, do neighborhood watches even work? You'll hear that argument at 6:30. You're watching EARLY START.