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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Blame Game Begins over Blackout

Aired August 15, 2003 - 19:17   ET

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

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Want to talk, though, about what's happening elsewhere in the country including Washington.
Some Democrats are putting the blame for the blackout squarely on the shoulders of the Bush administration. Want to find out how the White House is responding to all this.

Let's go to senior White House correspondent John King who, is in Washington.

John, good evening.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Anderson.

It took less than a day, less than 24 hours for the political fallout and the finger pointing to happen here in Washington.

There will be a policy debate over the energy grid and electrical policy in this country.

There also is, as you noted, a political debate. Several Democrats saying this is the president's fault, the Republican Party's fault. They're saying Mr. Bush is too wedded to big oil in the energy debate and they say the president holds some of the blame here.

Now, Mr. Bush has been in California throughout this, monitoring throughout the day developments, getting updates from his national security team.

He said earlier today in a speech in Irvine, California, not true. Mr. Bush says some of these problems would be on their way to being solved if the Congress would pass an energy plan he submitted to Congress more than a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Congress needs to complete work on a comprehensive energy plan that, among other things, will help us modernize our infrastructure around America.

We must promote energy efficiency and conservation, develop cleaner -- develop technology to help us explore for energy and environmentally sensitive ways.

But for the sake of economic security, and for the sake of national security, we need to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: There is broad consensus in the Congress, bipartisan consensus on the provisions in the energy Bill dealing with the electricity industry and the power grid, but that Bill, of course, hung up because of environmental debates, including whether or not to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

And Anderson, the political debate over that legislation continues. The investigations will begin soon. The chairman of the House Energy Committee saying he's about to launch an investigation and the White House announcing that it is forming a joint task force with the government of Canada to try to get to the bottom of this, as well -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, John, we're going talk to Billy Tauzin in just a few moments.

John, I've got a question for you. What is it that Democrats are saying the White House should have done, that President Bush should have done, you know, back before this all happened?

KING: Well, one of the things they say is if he would give up on some of the provisions in the Bill that they object to, he would have the legislation by now.

The White House, of course, says the president has every right to defend his proposals.

This is not a debate limited to the Bush administration. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson of the Clinton administration proposed many of these things, as well. Energy is one of the most complicated issues in Congress. It gets hung up in debates not only between environmental groups.

But there's also a wide divide, not so much between party lines. It's much more of a regional debate. Lawmakers from New England have very different concerns than lawmakers from oil producing states like an Alaska or like a Louisiana.

One of the most complicated issues in Congress and also not an issue that until you have a crisis like this gets all that much attention from the news media.

COOPER: Yes. It only took a few seconds for the blackout to happen and it's only taking a couple of minutes for the blame game to begin. I sense it's going to heat up a lot in the next couple of days.

John, I want you to stick around for this next conversation and join in whenever you want to.

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