Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Health Care Reform in Danger?; Deadly Distracted Driving; Obama's Microphone Mishap; Out-of-Control Fire In Colorado; Rockets Launched to Study Jet Stream; Pope Lands In Havana, Cuba; Rowling Launches Potter E-Books; Slain Teen's Parents Make Emotional Plea

Aired March 27, 2012 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: Happening now: One of the most important Supreme Court hearings in years shows the justices are deeply divided and the president's health care reform law may be in huge trouble right now, what it could mean for you.

Also, it's been a bitter and nasty fight for the nomination. Have Republicans, though, had enough? Our new CNN poll shows most would like to see two of the candidates quit the race.

And many of you talk or text or tweet while driving, even though you shouldn't. We're going to show you just how deadly distracted driving can be.

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

It may be the most critical Supreme Court case since the justices ruled on the 2000 presidential election, but now the Obama administration's health care reform law is under close scrutiny.

In a dramatic hearing today, the court appeared deeply split. Conservative justices are showing deep skepticism about the individual mandate, which would require people to buy health insurance.

CNN's congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan and CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin were both inside the court today for the hearing.

Kate, let's start with you. Is the health care law in serious jeopardy right now?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I will tell you, Wolf, you never know how much the oral arguments in the courtroom will in the end reflect the final opinion of the court, but straight out of the gate today, the lawyer for the Obama administration was the one on the defensive.

And while the justices can and do surprise us, quite frankly, from being in the courtroom today, it does appear that the key provision of the health care law, the individual mandate, it does appear that it is in trouble.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: High drama outside the Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's what we say to Obamacare.

BOLDUAN: But the real action was inside the courtroom as the justices examined the key question in the historic health care case. Is the individual mandate constitutional?

The argument did not appear to go well for the Obama administration and its supporters. Even swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed skeptical, signaling the law goes too far.

ANTHONY KENNEDY, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The government is saying that the federal government has a duty to tell the individual citizen that it must act, and that is different from what we have in previous statements.

DONALD VERRILLI, SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: Well...

KENNEDY: And that changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way.

BOLDUAN: Though Chief Justice John Roberts was tough on both sides, giving some hope that he might be persuaded to side with the administration on the mandate question, the provision requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: Once we say that there is a market and Congress can require people to participate in it, as some would say, it seems to me that we can't say there are limitations on what Congress can do under its commerce power. All bets are off.

BOLDUAN: The more conservative justices also posed multiple hypotheticals, testing the boundaries of the sweeping health care overhaul.

ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: You can get burial insurance, you can get health insurance. Most people are going to need health care, almost everybody. Everybody is going to be buried or cremated at some point.

ANTONIN SCALIA, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Everybody has to exercise because there's no doubt that lack of exercise causes illness, and that causes health care costs to go up. So the federal government says, everybody has to join an exercise club.

BOLDUAN: The Obama administration's top lawyer before the high court, Donald Verrilli, did find a sympathetic ear from the four more liberal justices, all indicating Congress act within its power in crafting the law.

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: The people who don't participate in this market are making it much more expensive for the people who do.

So you not -- it's not just your free choice just to do something for yourself, what you do is going to affect others, affect them in a major way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Now this historic case wraps up tomorrow with the final issues being debated and they are important. The justices will be taking a look at whether any of this health care law can survive if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional. The justices will also be taking a look at whether the expanded Medicaid program under the law, whether it unfairly steps on state powers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, all right, thanks very much, Kate Bolduan on the steps of the Supreme Court.

While the justices focus in on the individual mandate, what about the other part of the health care law? Here are some key features already in effect. It is now illegal for insurers to deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions. Adults would have to wait until 2014 for similar protection.

Children may now stay on their parents' policies until the age of 26, a safety net for young people who would have trouble obtaining health insurance. And there are no more lifetime limits on benefits. If you have a devastating condition, for example, you will remain covered no matter how much it costs the insurance company.

Now to a veteran Supreme Court watcher, our own senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, you tweeted and you said on our air this is a train wreck right now for the Obama administration what you heard and saw during those two hours today.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, this is why I love the news business, because, you know, if you go and watch things, that makes a big difference. It's awfully different from making a prediction.

Most of the so-called experts , including me, said, yes, they will probably uphold the law. You could not sit in that courtroom for two hours and think they were going to uphold the law. Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas didn't say anything, but his views are well known, those five votes looks awfully secure to me to strike down the mandate.

BLITZER: If you take a look at the solicitor general, he's the lawyer, the top government lawyer representing the Obama administration. You were not impressed by his ability to respond. He was stuttering and stammering or whatever.

TOOBIN: You know, some people have a bad day at the office. Don Verrilli had a really bad day at the office. There was no energy to his presentation and there was no passion. There was not a lot of responsiveness.

BLITZER: Didn't they rehearse? They had these moot courts we were hearing and reading so much about all the practicing they were doing. There were no great surprises that any of these justices -- no surprise questions and no gotcha questions and all of them were predictable.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. You know what? I don't know. I do know that the solicitor general's office is famous for how rigorously they prepare for oral arguments. Presumably, they did that now -- they did that for this case. It didn't look that way in the courtroom.

BLITZER: The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, was asked about your comments, your train wreck comments, how bad the administration's performance was today before these nine justices. Listen to Harry Reid.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I wouldn't bet on this, but I will bet I have been in court a lot more than Jeffrey Toobin, and I have had arguments, federal circuit, Supreme Court and hundreds of times before trial courts, and the questions you get from the judges doesn't mean that's what's going to wind up with the opinion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I assume he's a lot older than you are so he has been in court probably a lot...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I'm not sure he's more of an expert on the Supreme Court than you are and I don't know if he's written a bestseller on the Supreme Court for that matter, but he does make a fair point. Just because someone is playing devil's advocate and asking a tough question doesn't necessarily mean they're siding with that position.

TOOBIN: When I started to going to Supreme Court arguments in the '90s, there was a lot of that in oral argument, devil's advocate.

In the Roberts court, you see much less of it. Almost always, not always, but almost always with this court, the questions that the justices ask are very good clues to how they're going to decide the case. Obviously, do I know for sure? Of course not, but those questions were very indicative of strong feelings about this case, and I know that these -- the Clinton administration lawyers are not at all happy with how today went.

BLITZER: The Clinton administration?

TOOBIN: I'm sorry, did I say Clinton? I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The Obama administration.

TOOBIN: Clinton, I don't know, he hasn't been president for a while, has he?

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Having said all that, they have got all these long briefs, all of these long documents...

TOOBIN: Yes.

BLITZER: ... that have been submitted to the court. Is it fair to say that these oral arguments, the six hours that they're going to have really makes a difference? Don't these nine justices basically know where they're going come down by now?

TOOBIN: The bigger the case, the less the oral arguments matter, because these justices have well-known feelings.

BLITZER: They have been studying it for months and years.

TOOBIN: Exactly. You talk about abortion, affirmative action, these justices have dealt with these issues for years. If you ask a Supreme Court justices, as I have, how many does an oral argument make a difference a year, and they will say two, three maybe, and usually in cases on obscure areas that they haven't thought that much about.

Yes, it's great theater and, yes, it's important in focusing the issues, but in terms of lawyers changing the justices' mind, it doesn't happen very often.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, we're going to have you back. I have got more questions for you.

TOOBIN: OK.

BLITZER: You're really generating a lot of buzz out there on Twitter @JeffreyToobin. You're now tweeting. When did you start tweeting?

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Just last week.

BLITZER: Last week, and you have thousands of followers already.

TOOBIN: It's all happening.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: After today, you will get thousands more.

TOOBIN: I hope so.

BLITZER: All right, Jeffrey, thanks very much.

In our next hour, by the way, our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he will weigh in on health care ramifications for patients across the country.

All right. This just coming in to CNN. Our brand new poll shows that as the fight for the Republican presidential nomination grinds on, most Republicans want to see two of the candidates drop out of the race. Six out of 10 say Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul should quit, but only 39 percent want Rick Santorum to end his bid.

All this comes as the CNN/ORC poll shows Mitt Romney with a sizable lead among registered Republicans. He's now at 36 percent. Rick Santorum is slipping. He's down to 26 percent. Paul and Gingrich remain well behind.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

Gloria, last month, as we know, Santorum seemed to have a narrow lead. That's changed. What's going on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He had a two-point lead just last month. It's very clear and obvious that the inevitability argument is beginning to take effect with Republican voters.

They believe that Mitt Romney's going to be the Republican nominee and lots of them want to get in line behind someone they believe is a winner, and as you also point out, people want to see a mano a mano race now between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

They want to see it end in the primaries. Our poll shows they do not want to take it to the convention, but I would argue that if Rick Santorum is going to get any kind of momentum given this poll, he has to start winning and I would think that next Tuesday, Wisconsin is a very important state for him to show that he can actually win another big state.

BLITZER: Three contests next Tuesday, Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia and let's not forget about D.C.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: How could we?

BLITZER: This new poll does show strengths and weaknesses of these candidates.

BORGER: There are two distinct ways in which Republicans view Mitt Romney. Take a look at the first way. These are questions of electability and his business acumen.

When we asked Republicans only which candidate is more likely to beat President Obama you see there Romney beating Santorum so handily. Get the economy moving, again, beating him strongly, and be a strong leader. So these are clearly Romney's attributes that people believe very strongly in if you're a Republican.

But, but when you look at the values questions, Wolf, does he care about issues that I care about, can you believe -- does he say what he believes, look at this. Santorum beats Mitt Romney on that. Does he share your values? Again Santorum. Care about people, that's so important when you vote for a presidential candidate. So what we're seeing here, Wolf in our poll is what we have seen play out in the primaries. People like Mitt Romney's business experience, but they're not passionate about him, and if you're a cultural conservative you can't yet find a way to embrace the candidacy of Mitt Romney and that has always been his problem. And guess what? It's going to remain his problem.

BLITZER: Yesterday, Newt Gingrich was here in THE SITUATION ROOM and he said flatly he's not dropping out until or unless Romney gets 1,144 delegates ensured. Otherwise, he's staying in. But let's say he were to drop out. Our new poll shows how that vote could potentially split up.

BORGER: It's very interesting, Wolf, because for a while what the Romney campaign was telling all of us was keep Newt Gingrich in because he will split the conservative vote with Rick Santorum.

But around the time of the Illinois primary, the Romney campaign started thinking a little differently, that they would get more of Gingrich's votes and our poll confirms that. Take a look at this. If you see Gingrich in the race, you see Romney with 36, Santorum with 26.

And without Gingrich, Romney, look at this, is up nine points. Santorum is only up four points. So Romney gets about twice the number of Gingrich supporters. And that is why the Romney people are now saying, you know what? He's a spoiler, we need to get Newt Gingrich out of the race.

BLITZER: Without Gingrich in the race, 45 percent for Romney and 30 percent for Santorum, registered Republicans across country. Interesting numbers.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: New fallout from President Obama's open microphone gaffe with the Russian president, but it's Mitt Romney who is feeling some heat right now and it all started with a comment that Romney made right here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday.

Also, Trayvon Martin's parents in a meeting right now up on Capitol Hill, what they're asking for, what they're saying. Stand by.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, while the U.S. Supreme Court hears argument about the constitutionality of Obamacare, only a few hundred members of the public and press can actually see what is happening while it's happening. That's because the high court decided there would be no televised coverage of these historic health care hearings.

Lawmakers, media and open government groups have pushed for the court to break the tradition, let the TV cameras in to broadcast the three days of oral arguments. Some say the Supreme Court's practice of no TV cameras is behind the times. That's an understatement.

But the best they could get are daily audio recordings and transcripts of the hearings. The court says they're releasing these because of the, quote, "extraordinary public interest," unquote, in the health care case. No kidding.

What these nine justices decide could have major effects on the political and economic future of the country, not to mention the health care of millions of individual Americans. Which is why, I suppose, that a lot of the polls show Americans overwhelmingly in favor of televising these arguments before the nation's highest court. A new CNN/ORC poll shows 61 percent of those surveyed say the Supreme Court ought to allow TV cameras into the hearings. Only 35 percent said no.

In December, Congress held hearings on the so-called Cameras in the Courtroom Act. Supporters say TV coverage of the high court's hearings could provide more transparency. Opponents suggest that allowing cameras would detract from the integrity and decorum of the institution.

To quote Rick Santorum, "bull stuff." That court is conducting the people's business, and the people have every right to witness what goes on there.

Anyway, here's the question. You can figure this out. Should the Supreme Court arguments over health care be televised?

Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. Post a comment on my blog. Or go to the post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they're making a little progress because they now finally allow audio to come out. I suppose at the some point, in the next 10 or 20 years, they might let television cameras in there, Jack.

CAFFERTY: I heard they no longer ride horses to court, either. They actually get in the cars and use that mode of transportation. So, they're getting there.

BLITZER: Slowly, but surely. Thanks a lot.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

President Obama is trying to recover from a gaffe in which he was caught on camera and over an open microphone talking to Russia's president about how things will be different after November if he's reelected.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, more fallout from that today.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

For reasons that have nothing to do with foreign policy, the president's open mic comments could follow him into the general election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): The president rarely takes actions, and apparently, this time he felt the need.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First of all, the mic's on?

YELLIN: A joke after a microphone picked up private remarks to Russia's president saying he'll have more flexibility to work on missile defense after the U.S. election. How did he clean it up?

OBAMA: I don't think it's any surprise that you can't start that a few months before a presidential and congressional election to the United States and at a time when they just completed elections in Russia and they're in the process of a presidential transition where a new president's going to be coming in less than two months.

YELLIN: Not just the media pounced.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: 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 re-elected before I sell out our missile defense program?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That he has things he's willing to do with them he's not willing to tell the American people. This is to Russia. This is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe.

YELLIN: Democrats tried to focus to Mitt Romney with this video.

ROMNEY: The president is not a foreign policy expert.

YELLIN: But these words could haunt the president into the fall. First, it feeds a long standing Republican narrative that President Obama will move far to the left in a second term.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Imagine a President Obama with four years, and no one to be accountable to? Imagine what he can do.

YELLIN: Second, if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee he now have new ammunition if the Democrats accuse him of being purely political.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In the general election, when the debates really start up and they go head to head, and Obama goes after Romney as someone you can't trust what he's going to do next, Romney has the argument -- you can't be sure of what Obama is going to be like in the second term and I've been trying to tell you that all along.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And it doesn't help that the president made the comments to the Russian president, Wolf. Memories of the Cold War still linger for some voters in this country, no doubt.

I should point out that memories of the Cold War also linger for someone else, Russia's President Medvedev. He made a comment responding to Mitt Romney. He said in response to Mitt Romney's criticism that Russia remains one of this nation's top geopolitical foes that Romney should check his watch, the year is 2012, not the late '70s -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, much more on this story coming up as well. Jessica, thanks very much for that.

I suspect this gaffe is going to continue to plague the president. We're going to talk a little bit more about it more in the next hour.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, the congressman from Florida, she'll be my guest. So, we'll talk to her about this and more.

Meanwhile, a new fund-raising tactic by Newt Gingrich's campaign and it's raising major brows right now. We're going to discuss that and more in our strategy session.

Also, distracted driving in a way you've never seen before. It's a story every driver, young and old, must watch this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us now two CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist James Carville, and Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of RedState.com.

James, this -- here in the testimony today, whatever you want to call it, the arguments, maybe for the Supreme Court, the government's chief lawyer, the solicitor general Donald Verrilli, according to people inside, including our own Jeffrey Toobin, they thought he was weak, to put it mildly. I mean, they had months and months to prepare. The questions were obvious.

How is that possible that the lawyer representing the Obama administration comes in seemingly unprepared for these important arguments?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and his oral argument, (INAUDIBLE) to defend this gentleman, but I went and looked at a bunch of other people and it wasn't Jeffrey's opinion. It was pretty unanimous. I had no idea (INAUDIBLE) for the Supreme Court.

And according to legal experts and these are not conservative experts and both sides think it wasn't all of that prepared for some of the questions that he got, which seemed to me and other people to be pretty anticipated questions that he would get. So I'm at -- honestly, I'm at a little bit at a loss for an explanation.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm at a loss myself because they usually do major preparation, these (ph) courts, a lot of rehearsals. The questions were obvious.

Erick, if this goes down for the Obama administration and the Supreme Court in June, end of June, let's say, rules that it's unconstitutional and the mandates requiring people to buy health insurance, is this -- are you convinced that this is an automatic political win for the Republicans?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think it's automatic, but I think it's pretty close to being automatic. Suddenly, Mitt Romney, if he's the nominee, I think he will be, has the one issue that will galvanize conservatives for him and independent-leaning Republicans, and that they've got to support him to preserve the 5-4 conservative majority on the Supreme Court and that may be what he gets to run to November with.

I think it's not automatic, Wolf, but it probably will embolden Republicans either way, frankly, than the Democrats, many of whom, they would love to see this law upheld. But at the same time, some of them wanted the public option that they didn't get.

BLITZER: Let's say it is overturn, James. What's the political fallout from your perspective? What's going to happen?

CARVILLE: I honestly believe -- this is not spin. I think that this will be the best thing to ever happen to the Democratic Party because health care costs will escalate unbelievably. It's 2012, 20 of 100 over 65. By 2020, it's going to be 26.

And you know, what the Democrats is going to say and it's completely justified -- we tried. We did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority. The public (INAUDIBLE) figure out. Our poll shows half of the whole thing is political. They overturned an election.

And just as a professional Democrat, that did nothing better for me in overturning this thing 5-4, and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that, that is not spin. Go see Scalia when you want health care.

BLITZER: I think what it will do, Erick and I'm not anxious to get your reaction. What it will do is energize a lot of Democrats out there and they'll say, you know what, there could be one or even two vacancies on the Supreme Court over the next four years.

And if there's a Republican in the White House there will be another Antonin Scalia or a Samuel Alito. If there's a Democrat in the White House it could be a Sonia Sotomayor or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The difference is for the next 30 or 40 years, one or two Supreme Court justices for the American people could be enormous, this could be a huge issue going into the next presidential election.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, both sides, Wolf, not just the Democrat side, even if the laws were upheld or struck down, there is a 5-4 conservative majority right now.

Historically, you see Republicans picking justices who have a greater propensity to gravitate to the left than you see Democrats putting in judges who have propensity to gravitate to the right.

So both sides are going to be fighting over the Supreme Court, but I still think that the economy will be the biggest issue going into the election. This will be undercurrent issue for both sides, though.

BLITZER: Because I keep hearing, James, a lot of liberals out there who aren't necessarily thrilled with the president's performance so far. They do say when all is said and done they need to re-elect President Obama.

Otherwise, Roe versus Wade and all sorts of sensitive issues will be overturned by a new Supreme Court, that's why they say a Democrat needs to be in the White House.

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, I think the president's done a good job on a host of things, but to just to go back on the basic argument. If they did this thing 5-4 and overturn it, and I think that it will give the Democratic Party an argument for a long, long time about this.

And you know, it gets charged up and remember Scalia and these guys overturned an election and I don't understand why the solicitor general and everyone was so lackadaisical about this. These guys aren't going to read a law book and decide what to do and the public has this figured out.

This court did enormous damage with Bush versus Gore and it lingered and to overturn the thing 5-4, I mean, as a professional Democrat and not just as U.S. I think it's the best thing that could happen.

ERICKSON: I would say that's a larger at American history and I think it goes back before Bush versus Gore. Everyone feels every issue in America has become politicized including the Supreme Court.

It is a matter now of -- it depends on what Anthony Kennedy had for breakfast on how the decision goes 5-4 to the left or 5-4 to the right. I mean, we have handed ourselves over to one man in the black robe.

CARVILLE: I agree on that, Erick. I'm not sure, again, just speaking just as a political partisan. I think I'd rather lose this thing 5-4.

ERICKSON: You think you do.

BLITZER: Political -- very quickly to both of you, quick reaction, Newt Gingrich now online saying you could have a picture taken with him for $50. He needs the money for his campaign. Erick, what do you think of that?

ERICKSON: I think it means his campaign has flat lined.

BLITZER: All right, James, what do you think about that?

CARVILLE: You know, Wolf and Erick, we've all been in photo line, if you did 10,000 photographs, which is impossible to do, you'd have to collect and you'd only have a half million dollars, which would get you through by three days in one of these things. It doesn't seem like an efficient way to raise money. People try what they want to try.

BLITZER: They've got to do what they've got to do. Guys, thanks very, very much.

A plane has to divert because of an unruly captain. JetBlue says it was, quote, "a medical situation," but that's not necessarily the whole story. Stand by.

There's something new with Harry Potter and it's out today. J.K. Rowling's latest move. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A controlled burn in Colorado has quickly spread out of control and now firefighters can't get it contained. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this fire has torched more than 4,500 acres so far and officials have confirmed a second person has been found dead in the fire zone.

Firefighters say the blaze is still out of control. Strong winds, high temperatures and dry conditions are fueling the flames in a mountainous area near Denver. Sixteen structures have already burned.

And if you live on the east coast you might have had an early wake-up call courtesy of NASA. Just before 5:00 a.m., it launched five rockets as part of the study of the upper level jet stream.

Each rocket released a chemical that created these milky white clouds. Scientists will track them to study winds at the edge of space that are typically 200 to well over 300 miles per hour.

And Pope Benedict has arrived in Havana, Cuba. Speculation is growing over whether he'll meet with former President Fidel Castro during his three-day visit.

The pope will celebrate mass in the capital's revolution plaza where he will speak directly to the Cuban people. Just a few days ago, he said Cuba's Marxist political system, quote, "no longer corresponds to reality."

And Harry Potter fans won't have to carry those thick books around anymore if they want to read the adventures at Hogwarts. After a long wait, author J.K. Rowling's web site to sell the digital versions in English is now up and running.

By selling the e-books on her own site, Rowling will keep most of the revenue as opposed to sharing much of it with publishers. So for all of us who love the Harry Potter series, we can now get the digital version.

BLITZER: Go ahead and enjoy. Thanks, Lisa, for that.

Trayvon Martin's parents are here in Washington right now. We are live on Capitol Hill with what the dead teenager's mother and father are saying, what they're calling for. Stand by for that.

Also, while thousands rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court, several lawmakers watched the case inside as it was unfolding today. We're going to get their take. That's coming up in our next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The parents of Trayvon Martin are here in Washington right now. They've made a rather emotional statement on Capitol Hill while the investigation continues in Florida into their son's shooting death.

CNN's Athena Jones is joining us now. Athena, you're up on Capitol Hill. What are Trayvon's parents saying?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. I just came out of that room. It's a packed room and we hadn't expected to hear from Trayvon Martin's parents, we only expected to hear from his lawyers.

But soon after Ranking Member John Conyers, Representative John Conyers asked the pair to stand up in that packed room and to be recognized and called for a moment of silence from everyone.

Soon after that we did get to hear from Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Let's listen to what we had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON'S MOTHER: I'd like to say thank you. Thank you for the support, as I said before, and I'll stay it again Trayvon was our son, but Trayvon's your son.

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON'S FATHER: Thank you to everyone who's supportive of our family. Everyone who has helped us stand tall in this matter, everyone who is holding the legacy of Trayvon and making sure that he did not indeed die in vain. I would just like to say thank you. He is sadly missed and we'll continue to fight for justice for him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: And Wolf, that whole idea of fighting for justice has really been the main focus of today's forum, which is still going on. We heard from Benjamin Crump who is the Martin family lawyer who said that we honestly believe that Trayvon Martin is dead today because of racially profiled.

So a lot of strong words from the people taking part in that forum. We heard from the Brady campaign against gun violence and he said that the reason that Trayvo Martin is dead today is because George Zimmerman had a gun.

We also heard from members of Congress like Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas who said I am Trayvon Martin and like Corrine Brown, the representative from the Florida's third district, which is where Sanford is located. She said that the community there feels like the system is broken. This should be a teachable moment.

We have to look for ways to avoid this sort of thing ever happening to another Trayvon Martin or another young black man again in America -- Wolf.

BLITZER: For any man for that matter, not just any black man, you never want to see this happen to anyone. I think it was fair to say. This wasn't a regular congressional hearing. It was just, what a Democratic forum?

JONES: Exactly. They called this forum together. It's not a hearing because the Democrats are in the minority, but the idea was to come out and bring people out to testify to talk about the ways to seek justice.

Several of the lawmakers there talked about wanting to call for different laws, regulating, for instance and community policing and training for community police. They talked about trying to end racial profiling.

So the idea was to have a discussion around this case and to include Martin's parents and I should mention there is a huge crowd of teenagers from the Orlando area who just happened to be visiting Washington on part of an annual trip who are coming in and out of that hearing.

One of them knew Trayvon Martin and it's been a real big crowd up there and a lot of attention being paid to this today and every day for the last couple of weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, I hope it's a learning experience for all of America right now. If something -- something positive comes out of this terrible tragedy, let's learn from this, as you point out, so it never happens again. Athena, thanks very much.

The death of a British businessman in China sparked an international outcry right now as well. The mystery surrounding what happened has grown with the downfall of a prominent Chinese lawmaker, word of a cover up and a reported attempt at asylum inside the U.S. consulate.

CNN's Erin Burnett is following this story for us. Erin, it sort of sounds like a Tom Clancy novel.

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": It does, Wolf. I mean, this is pretty incredible. And some of the headlines that we have seen on social media sites inside China where now there has been a clamp down put on some of these headlines.

But also out of the United Kingdom are headlines like this, "Tanks in the Streets of Beijing." Another one talking about rumors of a coup in Beijing. I mean, this is kind of shocking. You would think this is the stuff of a novel. There have been reports of shots inside the Forbidden City where China's leaders reside and all of this is stemming from a man who could have been president of china who is now missing.

I mean, the government theoretically knows where he is, Wolf, but nobody seems to know. He was one of the most senior members of the Communist Party and the fact that he's missing and no one seems to know where he is and the Communist Party hasn't spoken about his removal of power is very significant.

And it's linked to the death, possibly of this British businessman, Neil Haywood. He was in the province where he was a senior leader in the Community Party, found dead in his hotel room back in November. The police who, of course, reported to this official said it was excessive alcohol consumption and cremated him immediately.

And so they thought it was case closed. Well, now the United Kingdom has asked for the investigation to be reopened. Some people are saying this could be poison and it could be linked to (inaudible).

It is a bizarre story. It is a stuff out of a thriller, if not a spy novel, Wolf, but it's very significant for the future of China that you're seeing headlines like coup out of China. That should seem almost like an oxymoron at this point.

So this is a significant story and at the top of the Chinese Communist Party is significant and at some point soon we have to think will be broken somehow when we find out where he is.

BLITZER: We're going to be seeing a lot more on this story coming up at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." I'm looking forward to that show as I do every single day. Erin, thanks very much.

BURNETT: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story this hour. Jack's asking this question. Should the U.S. Supreme Court arguments over health care be televised? Your answers are coming up next.

Also what would happen if a nuke went off near the White House? We have results of a new government study. That's coming up in our next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack joins us again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, should the Supreme Court arguments over Obamacare be televised?

Rich in Florida, "Yes, they should be televised. This isn't a question of whether the proceedings should be public. They are public now. It's simply a question of whether television gives us all a chance to watch or whether only those fortunate enough to be in D.C. and get one of the few tickets are able to watch. Let everyone in."

Dave in Ohio, "No, cameras encourage grandstanding. Think Judge Ito in O.J.'s trial, think Judge Larry Seidlin in the Ann Nicole Smith fiasco. Think Judge Judy. I rest my case."

Cody on Facebook, "Yes, they should. Simply, this is a landmark decision in this country's history and with all of the technology we have there's no reason that we, the people, cannot see these proceedings."

Eric in Houston, "No. This is our highest court. Not a circus. Since we can hear the recordings, we have ample opportunities to hear, and/or learn and monitor the court's action. What we don't get is another reality TV show. I think the justices have acted wisely."

Robert in Florida writes, "The jesting that you and Wolf just did after you asked the question earlier in the hour, they don't still ride their horses to court, do they? Hits the nail on the head. The question is whether they should have their court activities televised. The question should be why aren't these judges confident enough to state their opinions publicly? Are they afraid to look the public, the camera in the eye?"

Tariq in New Jersey is a social studies teacher in Newark, New Jersey. "I think the televised civil discourse in the Supreme Court could be of benefit to student of law and concerned citizens seeking clarity on issues that matter a great deal to them."

Frank in Los Angeles writes, "It's a novel approach. I think C-Span would be a good venue. Clarence Thomas could then further his career as a silent star."

If you want to read more about this, go to the blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Justice Thomas hasn't raised his voice for six years in any of these arguments.

CAFFERTY: Why doesn't he --

BLITZER: He just doesn't do it. He doesn't do it. I'm going to ask Jeffrey Toobin in the next hour why Justice Thomas never asks questions or says anything during these oral arguments.

CAFFERTY: I would be interested in what he had to say.

BLITZER: All right, good.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev takes on Mitt Romney. We're going to show you what he said in response to Romney's comments yesterday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, the dangers of texting while driving like you've never seen before. This is a report you need to see.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Admitted, many of you talk, text or tweet while driving. Even though you know you shouldn't. We're about to show you just how dangerous distracted driving is.

Our regulation correspondent Lizzie O'Leary is here. You had a chance to go to a high-tech simulator to underscore what a disaster, potentially awaits people who start texting while driving.

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm looking at it in a whole new way now. I went to the highest tech simulator in the country. Remember some government folks at the National Transportation Safety Board want to ban cell phones altogether and I sort of got a peek at why. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'LEARY (voice-over): We all know distracted driving is risky, but we do it anyway. To understand just how a crash like that can happen, we went to the University of Iowa's driving simulator. It's like a giant metal spider perched on hydraulic legs.

(on camera): How big is that thing?

DAN MCGEHEE, NATIONAL ADVANCE DRIVING SIMULATOR: Big. A full size vehicle fits inside of that, so a real car surrounded by a 360-degree field of view motion base. It has six-degree freedom legs that come up so we can spin and rock back and forth.

O'LEARY (voice-over): It's the closest thing to driving without actually being on the road. That lets researchers safely test what it takes for you to be distracted with cameras recording even the smallest eye movement.

MCGEHEE: You can look away, one to three-quarter seconds or about two seconds before things begin to shift in our lane. We have to have a steering wheel correction. So it doesn't take much time to have to have a substantial correction in your driving.

O'LEARY (on camera): It only takes two seconds?

MCGEHEE: Only about two seconds before we see things breaking down.

O'LEARY (voice-over): The typical text takes four seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the first thing that I'm going to ask you to do is to adjust your seat.

O'LEARY (on camera): OK.

(voice-over): You knew we were going to test it, right? Complete with a series of screens that simulate distraction like a bee or a text message.

(on camera): So it feels like you're actually driving in the landscape.

(voice-over): Driving the car feels real with motion and a changing landscape, and yes, this is my real reaction on the researcher's camera when they surprised me.

(on camera): It's 597 --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's good.

O'LEARY (voice-over): Good for research purposes, but not reality.

In 2009 more than 5,000 people were killed by distracted driving. More than 400,000 were injured. Even talking on a hands- free phone takes your mind off the road, but the riskiest thing is texting.

More than 35 states now ban texting behind the wheel. Deborah Hersman whose agency investigates crashes says that's just the start.

DEBORAH HERSMAN, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: The federal government could push the states further by providing incentive grants and giving them money to help them do this.

O'LEARY: And ultimately help drivers on the road.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'LEARY: The government is already working with some manufacturers to voluntarily disable some of those devices that are built into cars when they move.

One of the things we saw in the simulator was a car that can alert you when doing something dangerous when you turn on the crash avoidance system and came close to the car in front of me, the seat belt hug mead tight to alert me then I slowed down and didn't swear.

BLITZER: It makes me crazy to see teens texting and driving.

O'LEARY: And they are the most vulnerable population in part because you think about it someone born in the mid-1990s has always had this technology available to them. Teenagers are less experienced drivers anyway and have that sense of invulnerability more than three-quarters of them text regularly and that makes them much more vulnerable population. BLITZER: They have just not do it, put it away and just drive. Lizzie, thank you.