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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY

Interview with Jacob Lew; Interview with Carly Fiorina, Jennifer Granholm; Interviews with Governors of Maryland, West Virginia and Colorado

Aired July 1, 2012 - 09:00   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Out of the courts, on to the campaign trail. Today...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we want to get rid of "Obama-care," we are going to have to replace President Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: One hundred twenty-eight days from the election, a conversation with Obama Chief of Staff Jack Lew.

Then, the good, the bad, and the confusing economic signals. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm are here. All things political with USA Today's Susan Page and CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

And weather gone wild, we talk to two governors whose states have been hit hard. And finally, Colorado on fire, with Governor John Hickenlooper.

I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.

Quite the week for the White House. A major victory in the Supreme Court followed by a history of a different sort on the House floor. The president used the trappings of the White House, in this case the formality of the East Room, to suggest in picture and in words that the Supreme Court ruling settled the controversy over his health care law.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today's decision was a victory for people all over this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: As the president tried to close the books on the health care debate, his Republican rival was writing the next chapter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: "Obama-care" was bad policy yesterday. It is bad policy today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: While trying to wring the politics out of health care, the administration was equally determined to underscore the politics of Capitol Hill's investigation into a botched federal gun-running sting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The resolution is agreed to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: The Republican-led House cited Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to share some documents. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today's vote may make for good political theater in the minds of some, but it is at base both a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American people.

CROWLEY: Joining me now is White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew. Thank you for joining us this morning. Let's talk about health care a bit because I wanted to show you a opinion poll taken by USA Today/Gallup after the decision, and this is the opinion of the Supreme Court's ruling that the individual mandate, in fact, most of the entire law is constitutional, 46 percent of Americans agree with that and 46 percent of Americans disagree with that.

Why does health care law remain so divisive at this point?

LEW: Candy, I think that one of the great things about this country is we have a Supreme Court and when it rules, we have a final judgment. So there is not a question now as to whether or not the law is constitutional, it is a constitutional.

I think health care has been a divisive debate for many years. It's a very personal issue to people. They understand that health care is a big part of their lives. And frankly they hear a political debate that makes it more not less divisive. I think the challenge we have going forward now is to implement the law and to focus on the things that people are actually seeing day-to-day that make a difference.

If you have a student who graduates from college and they don't have a job, they are now able to stay on their family health plan. If you are on Medicare and you used to spend $600 in that doughnut hole on prescription drugs, you are now covered. If you had a child with a pre-existing condition, you are now guaranteed that you're going to be able to get covered.

CROWLEY: Those are the good parts and the president talks about those a lot. And those are wildly popular with most Americans. They think it's the -- what the Supreme Court has called the tax part and other things. And I wanted to ask you about the whole idea of these penalties, if you want to call them that, the Supreme Court calls them taxes, whatever.

If you do not have health insurance by 2014, the fine for not doing them, this goes through the IRS, is $285 or 1 percent of the income. 2015 it goes up to almost $1,000 or 2 percent of your income. And then 2016, it goes up as well.

If part of your health care law is that insurers cannot deny you insurance on the basis of pre-existing conditions, why would someone pay for health care insurance if when they get sick they can still go buy it? So why wouldn't they just pay these fines, which are pretty low, rather than pay health care which is like $7,000, $8,000 a year?

LEW: So, let's just be clear. Most Americans want health insurance. CROWLEY: Yes, I agree with you.

LEW: Most Americans have health insurance. Everyone who has health insurance, they're going to have their insurance. They get to keep it. And those who can't afford it will get tax subsidies and be able to get insurance they don't have.

CROWLEY: Can I just stop you? I'm sorry...

LEW: But let me just answer your question, Candy. The group of people you're talking about, we have some understanding of the size of that group. In Massachusetts where there was a plan like this, 1 percent of the population fell into that group. The Congressional Budget Office, when they looked at health care reform, estimated that it would be roughly 1 percent.

Now that 1 percent, let's just be clear, you know, who we're talking about. We're talking about people who can afford insurance and decide not to have it. And when they get sick and they go to the hospital and they go to the doctor, they're just sharing their costs with everyone else.

This penalty is a way of saying you have to pay your own way. You have to pay your fair share.

CROWLEY: Right. My point being, why wouldn't they just then continue to pay the penalty, since it's relatively cheap, this is not a huge penalty, and then when they get sick, just go get health insurance?

LEW: Well, you know, I think we have experience in Massachusetts that shows us that people want health insurance if they can afford it. The fact that 1 percent pay the penalty in Massachusetts tells you a great deal.

You know, this was a plan that Governor Romney supported. It's something that I would think he would have been proud of. It's a model that at the federal level and the Congressional Budget Office looked at it, said it would have the same kind of impact.

It's time now to get over the debate and to implement the law. What the American people don't want is they don't want to be taken back to the old divisive debate. They want to get on with it. And they want us to be focusing on economic growth and creating jobs.

That's what we want to do and that's what we think Congress ought to do.

CROWLEY: Except for that they still do kind of remain divided about this health care law and it has hit the campaign trail. I realize you all would -- don't want that discussion. But the Republicans are going to continue to kind of foment that.

And one of the ways they're going to do it is saying, listen, this is a tax hike, the Supreme Court has said so. Do you all embrace the word "tax" as the Supreme Court did to rule this constitutional? LEW: Well, first of all, the law is clear, it is called a penalty. Second of all, what the Supreme Court ruled was that this law was constitutional. It is time to move on to implement the law...

CROWLEY: Under the tax act.

LEW: Well, actually, they didn't call it a tax. They said it was using a power under the Constitution that permits it. It was not labeled. And this is a penalty. It's something that only 1 percent of the people who could afford insurance who choose not to get it will pay.

Everyone who has insurance, everyone who chooses to buy insurance, will not pay it. What they're going to get is security. They're going to get lower premiums and better health care. That is a good thing for the American people.

CROWLEY: Let me move you on to a different subject, and that is that immediately after the health care victory -- or within hours, the House voted to cite your attorney general, Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for not turning over some of the documents, he has turned over a great many documents, but some of the documents that Congress was asking for in connection of Fast and Furious, a gun-running scheme that went awry.

This is what the president -- now you all claimed executive privilege for Eric Holder, and said these documents that he is not handing over are covered by executive privilege, meaning they don't have to hand them over to Congress.

And we went back and this was from an interview that President Obama did in 2007 with our Larry King. And he was talking about George Bush invoking executive privilege when it came to his one of his lawyers and another staff member in an investigation that Congress was doing.

And here is what the president, then a senator, had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: There has been a tendency on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there is something little shaky that is taking place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: So why did you all invoke executive privilege this time when there are some who feel there is something a little shaky taking place?

LEW: Candy, let's go back to the facts. The facts are that this was a bad plan, the Fast and Furious, it is something that started in the Bush administration. The attorney general did not know about it. It came out of the region. And when the attorney general learned about it, what he did was stop it. He said it was wrong and he said we are going to do it. There was a period of time when the attorney general did not know about it, because it was happening at a regional office, that a statement was made to Congress that had to be corrected. The attorney general corrected it. Every document related to the decisions up to that point has been shared.

This is not a question of finding facts, this is a question, Congress, at the beginning of this investigation, said they were going to use their investigatory powers in a political way. This is a political, not a substantive question.

CROWLEY: Is there something so important about these papers that you had to invoke executive privilege from a president that had previously said, what is the point here?

LEW: Candy, this administration has been the most transparent ever. Taxpayers can go online and find out more about the way their government works than ever before. Every president since George Washington has taken executive privilege seriously. Every Republican president has.

The opinions that are relied on and the decisions made go back to the...

CROWLEY: Why did you do it, though?

LEW: ... Reagan administration. Because this is not about the facts. The facts are out there. This is about a committee that is on a path towards turning a review of policy into a political witch hunt. That's not the kind -- they're looking for documents that have nothing to do with what they're asking questions about.

There has to be the ability for a president to get confidential advice. There has to be an ability for Congress to use its speech and debate clause.

LEW: There are constitutional issues that this Congress should pay some more attention to, because they are hurting the very institutions.

CROWLEY: Were there things in the documents that involved consultation with the president? Is that why you invoked executive privilege?

LEW: You know, Candy, I'm not going to speak to the specific documents. There was an unprecedented amount of cooperation and providing insight into all the decisions made up to the point of the correction that Congress was given about the policy itself and about the testimony. What they are looking for now are internal kinds of documents that they know are not appropriate.

CROWLEY: Let me turn you to the subject of the economy, where we think the election will turn one way or another. What do you expect at the White House, the unemployment rate will be in November at the time of the election?

LEW: Candy, I don't predict unemployment from month to month. What we know is that when we took office 31/2 years ago we were losing jobs at 700,000-800,000 a month. We're now gaining jobs. We have added millions and millions of jobs and the economy is moving in the right direction -- not fast enough.

We would be -- you know, we say every day the economy needs to gain strength and we need to create more jobs, but what we need to do is shift our attention from these kind of divisive political fights and do the things that we can do to create jobs.

The president has given Congress many ideas, ranging from putting policemen and firemen and teachers back to work to helping people who are underwater refinance their homes, to helping veterans get jobs. Congress should act on these things. We -- if Congress would pass the proposals the president submitted there would be a million more jobs today. That is what we ought to be doing.

CROWLEY: Well, if you can predict there would be a million more jobs if the president passed that, you still can't take a stab at what you think November might bring in terms of unemployment, above 8 percent, below 8 percent, 9 percent?

LEW: I have to tell you, Candy, you look at the arc. We've been moving in the right direction. Slowly we've been gaining jobs and unemployment has been going down. We took the right decisions 31/2 years ago and we have stayed on that path, doing the things we've had to do along the way.

There is more we could have done. And we told Congress the things that we needed to do. And we're going to keep working. The American people are working from now to November, we are going to be working from now until November, Congress needs to be working from now until November.

CROWLEY: A quick foreign policy question for you. There is a Pakistani doctor, whose name is Shakeel Afridi. He helped the CIA in locating Osama bin Laden. He has been found guilty of treason under a court in Pakistan and is now in jail serving 33 years.

Given his role in helping find Osama bin Laden, is the U.S. doing anything to try to help him, to get him out of jail?

LEW: Candy, I can't speak to the specific details. I can just say that this is a case where the rule of law should govern, and justice should be done for the individual. And I think I shouldn't say more than that, but -- CROWLEY: Does the U.S. think he should be freed?

LEW: Well, the charges that we have seen do not seem to have any merit.

CROWLEY: Thank you so much, Jack Lew, White House chief of staff. Appreciate your time this morning.

LEW: Good to be with you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Jobless claims down, housing sales up and consumer spending flatlines, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

CROWLEY: It's an article of faith in 2012 that the election will turn on how the economy is doing, more correctly on how voters think the economy is doing. It's not that easy to figure out or, as economists say, signs are mixed.

First-time unemployment claims were down last week, but the week before, the figure matched the highest level of the year. Record low mortgage rates pushed the sales of new homes to their best performance in two years, but consumer sentiment fell in June to the lowest level this year, and consumer spending stalled in May for the first time in six months.

It is a fresh sign that Americans are cutting back, even as Wall Street shook off the blues. U.S. stocks ended the first half of 2012 in fine fashion, with the Dow up 5.3, Nasdaq surging by 12.5 and the S&P up 8 percent.

So are we up or are we down? The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina and the former governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: I am joined by former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. She is the vice chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and former Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm. She is the host of Current TV's "The War Room."

Thank you. It is great to have both of you here. Let's talk about the recovery. It is really hard to read these tea leaves. To me, the most important tea leaf is consumer confidence. I think it leads things that we don't often know about in the figures. And consumer confidence is down. What do you make of that?

GRANHOLM: Well, I think it is a mixed bag, obviously. The manufacturing numbers are encouraging; the jobless rates continue to decline. I mean, this whole 4.3 million jobs that the president has created, I think, has an impact, but it is not where everybody wants it to be. I do think that the campaign itself is going to be now, after this health care decision, focused on the economy. I do think the health care decision puts that issue off to the side. And now we get to see what the plans are for spurring economic growth.

And you know, honestly, I think if you look at the two candidates, you have got to give the edge to the president.

CROWLEY: Republicans are not going to puts aside the health care, I don't think. But -- and I want to get to that.

CROWLEY: But let me ask you, and take advantage of your background in business here, an estimated $2 trillion sitting around in corporations. They are doing pretty darn well, and they are not hiring.

FIORINA: Yes. Well, first, I think, as I have said on other occasions, I think the second half of this year is going to be tougher than the first half.

Consumer confidence is a leading indicator and I think what we're seeing here is we're not just as an economy trying to recover from the financial crisis and the subsequent recession. And we now have structural problems in our economy.

One of those is small businesses. We have more failing and fewer starting than in any time in the last 40 years. That is important because small businesses create jobs.

Big businesses, like small businesses, are struggling with massive amounts of uncertainty, a tax code that is neither competitive and is overly complex, a regulatory structure that is almost impossible to understand now, and, yes, ObamaCare is yet another --

CROWLEY: Uncertainty.

FIORINA: -- blanket of uncertainty on top of --

CROWLEY: And this is --

FIORINA: -- companies (inaudible).

CROWLEY: -- of the Republican mantra was that big business does not know where tax reform is going, they don't know how much new regulation is going to cost them, what kind of infrastructure they will have put into their own -- so they are kind of sitting on all this money and not hiring.

So it becomes this self-perpetuating thing where we -- the job rate stays where it is because big companies are afraid to spend the money they clearly have.

And I want to play for you, because I want to get into the health care. This is from Congressman Gingrey and it came right after the Supreme Court ruling upholding health care. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PHIL GINGREY, R-GA.: I have got a smile on my face, because I think this is going to elect Mitt Romney the 45th president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: This being the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

GRANHOLM: Yes, well, good luck to the Republicans, especially Mitt Romney in campaigning about taking away now people's health care benefits, taking away the ability of people for people who have preexisting conditions to have access to health care, taking away people's kids being on health care.

I don't think that, now that they have it, it's been ratified by three branches of government, taking that away is not a good campaign strategy -- and just quickly to get back on the small business thing, it is baloney to say that small businesses are worried about ObamaCare, when small businesses are exempt from ObamaCare, those with 50 --

CROWLEY: Well, 50 and under.

GRANHOLM: Yes, that is 96 percent of small businesses, so you know, that talking point is just baloney.

FIORINA: Well, sadly, it is not a talking point. That is why the National Federation of Independent Businesses joined many attorneys general in filing suit against this law. It's why you saw on Friday virtually every business commentator saying this is bad for small business.

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: Well, because, believe it or not, most small businesses want to become big businesses, you know. They want to succeed. They want to grow. They want to hire.

CROWLEY: Well, there is an argument that I've seen that says, OK. If you have 51 employees and you can get along with 49, wouldn't you do that to stay out of the requirement?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course.

GRANHOLM: But the ObamaCare, if you will, provides tax credits for small businesses who choose to opt in to make it more affordable, so --

FIORINA: What I find so amazing about this whole debate -- so, first of all, there is no question that ObamaCare is going to be a huge part of the election. There has never been --

CROWLEY: Republicans would like it to be.

FIORINA: They will make it. They will make it, and that is because as the polling you showed indicates there is a huge amount of division in the country about whether this is a good idea. What is interesting is there has never been any disagreement about the goal. The goal is to provide access to quality, affordable health care for every American.

However, at least half of the American people deeply fear that a 2,400-page bill written by a bunch of folks on Capitol Hill who are not experts and who are now trying to manage from Washington, D.C., not from the states, 18 percent of our economy is going to be a big problem.

CROWLEY: But, you know, they did something, I mean, they did something, and we all know --

GRANHOLM: Oh, yes, they did something.

CROWLEY: -- the consequences (inaudible) all sorts of things, and you can go back and say, OK, this is not -- where, in fact, they already have on some of these things, long-term care in particular, but isn't there a point here, that Jennifer has pointed out, that we are going to see, after the 4th of July recess, the Republican-led House of Representatives get on the floor and undo ObamaCare?

Won't go anywhere, because the Senate won't follow them, but undo ObamaCare vote by vote by vote? And so you are going to have, as I understand it, Republicans on record, saying, let's get rid of a requirement that insurance companies must provide insurance to people with preconditions?

Doesn't that bother you politically, thinking, how am I going to explain this?

FIORINA: Well, it also bothers me that we have a president (inaudible) refuses to stand up and defend on its merits the largest new entitlement and the largest tax increase in quite a long time.

CROWLEY: He hasn't campaigned on it; she is right about that, right?

FIORINA: He won't campaign on it, because he knows it is a loser argument. Look, I'm a cancer survivor, all right? So I have great personal empathy for people who have pre-existing conditions and can't get insurance. Of course, we have to fix that. And there are a lot of more effective, less expensive ways to fix it than what this bill has done.

But as a cancer survivor, I will also say this, it terrifies me that the survival rates for breast cancer -- which is what I had -- are so much worse in the U.K. and Canada. Why? Because they don't focus on prevention and aggressive detection the way we do.

CROWLEY: (Inaudible), right?

FIORINA: The new protocols that have come down as a result of ObamaCare would have been very deleterious to my personal health, mammograms every other year. The point is we can find as many and more bad things in this health bill as we can cherry pick one or two good things. I'm here to --

CROWLEY: Is there a baby and the bathwater approach to this, though? Do you have to have a holistic bill and not the part that people like?

FIORINA: You do not need to have a 2,400-page bill come out of Washington, D.C.

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: (Inaudible) stick to health care.

GRANHOLM: This is going to be run by the states. This is Mitt Romney's plan. Mitt Romney is the father of the individual mandate because of personal -- how can you say it's ridiculous? He's the one who passed it in Massachusetts. He, when he passed it, was championing that individual mandate as an element of personal responsibility.

Republicans have long gone after welfare cheats, tax cheats. Why not go after health care cheats for those who can afford health care and foist that cost on the rest of us?

If the laboratories of democracy, which are the states, are to mean anything, that policies that work on the states can be taken to scale on the federal level, and that is exactly what is happening. And to run against that is to run against the presidential candidate in your party.

FIORINA: I think what is going to happen is Republicans from Mitt Romney on down are going to continue to make health care a front- and-center issue. It is not separate from the economy --

GRANHOLM: Bring it on.

FIORINA: -- it is part of the economy argument. Secondly, I find it amazing when the governor and others in her party just dismiss the difference between a state having a plan and the federal government having a plan. There is all (inaudible) in the world.

(CROSSTALK)

FIORINA: There is all the difference in the world. You could have states --

GRANHOLM: The Supreme Court just dismissed that argument --

FIORINA: -- do high-risk pools.

GRANHOLM: Actually, they are. They are doing --

FIORINA: -- because what the Supreme Court said, among other things, is that the federal government could not compel the states to expand their -- to expand their Medicaid programs. So --

GRANHOLM: So the states can opt out. FIORINA: They understood the difference between states' rights and federal government rights.

GRANHOLM: Their Supreme Court justice, the Supreme Court justice that Mitt Romney has said is his model for appointing Supreme Court justices, has said that this is constitutional and that the states do have the ability to opt in, and it's exactly the same kind of thing that was passed in Massachusetts.

CROWLEY: I hope you both will come back. This has been great.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- the Bain issue.

CROWLEY: She has more to say, and I know you do, too. Thank you so much, Carly Fiorina, Jennifer Granholm. I really appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You bet.

CROWLEY: Next up, fast and furious politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The only recourse left for the House is to continue seeking the truth and to hold attorney general in contempt of Congress.

REP. STENY HOYER, D-MD.: I believe that the political motivations behind this resolution are clear and pose a clear and present danger to this nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: Joining me is "USA Today" Washington bureau chief Susan Page and CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

Let me just pick up where my guests just left off, which is the fight over health care. It seems to me the White House is quite intent on saying, oh, case settled, done.

And the Republicans are quite happy to say, well, gosh, the only way we can fix this is to have a new president.

I want to put up a poll. Actually, Susan, it's one of yours, "USA Today" Gallup.

What should Congress do now that the Supreme Court has ruled on health care? Repeal the entire law, 31 percent; expand the law, 25 percent; repeal part of the law, 21 percent; take no action, 13 percent.

So between repeal part and repeal all of it, you have a majority. Where -- and we know that the House will symbolically have votes to repeal it. Who wins this fight? SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I think that President Obama is a big winner clearly from the Supreme Court decision, because imagine what we would be talking about if this signature achievement had been thrown out.

CROWLEY: Wasted his whole first year.

PAGE: But still, the 52 percent want to repeal all or part of the law. Only 38 percent want to keep it or expand it. That means that they are still continuing not to want to talk about this during this election year, but tricky for Romney, too, as you could tell from Governor Granholm's comments about comparing the Massachusetts law to the federal law.

Mitt Romney has been extremely disciplined about talking only about the economy, he does not want to talk about gay marriage, he doesn't want to talk about health care, he wants to talk about jobs, deficit, debt. Those are the issues he thinks he can win on.

CROWLEY: Well, then, Mitt Romney and the president have something in common. Neither one of them actually want to talk about health care.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right. And, you know, I do think that the Tea Party section of the Republican Party, they want to talk about health care reform. And they want to push, not supporting Romney, necessarily, as sort of the greatest Republican candidate, but certainly someone who they believe could get rid of health care reform.

And so that part of the party is pushing for it, but you are correct, I mean, this is not something that I think is going to be a huge part of the Romney campaign. They are focusing on the economy, and yes, you will hear talk about health care reform, but the focus will be about jobs.

CROWLEY: And, yes, exactly. I think what Mitt Romney is trying to do is turn this into an economic issue. It will drive up the debt. Small businesses are not hiring because of it and, in fact, they'll get rid of people to get under that 50-employee cap so it does not apply to them.

I want to -- another tactic that Republicans used coming out of the Supreme Court decision, this is minority leader -- Republican leader Mitch McConnell on the floor right after the vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, MINORITY LEADER: The President of the United States himself promised up and down that this bill was not a tax. This is one of the Democrats' top selling points, because they knew it never would have passed if they said it was a tax.

Well, the Supreme Court has spoken. This is law is a tax. The bill was sold to the American people on a deception.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Is there any resonance to this? I just -- fine, penalty -- I love Nancy Pelosi's reaction, which was, you know, call it an aardvark, it is constitutional, is essentially what she said. Is there resonance here?

LOTHIAN: Well, I think we'll have to wait and see, the president clearly said -- I mean, there was an interview, I believe it was ABC News, where he said that it was not a tax. But immediately after the court ruled, Republicans jumped all over this, and I think they are going to continue pushing this.

I mean, my mailbox, my e-mail box was just filled with e-mails from various different folks in the Republican Party saying, tax, tax, tax, the president promised that it was not a tax, and now he's just going to raise the taxes on the middle class. So I think they're hoping it will resonate with voters.

CROWLEY: It fits into the story line that Republicans want to push, which is he's going to raise taxes even on the middle class, but it just seems like we are dancing on the head of a pin here. It's a tax. It's a penalty.

(CROSSTALK)

PAGE: Isn't that what people hate about the health care law? They hate that it is such big government and they hate that it's a mandate, it's the federal government telling them what they have to do.

So it seems to me that is not the big issue and the reason that people don't like the health care law, and in the end, I think people care about do I have a job, can my kids move out of my house and get on their own health care. I mean, they -- those are what are driving what Americans are worried about now.

CROWLEY: I want to move to Fast and Furious and the vote to hold Eric Holder, attorney general, first Cabinet member in history held -- cited for contempt of Congress.

There were 17 Democrats, I think, that voted to hold him in contempt; a number of them -- Democrats -- walked out. But I want to play for our audience and you all, this is from Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire and what he had to say.

Oh. We have -- OK. Sorry. Let me just read it to you.

"I could" -- talking about Altmire, who's a Democrat -- "I couldn't get around the fact I'm a member of the House. The House has asked for documents related to the investigation. I understand the attorney general Holder does not want to give them. He has reasons why he doesn't feel he is obligated to provide them

"But the fact is he did not provide them, and when there is a vote on contempt, that is something that you have to consider." Does the president pay any price for this, do you think? It seems to me an issue that has not quite taken hold out there in terms of politics?

LOTHIAN: You know, I think it is unclear the president pays a price for this. And clearly Republicans are trying to show that the administration is hiding something. If this is something as simple as internal deliberations, that it does not have anything to do with the actual investigation of Fast and Furious, then why not release these documents?

And the question is, I think you continue to hear them asking over the next few weeks, will be, what are they hiding? Why did they not go ahead and just release these documents? And the White House is saying, you know, we are not doing this just based solely on principle.

CROWLEY: Susan, in our last minute here, I know you had a big interview with Ann Romney recently.

What would surprise the public about Ann Romney? PAGE: You know, I asked her -- this is going to be in "USA Today" tomorrow -- I asked her if she was going to write a book and she said, yes, she wants to write a book.

And I said, "About the campaign?" She said, no, she wants to write a book about her struggle with multiple sclerosis and with breast cancer and what she's learned about facing challenges of all sorts in doing that. That's really something she says reshaped her sense of self, her priorities. That is what she wants to talk about.

CROWLEY: A lot of talk that Ann Romney is one of his -- one of Mitt Romney's best weapons. Do you agree after that hour interview?

PAGE: I think she comes across as so warm, she is able to kind of warm him up, make him look a little more approachable, but she will also -- she also has this very expensive horse riding dressage habit, which has been a part of her recuperation from MS, but she will be at the Olympics watching her horse perform. I think that's probably a double-edged sword for the Romneys.

CROWLEY: Yes.

LOTHIAN: Yes. I think she does humanize him. I covered Romney in local news, and I've known him for quite some time. And I think she does give him that side that the public does not see.

CROWLEY: Kind of what Tipper Gore did for Al Gore. Dan Lothian, Susan Page, thank you.

Killer storms, triple-digit temperatures and raging wildfires, when we come back.

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CROWLEY: Nearly 3 million people across nine states are without power this weekend after violent storms and high winds swept across the Midwest and mid-Atlantic. Winds gusted as high as 80 miles an hour as downed trees and debris littered the roads. The storms are responsible for at least 12 deaths. The governors off Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio declared states of emergency.

Temperatures in the Mid-Atlantic region topped 100 degrees in many areas, making the power outages especially dangerous as people were left without air conditioning. It's part of massive system that has left one in three Americans baking in scorching heat that's expected to continue for the next several day.

The governors of two states affected by the storms, Maryland and West Virginia, are next.

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CROWLEY: Joining me on the phone is Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.

Governor, you tell me that about 961,000 customers are without power as a result of the storm, 650,000 now, and some power has been restored. By the end of this day, what are you expecting I assume having talked to the power company?

GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND (via telephone): Well, I expect continuing progress. There is a lot of untangling of downed limbs and wires and all of that sort of tedious work that has to happen. But overnight, we have been able to cut by one-third the number of people that were without power and we hope to be able to cut that -- we hope by another third within the next 24 hours. We have crews on their way now, Candy, from Florida and from Texas.

But unlike a polite hurricane that gives you three days of warning, this storm gave us all of the impact of a hurricane without any of the warning off a hurricane, so we could not pre-deploy as the utilities often do the mutual aid crews from other states in advance of this wallop.

CROWLEY: Governor, as you know Maryland and the company, Pepco, the electric company that served so many Marylanders has been under fire over the past several years for being, according to one study, like in 2010, one of the worst in terms of comparatives to other big cities in power outages and in restoring that power. How do you think they are doing so far?

O'MALLEY: Well, it is very early in the event, but I do believe they are -- certainly recognized the problem they had, and our Public Service Commission took them to task, fined them, and they are on a path to bring their, you know, preventive maintenance and the tree trimming and all of that up to a par so that the lines are better prepared when the storms come through.

So, so far, what is happening right now is that we are able to restore one-third of the people. And the next few days, though, Candy, are going to be trying and it will challenge all of the utility companies in Maryland to meet the expectations that we have of them. Not to prevent bad storms from happening, but to get us back up with electrical power within a reasonable amount time. These are some hot few days ahead of us and we are going to be supporting the utilities to get us back up as quickly as we can.

CROWLEY: Are you confident in your state, that there are enough resources for those folks either who have not just power outages, but homes destroyed, and the folks who need to get someplace where it is going to be cooler?

O'MALLEY: The -- I do believe that we have a good network here in Maryland that of good county executives Rushern Baker in Prince George's, and Ike Leggett in Montgomery.

I was talking to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in Baltimore, all of those jurisdictions have been opening up cooling centers, many of them are preparing for transportation today as this prolonged heat continues. That's really the population that we are most worried about, the vulnerable people, and particularly the elderly who might not have someone to reach out to, to take the precautions to cool down. So, this would challenge us. This will challenge us, and it will challenge the neighbors of Maryland to act like Marylanders.

CROWLEY: Governor Martin O'Malley, the governor of Maryland -- we wish you luck in the next couple of days and no one more so than I do, because we'd love to have the electricity back. Thanks, Governor.

O'MALLEY: We'll do our best. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: I want to bring in the governor of West Virginia now, Earl Ray Tomblin, who is on the phone from Charleston.

Thank you so much, Governor. Let me ask you the same question that I asked the governor of Maryland, and that is, by the time night falls in West Virginia tonight, what do you expect the situation to be?

GOV. EARL RAY TOMBLIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA (via telephone): Candy, we have had the largest power outage in the history of the state with 53 of our 55 counties without power. That serves about 688,000 people. The power is slowly coming back on line.

We still have over half a million people without power. Yesterday was a tough day with no power with the nearly 100-degree temperature we had.

We can continue to tell team stay calm. It's going to take some time. We're working with the power companies and Department of Highways to get the debris kept from the highways.

The major roads are open. Secondary roads are where we're concentrating now. But, once again, we just ask people, as much as possible, stay off the roads. Conserve fuel.

We do have cooling stations set up in all of our counties. The first priority is the hasty of our people and especially those in nursing homes and hospitals. Things we're looking at right now is getting power, generators to our municipal water systems to make sure people still have water. So, those are what we're doing.

A lot of churches who aren't having their regular services, are going to different homes, to make sure their friends, neighbors, especially the elderly, have what they need or, you know, if they're OK.

So, you know, that's what we're looking at now. We just once again ask people to be patient. It's going to take a few days. If you have an emergency, go ahead and call 911. We'll get help to you.

We have been working hard since Friday evening round the clock to make sure we get everyone back to normal as quickly as possible.

CROWLEY: Governor, what's your biggest worry moving forward? TOMBLIN: Well, obviously, you know, what our -- our public water systems are down. That's a big concern. With the amount of heat that people are having to endure, you know, when they get in the second, third day, if they do not get to a cooling center or, you know, to some shelter someplace, you know, it concerns me about the health of our -- especially our senior citizens.

CROWLEY: Governor Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia -- you've got your work cut out for you. Thanks for taking some time this morning.

TOMBLIN: All right. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on fighting his state's wildfires, next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The devastation is enormous, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families who have been affected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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CROWLEY: Near Colorado Spring, firefighters continue to battle a massive wildfire that is responsible for two deaths and the destruction of nearly 350 homes. President Obama visited the region Friday, declared Colorado a disaster area, and freed up federal money to help fight the largest fires.

Joining us now, the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper.

Thank you, Governor. Busy, busy times for you, I know. But there is this feeling, particularly as you get this one Colorado Springs fire under control that the worst is over s. That how you're feeling?

GOV. JOHN HICKENLOOPER (D), COLORADO: We're certainly feeling that way. And now, we're beginning to look at how do we rebuild and begin the recovery. But we also know that Mother Nature will be fickle out here. So, we're keeping ourselves very alert.

CROWLEY: Governor, I know you have -- you have probably flown over a lot of these fires. I imagine you've visited scenes of the scenes of the destruction if you can get close to it. Just personally, can you give us through your eyes what you saw?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, it's been difficult. I mean, devastating that the Waldo fire in Colorado Springs, when we flew up there Tuesday night, and it was like your worst nightmare of a movie set of trying to show what the apocalypse or Armageddon would look like.

At first, from a distance, we flew on a helicopter in. This was as the fire was going on, this firestorm going on. And I thought it was trees burning. As we got closer, it was homes, basically almost 350 -- almost 350 homes burned in a couple of hours. It was that fast.

CROWLEY: Seven wildfires in all, I think. Are all of them under control? Are any of them out? Give us the kind of current situation.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, almost all are under control. We have one out in Grand Junction, and Western Colorado, that's not completely out of control.

But the largest one that was almost 88,000 acres, we called the High Park Fire, just west of Fort Collins, it is completely contained. And that's the one -- that was the first really big one that was so difficult, again, many homes -- these lovely kind of secluded mountain homes where people were trying to -- they had a sense of safety that this fire has completely destroyed.

CROWLEY: I was going to ask if you had looking back now that we hope this is under control. Are there any coulda, shoulda, wouldas here as we look back at the destruction? Or is the lesson here just you really can't outfight Mother Nature if she is ready to unleash the worst of the fury?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, you know, the -- there are lots of coulda, shoulda, wouldas, and we're going to continue to examine those. We'll have building codes, no-shake roofs, what we call defensible space, make sure that trees are at least 75 feet away from homes -- all that stuff we want to do.

But we've also recognized -- we've seen the courage of the firefighters and what an incredible job they've done. And people -- I mean, the victims of this fire, the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, when the High Park Fire first burst into a real -- became a big fire a month ago, they were down defending their one-room schoolhouse, Stove Prairie Schoolhouse. And the volunteer firefighters protecting the schoolhouse, and could see up the canyon, the homes were going to burn, they kept saving this community treasure.

Those kinds of acts of heroism in a way become so inspiring that it pulls a community together. We say, all right, so Mother Nature's, you know, knocked us around all this time, we've been here before. We're going to come back, we're going to be -- this is going to make us stronger than ever as a community.

That's what Mayor Bach of Colorado Springs was very articulate when the president was out here, just talking about how Colorado Springs -- they're going to come back.

CROWLEY: Lots and lots of stories out of Colorado this week, individual stories and, of course, the big story.

Governor John Hickenlooper, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

HICKENLOOPER: You bet. Thank you, Candy.

CROWLEY: If you'd like to help the victims of the Colorado fires, visit CNN.com/impact.

Thank you so much for watching STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington. If you missed any part of today's show, find us on iTunes. Just search STATE OF THE UNION.

"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" is next for our viewers here in the United States.