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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Whitney Houston Dead at 48; Interview With Jacob Lew; Interview with Senator Lieberman; Interview With Rick Santorum

Aired February 12, 2012 - 09:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Romney hits the daily double rocking both the Maine caucuses and the poll of top conservative activists.

And the president tangles with the Catholic hierarchy over contraception and health care coverage.

White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew, presidential contender Rick Santorum and Senator Joe Lieberman will join us soon.

But first, the latest heartbreak out of Hollywood death of singer Whitney Houston.

Didn't she almost have it all? Whitney Houston was beautiful and talented with music in her soul and her blood line. She was the daughter of a gospel singer, cousin to Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin was her godmother. She had a voice that could range five octaves and cross over from gospel, R&B, to pop. Her career blossomed in the 1980s, skyrocketed in the '90s. Grammys, Emmys, number one hits, multimillions of albums sold, leading roles in blockbuster films like The Bodyguard and multimillions in income.

But there was as well a tumultuous marriage and drug addiction. Her star faded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WHITNEY HOUSTON, SINGER: My biggest enemy is me. I'm either my best friend or worst enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Houston divorced and got clean, she said, and tried a comeback releasing an album in 2009, and going on tour. But time and trouble had taken an obvious toll. Whitney Houston never got her comeback but as the news swept over last night, music industry giants called in to cement the legacy of that voice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is going to be one of these times where you're going to remember where you were when you heard the news, it's that significant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had that voice, that could just turn a story, a melody into just magical, notes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE; There will never be another voice like that.

LARRY KING: People should not die young.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Scheduled to attend a pre-Grammys party thrown by her mentor Clive Davis, Whitney Houston was pronounced dead in her Beverly Hills hotel room. She was 48, a short life for a huge talent.

Joining me now, CNN's Deborah Feyerick was outside the New Hope Baptist Church in New Jersey where Whitney Houston sang as a child, and Nichelle Turner from our L.A. bureau.

First to you Deb, tell us there's nothing like a hometown in mourning and that sounds like where you are.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is where Whitney Houston found her voice. She said she used to sing for god. A sense of deep grief amongst the parishioners, they're currently in a service right now. We spoke to the pastor just a little while ago. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Family shared Whitney with the world, but Whitney was a mother, a daughter, a sister, and that's the focus that we want to keep in front of everyone today to continue to lift the family up and respect -- respect this time of grief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you spoken with Dr. Houston?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is she doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She needs our prayers of support.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Candy, right now no funeral arrangements have been determined but the parishioners here, they are remembering her today and they are keeping the entire Houston family in their prayers, Candy.

CROWLEY: This is Deb Feyerick from New Jersey. Thank you, Deb Feyerick from New Jersey. Out to California and L.A. where we found our Nichelle Turner in her L.A. bureau.

Nichelle, talk to me about last night. I know you were at the hotel.

NICHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I was at Beverly Hilton Hotel where Clive Davis did continue on with his pre-Grammy party. And I have to tell you, Candy, I've done so many red carpets and usually the mood is light, it's jovial, folks are having a pretty good time. Last night was just very odd. Everyone was somber, there was no talk other than Whitney Houston on the red carpet. So many people just describing what she meant to them.

One of the people that I spoke with, Gladys Knight, who is very close to Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston's cousin, told me about many occasions where her and Dionne Warwick actually went to Whitney and did sort of what she describes as interventions, telling her we know you're struggling but we need you, we need you to get through this.

And, you know, she said that she thought Whitney heard her and thought she was trying to beat her demons, as she called them. CROWLEY: Thanks to our Nichelle Turner out there in the L.A. bureau. We should add we do not yet know of the cause of death. We are awaiting that.

For more on the story, we're going to turn Joey Bartolomeo, a senior writer for People magazine, our Hillary Rosen, former chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America.

Joey, first to you, the natural thing to go to is thinking perhaps drugs had something to do with this but we know from officers on the scene who said there was no obvious sign of anything that might have caused death which to me says no drug paraphernalia, can you tell us anything about the last couple of years for Whitney Houston and whether she had, in fact, beaten her demons, or had she slipped back, do you think?

JOEY BARTOLOMEO, PEOPLE MAGAZINE: Whitney's had her ups and downs over the last several year. You know, last May she checked into an outpatient treatment program, so it was clearly something that she was still struggling with. And, you know, we saw pictures of her from a party on Thursday night where it looked like she was having maybe too good of a time there, you know, we don't know if she was drinking or anything else. But you know, it seems like this is something that she continued to struggle with.

CROWLEY: And Hillary, let me talk to you, because you bring both the Hollywood and Washington, you're sort of our nexus today, because we all know Whitney Houston is a singer. But you also know her as someone who had some political causes.

HILLARY ROSEN, FORMER CEO RIAA: Well, she did. she was one of the earliest activists anti-apartheid and when Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, Whitney Houston traveled there several times. She raised money for his foundation. She was also involved in AIDS and pediatric AIDS. She did a lot of benefits with that. And for the United Negro College Fund.

I remember when Nelson Mandela came to Washington for the state dinner that President Clinton hosted for him, it was a grand affair and everyone was so excited that he was coming here, not only as a free man but as a president, he requested Whitney Houston be his state dinner entertainment speaker -- entertainment performer. And I was in the back of the room. She sang The Greatest Love of All which of course is that anthem to self-love, something that this young woman never really maybe grasped enough of.

CROWLEY: Joey, just quickly, can you give me any kind of indication, I mean, can you compare this to other early losses in Hollywood? I know our Larry King talked about others that have died so young, Judy Garland one of them. Does this compare to a Michael Jackson or a Judy Garland?

BARTOLOMEO: Absolutely. I mean, this is someone who was the biggest pop star when she was in her prime. She was unbelievable. And not only as a singer, but also you know in movies. She had hit movies. And so you know, this is definitely one of those cases where you know she will be remembered for her music even if, you know, she did die from perhaps drugs.

CROWLEY: Joey Bartolomeo, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Hillary Rosen, as always, thanks.

And please stay with CNN as we bring latest on breaking news as it happen.

But after the break, White House chief of staff, Jacob Lew joins us talk about the firestorm over the White House's latest contraception policy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me here in Washington, White House Chief of Staff, Jacob Lew. Thanks for joining us.

LEW: Good to be with you.

CROWLEY: Just want to start what has roiled certainly some in the Catholic community, I know has really set the White House off in trying to get things situated, and that is this idea that Catholic universities, Catholic hospitals, should have to pay for contraception for its employees as part of its health care plan.

The president comes back with a compromise, and says, well, the health insurance companies will contact the women in these facilities and offer contraceptive services, and the women can accept or not accept, and the health care -- the health care provider, Aetna, whatever, will pay for it. Is that where we are right now?

LEW: Well, let me actually tell you where we are, Candy. The president has had a consistent position throughout this. He has two principles that are very important. One is that all women have a right to all forms of preventative health care, including contraception.

Secondly, in the greatest tradition of this country we have to respect the religious liberties of people with very different views. I think where this policy has come out is that the initial announcement of a policy said it would take some time to work through the details. Because of the concern that arose, we speeded up the process.

And on Friday what the president announced was, we think, a very good resolution of the problem. It's gotten support of a wide range of organizations, from Catholic Charities and the Catholic Health Association, to Planned Parenthood. It respects both of these core principles and we think it's a good solution.

CROWLEY: Well, let me -- it did not win the support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which put out a statement Friday and said, "Today's proposal," -- being the compromise proposal -- "continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions."

You are an observant Jew, I know, was there anything about this that made you think twice when it first went out?

LEW: So you know, I have to say that the solution that we came up with puts no religious institution in the position where it either has to pay for or facilitate the provision of the benefits they find objectionable. If the issue is should women have access to all form of preventive care, including contraception, we believe the answer to that is yes.

CROWLEY: Can you say, though, with a straight face that the insurance company's going to pick up the cost of this?

LEW: You know, I have to tell you, as somebody who has done budgets for a lot of years, usually when people say to me that something doesn't cost money, I ask them how could that be. This is the exception to the rule. If you price two insurance plans, one of them with contraception, the other without, the plan without contraception costs more than the one with it.

So this will not cost the insurance companies money, it will not put religious institutions in a place where they --

CROWLEY: Why, why -- why is that?

LEW: Because the total cost of care for a person is higher without than it is with contraception, so --

CROWLEY: Then why isn't -- why don't health insurance companies everywhere just offer free contraceptive services?

LEW: I actually think there won't be as much resistance to this from insurance companies as people might think because of what I just said. If you look to examples in other states where it's worked, it's worked pretty much the way I've described.

There is an issue here. The issue is do women have a right to contraception? We think the answer is yes. Should religious institutions have their sensibilities protected? The answer's yes. You know, I'm a person of faith. I care deeply that we're a country that respects faith and that respects people's right to have different views.

This is a challenge to reconcile two important principles and the president found a way to reconcile those. There are others who don't have the same objective, and they have to speak for themselves.

CROWLEY: As far as the White House is concerned, is this done?

(CROSSTALK)

LEW: We think we've put out a pretty solid plan.

CROWLEY: So no more compromising?

LEW: We've put out the plan that reflects where the president intended to go.

CROWLEY: OK. So that means there is room for compromising or is not?

LEW: No. This is our plan.

CROWLEY: OK. Let me move you on to the payroll tax cut. We're coming up to the end of the month. How certain are you that Congress is going to pass a year-long extension of those payroll tax cuts and the other things that come with it, the "doc fix" and the unemployment insurance?

LEW: You know, I think that it's clear that the economy's doing much better, but it needs to have that additional push that comes from this payroll tax. We saw in December that it didn't work out so well to have a big, ugly fight over the payroll tax.

We can avoid that. We have enough time for Congress to get its work done. You know, we all care about having economic growth and having unemployment go down and employment go up. This payroll tax is important. There are -- this can be solved; Congress needs to get its work done.

CROWLEY: And will it be solved?

(CROSSTALK)

LEW: I believe it should get solved. And I know there are people working hard even this weekend trying to solve it.

CROWLEY: Let me show you a recent ABC News poll about the president's handling of the federal budget deficit. And we will get to the budget, which we know is coming out tomorrow in a bit. But I want to ask you in general -- this poll shows that 38 percent of Americans approve the way the president's handling the deficit and 58 percent disapprove. Why is that, do you think?

LEW: You know, we've just come through one of the worst economic periods in modern history. When the president took office, we were losing jobs at a rate of 750,000 a month. We're now at a point we're gaining jobs at a rate of 250,000 a month. So it's a swing of a million jobs from when we took office --

CROWLEY: This is about the deficit specifically. LEW: In order to get to the point where we are, it has required us to do things that you wouldn't have done under other circumstances. So the Recovery Act that did involve some spending, having federal programs that automatically kick in, revenues were down because economic growth was lower.

We share the concerns of the American people, that we need to focus on the deficit. And we'll talk about the president's budget, which this $4 trillion of deficit reduction in a fair, balanced way, that asks everybody to do their fair share. So we have a plan. But it's not surprising to me that the American people are looking at the deficit today and saying they'd like (inaudible)

(CROSSTALK) LEW: -- some action. You know, we agree with them.

CROWLEY: Let me, before we get to that -- and it will be after the break -- let me ask you about Egypt. Newt Gingrich said in a recent speech that there are Americans being held hostage in Egypt. We do know there are Americans who are not being allowed to leave because of Egyptian military government said it may want to prosecute them.

He compared it to the Iranian hostage crisis. What are you doing? I mean, as far as the administration is concerned, is it all right for the Egyptian government to be holding these Americans inside the country?

LEW: Well, let's be clear. The situation in Egypt is quite serious. We have made clear, we're having conversations, General Dempsey is there this weekend, that it's important to resolve this country to country. But to compare this to the Iranian hostage crisis really does a disservice to those Americans in Iran who truly were held hostage.

This is a situation that can be resolved. There's time to resolve it, and our government is working very hard.

CROWLEY: Are you close to getting them the of the country?

LEW: I don't want to speak where things are going but all efforts are being made.

CROWLEY: OK. Coming up, more with White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew. And later, Rick Santorum got a rousing reception at CPAC, but lost the conservative straw poll vote to Mitt Romney. We'll ask him why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: We are back with White House chief of staff Jacob Lew.

I want to put up for our views what we know about some of the things that are coming out of this president's budget plan tomorrow and that is $350 billion in short-term job spending, $476 billion in spend on infrastructure, $60 billion for schools and retaining teachers, first responders. We just got finished talking about the deficit. We saw the low numbers of the approval numbers for the president on dealing with the federal deficit. This looks like another stimulus plan.

LEW: Well, this is a budget that takes both the short and the long-term view. I think that there's broad agreement from all of the commissions that were out doing work on the budget to most budget experts that, over the next period of time, we still need to pay attention to sustaining economic growth and creating jobs, that's why it's so important to pass the payroll tax before the end of February. It's why it's so important that we jump start our investment in infrastructure. CROWLEY: But isn't this a stimulus?

LEW: This is a budget that takes a look at the short and the long term. Over the long term, there's $4 trillion of deficit reduction in this budget, it comes by adhering to the rules that were part of the budget agreement last year, which $1 trillion of savings in the annual appropriations. It has another $1 trillion of savings that were part of the August debt bill agreement. And there's $2 trillion of additional savings on top on of that.

This comes from very tough policies in almost every area, from mandatory programs to revenues.

CROWLEY: ...also comes from more spending, some of the funding?

LEW: The savings come from the tough decisions, the savings come from having a policy that's based on the principles the president outlined in Kansas and outlined in the state of the union.

CROWLEY: What's the toughest cut?

LEW: Oh, there are a lot of tough cuts ranging from consolidating field offices and closing them down in places like the Agriculture Department to consolidating training programs.

CROWLEY: That sound like a -- really tough -- consolidating Agriculture Department?

LEW: I think that when you look at $1 trillion of savings over ten years, that's a lot of money, a $1 trillion doesn't have to come -- we have to make sure as we make reductions we do it in a smart way. So we cut some things and we increase other things. So for example, while we're cutting the things that we can do without, we're increasing what we put in over this period of time into research and development so we can build the economy of the future and make sure we have an economy that can last.

CROWLEY: Do you think it looks like a stimulus plan?

LEW: No, I think it's...

CROWLEY: It's the sort of thing you certainly had.

LEW: I think most Americans understand that a crumbling infrastructure is not the way to build an economy that can last. We need to make sure we have a manufacturing base in this country. We need to make sure we have American workers with skills for the jobs of the future. We need to make sure that we have an energy policy that will leave us in a place where we can generate our own energy and also not be dependent on overseas -- and we also need to have a policy that's true to American values and that means that everyone needs to pay their fair share and have a fair shot.

CROWLEY: And I know -- I want to talk about the tax hike in a second, but I want to read for our viewers something Senator Harry Reid, the democratic and majority lead, in the U.S. Senate who said, "we do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year. It's done. We don't need to do it," talking about last year's two-year agreement and saying it's already done.

This budget, I can assure you, and you know, because you've been in this town for a long time, is going to be attacked as a political document. This is a budget that promises 2 million more jobs if it's passed. So that come September the president can go out there and say, well, if they'd only pass my budget we'd have 2 million more jobs, but those darn Republicans are standing in my way when in fact even the democratic leader in the senate says, you know what, we don't need a budge.

LEW: Let's be clear, what Senator Reid is talking about is a fairly narrow point. In order for the Senate to do its annual work on appropriation bills they need to pass a certain piece of legislation which sets a limit. They did that last year. That's what he's talking about. He's not saying that they shouldn't pass a budget, but we also need to be honest you can't pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can't get 60 votes without the bipartisan support. So unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate Harry Reid is not able to get a budget passed. And I think he was reflecting the reality that that could be a challenge.

But let's be clear, there's time and desire to work together. We put a lot of things out there, ranging from authority to reorganize the government so that we have a government for the 21st Century, not the 19th or 20th Century, home financing proposal so that Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, can refinance homes that are under water. There's a lot that we can and should do together on a bipartisan basis this year.

CROWLEY: Last question, what's the economy going to look like in September? What will the unemployment rate be?

LEW: You know, we have been very heartened by the economic news of last two, three months.

CROWLEY: Keep falling?

LEW: Unemployment has been falling, job growth is strong.

CROWLEY: Do you think it will continue to fall and be lower in September than now?

LEW: I can't predict the each month will be as good as last few but we're headed in the right direction.

We need to make sure we don't do anything to get in the way. Washington needs to get its work done, that's why the payroll tax needs to be extended on time without a lot of drama. It's why we need to do our business in a way that doesn't create the uncertainty that did harm to the economy over the sum.

CROWLEY: White House chief of staff, Jacob Lew, thanks for joining us.

LEW: Good to be with you, Candy.

CROWLEY: After the break, the pot boils over. Thousands of civilian deaths as the violence in Syria escalate. And disturbing images make clear the Syrian regime is digging in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: The government of Syria is severely limiting foreign journalists access into the country so it's impossible to verify details of what the U.N. secretary-general calls the appalling brutality of the Syrian government. What we know, we see through the eyes of Syrians via the internet, through stepped up U.S. intelligence efforts.

This reconnaissance satellite image, dated February 6th, was posted by U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford on the embassy's Facebook page.

Labels point to burning buildings, smoke, impact craters, Syrian military and armored vehicles in the city of Homs. Other imagery, declassified by the State Department to help inform world view, shows artillery movements towards Homs, a city, by all accounts, under siege.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT FORD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SYRIA: You see these images coming from Homs, Syria's third largest city, a city that I visited last year, and it was very prosperous. It was the economic hub. And now you're looking at apartment buildings being blown up by artillery shells, bodies in the streets, people can't go out of their homes even to collect the bodies, children, women, killed. It's just -- it's horrific. It's repulsive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Diplomatic efforts stalled at the U.N., sanctions have had no noticeable effect on the regime of Bashar al-Assad and CNN's Barbara Starr learned from sourced the Pentagon is drawing up possible military options the president did not request, nor is he expected to.

Now what? Senator Joe Lieberman is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: Joining me now, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman, Joe Lieberman. Thank you, Senator. Want to talk Syria. The Arab ministers are meeting in Cairo now.

The Saudi foreign minister, according to one of our reporters there, has accused the Syrian government of a campaign of mass cleansing to enforce its own authority, and he has called on the Arab League, on Arab ministers, to tighten sanctions.

And I want to quote this carefully, and opening up channels of communication with the opposition to offer, quote, "all kinds of help needed." Is that a good sign?

JOE LIEBERMAN, SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS CHAIRMAN: Yes, a good sign. It's a beginning. But there really needs to be more. I mean, before leaving that, let me say that the activity, the pro-activity of the Arab League in this case, as in Libya, is something very significant.

The Arab League was --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: We have to have it, that's cover --

LIEBERMAN: That's right.

CROWLEY: -- for anybody to do anything.

LIEBERMAN: And in previous situations, the Arab League was much more restrained and kind of self-protective. Here, they're putting themselves on the side of freedom and against dictatorship.

And it does, as you say, give us the credibility that it's not just the West coming in, it's the Arab League, the Gulf countries, et cetera. But we've got to do more than just begin to talk to the opposition in Syria because the reality on the ground is, since the U.N. resolution was vetoed by Russia and Iran, the Assad government has begun to kill its own people at -- with increasing frequency. Hundreds since then.

So I think it's time to try to help the brave Syrian freedom fighters to carry out a fair fight. And I think it's time to give them help. Medical help first, and then I'd give them training, I'd give them communications equipment, and then ultimately I'd give them weapons because this --

CROWLEY: From the U.S., are you talking? Or what --

(CROSSTALK)

LIEBERMAN: I think this has to be part of an international coalition, since the Russian --

CROWLEY: A la Libya? LIEBERMAN: Exactly. Since the Russians and the Iranians -- excuse me -- the Russians and the Chinese have vetoed U.N. action, we've got to form a coalition of the willing. And that will now include the Arab League and the Gulf countries and Turkey.

CROWLEY: For people who -- listen, if you look at polling now about what the U.S. did in Libya, which was not to commit a single ground force and to take a back seat in the flyovers, even almost half of Americans still didn't want us do that.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

CROWLEY: So we're talking about an environment where people just don't see a need for the U.S. to get involved. So, describe to me what is the strategic interest of the U.S. in getting involved enough to arm a friend, arm the enemy of a friend of Russia and China? LIEBERMAN: Yes, I know, it's a very important question. Look, I'm going to go back to Libya quickly.

We got involved in Libya to stop the humanitarian disaster, and thanks to the courage of the freedom fighters in Libya on the ground and the help we gave them and the air cover we gave them, they succeeded in overthrowing Gadhafi.

The truth is, our strategic interest in Syria is even greater. If we can help the Syrian --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: So is the risk, is it not? The risk of involvement?

LIEBERMAN: I think we can limit the risk. I would never put American troops on the ground. I don't think any of the other countries want their troops on the ground. The fact is the Syrian people are forming the -- exactly the same kinds of militias that the Libyan people formed, that ultimately, with our help, brought down Gadhafi.

If Assad falls in Syria, it is a great moral and democratic victory for the people of Syria, but it is also a tremendous, strategic defeat for Iran, which is our enemy.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Is Iran going to allow that? I mean, it just seems like with Libya, everybody was against Libya. They really wanted -- he was like, you know, just a sort of a live wire in the Middle East. And here now you have Syria, which has power in the Middle East, which has friends in the Middle East. Aren't -- don't you just light the fuse if the U.S. in any way gets involved in this?

LIEBERMAN: I think that our strategic interest in assisting the people of Syria overthrow Assad is actually greater than our interest in what we did in Libya. We went into Libya for humanitarian, moral reasons. We did the right thing. We're always better when we do that. We did it with a lot of assistance from the Arab world and from our allies in Europe.

But Iran is the greatest threat to security in the Middle East and in the world today, the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. Its only ally, Iran's only ally in the Arab world is Syria. If Assad is thrown over by his own people, it will be a tremendous strategic setback for Iran and a great victory for the rest of the people in the Middle East, and for us as well because, obviously, Iran is our sworn enemy.

CROWLEY: Any expectation at all? Because I've seen nothing from the administration that says they seem eager, willing or even considering helping to arm -- under any umbrella, helping to arm Syrian rebels?

LIEBERMAN: Well, the encouraging news that is the Pentagon is putting together plans to make that happen if the president decides to order it. But you know, we always use the phrase, in regard to Iran every option is on the table.

In this case I would say, with regard to Syria, America ought to take the position that every option is on the table except doing nothing, because doing nothing means hundreds of more Syrians are killed and it means that Iran, which continues to give Assad the weapons with which he's killing his own people, will achieve a strategic victory over us and all of the rest of the countries in the Middle East who are their enemies.

So I think it's time for the administration to act. The good news is we're going to have allies with us, Turkey, the Arab League, and the Gulf countries, and I think a lot of Europeans as well.

CROWLEY: I've got 15 seconds, so I need a yes or no. We all know that you voted Republican in the last presidential election for your friend, John McCain. Could you see your way clear to vote for a Republican this time?

LIEBERMAN: It's possible. But I think what I'm most likely to do, since I'm not running for re-election and enjoying not being in elected politics, is to stay out of this one and vote like most people, privately.

CROWLEY: Privately. I'll check in with you a little later, couple months. Thanks so much, Senator Joe Lieberman, for your expertise on this.

Later on the show, more on the death of Whitney Houston. We have a haunting rendition of one of her top hits. But first, Rick Santorum joins us to talk about his battle with Mitt Romney over conservative credentials and frontrunner status.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The last thing we've learned is that we will no longer abandon and apologize for the policies and principles that made this country great for a hollow victory in November. (END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me now, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who is out in California, where my best guess is you're collecting some money out there. So thank you for joining us at a very early hour, I know.

SANTORUM: You bet.

CROWLEY: You know, you had a great first of the week with that sweep of three states and not such a great Saturday. I found it surprising that, in CPAC, this collection of basically your base that has fueled your campaign, a collection of conservative groups, had a straw poll and they voted for Mitt Romney, 38 percent to 31 percent. What happened?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, those straw polls at CPAC, as you know, for years, Ron Paul's won those because he just trucks in a lot of people, pays for their ticket, and they come in and vote and then they leave. And I'm not -- you know, we didn't do that. We don't do that. I don't -- I don't try to rig straw polls.

CROWLEY: Do you think...

SANTORUM: I know that there was some...

CROWLEY: Do you think Governor Romney rigged it?

SANTORUM: ... unhappiness at the announcement.

Well, you have to talk to the Romney campaign and how many tickets they bought. We've heard all sorts of things.

But, you know what, those straw polls -- in my mind, you know, they were important last year when we weren't voting, but states are voting right now.

And we had a great week where you had thousands of people voting, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousand voting, and we defeated Governor Romney by 30 points in the state of Missouri, almost 30 points in Minnesota. And in a state where no one -- the most recent poll the day before the election had us down 14 in Colorado, and our people turned out. And we didn't pay them to turn out. They turned out because they were excited about our campaign, and we were able to defeat them in Colorado.

And we feel very, very good going into Michigan and Arizona. We're going to compete, obviously, heavily in Michigan. We're going to compete in Arizona. And we think this is a two-person race right now and we're just focused on -- on making sure that folks know we're the best alternative to Barack Obama and we have the best chance of beating him.

CROWLEY: OK. Before I leave the straw poll, we should first note that Mitt Romney also won the Maine caucuses, where I know you didn't compete heavily or at all. But you mentioned twice...

SANTORUM: Right, right.

CROWLEY: ... that you didn't pay for votes in these caucuses. So I have to go back to, do you have any -- someone clearly is telling you that they think Mitt Romney's team at least paid for folks to go and vote for him at the straw poll. Is that -- and that's what you're saying?

SANTORUM: That's -- that's -- that's standard procedure at all of these straw polls, that campaigns who want to win go out and recruit people and provide, you know, free tickets for them to come and vote. And there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, that's absolutely a strategy. We just don't think that's a good use of our resources. And -- but Governor Romney, obviously, you know, may have a different idea.

Look, the best use of our resources is to go to Michigan -- well, actually, we're going to be in Washington state on Monday. That's a Super Tuesday state. We're going to be in Idaho on Tuesday. We're going to be in North Dakota talking about energy and the importance of the Keystone Pipeline, the importance of that oil up in the Bakkens there, and what we can do to reduce the price of domestic fuels here in this country so we can be more energy independent.

And then we're going to Michigan, to speak at the Detroit Economic Club, and we're going to lay out our Made in the U.S. plan on how we're going to get manufacturing and energy going in this economy so we can create opportunities for everybody, from the bottom up, from the very poor to those who are already enjoying success in America. We want everybody to enjoy success.

CROWLEY: Let me take a trip down memory lane with you and play a 2006 ad that you ran in what was ultimately a losing battle to keep your Senate seat. Let me play it just a second.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: To get things done, you've got to work together. I teamed up with Joe Lieberman to make college more affordable for low- income families, and Barbara Boxer and I wrote a law protecting open space. I'm even working with Hillary Clinton to limit inappropriate material in children's video games.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CROWLEY: I want to pair that up with a statement from someone who was present at some kind of meeting with you at CPAC where you assured them that you would not move back to the center were you to become president of the United States.

So where is the Rick Santorum that paired up with Joe Lieberman, Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton? He just won't be there if he becomes president?

SANTORUM: Well, a lot of the things I was just talking about, I mean, protecting kids on the Internet is a conservative thing to do. I mean, Hillary Clinton came on our side on that. And the things I worked with Joe Lieberman, the same thing. You know, these are things that we worked on that we could find bipartisan accommodations. Open space was a very, very important issue in suburban Philadelphia, as it is out here in California. And this was an opportunity for -- to really work with local communities who wanted to preserve that space, particularly in urban areas.

So again, this is -- these are not big government programs. This is actually working with local communities, working with libraries, working with parents' groups to make sure that children aren't exposed to inappropriate material on the Internet and in schools. This is -- this is, again, consistent with the values that I hold.

CROWLEY: OK. And let me play you another that came from the same era, this 2006 campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: This paper, they say "The real problem with Rick Santorum is he's too liberal." They didn't like my legislation calling for a raise in the minimum wage. And the White House probably called me a lot of things, but I fought their efforts to cut Amtrak funding.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So if you should get to the White House, would you entertain raising the minimum wage? Would you continue to protect and raise funds for Amtrak?

SANTORUM: Well, on the issue of the minimum wage, if you go back and look at my record, I voted against the minimum wage increase many, many times, but when the minimum wage gets to the point where it truly needs to be raised because it's now -- you know, I think the number, historically, is below 7 percent of the workforce is now being paid the minimum wage, I do support a minimum wage.

I do not support what Governor Romney has suggested, which is indexing the minimum wage. That is a very bad idea that will lead to wage inflation. But when the minimum wage drops as the economy improves and inflation eventually creeps up, to set a basic minimum wage at the federal level, I have supported throughout my political career, yes. But I don't support anything in the minimum wage that would be an inflator of wages. And that's the real big difference between the two. And as far as Amtrak funding, you know, look, I represent Pennsylvania. That ad was run in Philadelphia. That's an important piece of --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: So an important Amtrak place.

SANTORUM: -- of the economic viability. Yes. The economic viability of that very busy and congested corridor. So what I have said is that, you know, that, look, we need to look at all things in government. Amtrak would be one. I'm convinced now that Amtrak is something that, you know, should not be funded by a federal level. We're in a very, very different time --

CROWLEY: Yet --

SANTORUM: -- now and the -- and the economy of this country and the budget deficits. and Amtrak funding would be one of those things that's just going to have to go.

CROWLEY: And yet Mitt Romney is criticized by you and others when he says, listen, I did what was best for my state when I went -- you know, signed health care into law for my state. It was not a federal thing. You know, I will repeal ObamaCare, but you all hit him, and he was representing his state at the time. What's the difference here?

SANTORUM: Well, I think there's a big difference between funding a program that's been funded a long time (ph) OK, Amtrak, which does -- you know, look, it's -- you make the argument, as I have, that funding Amtrak, which is a passenger rail service, is in many respects like funding a highway system.

That you know, that provides interstate transportation between the -- between the -- between the states and something the federal government does and really and it's in the Constitution to do so.

It's very different than having the government mandate that you buy health insurance, or the government pay and trade a right, as we've seen just this week, when the government creates a right to health insurance, they create the right to be able to tell you how to exercise the provision of that insurance, as we saw with the Catholic Church.

That's a very different thing than a transportation program. There are certainly legitimate arguments whether we should fund Amtrak or not, but that is a very different thing that a fundamental takeover of a sector of the economy.

CROWLEY: OK. Senator Santorum, I have got to leave it there. Thanks for joining us this morning.

SANTORUM: Thank you, Candy. (MUSIC PLAYING)

CROWLEY: And now a musical interlude. On this week's campaign trail, a look at the tunes selected by the candidates to accompany their comings and goings on the stage. We have our own theories on what the candidates want you to learn from their picks.

In general, Republicans go heavy on the country. In both parties, any song with the words America, U.S.A., Main Street, or working man goes to the head of the queue. And if someone could come up with a song about middle income tax payers, candidates would arm wrestle for the rights.

First up, Mitt Romney and his jam Kid Rock's "Born Free."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Mitt's musical message, Kid Rock said I could use this song. I am edgier than you think.

Now Rick Santorum shakes hands to the tune of Toby Keith's "Made in America."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: In between those notes read Santos (ph) message like this -- I support American manufacturing, and I want to give a special shoutout to farmland, Iowa and the Midwest. I'm looking at you.

And listening up at a Gingrich event, you will hear Brooks and Dunn's "Only in America."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: This says, well, not much. Gingrich really wanted to play "Eye of the Tiger," but the author sued him.

And then there's Ron Paul. Ever the original, he had a song written just for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: This is a song that screams I don't play by the rules, and it doesn't matter what the song says, because I don't need a song to keep my crowd pumped.

If you liked any of those tunes and you live in Arizona, Michigan, Washington or one of the Super Tuesday states, they'll be playing at a town near you in the coming weeks.

Up next, a check of the top stories and the latest on the death of singer Whitney Houston.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories. Greece's parliament is voting today on a package of austerity measures that will pave the way for a $172 billion bailout deal. The measure would mean a 20 percent cut in the minimum wage as well as higher taxes. Greece's prime minister is warning that a rejection of the deal would leave the country bankrupt and out of the Eurozone.

An Israeli air strike in northern Gaza killed one person and injured two others. The Israeli military said the strike was in response to attacks by Hamas against communities in southern Israel. Tonight's Grammy awards will pay tribute to Whitney Houston. The vice president of the recording academy tells CNN that the tone of the show is being changed a bit to reflect on the singer's memory. Among those participating in the tribute will be singer and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson. Thank you so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.

Up next for our viewers here in the U.S., "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" but we will leave you with Whitney Houston and a haunting rendition of her hit "How Will I Know."

(MUSIC)