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Whitney Houston Found Dead; Interview With Jesse Jackson; President Obama Sends Budget to Congress; Barack Obama Speaks about 2013 Budget; Funeral Plans Being Made for Whitney Houston as Music Industry Responds; Conservatives Still Not Convinced it's Mitt Romney; Interview With Singer Brian McKnight; Interview With Reverend Jesse Jackson; Michelle Obama's Image Evolution

Aired February 13, 2012 - 11:35   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN, ANCHOR: All right. There's the president in Virginia talking about his new budget, the 2013 budget.

Let's get to or congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan.

Kate, no surprise, really, Republicans released the budget --


-- and in the minutes thereafter, said no go. In any given year, a president's budgets are aspirational, but this is an election your, so it's almost hypothetical because this is about fighting with the party that wants to take his job.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I couldn't say it better than myself. It's an aspirational -- they call it a blueprint in any given year in a political year. it's highly unlikely. It's really not going to go anywhere in a Congress, especially with the House controlled by Republicans.

You said it. Reaction from congressional Republicans was coming out before the president even formally announced his budget. I got a statement from the top Republican in the state, Mitch McConnell summing up what we'll really hear from Republicans, "This is not a budget at all," he said. "It's a campaign document."

You want to hear more of what we'll hear from Republicans? Listen here to Congressman Jeb Hensarling, a member of the House Republican leadership, from earlier this morning on "Starting Point." Listen.


REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R), TEXAS: I'm bitterly disappointed in two respects. Number one, the president told us, at the end of his first term, he would cut the deficit in half. Instead, we have our first, second, third, and fourth trillion-dollar deficit. Second of all, there's a debt crisis and the president's budget doesn't deal with it. What we have again is the largest debt we've had as a percentage of our economy since World War II.


BOLDUAN: What are Republicans critical of? A lot in this budget. There are two main things they're focusing in on, some of which is included in the budget and some of which is not. Christine, I heard you talking about it all day today, the issue about getting new revenue through tax increases, $1.5 trillion in tax increase, including letting the Bush tax credits expire -- the president talks about that -- for wealthier Americans.

The so-called Warren Buffett Rule, the president talked about that. The Republicans have been against that. That's a tax increase on people making more than $1 million. and closing and eliminating some corporate tax breaks. That's included in the budget and part of what Republicans are blasting.

Now, what's not included in the budget the Republicans are also critical of, they say the president, in this budget, is not tackling in a significant way, a way to deal with our long-term debt problem and that's another thing that Republicans are really jumping on. Part of the fight we've been hearing for months and months now. This just seems to be another chapter of that -- Christine?

ROMANS: Everyone agree we have a debt problem, but they differ dramatically on how to fix it.


BOLDUAN: Exactly.

ROMANS: Thanks so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: We have new details on the memorial service being planned for Whitney Houston. We'll have a live report from Los Angeles.



L.L. COOL J, ACTOR/PERFORMER: Heavenly father, we thank you for sharing our sister, Whitney, with us. Today, our thoughts are with her mother, her daughter and all of her loved ones.


ROMANS: It was a night to celebrate music and to mourn the passing of a pop giant.

Nischelle Turner joins me live from Los Angeles with news about the funeral plans for Whitney Houston.

What are you hearing at this hour, Nischelle?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First we should tell you Whitney Houston's body is still at the L.A. coroner's office but it will be released to the family when they want it. There were reports out there that said Whitney's body would be flown to Atlanta, maybe as early as tomorrow. But a source close to Whitney's family tells me her body will actually be taken to New Jersey when it's released to the family. That's what her mother wants. She wants her to be buried in New Jersey where she was born, that this could happen as early as Friday or Saturday. This source told me that, quote, "The family wants to lay her to rest where she began" -- Christine?

ROMANS: Wow. These decisions the families are having to make now and all the shock.


ROMANS: The music industry reacting. How are they reacting to the death of Whitney Houston?

TURNER: You can imagine. It's a very solemn time in Hollywood right now. The Grammy red carpet was very odd, eerie. There was a heaviness on it last night. I did speak with two of Whitney's closest friends, Kelly Price and Kim Burrell, on the red carpet last night. Kelly had that Grammy party on Thursday night where Whitney got up and sang a duet of "Jesus Loves Me" with her. Listen to what they said.


KELLY PRICE, SINGER: Whitney parties, sang, gave a performance that was unscheduled. I never expected her to take the stage. I knew she was going to be there for me, and she was. And as I addressed the audience to give acknowledgement to her being there, she got up on stage and said give me the microphone.

KIM BURRELL, GOSPEL ARTIST: It wasn't a popularity thing for me. It was love. She was my sister. As I said on different telecasts, I love her. And she's my sister. And she'll always be my sister. And I love her dearly.


TURNER: You know, Kim Burrell told me as well that Bobbi Kristina was having a difficult time with this, but she sat down with her and said she will get through this. At first she was saying I can't, I don't know how I will get through this. But later in the conversation she said, yes, I can do this. I will be OK. We know Bobbi Kristina was taken to the hospital on two occasions since her mother's death.

We also know Bobby Brown has come back to Los Angeles to be with his daughter in this time of mourning Whitney's death.

ROMANS: Nischelle Turner in Los Angeles, thank you.


ROMANS: Her voice was a national treasure. And he was her contemporary and her friend. R&B legend, Brian McKnight, joins me now on the phone to talk about the tragic death of pop sensation, Whitney Houston.

You just heard her singing the national anthem. That voice. Her voice. What she could do to a note. She didn't just sing a song. She told a story with that voice. Tell me -- as a musician, as a songwriter what did that voice mean for you and your craft?

BRIAN MCKNIGHT (voice-over), R&B MUSICIAN & SONGWRITER: She was a songwriter's dream. Because you would be able to write a song for her knowing that no matter what you did, she would be able to sing it and deliver that song better than anybody in the world.

She was one of greatest voices we've ever had, male, female or otherwise. That's why people are so touched. It's meaning so much to so many people. As you watch Twitter, Facebook, the outpouring of love worldwide for a person. My only wish would have been that we could have loved her more while she was here.

ROMANS: That voice spanned, I think, five octaves. She found her voice in the church, much like you. What happened? I mean, we all wish we could still be listening to her and she could still be making records, but her star really rose so quickly and it burned so brightly. You know, what happened to that voice and that fame? What did it do to her?

MCKNIGHT: You know what? I'm not sure what happened. I don't think any of us will really know what it was. I'm sure we're all very glad that we had the opportunity to be a witness to it while it was here.


MCKNIGHT: I think that sometimes we -- we worry so much about the whys and don't concentrate enough on the fact that we were able to witness something that only happens once in a lifetime. I'm not sure if we'll ever see or hear anything like this again.

ROMANS: You're so fortunate -- you just saw her a few days ago.


ROMANS: And your children got to meet her. Tell me about talking with her. Tell me about meeting her that last time and being there with your children and about that encounter.

MCKNIGHT: Well, you always want the opportunity for your children to be able to meet an icon, so that they can feel that love. There's a presence that you feel when you're around someone like Whitney Houston. That especially for upcoming singers and songwriters like my children, they need to feel that more than being around their dad.

It's great for them to see her, great for them to see her unlike how she was sometimes painted. She was upbeat, happy. She was smiling. I was glad to see her out and having a good time. And when Saturday came and to hear the news, it was -- because my youngest son text me. I was at a sound shoot. I had a show myself. I couldn't believe he was texting me what happened. And I'm just glad they had that opportunity to see her and be around her and meet Bobbi Kristina as well because she was there that night.

I still don't know what to say about that other than I'm glad I had an opportunity to be around her. To be inspired by her. I remember the very first time I heard her sing. I was 12, 13 years old. I knew that what I wanted to do.

ROMANS: She wanted to see you when you first played at Radio City in New York.


She wanted tickets to see you.

MCKNIGHT: It was so crazy the first time I played there. She was. There I could se her from the stage standing and singing with me. That inspired me more. As artists, we love other artists. This was Whitney Houston. She could have gone to see anybody that night and she came to see me. That was the beginning of our friendship. I don't know her the way other people may have known her. I'm the type of person, I don't want to delve into your private life, but when somebody recognizes you, they want to be a part of your life and they tell you they listen to your records, it's a wonderful, wonderful thing.

ROMANS: Brian McKnight, so night to hear your recognition of that talking but also your children meeting her just last week. Thank you. Thank you so much. Our thoughts are with everyone who knows Whitney Houston. Thanks.

MCKNIGHT: Thank you.

ROMANS: You've been sounding off op our "Talk Back" question: Pop icon or struggling soul struggling with abuse? How will you remember Whitney Houston?

Paul says, "Lovely, beautiful, talented, and troubled. Alas, this wasn't an unexpected turn of events for poor Ms. Houston."

Elias says, "Every era of music has a voice. Whitney's voice was timeless. A true icon in the same vain as Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Tony Bennett. She will never be matched."

Kira says, "I will always remember Whitney Houston as the pop diva I grew up listening to during my carefree high school days. Her songs will always make me happy."

We'll have more of your responses in the next hour.


ROMANS: Valentine's Day is tomorrow, but for many of you romance might be right in the office.

Alison Kosik is here with today's tips on making sure your office romance doesn't cause problems with your job.

It's where you spend so much of your time, at work, right?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what, these hot office romances, they may be more common than you think. There's a new Career Builder survey that found that 38 percent of workers said they dated a co-worker at least once over the course of their career. 31 percent of them say their office romance led to marriage.

One in five admit to dating a boss at some point. Whether it's the boss or a co-worker, 37 percent say they kept their relationship a secret because many companies have written or verbal policies regarding office relationships. So the president of JobBound Training Solutions says know what the rules are, and most of all, don't vile ought your company's office -- violate your company's office dating policy. If you do, be prepared to face the career repercussions which could be a formal reprimand to a transfer out of a department or, in extreme cases, you could be fired -- Christine?

ROMANS: You know, I did meet my husband at the office. But we don't work at the same office now. But you can see --


KOSIK: Tell, tell.

ROMANS: There must be ground rules for folks. Know about office relationships. Discreet, I would think, is the number-one word.

KOSIK: And you're right, there are.


Yes. And Bret Karr says the best thing to do is make up your own work policy with your significant other on how you're going to behave around each other while you're at the office. And this is a no- brainer. Always keep it professional in the workplace. Don't chase each other around the desk for fun.

Also, if you -- if you do work side by side, make sure to remain objective with all the things that involve work, especially don't play favorites. It doesn't look good for you, your partner, with your boss or fellow co-workers. If, for some reason, it doesn't work out, Karr says don't vent. Don't share information about your relationship with your co-workers. Stay mature, remain respectful. You don't want to bring your relationship baggage to the workplace.


ROMANS: Yes. Don't bring any baggage to the workplace. We've got too many -- this is not the workplace to be messing around with.

Alison, thank you very much. KOSIK: I hear you.


ROMANS: All right. Mitt Romney wins two matchups over the weekend. Conservatives still have questions about whether he should be their nominee. Details in our "Political Ticker" update.


ROMANS: Two big wins for Mitt Romney, but some conservatives still are not convinced he's their guy.

Joe Johns live from the political desk in Washington.

Hi, Joe. You know, those victories over the weekend helped, but he's still got work to do with conservatives, doesn't he? Even though, didn't he refer to himself as severely conservative?


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Christine, there's more than one sign Mitt Romney hasn't sealed the deal. In fact, a new American Research Group poll in the state of Michigan shows, even in Michigan, Rick Santorum is ahead of Romney. That's because Michigan, you know, the important thing there is that Michigan is the state where Romney's father was governor back in the day.

Romney was governor of Massachusetts, where he says he was "severely conservative." That language hasn't settled real well with everyone, including Sarah Palin, who says Romney is going to have to work harder for the conservative vote. Listen --


SARAH PALIN, (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR & FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not convinced, and I don't think that the majority of GOP and Independent voters are convinced. That is why you don't see Romney get over that hump. He's still in the 30 percentile mark when it comes to approval and primary wins and caucus wins. He still hasn't risen above that yet because we are not convinced.


JOHNS: We're not convinced. So Romney may have gotten back on track over the weekend, but a lot of Republicans are saying he may not quite be the guy they want to get behind just yet.

ROMANS: Meantime, Rick Santorum sounding a lot more confident lately. What's he saying about the race for the GOP nomination?

JOHNS: As you might expect, Rick Santorum has also taken wish Romney's claim that he was severely conservative. The campaign has sent signals suggesting the Romney people may have gone just a little too far in pushing their guy at the Conservative Political Action Conference here in Washington. So perhaps, though, more importantly, Santorum is now trying to make the case that it's a two-person race between him and Romney. That, of course, would suggest Newt Gingrich is no longer a factor.

By the way, that's the same thing Newt Gingrich was saying a few weeks ago, so still a long way to go. No -- none of these candidates, I think, has gone anywhere near sealing the deal. They can't really make a claim create yet they've locked up the nomination -- Christine?

ROMANS: Joe Johns, that means we have an awful lot to keep following.

For the latest political news, you know where to go,

Top of the hour.

I'm Christine Romans, in for Suzanne Malveaux. Let's get you up to speed.

We're getting new information on the funeral arrangements for Whitney Houston at this hour. A source close to Houston tells CNN she'll be buried Friday or Saturday in New Jersey. Her body was found two days ago in the bathtub of a hotel room in Hollywood.

There are still more questions than answers in the pop superstar's death. Coroners have finished Houston's autopsy, but they won't release the cause of death for several weeks. Now the coroner says a witness at the hotel reported seeing Houston just one hour before she was found dead.

The music industry is in mourning and paying its respects.


JENNIFER HUDSON, SINGER (singing): I will always love you


ROMANS: You're going to be hearing that song a lot over the next few days. Houston's fellow artists and fans made their sorrow known at last night's Grammy Awards, honoring the singer and remembering her triumphs.

This morning, our Kyra Phillips caught up with Houston's close friend, the singer Kim Burrell. Burrell says she exchanged voicemails with Houston in the days before her death.


PHILLIPS: She said she needed to see you. What do you think she was saying?

KIM BURRELL, WHITNEY HOUSTON'S FRIEND: That was just her. Whenever she knew I was in the air (ph), that we needed to see each other and express our love -- express our love for each other. And it's just very hard today to see all of this. It's very surreal, but I'm trying very hard to be strong for her.


ROMANS: All right. President Obama rolls out his 2013 budget plan. It's already under fire from Republicans. The president's plan calls for raising taxes on the very rich and for increased spending on infrastructure and education.

The president made a push for his budget in a speech last hour and he repeated his call for extending the payroll tax cut.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress needs to pass an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance without drama and without delay and without linking it to some other ideological side issues. We've been through this before. Remember?

We've seen this movie. We don't need to see it again. The time for self-inflicted wounds to our economy has to be over.


ROMANS: Syrian forces are again on the attack in the embattled city of Homs. And once again, the Arab League is trying to find a way to stop the bloodshed in Syria. The League is calling for a joint peacekeeping mission with the U.N. For the first time, Russia now says it is ready to promote a security agreement between Gulf countries and the U.N. Security Council.

Many Syrians are afraid to speak out, afraid even after they've left the country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I went downtown and saw someone dragging an injured man. I took them on my motorcycle.

A man left behind was shot dead. I was beaten up by the security forces. They broke bones here and here, my kneecap and my skull. The injured man was also beaten up.


ROMANS: And another day of chaos in Greece. Protests raged outside parliament as lawmakers approved yet another round of budget cuts needed for a $172 billion bailout by Europe's leaders. Dozens have been arrested and many have been injured as well in those clashes.

But a very different reaction in the U.S., where stocks are up following Greece's decision. You can see they're up about 61 points right now. It's a rebound from Friday's losses, when Wall Street feared that those austerity measures would not pass. All right. Two legal wins today for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. He's awaiting trial, of course, on those child sex abuse charges.

A judge has just ruled that Sandusky can see his grandchildren, with the exception of three of those grandkids who are involved in a custody fight. The judge also denied a prosecution request to select a jury outside the county where Sandusky is being prosecuted.

She sold more than 170 million records worldwide, but Whitney Houston will be remembered as much for her personal demons as her success.

Don Lemon live for us again in Los Angeles with the latest on the death of Whitney Houston.

Don, you know, we're still trying to put the pieces together, but what everyone's left with is the fact that this voice has been silenced. And you spoke to the L.A. coroner. What do they know now?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this voice has been silenced. And I think -- you know, I think people keep saying she's going to be remembered for her tribulations, as well as her triumphs. I think more really for her talent. That will pass because she was so talented. And as you said, how many records did she sell?

You're right, Christine. I did speak with the L.A. Coroners assistant chief, Ed Winter, just a short time ago, and he cleared up some information.

Everybody's asking, why is it taking so long to find out exactly what happened in the last moments of Whitney Houston's life in that hotel room? And I asked him -- I said, listen, just from doing the autopsy, if the autopsy is complete, shouldn't you have some idea -- some idea of the cause of death? And he said, yes and no. They want to be careful.

Here's a bit of my conversation with him.


LEMON: The toxicology report is just a confirmation. But you have some idea usually just from the initial look at the scene and looking at her body as to what the cause of death might be. I know you don't want to speculate, but what do you think?

ED WINTER, LOS ANGELES CORONERS OFFICE: No, that's not true. You can look at a body and not know what the cause of death is.

You might have a suspicion, but the person could have suffered a heart attack or an embolism or something. And no matter what medications they're taking, until we run a tox and see the level, and what's in the system, we're not going to speculate.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: So in that he says they have some suspicion, they have some idea, they believe. They just don't want to release it to the public right now.

And he reeled off, Christine, a number of different stars, a number of different people who died, and they thought it was one thing, and it turns out it was another, or -- and who died and they thought it was one thing, and it actually turned out to be that. So they have some idea, but they don't want to, you know, say for sure until they get those test results back.

ROMANS: You know, it's interesting, because we were talking about, will she be known for her talent or her tribulations? And I think, Don, her talent was unique, her tribulations were not. You know?


ROMANS: I mean, a lot of other people have really struggled with some of those demons, but not everyone has that voice.

Tell me about what we know about the prescription bottles, what was found in the room, what she may have been taking, and all that.

LEMON: Yes. Yes.

And I talked to him about that afterwards, and I said, "Listen, there have been reports about prescription bottles." And he said, "I haven't really spoken to anyone about prescription bottles," but he did confirm that they were found, because he said that was said by police, by the Beverly Hills police. Now, that's according to Ed Winter.

He said there were prescription bottles found. And he said, "Listen, Don, they were -- the kind of prescriptions that were found and the number of bottles, I have more in my home." So what he's saying is, that whatever bottles, whatever prescription drugs were found, they weren't out of the ordinary. Many people might have them in their homes here in America.

There have been reports about the possibility of Xanax being found, not an uncommon prescription medication to be found. I mean, quite honestly, I have Xanax. I have anxiety about flying, so the doctor gives me a Xanax prescription. I take it before I fly. It's fine.

But you have to take it, obviously, as the doctor prescribes it. If you're abusing it, then of course there's trouble.

But he said, at least in his estimation right now, it wasn't out of the ordinary now. That's not to say that within those prescription bottles, that there may not have been some abuse or there may have been some abuse. He doesn't know at this point.

And Christine, you know, you and I talked about this earlier. There were the pictures of Whitney Houston leaving a club the night before she was found dead. You know, not long before she was found dead. And you saw her. She's in the black dress. She's coming out of the club. Some people are saying it was erratic, others were saying it was just a bad picture.

You see her. She has blood coming down her leg, or what appears to be blood, a couple of scratches on her leg, a couple of scratches on her arm.

And she had been out, clearly having a good time. Whether that has anything to do with it, we don't know right now.

But again, they're saying when they did find her body, when they did find her body, at least when the coroner got there, she had been removed from that bathtub. He said no obvious signs of trauma that would indicate that something out of the ordinary happened there with something that was nefarious going on when it concerns Whitney Houston. So there you go.

He said to pull back a little bit, take our time with this. They're going to take their time before deciding exactly what happened to Whitney Houston, six to eight weeks for the toxicology reports. It could be a little bit earlier, and they're hoping it happens a little bit earlier.

ROMANS: All right. Meantime, we know that it looks as though she'll be buried back in New Jersey sometime late this week. So, you know, plans still being made.


ROMANS: All right. Don Lemon, thank you so much. And we'll check in with you again very soon from Los Angeles.

Now we want to hear from you on the story everyone's talking about. I mean, Don and I were just saying, what will she be known for, those personal demons or that amazing talent?

Our "Talk Back" question: How will you remember Whitney Houston?

You can post your thoughts on Suzanne Malveaux's Facebook page. It's

Here's a rundown of some of the stories we're covering over the next hour.

First, I'll speak with the Reverend Jesse Jackson about the death of his long-time friend, Whitney Houston.

And this --


DANNY ABDULDAYEM, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: We're not animals. We're human beings, and we're asking for your help.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: You've heard a lot about the killing in Syria from Danny. Now the brave activist has fled the country to save his own life.

Then, the president sends a budget to Congress, and it includes $4 trillion in debt reduction. Hear what Republicans have to say about it.


ROMANS: Still so many questions surrounding the death of pop icon Whitney Houston. We were told just within the last hour that Houston's body will be flown to her native New Jersey now that an autopsy is complete. A source close to her says a funeral service will be held either Friday or Saturday.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson visited with Whitney Houston's mother over the weekend. He joins me by phone from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Reverend Jackson, how is Cissy Houston holding up?

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, she is stunned and distraught. And yes, she is a strong woman of faith. She leans to God (INAUDIBLE) understanding at a time such as this.

And we, along with our (INAUDIBLE), and good conversation yesterday. And we were waiting for the outcome of the autopsy. And now they're trying to work out arrangements.

ROMANS: You know, for all the troubles, the high-profile troubles that Whitney Houston had over the years, her friend, singer Kim Burrell, tells us that Whitney knew to go God, that Whitney knew what God meant for her, and when she was in trouble, that's where she went. And just even one of her last songs was "Jesus Loves Me."

JACKSON: "Jesus Loves Me" was the last song that she sang in her practice rehearsal on Saturday night. And that is a (INAUDIBLE) ending to her career, an outstanding career, some ups, some downs, more ups than downs.

I'm really convinced it will be judged in the end by the box score. You know, there are these ties -- "I Will Always Love You," and "The Greatest Love of All," and "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the string of hits (INAUDIBLE) we have. Behind the plus and the minuses, she comes out a plus, a winner, a music legacy that will last a long, long time.

ROMANS: Yes. Don Lemon and I were just saying, Reverend Jackson, that her talent was so unique. Her problems, unfortunately, are not.

A lot of people, famous and not famous, struggle with addiction. And it is really an equal opportunity ravager of families and talent and money and fame. None of that can really protect you from it.

In the end, it is her talent that supersedes all of that, isn't it?

JACKSON: Well, you know, we reveal our joys and successes, we conceal our pain. And some pain, some in the conflict (ph) worse (ph) than others. And, I mean, (INAUDIBLE).

So many bright stars, bright in life, burn out quickly. So we have to take what God has given us, the mystery of life and the mystery of death. And through it all, we have, in putting this legacy, a music legacy, one that will have an impact on our times for a long time.

ROMANS: Tell me a little about how you remember this woman. We're showing a picture of you right now. I think this was in 1989, this picture, where she is just in her heyday.

You're in a tuxedo. It looks like you're coming out of a limousine, you're going to an event. I know you probably can't see it.

But tell me about your relationship with Whitney Houston, this girl from Newark who found her voice in a church.

JACKSON: Well, I saw her in New Hope (ph) Baptist Church as a child singing. You know, she -- Whitney's mother, Cissy, the (INAUDIBLE) contemporaries. She sang with Elvis Presley.

So, here, Whitney grew up in an environment of Dionne Warwick, her cousin, and Aretha Franklin, her godmother, and all the great singers, the Davis Sisters, and (INAUDIBLE) and all of these great singers. And she had these tools that's equivalent to taking it to another level.

But she grew up in the church. Reverend Thomas (ph) at that time was the pastor. He was on Dr. King's (INAUDIBLE).

And she grew (ph) up between Reverend Thomas (ph) and New Hope (ph), and Whitney and Aretha Franklin and her father (INAUDIBLE). And they came out of that environment.

So much of her soul was intensified by her religious upbringing, her commitment to God and her commitment to talent development. We miss her already, but we thank God for having had her for these 48 years.

ROMANS: Yes. And none of us will ever miss her like I'm sure her daughter and her close family and her mother will. And we are -- hopefully people like you and her friends and family are all circling around them to take care of them at this hour.

Thank you so much, Reverend Jesse Jackson.

JACKSON: Thank you. Thank you.

ROMANS: Houston's impact wasn't limited to the U.S. The legend touched people around the country, around the world.

Her sudden death was in the headlines of international newspapers from England to China, and her impact in South Africa won't be forgotten anytime soon. A picture here from 2009 of Houston with former president Nelson Mandela.

She was actually the first major artist to perform in South Africa post apartheid. And following Mandela's election, she did a series of concerts for new South Africa, donating all the proceeds to charity.

Yesterday, his family offered their condolences, telling CNN, "She was an extension of the family. We are bereft. Our concern now is for her daughter, Bobbi Kristina."

The president sets the stage for another budget battle with Congress. He sends lawmakers his 2013 spending plan. Republicans, already tearing into it and tearing it up.

Hear what both sides are saying.




ROMANS: Let the budget battle begin. President Obama sends Congress his 2013 spending plan. It calls for raising taxes on wealthier Americans and increased spending on infrastructure and education.

The president says it will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, but Republicans say it doesn't do enough.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm proposing some difficult cuts that, frankly, I wouldn't normally make if they weren't absolutely necessary. But they are.

And the truth is, we're going to have to make some tough choices in order to put this country back on a more sustainable fiscal path. By reducing our deficit in the long term, what that allows us to do is to invest in the things that will help grow our economy right now.



REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: I'm bitterly disappointed in two respects.

Number one, the president told us that at the end of his first term he would cut the deficit in half. And instead, we have our nation's first, second, third and fourth trillion-dollar deficits.

Second of all, I mean, there's a debt crisis, and the president's budget doesn't deal with it. And what we have again are the largest debt we've had as a percentage of our economy since World War II.


ROMANS: Some highlights from the president's budget. It calls for $476 billion in infrastructure upgrades over six years; $350 billion for job creation; $30 billion to hire and retain teachers, police officers, firefighters; some $30 billion to modernize schools; and about $2.2 billion for research and development in manufacturing advances.

All right. For more on the president's new budget proposal, Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi joins me live from Toronto.

Nice to see you, Ali.

You know, in an election year, in any year, a president's budget is aspirational. In an election year, it's pretty clear that our budget is probably going to get passed way before their budget gets passed. Right? I mean, this is, at this point, very political.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I used to say -- and I really believed it -- that the budget is really this statement and the material manifestation of a government's priorities, except that we have been so unsuccessful in actually getting budgets passed in the last few years, that it's my hope that we just actually get this one done. They already tend (ph) to dig in and go to their corners, which you already indicated.

The critics are right, that this budget is not going to achieve the president's goal of cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term. I am pleased to know though that in 2013, this budget does indicate that the deficit would go down. So that's a start.

ROMANS: Right.

VELSHI: They're not going to agree, the two parties, on exactly how to get there anytime soon, but at least this begins a blueprint that says we don't have to be having deficits that get higher and higher every year. But the question is how we get there, and that, of course, becomes a much more serious political discussion than it is an economic one -- Christine.

ROMANS: And so, then, let's talk about it. I mean, I made the allusion to our -- the only debt you can get out of probably is your own at this point. This is a real micro kind of story.

VELSHI: Right.

ROMANS: And because tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and because you are my TV husband, I thought we could take a look at debt and marriage, Ali. I wanted to how you this.

So, for wives who have no debt, 45 percent of them say they're happy. Husbands who have no debt, 46 percent say they're happy.

But look. Get a little bit of debt, wives get a little nervous. And I guess it doesn't depend that much for men.

But we do know, Ali, the studies show that the best gift you can give your honey this week is trying to sit down and talk about getting out of debt.

VELSHI: Yes. It's a hard conversation. You and I disagree on when that conversation should first happen. I think you'd like to see it happen substantially earlier in the relationship -- ROMANS: Yes.

VELSHI: -- than I would. I don't think this can be a first or second or even third date conversation. But as you often point out, people who are inherently savers get attracted to spenders because, who wants to go on a date with a saver? Right? You don't want somebody telling you how little lunch cost or dinner cost, or how much they saved on the roses.

Then you end up married to this person, and you're wondering five years into the relationship why they can't control their spending. So, at some point that conversation has to be had, and why not have it? Why not use Valentine's Day -- which I think is a holiday for suckers -- to have the conversation about where you stand on spending, on debt, and where your future is going to lie?

ROMANS: A holiday for suckers? What are you talking about? So much money is going to be spent.

VELSHI: My wife is nowhere around, so I can say that with impunity.

ROMANS: All right.

So, in a relationship, when and how do you have the money talk? I think that you use student debt as a way to -- as a Trojan horse for the discussion --


ROMANS: -- because so many young people have student debt. People who are in their 30s and 40s still have student debt. I think you start talking about student debt, then you find out priorities of people.

VELSHI: It's a great way to sort of explain away why you're in so much debt. You can start off by saying, look, I just never got out from underneath my student debt, it sort of piled on. And we've got to start looking at our future.

Part of the problem with retirement spending -- or retirement saving -- is that for most of us, it's too far away to know exactly what it's supposed to look like. We just know that you're supposed to save for retirement. And retirement could be many, many years.

So articulating what you think you're going do and then working backwards and saying, are we anywhere near saving enough money to do that? And if you're not, then you start to discuss budgeting, you start to discuss saving, and you start to discuss investing very specifically.

I really think you do you and your relationship and your partner a big favor by saying this is as good a time as any to start that conversation. And Valentine's day I'll feel it's less for suckers if people actually use it to start to get their financial house in order.

ROMANS: I think so, too. I say save the money on the roses, and then let's talk about how we're going to be investing our money down the road instead of just play defense and paying off credit card bills. You know? I mean, you've got to really start playing offense.

VELSHI: That's right.

ROMANS: Ali Velshi in Toronto --

VELSHI: And remember, remember this is a great excuse to realize this conversation you and I are having, a great excuse to realize that women and men do see things differently. That's completely OK. And go into it knowing that, go into it knowing that you and your partner may have very valid reasons for treating money differently, but this is a good time to come together.

ROMANS: I know. You like to spend yours; I like mine to be safely in my pocket. And you can help me spend mine a little more and I help you save a little more. See? So that's synergy. And couples can do that, too. All right. Ali Velshi, thanks so much, Ali. Talk to you soon.

See you.



ROMANS: All right. In Syria the bloodletting enters a new week. Cities and towns are again under heavy attack by government troops. For some time now, while Syrian forces killed their own people, an activist known as Danny became the voice of the victims. He risked his life to tell that story. Now, our Ian Lee reports on Danny's escape from the besieged city of Homs.


IAN LEE, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): Homs last year. A protester lies gravely wounded. Danny Abduldayem helps drag him to safety.

DANNY ABDULDAYEM, SYRIAN ACTIVIST: You get used to dragging the dead bodies or dragging injured people to hospitals every day, every day.

LEE (voice-over): Later, Danny was also shot. He and his family fled Homs and took refuge in London. But for Danny, the cause mattered much more than his life.

D. ABDULDAYEM: I can't wait to get back.

LEE (voice-over): Despite the huge risk, he did go back. And in the last few weeks, Danny Abduldayem became the voice of Homs, detailing one regime atrocity after another.

D. ABDULDAYEM: They've been here from like 8:00 am. There are more of them. Attacks on (inaudible). Everyone (inaudible).

(CROSSTALK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the bodies. These are rockets. (Inaudible) rockets for two hours now. We've got more than -- we have got hundreds of injuries. Look, look. All dead bodies all over the place. We're not animals, we're human beings. We're asking for help.

LEE (voice-over): But as Syrian tanks closed in on his neighborhood, Danny had to get out. His family in Cairo waits anxiously for news and watches the carnage in their hometown.

HELEN ABDULDAYEM, DANNY ABDULDAYEM'S MOTHER: How can the world not listen to the cries of these mothers? I can't watch the -- how they not see these women crying and kissing their dead children? (Inaudible) going on?

The biggest fear is that one day I'm going to look at the video and he's on the table or on the floor.

LEE (voice-over): Danny's family has become almost a PR agency for the uprising, helping get journalists into Syria and information out. But this day, they have just one focus, their son.

H. ABDULDAYEM: (Speaking foreign language).

Just get through this day, come on. Calm down.


H. ABDULDAYEM: No, you're not (inaudible).

A. ABDULDAYEM: I've had enough. I can't live like this.

H. ABDULDAYEM: Calm down.

LEE (voice-over): There's no news from Danny, and rumors swirl.

H. ABDULDAYEM: He's in -- on Lebanese soil. And a group of Lebanese and Hezbollah have got them.

LEE (voice-over): Hezbollah is a strong ally of al-Assad.

A. ABDULDAYEM: They think Lebanon's safe. It isn't.

H. ABDULDAYEM: Isn't safe there, I know.

A. ABDULDAYEM: He keeps saying, isn't safe.

H. ABDULDAYEM: If he's been stopped by Lebanese --

A. ABDULDAYEM: It's not good. They'll hand him over.

LEE (voice-over): Danny's younger siblings, Jenna (ph) and Sammy (ph), wait anxiously to hear the fate of their 23-year-old brother. Then a message --

H. ABDULDAYEM: OK, so Will (ph) says -- Will from advance says we're not expecting Danny to arrive in Lebanon until late tonight.

A. ABDULDAYEM: OK. Tell him I'll have 10 o'clock --

H. ABDULDAYEM: He says this, he says, I will actively start with him now. I'm checking with them.


H. ABDULDAYEM: Calm down.


H. ABDULDAYEM: You're not calm. Calm down.

LEE (voice-over): The hours tick by. And then another phone call.

H. ABDULDAYEM: This is the human rights in Lebanon. What, what?


H. ABDULDAYEM: He's in Lebanon?


H. ABDULDAYEM: He's in Lebanon? Beirut?

A. ABDULDAYEM: (Speaking foreign language).

H. ABDULDAYEM: (Speaking foreign language).

LEE (voice-over): Danny has made it safely into Lebanon. And moments later, the phone rings again.


A. ABDULDAYEM: (Speaking foreign language)? Hello?

LEE (voice-over): A bad connection ends their call. But now it's Helen's turn.

H. ABDULDAYEM: Danny? Hi, you all right? (Speaking foreign language). It's good to hear your voice. We're so worried about you, Danny. I know, I know. We heard stories this morning and got worried.

He say he doesn't care, they said he was dead four times already, so that's another story.

A. ABDULDAYEM: But we care.

H. ABDULDAYEM: But we care. Yes, that's what your dad said. We get worried when we hear these things. As long as you're safe. (Speaking foreign language). No, as long as you're safe.

LEE (voice-over): A happy ending, the voice of Homs is safe, but the thousands still there still suffer under the withering attacks of the regime. For CNN, Ian lee, Cairo.


ROMANS: She was a wildly talented artist and a deeply tortured soul. You've been sounding off on our Talkback question. How will you remember Whitney Houston? Newell says the music industry should have stepped forward and asked her to go get treatment. Heck, they were all giving her shoutouts at the Grammys. Whitney had been calling out for years.


ROMANS: The stars are busy choosing what they're going to wear for this weekend's Oscars. And one brand has built its entire business on red carpet thrillers. CNN's Alina Cho found out it doesn't spend a penny on ads.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marchesa designed it.


ALINA CHO, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): You don't have to travel far on the red carpet to hear the name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One-of-a-kind Marchesa.

CHO: (voice-over): This year alone, dressing Viola Davis, Sofia Vergara, Lea Michele. Renee Zellweger was the first, wearing this red Marchesa dress to the 2004 premiere of "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason."

CHO: Do you remember what it felt like to see her walk down the red carpet?

GEORGINA CHAPMAN, MARCHESA CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Oh, my goodness. It was amazing. And I woke up the next day and I saw every newspaper with the name (inaudible) Marchesa, oh, my gosh. I couldn't believe it.

CHO: (voice-over): When Zellweger wore the dress, Marchesa was just starting out. Designers Georgina Chapman and Karen Craig didn't have the budget for ads, so they made a strategic decision to build Marchesa not on advertising but on the backs of celebrities instead.

HAL RUBENSTEIN, FASHION DIRECTOR, "INSTYLE" MAGAZINE: The celebrity or the star, in effect, is their advertising campaign. And, you know, and the more women who are coming down there, wearing Marchesa. And the more beautiful they look, the more desirable the brand becomes.


CHO (voice-over): So what does it take to get a Sandra Bullock in Marchesa for the Oscars? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. Come in.

CHO (voice-over): During awards season, Marchesa takes out a hotel suite in Beverly Hills.

CHAPMAN: We have like, you know, racks of dresses. We have beautiful shoes.

CHO (voice-over): Then the real work begins. Take this gown Vanessa Hudgens wore to the Oscars in 2009.

CHAPMAN: I took the whole dress apart and started again.

CHO: Wow. You had five days.

CHAPMAN: In fact, we were working through the night. We actually got miners' lights so we could put them on our heads, so the light was good enough in the dark.

I want to add pieces (inaudible) here --

CHO (voice-over): Then there's this.

CHO: What about what they call the Harvey factor?

CHAPMAN: The Harvey factor. Oh, my goodness.

CHO (voice-over): Chapman is married to Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood producer of "The Artist" and "The Iron Lady." Does having a Hollywood heavyweight behind your label help?

CHO: It doesn't hurt.

CHAPMAN: It doesn't hurt. No, of course it doesn't hurt. I think, you know, his relationship with actresses is a very different relationship. I don't think that anybody is going to let Harvey tell them where to get a dress.

CHO (voice-over): And when it comes to the red carpet, actresses make game-time decisions.

HALLE BERRY, ACTRESS: I usually have about three or four choices. So I give myself some leeway to have a feeling on the day.

CHO (voice-over): Because those pictures can last a lifetime. And that's good business for Marchesa.

CHAPMAN: I think red carpet dressing really has made Marchesa what it is today. And I'm not sure Marchesa would be here today if it wasn't for red carpet dressing.

CHO (voice-over): Alina Cho, CNN, New York.

ROMANS: All right. Don't forget to watch Alina's fashion week special "Backstage Pass." It's this Saturday at 2:30 pm Eastern. All right. One of the Republican presidential candidates says a plan by President Obama would raise gas prices by 25 cents a gallon. Find out who said it and whether it passes the fact check test.


ROMANS: All right, we hear a lot of statements getting tossed around by politicians. Some of them can be pretty outrageous. But we want to separate political fact from campaign fiction. And to help us do that, we're bringing in Angie Holan. She's a reporter and researcher for and the "Tampa Bay Times." She joins us with a look at some of these recent claims and how they measure up.

Good afternoon.

ANGIE HOLAN, POLITIFACT.COM & THE "TAMPA BAY TIMES": Hi. Thanks for having me, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, I want to start with this one from the president talking about health care. And I've heard this from him and I've heard this from people within his administration, too. Ready. He says, "preventive care saves money for families, for businesses, for government, for everyone." Is that true or not?

HOLAN: We rated this one false. Now, we certainly don't want to discourage anyone from getting preventive care. But the truth of the matter is, there have been several rigorous studies that say you need to budget for preventive care. It's not always a cost saver. It depends on the disease. It depends on the treatment. So it's not always paying for itself. We rated it false.

ROMANS: All right. This one is from Newt Gingrich. He says President Obama, quote, "has an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that would raise the price of gasoline by 25 cents a gallon." Sounds scary. Is it true?

HOLAN: We rated this one false, too. There's no 25-cent fee. What it is, is there's a proposal to make the pollution limits stricter. Now there was one study that put the cost at 25 cents a gallon, but that study was done by the oil industry. And there are other studies that show that it would be much lower. We found one that said less than a penny a gallon. So with that broad range, we had to rate the statement false.

ROMANS: All right. And, finally, this one from Mitt Romney. He says, quote, "three years ago a newly elected President Obama told America that if Congress approved his plan to borrow nearly $1 trillion, he would hold unemployment below 8 percent." He's obviously talking about the stimulus. Republicans have long said the president made promises about keeping the unemployment rate below 8 percent if you pass that big stimulus. How does that statement measure up?

HOLAN: We rated this one mostly false. And I should say, we fact checked this one several times. And when you drill down to the evidence, it's not something the president said in a speech. It's a chart from a government document that his economic team put together. They projected that unemployment would be at a certain level. And then if the stimulus passed, it would be lower than that. And the sticking point is that their projection for what it would be without the stimulus was too optimistic. The numbers that ended up being the reality were worse than what they thought it was. So we rated it mostly false.

ROMANS: Oh, but that 8 percent unemployment rate and the size of the stimulus lives on in campaign circles and certainly will continue too.

Angie, thank you so much. Nice to see you today.

HOLAN: Thanks for having me.

ROMANS: All right, a unique talent with very common demons. You've been sounding off on our "Talk Back" question. How will you remember Whitney Houston? Newall (ph) says, "the music industry should have stepped forward and asked her to go get treatment. Heck, they were all giving her shout-outs at the Grammys. Whitney had been calling out for years."


ROMANS: The music industry is in mourning and paying its respects to Whitney Houston.


LL COOL J, ACTOR/PERFORMER: I knew Whitney a long time. You know, I remember sitting in those seats and just being amazed at how many records she sold. Just -- yeah, it's tough.

TONY BENNETT, SINGER: Everybody was like, wow, right on top of it. You know, like what's happening? We just got the word, it was unexpected that happened to the great Whitney Houston. You know, the greatest singer I ever heard.

FERGIE, MUSICIAN: There is no Whitney -- is no other Whitney Houston. Her tone -- just her tone by itself was so unique and -- I mean no other singer could ever match that. It was just so wonderful. And she just had that spirit. That smile from here to here. She was just Whitney.

JOHN LEGEND, MUSICIAN: And as I've grown older and we've gone into an era where I feel like most popular singers can't really sing, Whitney Houston could really, really sing. And she was beautiful. And she had great songs. You know, she had the whole thing. So we lost somebody amazing.


ROMANS: And you've been sounding off on our "Talk Back" question, pop icon or troubled soul struggling with abuse, how will you remember Whitney Houston?

Randy says, "the best voice control I have ever heard. I was always amazed how she could hold a note for so long. Her breathing technique was amazing. Singing for her was a language, her native tongue and hers cannot be taught, only God-given."

J.J. says, "Whitney was not alone. We all have our demons. Unfortunately, because of her fame, her battles were public. I will remember Whitney for what she was, a vulnerable, haunted, and incredibly talented and beautiful woman."

Marge says, "Whitney Houston will be remembered as the voice. Her demons will not overshadow her contributions to the music world or the love she received from fans worldwide."


ROMANS: Welcome back.

The first lady is admired for her frank talk, her big heart, her fit physique, right? But as she says herself, there's always going to be people who don't like you. So, Dan Lothian takes a look at how Michelle Obama's image has changed since arriving at the White House.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First Lady Michelle Obama sells. Her name, face, and behind-the-scenes influence fill the pages of books and the covers of magazines.

GARRETT GRAFF, EDITOR, "WASHINGTONIAN MAGAZINE": The administration is doing everything they can to keep her out there in the public eye and keep reminding Americans why they liked this family in the first place.


LOTHIAN: But even Mrs. Obama admits the image isn't always positive, as she recently pointed out on CBS.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: There will always be people who won't like me. That's been an image that people have tried to paint of me since, you know, the day Barack announced, that I'm some angry black woman.

LOTHIAN: Former presidential adviser Paul Begala says first ladies are always rich targets.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No matter what any first lady does, they're going to attack her. Some liberals attacked Nancy Reagan unfairly. A whole lot of conservatives attacked Hillary Clinton when I was working for her husband in the White House.

LOTHIAN: Not long after then Senator Obama announced his candidacy for president, Mrs. Obama beamed with pride, then paid the price for comments that caused some to question her patriotism.

M. OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country.

LOTHIAN: She endured an unflattering portrayal on the cover of "The New Yorker," sporting an afro, machine gun, and military combat boots like 1960s activist Angela Davis. Since then, the first lady has carved out a public role for herself as a strong advocate for military families and promoter of a healthy lifestyle. She does jumping jacks and pushups, pressures big-time entertainers to eat their veggies.

M. OBAMA: It's a veggie pizza.

JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW." A veggie pizza.

M. OBAMA: And I -- you know, this is a good way for people of your ilk who don't like vegetables.

LENO: Ilk?

M. OBAMA: To incorporate them. See? Ooh. Yeah. Mm.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then our fish said, look, look --

LOTHIAN: Beyond promoting her initiatives, Mrs. Obama has use the public spotlights to pull the curtain back on her softer side. Whether it's talking about her role as mom or trying her hand at acting, like this cameo appearance on the hit Nickelodeon comedy "iCarly."

NATHAN KRESS, ACTOR, "ICARLY": You don't call her your excellency.

M. OBAMA: No, no, I kind of like it.

GRAFF: The first lady sort of holds a unique role in the American society that we don't expect them to have the gravitas of the president. And so you can have a little bit more fun. You can be in photo opportunities and doing things that the president can't do because of the gravity of his office.

M. OBAMA: The president of the United States, Barack Obama.

LOTHIAN: But the first lady is also seen as an asset to the president's re-election campaign.

BEGALA: Political hacks like me would like to use her all the time. She's real. She's authentic.

LOTHIAN: Mrs. Obama's road trips often take her to key battleground states, where her message reinforces the president's policies, and her presence raises cash for his campaign.

M. OBAMA: Do you have his back? Are you fired up? Are you ready to go?

LOTHIAN: Mrs. Obama, balancing her role as wife, mother, and first lady, while challenging a negative image that she insists is off the mark.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Washington.


ROMANS: All right, CNN NEWSROOM continues right now with Randi Kaye.