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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Singer Whitney Houston Dies; Interview with Whitney Houston's Godmother Darlene Love; President Presents Budget Today; The Real Arianna, Please Stand Up; Interview with Rep. Marsha Blackburn; Interview with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver; Pakistan Prime Minister Charged With Contempt; Gadhafi's Son Under House Arrest; Washington To Legalize Same Sex Marriage Today; Lefty Leaves Tiger In Dust; U.S. Stock Futures Up; Greek Parliament Passes Austerity Package; Contraception Controversy; Chaos in Greece over Austerity Measures

Aired February 13, 2012 - 06:59   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN HOST: Welcome, everybody. Good morning. On our STARTING POINT this morning, we're talking about Whitney Houston. The autopsy is done, but the results are on lock down this morning.

There are some reports that several prescription drugs were found on the scene in the hotel where she died. We've got details that are developing this morning as people around the world are mourning the legend.

(SINGING)

O'BRIEN: That was Jennifer Hudson last night. That was here Whitney Houston tribute, really stole the show last night at the Grammys. She has a beautiful voice, too, but not as good -- I mean, really, listening to that, you're like, oh, God, Whitney Houston's voice is re so amazing. There are others, though, who were too shaken up to perform.

Also this morning we're talking about Athens burning banks, flames, over deep budget cuts. We'll update you on what's happening there.

And President Obama is sending his budget to Congress in about an hour or so. The GOP already blasting tax hikes for wealthiest Americans. We're going to discuss that budget this morning. STARTING POINT begins right now. I'm every woman

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: Oh, I'm so excited for our all Whitney tribute because she is an amazing singer. How many people have not -- with their hairbrush in hand? Oh, gosh, what a sad story to hear over the weekend. We've got new clues to tell you about. When they look at exactly what may have caused Whitney Houston's death, the autopsy is complete. The results are on hold. They're waiting for toxicology reports which they say could take up to eight weeks or longer.

Whitney Houston was found in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel on Saturday late afternoon. There were some reports that maybe she drowned an there are some sources who said it could have been a combination of drugs and alcohol. Radar online is saying that police found prescription drugs in the room, Lorazepam, a generic version of valium, Xanax, valium. The coroner though is not commenting and says he will not comment until the toxicology results in in in roughly eight weeks.

Last night, though, the music industry honored Whitney at the Grammys. It opened with a prayer from the host, LL Cool J.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LL COOL J, RAPPER: And although she is gone to soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit and to have her lasting legacy of music to cherish and share forever. Amen.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: A beautiful way to start. And later Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to her idol, singing "I Will Always Love You." Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That was so sad.

Joining our panel this morning is Darlene Love. She's Whitney Houston's godmother and hall of famer as well. Thanks for joining us this morning. We appreciate it. Joining us also from the left is Congressman Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee. Joe Levy is contributing editor of "Rolling Stone" magazine. Arianna Huffington, who was kind of mocked on SNL --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: -- we'll talk about that later. She's with the "Huffington Post" media group. Nice to have you all.

Darlene, we are so grateful for your time because we know this must be a horrific, horrific time for people who really knew Whitney Houston and loved her. Our condolences go out to you. What are they telling the family at this point?

DARLENE LOVE, HOUSTON'S GODMOTHER: I was so close to Cissy because of our relationship. I met when she was eight years old. So I have fond memories of her as a child. I've been trying to reach out to Cissy, but she's -- which I understand. I have not been able to get in touch with her yet. I'm trying. I know where she is but I don't want to go over there unannounced. I want her to call me and reach out. We're just waiting, you know. My memories of her as a little girl are just unbelievable because I lived with Cissy for a couple of years when we were all working for Deion. She said, let's just make you a cousin. So I became her cousin and because I actually -- let me have her bed when I lived -- stayed there --

O'BRIEN: They ousted Whitney and you got the bed.

LOVE: So she took care of me when I was pregnant. She used to run and get me things and run to the store. What do you want now? I'll go and get it for you, you know? She always had this wonderful, wonderful spirit. There's a song by kirk Franklin called "Smile." and after all this happened that song came on the radio. It was just like one knock after another for me.

O'BRIEN: How did you hear she had died?

LOVE: I sang last Saturday night in New Jersey and a bunch of our friends, we all went out after we got through the show. And we were talking about my Christmas show that I do every year. And I have special guests that's always on my show. Cissy has actually done my show three or four times. I said, you know what, you guys have would be great. I just need to find Nippy and let her find my Christmas show.

And not knowing she was already dead. We were talking about her doing my show and, well, do you think she can do it? You know, we heard, you know, she can't really sing anymore and I was saying, you always standing up for her. And I was like, you don't know whether she can sing or not.

And the people at the next people was also talking about her. So we said, oh, you guys are getting in our conversation. Now you're really getting out of control. And they said no, no, no. We just saw on television that she died. And I said, what? And it was like somebody like stabbed me in my stomach. And I had to leave the table because the people at the table didn't know who I was and I didn't want to be overcome, you know, even at the table, you know, with all my friends. So my husband took me back to the hotel and I think that night I might have gotten an hour's sleep.

O'BRIEN: Her voice was deteriorating. You could hear it in the last song she did with Kelly Price. There's a videotape. And very raspy. She lost her voice. Did she know that all the toil from the drugs and really just the years of not taking care of that voice that she was losing her gift?

LOVE: I think she did. But also with me and Cissy, we always prayed for one another's children. And the body is an amazing mechanism. It will re-heal itself. So if you take care of it, you know, you can abuse it, but if you do what you're supposed to do, you know, like people have re-healed their voices, re-healed their bodies.

O'BRIEN: "Rolling Stone" did a pretty remarkable interview with Whitney Houston and Oprah did one, and Diane Sawyer back in 2002. You really see sort of the turning point in her life was the marriage to Bobby Brown. He was so in love with her and then also just kind of what it seems in interviews --

JOE LEVY, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "ROLLING STONE": The marriage to Bobby Brown came in 1992. And the troubles or at least the public view of the troubles came about eight years later, in 2000. There was a moment she was fired off the Academy Awards by Burt Bacharach who was a friend. Her publicist denied she was fired.

And as situation progressed, people began to walk away from her. Professional associates, the publicists, people who worked with her could no longer cover for her. So there were problems. I'm not sure if we should blame them on the marriage to Bobby Brown. We weren't in that marriage. We're not those two people.

O'BRIEN: In her interviews she said, listen, I love this man and I would follow him down the path to hell, basically, is the take away from some of those interviews.

LEVY: That's true. But, you know, addiction is a very, very difficult thing. You know, she also said quite publicly her worst demon was herself. And that's my point. Once you are struggling with addiction, it doesn't care how talented you are, how rich you are, how special you are, how elegant you are. It wants your life.

O'BRIEN: So tell me about Bobbie Kristina because there were reports she was hospitalized from stress. Obviously she was apparently in that same suite at the Beverly Hills Hilton.

LOVE: From what I can understand, Bobby left the tour that he was on.

O'BRIEN: He's come back.

LOVE: And he's come back. And now he's in California with her and that's all I know. I know she's not in the hospital anymore.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, "HUFFINGTON POST": You know, Jamie Lee Curtis wrote something yesterday precisely about the point you are making about addiction and how you cannot blame any particular thing, a marriage, fame, whatever it is that we try to pin it on. And how maybe this can be a teachable moment about how much more of an epidemic it is, not just among the rich and famous, among college kids.

I have two daughters in college and you constantly read about or see somebody who has overdosed and often they're accidental overdoses. I mean, we don't yet know the final result of her death. But it appears as it could have been an accident of mixing alcohol and drugs and then getting in the bathtub. Who knows? But the point is acknowledging the epidemic of addiction is something which we need to do as a culture.

O'BRIEN: We'll talk more about it this morning, although I agree with that, I do think though that there are some things that can exacerbate it. I think she talked a lot about it in her interviews that sort of, you know, you're in love with someone. You will do what you think is the right thing to do and not worry -- she said all I wanted to do is be with him. That was it. She said that in her Oprah interview. You know, it will be interesting to see what the toxicology results are. I know you're going to take around with us for a little bit this morning.

We've got other stories making headlines this morning. Christine has those. She's in Atlanta. Other look at the headlines. Good morning.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Chaos on the streets in Greece right now. Riots rage as the country's parliament approves huge austerity cuts -- 65 people hurt as police turned tear gas and stun grenades on demonstrators. This new austerity plan will pave the way for a $172 billion bailout deal in debt-stricken Greece.

The Arab League coming up with a new plan to stop the slaughter in Syria. They're calling on the U.N. Security Council to create a peacekeeping force and they're urging all Arab nations to cut ties with President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Syria's ambassador to the Arab League rejecting the plan. He accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of, quote, "living in a state of hysteria."

President Obama ready to release his 2013 spending plan today. He's asking Congress to approve a budget that calls for $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years by cutting spending and raising taxes on the rich. In 10 minutes we'll talk about the plan's chances of the plan's survival with the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.

Rick Santorum focusing on Midwest primary states to derail Mitt Romney's bid for the GOP nomination. The former Pennsylvania senator still trying to position himself as the only viable conservative choice in the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to compete obviously heavily in Michigan. We're going compete in Arizona. We think this is a two-person race right now and we're focused on making sure that folks know we're the best alternative to Barack Obama and we have the best chance of beating him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The next two races for the GOP February 28th when Arizona and Michigan voter goes to the polls.

"Minding Your Business" this morning, U.S. stock futures for the DOW, NASDAQ, and &P 500 all pointing to a higher open this morning, DOW futures up about 75 points right now. Investors feeling confident Greece will avoid default now that the parliament passed that austerity package.

All right, soulful singer Adele going six for six in the Grammys last night winning everything she was dominated for. Her performance got a standing ovation. She says her hits were inspired by heartbreak. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADELE, SINGER: This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone's been through it, just a rubbish relationship. And it's gone on to do things they can't tell you how feel about it. It's been the most life-changing year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Wow. What a voice. Just 23-years-old, inspired by a rubbish relationship, and, of course, pretty incredible talent, huh?

O'BRIEN: And what great revenge on a bad boyfriend. Honestly, writing it down. Holding it and saying she should have named him and said nah-na-na-na.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Christine, thanks. We'll check in with you a little bit later.

The entire music industry of course and at the Grammys show mourning the loss of Whitney Houston, including Tony Bennett who on the day that she died took the stage at Clive Davis' pre-Grammy party. He offered his condolences, but then also said this. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BENNETT, SINGER: First it was Michael Jackson, then it was Amy Winehouse, and now the magnificent Whitney Houston. I'd like to have every gentleman and lady in this room commit themselves to get our government to legalize drugs so they have to get it through a doctor, not gangsters that just sell it under the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: He sort of had me fine up to the point where he said legalize drugs. And I just didn't think that's what he was going. I was surprised by that.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, (R) TENNESSEE: I was a little bit surprised to hear that. And Tony Bennett should know that's not the answer to the problem. Going to the root cause, working with individuals, making certain that there is education so that, as we were talking during the break, the group around, whomever is the individual, in this case a celebrity, is there to not be the yes man but to instill some accountability and some helpfulness.

O'BRIEN: Talking about --

LEVY: The problem for these people wasn't that they were going to gangsters to get their drugs. That's not the problem.

BLACKBURN: You get them from your mother's cabinet.

LEVY: That's also true. BLACKBURN: Prescription drugs, right.

O'BRIEN: And taking them now.

BLACKBURN: These illegal pharmacies that are on the internet.

LEVY: Tony Bennett may not be well-spoken but he has a point to make here, which is that it should be about education, not incarceration. We need to look at our policies. We need to look at how we as a society deal with this problem.

O'BRIEN: What he said was legalize drugs that people aren't buying them on the street.

LEVY: Now we know he's not an op-ed writer and doesn't write for the "Huffington Post." I'm just saying.

O'BRIEN: I gotcha.

HUFFINGTON: The point, I think, is absolutely fair, that the war on drugs has failed and we're not acknowledging it. We're spending over $50 billion a year fighting a war that's become a war on our own people, especially among African-Americans and minorities in general. And all the distinctions between crack cocaine and powder cocaine and we are seeing, you know, are jails filled with nonviolent --

O'BRIEN: So Tony Bennett so did not say that on the stage but I hear you, and that's a conversation for another day.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead this morning, President Obama is sending his budget to Congress today. We're going to be talking to the Congressional Black Caucus chairman who slammed the president last time the budget came. We'll see what he thinks of this budget.

Also, clashing over contraception. Critics are blasting the president's compromise saying it is not a compromise at all. We'll talk about that.

And then "Get Real," the real Arianna Huffington reacts to the fake. I didn't like to sink in that exactly. But we'll talk about that.

You're watching STARTING POINT. The hair was bad, too, yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Oh, that's so sad. Welcome back, everybody.

This morning, President Obama is going to submit his 2013 budget proposal to Congress. The plan includes a tax hikes on wealthiest Americans and targeted investments, including this. $476 billion for infrastructure upgrades over six years. $350 billion for job creation. $30 billion to hire teachers and police and firefighters. $30 billion to modernize schools. $2.2 billion in R&D for advanced manufacturing. Also, it forecasts the deficit of $1.3 trillion by the end of the fiscal year. Of course that is receiving lots of criticism already.

Joining our panel this morning is the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, State of Missouri. Nice to see you. "National Journal" editor Ron Brownstein has joined our panel as well. Ron, it's nice to have you joining us. We appreciate it.

So let's begin with this, if you will, Congressman. What do you think of this? Originally, you had said for the last budget proposal that you are wildly disappointed. What do you think this time around?

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER, (D) MISSOURI: Well, I think the president is -is attempting to put forth a document that is realistic and addresses the needs we have at the same time. It's not going to be a pretty budget. It's going to probably have some difficulties over in the Senate. And it's probably dead on arrival over at the House.

But that's because of Congress is dysfunctional and we are not going to sit down and try to work around the edges of the budget. I mean, the budget that is presented by the president, he understands that if it is ever going to be approved, his budget must budge. But the danger here is that we're going to struggle around without addressing the major problems.

Let me - let me just say the president is getting a lot of criticism. I don't think it's deserved that, you know, he has created all these problems. We do have a serious ailment as a nation and certainly as Congress, we suffer from spendicitis, but President Obama is not the one who spread this disease. It was there when he was inaugurated.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, that's an interesting disease metaphor.

Let's get to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn who's with us, paneling with us this morning. It's nice to have you. And so I can just throw this right to you, because this - is Congress dysfunctional? Spendicitis is a disease that predates President Obama?

BLACKBURN: Spending has been out of control over the last 50 years. And it's amazing to look at the graphs and see what has happened over that period of time.

Now, what we have to do is begin to ratchet that spending back down and do it aggressively.

O'BRIEN: So what do you think of this budget?

BLACKBURN: I have - I think the budget spends too much money and it puts programs we don't want. I would go in and do across the board spending cuts. Every year I've -

O'BRIEN: Education. BLACKBURN: - I have voted, I have pushed -

O'BRIEN: Police, firefighters.

BLACKBURN: -- forward -

O'BRIEN: Cut, cut, cut.

BLACKBURN: -- across the board. You do it across the board. Our states do it across the board. Our cities do it across the board.

O'BRIEN: Were you annoyed when they were going to cut military, right? So you don't believe in the military?

BLACKBURN: Front page of "USA Today" has a thing about states and cities spending less. And, Soledad, there are ways in the DOD and Pentagon budget to achieve some savings.

O'BRIEN: So where would you cut?

BLACKBURN: They should be done. What you do is across the board and you engage everybody to find those cuts. That's the way it has worked successfully in the states.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKBURN: -- everybody. You're going to make a two percent cut is the way to go about it with discretionary spending.

O'BRIEN: How do you do that in education?

BLACKBURN: Yes, you, can because there's a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of ways to get it cut.

O'BRIEN: All right, let me get back to Congressman Cleaver first.

BROWNSTEIN: I would ask him a question.

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Congressman, I want to ask you a question. We have had a decade where there was a prescription drug plan, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's also the stimulus spending in which we have spent without providing offsetting revenue. But at the same time, spending has gone up worth (ph) 14 percent of GDP, now for federal revenue, the lowest it has been since 1950.

My question to you, as the president says we can close this gap without raising taxes on anybody below $250,000 a year. Does the Congressional Black Caucus believe, agree, that everyone below $250,000 a year should be exempt from any taxation as part of the effort to close the deficit gap?

CLEAVER: Well, not from any taxation. I think the president is right and it's not just the Congressional Black Caucus. I think the majority of Americans understand that we - when you have a problem, an economic problem in your house or whether it's in the nation, there are two things you do, one, you begin to cut spending and, number two, you look for new sources of revenue.

People who earn under $250,000 are not rich. And they can still continue to function with the tax code as it is. People who are above, there should be some kind of surtax. I'm in Kansas City, Missouri. This is the home of H&R Block. Henry and Richard Block started this company.

Henry Block, who's a Republican all of his life, said to me that he doesn't understand what's going on when people are saying they need to protect him from having to pay more taxes. And he knows a little bit about taxes, I think.

So I think we've got to be able to cut spending, while at the same time raising revenues, even Ben Bernanke has said that you got to be careful about making major cuts because the economy is still fragile.

O'BRIEN: Did you want to make a point, Arianna?

HUFFINGTON: Yes, just wanted to ask you, Congressman, you yourself acknowledge that this budget is really dead on arrival, we're discussing but it's not going to go anywhere.

Are you concerned about the fact that the president now is putting forward a budget that is going to increase spending and stimulate the economy but, in fact, in the past for his other two budgets and his pronouncements he is focusing on austerity measures and belt tightening. And clear, this is a political document.

And in the meantime your own community is being decimated with unemployment over 13 percent. How do you feel about that?

CLEAVER: Well, I tried to speak to that earlier. But, look, this budget is a nervous breakdown on paper. And it's - it's not just President Obama.

I mean, I think he's put together a document that addresses education. We need to do it. Community colleges need to be upgraded. We got - we got to have training for real jobs. We've got a lot of jobs that are going unfilled because we don't have the technology in the heads of graduating college students to deal with them.

But, look, we still - we are still in a recession. We're still struggling. Unemployment is still too high in every major city in the country. People are struggling.

So for the federal government to turn the spigot off completely I think is to push the nation into a deeper economy. That's not just me talking. Some of the top economists in the nation have said the same thing.

O'BRIEN: Congressman Cleaver, I want to thank you for your time this morning. We appreciate it. Got to take a short break. Still ahead on STARTING POINT, the Reverend Jesse Jackson is going to talk to us. He's been comforting Whitney Houston's mom. He'll talk to us live this morning about a loss of a legend and a friend.

Also, our "Get Real" this morning, a member of our panel, there she is, shows up on "SNL." Kind of a rarity for us when we get to be with the person who is being mocked on SNL a little bit. We'll talk to Arianna Huffington as she watches that, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: And welcome back.

In our "Get Real" today, one of our panel members, a guest on "Saturday Night Live's" Weekend Update. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So, Arianna Huffington, prepare to be very flattered. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH MEYER, ACTOR, "SNL'S WEEKEND UPDATE": Let's talk about what Rick Santorum said yesterday concerning women in combat, namely the women are in danger because women will react too emotionally with them in harm's way.

MICHAELA WATKINS, ACTRESS, "SNL'S WEEKEND UPDATE": If Rick Santorum doesn't like men worrying about women, then he should quit the race and endorse Newt Gingrich. When Newt sees a woman's life in danger, he abandons her as fast - as fast as he can...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUFFINGTON: The accent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

HUFFINGTON: The accent was perfect. The hair, I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite the parody of Arianna because her voice is so indistinct -- very difficult.

O'BRIEN: Is it fun to watch that or do you get mad?

HUFFINGTON: No, I don't get mad at all. I think -- I mean, Tracey Allman so far has done the best accent imitation. I think this was even better. The hair -- the hair and the jacket, I thought the jacket exactly what you would wear.

O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly. Next time you can weigh in. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, tear gas, grenades being thrown. Greece is literally in flames this morning. We'll go to live to Athens with the very latest on the riots over big cuts from the government.

And then we'll talk to Jesse Jackson about losing a legend. He helped comfort Whitney Houston's mother over the weekend. He's going to join us live this morning. You're watching STARTING POINT. Short break, we're back on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It is our all-Whitney Houston tribute on our play list on STARTING POINT this morning. Welcome back. We're going to get right to the headlines. Christine has those. Why are you in Atlanta this morning?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good question. You don't know? No one told you? OK, I'm anchoring for Suzanne today.

O'BRIEN: You're doing triple duty today.

ROMANS: I'm doing triple duty today.

O'BRIEN: Got it.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, Soledad.

Pakistan's prime minister indicted for contempt. The country's Supreme Court slapped him with charges because he refused to reopen corruption cases against the president. Pakistan's president is accused of money laundering. If the prime minister of contempt, he could spend six months in jail.

Moammar Gadhafi's son is on house arrest. Al Sadi Gadhafi was detained after giving a television interview. In it, he declared an uprising was eminent in Libya where his father was once dictator. Gadhafi won't be sent back to Libya. Back in September they would not extradite him over fears he would be killed if he returned.

Washington will become the seventh state to legalize same- sex marriage today. Washington's Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire, she will sign that bill. It was passed last week, but it will not take effect until June. The signing will spark a new battle as opponents look to get the gay marriage law on the ballot in November and overturn it.

Tiger Woods will have to wait a little bit longer to end his route on the PGA tour. Tiger was in position to win that yesterday at Pebble Beach, but Phil Mickelson left him and others in the field in the dust posting a final round 64 to win first tournament since last summer. Tiger hasn't finished first in a tour event in 21 months now.

Minding your business this morning, U.S. stock futures all up right now, why? The same reason they were all down last week, Greece. Investors were concerned then about Greece avoiding default, but now that the Greek parliament passed a strict austerity package over the weekend, default looking a little less likely -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Christine, thank you very much. The controversy over the White House's birth control plan is not going away in spite of a compromise that was offered late last week by the White House. The original plan required religious employers such as universities and charities to cover contraception in the employee health plans.

Now the compromise upholds the requirement, but shifts the responsibility for actually paying for it away from the employer and on to the health insurance provider. President Obama said this about the change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: As we move to implement this rule, however, we have in mind there's another principle at stake here, and that's the principle of religious liberty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Not everybody is buying it as a compromise. We open it up to our panel. Let's begin with you because this is what we were talking about although you were remote last week.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN, OPPOSES ADMINISTRATION'S NEW CONTRACEPTION RULE: Last week, yes.

O'BRIEN: So despite what the president was trying to do is move the fight off of this religious liberty issue. How come the compromise doesn't seem like so much of a compromise?

BLACKBURN: Because it does not move it away from the religious liberty issue. The point remains that under the Obamacare bill you still are going to have these employers, who are religious-based, religious organizations based, who still have to make this available and it does not fit with their mission.

It is about religious liberty. It's also about the fact that this bill, this legislation, is so flawed. The implementation is so flawed that what we need to do is take it off the books and start over.

There was the promise if you like what you have you can keep it. That has not been there. They are not up over, what is it, 1,700 waivers have been given to the bill.

O'BRIEN: Let's take the contraception because we could be here the rest of our lives.

BLACKBURN: Exactly. But it's part of that problem. And you're not going to fix it with saying, well, let's compromise this. What they're doing already, it's so flawed. They've got to tweak this, fix that. You know, it just isn't working.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: When you look at it through the lens of contraception, first of all, the capacity of the culture wars that constantly generate new issues is astonishing. The contraception has never been an issue it says it is now.

This is part of a pattern of dispute. The House Republicans voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Mitt Romney wants to eliminate all federal funding for any family planning. And now you have this battle over contraception in the health care law.

First of all, 28 states already require contraceptive equity, what they call contraceptive be treated the same way by an employer who provides prescription drugs. It is not a simple answer because this is a pretty thin read of a compromise in essence saying that the insurer has to pay for it because it is a net savings to them to provide contraception rather than paying for pregnancy.

It's not going to make the issue go away, but I would just point out that politically there are two sides of this ledger. Certainly, there are conservatives, socially conservative voters, especially Catholics, who may be unhappy about this.

There are a lot of women on the other side of the ledger who will look at the totality of what Republicans are talking about contraception and may think this is quite a bit too far for them.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, PRESIDENT AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE HUFFINGTON POST MEDIA GROUP: Said about, you know, 28 states have already that requirement on the books, and also makes it clear how hypocritical Mitt Romney's being when he suddenly aghast at that when Massachusetts already had that on the books.

Where was he when it was on the books? On top of it, it's not just women, specifically Catholic women. An institute did a survey that shows that 98 percent of Catholic women have used contraception, 98 percent. So if it is such a huge issue for the Catholic Church, they have a big problem with their own people.

O'BRIEN: Is there a difference between -- we've seen a lot of church leadership talking about religious liberty in the contraception issue.

Isn't there a risk that the leadership feels this, but the actual people who follow the leadership, I mean, they may be breaking church rules by using contraception, but they consider themselves practicing Catholics?

BLACKBURN: They appreciate in the mission and point of the church and the standing and the belief of the church. They hold these beliefs. They hold these beliefs to be true. This is a religious liberty issue. It is further than all the states, Ron. You know that.

BROWNSTEIN: The congresswoman has a point though --

BLACKBURN: Obamacare goes further than the ruling in all the states because it gets in the abortifacient, some of those sterilizations. Those are different issues. And the issue with what is happening with the issue with the Catholic Church, it deals with causing them to violate their faith and their beliefs. O'BRIEN: When Catholics when polled say, a large number of Catholics, larger than half the number of Catholics when polled say I would like to have the church running an institution like a school or a charity or a hospital, they say I would like the church to pay for contraception, which runs somewhere between $600.

BLACKBURN: This is government coming in enforcing the church.

BROWNSTEIN: There are a lot of -- I agree with the congresswoman. There are a lot of Catholics even if they agree on the principle doesn't like the government coming in and telling us.

There is a very fine line here. If you're just talking about the raw politics of it, there is another side of the ledger here. If you look at everything that has happened this year from defunding Planned Parenthood to Mitt Romney talking about all federal funding to Rick Santorum saying the Supreme Court decision that prevented states from banning contraception was wrongly decided.

There is a risk if you add all of these up that Republicans are opening up an entirely new front on the war where the country is not as divided as abortion. Most Americans believe contraception should be widely available to people who want to use it and there is a risk that all of this together creates a very different image.

HUFFINGTON: There's a problem with the media, too, because the media very quickly have this headlines cultural war now dominate the election.

O'BRIEN: That was Ron Brownstein. I don't blame myself.

HUFFINGTON: The AP headline, more important than the economy. Not so. Offer 70 percent in the latest Gallup poll think the economy is the biggest issue. Only 3 percent saying all the cultural issues together are a big issue.

BROWNSTEIN: Values still drive votes.

O'BRIEN: We're going to stop there. I can see how this morning is going to go, my God. All right, got to take a break. Remember, commercials are what pay the bills here.

STARTING POINT this morning, the austerity plan approved Athens though is burning banks and shops been fire bombed. We'll give you a live report of what's happening there. We're back in just a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Let's take you to Athens, Greece, right now. There's chaos on the streets there as lawmakers approve another round of austerity measures. Here's a look at the scene outside the Greek parliament. Police using tear gas and stun grenades, trying to break up the protesters there. Dozens of people have been arrested.

Inside the lawmakers approved deep budget cuts necessary for Eurozone leaders to sign off on $172 billion of bailout money.

Matthew Chance is live for news Athens this morning.

Matthew, I was following your tweets where you said tear gas was burning your eyes. I started getting very worried about your safety. What's -- update us on what's happening there and just how bad it is.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're pretty secure. It's just that we're in the middle of this terrible riot that was taking place in the middle of Athens last night. 100,000 or more people clashing with riot police in the streets, setting fire to buildings, hurling stones and petrol bombs at the police. Police responded with stun grenades and tear gas which was -- I've been in a few situations like this. This tear gas, absolutely not good, stinging, my skin was burning, my eyes were burning. That's why I tweeted that.

But, yes, really chaotic scenes as protesters ran havoc in Athens last night. So angry were they about the austerity measures that have now been passed by the Greek parliament. The country is now in for more stringent cuts in the years ahead -- Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Gosh, It looks like a mess.

Matthew Chance for us, updating on what's happening in Athens.

Going to take a short break. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, remembering Whitney Houston's legacy. Her godmother, Darlene, is going to join us again to talk about the legacy of Whitney Houston.

You're listening to -- play it -- "Heartbreak Hotel."

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O'BRIEN: We are continuing our all Whitney tribute here. That was "Million Dollar Bill."

You know what's interesting about Whitney Houston, and you really realize how many genres she covered. She really never went into the hard core R&B, rapping genre, but she's very gospel, very ballad. I love her stuff.

Newark, New Jersey, is where Whitney Houston found her voice. The pop star began singing at the New Hope Baptist Church as a child. Look at this videotape.

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(END VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Precious.

O'BRIEN: You could tell she had a voice too then, too. Parishioners there have many fond memories of her performances in front of the choir.

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ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, COMMENTATOR: Powerful, powerful woman. Just a gift from God. We're going to miss her dearly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I haven't slept. I have been up all night. Just going over listening to her songs and reminiscing about her life, and what's going to happen now to her daughter, her mom, her brothers. But she's in a better place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: The coroner has said -- Joe Levy is joining our panel back again -- that he will not release -- even though they finished the autopsy, they will not release information about the details in will they get the toxicology reports.

LEVY: And this is fairly typical in high profile cases of this nature. They want to be absolutely sure, so they are telling us six to eight weeks or longer. But the word we're hearing is that there was water found in the lungs. She may have drowned in the bathtub. There are reports that there were prescription medicines found there. That could mean absolutely nothing or it could be a bad sign of her problems continuing. It's very hard to say at this point.

O'BRIEN: And she also obviously was in rehab over the years, and I think most recently as of May. So even though she would come out and say she had kicked her demons, she really was going back to rehab.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One thing that is especially said about this, whether it was Madonna at the Super Bowl or Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney at the Grammys, you see it is possible for artists to hold their audiences much later in life, maybe 20, 30 years. People are sticking with them. She could have had a whole other act in her career. We are seeing people do that. It kind of underscores the tragedy.

O'BRIEN: And one of her interviews, and I think on Oprah, about how she would see people in the grocery store and they would tell her they were rooting for her. Moms who would say, I wish my kids could hear you perform. Or people would say, when are you going to put the next album out? It definitely --

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LEVY: That's what people want. When they love an artist, they want to hear them sing the songs they love. The difficult thing for the artists -- and they can hold on to their audience longer than they used to -- is that they continue to want to make new records sometimes when the audience doesn't want to hear them. But had her voice held up, had she been able to sing the songs that made her famous, audiences would have flocked to those concerts.

BROWNSTEIN: Look at Bob Dylan, whose voice hasn't held up.

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And he's still holding -- still holding --

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Part of it, too, as a parent, and now a grandparent --

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O'BRIEN: You're a grandparent?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I am. I have two adorable grandsons. Jack and Chase. They're 2 1/2 and 3 1/2. And I like for them to sing the songs that are kind of the sound track to our lives. The big one right now is "Gotta Get You into My Life" by Earth, Wind and Fire.

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O'BRIEN: That's funny. It's really true.

HUFFINGTON: It is.

O'BRIEN: It's such a sad thing when you think of people who are battling addiction, and maybe even specifically celebrities. Their fans root for them so hard.

HUFFINGTON: Well, also because everybody has someone in their lives who is battling addiction, whether it's drugs or alcohol. I had a daughter with an eating disorder. You know, any addiction is something which is so dangerous. And whenever anybody overcomes it, if they are in the public life, it makes you feel, oh, the people in my life can overcome it too.

LEVY: I think that's absolutely right. The public is always rooting for the artist. You don't root for the demons. You hope the angels show up. That's what you want.

O'BRIEN: It's so very, very hard.

We're going to take a short break.

You know what I'd like to see, you guys? I want to see the performance where Whitney Houston sang the "Star Spangled Banner."

LEVY: Oh, yes.

O'BRIEN: Can we play that, because we had just watched that all morning.

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O'BRIEN: Oh, amazing, amazing. We'll dig that up.

And still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, police are still searching for clues in that case of Josh Powell, the father who killed his two -- that's awful, a horrible story. You'll see, though, their search has moved to a recycling center. We'll tell you why people are digging through mounds and mounds of paper.

Also, very big day on Capitol Hill. The president's budget is getting delivered to Congress in just about four minutes and 30 seconds, but who's counting? It includes tax hikes. Will this be another big fight between Democrats and Republicans? We'll take a look, straight ahead.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. On STARTING POINT this morning, new details about the death of Whitney Houston. The autopsy is now done, but it's staying sealed for the while. Whitney Houston's godmother is with us in studio and we continue our conversation with her.

Also, President Obama's budget being sent to Congress right now, $1.5 trillion and higher taxes. And now surprise there, the battle is already underway.

Plus, if you missed the winners at the Grammys, you just need to know one, Adele. Adele. Adele, cleaned up.

STARTING POINT begins right now.

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