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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Tornadoes Strike Texas; Interview With Chris Smith; Voice Analysts Examine Sounds from George Zimmerman's 911 Call; Lawyer for Trayvon Martin's Family Interviewed; Obama's "Hope Bubble" Burst; "Kids on Race"

Aired April 4, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning -- it was panic mode as tornadoes ripped through Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Large tornado on the ground! Large tornado! Large tornado on the ground!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And he was not joking. Thirty thousand-pound tractor trailers were tossed through the air. Can you see that there? Look at this tractor. It floats up, into the shoot and through.

A curfew now is in place and a very difficult clean-up is ahead as well.

Plus a stunning study looks how kids view race. A boy told me his mom won't allow him to have white friends. I took the results to his parents and get their reaction. It's an "A.C. 360" study.

Also, trifecta for Governor Mitt Romney. He's now more than halfway home after he sweeps three more contests but still not enough to knock Senator Rick Santorum out of the race.

It's Wednesday, April 4th -- and STARTING POINT begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: That's off of Christine's playlist, Billy Joel, "We Didn't Start the Fire". You know, we didn't really play it very much the other day when we were doing our Long Island segment.

(CROSSTALK)

Come on. I take personal responsibility.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If he can't make that cut --

O'BRIEN: I know, I know.

Let me introduce to our panel this morning.

Ron Brownstein is with us, CNN senior political analyst and editorial director at "The National Journal."

Nice to see you. It's great to have you in person always.

Will Cain is with us. He's a columnist for TheBlaze.com.

Van Jones is with us. He's a former Obama White House special adviser, author of a new book, which is called, "Rebuild the Dream."

We've been talking a little bit of a history about how you left the White House. Maybe we'll get to all that. We're going to keep that conversation going.

First I want to talk about what's happening in Texas, those storms. I think the most amazing pictures have been damage like this and then also those tractor trailers you can see the storm swept across the state yesterday afternoon, path of destruction in their wake of course.

Amazingly, there were no deaths, very few injuries to report. But there was significant damage, including the twister that caught those trailers coming off the ground. Some of them weighed more than 20,000 pounds and it would toss them, you can see in the shot, it could toss them literally hundreds of feet into the air.

YouTube and other social media flooded with images after the storm, including this close-up taken in the city of Lancaster, Texas, just as the twister was touching down.

Look at that.

That's amazing.

So Parrish Velasco is the person who recorded that video. He's in Arlington, Texas, this morning.

Nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us.

When you're taking photos of the storm like that, in your mind are you thinking risk, or as a photographer, are you thinking, well, I really just want to get amazing shots of the storm and I'm not really thinking about how close I am to this twister?

PARRISH VELASCO, PHOTOGRAPHED TORNADO IN LANCASTER, TEXAS: I was definitely thinking about how close I was because of all the debris floating around. But I was making sure that it was going away from me, not towards me. So --

O'BRIEN: So tell me how did you get to capture this? You're not a professional photographer. What happened? What were the circumstances?

VELASCO: Not professional yet, trying to be. But I was actually driving to work for another job and saw some spinning up in the cloud and decided to kind of follow it and kind of took some video and pictures of it before it was a tornado and I saw it hit the ground and started taking pictures of it, ended up following it for about 20 miles, and I actually got a picture that ended up on the "Dallas Morning News" front page and is supposed to be on couple other front pages.

O'BRIEN: Well, so guess what? You are now a professional photographer. Congratulations to you.

VELASCO: Hopefully I can get a job, right?

O'BRIEN: Hey, that's the next step. You're on the front page and then it goes into a job.

I like it. Yes, Van says you're working it. We like that.

So, tell me a little bit about what that moment was like. As you're talking those photos, were you being hit by debris? What was the wind like? How far away would you estimate that you actually were?

VELASCO: My guesstimate was probably 150 yards. Yes, debris was everywhere. It was like a lot of people say, train going by. It was a deep rumble.

It was scary but it was extremely exciting at the same time.

O'BRIEN: When you look back now at your beautiful shots, and we've been showing a bunch of them on the air here as well and remember, everybody, Parrish Velasco, looking for a job as a professional photographer -- do you think that was completely insane and I wouldn't do it again? That's a beautiful picture.

BROWNSTEIN: That is a great picture.

VELASCO: I would -- I would probably do it again. It was very exciting. It was a rush. And I've actually been wanting to do that for a really long time. So, that's the first tornado that I've actually seen in person and I got it on film. So --

O'BRIEN: Yes, you surely did.

Parrish Velasco joining us -- the pictures are beautifully. They're really, really nicely done. And we're also very glad that you're safe when you're getting those shots. Thanks for being with us.

Other headlines to get to. Christine has got those for us.

Hey, Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

New York police this morning are investigating the mysterious death of a leading French scholar and government adviser. Fifty-four- year-old Richard Descoings was found dead in his Manhattan hotel room. He was naked in bed with blood coming out of his mouth. Police say they found his cell phone on the third floor landing as if had had been tossed out the window. No signs of foul play so far but they haven't ruled it out yet.

The suspect in the deadly school shooting rampage is due in a California court later today. Forty-three-year-old One Goh is accused of shooting 10 people at Oikos University. It's a small Christian school in Oakland, California. Seven people died. Police are still looking for the murder weapon but they say they have recovered plenty of ballistic evidence.

Federal judges slamming President Obama's recent comments on the Supreme Court on his health care law. The president has said it would be, quote, "unprecedented and extraordinary" for the court to strike a law passed by a majority of Congress.

A federal appeals court is now demanding the Obama administration answer whether it believes unelected judges have the right to strike down a federal law it deems unconstitutional and they want that answer by noon tomorrow. The White House is not commenting on that order.

But President Obama says courts have traditionally exercised deference to Congress.

And the NFL is getting a fashion makeover. The new Nike uniforms were unveiled in New York yesterday, modeled by players from each of the league's 32 teams. Nike's deal with the NFL makes it the exclusive uniform and apparel provider for the next five years, a position Reebok held for a decade, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, thank you very much for that. Appreciate it.

Let's talk about politics this morning if we can.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Mitt Romney, of course, more than halfway to the total number of delegates that he needs to clinch the GOP presidential nomination. Last night, he added Wisconsin, he added Maryland, he added the District of Columbia in his win column. He's got 648 delegates; Rick Santorum, 264; Newt Gingrich, 137; Ron Paul 71.

It's interesting to hear John McCain talked about strategy.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Well, you know, Mitt Romney took a big step, another big step toward the nomination last night. The odds for Santorum get more and more difficult.

On the other hand, you know, pretty much every ambulatory Republican other than Betty Draper's second husband on "Mad Men" has endorsed Mitt Romney in the last few weeks.

And in the Wisconsin, the bottom really did not fall out for Rick Santorum, who held his own among evangelical voters, which have been the core of his candidacy and also did well among voters earning under $100,000 a year or more, which suggests if he can remain his viability through April, in particular that Pennsylvania, which could be a knockout blow, when you get to May, you can have this very awkward situation for Romney --

O'BRIEN: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: -- as he progresses toward the nomination but losing potentially evangelical-dominated states kind of one after another, which is not really the way you want to kind that momentum that John McCain and that pivot that John McCain talked about to the general election.

O'BRIEN: A lot of Van's book is about looking forward. Let's say you're the Obama campaign. Your strategy says it has to be less of a President Obama campaign. Plenty of Democrats have been frustrated with President Obama.

So what is the strategy moving forward from the left side?

VAN JONES, CO-FOUNDER, REBUILD THE DREAM: Well, I mean, I think that, first of all, the Republicans have been doing us a great favor by being so clear. Usually, in the past, the Republicans would sort of talk about social issues and kind of hide of economic agenda. Now they put the economic agenda straight forward and saying, listen, we want to cut a bunch of social programs. We want to leave a bunch of tax breaks in place for the wealthy. I think that helps President Obama.

But I think where the base has to get inspired again and get excited again, the last time it was a hope election. This year it's going to be a fear election, probably on both sides -- fear of a Tea Party president, fear -- on one side, fear of Obama's alleged radicalism on the other.

But I think the president came out very strong, I think he's doing a very good job of saying, listen, if you want to talk about this Paul Ryan budget as being a marvelous budget, let's talk about the budget. I think it's going to put some fire back in the grassroots.

BROWNSTEIN: Is the -- real quick -- is the disillusionment you see from the left perhaps a reflection of kind of either naivete or not really thinking through the situation?

Democratic Party is a coalition party. Unlike the Republican Party, 80 percent of Republicans call themselves conservatives. Only 40 percent of Democrats considered themselves liberals. Most Democrats are moderates. They depend on a wider range of voters.

Is it realistic to think that Barack Obama could have passed an agenda through a Congress that reflects without making concessions that were inevitably going to disappointment the people who say have become disillusioned of him?

O'BRIEN: I know how Ron feels about it.

JONES: Well, a part of the point I make in the book is there is this misunderstanding between the grassroots base of the party and the White House. People expected him to be able to do things that frankly no president would be able to do.

Here's where I think we have a chance to move forward. The grassroots base of this party likes this president. They're not in love with him the way they used to be, but they still like him. They want him to be president. They don't want a Tea Party president.

The economic issues around homeownership -- it used to be the case that in order to go from poverty to the middle class, you go to college and you buy a house. That is now the trap door into poverty because of excessive student loans, debt and underwater mortgages. So, people see the American Dream upside down and inside out.

If the president starts talking about the fact that this underwater mortgage, this student debt, the bread and butter issues would be worse under a Tea Party presidency, I think he begins to reengage that base.

WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm very happy to have this debate on economic issues and have an election over two different economic messages -- one of rights and entitlements, and one of economic liberty. I'm happy to have the election on the basis.

O'BRIEN: We definitely see that's how it is breaking down right now.

All right. We got to take a short break. Ahead on STARTING POINT: Florida "Stand Your Ground" law in focus since the Trayvon Martin shooting. I'm going to talk to a lawmaker who was against that law before the shooting and says now he wants to get rid of it.

Also a warning about eating sushi. You know, you cannot really like to ever hear a bad sushi story. Ninety people in 19 states are sick. The FDA will tell us what they think is at the root of this.

And we see you Katie Couric and raise you a Sarah Palin. The guest host on the "Today" show. And she talked about the lame stream media.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWSTEIN: CNN is not doing right by you.

CAIN: No, no, no, we see you Katie Couric and raise you Ron Brownstein.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes!

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: Let's get you some.

O'BRIEN: We have the Rolling Stones, "Beast of Burden."

BROWNSTEIN: Speaking of Mad Men.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Move in Florida today to speed up the review of the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. That controversial law is at center of the Trayvon Martin killing. And Florida governor, Rick Scott, has said that his own task force is going to start examining the law but not until the Martin investigation is complete.

State Senator Chris Smith says there's too much state to wait, and he's convening his own task force starting tomorrow. He joins us this morning. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us. You led the opposition to the "Stand Your Ground" law back in 2005. Do you believe that the law needs to be tweaked or do you believe that that law needs to be scrapped all together?

CHRIS SMITH, FLORIDA STATE SENATOR: Well, I believe that it can be tweaked and still be useful in the state. I mean, stand your ground and those that supported it have good intentions, but we have years of data showing the misuse of stand your ground, and the problem is it was misused before the Trayvon Martin case.

And the concern is it will be misused subsequent to the Trayvon Martin case. And so, that's why we cannot wait until the end of the investigation, which as you know, could teak a long time. I mean, lives are at stake and public safety is at stake in Florida. That's why we must act now.

O'BRIEN: What's the evidence -- let's put this particular case aside. What's the evidence that there's been misuse? I know if you look at statistics over justifiable homicides pre the law, there was an average of 12, and then, after the law was instituted, that number went up to 36. So, you know, three times increase. Is that what you're pointing to as clearly indicative of problems?

SMITH: A case in point in Miami on January 25th, and the case was just decided about three weeks ago, in which a gentleman saw someone robbing his car, taking his car radio. He chased the robber a full city block and then stabbed the robber to death. And he was released and case dismissed on stand your ground after he was an aggressor.

And so, we're getting those type of cases and we have data showing that those types of cases where people are misunderstanding this law and is even being misused, where people are being the aggressors and then hiding -- you know, standing behind the shield of stand your ground, and that was the concern we had in 2005.

That people are going to get impression. They have the license to go ahead and kill and let shooting be their first thought instead of the last resort. CAIN: Senator Smith, Will Cain. We're having this conversation right now about the stand your ground law because of the Trayvon Martin case, but can you explain to me how the stand your ground law applies the Trayvon Martin case. It seems like there's two stories in this case. One, that George Zimmermann tracked down and stalked Trayvon Martin and killed him.

The other, that George Zimmerman's life was in jeopardy and seemingly a regular self-defense claim withstand. How does stand your ground have anything to do with this case?

SMITH: Well, the stand your ground law is a little bit of history. We've always had the Castle Doctrine and everyone knows that. That if someone is breaking into your house or your car, you can use deadly force to defend yourself. The stand your ground law is an expansion of that.

We've taken outside of the house, outside of the vehicle, so anyplace you're legally allowed to be, a city street that you can use deadly force if you feel that deadly force is going to be used against you. And so, the way some are interpreting it in this case is that Mr. Zimmerman was legally allowed to be in that neighborhood, and once he felt threatened, he could use deadly force.

And if you look at the statute, we have it on our website, FloridaStandYourGround.org, we have the full listing of the statute and the third part of -- the fourth part of the statute, which talks about immunity from prosecution, it even says if you're the aggressor, and then someone -- and you feel that someone is threatening you, you can still use stand your ground and use deadly force.

And that's kind of the problem is that it's being misinterpreted and interpreted in different ways. And so, that's why we're convening a task force of lawyers, people that have used stand your ground for eight years to come up with a definitive use for this law and say, OK, we need to --

O'BRIEN: So, it's that particular clause. So, let show folks the clause. Let's throw it up. A person who's not engaged in unlawful activity and who's attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat, right? Ultimately, it's really about that line, duty to retreat, and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force.

So, my understanding is that there are 24 states that have the stand your ground laws. Florida is different along with three other states because they have that "no duty to retreat" clause, meaning that in other states, basically, if you can get away and you decide that you're going to shoot, anyway, you could be prosecuted but not in the state of Florida and three other states.

So, it's really that particular clause that you're taking issue with. Is that right, sir?

SMITH: The prosecution is the big part of it. Normally, you would have a self-defense claim. If you shoot someone and you would have to go to court and have a burden of proof for self-defense. Stand your ground gives a lesser burden of proof.

So, in the case -- you know, to use the Martin case, if you have two persons and no witnesses, one's dead, you know, stand your ground shields you from prosecution because you just have to claim I felt threatened. And that's the concern and that's the problem we have in Florida, and that's why we have to do something now before we get more cases like this.

Now, that people are hearing about this and may get the wrong impression in Florida that I can start just shooting first.

O'BRIEN: Senator Chris Smith joining us this morning. Nice to have you, sir. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate your time.

SMITH: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Coming up in our next half next hour, we're going to talk to Natalie Jackson. She's the Martin Family attorney. We'll talk about the stand your ground and some of the later developments in the case. The FBI has been talking to folks, including (INAUDIBLE) who we had on the show yesterday, and also, apparently, Trayvon Martin's girlfriend, who was on the phone with him.

The FBI has now had a chance to talk to both of them. We'll get an update on what's happening there.

Also, ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, it wasn't Tina Fey at "30 Rock." The real Sarah Palin joins the lamestream media. We'll talk about how that went.

And if you're heading into work, don't miss the rest of our show. You can follow us on our live blog, which is CNN.com/STARTINGPOINT. Bruce Springsteen, "Rocky Ground." Ron's playlist.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We love Prince in the morning. "America" from Prince. That's off of Ann's playlist. Sarah Palin was joining for some of the lame stream media as a guest host on NBC's "Today" show yesterday. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: It doesn't matter if that person has national level experience or not. They're going to get clobbered by the lame stream media who does not like the conservative message.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you are going to stick around and join us for our eight o'clock hour which technically makes you part of the lame stream media.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, how have you enjoyed being part of the mainstream media for the last hour?

PALIN: Organized chaos. I've always said that if everything's under control, you're going to slow, as Mario Andreitti says, too. So, it's been a great morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Yes, interesting.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, you know, people have been waiting for her to get her talk show. It's one more step.

JONES: I'm going to be the white Oprah.

(LAUGHTER)

JONES: I'm going to be the white Oprah!

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning -- yes, anything can happen. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, did George Zimmerman use a racial slur the night that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin? An analysis of the tape that you're going to see only here on STARTING POINT coming up next.

Plus, making you wait, losing your bags, making you pay for the privilege. They have a study of the meanest airline in America, and it is revealed -- I think they really should just tell us the best ones so we can fly them.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: That's Eli Young, "Crazy Girl." Will Cain getting a lot of play on playlist. Who did you pay off in the control room this morning? Christine Romans has the headlines for us. Hey, Christine.

ROMANS: He just has good taste.

O'BRIEN: Oh, oh.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMANS: Let's stick to Texas, shall we? Parts of north Texas look like a war zone this morning after a string of violent tornadoes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. Please! Oh, shoot!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: This is why. A barrage of tornadoes damaged homes, flipped big rigs, left thousands without power in the Dallas-Fort worth area. Hundreds of flights at DFW were cancelled. More than a hundred planes were damaged by hail, big hail. Flight schedules could be disrupted the next few days. Despite the widespread damage, there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

O'BRIEN: One of five construction workers injured when a giant crane collapsed in New York City died. A New York fire department spokesperson said two large pieces of the crane broke apart and fell into a construction pit. One section measured 80 feet along, the other 40 feet. Investigators looking into whether a snapped cable caused this accident. The workers were part of a crew extending a subway line on Manhattan's west side.

Bad sushi is a likely cause of a new salmonella outbreak in the U.S. Investigators are looking into whether spicy tuna roles are responsible. Several people were sent to the hospital. Officials haven't yet come to any conclusions for now. They are focusing on six restaurant clusters in Texas, Wisconsin, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

On the 44th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, the city where he was killed is finally naming a street in his honor. Today a one mile stretch of Lyndon Avenue in Memphis will be renamed "Dr. M.L. King Jr." avenue. Dr. King once marched on that street to support striking sanitation workers.

A flight attendant goes above and beyond the call of duty. Susan Carnes, I love this story, she has been delivering food and drinks in the air for 29 years. On a flight from Africa to Atlanta in late March she helped deliver a baby boy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN CARNES, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Everyone's like looking at me obviously and I just held him up and I said "it's a boy" and everybody clapped and there was laughter and it was really fun and exciting and she was so happy and weepy and it was great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: Luckily one of the passenger was not on a doctor but an obstetrician. We're told mom and her newborn baby boy are doing just fine.

And fresh off reports airlines delivered their best customer service in decades, it's reality check time. "U.S. News and World Report" is out with a list of America's meanest airlines. Soaring baggage fees and fairs, eliminating free food major factors in improving their bottom line and major factors in your frustration. So number one, United with the highest rate of complaints. Number two, Continental Airlines, which means the top two are the same since they just merged, right? And also number three on the list, American. The report cited Air Rran as one of the best airlines. A United gate agent told me -- I said do you have pre-boarding for people with babies and toddlers? She said "Oh, no, then families would think they're special." (LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: I think the list of best is much more helpful. Meanest -- you have to fly somewhere. We said this yesterday. It's not like can you walk. Plus, the woman delivered a baby. That's got to knock whatever airline that was, that's got to knock you up 10 points.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN: We charge you $25 a bag but if you get pregnant and have a baby, we're here for you.

JONES: Only in the air.

BROWNSTEIN: You have to weigh it, extra bag, delivered my baby.

O'BRIEN: On Monday we talked to audio expert Tom Owen and I was asking him to analyze the screams we heard in the back of 911 calls made on the night Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. Eventually the conclusion that he came to was that the screams that he looped and analyzed did not match the voice of George Zimmermann. He walked us through this on Monday. He also said because they didn't have audio clips of Trayvon Martin's voice they were not able to conform the screams were Trayvon Martin's. But he said it was not George Zimmerman.

Then I asked him this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK, as you know, a lot of the conversation that we've had about this 911 call has focused about two minutes and 20 seconds in where I hear a curse and then a racial slur. You know what I'm talking about on this?

TOM OWEN, OWEN FORENSIC SERVICES LLC: On the 911 call?

O'BRIEN: Yes. If you go about two minutes and 20 second in, there's been lots of debate --

OWEN: Right.

O'BRIEN: Have you investigated that at all? What does your analysis say? Can you clarify that so people can hear and deep side yes, that is what I think it is or it's not what I think it is?

OWEN: I could certainly clarify that but I've not been asked to do that.

O'BRIEN: So if I asked you to do that, would you do that?

OWEN: I very well may do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Not only could he may well do that, he actually did do it for me. And here is his enhanced version of what I hear to be curse, racial slur. Listen, and looped three times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So Mr. Owen says through his forensic analysis he believes Zimmermann I s saying the curse word and then "clothes." Another forensic expert did the same thing had his version. Here's what he looped.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: OK, so he says he does hear the curse word and then the slur that's been in question. We want to get to Natalie Jackson, she's one of the attorneys for Trayvon Martin's family joining us this morning. Ms. Jackson, thanks for talking with us.

NATALIE JACKSON, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: One expert says it's a curse and then the other says, no, it's not. Are you confident you'll be able to isolate what was said at that windy day at that time two minutes and 20 seconds into that 911 call?

JACKSON: Well, Soledad, the prosecutors will be prosecuting this case, not our team. However, in all these cases there's always different experts that will say different things. Each side will have an expert. Here the important thing is that the jury gets to decide. I will tell you from my experience in jury trials is that juries have a lot of common sense, and they listen and they hear and they watch, and you cannot tell them if they are really paying attention what they're hearing and what they're seeing.

O'BRIEN: The department of justice is looking at this as a potential hate crimes case. So that chunk if in fact it's a case in a racial slur could be very important to making that case for the DOJ if they decide to go that way. If they decide it's not a racial slur, it could kill the case altogether. It's the $64,000 question, isn't it?

JACKSON: It is. It's a huge part of the question. We asked the department of justice when we met with them what role that would play, and they said that would be a really big part, what he's saying. So it's left up to the interpretation of the expert.

O'BRIEN: We had an interview yesterday with Frank Taaffe, and Will Cain and I were talking to him. We talked about burglary and about young black men in the neighborhood that he correlated with the burglaries. I asked him if he said it made sense to think that George Zimmermann would be fearful of young, black men. Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAAFFE: There's an old saying if you plant corn, you're going to get corn.

O'BRIEN: I don't know that saying. What does that mean in this case?

TAAFFE: It is what it is. It is what it is. I would go on record by stating that of the eight prior burglaries in the 15 months prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, all of the perpetrators were young black males.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: What do you think he's saying in that interview, ma'am?

JACKSON: I think he's saying that racial profiling is fine. I will tell you, Soledad, Frank Taaffe was not there. He is the worst representative for George Zimmerman. To think he's the representative to show this is not racial profiling is just outrageous.

BROWNSTEIN: You alluded to this before, but if the Justice Department concludes it cannot ascertain what was said in the 911 tape, are there other grounds in your view for pursuing a hate crime case, or is that pretty much the linchpin?

JACKSON: I'm sorry, repeat that, sir.

BROWNSTEIN: I'm saying if the justice department concludes it cannot ascertain what was said in the 911 call, in your view are there other grounds for pursuing a hate crime case, or are there not other grounds if there's not a clear indication of what was said on the tape?

JACKSON: Florida has a hate crime statute, but I don't believe the prosecutors will prosecute under that. I believe they'll prosecute it under a crime statute and they'll leave the hate crime to the Justice Department. So yes, if the Justice Department decides it's not a slur, that will be the end of any type of hate crime.

O'BRIEN: We know that the FBI has now spoken to Trayvon's girlfriend, that she was having a conversation with him as you well know right around the moments, the minutes before he was killed. Also we're told that they've had conversations with Frank Taaffe as well. Have you followed up with her to find out any details of what's come out of those conversations that she said now on the record with the law enforcement?

JACKSON: We have talked to her, our team. However, we've talked to her with the investigator. But she -- what she says is what she's always said. So, you know, that's really up to the prosecutor to follow up with her. So, no. Our team tries to just, you know, monitor what's going on, just to ensure the family, who has been told the family who have been told a lot of stuff, that things are progressing as they should. O'BRIEN: Natalie Jackson is an attorney for the Trayvon Martin family. Thanks, Ms. Jackson, for talking with us.

JACKSON: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead on STARTING POINT, a real eye opener. Little kids who already have rules in their head about their interracial friendship. I asked one child's parent where he heard these things. It's part of an "AC 360" study.

Cut we're going to be chatting about politics and Van's book, "Rebuild the Dream." You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And we're back with our conversation. We were talking earlier about politics and also Van's book, which is called "Rebuild the Dream." And the two of you were getting into it a little bit. You took great umbrage when you mentioned socialism and communism and how to --

CAIN: I reflected on the president's ideology. Van took big issue with that. I want him to tell me where have I got it wrong?

JONES: Basically what I wanted to be able to clarify with you and we were talking off camera --

O'BRIEN: You can hit him if you want.

JONES: No, no, no.

O'BRIEN: No, no. I'm kidding.

JONES: But all -- all these are fair questions. Look, I was on the left side of Pluto when I was in my 20s. Everybody knows that. I will talk -- I talk about that on the record. But what I learned is as I was you know going through the rest of my life, those ideas were not working. We -- I was going to more funerals than graduations for kids in Oakland. And I said we've got to do something to get jobs in this industry.

And so we -- the solar industry was taking off and so we said why don't we get these young kids jobs installing solar panels? And it opened up a whole new way of my understanding about it is you could use enterprise that green businesses to fight both pollution and poverty.

Wrote -- wrote a book about it and those were the ideas that I think captured the attention of a lot of people in the country. I got to go to the White House for six months working on those ideas. I think those are good ideas, I think they're good ideas because they're good -- if you believe in markets, they're great because they're free- market based ideas.

CAIN: So what I'm appreciating -- what I appreciated about Van and it didn't come off I guess personally between us is the honesty in his own ideology. And he's telling us now where he was versus where he is today.

JONES: Right.

CAIN: And what I'm curious about is -- even -- but even today you embrace some concepts like the Occupy protest. And -- and what I'm curious about is how much do the Occupy protests in this -- wherever we put it on the left end of the spectrum reflect on the President?

And you had personal interactions and worked with the President there's the source of my question.

JONES: Sure I mean, I think the President --

O'BRIEN: And did he want to you resign? When you resigned from position was there pressure?

JONES: Nobody asked me to resign. No, there was no pressure. Here is the deal most people when they go to work in the White House, they call the White House and say can I come work there? They -- it was the other way. They called me. I was there as a special adviser.

Now our friends in the right-wing media made me out to be a czar, that had these incredible powers. So they could kind of -- I was just a special adviser. When I thought my past -- my colorful past was being a distraction, I called them to resign.

And here is the deal, I learned a ton. And one of the things I learned, you know when you are -- you think you love this country, you work in the White House, you're holding that country in your arms for six months, you leave, you have a much deeper understanding about how both parties are misfiring. And I wanted to write a book that could at least put what I had learned on the record.

Your concern is I am a left Democrat, the President is a moderate Democrat, how close are we politically? I think you can look at this book and see there are places where we overlap and the places where we don't. That's true in any administration. You've got to have, hey listen, Larry Summers in that administration and so am I. So it gives you a sense of his range and his breadth.

But I know, I've been out of the administration for two and a half years. I want to be judged on my own ideas.

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

O'BRIEN: All right, we've got to get to a commercial break.

Ahead we got this really interesting study we did with "AC360" looking at how children as young as six years old view race. One little boy I interviews told me that his mom said she couldn't -- he couldn't have white friends.

JONES: Really? O'BRIEN: So we then showed that interview to his mom and dad and we'll tell you what they had to say about that.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: "ANDERSON COOPER 360" has a special report that's been airing this week. It's called "Kids on Race, the Hidden Picture." And I had a chance to sit down with some kids who said some pretty provocative things about race and then we showed it all to their parents. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Davionne is a first grader at a majority African- American elementary school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think sometimes that people choose friends based on the color of someone's skin?

O'BRIEN: His responses stood out to our experts because he was so overwhelmingly negative about interracial friendships. The majority of 6-year-old African-Americans were positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not the same color and they can't play together if they're not the same color.

O'BRIEN: It sounded like his mother was a big reason behind that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So why can't you play together if you have different color skin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because your mom might not want you to play with that friend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What if someone really wanted to be your friend but they're of a different color? What would you do?

You'd say no? And why would you say no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you're not the same color.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it's ok to tell people that they can't be your friend because of the color of their skin?

Why is that ok?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because your mom would not want them to be a different color of friends.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're good to go, right?

O'BRIEN: This is Davionne's mother, Aisha. She's a teacher in her son's school district. She says Davionne has friends of many races but that race is not an issue she's delved into with him.

AISHA, DAVIONNE'S MOTHER: What I teach him as everyone the same to treat how you want to be treated. I've never said that I had a conversation with him specifically about anyone's race or anything like that.

O'BRIEN: Does he ever ask you questions about race?

AISHA: No, not really. I don't think he really understands or it's a factor to him or it matters.

O'BRIEN: Davionne's father David is separated from Davionne's mother but the two share custody of their son. They agreed to watch his test and give us their reaction. We warned them in advance their son had some pretty provocative things to say.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it's good to have friends that look different than you or is it better to have friends that look the same as you?

DAVIONNE: Look the same as you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So why can't you play together if you have different color skin?

DAVIONNE: Because your mom might not want you to play with that friend.

O'BRIEN: So what do you think is going on there? We'll start with mommy because mommy's mentioned a lot.

AISHA: I definitely have not, you know, told him that he can only have friends of one color so I'm not sure. But I'm a little bothered by it.

O'BRIEN: Are you?

AISHA: I am.

O'BRIEN: Is it upsetting?

AISHA: Oh yes it is. Just because I don't want him to feel like I would think that or I would expect that. You know I definitely don't want to instill that in him. Whoever is his friend is his friend. So I'm not sure why he would feel that way. So it just concerns me that he thinks like that.

O'BRIEN: David was skeptical that Davionne's answers were a true reflection of his son.

DAVID, DAVIONNE'S FATHER: I know for a fact that -- that's not my son as far as the answers he was giving. And I think like I said he answers the way he want people -- the way he thinks he want people to answer.

DAVIONNE: If a black kid and a white kid -- O'BRIEN: Our study found the majority of 6-year-old black children are optimistic about race relations but at age 13 that changes to the same pessimistic view of their white peers. According to our experts it's repeated messages of rejection from the majority that explains the disappointing trend.

(on camera): So then if - if the theory goes by psychologist that kids from six to 13 become more pessimistic, do you worry about him? He's starting really pessimistic?

AISHA: I'm a little concerned. Whenever you have something happen like this, you get to really look at what's going on and if you're already approaching it at a pessimistic state, what's going to happen later?

O'BRIEN (voice-over): It's a question she'll now face head on with her son.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I have to say this "KIDS ON RACE" special, "The Hidden Pictures" is going to air all week on AC360. But I think the parents -- I mean we later talked to all the parents of all the kids so brave to be able to watch their kids saying some pretty crazy things.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, 2011, historic tipping point, the majority of newborns were non-white for the first time. By the end of this decade a majority of all Americans under 18 will be non-white, not withstanding this case, as we talked about before, the inexorable trend is toward more intermingling, more intermixing and I think that is the direction we are heading toward.

O'BRIEN: I agree with that.

CAIN: Before Van and I got into our ideological disagreement, we actually talked -- we grew up very similarly in small towns in the south where races are integrated through the school district. But what's interesting about that is we also have probably different perceptions about how inclusive it actually was.

O'BRIEN: Of course.

JONES: I wonder, this kid seems like a very sensitive kid and I wonder if he's picking up on some of the disappointment of his parents even subconsciously in reflecting that.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: The psychologist in the study night, O'Hare --

JONES: -- they're not explicitly -- they may not be explicitly saying that but --

O'BRIEN: The colleges talk a lot about that what the kids are taking in because remember, the parents always say, they're only six they really don't know anything. And that's not really the case. All right. We have to take a break. "End Point" is up next with our panel. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: "End Point" Ron Brownstein?

BROWNSTEIN: Will was right. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney want to have an ideological argument. The irony is the last 10 percent of voters who will decide this election will not engage in that; they will decide on other grounds.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Right, Van?

If you want to know what I think about anything, get my book. Get my book. It is available online. It's like number 10 on Amazon right now going lot hot cakes.

O'BRIEN: All right. All right.

Will Cain, last 30 seconds.

CAIN: My 2-hour -old relationship with Van Jones has gone through its ups and downs but I would hope that the conversations we've had on and off the air actually are ones we can have more of.

O'BRIEN: Good, I like that. Kumbaya, everybody. All right.

And that is it for STARTING POINT this morning. We're going to send it over to CNN NEWSROOM with Carol Costello. I'll see everybody back here tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m.

Hey Carol -- good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Good morning Soledad. Thank you. Good morning to all of you.

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