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JOHN KING, USA

Whitney Houston Investigation Continues; Rick Santorum Rising; Interview With Jon Huntsman

Aired February 14, 2012 - 18:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm John King.

Tonight: no big public memorial for Whitney Houston, just a quiet private funeral at the church where she grew up singing. New details tonight about how her family will say goodbye.

Then, Rick Santorum pulls ahead of Mitt Romney in a new national poll tonight. It's a brand-new GOP race.

Plus, it's the "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue. And the cover girl this year has ties to Capitol Hill, family ties.

Whitney Houston could have filled the stadium with mourners at a public memorial. Instead, she will have a private funeral on Saturday at her childhood church in Newark. Her body was flown home yesterday on Tyler Perry's private plane. From a plane to the golden hearse to the funeral home where we're told Houston's mother was waiting inside.

Jason Carroll is live at Houston's church, the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark.

Jason, you just had a chance to speak to the pastor there. What did he tell you about the funeral arrangements?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That would be Pastor Joe Carter, John.

Pastor Carter was very gracious. He allowed us inside the very same sanctuary inside the church where the services will be held on Saturday. When I asked him about the service, he told me he would be officiating over the particular service that will happen on Saturday. I asked him what are the words that he's going to use to try to bring comfort to those who are going to come here to pay their respects.

He said, I'm going to have to find a way to acknowledge the pain and acknowledge the pain that everyone is dealing with here, but also to celebrate the life of Whitney Houston.

Want you to listen to a little bit of what he had to say a just little while ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JOE CARTER, NEW HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, to ignore the pain of this would be erroneous. We have to acknowledge the fact that we're all hurting. And this is a painful, painful thing that we're going through.

That voice is silenced. But she left us with so much, amazingly so, how she was able to leave us with so many wonderful memories of that God-given gift. And so that's what we're celebrating on Saturday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: And one of those memories, John, that he talked about is the memory of Whitney Houston singing as a child here at the church. One of her favorite songs was called "He Would Not Come Down From the Cross." Perhaps that is one of the gospel songs that those who will be coming here will be hearing on Saturday.

KING: You hear the pastor talking about her gifts. You mentioned her childhood ties to the church. Her family is said to be very upset about the focus in the media on her history of drug use. What are they telling you?

CARROLL: Very upset about that. In fact, Pastor Carter has spoken to Cissy, Whitney Houston's mother, over and over during this particular time.

I think, John, what they want is they want the drive here to be about Whitney Houston's life, about her music, about the joy that she brought to millions of her fans. And I think that they're upset about what they're hearing and seeing in some of the reports. In some ways, they're just tuning it out, not watching some of the reports that are out there.

But in terms of the service here on Saturday, you can bet that what you're going to be hearing from is the celebration of Whitney Houston's life, the music that she brought to so many people as well -- John.

KING: Jason Carroll live for us at Whitney Houston's childhood church in Newark, New Jersey, Jason, thank you.

More on this story a bit later in the program.

But shifting to politics now, new CNN polling tonight vividly illustrates the volatility of the Republican presidential race. Plus, new numbers releasing this hour show how the bruising GOP campaign is at least for now playing to President Obama's advantage.

Check this out. The new CNN/ORC International poll shows former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum slightly ahead, essentially a statistical with the former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. That's among Republican voters nationally. As you can see there, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has dropped dramatically.

These brand-new numbers just released this hour are fascinating. Among all Americans our new polling shows President Obama with a 53 percent favorable rating. Republican candidate Ron Paul is viewed favorably by 42 percent of Americans. But only one in three Americans view Governor Romney or Senator Santorum favorably.

And look again at the bottom. Speaker Gingrich viewed favorably by just 25 percent.

Let's dissect these new numbers with "TIME" magazine's deputy Washington bureau chief, Michael Crowley.

If you look at the favorability of the two leading Republican candidates now, Romney and Santorum, 32, 34 percent favorable ratings, the president now back above 53. We're talking in February, not November. But if you're team Obama you have to be pretty happy this Republican campaign seems to be taking a toll on their leading guys.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": It absolutely does.

It looks like whoever the Republican nominee ends up being will have to do some healing before the general election. The unfavorable numbers are also quite striking. Newt Gingrich practically radioactive. His numbers unfavorable are up in the 60s. Mitt Romney is over 50. The president is not over 50 unfavorable.

A lot of Republicans were concerned that the drawn-out primary calendar, the proportional delegate rules and the power of super PACs where candidates can raise a lot of money fast if they have wealthy benefactors would draw out the primary, make this bloodier, bang up the nominee. Looks like that might be happening. It's a real concern.

KING: Let's show those numbers. You mention the unfavorables. You ask people in a poll at home, you say do you have a favorable, an unfavorable view? It's pretty standard, pretty predictable question.

Look at this, unfavorable -- 63 percent of all Americans view Speaker Gingrich unfavorably -- 54 percent, as you noted, a majority view Governor Romney unfavorable. The president is at 45 percent and his favorability is above 50. That's where you want to be if you're an incumbent. You would like to be a little higher than 53, but considering the economy that is not so bad.

Then Santorum and Ron Paul. Is this because of all the attacks in the Republican campaign? Is it because of the general broader dissatisfaction with politics? And while he's doing a lot of campaign style things President Obama is not in the thick of this right now. In a sense he has a pass in these early months.

CROWLEY: That's true.

And the fire has become more intraparty. I think in the earlier going, in all those debates, it was go after Obama, go after Obama. But now the candidates are really hitting each other, intramural Republican fight. I think it's not over yet. Rick Santorum is up at 38 percent. It's not a terrible number, but he has not yet suffered the full brunt of the Romney artillery barrage. We saw what it did to Newt Gingrich. I think that 38 percent number even if Santorum hangs in there is going to rise. Again, whoever the nominee on the Republican side is, is going to have to go to the E.R. for some medical attention before they take on Obama.

KING: That's a great way to put it.

To what do you make -- let's go back to the horse race numbers there, Senator Santorum 34, Governor Romney 32. Ron Paul, he stays pretty consistent, 15, 16 right there, and Newt Gingrich down to 15 percent. That's doubled Senator Santorum's support in just a month. Is it a sign of his growing strength or is it more a sign of Governor Romney's persistent weakness or softness?

CROWLEY: I think it's some of both.

It's been clear for awhile now that Romney has a problem with sealing the deal here. He just can't convince Republican voters to just throw their hands up and as much of the Washington establishment would like them to do and just say, get on with it, already. Focus your fire on President Obama. At the same time I would just caution we have seen the first half of this movie before.

We may be seeing -- about to see the second half where a challenger rises up against Romney. And again he trains his artillery on them and they go right back down. Santorum has not suffered a Romney negative ad barrage yet like Newt Gingrich did. I think for instance on our Swampland blog today, my colleague Michael Scherer reported a video of Santorum saying that he disagrees with contraception. Doesn't think it's appropriate, doesn't think it's a good idea.

We will be hearing more and more about little factoids about Rick Santorum a lot of Americans and a lot of Republicans may not know yet that could be problematic for him.

KING: Get to the top of the polls, you get a thicker scrubbing if you will, better vetting. And two weeks to Arizona and Michigan. We will watch the Romney ad machine as well.

Michael, thanks for coming in tonight, important new numbers.

The treasury secretary Tim Geithner says higher taxes for the rich must be part of the budget. He says it's the only way to boost the economy and tackle the deficit without making the middle class suffer.

Here he is defending President Obama's 2013 budget plan to the Senate Finance Committee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: We don't see a way to do that that's fair and consistent with our other obligations as officials to do that without some modest increase in revenues. And we want to make sure those revenues come from the people that are in the best position to bear that burden. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president's $3.8 trillion budget plan includes several tax hikes on the rich.

At least 40 more people killed today in Syria. Residents now say they're bracing for a full-blower war, too afraid of snipers, too afraid of shellings to even go buy bread. These are images of life in a Damascus suburb. The man who posted this video said troops are now using civilians as human shields.

You can see two tanks with civilians walking between, apparently insurance against rebel attacks.

Foreign reporters are forbidden inside Syria, but our Arwa Damon has managed to get inside. Communication is dicey and she's at an undisclosed location for her safety. But we're in touch with Arwa now.

Arwa, you were in Syria just a few weeks ago. Tell me, what strikes you most about the deterioration now that you're back?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we have really been able to see is how far -- even though the government is still in a position of power, it's important to note that, but just how far the situation is really beginning to fray.

There are huge parts of this country that do not seem to be in full government control or at the very least where people have broken that barrier of fear to a degree where the Free Syrian Army is setting up checkpoints, especially on the dirt roads and the fields and farmlands that we're having to travel through because we also need to avoid government forces, just like the activists and members of the opposition and Free Syrian Army need to as well.

We have also really been able to gain a greater appreciation for the details of what the opposition has to go through just to achieve basic things. They have an entire network set up to try to disseminate information about government movement. They have entire networks set up just to get things like bread delivered into neighborhoods where there are shortages and then more critically, of course, medical aid and an entire process to try to get injured evacuated from these various areas under siege into the secret underground clinics for basic medical care, before moving them onto private hospitals, where they're perhaps sympathetic doctors who can treat them or in some cases even getting them out of the country.

KING: Well, what is the sense of what the outside world is doing? Is there a sense of outrage they're not getting more help? Or is there a sense of just despair that they're going to have to do this on their own?

DAMON: A lot of people that we have been talking to are reluctantly saying that they do want military intervention. But they fear what it is going to do to the country. But they say they have no choice at this stage. With or without military intervention, at some point in time, they do believe the Assad regime is going to fall. But they also believe and know that it is going to be an incredibly bloody process.

They realize that military intervention is potentially going to cost a lot of lives, but they say that military intervention will at least end the crisis a lot quicker than a lack of military intervention would, because they say, if there is no intervention, this is just going to drag on for who knows how long.

And it is only going to further split and polarize the country. And this is a nation that already at this stage is dangerously splitting, is dangerously seeing its social fabric disintegrate. And that at the end of the day is going to be the next challenge, the next chapter in Syria. And that is something that the activists, the opposition are very well aware of as well at this stage, John.

KING: Breathtakingly brave reporting from CNN's Arwa Damon.

Arwa, thank you and stay safe.

Almost two million voters legally on the rolls are dead. How does this happen? We will have details later this hour.

But, first, former presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman tells us what China's next leader is really like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: He's confident. He's well-briefed. He's soft-spoken. He's able to connect human being to human being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The China challenge is front and center here in Washington today. Vice President Xi Jinping is here for what you might call a getting-to-know-you tour.

Xi is expected to become China's president later this year. And in addition to high-level meetings at the White House and the Pentagon and more, he's getting a sense of the challenges ahead.

President Obama, for example, raised some specific human rights cases in private and made this gentle nudge in public.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On critical issues like human rights, we will continue to emphasize what we believe is the importance of recognizing the aspirations and rights of all people. And we expect that China will continue to take a growing role in world affairs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And on Capitol Hill, a top Army officer discussed the escalating cyber-war between Washington and Beijing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: I believe someone in China is hacking into our systems and stealing technology and intellectual property, which at this point is a crime. I can't attribute it directly to the PLA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, who is Xi and how might he different from the current president, Hu Jintao?

Let's begin there with the former ambassador to China and the one-time presidential hopeful, Jon Huntsman.

Governor, it's good to see you.

You have met the vice president. You know him better than most Americans. Let me ask the question this way. What don't we know about the man who will become China's next president?

HUNTSMAN: Well, we don't know what kind of leader he's going to be, because you have got to be in strict conformity in the two years running up to leadership changes.

So if you stop to reflect on this October, the 18th Party Congress, sweeping changes in Chinese leadership, I would say that 70 percent of the top 200 leaders are going to turn over, including seven members of the all-important standing committee the Politburo, which is effectively the board of directors of the country.

So for two years before, you're in conformity, for a year after or thereabouts, you're in conformity. What we don't know what he's likely to be like as a leader and what his priorities will be in 2013 and beyond.

KING: And some people would ask this question. And certainly a lot of dissidents and activists in China ask this question. They say, does it matter? Or even if he is a reformer, even if he is personally in favor of more openness, could he do that or would he be too beholden to the powerful interests?

HUNTSMAN: Well, what we do know is that he will be dealing with a new slate of characters. And he has an opening in terms of fresh faces and new leaders who are going to occupy some of these positions.

He has an opening himself because I think he is more of a reform- minded leader. We will see what the years ahead prove him out to be. But I do believe if you combine new leadership in Beijing, which we will have after October, combined with a new head of state who is a little more reform-minded than we have seen in years past, then we're likely to see a very real coming-together of new leadership in Beijing with the dissident community and the activist community, those seeking greater reforms either politically or beyond, having a conversation.

They haven't done that in a very long time. And I think Xi is smart enough to realize that he's going to have to make some accommodations in the years ahead or they could see a serious train wreck.

KING: Size him up. We see the public presence. We see him at the White House. We see more pictures of official pictures in Beijing. In private meetings, what's he like?

HUNTSMAN: He's confident, he's well-briefed, he's soft-spoken. He's able to connect human being to human being. He doesn't always just read from his talking points, which is what we have seen in years past coming out of Chinese leaders.

I think there's an opportunity in the years to come to forge the kind of relationship where we can take the U.S.-China relationship, now 40 years old, and move it beyond just a relationship based on shared interests, trade, economics, and just the perfunctory things, to a relationship based on shared values.

I think if we're going to give the U.S.-China relationship long- term durability, you have got to start infusing values into that relationship.

KING: So then what's the political responsibility on this end? You hear for example during the Republican campaign with which you're quite familiar Governor Romney talks about, they're cheating, I will punish them. President Obama has talked a little tougher when it comes to China and sanctions of late, economic.

Just today, the vice president raised his concerns about why in the United Nations Security Council wouldn't they go along with a tough Syria resolution. What's the right approach?

HUNTSMAN: Those are all mechanical parts of the relationship. They will be here year in and year out.

The longer-term play between the United States and China will be whether or not we can sit down at a table and talk about values, talk about political reform, talk about human rights, talk about a recognition of different ethnic groups within China, the role of the Internet in society, for example.

These are all very difficult issues to have discussions about, yet they're going to have to be part of our future relationship. And we will see in the next few years if this actually becomes a reality in our dialogue.

KING: And so if you were president of the United States, how would you test this new leader of China to see, what do we have here? Do we have someone who is willing to think outside the box, act outside the box, open up? HUNTSMAN: Well, I would recognize the reality of Xi Jinping being fairly restrained for the first year or so once he's been given the mantle of power.

And I think this country likely will require a new level of dialogue with China, which is a regularized, maybe twice or three times per year, head of state to head of state kind of interaction that allows us to have the kinds of discussions we haven't been able to have in the past.

We talk about trade, we talk about North Korea, we talk about Iran, and all of the transactional types of issues. But lost in all of this are the broader themes of values. And the values will cement the relationship longer-term if we can get it right.

KING: Governor Huntsman, it's good to see you. Appreciate your time.

HUNTSMAN: Good to see you.

KING: Thank you, sir.

Coming up, the price of some Whitney Houston albums jumps on iTunes just hours after the singer died. Sony says it was a mistake. But fans aren't happy.

Plus, we will meet the cover girl for "Sports Illustrated"'s swimsuit issue. Her name is Kate Upton. And get this. Her uncle is a congressman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: A series of explosions in Bangkok, Thailand, and Israel blames Iran. We will explain the connection after the break.

Also, Whitney Houston acknowledged battling addictions throughout her life. We will speak with an expert about her struggles next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: And this half-hour: Friends insist Whitney Houston had let go of hard drugs. But her very public struggles with addiction are raising big questions about prescription drug use in America.

And Michigan was supposed to be an easy win for Mitt Romney, but now, it's a very tight race. Why the self-proclaimed son of Detroit is struggling in a state he views as home turf.

Plus, Oprah's in trouble for sending a tweet asking viewers to tune into her network. Why the ratings people say it's just not fair.

It will be weeks before the Los Angeles Coroner's Office gets the toxicology report and finds out what really killed Whitney Houston. But one thing is certain. Accidental overdoses from prescription medications are a serious problem.

The host of "DR. SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." and our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is with us now.

Sanjay, you've investigated deaths caused by prescription drugs for quite a while now, most often unintentional deaths. How big of a problem is this?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the CDC calls this a silent epidemic. And they say this, John, because if you look at the numbers across the country, there's a person that dies about every 19 minutes in this country from the drug overdosing you've just described. Prescription drugs.

It causes more deaths than cocaine and heroin combined; yet there's a lot of attention, obviously, on these illicit drugs. So it's a pretty significant concern.

You know, about one in 20 Americans misuses a prescription drug in some way. That might mean that they're taking too many of them. They may be mixing it. They may be using it inappropriately. And as a result, this has become this huge problem.

You know, John, there's a perception if a doctor prescribes it to you, it's not going to kill you. It's safe. And it's certainly safer, at least the perception is, than illicit drugs. And as we're seeing and as we've been investigating for some time, that's just not true. This is a huge problem.

KING: And when you say it's a huge problem, where's the safety net, or is there a safety net if you're going to one doctor for one drug, one doctor for another drug and if you are deliberately abusing them is there any way the system can catch you?

GUPTA: Well, if you are deliberately abusing them, there are ways. Certainly, someone who's a drug seeker or trying to get many of these types of medications, they can beat the system. I mean, we've seen this over and over again in some of the reports that we've done.

But the problem is sort of two-fold. One is that there's probably an over-prescription of these medications. You do the math, and we found that looking at the amount of opiates or pain medications that are prescribed, they could literally give every American enough pain medications or opiates to take the pills every four hours for a month. Every American. Think about that in terms of over- prescription.

But in terms of beating the system, I mean, you go to one pharmacy. You get a prescription. You go to a second pharmacy. You get a prescription, maybe, for a similar medication. A third pharmacy, the same thing. So for someone who says, "Look, I take medications, but I want to be safe," the onus is almost on them to talk to their pharmacists, talk to their doctors and make sure that they're very transparent about all medications they're taking. KING: And we need to be careful, because we don't know how Whitney Houston died. We need to await the toxicology results. But what can happen to the human body when even a small amount of prescription drugs are mixed together, perhaps inappropriately, and then when you add alcohol to the mix?

GUPTA: In the sort of umbrella term, John, we call these central nervous system depressants. What that means is they sort of just depress all the things that the central nervous system sort of -- you count on it doing for you. You count on the central nervous system regulating how you breathe, regulating your blood pressure and your heart rate. You don't think about that stuff.

If all of a sudden medications, in isolation first of all, if they're depressing the central nervous system, it can make you sleepy. But synergistically, or added together, as you say, it's not a one plus one equals two scenario. These things in combination can -- can greatly inhibit the central nervous system, blunting someone's drive to breathe, for example.

So for example, if someone takes a Xanax, for example, for anxiety, you know, business travel, or maybe they had a drink later on in the night and then before bed they're taking a sleeping pill, that may be something that sounds familiar to a lot of people out there. But that combination of these three things-- alcohol as you mentioned and those two pills -- can prove problematic and even deadly sometimes, John.

KING: Important context. Dr. Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

KING: Now, specifically on Whitney Houston's struggle with substance abuse, Ken Sealy is an addiction expert and founder of Intervention 911. He joins us from Palm Desert, California.

Ken, let me start with just the basic questions. What are the warning signs? If you were somebody who has been around Whitney Houston over the last couple of weeks or last couple of years, but let's focus on the last couple of years, what should you be looking for if you know the person you are with, your friend, your colleague, your associate, has a track record of addiction?

KEN SEALY, ADDICTION EXPERT: The bottom line is if they're using. If they're using any form of mind-altering substance, that's a sign to look for. And then take immediate action.

We see it all the time. It's heart-breaking to watch so many people. As the doctor just mentioned, every 19 minutes in this country somebody's dying. we see the signs. We need to take the action.

KING: And Ken, then listen here. This is Kelly Price, a friend of Whitney Houston, who was with her in the final days and final hours. She's talking to Anderson Cooper. She says sure, Whitney was having a couple of glasses of champagne, but it wasn't anything that was a problem. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY PRICE, FRIEND OF WHITNEY HOUSTON: I wasn't worried about it. I didn't see where it was excessive. I didn't see -- I saw her with a couple of glasses of champagne. And then our interactions were normal. There was nothing that seemed that it was over the top. She didn't seem to be intoxicated to me. Again, I know intoxicated when I see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What does that tell you right there? This is a friend, someone who knows her history of addiction. Do we as a culture, this society just deny that a drink or two is the gateway?

SEALY: Yes. And that's the problem here, is that everybody that's out there watching a loved one die from this addiction is they see that one glass of wine. Well, they're doing much better now, and it's not as bad as it used to be.

But the bottom line is, when you're diagnosed as an addict with any form of addiction, you cannot do those things. You cannot have one glass of champagne, besides a bottle of champagne. You just can't do it. You can't take one Xanax. You need to find other things to help you with your anxiety. But you cannot take medication.

KING: I want to be careful. Because we need to wait for the toxicology reports. And we know the family isn't happy with a lot of the media speculation about what might have been. But you have a friend saying, Whitney Houston was at a party and having some champagne. In the hotel room we know Lorazepam, Valium, Xanax found in that room. There are reports also alcohol was found in that room. What does that tell you?

SEALY: That just tells me that the people surrounding her need to really -- should have really looked at that and saying, "Listen, we know her past. She was diagnosed with an addiction. And we can't allow people that were diagnosed this way to have anything, any -- not even a glass of wine."

So for all that stuff that was found, and who knows if she even used it, like you said. But the reality is if she was, those are the things you have to take action and fight this. Because the disease will always win. The addiction will always win unless, if you have the people surrounding you, love you enough to say, "I'm sorry. You cannot do this. We love you too much."

And as we've seen her mother do in that Oprah interview, she showed up there and said, you know, "No more. I am not going to let you die from this." And she fought.

I feel like the public, us as professionals, didn't educate the public to let them know that treatment is not about just going away for 60, 90 days. We have proven statistics with the doctored aversion programs, the pilots programs, that this is three, five, to ten years of accountability that they have to be accountable in some kind of program.

KING: And sir, I appreciate...

SEALY: And it works.

KING: I appreciate your help and insights tonight, Ken. Thank you very much.

SEALY: Thank you.

KING: Heading overseas now, a string of bombs erupts in downtown Bangkok. And Israel says it's Iran's fault. Thai police say a group of Iranian men blew up a rental house and tried to get away. But one suspect hurled two more bombs, one at a taxi driver, another at police. And one of those bombs exploded early, blowing off the suspect's leg.

Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon tonight, tracking this intrigue.

Chris, this comes just a day -- last night we were talking about attacks on Israeli diplomats in India and in Georgia. Help put this into context.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Israel says you take India, Georgia and Thailand, and it adds up to a coordinated effort by Iran to sponsor terror attacks around the world.

The U.S. is a bit more nuanced, but just barely. The official line is that, look, we're going to wait for the investigation. We're not going to prejudge. But the State Department made a point today of coming out publicly saying this attack comes on the heels of other attacks that do have Iranian fingerprints on them. That the U.S. is now drawing connections and that it sees an aggressive spike in nations that are sponsoring terrorism and using terror as a weapon.

All of this is a way for the U.S. to walk right up to the edge of accusing Iran without actually doing so. But on the heels of what we learned yesterday from our intel sources, saying that the U.S. was looking at the usual suspects, I don't think there's a whole lot of daylight between the U.S. and Israel on this point, John.

KING: If there's not a whole lot of daylight and the United States believes or at least suspects Iran is responsible, any steps being taken to increase security at overseas operations?

LAWRENCE: Nothing specific. But you know, it was just about a month ago when both the U.S. and Israel warned their citizens who were living there in Thailand that an attack was imminent. Because a man who had links to Hezbollah was arrested there in Thailand with about four tons of fertilizer and other bomb-making materials.

But the U.S. government did lift that alert about a week or so before this bomb went off.

As for, you know, warnings or dangers to American citizens here in the U.S., there's sort of a split. The U.S. intel community says they don't see any firm evidence that Iran is targeting Jewish organizations or Jewish facilities here in the U.S. They don't see an increased threat to Jewish Americans.

But the man who analyzes intelligence for New York City says that he thinks that New York is becoming increasingly more of a target because of its large Jewish population -- John.

KING: Some good reporting there. Chris Lawrence live for us at the Pentagon. Chris, thank you.

Will Amanda Knox be forced to return to Italy for an appeal? Italian prosecutors filed paperwork today.

Plus, the son of director Oliver Stone makes a life-changing decision in Iran. We'll have both of those stories a little bit later this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Mitt Romney is the former Massachusetts governor. He ran the Salt Lake City Olympic games. Owns homes in New Hampshire and California. Forget all that. Think Motor City, 8-Mile Road. This is Mitt Romney's version of the real Slim Shady.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make Michigan stronger and better. Michigan's been my home. And this is personal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Yes, it's personal. It's also very, very, very political.

Michigan and Arizona vote next, and Romney can ill afford to lose neither. But a loss in the big industrial battleground where he was born would, as Republican strategist Torie Clarke put it here last night, cause heads to explode in the Republican Party.

Well, here's tonight's "Truth." Romney faces a tough test for what he likes to think of as home turf, and the next two weeks will tell us a lot about his tenacity and the future course of the Republican race.

There are big policy challenges, beginning with Romney's position on the auto industry bailout. Back in 2008 this was Governor Romney's prediction. "If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American auto industry good-bye."

Well, G.M. and Chrysler did get bailout money, millions. The companies and the White House say the industry is back on its feet because of the taxpayer help. Romney still takes issue, writing in "The Detroit News" just today, he said, "The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse. I believe that without his intervention, things there would be better." On Twitter @DavidAxelrod -- that's the president's top strategist -- framed the debate this way: "Does anyone believe what Mitt says, that the American auto industry would be better off today if the president hadn't intervened in 2009?"

Now, Axelrod isn't just preparing for a potential fault fight for Michigan. He's stoking the blue-collar divide in the current Republican race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A full-spectrum conservative, Rick Santorum is rock solid on values issues, a favorite of the Tea Party for fighting corruption and taxpayer abuse, more foreign policy credentials than any candidate.

And Rick's "made in the USA" jobs plan will make America an economic superpower again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A new poll just this week shows Santorum narrowly leading in Michigan. And he's about to get some serious attention from the Romney attack machine.

Truth is, it's testing time for both Romney and Santorum. And a big complicated struggle in a state like Michigan makes for a fascinating battleground.

Here to talk truth tonight, Ed Goeas. He's a Republican pollster. CNN senior analyst Ron Brownstein with the "National Journal"; and Penny Nance, the president of the conservative group, Concerned Women for America.

So where's Mitt Romney from? Is he from Michigan? Is he from Massachusetts? It's important. But Michigan seems to be saying, "We're not so sure."

PENNY NANCY, PRESIDENT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Yes. I think the people of Michigan being more of a blue-collar state, there's a good number of evangelicals and Catholics there in Michigan. They're going to have the choice between the Bain candidate, the Tiffany candidate and the Wal-Mart candidate. And I think that you're going to see Rick Santorum do very well. The sweater vest, I think, will rock on.

KING: The sweater vest will rock on, you think. You mentioned let's look at this poll, if you look at the second poll graphic. We have a Republican choice for nominee. Our new polling tonight, it shows what I'm going to call a little bit of class warfare within the Republican race.

Among blue-collar voters Santorum beats Governor Romney 36 percent to 25 percent. Ron Paul gets 20 percent there. Among those who say they're white collar, it's Romney on top with 41, Santorum with 31. Ed, you do this for a living. What is the divide in the party right now? What is the struggle. Is it about these men, or is it about something else?

ED GOEAS, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: No. It's -- you're in the first act of a play. And you're trying to predict who the audience is going to be cheering for at the end of the play. We know who this audience is going to be cheering against at the end of the play, and it's Barack Obama.

And the way to kind of see whether there's a true divide there is to look at how Santorum and Romney does with these same groups when they go against Obama. In every survey you look at, there's not more than a percent or two difference between men and women, blue-collar, white-collar. These voters voting against Obama and for Santorum or Romney.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Right. But while they may converge again against Obama, the Republican coalition, there's no question that within the context of the primary and this choice, you are seeing more of a class divide than we typically see in the Republican races and a common feature of Democratic races. You have an upscale candidate and a downscale candidate. Wine track and beer track.

But in this race Mitt Romney, as in 2008 but even more so this time, tilts very upscale in his support. He does better among upper income voters; he does better among college-educated voters. And as Penny pointed out, Michigan is a state where in 2008, 57 percent of the Republican primary voters did not have a college education. The party is changing. It's much more of a blue-collar party than it used to be.

And that's one of the reasons Romney has faced so much resistance. He's always struggled with those voters, and those struggles have generally gotten deeper this year.

KING: We have a blue-collar, white-collar divide. You also have a gender gap if you look at the Republican race right now. If we show the numbers up there, among men, Senator Santorum 37 percent, Romney 27 percent, Paul and Gingrich both round out the pack, but a 10-point gap there. And it's a total flip among women that Romney leads 38 percent to 29 percent. Why a gender gap in this race?

NANCE: I think you saw in Iowa that Santorum did very well with women. I think the distortion of his record on women in hand-to-hand combat this past week may be showing up in those numbers.

KING: How about their distortion about his record. He was asked a lot of questions about it. How was it before...

NANCE: What he said was what some women do struggle with. And particularly we struggle on behalf of women who are mothers. They join the military as single women, and they become mothers. And suddenly, they're thrust to the front lines. And in certain combat positions that maybe they don't want to do. They have no choice in this matter.

And so we have concerns over that and whether men and women, moms and dads at the same time should be deployed and their kids end up in foster care.

So there are issues that women are concerned about. And I think, though there was a distortion in his record, look, I've known him for 20 years. He has had very impressive women in high-profile slots around him. He's mentored women. He's married to a very strong professional woman. He does not in real life have a woman problem. I think when that message gets out there, it will be better.

BROWNSTEIN: I want to disagree with both of you. I think if Rick Santorum is the nominee, versus Mitt Romney as the nominee, I think you will see a very different performance among particularly college-educated women, who tend to be more socially liberal. I think Romney is a much stronger candidate for those voters than Santorum.

Rick Santorum lost 72 percent of independents in his last race. You don't see numbers with seven very often in exit polls under any -- under any circumstances.

And I think, you know, that the strength of the social conservatism, which is an asset in these primaries and will continue to be not only in Michigan, but in other blue-collar-leaning states, like Tennessee and Oklahoma, on Super Tuesday. A very different profile in the general election. And I think one that comes out in your poll today. Republicans still overwhelmingly think Mitt Romney is a stronger bet to beat Barack Obama than Rick Santorum, but Santorum generates more enthusiasm in the base than Romney does.

NANCE: He doesn't have the win, by the way. He may have the enthusiasm to get the base out to do the work, but you need both.

GOEAS: I am looking at data that shows Santorum versus Obama, Romney versus Obama. Unless -- regardless of how you frame that. No one's put...

(CROSSTALK)

GOES: ... and all of the traditional Democratic strategy, which is we have to win women bigger than the Republicans are winning men. Just not solely...

BROWNSTEIN: I agree.

KING: But in the primary context now, why the gender gap?

GOEAS: Well, first of all, I kind of disagree with the divide. I mean, you're looking at one survey that's showing this week there's a nuanced difference in terms of leaning in that direction. Is that what's driving this election? No, that's not what's driving this election.

If you look at Michigan, which is a good example, certainly, if you look at Santorum, he has a very good message for the blue collar, and that's why you're seeing them running even in the polls in terms of Michigan and Romney has other strengths that he will play in the state. That will be a major factor in this upcoming state, but it's not a dividing factor, because those people that will vote in that primary will vote for either of these candidates if they get the nomination.

KING: November, you think that. Let me ask each of you a question in closing. When you look -- we're look at Romney or Santorum, because that's where the numbers say the race is right now. But when you look at Speaker Gingrich, he's down to 15 percent in the national horse race. If you look at the Michigan poll, he's running third or fourth behind Congressman Paul.

But we also -- for Newt Gingrich, you're saying, OK, but I was at 40 a couple of months ago. Herman Cain went from zero to 40. So you think this volatility could continue. Is that your likely course, volatility, or have we settled this, as Santorum likes to say, into a two-man race?

NANCE: Well, I've heard others say that Newt Gingrich is the Michael Corleone of American politics. Just when you think he's out, he's back in. But it does look bad for him at this point, and I do sense that social conservatives are coalescing around Rick Santorum.

KING: But at this point, can you survive a miserable February, if you're Newt thinking, "I'm going to go to Super Tuesday and stay this out"?

GOEAS: Well, and there's too stories here. One is Newt is being set on the side of the road. Clearly, if you look at all the data, he is out of this game now.

Second of all, there's been no debates. There's only one debate between now and Michigan and Arizona. There's another debate before Super Tuesday. He's running out of steam, because the thing that had given steam to his campaign were the debates. And they're not there.

BROWNSTEIN: At least you didn't say he was the Freddy Krueger. Real quick on the volatility. In the CNN polling, this January of 2011, you have had six different candidates in the lead overall, seven different candidates leading among Tea Party supporters. That's a lot of volatility we've never seen, so it's hard to say we've seen the last turn of the wheel in this race.

GOEAS: And I would add the volatility came because of the debates. It's now becoming because of the caucuses and the primaries.

KING: I've got to go right now. But thank you. It is a fascinating race. Fasten your seat belts.

Oprah Winfrey is the latest celebrity in trouble for her comments on Twitter, but now she's apologizing.

Plus, yes, it is Valentine's Day, not just here in Washington, but here in Washington, Republicans are, you might say, rekindling their romance with President Obama. We'll have that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Here is Mary Snow with the latest news you need to know right now. Hey there.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, John.

Oprah is taking heat after tweeting to Nielson viewers to watch her cable network OWN. Nielson measures TV ratings. Oprah tweeted on Grammy night, "Please turn to OWN, especially if you have a Nielson box." Now, not only is it against Nielson's policy to directly target viewers, people are now calling the move desperate, saying she was begging for viewers. She's since apologized and has deleted the original tweet.

And director Oliver Stone's son has converted to Islam. Before this, he had suspended Iran's right to nuclear weapons. That's according to Hollywood publication "The Wrap." He told an Iranian newspaper he converted while filming a documentary in the country.

Italian authorities are trying to appeal the acquittal of Amanda Knox. The American student accused of murdering her roommate had her original conviction overturned in October. Now prosecutors are fighting the overturned conviction. It raises questions as to whether Knox was currently back in the U.S. could be forced to go back to Italy. The family says it's just another example of harassment by the prosecution.

And check out this video of Baghdad today. Streets filled with Valentine's goodies, candies, teddy bears, hearts galore, this just two months after most U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq. Last year, neighboring Iran banned Valentine's Day because of its connection with the western world. This year, Uzbekistan is the holiday (ph). Still a lot of countries that are frowning on Valentine's Day.

KING: Well, that -- we're going to talk about Valentine's here, Mary. Stay with me for tonight's "Moment You Missed," a public service announcement here from the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me start with a quick public service announcement for all the gentlemen out there. Today is Valentine's Day. Do not forget. I speak from experience here. It is important that you remember this and go big. That's my advice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And don't forget and go big. Mary, that's good advice from the president.

SNOW: Very good advice.

KING: And watch this: the Republican National Committee is taking the president's advice to heart. Look at this fake love note from the president, saying, "I wouldn't say you're better off this Valentine's Day than you were four years ago."

Humor, Mary.

SNOW: Ouch, yes. All in good fun, though.

KING: All in good fun. Right?

SNOW: Very good.

KING: Very good. We'll see what they do for Easter.

Mary Snow, thanks for helping us out tonight. We'll see you right back here tomorrow night. That's all for us for now, though.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.