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Gulf Oil Spill; Interview With Jack Conway; Jamaican Travel Alert

Aired May 21, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the White House getting hammered with questions about its response to the gulf oil spill. Has the administration taken enough control over the repair and cleanup operation?

We're following all the finger-pointing and the desperate new attempt to try to plug the leak.

A controversial take on the spill, Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul accusing the president of being too hard on BP. Is Rand Paul handing ammunition to Democrats? I'll ask his opponent, Jack Conway. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And should marijuana be legalized? The current drug czar and the very first drug czar, they take on that provocative question in a rare joint discussion about the problems of addiction, cartel violence and even alcohol.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, thick oil is oozing deeper into the fragile marshes of the Mississippi delta, forcing a public beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana to close. The spill disaster now beginning its second month with at least 6 million gallons of crude tainting the Gulf of Mexico and the wetlands.

Disaster crews are keeping close watch of the leaking well, preparing for a new round of desperate measures to try to seal it off.

A day after BP released a live underwater video feed, the Obama administration is facing questions about whether it's been tough enough on the oil company. Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is standing by, but let's go to CNN's David Mattingly. He's in New Orleans with the latest on what the -- what's going on.

They're -- they're desperate right now, David, I sense. They're trying to do everything they can.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The word we got today is that we're going to have to wait just a little bit longer before BP tries to shut down this well. It's a very familiar notice, but they were telling us just up until today that they were expecting this weekend, late this weekend, to possibly try that so-called "top kill", where they were going to flood the system with this heavy liquid to essentially drown the well, counteract all that pressure that's coming out of that with that liquid, and then seal it off with cement.

That's what they've been talking about for weeks now and now they're saying it will take a couple of more days. The reason for that, they tried it before on land and it's worked. They tried it before on shallow water and it's worked. They've never tried it at this depth, so they're going to try and make sure that it works the first time.



DOUG SUTTLES, BP CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Our current forecast for when this operation will take place will be sometime early in the coming week. Our best estimate at the moment is probably Tuesday, but I would stress that these operations are quite complex and we wouldn't start the job until all of the equipment is staged and everything is in place.


BLITZER: David, there's the other controversy involving the dispersants that -- that they're supposed to use, some are apparently a lot more toxic than others. The EPA has some ideas.

Is BP cooperating on this front?

MATTINGLY: Well, the EPA told BP that last night they had to get back to them and say we want you to explore for another alternative. Well, BP got back to them and said, OK, well, we've explored. We don't have another alternative that we're confident is less toxic and more effective. So now they are going to continue their conversations.

But, at this point, BP is saying we're using the -- the dispersant that we have and we're going to keep using it until we come up with a better alternative.

BLITZER: That's a -- it's a real mess, to put it bluntly.

Stand by, David. Let's go over to the White House right now with our new serious questions about whether the president is taking charge of this disaster or let BP run the show.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is working this part of the story. The White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, Ed, had a tough time today with those reporters?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They did. Well, it was the second day in a row Robert Gibbs got a lot of tough questions. I started it off yesterday with some of my colleagues. My colleague, Dan Lothian, today and other reporters really pressing them on the point of how can you trust BP at this point, as David Mattingly has laid out so well in terms of the shifting stories and statements. And some reporters today basically pressing Robert Gibbs why doesn't the government step in? How can you continue to stand by? And why not take over?

Robert Gibbs basically saying, look, the company is in charge here, and reporters were pushing back and saying but are you just an innocent bystander, just basically a spectator, watching as this drags on? Robert Gibbs said, look, both legally and practically the company is in charge.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The technical expertise to clean up and deal with the equipment that is 5,000 feet below the surface of the sea, that's equipment that BP has. That's the equipment that other oil companies have.

That is not -- that is not based on equipment that the federal government has in storage.


HENRY: Now, and also Robert Gibbs pointing out there were a lot of public servants providing oversight here, pushing the company, trying to get this done. He noted, for example, Thad Allen, who you've had on, the commandant of the Coast Guard. He was supposed to have retired by now but has delayed that in order to stay on and finish this job.

Reporters pressed Robert Gibbs on are you -- are you confident that BP is going to get this done early next week, as David Mattingly was reporting. Is it going to finally work this time? Robert Gibbs will only say he's hopeful. He wouldn't really express confidence in BP at this point.

It shows the dilemma this administration is facing as it's sort of watching BP try to finish this job, Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you get into the whole issue of how many barrels a day are really oozing out of that oil spill? Yesterday, when we spoke with Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, she said it's a lot more than the 5,000 a day, worst case maybe 60,000 barrels a day. What are they saying at the White House?

HENRY: At the White House, they're basically saying we don't know, and that's one of the problems that -- that they're facing right now, and what I was pressing Robert Gibbs on yesterday was why are you not getting more data from the company about both the number, you know, amount of barrels of oil spilling out, number one.

But number two, the data on the air quality. There have been fishermen in that region saying they're coughing, they're vomiting. They think that the air quality is poor as a result of that. And the federal government has not really gotten this data.

That's why the EPA wrote that letter yesterday to the company, urging that they start turning over this data and they've set some deadlines. We'll see if they actually turn that data over, Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry, working the story at the White House.

Also at the White House, the White House saying President Obama is already talking to candidates to replace Dennis Blair as the director of National Intelligence. Blair announced his resignation yesterday under pressure from the White House. His rocky 16-month tenure included high profile attempted terror attacks and highlighted some serious flaws in coordinating intelligence.

Also in our Security Watch, an arrest in Pakistan in connection with the failed Times Square bomb attack, officials saying the son of a prominent catering company owner was taken into custody a few days ago. Investigators reportedly are looking into whether the company has ties to the Pakistani Taliban.

And a new federal appeals court ruling against detainees held by the U.S. at the Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. The court says those detainees cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their imprisonment the way terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay have. That's because the court says Afghanistan is a war zone.

The ruling is a victory for the Obama administration.

Congress is closer to finalizing the biggest overhaul of financial regulation since the new deal. What does that mean for you and your wallet? We'll break it all down. That's coming up. Also, the ways that could impact all of our lives.

And a skydive from space. It sounds like science fiction, but guess what? It's not. Will it be the next giant leap for space exploration?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN COMMENTATOR: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's warning that North Korea must face consequences in light of a recent attack, a torpedo that sank a South Korean warship in March killing 46 sailors. Clinton, who was in Tokyo, says it's important to send a clear message that provocative actions have consequences and that this attack cannot go unanswered by the international community.

Other U.S. officials are calling the attack unprovoked and unwarranted. Tensions are already dramatically higher on the Korean peninsula. North Korea denies it had anything to do with sinking the ship, claiming it's a sheer fabrication. They say if South Korea retaliates, they will respond promptly with tough measures, including all out war.

Pyongyang is also threatening to back out of the non-aggression pact between the two Koreas. Meanwhile, South Korea claims the attacks are military provocations that violates the armistice agreement between the two countries. They point to the results of an official investigation conducted by international experts which concluded North Korea fired a torpedo that cut the South Korean ship in half.

It's unclear what an appropriate response is. North Korea is already under sanctions because of its missile and nuclear test. So, how to punish North Korea without starting a war?

One experts suggests there are basically three options. Seoul could act unilaterally, South Korea, by cutting off all trade with the North. South Korea and Washington could take bilateral action by stepping up intelligence or naval cooperation. And, lastly, the international community could act as a whole, possibly through the U.N. Security Council sanctions have worked so well in the past that, well, it's not even a -- a decent idea, is it?

Here's the question, what consequences should North Korea face for sinking a South Korean ship? Go to Post a comment on my blog.

I would offer a prediction -- they wouldn't face any consequences of any significance whatsoever, from anyone.

BLITZER: That's a tough -- it's a tough situation over there.

CAFFERTY: They've got China standing behind them.

BLITZER: Yes. They got a million -- a million-man army about 30 miles from the 30,000 U.S. troops along the DMZ between North and South Korea, so it's -- it's a tough one over there. There's no doubt about that.

CAFFERTY: Yes. And they go out and just sank that ship, killed 46 people. The ship's at the bottom of the ocean, and I bet you, I bet you, nobody does a thing about it.

BLITZER: Yes, yes. I think you're going to be right.

All right, Jack, thank you.

Early fears that this might be another down day for stocks did not pan out. The Dow Jones Industrials closed up 125 points just a little over an hour ago. Shares of major banks rallied after the sudden passage (ph) of financial reform, even though the bill slaps stricter restrictions, regulations on Wall Street.

Senate negotiators now need to work out differences in their respective versions of the financial reform bill, but yesterday's Senate vote means the massive overhaul is close to becoming a reality. So what does that mean for you and me, for all of us?

Lisa Sylvester has been looking into that, and -- and folks are wondering, what does it mean for us? LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are a lot of implications, Wolf. And, you know, at the top of the list, the Senate bill would establish a new agency, a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and this has a huge impact for homeowners and consumer borrowers. This agency would have the power to issue and enforce new rules to curb deceptive practices of lenders.

Think back. Remember the mortgage brokers, the lenders that were offering those low, low interest rates, only for the bar to find out later that buried under 20 pages of fine print it says their interest rate would jump up considerably in a few years? Well, this agency will, among other things, have the power to say to lenders, you can't do that. You can't be deceitful. You can't get away with deceptive practices. You've got to be upfront and transparent.

And they would also have the same authority over credit card companies. And at least currently, in the Senate version, over auto dealers, although that is still being negotiated if it's going to end up in the final version, in the Senate legislation, it also places new restrictions on what are called swipe fees.

When you use your debit or credit card to pay for something, you go for lunch at the local deli or your neighborhood grocery store, the credit card companies actually charge the merchant a percentage of the bill, and a lot of times those charges get passed on to you, the consumer. Well, the Senate legislation would say, yes, you can still charge a fee, but it can't be excessive, Wolf.

BLITZER: What about those derivatives which were at the heart of the Wall Street meltdown that all of us remember? What is does this legislation do about those fancy investments, shall we say?

SYLVESTER: You know, right now derivatives are not sold on an exchange like stock. When you buy stock, you know exactly what the price is. You can go on your computer, you can look it up, and you know exactly what you're getting. But derivatives operate in a shadow, in an obscure world.

The new legislation would, among other things, change that. They would move them to an exchange or a clearinghouse. There's also language in there -- this is key, that it would require banks covered by the FDIC to get out of search in kinds of derivatives training. And financial firms are very reluctant to see this happen. They are really, really fighting this one.

The legislation also cracks down on credit rating agencies. We've heard a lot of talk about the credit rating agencies. What they were doing is giving mortgage-related security products a triple A rating. What is that? A lot of that stuff, you peel it back, you look under the covers, it was just plain junk.

So they were basing this on mortgages that were very likely to go into default. And you know who are among the big losers? It was your school districts. It was your local government. It was your pension fund. A lot of them bought these derivatives and other products that were supposed to be triple A. Now they're worth a lot less, and unfortunately, they're stuck with them.

So hopefully -- the goal, at least, is to change some of these practices to get a little bit more reformal.

BLITZER: What is interesting, the stock prices for a lot of these financial institutions today went up, I think, for probably two reasons. One, they think they can live with all these new regulations. They've lived with others in the past. They'll make -- make out just fine with these.

And also, they -- the stocks on Wall Street, they don't like unpredictability. They want to know what they're going to get, and now they're getting some clarity on what they're going to be dealing with in the -- in this new world, and I think that's going to boost their -- their prices a little bit, at least in the short term.

SYLVESTER: And I think there's a lot of, you know, behind the scenes. We can't really see what's going on.

But there's a lot of negotiating. I mean, the banks, they didn't, for instance, limit the size of the banks. So there were a lot more that some groups wanted to see that didn't end up in there. So it's not like the banks didn't get anything at all.

And also, they're -- they are still fighting the derivatives, and it's still -- it's going to conference mediation, I should --

BLITZER: I'm not worried about these companies in Wall Street. Morgan -- all these companies, Goldman Sachs, they'll all do just fine, I am sure.

Thanks very much.

Bono undergoes emergency surgery, forcing changes to U2's coming North American tour. We're getting new information. Stand by

The Democratic Senate candidate Jack Conway in Kentucky, he's here to respond to some controversial stances taken by his opponent, Rand Paul. Stand by for that.


BLITZER: Get right back to Lisa. She is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what you got?

SYLVESTER: Nice to see you again, Wolf.

Well, rescuers have reached the remote mountain in Afghanistan where a plane went down Monday, but so far there are no signs of any survivors. Forty-four people were onboard. Three Britons and one American were among the passengers.

Bad weather and rugged terrain have hampered progress for the search parties. And be grateful that changing batteries isn't this complicated on Earth. Today, astronauts from the space shuttle Atlantis completed their final mission, replacing six batteries at the International Space Station. Four batteries were installed earlier this week and it took three hours floating outside.

You see them there, the astronauts. They put the last two batteries in place. Each battery, by the way, is three feet wide, weighs 375 pounds and cost $3.6 million a piece. And there are just two more shuttle missions remaining.

And U2 frontman Bono is recovering after emergency back surgery today in Munich. The 50-year-old rock star was preparing for his band's upcoming North American tour when he was admitted to the hospital.

The show was scheduled to kick off June 3rd in Salt Lake City, but a message on the band's official website says unfortunately that date has been postponed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's hope he gets better quickly. He's a real talent.


BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

The Republican Senate candidate, Rand Paul, stirring up some more controversy today with new comments on the Obama administration's handling of the gulf's oil spill. I'll ask Rand Paul's Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, to weigh in.

He'll be here, in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And we'll take you inside a rare mine of minerals and explain how America's national security could depend on it.



Happening now, BP under government order to use a less toxic dispersant for the oil fouling the Gulf of Mexico right now, but look what we found. Look at this, 100,000 gallons of it just sitting in an industrial park, sitting there not being used. Why?

And the sudden resignation of the director of National Intelligence raising new questions about the entire office. Is it working? Should it be eliminated?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You may have heard Senate candidate Rand Paul ask me yesterday why he hasn't had a political honeymoon. The Kentucky Republican has been under fire for remarks he's made since winning the primary on Tuesday.

Today, he's making some more waves and getting his opponent more -- giving his opponent more ammunition.


BLITZER: We're joined by the Democratic Senate candidate from Kentucky, the state's Attorney General, Jack Conway. Mr. Conway, thanks very much for coming in.

JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: My pleasure. Good afternoon to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You heard Dr. Paul say that he would have voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He certainly does not want to repeal it.

On this issue, is the case closed now, as far as you're concerned?

CONWAY: No. No. Rand Paul claims to be running as an outsider, but on this issue here, in the last 24 hours in your show, he pulled the good old Washington flip-flop.

You know, I didn't -- I didn't start this issue, Wolf. He started talking about this in an editorial board interview with the "Louisville Courier Journal" some weeks ago. He reiterated it on NPR.

He's basically saying that that portion of the Civil Rights Act that deals with lunch counters and saying that you cannot discriminate based on the color of your skin, an issue that I thought we settled nearly a half a century ago, and he disagreed with that. And then he reiterated it again on "The Rachel Maddow Show" the other night in 20 of the most painful minutes I've ever seen on cable TV.

And what he said to her in essence was that had he been in the U.S. Senate in 1964, he would have been seeking to change that particular provision. He would have been seeking to delete that particular provision.

So, no, the case isn't closed --

BLITZER: Because now he says he -- he doesn't want to repeal the Civil Right Act and he says he would have voted in favor of it had he been a member of Congress at that time.

CONWAY: Well, he's clearly backpedaling because he's seen the national firestorm that he has caused.

What's clear, from what he has said repeatedly up until your program yesterday, is that he's rejecting -- he's rejecting a fundamental provision in the Civil Rights Act that says that if -- if you're providing a public accommodation, if you're a restaurant or a hotel, that you can't discriminate based on race. And he seems to think that property rights or first amendment rights somehow trump the government's ability to say, you know, we've moved on in the area of civil rights.

So I don't think this is case closed. But it's not just what he said in the area of civil rights, it's what he said with regard to the American with Disabilities Act --

BLITZER: Well, let me press you -- let me press you on that, because he said he's not sure how he would have voted on the Americans with Disabilities Act, because he -- he's a libertarian. He wants less federal involvement in day to day lives, and he says, you know, I'm not sure which way I would have gone on that.

Do you have a problem with his stance on that issue?

CONWAY: Sure I have a problem with his stance on that issue. I would have proudly voted for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

BLITZER: When you say probably you're not sure you -- how you would --

CONWAY: No, I said I would have proudly. I would have proudly --

BLITZER: Proudly. OK. Sorry.

CONWAY: Yes. I'm sorry.

Yes, I would have proudly voted for it.

I mean, what's he saying to people with disabilities, that just take your office on the first floor? If you have colleagues with whom you need to interact upstairs, you can't go up there, we don't need to put a ramp or an elevator?

What's he saying to the veterans that are coming back from these two wars and are disabled?

That is a very, very callous position. And -- and what Rand Paul has is he has a view, Wolf, that's outside of the mainstream. And he seems to always side with business and think that government has no role whatsoever in dealing with -- with business, and he gets into some very, very out of the mainstream positions.

Like what he said this morning on "Good Morning America", Wolf --

BLITZER: Well, let -- let me get to that, because, you know, he's a libertarian, like his father.


BLITZER: He wants less federal involvement. And I'll play the clip of what he said on "Good Morning America" and we'll get your response.


BLITZER: He was asked about the Obama administration's role, its involvement in dealing with the massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, you know, I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP. I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.

I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of the sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault, and instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen.


BLITZER: You got have a problem with that?

CONWAY: I have a huge problem with that, Wolf. You know, talking about what's un-American, BP is a huge international conglomerate. And saying that the administration shouldn't have its boot heel in their throat, BP needs to -- to pay for that cleanup.

And BP doesn't need to have its boot heel on the fisherman of the Gulf of Mexico who are -- who are struggling right now. And, you know, here you're standing up for BP. In the Senate, we don't need another senator who just stands up for the corporations. I'm interested in standing up for the people of Kentucky.

There are people in Kentucky who are scared to death that the government somehow is going to be left with a bailout tab for this Gulf oil spill. So, he is standing up with big business instead of standing up with the people who need help. Look at Wall Street. I mean, we let business do whatever they want to do on Wall Street, and we wreck our economy. We need more accountability on Wall Street and more accountability with industries like BP. We don't need less of it.

BLITZER: So, you want more regulation on Wall Street.

CONWAY: Sure. Absolutely. I'm glad to see that robust financial reform is moving forward. You know, he also said very callously, Wolf, that accidents just happen, and he referenced minors. You know, that is very callous and cold to families in places like West Virginia and Kentucky who are still mourning the death of miners here in our state and some real tragedies. And just to say that accidents happened, you have to figure out what happened. You have to figure out how you make it safer for the future so that it doesn't happen again.

BLITZER: How worried are you about the tea party movement because he's clearly the darling of the tea party movement. They seem to be very energized. How big of a problem is this going to be for you in the campaign?

CONWAY: You know, I don't know. It's still early in the general campaign. Obviously, the tea party movement is energized, but Rand Paul seems to want to be the prince of the tea party movement whereas I want to be the next United States senator from the commonwealth of Kentucky, standing up for Kentucky working families, standing up for the nearly 11 percent of our state that's unemployed right now, and standing up to make sure that we never again bail out Wall Street the way that we did.

I'm standing for small and medium size businesses that are trying to get loans from smaller community banks. That's what I want to do. And I think the tea party movement is having to take a hard second look at Rand Paul right now. Now, I think that people like Mitch McConnell in the Republican leadership is having to take a hard second look at Rand Paul right now. Mitch McConnell is supposed to stand with him this weekend at a unity rally with Republicans here in Kentucky, and it will be interesting to see how close Mitch McConnell actually gets to Rand Paul this weekend.

BLITZER: Jack Conway is the attorney general of Kentucky. He is the democratic senatorial candidate. We certainly want to have you back here in the SITUATION ROOM on many occasions between now and November, Mr. Conway. Good luck.

CONWAY: It would be my pleasure, and I enjoy your show, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: By the way, would you be open to doing a debate here in the SITUATION ROOM with Rand Paul?

CONWAY: Absolutely. I'd be happy to do that.

BLITZER: All right. We'll talk to him and see if we can organize that. Thanks very much.

CONWAY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Clearly, Democrats are hanging and bouncing on Rand Paul's every word. Is he becoming a big problem for Republicans? Stand by for our strategy session.

And should alcohol be outlawed like marijuana. I'll ask the first drug czar and the current drug czar. They're here together. A rare joint appearance here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's dig deeper on the Kentucky Senate race, Rand Paul and Jack Conway. Joining us now at our "Strategy Session," the Democratic strategist, the CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile and the Republican strategist, Leslie Sanchez. She's on the board of the resurgent republic. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Leslie, how much of a problem is Rand Paul from your perspective for the Republican party?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, Rand Paul is an unconventional candidate. He's much more like the Tea Party. There's a lot of Perot-esque in him. They're anti-incumbency. They're anti people who don't have common sense, and to that extent, I think he's going to get a lot of support from both independent conservative Democrats. He has his own tea party movement.

BLITZER: So, you think he and Michael Steele, the chairman of the party, Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner, the Republican leaders and the Senate in the House, they can all get together and work together and try to get him elected?

SANCHEZ: Sure. Absolutely. I think he's going to draw a lot of support. I mean, look at the fervor around it and very much I talked Ross Perot. It's anti-incumbent fever. You're seeing it across Washington. It got the intensity of the voters. It's part of the Rand Paul movement, and it's very organic and real. To that extent, when it's on the Republican side on issues like tax spending, reducing deficits, it's a positive.

BLITZER: In fairness to Rand Paul, you know, he's an eye surgeon. He's an ophthalmologist. He's new to politics. He has a lot of experience that he has to buildup, obviously, but he does have a huge following already, and he is the darling of the tea party movement. There will be support coming in financially and politic support volunteers from all over the country to help him.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look at the distraction he's caused this week just within winning the Kentucky Republican primary. He's gone from being a doll of the tea party now to being an eyesore for the Republicans who don't want to go back and have to explain whether or not they support the 64 civil rights act or the disability act, but Rand Paul is, right now, someone who is running as a tea party favorite, but voters in Kentucky, I think Jack Conway is absolutely right, they want somebody who will talk about their issues, talk about an employment, talk about how to really bring back the economy in Kentucky. They don't want someone just from the tea party.

BLITZER: And today, the Obama White House has been too tough on BP in the Gulf of Mexico. They should back off and lay off a little bit, and that's causing some heartburn out there at least for some.

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. Those are his opinions. He's a libertarian in the same way Bernie's standards as identified with the Democratic Party aligns with them. He's aligning with Republicans. He has his own viewpoints in those areas. I think, nationally you get a tremendous amount of attention, but locally to those point, he is talking about the expansion of federal government, the increases in deficit, you know, the fiscal prison that a lot of federal policies are putting us in. And I think to that, there is a strong rallying part.

BLITZER: I suspect both, Rand Paul and Jack Conway, the Democratic candidate, the attorney general of Kentucky, we're going to learn a lot more about both of these men over the next several weeks and months.

BRAZILE: If this tweet is true that he's --

BLITZER: Which tweet?

BRAZILE: The tweet from "Meet the Press" that Betsy Fisher that Dr. Paul is considering , you know, canceling his appearance. Then Dr. Paul is going to continue to play defense, not just on his views but the views of the tea party and those who support him including the national --

BLITZER: Does that mean the state agreed apparently to go on "Meet the Press" this Sunday, but if he were to back out of that, would that be a mistake at this point on a Friday?

SANCHEZ: I think he should go. I really do. I think he made a commitment to do that, and transparency is there. He has a message on fiscal responsibility and entitlements, and getting rid you know the ways in Washington including the incumbents. I think it's a good message he's strong, and I think he can handle it.

BLITZER: And his father, Ron Paul, the republican Congressman from Texas, he is willing to go on any show that will have him always --


BRAZILE: Let me just say this, I think Mr. Conway, who did a great job on your show, by the way, I think he should go on "Meet the Press," and then of course, come back to you next week.

BLITZER: You don't know if Betsy Fisher invited him.

BRAZILE: Well, Betsy, call him. He's available.

BLITZER: Let's talk about another political, Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic senatorial candidate in Connecticut. The attorney general was, until a few days ago, extremely popular. Everybody thought this was a shoo-in. He was barely going to have to campaign, but all of a sudden, "The New York Times" has this front page story citing evidence that he lied about having served in Vietnam as opposed to serving in the Vietnam era. He did serve for six years in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. How much of a problem is this going to be?

BRAZILE: You know, later tonight the Democratic Party in Connecticut will gather, and if they vote to support his candidacy, I think he'll weather this storm. The reason why is because he has an incredible amount of political capital in the state. People like him and dependence like him. Republicans like him. Democrats love him. So, I think he can weather the storm. He clearly misspoke. He needs to clear it up. But I do believe that with his incredible record of public service, he can go forward.

SANCHEZ: I completely disagree. It's unforgivable. And I'll tell you why, this is one of the most sensitive issues in American history for the last century. There is such an underlying feeling when you're talking about Vietnam. It's very difficult. I think it was a wrong move for the president and the White House to stand by him. I think, ultimately, it was wrong when he stood by Arlen Specter. It proved to fail this is another case of --.

BRAZILE: But that doesn't involve the (ph) Connecticut, though, not the White House. BLITZER: Let's see how those --


BLITZER: Connecticut is not very far away from Massachusetts.

BRAZILE: We know.

BLITZER: So, anything is possible.

BRAZILE: Yes, but Pennsylvania 12 is still one that I'm celebrating.

BLITZER: I'm happy about it.

BRAZILE: And Miss America (ph) would be happy too.

SANCHEZ: A quick shout-out if we can to Dr. Mike Angelo (ph) who is now on Tweeter and watching this program, I'm sure. So, we are sighted. Dr. Angelo.

BRAZILE: Happy birthday to my Mike Anelo (ph).

SANCHEZ: Happy birthday.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Some of the most popular modern gadgets all rely on rare elements coming from one place, and guess what, it's not in the United States. Cameras, computers, and cars and a lot more. What if the supply is cut off?

And details of a new travel warning for an island vacation spot still very popular with American tourists.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring a travel warning just coming in to the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. The state department just issued an alert for U.S. travelers in Jamaica. It warns of potential violence or civil unrest around the Kingston area. The alert cited unconfirmed reports of gang members gathering and that Jamaican defense forces are mobilizing. The U.S. embassy there is taking extra precautions. We will continue to monitor the story and bring you any updates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This is a very worrisome development because of all the American tourists, obviously, they want to go to Jamaica, and not just American tourists, Lisa, but tourists from all over the world.

SYLVESTER: Yes, in fact, particularly they're talking about Kingston. So, if you look at the map or I don't know if you've been there, Wolf, most of the tourists actually fly directly into Montego Bay, and then from there, they'll travel to (INAUDIBLE) but it is still a major concern because you're talking about this violence could easily spread -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much. We'll watch this story together with you.

In less than a century, humans have learned to fly and walk and even live in space, but what if, what if we get push the limits of the human body even further and drop a man or a woman from the edges of space to earth? CNN's Brian Todd is here. He got some details of an incredible attempt that's about to take place.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really exciting, Wolf. You know, we've all seen the story recently about the uncertain future of the space program, maybe even the dissipating incrusts (ph) in that program. This jump might just rekindle that interest. It will certainly push the bounce of human exploration in the heavens.


TODD (voice-over): He is a 41-year-old Austrian skydiver who works for Red Bull, but with NASA's future so uncertain, Felix Baumgartner might just represent the next frontier of flight exploration. What if the human could fly through the heaven in just a suit, helmet, and parachute and survive. We're about to find out. Later this year, this guy is going to try to jump out of a capsule at the edge of space, for what's basically a record shattering skydive.

So, my first question is a two parter, are you nuts and why the hell are you doing this?

FELIX BAUMGARTNER, STRATOSPHERE JUMPER: First of all, I'm not nuts. I think it's human nature. You know, our records are meant to be broken, and I'm a very competitive person. I like the challenge. To me, there's nothing more challenging than working on the Red Bull Stratos project.

TODD: The Red Bull Stratos project will test the limits of the human body. Baumgartner will try to break some unheard of records, the longest and highest free fall ever, 120,000 feet above sea level, that's more than 22,000 miles. And he'll try to make the fastest ever free fall.

BAUMGARTNER: When you step off within the first 30 seconds, you accelerate so fast that you are going to break the speed of sound which is more than 690 miles an hour.

TODD: That's something no one has ever done outside a plane or spacecraft. Baumgartner already based jump from the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and from the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. The man who's record fearless Felix is trying to break is a consultant on this project. Joe Kittinger who jumped from 102,000 feet 50 years ago.

You're the only one who's even come close to being where he's going to go. What is it like up there?


TODD: Yes, I would say so.

KITTINGER: And it's very hostile. It's not meant for man without the protection.

TODD: What is it about it that feels so hostile? What is it the pressure? Speed? What is it?

KITTINGER: It's a lack of pressure, and you know that right outside of you was a vacuum of space, and without the protective pressure suit, you cannot live. That's an interesting thought that you have.

TODD: Like Kittinger, Baumgartner will be taken to the stratosphere in a capsule, pulled by a helium balloon, and then he steps off, the only thing protecting him what he calls the next generation pressure suit, and three parachutes.

Are you afraid of dying on this mission?

BAUMGARTNER: Of course, I'm afraid of dying because I worked so hard to reach the level. You know, I'm living in good life. I think the most important thing I'm doing is to come back alive.


TODD (on-camera): How is Felix Baumgartner going to top all this? He probably won't. He said this is going to be his last jump and he's going to go back to his profession of being a helicopter pilot. That might be a little bit of a letdown -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's amazing. What's the scientific goal of his project?

TODD: Well, aside from seeing if the human body can withstand the sound barrier on its own, can fly past the speed on its own. They say they also want to advance our knowledge enough to benefit space tourists in the future to see if humans, you know, venture in to space more and more as tourists as they've started to do, to see if they can survive outside the vehicle if their vehicle breaks down, to see if they can survive outside at least temporarily. This could go along way to prove whether that can happen.

BLITZER: Amazing stuff. Good luck to him.

TODD: Sure. Absolutely.

BLITZER: We wish him only the best. Thanks, Brian.

Jack Cafferty will be right back with the "Cafferty File." That's coming up. Also, no one is sure how much oil is gushing from the leaking in the Gulf. We're investigating why it's still such a huge mystery a month into this disaster.


BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question this hour is what consequences should North Korea face for sinking a South Korean warship?

Joe writes from Staten Island, New York, they'll be no consequences other than the usual strong condemnation from President Obama in an upcoming speech. With that kind of response, it's little wonder North Korea continues to antagonize its neighbors and the world as a whole.

Neil writes, simple, there's a way to kill two birds with one stone as it were. Firstly, China can jerk North Korea's Kim Jong-Il's chain at will, it just refuses to do so. All that we have to do is simply state that Taiwan should have the same type of nuclear reactors and capability as North Korea. The leaders of China will then have an aneurysm and jerk Kim Jong-Il's chain real hard.

Henry writes, we've got 30,000 troops in South Korea. They've been there for 50 years. Maybe it's time we put them to work. Every time North Korea rocks out, we handle them with kid gloves and even buy them off. It is time for spanking. People died. Major naval hardware was lost. This is not a finger-wagging incident. A good old-fashioned spanking, Yes, indeedy.

Mike in Florida writes, wishing doesn't make it so. The difference between should face and will face is nearly an infinity. We're hamstrung by the perception that the U.S. cannot support South Korea militarily both due to the Iraq and Afghan commitments and by the lack of belief that Obama's a strong leader. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any effective consequence that we or our allies can apply.

S. in Michigan writes, the normal, more stern talk evil-eyed looks, finger waging, fist pumping, bombastic statements and paperwork. No one will or can do anything that's actually effective in making North Korea's change its behavior.

And finally Joe in Minnesota writes, they ought to be sanctioned using the liberal Democratic method, that is, the U.N. should impose sanctions until we forget about the incident. Then we should lift the sanctions, welcome them back and pretend the whole thing never happened.

If you want to read more on this, and you'd probably do it better than I just did, you can go to my blog at I'm old and I'm tired and it's Friday afternoon. I don't see the words as clearly as I should.

BLITZER: You'll get better with practice. You practice a few more years and actually you'll learn this business.

CAFFERTY: I've been practicing for years.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Is one of the best weapons against the Gulf oil spill too dangerous to use? There's another cleanup controversy. Stand by.


BLITZER: In Texas, a final vote could come soon resolving a huge controversy over textbooks and history. Here's CNN's national correspondent, Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The people on the Texas Board of Education are not professional historians, but that doesn't stop them from controversial and confident pronouncements.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There would be those who would say, you know, automatically would say the reason for the civil war was over slavery. No, it was over states' rights.

TUCHMAN: Most of the board members are conservative, and they're on the verge of changing social studies teaching standards in Texas. For example, students will soon be discussing whether the separation of church and state is a legitimate historical concept. That's the kind of debate board member, Don McElroy wants to see.

Is there such a thing as the separation of church and state?

DON MCELROY, (R) TEXAS BOARD OF EDUCATION: There is such thing as the first amendment. The first amendment's been interpreted lately by judges at different ways.

TUCHMAN: By no state sponsored religion, but what do you think about the phrase, separation of church and state?

MCELROY: It's really been abused. It's swung way out of kilter is my personal view.

TUCHMAN: People pushing for the new curriculum say it will dwell more on the positive in America and less on the negative. Values (ph) will be highlighted more. Free enterprise will be emphasized, the term capitalism which sometimes has negative connotations, not so much. And, yes, when it comes to the civil war, discussions about states' rights.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): The board does this review every decade. The initial recommendations come from educators and historians. All agree the recommendations have never been changed this much.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): And that has left many in the public who have come out to the hearings disenchanted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your actions have produced a series of curriculum standards which undermine the importance of multiculturalism and respect for alternate viewpoints. Foundations upon which America's society and democracy have been built. Our siblings should learn that America is not just a Christian nation.

TUCHMAN: But many Texans are very pleased.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank you for the work you do for the children of Texas and for the children in the other 49 states. You are a truly unique group of elected servants of the great state of Texas.

TUCHMAN: More than 200 Texans were on a list to testify about their feelings. The testimony went late into the night on Wednesday, finally ending just before the stroke of midnight after 14 hours. Some of the comments went beyond the scope of the debate and were quite derogatory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need to tell you that Islam is coming, and Islam brings death. So, I say, repent, America, repent.

TUCHMAN: The one Muslim member of the board told the man, not only was what he saying irrelevant, but it was also hateful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was very insulting to our population and everybody that we represent.

TUCHMAN: But not one other board member, Republican or Democrat, complained about it.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Austin, Texas.