Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Newt Gingrich; Interview With Mitt Romney; Supreme Court Takes up Healthcare Law; New Details in Trayvon Martin Case

Aired March 26, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: Happening now: three presidential candidates right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will go one-on-one this hour with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and then, in the next hour, my interview with Rick Santorum.

Also, history in the making, the Supreme Court taking up the president's sweeping health care law. It could affect how you get and pay for medical treatment and the impact on the presidential election as well.

Plus, President Obama has an Etch A Sketch moment of his own. He is caught on camera telling Russia's president how things will be different after the election. We have the video for you.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All that coming up, but, first, a campaign triple-header right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will interview three Republican presidential hopefuls today. The front-runner, Mitt Romney, is on deck, Rick Santorum will follow in the next hour.

But stepping up to the bat right now, the Republican presidential candidate, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is quite a show you have today. I'm impressed.

BLITZER: I'm impressed, too, I must say.

Let's start with you. Everyone seems to agree, I assume you agree as well that getting to the magic number of 1,144 for you right now before the convention is impossible. Do you agree with that?


Look, I think the front-runner's clearly Mitt Romney. Out of 10 million votes cast so far, he's only gotten four million. So he's the weakest front-runner in modern times. If he can get to 1,144, he's the nominee. But if he can't get to 1,144 on the 26th of June, the last primary, then it is going to be a wide-open electronic convention for 60 days of talking among the American people. And I think generally believe I'm the person who could best debate Barack Obama. And at that point, if Romney can't clinch it, I think it becomes pretty wide-open.

BLITZER: So you have absolutely no intention of dropping out of this race any time between now and the end of June, is that right?

GINGRICH: I think the morning that he gets 1,144 that are locked down, then I think he can claim to be the nominee. But until then, he's not the nominee.

Remember, I'm from Atlanta, where we were ahead by 10.5 games last with only 28 games to go, and the Cardinals didn't quit. Everybody wanted them to, but they just kept coming and they ended up winning. I think this is not over until it's over.

And, obviously, if he does become the nominee, I will support him. Beating Barack Obama is very, very important for this country. But if he doesn't win the nomination, then it's going to be wide-open and then we will have a discussion for those 60 days for who ought to be the right person to beat Barack Obama.

BLITZER: Some of your supporters, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, they're not happy that you're emerging as an almost spoiler candidate right now.

Let me play a little clip from one of your supporters who told us this. Listen to this.


CRYSTAL WRIGHT, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Just because I'm a Newt delegate does not mean that I'm not a realist. Newt Gingrich is going to have to step aside because he's only won two contests. The delegates aren't there for him. The math isn't adding up. And he's going to go down looking like a spoiler.


BLITZER: Some other of your supporters have said to me, given the legacy, given the history and what you have accomplished for the Republican Party in the United States, especially when you were speaker, they don't like this what they would see a demeaning of what they're doing right now in challenging Mitt Romney to the bitter end.

What do you say to these folks?

GINGRICH: I say to them the same thing that Hillary Clinton would have said in 2008 when she was taking on Barack Obama.

That ran all the way to mid-June, and only when he had finally the votes did he have the votes. This is a contest. Governor Romney spent six years, $40 million of his own money. He has outspent the rest of us by huge margins, and he's gotten four million out of 10 million votes. There is no obligation to concede it to him. If he can win it, more power to him. If he doesn't win it, then June, July and August become very interesting months.

BLITZER: But you will concede that Rick Santorum has a better chance than you do?

GINGRICH: But he doesn't have a guaranteed lock anymore than I do or Romney does. You have a whole new conversation if we end up on the 27th of June with no one having 1,144 votes.

BLITZER: Are you at all worried about your legacy, your reputation?


Look, first of all, I wasn't worried last June, which you remember well, Wolf, when almost everybody in the media said I was dead. It didn't worry me a bit because I knew it wasn't true.

I represent a number of very big ideas, an American energy policy to make us independent so that no Saudi king ever again has an American president bow to him, $2.50 or less for gasoline, personal Social Security savings account for young people, replacing the Environmental Protection Agency with a brand-new environmental solutions agency.

There are a number of big ideas. And just as I have in my whole career, I'm in the position of Reagan trying to develop big solutions that I think will really solve the country's problems. And frankly I think if you look at the president for the last few weeks, we have done a pretty good job of getting him answering me on energy, a better job than either Romney or Santorum has done.

And I'm going to continue going after the president on his energy party because it is going to dramatically hurt the American people and it dramatically weakens the U.S.

But I'm also going to go after him about this new tape you have today in which the president, in a very cynical way, says to the Russians, why don't you wait until I get reelected before I sell out our missile defense program? I just need to get past the election and then I have a lot more flexibility.

I'm curious, how many other countries has the president promised that he will have a lot more flexibility the morning he doesn't have to answer to the American people?

BLITZER: We're going to get to that later.

But let me ask you this question, because you have clearly irritated the White House and the Obama reelection campaign with these comments you made the other day after the president himself showed some empathy for the Trayvon Martin family when he said that if he would have had a son, he probably would have looked a little bit like Trayvon Martin. This is what you said. Listen to this.


GINGRICH: Is the president suggesting that if it would have been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it wouldn't look like him? That is just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot.


BLITZER: David Plouffe, the president's senior adviser, was on Candy Crowley's "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday and he responded to your comments with these.


DAVID PLOUFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Those two comments are really irresponsible. I would consider them reprehensible. I think those comments were really hard to stomach really and I guess trying to appeal to people's worst instincts.


BLITZER: I'm going to give you a chance to respond.

What was wrong with what the president actually said, showing some empathy for that family?

GINGRICH: I think he should show empathy for that family. I think he should show empathy for any family that loses a child.

I think every single American of every background is endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, which is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We should be concerned -- my only point was we should be concerned about any young American of any background who ends up getting killed.

I think all of us should reach out with our heart for any young American. And I think's my only point in response to that. I stick with what I said. I am concerned.

You know, Callista visited a cancer ward at the Tulane Children's Hospital the other day. She was dealing with very young children. She came back and she was describing to me 3-year-olds with leukemia. She didn't describe them by any kind of background. They were children. They were children suffering from a terrible disease and our heart went out to every child.

That's the only point I was making, that I think we should be concerned about children of every background, and all too often we're not.

BLITZER: On the news of the day, the arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the health care law and the mandates, at one point, and you well remember, way back in the '90s, you supported those kinds of mandates after the Heritage Foundation came out with a study.

I assume at that time, you thought federal mandates requiring people to buy health insurance was in fact constitutional.

GINGRICH: Well, I always said that there had to be an opt-out clause for people who felt that it was inappropriate, that they had to have other ways of meeting their financial responsibilities and you could not require everyone -- I always felt strongly that there had to be a libertarian opt-out clause.

There is no such opt-out in Obamacare. It is an effort to coerce every single American. I think that in that sense, it is -- my guess is they're going to find it unconstitutional. And the only question will be whether they recognize that there's no severability clause because it was rammed through without any kind of amendments in conference because they had lost Teddy Kennedy's seat in the Senate in a special election.

If the court holds to the strict ruling and they decide the mandate is unconstitutional, with no severability clause, that would make the entire bill unconstitutional. That would truly be a historic decision.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

GINGRICH: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you. We will see you out on the campaign trail.

Mitt Romney is coming up next. I will ask the Republican front- runner to react to some of the criticism from Newt Gingrich. We will also talk about the president's "caught on camera" moment looking past the election, if in fact he is reelected, lots to discuss with Mitt Romney.

Also, I will go one-on-one later with Rick Santorum. Is he losing his cool right now? I will ask him about cursing at a reporter, if he plans to apologize -- that interview coming up in our next hour.

We also have rare audio from inside the U.S. Supreme Court, history in the making today, tomorrow and Wednesday, as the justices take up the president's health care law.


BLITZER: We just heard from Newt Gingrich. I will speak with Rick Santorum in our next hour.

But, right now, let's turn to the Republican presidential front- runner, joining us, the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

Governor, thanks very much for coming in.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you. BLITZER: The president of the United States is in South Korea right now, had a meeting with the Russian leader Medvedev, and he was heard with an open mike -- it's always dangerous for these politicians or leaders to be talking near an open mike.

He was heard saying this to Medvedev, the Russian president. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.

DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT: I understand you. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.


BLITZER: All right, in case you didn't hear it: "This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility."

That is a factual statement that the president is making. If he doesn't have to worry getting reelected, he doesn't have to worry so much about domestic politics.

Is there anything wrong in -- when in comes to national security issues, to be saying something like that to the Russian leader?

ROMNEY: Yes, there's something terribly wrong with that.

It is alarming. It is troubling. The agreement that the president put in place with regards to nuclear weapons is one which I find very, very troubling already. The decision to withdraw our missile defense sites from Poland put us in greater jeopardy, in my view. The actions he's taken so far which he says are to reset relations with Russia have not worked out at all.

Russia continues to support Syria, supports Iran, has -- has fought us with the crippling sanctions we wanted to have the world put in place against Iran. Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage, and for this president to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia is very, very troubling, very alarming. I'm very, very concerned. I think the American people are going to feel the same way. This is a president who is telling us one thing and is doing something else, and is planning on doing something else even more frightening.

BLITZER: Well, when you say even more frightening, what he's planning on doing in your opinion?

ROMNEY: Well, my guess is it has to do either with nuclear arms discussions, or it has to do with missile defense site. What he did both on with nuclear weaponry already and the new START treaty, as well as his decision to withdraw missile defense sites from Poland, and reduce our missile defense sites in Alaska from the original plan. I mean, these are very unfortunate developments and if he's planning on doing more and suggest to Russia that he has things he's willing to do with them he's no willing to tell the American people, this is to Russia this is without question our number one geopolitical foe, they fight every cause for the world's worst actors, the idea that he has some more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.

BLITZER: You think Russia is a bigger foe right now than, let's say, Iran or China or North Korea, is that what you're suggesting, Governor?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation which aligns with the world's famous actors. Of course, the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran and nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough, but when these terrible actors pursue their course in the world and we go to the United Nations looking for ways to stop them, when Assad for instance is murdering its own people, we go to the United Nations and who is it that always stands up for the world's worst actors, it is always Russia, typically with China alongside.

And so, in terms of a geopolitical foe, a nation that's on the Security Council, that has the heft of the Security Council, and is, of course, a massive nuclear power, Russia is the geopolitical foe, and their -- and the idea that our president is planning on doing something with them that he's not willing to tell the American people before the election is something I find very, very alarming.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the Supreme Court and the arguments being heard today on whether or not the health care law is in fact constitutional. Your opponent, Rick Santorum, he is really going after you big time. Over the weekend, he said this, listen to this quote.

I'll read it to you because we don't have the actual sound bite. He said this, "Why would we put someone 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?" He says because of your record in implementing health care reforms with state mandates in Massachusetts, that whole issue is neutralized, and in his words because of that you would be the worst Republican in the country to put up against President Obama.

I want to give you a chance to respond to Santorum.

ROMNEY: I'm not going to worry too much about what Rick is saying these days. I know that when you're following further and further behind, you get a little more animated.

But the truth of the matter is that I have been able to connect with the American people. As you go across this country, you're seeing more and more enthusiasm for my candidacy, and the recognition on the part of the American people that we have to replace President Obama. And one big difference between the two of us is that if I'm elected president, I will repeal Obamacare, and I'll stop it in its tracks on day one, I believe its unconstitutional, I believe the court will find it unconstitutional.

And one more thing I'll tell you about it -- we can't afford trillions of dollars of new spending. It's a power grab by the federal government. It violates the Tenth Amendment. It violates the economic principles of economic freedom in this country. It's wrong. It needs to be repealed.

BLITZER: Why is it OK for states to have health insurance mandates but not the federal government?

ROMNEY: Well, first of all, it's a matter of constitutional direction. States have the power to provide mandates if they wish to do so. The federal government does not.

But number two, we're talking about trillions of dollars of federal spending. And we can't afford more spending. In the case of my state, there was no new tax that was required.

In the case of Obamacare, he's put in place $500 billion of new taxes -- $500 billion of Medicare cuts and then, of course, he is planning on stepping in and telling people what kind of insurance they have to have. Ultimately, I believe he's going to insist upon telling people what kind of treatment they can receive.

It's a bad piece of legislation. The American people know it. That's why we're going to repeal it.

BLITZER: David Plouffe, the president's senior advisor, was on television yesterday and he said flatly, that you, Mitt Romney, in his words, you're the godfather of the president's health care. You want to respond to David Plouffe?

ROMNEY: Well, I think we said that he's the Rumpelstiltskin of the new campaign. He's trying to turn a straw into gold. It's just not going to work for them. I'm going to make it very clear that as someone who knows a lot about health care, and who cares about the American people having health insurance, that the way they went about it, with their 2,700-page bill and trillions of dollars of new spending is absolutely wrong.

The wrong course is for the federal government to take over health care from the states, from the physicians, and from the people of America.

BLITZER: I'll leave it with this little cute note, Governor. Your son Matt tweeted this over the weekend, "My dad's finally getting a little R&R this weekend. Pic here at the movies today with me and my kids."

You went to see "The Hunger Games", how did you like that film?

ROMNEY: I enjoyed it. I actually read the books, too. You know, I read serious books, but every now and then I read just for fun. And that was -- that was weekend fun. So it was nice to be able to see a flick for the first time in a long time.

BLITZER: It's PG-13, is it a little bit too violent, though, for young kids?

ROMNEY: I think -- I think it's a little bit to disturbing for young kids. I think the PG-13 is an indication of the seriousness of the film, but I'm over 13 now.

BLITZER: But you went with young kids, didn't you.

ROMNEY: Just about that age.

BLITZER: Yes. OK, all right, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Glad you had a little free time, Governor. Thanks very much for coming in.

ROMNEY: Thank you. Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Former Governor Mitt Romney joining us here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

Rick Santorum, he's going to be joining me as well. I'll go one-on-one with him in the next hour. You'll hear him use some rather nasty language at a reporter. I'll ask him if he's losing his cool out there on the campaign trail.

And you'll also hear what it was like inside the Supreme Court today. We have some very rare audio as the justices take up the president's health care reform law.


BLITZER: In a landmark case, the United States Supreme Court today began arguments on the president's sweeping health care overhaul. The outcome could have an extraordinary impact on your medical treatment. Also on the presidential election.

CNN's congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan and our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, they were both inside the country today. You're going to hear what it was like. We have rare audio from the proceedings.

Kate, first to you, though.

The court began today by trying to decide if it actually has jurisdiction to handle this case right now. What did they -- what did they question? What was the issue here?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was a legally dense issue, admittedly pretty dry, Wolf. More than hundred people were outside lining up very early to try to get some of the very limited seats for the public. There are also big names with the Obama administration in the courtroom, like Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and even members of Congress I saw in there as well.

But this was the kickoff, if you will. But we're kind of talking about it as more of a dress rehearsal to the main event that would come tomorrow.

The question before the justices today, they're taking a look at whether they should have been hearing this case now, before, and that's because many of the main provisions of this law don't go into effect until 2014. What we're talking about is that individual mandate, requiring that most Americans have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

This was an issue that was brought up in the lower courts as it relates to a 19th century tax law and the justices felt obligated to address this issue, though they made pretty clear in signaling in the court that they didn't really buy into that argument, if you will.

Listen here to some rare audio that we were getting from the courtroom from Justice Breyer and Justice Scalia, who seem to reflect what appears to be the majority of the justices that they're ready to move on to the big event tomorrow. Listen here.


STEPHEN BREYER, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Congress has nowhere used the word "tax", what it says is penalty. Moreover, this is not in the internal revenue code, but for purposes of collection. And so, why is this a tax?

And I know you point to certain sentences that talk about taxes within the code. And this is not attached to a tax. It is attached to a health care requirement.

ANTONIN SCALIA, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: If it's not jurisdictional, what's going to happen is you're going to have an intelligent federal court deciding whether you're going to make an exception. There will be no parade of horribles because no federal courts are intelligent. It seems to me it's a question you can't answer.


BOLDUAN: As you can see there, the justice is addressing it in two different ways, but they're talking about the difference between a tax and a penalty. And they're talking about jurisdiction.

The question was: should they even be hearing this case now since the main provisions don't go into effect until 2014? It seems pretty in court. And I'm sure Jeff will agree with me, that the justices don't see any barriers to moving on to the big constitutional questions where all eyes are focused now on two hours of oral arguments tomorrow on the constitutionality of that individual mandate, Wolf.

BLITZER: They agree that jurisdiction is their right now than to hear about the mandate's arguments tomorrow and then Wednesday. More -- Kate is going to be busy lady over these next several days. Thank you very much.

Jeffrey Toobin is our senior legal analyst. He's here.

You listen to all these arguments today, the first day, a lot of procedural stuff.


BLITZER: But you agree with Kate that it looks like they're going to accept the jurisdiction, and they're not going to just punt right now and say, "You know what? We got to wait until the entire aspect of the reform law takes in effect in 2014."

TOOBIN: That's right. One possibility going into these arguments was that the court was simply going to kick the can down the road. After listening to the justices today, I thought that all eight who spoke, Clarence Thomas didn't speak. He has spoken in more than six years. But all eight who spoke gave a clear signal that they think this is a time to reach the case on the merits, that there's no reason to delay.

BLITZER: Did you get any other hints from these eight justices who did speak, where this is moving, where they stand? And I know you are sort of like criminologist looking for hints in the old Soviet Union.

TOOBIN: Yes, I mean, the little bit on the merits that you got was -- there are basically two justifications under the Constitution that the Obama administration used. One is the Commerce Clause, which is the part of the Constitution that the government relies on to do most economic regulation. There was no discussion of that. But there was also --

BLITZER: There will be tomorrow.

TOOBIN: There will be tomorrow a great deal. There's also the taxing power. And both Justice Breyer, Justice Ginsburg and Justice Alito -- so across the ideological spectrum -- indicated a certain amount of suspicion of the taxing power justification for this law.

So I think the case tomorrow is very much going to be focused on the -- on the commerce clause of Article 1 of the Constitution, that's been the basic ground for most laws and since the New Deal, and that's what they'll really going to have to talk about tomorrow.

BLITZER: Because of this tax thing, when they -- when it was being fought in Congress, the president insisted this was not a new tax, but later the administration in arguing it before the court said it is a new tax. So what is it?.

TOOBIN: And Alito made the point that, today you're arguing that this is not a tax. But tomorrow, you're going to argue that it is a tax. So I mean, they -- the Obama administration does have a problem, at least a public relations problem, about whether this is a tax or not.

And I think we're going to spend most of tomorrow on the key issue of the commerce clause, because that's really what this case has been about from the beginning. And, you know, we'll see how it checks out.

BLITZER: Because if it is a tax, the federal government is allowed to tax people.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And there are very few limits on the federal government's power to tax people. But as you point out, that's politically dicey to admit that, and this doesn't really look like a tax, it's a much -- you know, it's a 2,500-page bill, as we know. It's not all about taxes.

The penalties are only a small part of it. It's really about the commerce power, which is the power that underlies Medicare, Medicaid and all of the federal government's efforts.

BLITZER: All of us will be in a better position Wednesday, after all the arguments are done, to get a sense of where these justices stand. But we're -- we don't have that sense yet.

TOOBIN: Yes, they don't play poker, they really let you know what they're thinking. So we should know a lot more by Wednesday.

BLITZER: I'll be covering it. Thanks very much, Jeff Toobin.

Is Rick Santorum losing his cool? I'll go one-on-one with the Republican presidential candidate. In our next hour I'll ask him about some of the nasty language he used to a "New York Times" reporter. And Santorum is slamming Mitt Romney, calling him "uniquely disqualified" to oppose the Obama health care law. That's coming up on in our "Strategy Session."

And new details emerging right now about the Trayvon Martin case, and why he had been suspended from school at the time of his death.


BLITZER: All right. Let's get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala; and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin. She's also a CNN contributor.

Mary, do you agree with Rick Santorum that Mitt Romney is uniquely disqualified to beat President Obama because, as Santorum says, he supported the mandates for health care reform?

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, it's a concern among -- has been a concern among primary voters, and that's good for Santorum to keep pitching Romney. He needs that pitch, he needs to hit it. And every time he takes the pitch and hits it like he did with you, forcefully, he improves his performance on it.

He gave you five great reasons, right out of the box without hesitation, why his health care program in Massachusetts was different from ObamaCare, he repeated that he wanted to repeal it. And he threw in a funny line about Rumpelstiltskin. So he needs to keep getting that pitch in. It keeps getting better, so it works for everybody in this thing. BLITZER: Is he getting it to be a stronger candidate with each speech week and month? Do you agree with that, Paul?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No. And I guess I have a right to -- I hate to -- I know how hard it is to run for president, but you would think by this point he would have an answer down on this, and he doesn't, because he can't. Senator Santorum is right, he's simply right.

ObamaCare was based on RomneyCare, which, as you pointed out to the Speaker, was based on Newt Gingrich's individual mandate, which he took from The Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank here in Washington.

In fact, when Governor Romney said you -- Wolf, I made a note -- that mandate violates our economic freedom, except when I did it in Massachusetts. He's incoherent on it. He will be unable to exploit the issue of ObamaCare versus RomneyCare and Santorum's simply right. He's just right. I mean, I don't think Governor Romney makes a lot of sense when he plays defense on RomneyCare.

BLITZER: But when Romney says it's one thing for a state to impose a mandate, Paul, it's a very different thing for the federal government to force people to purchase health insurance. Do you disagree that that's not a fair point that he's making?

BEGALA: Well, of course it's a distinction without a difference. And Governor Romney called on the federal government to impose a mandate, a universal mandate. He called for that when he was campaigning the last time.

So he's for a national mandate, he's for ObamaCare, and when he says he's not, it's just doing that Etch-a-Sketch thing, and he's trying to just kind of wipe out what he carved into stone. But it's there, believe me. We have the videotape.

Our viewers should know, I advised the pro-Obama super PAC and I can promise Governor Romney, we have the tape of him calling for a national individual mandate on health care.

BLITZER: He told Jim Acosta something along those lines. We have the videotape as well.

And David Plouffe, Mary, yesterday, the president's senior advisor, he basically said that Romney is the godfather -- he said it flatly -- the godfather of the president's health care reform law. I guess he's already trying to neutralize this entire issue if, in fact, Romney is the Republican nominee.

MATALIN: He -- and Mitt Romney cleverly called him Rumpelstiltskin. If you didn't have any kids, I don't know how you could keep score in this campaign between Etch-a-Sketch and Rumpelstiltskin and all that, these references.

But Romney did a good job with you, Wolf. He was very clear, there is a giant, giant fundamental difference between the reach of the federal government and what states are allowed to do -- it's called constitutionally premised. He has to keep doing it. He will keep doing it. He cannot say enough he wants to repeal ObamaCare.

And when we're in the fall campaign, this is going to be as much as the Obama people want to not talk about ObamaCare. They didn't put it in their State of the Union except for 44 words, there -- that -- this is a big divide.

And it transcends health care. And he'll do fine on it. And he'll be able to speak from a fountain of experience and information and wisdom because he does have experience with it in Massachusetts, as a governor. And they have a different set of what control -- what is controlling -- a legal controlling authority for them than the president does, who has violated the Constitution.

BLITZER: Paul, there was an awkward moment for the President of the United States in South Korea today, meeting with Medvedev, the Russian leader, caught on an open mike, basically saying to the president -- the president saying to the Russian leader, look, just bear with me, because if I'm re-elected, once I'm reelected, I'm not going to have to worry about running again. I'll be able to do things differently after the election.

You know, Michael Kinsley used to say a gaffe in Washington is when someone inadvertently tells the truth. How awkward of a moment is this for the president?

BEGALA: Well, I think they should just embrace it. In other news, water is wet. Second term presidents have more flexibility.

Ronald Reagan in his first term called the Soviet Union the evil empire. In his second term, he put his arm around the Soviet leader and negotiated a deal to eliminate all of ours and the Soviet Union's intermediate range ground-based nuclear missiles. Second term presidents have more flexibility.

What's interesting is that Governor Romney, who had several hours to prepare for his interview with you, Wolf, according to my notes at least, said Russia is without question, our number one geopolitical foe. And then I -- you did a great job of committing journalism, and saying, well, wait a minute, time out, Governor. What about North Korea, what about Iran?

So when -- with this -- you know, Governor Romney's experience in foreign policy -- to make an excuse for him -- has consisted so far of visiting the Swiss bank account where he keeps his money. But that's about all he knows.

MATALIN: Romney did a particularly good job on those security and diplomatic issues, and what he said clearly in context, Paul, Wolf, was that when we have been facing these issues, whether it be Iran's nuclear capacity, or Syria, it is that -- on the council, they sit on the council and they vote against our interests.

They have not been geopolitical partners. You can call it a faux, you can call it whatever. They certainly have been acting in their interests, not ours. And the president, not wanting to reveal -- it's hide and seek; let's use another kid name -- kid game.

He does not want to tell the voters what his missile defense policies are, when he said he was going to reset the relationship with Russia during his campaign at the outset of his administration. And he wants to do something after he's elected. That's why the press is rightly all on top of this. This was the Etch-a-Sketch moment.

BLITZER: Guys, we'll leave it on that note. Thanks very much to Mary and Paul for joining us.

Rick Santorum is certainly taking some heat right now for lashing out at a reporter, who he says took his speech out of context. Get this: says Mitt Romney fed that line to the reporters, in my interview with Rick Santorum coming up right at the top of the hour.

Plus new details emerging about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, including an illegal substance that caused him to get suspended from school.


BLITZER: New details emerging about the slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. We're learning he was in Sanford, Florida, because he had been suspended from his high school because marijuana residue had been found in his book bag.

And there are now reports that martin may have initiated the violence, including slamming George Zimmerman's head repeatedly into the ground. David Mattingly is on the scene for us in Sanford.

What's going on down there, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the city of Sanford is confirming to us that they provided information to the state's attorney who was handling this case that it was Trayvon Martin who started the violent encounter by punching George Zimmerman in the face, knocking him down, jumping on top of him and then banging his head on the sidewalk.

That's what police in an unauthorized release gave "The Orlando Sentinel" today, and the city not happy about that information getting out, saying they're launching an investigation as well to find out where it came from. And the person who told the newspaper that just might get fired because of it.

But when we approached the family of Trayvon Martin's and their representatives with this information, they felt like it was an attempt to perhaps demonize Trayvon Martin.

They said if you listen to the 9-1-1 tapes, and if you pay attention to the phone call that Trayvon Martin was engaged in with a teenaged girl at the time that he encountered George Zimmerman, then they say that that casts a different light on this confrontation, and that Trayvon was not the aggressor.

So not only are they saying that it's inaccurate, they are saying that it's irrelevant right now because of the way this whole case started. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely believe they're inaccurate, based on the 9-1-1 tapes, he's chasing Trayvon. Their phone call is 7:12. That's when the incoming call came in. We gave you the phone records. And it clearly says she called him at 7:12, she talks four minutes.

At 7:17, the police get there, Trayvon is shot and killed on the ground. She connects the dots as to what happened. She hears the encounter between Trayvon and Zimmerman. She's the last one to hear Trayvon Martin alive, and she connects the dots.


MATTINGLY: Wolf, we have known for weeks now that Trayvon Martin was staying here in Sanford with his father's girlfriend because he had been suspended from classes. We didn't know exactly the reason why. Today the family confirmed that he was suspended because they searched one of his bags and found an empty plastic bag with marijuana residue inside of it.

They said they didn't go public with that information because they felt that that was irrelevant to what was happening here.

They didn't want people to be attacking their son when they say that they believe that the true person who needs to be attacked here is George Zimmerman. But again, a lot of information coming out today that casts a different light on how that violent confrontation may have actually happened, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, David, I understand there's going to be a public meeting coming up very soon, a lot of people expected to attend?

MATTINGLY: That's right, for about the last 15 minutes in the road beside me, we were watching people, shoulder to shoulder, across the highway, walking toward this venue behind me, the civic center, only about 500 people could get inside earlier today.

Three hours before this was supposed to take place, there were people lining up, there were hundreds of people lined up outside to get into that meeting. The people who cannot, they will gather in a nearby park for an overflow crowd, where they will watch this meeting take place on some large television screens that have been set up.

But this is all about giving the public an opportunity to vent what is on their mind about this case. And believe me, there's so much here that resonates with so many people on a personal level, city officials here are going to be hearing a lot and it's going to be emotional, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch with you, David, thank you, David Mattingly on the scene at Sanford.

Meanwhile, the United States Supreme Court is set to decide the future of our nation's health care. Not everyone is necessarily looking forward to the outcome.


ELIZABETH COHEN, SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you worried about what the Supreme Court might do?

JULIE WALTERS, VIOLET'S MOTHER: I'm really scared, very scared, like I can't sleep scared.

BLITZER: So why is that mother so scared? We'll explain. That's coming up.

Also President Obama said something on an open microphone that Republicans are immediately pouncing on. How much will this hurt his re-election efforts, if at all?

And Rick Santorum reacting to his own on-camera anger, that's coming up in my one-on-one interview.


FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've been saying it in every speech, quit distorting my words. If I see it, it's (INAUDIBLE). Come on, man, what are you doing?


BLITZER: The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama's sweeping health care law. But as the nine justices tackle the complicated case, one family waits in fear for the ruling. CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has the story.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These nine Supreme Court justices will for everybody effect the life of 3-year-old Violet McManus.

COHEN: Are you worried about what the Supreme Court might do?

WALTERS: I'm really scared, very scared, like I can't sleep scared.

COHEN (voice-over): Violet's mother, Julie, knows if the justices overturn health care reform, Violet will lose her health insurance.

COHEN: Tell me why it's scary for you.

Walters: Our daughter could die and there's just nothing we could do about it.

COHEN (voice-over): Violet was born healthy. Then when she was 11 months old, she had her first seizure.

Walters: Our daughter was completely blue in her crib and shaking.

COHEN (voice-over): It was epilepsy. When seizures strike, Violet stops breathing, as many as 30 times a day.

COHEN: So she's -- she has three drugs and she has an alarm system and she has oxygen.

Walters: Yes.

COHEN: I mean, this all gets expensive.

COHEN (voice-over): Violet has health insurance through her dad, Matt's, work.


COHEN (voice-over): It's paid for her care, including several long, expensive hospitalizations. And that's why the McManus family will be watching the Supreme Court decision so closely.

If the court gets rid of health care reform, their insurance company could stop paying for Violet's care in as soon as two years because she will have met her lifetime limit on benefits.

COHEN: If you could channel your thoughts and wishes to the Supreme Court justices, what would you tell to them?

MCMANUS: If I could say anything to them, I would say, just imagine it happening to your daughter, because it can happen to anyone, so you never -- you never know. Life changes.

COHEN: The Supreme Court could do several things with this decision, one, they could keep health care reform intact 100 percent. Two, they could overturn it 100 percent, or they might keep parts of it intact and overturn other parts of it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, a lot's at stake, obviously, in what these nine justices are about to decide, appreciate it very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, Rick Santorum, I'll go one-on- one with the Republican presidential candidate. And I'll ask him about his use of some crude language in a confrontation with a reporter.

SANTORUM: Any good conservative who hasn't had a flare-up with "The New York Times" isn't worth their salt.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a huge day for Cuba.

Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN REPORTER: Yes, a lot of folks excited over there. Well, it's the day Catholics in Cuba have been anticipating for months.

Pope Benedict XVI has arrived for a three-day trip. He'll start in Santiago then head to the capital of Havana to celebrate mass on Wednesday. The pop has been vocal about more than religion recently. He says Cuba's political system, quote, "no longer corresponds to reality."

Three NATO service members are dead in Afghanistan. And all three appear to have been killed by Afghan authorities. NATO says two British troops were shot to death by an Afghan soldier in Helmand Province.

And another member whose nationality is not yet known was killed by Afghan police at a security checkpoint. Ninety-three coalition forces have now died in Afghanistan this year.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being questioned about his involvement in a French prostitution ring. It's the latest in a string of sexual allegations against the former head of the International Monetary Fund. Strauss-Kahn's lawyer acknowledged that his client attended sex parties, but that he was unaware the women in attendance were prostitutes.

And a strong rally for the stock market today, after comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke about the job market.

Bernanke says it's not certain that the pace of hiring can be sustained and suggested the Fed will keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future. Well, that helped send the Dow up 161 points, and the Nasdaq and S&P 500 also rose more than 1 percent today. So good news on that front, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very good news on Wall Street. Thank you, Lisa.