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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Interview with Pastor Joe Carter; Whitney Houston's Death; China's VP Visits

Aired February 14, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Whitney Houston's funeral has been set and today I sat down with the pastor of the church where it will be held. And we take you inside Syria tonight, a dozen people killed. Is it time for America to intervene? What would it cost in money and lives?

And the man widely expected to be China's next leader is in the United States today. He met with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, but why is he going to Iowa? Well of course we're going to tell you.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. OUTFRONT tonight, questions and sorrow over the death of Whitney Houston. Here's what we know right now. Family and close friends will say farewell to the late pop star in a private funeral on Saturday in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Governor Chris Christie has ordered flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Whitney Houston.

Sources tell CNN that her body was found by her assistant Mary Jones whom she often called Aunt Mary. Houston's ex-husband Bobby Brown released a statement today about their 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina saying this. Quote, "Obviously the death of her mother is affecting her. However, we will get through this tragedy as a family."

Bobbi Kristina, as you may be aware had been taken to Cedar Sinai Hospital following the death of her mother. Well the official cause of her death may not be known for weeks. Beverly Hills police have requested a security hold on the coroner's report, a common practice in high-profile cases. Our Don Lemon has been following this story from Los Angeles. He talked with the medical examiner today, and what did you find out Don?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of interesting things and the first thing I found out, Erin, from the coroner, he's like there are so many rumors out there that he wishes he could get on television to tamp them down, but he can't because he has to work on this investigation. One of them he said was interesting.

He's getting calls from all over the world saying the DEA is going to join the coroner's investigation because prescription medications are killing celebrities in Hollywood. He said completely not true, and Erin, he wanted me to get out to the media to stop you know all of this just speculation about what happens and also he gave me a time line on the actual report.

He said while it takes six to eight weeks he said sometimes they do get things earlier, maybe within two to three days or within a couple of days he said like if something spikes, like a certain medication or certain drug or something, and they will take a look at that, why that drug spiked, and they have to retest it, so that six to eight-week period is to give them enough time so that they can make sure of what it is.

Here's what he said to me. He said, Don, we don't like to say oh, well, maybe he said. We want to say definitively, definitely, here's what we found at this level with this medical condition, the decedent according to us, our pathologist, the consultant, this professional, this is what we believe killed this person. So that's what he is telling me, so they may get some early indications of something like some sort of drug, some sort or amphetamine whether she had Tylenol or anything like that in her body, they'll get that early, but then they're going to retest it as well to make sure that it's absolutely correct.

BURNETT: Which is interesting breaking news that you have I mean that we could find something out potentially if something spiked in the next few days as opposed to that six to eight-week period. Don, I'm very curious though as to -- are you getting any sense of whether prescription drugs were involved or what direction they are leaning in? Because obviously as you are well aware so many people are speculating that, but you know talking to the family pastor today --

LEMON: Yes.

BURNETT: -- I certainly got the other side of the story a lot of her friends say, which is look, she had really tried to turn things around and that may not be accurate.

LEMON: Yes. Well, here is the thing, and Kelly Price, we saw her on CNN yesterday, the person who was having the party at that true (ph) nightclub on Thursday night, the last pictures we really saw of Whitney Houston. We know that she was drinking from her friend and from people who were at that party. The prescription drugs we know from the coroner were in the room, and he is downplaying the amounts, saying it's you know for an overdose, it wasn't that much and --

BURNETT: Right.

LEMON: -- there are more in a typical household, even his household, so that's what we are hearing. We don't know for sure. Only Whitney Houston at this point knows what she took for sure, and now the coroner is trying to figure it out. Erin, if I can just say something -- we talked about the memorial and the burial for Whitney Houston -- if you go online and you look at it and I'm sure if you checked your social media, your Twitter, your Facebook, there are many of her fans who are upset because they want to be able to honor her and pay their respects, and they are upset that it is just private. They want a public ceremony so that they can go out and honor Whitney Houston. BURNETT: Well that's interesting and Don, I'll just say because we were speaking to Reverend Joe Carter who we're going to hear from in a moment, but I can report that he said that those rumors of a big service and ceremony perhaps at the Prudential Center for 18 to 20,000 were never true. He said to the best of his knowledge --

LEMON: Right.

BURNETT: But he did say that while many people can't fit in the church, they're going to put a jumbotron (ph) outside the church in Newark which as you know is a little tiny street so that members of the public could come, which obviously is not what most people want, but they will have that for people to participate, so we will see if they end up adding another and much larger platform as well. All right, Don, thanks so much --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I think what they wanted --

BURNETT: Go ahead.

LEMON: I think what they wanted was some sort of ceremony like the Staple Center for Michael Jackson --

BURNETT: Yes.

LEMON: -- and apparently now at least at this point, Erin, it is not going to happen.

BURNETT: That's right. All right, well absolutely. Thanks very much, Don Lemon, for that reporting there. You have the very latest on when we might know how Whitney Houston really died. But now let's talk about how her death will be commemorated and celebrated. Obviously, admired and loved by millions around the world. You heard from Don how a lot of people are going to be frustrated that they can't participate, but on Saturday her closest friends and family will celebrate her lift at The New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. It's the first place that anyone heard a young Whitney Houston's voice as she sang in the choir. I went to the small parish church earlier today and spoke to Pastor Joe Carter who shared his thoughts about the late pop star, and what he's planning for Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PASTOR JOE CARTER, THE NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH: I pray -- I pray that we can honor her the way she deserves it on Saturday.

BURNETT: And you were saying it is something that African- Americans get right? You know how to -- you know how to grieve.

CARTER: Yes, I really believe that we know how to mourn. We know how to grieve. We know how to get it out and in a way of hope, in a way of joy. The Christian faith teaches that death is not the end, and so we know how to look forward to the next life, and celebrate here on what is coming up ahead. BURNETT: So, what you are putting together the service now.

CARTER: Yes.

BURNETT: What are you putting together? And what is going to happen and who is going to sing?

CARTER: Well I would love to answer who is going to sing. I just would say everybody that has a great, great voice. We are hearing a lot of entertainers who are going to be here, and we are excited. The family really has put together a program that is going to be musical, be happy, be joyful and really give the kind of feel to congregation and those there that I think Whitney would want to be remembered by.

BURNETT: And you have known Whitney now for a long time?

CARTER: About since '93, yes.

BURNETT: What -- do you remember the first time you met her?

CARTER: Yes, yes. And you have got to remember I was a teenager when she came out, so I was --

BURNETT: Yes.

CARTER: -- I was a big fan --

BURNETT: You were star struck?

CARTER: Yes, (INAUDIBLE) as a preacher not to be star struck, but it was an amazing moment. I actually met her in church on an Easter Sunday morning singing in the sanctuary and that was -- I will never forget it. I thought she could sing before I heard her in person, and the conviction and strength of her voice was just phenomenal. I will never forget it.

BURNETT: And she came every year to church, usually around the holiday times?

CARTER: At one time, it was kind of like around the high (ph) Sundays, but she never, never forgot her church. She always made sure she let us know she loves us and remembered us.

BURNETT: What did she sing?

CARTER: Well, she sang a song "He would not come down from the cross" and it was a song that when Whitney came, you would expect to hear.

BURNETT: She sang the same song --

CARTER: Yes, most of the time she sang that song. Most of the members of the church remember her in the recent past of singing that particular song here.

BURNETT: And you said she had not been recently to the church?

CARTER: No, I haven't seen her in a little while. It has been a couple of years.

BURNETT: All of the talk out there about what happened to her, what state she was in, did you ever see any of the times you saw her, any sign of that?

CARTER: No, no, not me personally. Every time I saw her she was just happy, joking around, just, you know, upbeat.

BURNETT: You spent some time I know with the family getting the program together --

CARTER: Yes.

BURNETT: -- the service together. How is her mother?

CARTER: Well, she's hurting. She's grieving of course, but Cissy Houston is a woman of strong faith. She actually was testifying about how God had been so good to her to this point and how she said He's not going to leave her now and I was there to lift her spirits and she ended up lifting mine. It's just an amazing testimony of the grace of God.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Well, Reverend Carter also told me when we were there we went into the sanctuary which is what they call the part of the church where people are going to be for the service, saying about 1,500 people would be sitting there. They were counting the seats. And I can also report tonight who will be delivering the eulogy.

Reverend Martin Winans (ph) will be doing that at the request of Cissy Houston. He's known Whitney Houston since the early 1980's and of course, his daughter Ceecee (ph) was Bobbi Kristina Whitney's daughter's Godmother. He will be delivering the eulogy on Saturday Reverend Carter told me today.

Well rumors that Whitney Houston was out of money that she died are spreading, and it's pretty amazing when there have been reports that she had $100 million contract. We get to the bottom of that.

And the man expected to be the next leader of China is here meeting with the president and visiting the Pentagon. Yes, I'm sure a lot was blocked off.

And congressional leaders announce they're close to a deal on that payroll tax cut. Why did Republicans cave?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So, as Don Lemon has been reporting when he was talking to the assistant coroner in Los Angeles just tonight, we don't know yet what caused Whitney Houston's death, but we do know that the singer was battling drug addiction for years. Obviously, a question as to how much of a role it played in recent times. Her personal problems for many years made more headlines than her music.

One of the problems that Houston may have been struggling with at the time of her death though was running out of cash. And to give us an insight into her lifestyle, Janell Snowden, she has been following Whitney Houston for VH1 for seven years and great to have you back, Janell, again. Zack O'Malley Greenburg is a writer for "Forbes" --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: And Paul Callan is a contributor for us here at CNN to talk about legally what happens here. Janell first can I just ask you, you know there have been reports she had a $100 million contract. A lot of that obviously recently signed for an album she had not yet produced, but can you tell us about her lifestyle. How did she spend money? How did she live?

JANELL SNOWDEN, HOST, VH1 NEWS: You know Whitney Houston was a very private person surprisingly. I mean we know about all of her troubles thanks to interviews that she has done, but if you really think about it, she hasn't done many over the course of the years. There are the blockbuster ones like Dianne Sawyer and Oprah Winfrey, but for the most part Whitney Houston was pretty private.

So we don't know exactly how she spent her money. There were reports that she signed a $100 million record deal back in 2001. She released her last album in 2009. I can tell you that since her death, her sales have been soaring on iTunes and they've raised the price from 99 cents for a single to $1.29 and I can just give you a point of reference. Michael Jackson's estate has earned more than $279 million since he died in 2009, so I don't think that if she was suffering from any financial trouble, her estate is going to be in trouble because we all know that artists typically make more money when they are dead unfortunately.

BURNETT: Well we know that with Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson. Zack, though you've been reporting on this.

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: Obviously there are some differences in that many of Whitney Houston's songs were written by other people so a lot of that money in her case unlike Michael Jackson would go to someone like say Dolly Parton or someone else?

ZACK O'MALLEY GREENBURG, WRITER, FORBES: Exactly and actually we had Michael Jackson's estate -- it's about half a billion dollars over the past 2.5 years, so I mean Whitney Houston is going to have a really hard time catching up to that, especially because like you said she didn't write her own songs. She's not going to share in the publishing that includes any time a song is licensed for TV, movies, et cetera.

BURNETT: And what's your sense of how much money she was making? I mean obviously Janell has been reporting on that --

(CROSSTALK) BURNETT: -- $100 million contract, but how much has she made, you know?

GREENBURG: Yes, Janell, I heard the same thing too and you know $100 million for a deal signed in 2001, you know paid out per album, sounds like a lot of money to us, but when you think about the fact that her last album was 2009, you know her last tour was 2010, you know it means that she wasn't really seeing that kind of steady stream of income in the recent years, so you know it is not too hard to believe that she could have died in a little bit of financial trouble.

BURNETT: Paul, what is your sense of that? Dying in financial trouble, I mean I know a lot of people were shocked when it came out that Michael Jackson had, but often people who have great talent don't have great talent in managing money or managing the people who manage their money.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, that tends to be the case. In many situations we see a lot of very wealthy entertainers who die destitute. It's hard to say here, but you know in the end of course with respect to this estate we know she owned property in New Jersey, in Georgia and in Florida. So the states are going to be, one of those states is going to be handling the estate, so we have to see which state it will be and whether she left a will or trust. That's going to be a very, very big question as to --

BURNETT: She is young. I mean she had a daughter, so you would think that she did, but you know she's -- can I just ask you about this issue though of where the royalties go? How does this work? How unusual in it in this case that, you know because Janell is reporting that the cost of the songs has gone up, everything, but you know it is not all going to go to her estate.

CALLAN: No, it's not all going to her estate, but there were contractual agreements in place, and whatever she has the right to as she lives most of that will go to her estate or to a trust if she has been smart enough to set herself up that way.

BURNETT: Right.

CALLAN: You know it really depends on the sophistication of her tax planning and whether when she was in the money whether she hired good financial assistants to direct this.

BURNETT: Janell was there any evidence from what you had heard and I know, you know you spent a lot of time not just with her at certain events, but with a lot of people who knew her, that she may have been struggling financially or no?

SNOWDEN: There are reports that just weeks before her death she had to ask friends for $100, and her publicity team came out and said that was absolutely not true, and that she had just made the movie "Sparkle," and that she did not work for free. That was their defense.

I think it's interesting to note that after her "Moment of Truth" tour, which was in 1987, she was listed by "Forbes" magazine as the highest earning black woman and the third highest earning entertainer only after Bill Cosby and Eddie Murphy, so it's just amazing that so much money seemed to be flowing through her hands throughout her career, but we're still so uncertain as to what she actually left with.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean it is interesting and you're saying you know because was she private it is hard to say what she spent it on, but Zack, it does appear that a lot of it went away.

GREENBURG: That's right, but you know if you look at the sales of Michael Jackson's albums after he died, eight million in six months, you know probably 20, 30 million worldwide, if she can do even half of that, you know we're talking tens of millions of dollars flowing through her estate through the end of the year.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to all three of you, appreciate your taking the time -- Paul, Zack and Janell.

Well the man expected to be the leader of China is in the United States and we told you a little bit about him yesterday and what we thought was the coolest part, you know his wife being a famous singer in China, and by the way, we know something about her. We're going to tell you later, but we also know why he is going to Iowa tomorrow, and you'll find out next. And fashion innovator Diane von Furstenberg comes OUTFRONT, maybe that's the link to the folksinger (ph) Chinese next first lady. We'll see. She responds to Republicans (ph).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Right now the man widely expected to be China's next president is about to sit down to dinner with Vice President Joe Biden at his home in Washington. The end of a busy day, he went and -- Xi Jinping with President Obama. He visited the Pentagon, had lunch at the State Department.

The visit comes at a time when we all know there are major questions surrounding China's rise and whether it is an ally or an enemy of the United States. We got a taste of the discussion today when a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capital Hill commenced. Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked the joint chief's chairman if Chinese hacking into our defense would be considered a hostile act.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I would consider it to be a crime. I think there are other measures that could be taken in cyber that would rise to the level of a hostile act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would they be?

DEMPSEY: Attacking our critical infrastructure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that could be a hostile act. DEMPSEY: I think so.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Allowing us to respond in kind?

DEMPSEY: Well, in my view, that's right -- yes.

GRAHAM: So I'm going to have lunch with the vice president of China in about 20 minutes, so what do you want me to tell him?

DEMPSEY: Happy Valentine's Day.

GRAHAM: OK. All right. OK. I will do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: This is just the beginning of Xi Jinping's five-day trip to the United States. Tomorrow he is headed to Iowa. That is right, Muscatine, Iowa, a town he visited in 1985. CNN's Ted Rowlands is in Des Moines for us tonight. Ted, good to see you, and I know Muscatine a little bit out of the way, about three hours away from the capital, why is he going there?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a great story, Erin. Vice President Xi, when he came to Muscatine in 85, of course he wasn't the vice president of China. He was just part of a very small delegation that came to tour a couple of Iowa farms. When they were there, there were five people and they all stayed in homes in Muscatine with local residents.

Well fast forward 26 years, he says, if I'm coming to Iowa, I want to go back and visit with those same people. This was his first trip to the U.S., so he is going to detour from his trip here in Des Moines and head over there and meet with those same people in one of those same homes. They're apparently going to have a little champagne, and some tea, but we talked to a couple of folks there, and they are absolutely thrilled. In fact one of them ran upstairs when she found out that he was coming and dug out an old photo, and sure enough there he is, the new -- going to be the new leader of China standing in her kitchen just -- it's just a great story.

BURNETT: It is a great story. I know you talked to them. Here is a little quick clip so everyone can see a little bit about how they feel about him. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look at the logistics and the cost of him putting in and coming to this little town that is 35 miles removed from an airplane that will accommodate him and his entourage, there is some motivation just for a little time to spend an hour or hour and a half in a room with as he says his old friends, that's significant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It is nice and I know Iowa's exports to China 1,200 percent higher than they were a decade ago, $600 million. Did that visit drive that drive -- that jump?

ROWLANDS: Well, it is unclear if it drove the jump much at all, but here is what is interesting is Terry Branstad said, the governor of Iowa now, was the governor, was his first -- back in '85, so he met him then and then they also met over in Beijing in the fall of this year, so here is what is clear is the relationship that they have with the vice president, soon to be president here in Iowa, they are hoping is going to extend those exports out of Iowa. China, as you mentioned, are consumers of soybeans and farm machinery, a lot of things, they're hoping that that special relationship with the vice president, soon to be president will help the state.

BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to Ted Rowlands reporting from Iowa where the next Chinese president will be tomorrow.

Well we go inside Syria next, dozens were killed today, what will it take to end the violence? What does an American intervention "Nuts and Bolts" mean? And could Amanda Knox be sent back to Italian prison?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories that we care about, where we focus on our own reporting, do the work, and find the OUTFRONT five.

First, tonight, Whitney Houston's funeral will be held Saturday in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Private services will be held at New Hope Baptist Church where Houston sang in the choir growing up. Today, I sat down with the church's pastor, Joe Carter, at the church, and he told me that her long time friend Marvin Winans will give the eulogy. I asked Pastor Carter about the plans for Saturday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PASTOR JOE E. CARTER, THE NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH: We are hearing that a lot of entertainers will be here, and we're excited. The family really has put together a program that's going to be musical, be happy, be joyful and really give the kind of feel to congregation and those there that I think that Whitney would want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Number two: Egyptian authorities detailed today the charges against 16 Americans working for international democracy groups in Egypt. Now, we are told that the 24-page document is currently in the midst of being translated from Arabic to English. But Sam LaHood, the son of transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is among the Americans charged. The Egyptian government has blamed unrest in the country on foreign interference.

Number three: Italian prosecutors have appealed the decision to overturn Amanda Knox's murder conviction. We spoke to our legal experts Jeff Toobin just a few moments ago and he told us the appeal won't really matter because even if the prosecutors win the appeal, they will have to apply for extradition, which Toobin says is very unlikely. Knox and her boyfriend Raffaelle Sollecito were convicted of murder in 2009, but cleared after a judge found a lack of evidence.

Number four: new legislation being introduced to close the carried interest loophole. It's an issue regular viewers know we have been watching closely here at OUTFRONT. This loophole lets hedge fund, but primarily private equity managers or former managers like Mitt Romney, pay a 15 percent tax rate, not the 35 percent that most people on their income.

Representative Sander Levin has introduced the Carried Interest Fairness Act, which would tax carried interest at normal income rate.

Well, it has been 193 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, sales of U.S. retailer rose four-tenths of a percent in January, take out things like cars and building materials, which is actually more than anyone expected. And that's good news.

And now to Syria. An astonishing new video that we have from today that captures the horror and, frankly, in what is in some cases heroism against brutal force. It shows a young boy in the middle of a crossfire between rebels and troops when a man risks his life to rush in, pick the child up and carry him to safety.

There are reports that 400 children have been killed in Syria since January. In total, the year-old uprising has claimed at least 6,000 lives according to activists in the country.

Now, we also wanted you to see something else. This is video that appears to show a group of people. As you can see, if you watch them coming forward, being used as human shields for Bashar al Assad's, the president of Syria, tanks, which you see right there in the video.

In the clip, the soldiers chant, quote, "With our blood, and our souls, we defend you, Bashar." And there you see that.

CNN's Arwa Damon is inside Syria and we cannot reveal her location. But she joins us with the latest on the crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we have been moving from safe house to safe house in various locations in Syria, and these safe houses tend to be normal citizens' residences, their families are around. The children, when you speak to them, even if they are 3 or 4 years old, talk about bombs. They ask their parents if the government forces are going to be raiding their homes.

One of the homes we were in was also at the same time an underground secret clinic, although calling it an actual clinic would be something of a stretch of the imagination. The clinic itself was nothing more than a family's living room with a bunch of medical supplies, basic medical supplies in it.

There is a lot of frustration in one area we were in because they have managed to gather a number of medical supplies, blood to try take into another area that was harder hit. But it had been blocked off for days, and they were also trying to evacuate wounded from this area, trying to actually get them out of the country, because these were severe injuries, and they were unable to do so.

At this location as well, the opposition members who we were with have managed to capture a man who said that he worked at a ministry of interior prison. He was caught in cross fire and an ambush. These opposition activists we were with were actually treating him, because they intended to trade him for one of their own with the captured by government thugs.

And he was talking about how, yes, he was given orders to shoot to kill. That in some instances, he was confronting unarmed demonstrators with a scope on his rifle that allowed him to see people in front of him as if he were looking at himself in the mirror. He also said that on one occasion, he did in fact slit a man's throat.

Now, the opposition activists were naturally very distressed, angry and disgusted at what this man was saying, but they also had a belief that they had to treat him well, because they say they had to be better than the government they are fighting so hard to bring down -- Erin.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. You can see Arwa Damon there. Again, we cannot reveal her location. As you can see, incredible reporting there, an incredible situation in Syria.

Well, pressure is building on President Obama to respond to the Syrian crisis. And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was on Capitol Hill, talking about massive military cuts at the same time. The Pentagon is going to be slashing $500 billion over the next decade. And Panetta said today that those cuts could come at a cost.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Let me be clear. Let me be clear. You can't take half a trillion dollars out of the budget and not incur additional risks. We believe they are acceptable risks. But there are risks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Panetta calls them acceptable. But what would happen if the United States decided to get involved in Syria? So, even just take Libya?

We asked retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton about the cost. Colonel Leighton was deputy director the National Security Agency, said, look, Libya cost about $900 million for the U.S.

And Syria, frankly, is nothing like Libya. An air campaign there would last at least two weeks. The price tag of that alone would be $2 billion, and Syria is not Libya. As we have been reporting, Syria's military boasts 5,000 tanks, 550 Russian MiG jets. A ground force of more than 300,000.

So, should the United States use forces to remove Assad? And if so, can we pay for it, money and lives on the line?

OUTFRONT tonight, Kori Schake, fellow at the Hoover Institution and former McCain/Palin adviser, and Ed Husain, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations.

I appreciate both of you taking the time.

And, Kori, let me start with you. You think it's time to consider a military action. How come?

KORI SCHAKE, RESEARCH FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Because what the Assad government is doing is genuinely irreprehensible. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights believes that they're committing war crimes by indiscriminately targeting their own population.

They killed probably 7,000 people since March. And the situation is dramatically escalating towards a civil war and towards one that might draw in other countries in the region. This is bad and getting worse.

BURNETT: Ed, I mean, she's right, it is bad. And there are awful things happening. You could just see those videos that we were showing. So, there's kind of a moral reason people may want to get involved.

But then there's Iraq and what we went through there.

ED HUSAIN, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Moral repulsion maybe isn't strong enough to drive U.S. foreign policy.

I was living in Syria when the Iraq occupation happened for two years. I saw Iraqi refugees come in from Iraq into Syria. Syria is much more diverse. Its ethnic compositions, its sectarian differences and its the tribal rivalries makes Syria look far more disastrous than anything that Iraq had been.

And I think it's not just about morality. If it is about saving lives, we should think twice, because thus far, with all of the problems, we have had 7,000 plus people killed in Syria, intervening militarily in Syria and trying to topple the Assad regime without a clear day two plan in case, we don't know what happens after he goes down, risk millions more being killed in Syria. And worse, overspill into Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Iraq, and other countries which border this hot spot that is Syria.

BURNETT: Perhaps even Iraq.

Well, Kori, how do you respond to that? Because I know some people have said, well, look at Iraq, everyone said that it would be hard for U.S. forces, but they went in, and immediately the Iraqi government fell. That's true. But then it took 10 years for the troops to leave, and still Iraq is not settled. SCHAKE: Yes, I actually agree with many of the concerns that he raised, but not every intervention is Iraq, and not every intervention is Libya, not every intervention is Afghanistan. There are lots of different ways to do this.

I particularly like the plan that the Arab League is putting forward which is the progressive penalization of the Assad government for using force against its own civilians. That is that you threaten and will carry out the arming and the training of Syrian opposition forces if the Iraqi government -- excuse me, if the Syrian government continues to do this.

BURNETT: Right.

SCHAKE: And you eventually diminish the Syrian government's ability to use repressive forces against its own society, force it into a negotiating position to remove the strength.

BURNETT: Let me play devil's advocate for a second, Ed, and set this question up to you. And, obviously, you know, al Qaeda said they supported the rebels. I talked to an activist yesterday who was appalled that with that, they want nothing to do with al Qaeda.

I want to put that out there. But then I want to ask you this -- you look at Afghanistan back in the day the Taliban was a friend of the United States, and then it became the foe. Arming an opposition doesn't always end in a black and white outcome.

HUSAIN: Especially, especially when we don't know who the opposition is. This is an opposition who is sporadic. This is an opposition that's not organized. This is an opposition that has a strong extreme Muslim Brotherhood element. These are not the brotherhood that are the same in, say, Egypt or, say, Lebanon, or other countries. It's an extreme Muslim Brotherhood, and we ought to be very careful in getting into bed with people about whom we know very little, and who are not coherent in what it is they want.

BURNETT: All right.

HUSAIN: And the real risk there is toppling a regime such as Assad's regime, and unleashing civil war, and rival factions which are already fighting among themselves, by the way, you know, and then putting U.S. lives and U.S. resources at risk for something we don't know much about.

BURNETT: Well, thank you, Kori and Ed, thank you very much. A discussion a lot of people I'm sure are having tonight at home, and as America continues to decide what to do. Thanks to both of you. We look forward to talking to you about this again soon.

And we are hearing word out of Washington, we could have a deal on the payroll tax extension. We're going to try to confirm that for you and have that breaking news for you after the break.

And the latest national poll numbers -- a surge in the GOP's race. Whose surge is it? We'll find out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Well, we have breaking news from Capitol Hill.

We can confirm that Congress has reached a tentative deal to extend the payroll tax cut until the end of this year. It means average Americans will save between $700 to $2,300 a year. But the compromise didn't come easily. Weeks of negotiations that we all painfully know went nowhere, House and Senate leaders finally announced they're going to extend it without -- oh, this is good -- finding a way to pay for it, $100 billion.

Along with the tax cut, negotiators agreed to two other controversial items, extending unemployment benefits and avoiding a fee cut for Medicare doctors. Together, those measures cost about $50 billion. Congress says it will pay for the measures, but, they're not sure yet how.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: I guess it's not a comedy show.

OK, turning to other political news. Mitt Romney is taking to the air waves in Michigan today to try to make sure he doesn't lose his home state in the Republican race for president. A new polls shows Rick Santorum beating him in Michigan. Romney is emphasizing his roots, trying to convince voters he's one of them. But as you can see, hmm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now, I grew up in Michigan, it was exciting to be here. I remember going to Detroit auto show with my dad. That was a big deal.

The people here in Detroit are distressed. I want to make Michigan stronger and better. Michigan has been my home and this is personal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: At the same time, he is standing by his position that the auto bailout is a mistake and writing an op-ed in "The Detroit News" today, that "The president tell us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I think that without his -- I believe that without his intervention, things there would be better."

John Avlon and Reihan Salam are with us, along with Jamal Simmons, the three musketeers are together.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We are back.

BURNETT: You are back.

All right. Reihan, it's personal. REIHAN SALAM, THE CALLER: Oh, that's my favorite part of that commercial. It is so awesome. It seems like a kind of slightly villainous, but yes.

BURNETT: But how much does this matter if he loses it? This is his home state, that's the way he pitches it?

SALAM: It's an enormous blow partly because demonstrating that you are the kind of candidate who can do well in a state like Michigan is part of your appeal to GOP primary voters, because, you know, Michigan is not necessarily going to be a true swing state. But a lot of those industrial Midwestern states will be up for grabs. And if Romney can't win Michigan, it raises a lot of doubts about whether or not he is really a serious presidential contender.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I mean, look, he won Michigan last time, won it by nine points. He grew up there. His father was a popular governor.

So, to lose Michigan, to lose your de facto home state would be a major blow. And here is the thing, I mean, there's still plenty of time for the death star to sweep into effect, and ran negative ads against everyone --

BURNETT: Otherwise known as Restore Our Future.

AVLON: Otherwise known as Restore Our Future. Plenty of time for those negative ads to make a real difference in this race.

What amazes me, though, when you see that op-ed, where he's saying I'm doubling down, I'm saying, I would not have supported the auto bailouts -- now, he decides to stop flip-flopping, really? I mean, this is a high stakes move on his part. I think it's standard principle, but high stakes.

BURNETT: Jamal, in the op-ed he begun by writing, I am a son of Detroit, and as you saw his new ad talks about going up in Detroit, going to the auto show with his dad. You're from Michigan, Jamal, how big of a deal is it if Romney loses when he won, as John and Reihan were saying, by nine points last time?

SIMMONS: Yes, I, too, am a son of Detroit. And I will say that Michigan is very interesting, because it's kind of a microcosm of the country. It's urban. It's suburban. It's got a lot of the rural areas, a lot of evangelicals.

And if you look at the inside of some of these polls there, what's happening there, Romney is losing among Tea Party supporters, he's losing among evangelicals, he's losing every county in the state except for Oakland County. Oakland County is the wealthiest county in the state and one of the top 10 wealthiest counties in the United States of America. It's the one place Mitt Romney is doing well right now and betting Santorum in the poll.

He has got to find a way to get back to the Michigan blue collar, evangelical kind of Republican base and let them know, because as John said a second ago, he won it last time and his dad was a governor there. It's a de facto home state, and he's got to find a way to bring that all together, or else I think that as someone said earlier, it's a bedlam in the Republican Party if he can't win this one.

BURNETT: Bedlam. That would at least be fun to watch. All right. Thanks to all three of you. Appreciate it.

One person who might like that is Diane von Furstenberg. She's involved in this political race. We'll tell you why. And we'll get her response to the Republican National Committee, because they called her contribution to the Obama campaign ritzy, at a time when 12 million Americans remain out of work. Really?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Have we really come a long way? With all the controversy surrounding birth control, women in the military, even women in the workplace during this election, it's a fair question. And tonight's "IDEA" guest was wondering the same thing when she had an idea that was so revolutionary, it became the symbol of women's liberation.

Diane von Furstenberg disrupted the fashion world when she created one of the most basic staples in a lot of women's closet, the wrapped dress. In the '70s, its simplicity became synonymous with feminism and freedom and sexual revolution.

Well, tonight, she's changed a lot. She shared her thoughts behind the initial idea and how it has grown into something a whole lot bigger.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG, FASHION DESIGNER: I didn't know what I wanted to do when I started, but I knew the woman I wanted to be, I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be -- a woman who is independent, who doesn't need a man to pay her bill, you know, all of that.

And I became that woman. As I was becoming that woman, because it was fashion, I was helping other women to become the women they wanted to be.

So when I decided to create the DVF Awards, I wanted to create something that will last after me and that will enable certain women, five women every year, to get exposure on the great work that they do. Usually, most of these women have endured great hardship themselves, and not only have they survived it, but they used that to help other women.

BURNETT: This weekend on "Meet the Press," David Gregory read a passage from Rick Santorum's book. And the book is called "It Takes a Family." And here's what he read. He said, "The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness."

And I wanted to play, after David read that quote to Rick Santorum, how Rick Santorum responded?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My wife is a working woman. We had children and she decided to take her career -- take off time from her career and raise children. I can tell you, this section was written in large part in cooperation with her as a mother who was a lawyer, a neonatal intensive care nurse, someone with a great amount of professional experience, who felt very much like society and those radical feminists that I was referring to, were not affirming her choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: What do you think about Rick Santorum's point of view?

VON FURSTENBERG: Well, what I think is that I believe, really, that all women should have children, I do. I think that our body is made for that and I think we all should have children, and if we can't, somehow, we should adopt. I think women are made to have children and to be mothers, for sure.

I also think that women have to have an identity outside the home, and it makes for much healthier relationship, first for themselves, which at the end is very important, the relationship you have with yourself, with your partner, and certainly your children. I think that if you want the happiness of your children, you want to raise them to be independent children. And there's no better way to make your children independent than being independent yourself.

BURNETT: You talk about your third generation, for your business and your company. That involves a big bet on China.

VON FURSTENBERG: Yes. I am a great believer -- I think that one of the most extraordinary things that is happening is the speed of the growth of China. It's the speed that is incredible.

And I really want to tell everybody that we shouldn't be afraid of that because, you know, when I was a little girl, if I didn't eat my soup, my mother would say, think of all the Chinese that have nothing to eat. When it came to the generation of my children, you say the Chinese make everything.

BURNETT: Yes.

VON FURSTENBERG: And now for my grandchildren, it's the Chinese buy everything.

So I don't think we should always look at the Chinese like they're taking jobs away. They're also bringing us more and more jobs. And, of course, you know, there's a lot of things we may agree, we don't agree, but there are a billion and a half people, that's a lot of people to govern.

BURNETT: You are a president -- a supporter of President Obama, right? I mean, in terms of your politics and I know that you have designed some of those "Runway to Win" tote bags, scarves.

Republicans have panned some of those products as out of reach for many Americans, $75 to $95 each.

What's your reaction to that?

VON FURSTENBERG: Oh, I don't know. I mean, this is -- this is designing something to raise money. The more you can raise the better it is. You know?

It's -- clearly, it's not -- I'm not saying the value of the bag is what they ask for, I don't know. But it is a way of raising money. And I do like President Obama, and so I help him the best I can.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: All right. Well, interesting. We're going to put more of her interview online so you can take a look at the full segment on our Web site and our blog OUTFRONT. It will be out there soon.

OUTFRONT tomorrow, we'll be talking to South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. He's pushing legislation on how the United States should deal with Iran and its growing nuclear threat. We're going to talk to him about it.

And also, as you may have heard, earlier in the show in our back and forth that you saw there with the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he said he's going to have lunch with the man who is going to be the next president of China. So, we're going to talk to him about that, too.

Plus, something that we saw that was pretty fun today, we were at the Baptist Church in Newark where Whitney Houston, the funeral will be. We saw a sign that said, a budget, God's way. Perhaps that will help us solve the budget crisis. We'll talk about that with Lindsey Graham.

Have a great night. Happy Valentine's Day.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.