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THE SITUATION ROOM
North Korean Nuclear Fears; President Obama Comments on Florida Shooting Death; "He was Murdered For Trying to Help"; North Korea Launch Plan Raises Tensions; If GOP Gets "Keys To the White House"; Showdown Over Health Care Program; U.S. To Resume Egypt Military Aid; Government Can Keep Data On Americans Longer; Kim Kardashian Flour Bombed; Plea To Pope: Help Set My Husband Free; Soccer Player Back From The Dead
Aired March 23, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama jumps into the controversy over the killing of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch captain.
And Vice President Joe Biden leaps into the campaign fray with a dire warning about what would happen to Medicare if Republicans get what he's calling the keys to the White House.
And Japan scrambles to prepare a missile defense system as North Korea plans to launch a long-range rocket -- why tensions are soaring ahead of a world nuclear summit.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
On this, the eve of a key GOP primary in Louisiana, Rick Santorum is charging hard. Polls show him as a double-digit favorite there, but Santorum is also on the defensive today. He's taking a lot of heat from his rivals for hinting that reelecting Barack Obama might -- might be preferable to electing Mitt Romney. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who is just going to be a little different than the person in there.
If they're going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have, instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Wow. Strong words.
Let's go live to our senior correspondent, Joe Johns. He's in Louisiana.
Joe, I take it Senator Santorum is backpedaling furiously today.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, he sort of had to, when you think about it, Wolf.
This was one of those situations where he said something and almost immediately the criticism began. Conservative blogs started going after him. The Romney campaign put out a press release, sent it out in e-mails, put it up on their Web site, all of this because in a nutshell when you talk to a Republican pollster as I did actually last night, they will tell you, look, when you look at the exit polls from all the primaries, from a bunch of states around the country, the conclusion is clear.
Republican voters are most concerned about getting a nominee who they think can beat President Obama. So when Santorum started backing away from these comments, he certainly blamed the media for pushing it out there, but he also issued a clarification. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANTORUM: I have said repeatedly and will continue to say, I will for whoever for the Republican nominee and I would work for him. Barack Obama is a disaster, but we can't have someone who agrees with him on some of the biggest issues of the day. And that's the problem with Governor Romney. He doesn't provide the clear choice that we need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: Meanwhile, the Romney campaign today was really trying to turn the corner to health care, which is such a big issue, of course, today being the anniversary of the president's health care plan and also realizing the fact that the health care plan is going to be debated before the Supreme Court next week.
Romney trying to distance himself from the president's health care plan, and also trying to sort of get on the record with a view toward the fall campaign should he become the nominee.
Listen to how he framed his argument in Metairie, Louisiana, earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They don't have any ceremony going on and the president is not giving speeches on Obamacare and that's for a reason. Most Americans want to get rid of it. And we're among those Americans. I want to get rid of it, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: The problem, of course, is that provision that was in the Romney health care plan in Massachusetts when he is governor which was very similar to the provision inside the Obama health care plan, that essentially requires taxpayers, people out there to pay for health insurance.
Both of those plans have that provision. And the question really is how you differentiate. Romney's trying to differentiate by saying, look, what happened in Massachusetts was a state-run plan. That's different from what the federal government is allowed to do under the Constitution.
The question is whether it flies to average people who really don't care who is doing the forcing when they're being forced to pay for health care -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe, the polls show that Santorum has a significant lead going into tomorrow's primary in Louisiana, where you are. What's the latest?
JOHNS: Well, that's very true, Wolf.
And it's pretty clear that Mitt Romney is just about through campaigning here in Louisiana. He's going out to California for the weekend. Rick Santorum is pushing a double-digit lead, according to the latest ARG poll.
So that's good news for Rick Santorum here. By the way, though, a recent national poll shows Romney with a big lead, Wolf.
BLITZER: Nationally, yes, it does, indeed. Thanks very much, Joe, for that.
Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, Santorum's comments about maybe Obama would be better than Romney, even though he's backpedaling today...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Furiously.
BLITZER: How much will it hurt him?
BORGER: I think it will hurt him a bunch, largely because Mitt Romney's campaign intends never to let people forget about it.
What they helpfully put out -- and Joe I think was referring to this -- was a whole bunch of press releases today referring to -- quote -- "Santorum's indifference to reelecting President Obama."
And they have helpfully put together all of the conservative comments about what Rick Santorum said because they believe, quite honestly, that it's the ultimate act of political treachery to say that you would rather have President Obama than any Republican nominee. That's kind of unacceptable. So try as he might to walk it back, it's kind of hard to walk backwards on a tightrope.
BLITZER: Yes, it's very hard.
BLITZER: And you have a great column on CNN.com.
BORGER: Thank you.
BLITZER: And you write this among other things, talking about how this Republican contest is different than in the past.
"First of all, the old-time power brokers don't have much to offer anymore. The political power within the GOP has moved away from the organized structure toward force fields, the populist guy in the street and the rich guys that can write multimillion-dollar checks."
How do you see all this playing out?
BORGER: Well, there are not any sort of smoke-filled rooms with the power brokers anymore because this has been a very obstreperous Republican primary season. The super PAC sugar daddies can write these checks and give people a reason to live.
So what we will see going on is not Mitt Romney sprinting across the finish line. Mitt Romney is going to crawl across the finish line and what's happening now is he's trying to get some of the establishment to come along with him and endorse him.
And we saw that this week with Jeb Bush. But it wasn't a full- throated, let's have a huge rally kind of endorsement. Conservatives don't really feel that way about Mitt Romney. They're about as enthusiastic and passionate about someone getting into an arranged marriage. They don't really love him, but they think he's the most electable.
BLITZER: That's a very important factor, electability.
Santorum though is showing absolutely no signs of giving up.
BORGER: No, he isn't. As Joe pointed out, he's probably going win in the state of Louisiana. Good for him, not so good for Newt Gingrich, who may get out after Louisiana.
BLITZER: We keep hearing that. But he's not getting out...
BORGER: And if you take a look at the Gallup poll that came out today, a national poll, again, among Republicans, you will see how well Mitt Romney is doing, 40 percent for Romney, 26 percent for Santorum, Gingrich 14 percent and of course Paul at 8 percent.
BLITZER: This is a national poll among Republicans.
BORGER: It is. It's a national poll of Republicans and Republican- leaning independents and what is key about this poll though is it's the first time we have seen any Republican candidate get to that 40 percent mark.
Remember when Mitt Romney was kind of stuck at 25 percent? Now he's up at 40. His lead is 14 points. It was at four points just a week ago. So you see the momentum building. My guess is April 24 is going to be a very big date because if Rick Santorum cannot win his home state of Pennsylvania, then I think they're going to have to reconsider how they go on.
If Rick Santorum wants to have a national career and maybe run again for the presidency, he can't be blamed for having the party lose in the fall election.
BLITZER: He's only in his mid-50s, so he's still a young.
BORGER: Young man.
BLITZER: He can run in four years, eight years, maybe 12 years. Who knows? Thanks very much.
President Obama is speaking publicly for the first time about the growing national controversy over the slaying of Trayvon Martin. The unarmed black teenager was shot by a neighborhood watch captain who has not been charged and it's sparking debate over Florida law. The president spoke at length about it earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, I'm the head of the executive branch and the attorney general reports to me, so I have got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we're not impairing any investigation that's taking place right now.
But, obviously, this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And, you know, I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local -- to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
So I'm glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what's taking place. I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen. And that means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. You know, if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us, as Americans, are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very moving comments from the president of the United States.
Trayvon Martin's parents, by the way, they are also reacting to what the president has said today. We will have details of that as well as mass high school walkouts in protest of the killing. That's coming up in our next hour.
Straight ahead, an announcement by North Korea stoking new tension as President Obama heads to South Korea and the demilitarized zone for a nuclear summit.
And an American Army officer murdered inside one of the most secure buildings in Afghanistan -- details coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was senseless. He was murdered just for trying to help. It just doesn't make any sense at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The U.S. Army sergeant being held for the murder of Afghan civilians is now formally charged. Sergeant Robert Bales is facing 17 counts of murder for the shooting rampage and he could get the death penalty.
The story certainly has dominated headlines out of Afghanistan recently. But less than a month ago, there was also shock at the murder of two American soldiers inside what was supposed to be one of the most secure buildings in Afghanistan. Now, the family of one of those men is speaking out about their grief and demanding answers.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick had a chance to speak to them.
Deb, what did they tell you?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, the man who was slain was a man of deep faith, a man of honor. He adored his family and he felt he was making a difference in Afghanistan. For his wife and four children, that makes this tragedy all of the more painful.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Like so many U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Major Robert Marchanti was serving his country. He came home too soon, laid to rest Arlington National Cemetery this week. His death under investigation by the U.S. Army and Afghan authorities.
Grieving wife Peggy is stunned her husband was killed inside Afghan's heavily fortified security headquarters. PEGGY MARCHANTI, MAJ. ROBERT MARCHANTI'S WIFE: It's senseless that he was murdered just for trying to help. It just doesn't make any sense at all.
FEYERICK: Major Marchanti and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel John Loftis were with the NATO team helping to transition Afghanistan to full Afghan control by 2014. As Kabul erupted in protest over the accidental U.S. burning of Koran, the two men worked together in their office.
P. MARCHANTI: I said, "Are you on lockdown?" He said, "Yes." So I said, "OK, you know, I love you. You are my life." And he wrote back, "You are my life, too," and then we said good-bye and that was our last conversation.
FEYERICK: Less than 12 hours later, a knock on the door of the Marchanti's Maryland home. Two uniformed officers came with the tragic news.
P.MARCHANTI: That he'd died from a single gunshot wound to the head.
FEYERICK: It's still unclear how the gunmen managed to leave the building and get past three checkpoints and multiple surveillance cameras.
P. MARCHANTI: Since it was a secure building, why wasn't it shut down so that he was caught before he left?
FEYERICK: The gunman still at large was identified as an intelligence specialist working for the Afghan police. No motive has been identified. With so much focus on the bad acts of soldiers like Staff Sergeant Robert Bales charged with 17 counts of murder in Afghanistan, Marchanti's children are confused.
AARON MARCHANTI, MAJ. ROBERT MARCHANTI'S SON: There was, you know, there's all this coverage of the horrible things that this man did, but what about the greatness that my father did over there for his country and representing the Army and what he did? To us, our dad was like Superman.
LEAH MARCHANTI, MAJ. ROBERT MARCHANTI'S DAUGHTER: We love him so much and we're so proud of him. I wish I would have told him more.
FEYERICK: Hundreds turned out to honor Major Marchanti, a teacher who loved his family, his country and the people he believed he was helping.
L. MARCHANTI: My dad loved those people and I don't even think they realize the loss that they have had, the Afghan people as well as our people.
P. MARCHANTI: When that man walked in there with that gun, he had no idea what he was taking from so many people, and what he was destroying. It was just totally senseless.
FEYERICK: The family has received hundreds of letters and e-mails from around the world, but it is this one, his wife clings to.
P. MARCHANTI: "My heart is right beside yours. I feel you here. I love my life with you."
FEYERICK: A life that ended too soon with many unresolved questions, why?
FEYERICK: And, Wolf, the gunman's whereabouts are apparently unknown. The manhunt, though, does continue -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Did you have a chance to speak to this family, Deb, about the whole war effort now? Have they revised, have they changed their attitudes whether or not the United States should even be there any longer in Afghanistan?
FEYERICK: You know, I really think that they felt that their husband, the father was really just there and he was working to make a difference, that he believed in the people, believed in what he was doing, believed in the mission, and there was the expectation that he was safe.
So in that sense, they felt OK. This is a good thing. Clearly, it didn't work out that way, and the big question is, why and how this gunman got into a building filled with police and security authorities. So that's under investigation. As far as the war effort, they don't know. They're dealing with their grief right now.
BLITZER: Yes. And my heart goes out to them, and I wish them only, only the best.
Thanks very much, Deb, for that report.
A planned rocket launch raising new tensions across Asia and all of the way to Washington. Now, a fragile deal with North Korea may simply be falling apart. The ramifications could be enormous.
And Vice President Joe Biden, he's naming names, he's going on the offensive, he's going off on the Republican presidential candidates. Paul Begala and John Feehery, they are standing by for our strategy session.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If any one of them get their hands on the White House, the keys of the White House, I promise you, you will see Medicare ended as you know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama takes off for South Korea just a few hours for a nuclear summit -- security summit with world leaders. It comes as North Korea is raising tensions by announcing plans to launch a satellite.
The North recently pledged to halt missile tests and nuclear activity in exchange for U.S. food aid. Now that deal could be in jeopardy and Japan is scrambling to prepare a brand new missile defense system.
CNN's Tom Foreman is watching all of this.
Tom, first of all, explain why the uproar is occurring over a North Korean satellite launch.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, because the concern is that if you're talking about a satellite launch, maybe that's not exactly what it is.
Let's look at the lay of the land here. Here's Seoul where the president will be going. Up here is the DMZ between the two countries. He'll also be going there. It's only 25 miles from Seoul to the border. Here is the border itself.
And look at what the North Koreans have that we know they have. They have Scud missiles. They also have Taepodong-1 missile and Taepodong- 2 missile. They have a long history of struggling to make these missiles do all that they might.
But look at the range from where we started here on what the Scud can do. If we can just get this to hold still to show you what the Scud range is. It spreads out about that far from the DMZ. So, that missile alone which we saw a lot of in various parts of the world has clearly the range to strike everywhere the president is going to be. That's one cause for concern. Beyond, that the Taepodong-1, which is less reliable, has a much bigger range, has caused concerns before. It was tested and taken it near Japan, that sort of thing.
And then the Taepodong-2, which is even more unreliable, is the one that has scared us so much up to this point in the world because if you look at this, all of the way over here, that would actually reach, if it works the way they wanted to, Alaska, Hawaii, even Oregon and Washington, places like that. That's been the concern.
But, Wolf, let's talk about that test next month because that's the one that really has people concerned. We have new pictures here from GOI of the facilities they have here, missile assembly plant. This on the northern western coast of North Korea. This down here is actually the launch facility. There's a closer image of that. You can see the shadow from the big launch tower.
Why does this concern people so much? Because researchers have said for some time that North Korea probably has material for between four to eight nuclear weapons. One Stanford researcher found that there are big weapons right now, too big to be carried on the missiles they already have.
But the concern is, when they say they're developing a satellite missile, that what they're doing is developing a stronger missile with better control and better range while secretly working on miniaturization of their nuclear warheads. Put the two together at some point and then, North Korea becomes a very, very different threat than it is right now. That's why there's so much concern about this. Not so much the concern of an immediate attack, but what are they working toward even as they say they're working with peaceful space technology.
BLITZER: Good explanation, Tom. Thanks very much. We'll, of course, cover the president's visit to Korea, South Korea and the DMZ. Meanwhile, the Vice President Joe Biden is coming out swinging and he's naming names again on the campaign trail as the campaign gets rather personal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: There is no daylight between governor Romney and Republican leaders on the most important issues facing this country, and not even Romney's Etch a Sketch can change that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us, our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist Paul Begala. He's a senior strategist for the Democratic fund-raising groups Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action.
Also with us, Republican strategist John Feehery. He's president of Quinn, Gillespie and Associates. Here's one of the associates.
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I am.
BLITZER: But his name isn't there. It's Quinn and Gillespie.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's even better.
BLITZER: I know those guys.
All right, let's talk a little bit about the Vice President Joe Biden. Unlike the president, he's really in full campaign mode right now. He's not afraid to mention the names Mitt Romney or whatever. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Make no mistake about it, the Republicans in Congress and their corner of Romney, Santorum and Gingrich, if any of them get their hands on the keys to the White House, I promise you, you will see Medicare ended as you know it.
Governor Romney supports cut, cap and balance, which is yet another demonstration that there is no daylight between Governor Romney and Republican leaders on the most important issues facing this country and not even Romney's etch-a-sketch can change that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you think? Is this just the beginning of a lot more of this?
BEGALA: Absolutely. That was like a news report. That was not even -- the former governor of Massachusetts.
BLITZER: That they want to end Medicare as we know it.
BEGALA: The Non Partisan Center for Budget and Policy parties took a look that this Romney-Ryan proposal on Medicare. Their words, not Joe Biden's, not Paul Begala's, their words would be the gradual demise of traditional Medicare.
It would replace it with a voucher system, which would raise costs for seniors by $6,000 by cutting taxes for millionaires like Mitt Romney. That is the Romney position on Medicare.
BLITZER: In his health care legislation, he wanted to cut Medicare spending over the next 10 years by $500 billion. That's not changing Medicare.
BEGALA: No, because it came out of Medicare advantage, which was the corporate welfare part of it. You haven't seen. It's been on the books for two years now. You have not seen Medicare beneficiaries.
FEEHERY: Let me say that it is a very clever tactic by Joe Biden because it is the two-year anniversary where they cut $500 billion out of Medicare, which is why senior citizens do not like the Obama administration.
If you look at polls, the seniors are saying no thanks to these guys. I don't think they will come around because I don't think they know for a fact that the president --
BLITZER: The Republicans called it medi scare.
FEEHERY: He cut it from providers and doctors and hospitals and also the Medicare --
BEGALA: Medicare advantage and the corporate welfare piece of this --
FEEHERY: Seniors love Medicare advantage and the fact of the matter that's why senior citizens have turned their backs on their administration and that's why Joe Biden's in Florida begging them to come back.
BLITZER: Politicians tamper with Medicare and Social Security for that matter at great risk?
BEGALA: Absolutely. But Mr. Romney doesn't want to tamper with it. He wants to destroy it. This is his stated position to shift it into a voucher tomorrow, which would be the slow demise of traditional Medicare, not to balance the budget even so he could get new tax cuts and they talk about it every day.
FEEHERY: If you want to take the choice, it was a bipartisan plan --
BLITZER: The Democratic senator, Biden supports a disaster?
FEEHERY: A good man and a democratic senator is the only Democrat who saves Medicare because senior citizens understand that Medicare is an important program and they want to stick around for a while and they don't touch it. You have to save it for the long term.
BEGALA: Fixing Medicare, sure. That's like the vet said he had to fix my dog Major. It does not help anymore and major regrets.
FEEHERY: They cut doctors and hospitals by $500 billion.
BLITZER: Entitlement spending which is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, that's a big chunk of the federal budget every year and something has got to be done if we want to start cutting the national debt.
BEGALA: And the worst thing we can do is destroy Medicare to give tax breaks to the rich, which is what Representative Ryan and Governor Romney want to do. That's their plan. The Ryan plan increases the debt because it gives so many tax breaks to oil companies and rich people. That's the plan. It takes from seniors and Medicare and gives to millionaires.
FEEHERY: It reforms the tax code so rich people don't get away from paying taxes.
BLITZER: It does cut the tax rate and it eliminates a lot of deductions.
BEGALA: I read his plan. There's not one deduction he eliminates by name. T here's not one exemption and one shelter. He names nothing not a dime --
FEEHERY: The very wealthy won't pay taxes right now and they will pay taxes under this plan. Everybody understands we need taxes.
BEGALA: As long as -- I'm for rich people paying more. And Mitt Romney's got his tax breaks.
FEEHERY: There are people who don't pay anything right now.
BLITZER: How worried should Republicans be? Even Donald Trump suggested this week that Republicans should worry that whenever they start talking about changing Medicare, the Democrats are going to pounce and it will be a very effective political campaign issue.
FEEHERY: Medicare is a very important program and the fact is that one side has a record of cutting Medicare and this is yet senior citizens have turned against the Obama administration and that's why Joe Biden is in Florida begging them to come back.
BEGALA: This is what I find, Republicans oppose Medicare when it was created and they voted against Medicare and they tried to dismantle it at every turn. Every time they get their hands, and Newt Gingrich when he was speaker and now Mitt Romney -- this is what keeps Republicans -- someone is getting Medicare.
FEEHERY: When I worked for the speaker with the prescription drug benefits and they were a very popular part of the program.
BLITZER: That would be the Speaker Dennis Hastern. Guys, good debate. I think we're going to have more of these debates in the weeks and months to come.
The Supreme Court gets ready to hear a major case that could change health coverage for all Americans, possibly change the presidential race. Kate Bolduan, Jeff Toobin, they are both standing by live.
Also, his heart was stopped for well over an hour. Now the young soccer player in England is literally back from the dead.
BLITZER: Certainly one of the most closely watched and critical Supreme Court cases of the year. Next week, the justices will hear the challenge to President Obama's Affordable Care Act.
The health care reform law he signed two years ago exactly this week. Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan has a preview. Kate, you're over at the Supreme Court. Set the scene for us. What can we expect?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'll tell you. There are some people here waiting, holding seats to hopefully get a seat inside the courtroom come Monday. That's how important this case is.
You'll recall the health care law is some 2,700 pages. It includes more than 450 provisions and it impacts every American and that's why it's really hard to overstate just how high the stakes are in this next Supreme Court battle.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): March 23rd, 2010, President Obama signs in law the signature achievement of his presidency, the Affordable Care Act. The landmark and controversial health care overhaul.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: After all the votes have been tallied, health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America.
BOLDUAN: Within hours, states across the country filed lawsuits challenging the law.
PAM BONDI, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is about liberty. It's not just about health care.
BOLDUAN: Led by Florida, 26 states argued the law central provision is unconstitutional, the so-called individual mandate. It requires almost every American to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.
Opponents say the constitution's commerce clause does not give Congress the power to force individuals to purchase a commercial product like health insurance they may not need or want. Paul Clement is arguing on behalf of the states before the Supreme Court.
PAUL CLEMENT, ATTORNEY FOR STATES CHALLENGING LAW: These issues are really central to whether the federal government can really regulate anything it wants to.
BOLDUAN: The government defends the sweeping reforms, arguing medical care is not a choice that every American will need health care at some point in their lives.
They also say that tens of millions of uninsured Americans are costing everyone else more, $43 billion in uncompensated cost in 2008 alone according to government figures.
ELIZABETH WYDRA, CONSTITUTIONAL ACCOUNTABILITY CENTER: No one is saying that there is a right to free load off a neighbor when you decide not choose health insurance.
BOLDUAN: The stakes only grow larger with the Supreme Court taking the case months before an election.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I'm president we're getting rid of Obamacare and returning to freedom.
BOLDUAN: And the election year blockbuster has again turned the spotlight on the justices themselves. As with the Bush versus Gore case in 2000, will the justices be criticized for letting politics creep into the courtroom?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The health care cases have huge political overtones. Obviously, I think the justices will put them to the side. The legal stakes are so high that I don't think they will pay attention that much if at all to the fact that it is occurring in election cycle. They have to get the case right.
BOLDUAN: And here's what we're talking about, Wolf, the justices will hear arguments on four separate issues. This will span six hours over three days. This rarely happens and shows just how important this case is.
As for how this could shake out, obviously so much speculation over that, the justices have many options. they can rule narrowly on the facts of this case or they could offer a sweeping road map for just how much power Congress should have going forward.
No matter what happens in these public sessions next week, we still will not have a final decision and a final ruling from the justices for probably three months -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Maybe June, we're at the hype of that campaigning for the general election and I know, Kate, you will be inside all three days hearing all of those arguments. We'll have a lot of coverage with you, thanks very much.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now into the Supreme Court showdown. Joining us our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff is an authority on the Supreme Court. Jeff, this whole idea of individual mandates, you write this in "The New Yorker" magazine and I'll put it up on the screen.
The president's supporting the constitutionality of the ACA, Affordable Care Act haven't changed, but the federal judiciary including the Supreme Court has as in the Senate, moderate Republicans helped sway for years the Supreme Court, but that species has vanished on both sides of first street. First Street is where the Supreme Court is. What's the point here that you're trying to make?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the point is that if you look at who really control the outcome of cases at the Supreme Court for many years, you had justices like Potter Stewart in the '70s and Lewis Powell in the '80s and of course, in the '90s and in the last decade, Sandra Day O'Connor who was so important.
And they represented a streak of moderate Republicans that's vanished. The people who were appointed, George W. Bush appointed justices who reflect his judicial philosophy. Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, these are conservative Republicans.
They are very honorable. They're very intelligent, but they bring a distinctive judicial philosophy that's very different from Justice O'Connor's.
BLITZER: You wrote a brilliant book entitled, "The Nine," about the justices of the Supreme Court. How influenced are they by public opinion as opposed to the law, shall we say, or the various rulings and precedents?
TOOBIN: I don't think they -- they are influenced by the people chanting out in front of the Supreme Court, but it's also important to remember they have judicial philosophies. Justice Ginsburg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a liberal Democrat.
That's how she sees the constitution. Antonin Scalia is a conservative Republican. That's how he sees the constitution and that doesn't make one right or wrong, but it certainly makes them very different.
They are going to look at this case differently as a result. So it's not a question of sort of shifting opinion because of politics, it's their politics that leads them to view the constitution in different ways and they are very likely to see this case in different ways.
BLITZER: very quickly because we're out of time, Jeff, but this is the case where we have four conservative justices and four liberal justices and one swing justice, Anthony Kennedy. Are you anticipating a 5-4 decision with Kennedy making the decisive vote?
TOOBIN: Well, that's certainly a possibility and certainly the four Democratic appointees will vote to uphold the law. I actually think that Chief Justice Roberts and perhaps even Justice Scalia and Justice Alito might hold Justice Kennedy in upholding the law. In striking this law down, it would really be a big change in constitutional law and I'm not sure this court is ready to do it.
BLITZER: Jeff, thanks very much. Jeff is going to be inside the Supreme Court as well hearing all those arguments and we'll check back with him, obviously.
An American woman makes a plea to the pope as he prepares to visit Cuba. She wants help from him, helping to free her husband in Cuba.
Plus, a red carpet attack on a reality TV star. What is that all over Kim Kardashian? We'll tell you.
BLITZER: The U.S. is resuming military aid to Egypt. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What happened, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton herself signed off on it despite the failure of its military leaders to usher in democracy. The State Department says the aid is in the best interest of U.S. national security.
The $1.3 billion doesn't actually go to Egypt. Instead it goes to U.S. firms with contracts to supply American equipment, weapons, training and services to the country.
T-Mobile says it is cutting 1,900 jobs as it struggles to stay competitive. The nation's fourth largest cell carrier is closing seven of its 24 call centers and it says more restructuring is in store. T-Mobile has been losing customers and is investing billions to play catch-up to rivals Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.
New rules will lead the National Counterterrorism Center keep information about Americans on file for up to five years. Up until now the data has had to be deleted after 18 months. The change was prompted by concern that the intelligence community failed to connect the dots from multiple databases about the so-called underwear bomber who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner in 2009.
And Kim Kardashian, well, she gets flour bombed. Take a look here. It happened at a red carpet in West Hollywood last night. An unidentified woman powdered the reality TV star apparently with cooking flour before she was grabbed by security.
Kardashian dusted herself off inside and later laughed off the incident calling it the craziest, unexpected weird thing that has ever happened to her. Still no reason on what the woman's motivation was there, but you can see there. BLITZER: That can be scary if someone throws white powder like that on you. It could be anthrax and could scare you. Is this woman under arrest?
SYLVESTER: You know, I don't know if she's under arrest. But I do know that, you know, this is something that we've seen lately. A lot of people are doing it. Do you remember the glitter on a lot of the politicians getting glitter bombed because they see it as a way of attracting interest to a given cause of some sort. We'll look into it.
BLITZER: Let me know.
SYLVESTER: I will.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Mexico in about an hour and Monday, he'll be heading over to Cuba, and the wife of an American held prisoner in Cuba is pleading to the pope to help set him free.
CNN's Erin Burnett is going out front on this story. Erin, you can see what's going on. I know you're going to be reporting extensively on this later tonight on your show.
But you spoke to the wife of Allen Gross, the American who has been held prisoner in Cuba for some time. What did she tell you?
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Well, it was pretty amazing. You know, Wolf, Judy and Allen Gross have been married for more than 40 years. Allen Gross was in Cuba in 2009 and he was jailed.
He had communications equipment. He has been in jail in a 15-year sentence and his wife has been fighting tirelessly for his return. She's been lobbying the White House. She's been lobbying the Vatican.
She even spoke to Senator Patrick Leahy who went to Cuba and spoke to RAFAEL CASTRO who said, look, Allen Gross is not a spy. Still, there's no guarantee that the pope will do anything on his behalf and whether or not he'll be released.
And I have to say it was a pretty powerful interview and here's what she said, Wolf, a little snippet about her advocacy and what this has been like emotionally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY GROSS, HUSBAND IMPRISONED IN CUBA: I hope it's very likely we haven't been told anything, but we've been working with the highest authorities of the church for quite a while now and we're very hopeful that he will intervene on Allen's behalf.
BURNETT: What emotion is the one that you feel the most? Is it frustration, sadness, loneliness or anger? GROSS: I'm very lonely. I miss Allen's companionship so much. I also -- I've never been an angry person before, but now I am. I have a lot of anger, which is very difficult for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The situation, Wolf, I guess it's impossible to imagine the things that can happen to disrupt their life. They've had 40 years of marriage. Allen Gross's mother is terminally ill. His daughter had had cancer. So we hope that this can be resolved, but we'll hear her entire story out front tonight.
BLITZER: Looking forward to it. Let's hope the pontiff can get him freed. A lot of people have gone to Cuba, tried and failed. Let's see if the pope can do it. Erin, we'll be watching at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.
BURNETT: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: He was dead for 78 minutes and lived to tell the story. We have details of a young soccer player's remarkable medical odyssey.
BLITZER: A young soccer player in England is literally back from the dead. He suffered cardiac arrest on the field. Doctors say he was actually dead for well over an hour. CNN's Athena Jones is following this remarkable story.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 48 minutes, doctors worked frantically to try to revive midfielder Fabrice Muamba after he collapsed went into cardiac arrest.
As 40,000 fans looked on, he was taken from the field and transported by ambulance to a London hospital. Doctors continued to try to save him for another 30 minutes. Muamba was in effect, dead for 78 minutes before they were able to restart his heart.
How could that happen? We asked Susan O'Donoghue a cardiac electrophysiologist, sometimes called the electricians of the heart at Washington Hospital Center.
(on camera): We understand that he did not respond to 15 separate defibrillator shocks. Explain to me how something like that is even possible for his heart to be restarted later.
DR. SUSAN O'DONOGHUE, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: I think it's extraordinary that his heart was ultimately restarted after such a long period and it may be that the heart rhythm was briefly brought back and then deteriorated again. In addition, he must have been getting very effective CPR.
JONES (voice-over): Muamba is still hospitalized, but his teammates say he's speaking in both French and English, answering questions and even joking. Progress some are calling astonishing. Dr. Donoghue agreed.
DONOGHUE: Even with very good CPR, it would be truly astonishing to have that quick a recovery after a prolonged period of continuing cardiac arrest.
JONES: She explained that without treatment a patient risks brain damage after just 7 minutes.
DONOGHUE: This is the type of defibrillator that we have generally in the hospitals.
JONES: It's clear that good CPR as well defibrillators, which we establish proper heart rhythm are key.
DONOGHUE: It allows the heart's own electrical system to restart in an organized way.
JONES: As for how long to work on a patient in distress, it comes down to the doctor's discretion.
DONOGHUE: I think you're less likely to give up when it's a young individual and you expect that it was something that might be reversible or treatable.
JONES: Now Muamba is breathing without a ventilator, but his doctors say his long-term prognosis isn't yet clear. Dr. O'Donoghue told us the next step will be figuring out why Muamba's heart suddenly stopped in the first place -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We wish him a speedy recovery. Athena, thank you.