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Gulf Oil Spill; Arizona Immigration Firestorm

Aired June 1, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thank you, Wolf. Tonight an exclusive "One-on- One" with the woman at the center of Arizona's immigration firestorm, Governor Jan Brewer. But we begin with some dramatic changes on this day, 43, of the BP oil spill, chief among them, a tough new tone from the Obama White House.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If our laws were broken leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we'll bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region.


KING: A tougher tone too from Louisiana's governor who in a fiery statement says he keeps asking the federal government for urgent help and keeps being called to another meeting or being told his request is being studied.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We can't afford to be told just wait for another study, wait for us to look at this more closely. It's like telling a drowning man, just wait, give us more time to study this. We need to be rescued. We need help now.


KING: Here's what you need to know most. BP began its latest effort to stop or slow the flow of oil into the Gulf. This one a risky underwater pipe cutting and plumbing operation called top hat or top cap. The oil has reached the shore in Alabama and is off the western Florida panhandle. And as a result the government has closed more waters to fishing.

The White House promises more manpower in the areas most at risk and took big steps today to assert more control over what is being done to contain or stop the leak and more control of how information is being made available to you.

And to back up his more prosecutorial tone, the president sent the attorney general to the Gulf States where he announced the opening of a criminal investigation into the deadly Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We'll be meticulous. We'll be comprehensive and we will be aggressive. We will not rest until justice is done.


KING: So what does BP think of this tough new language? And more importantly, what is the likelihood this latest plan will finally, finally stop the spewing oil? Let's go straight to the source.

Doug Suttles is BP's chief operating officer and joins us from Robert (ph), Louisiana. When we spoke a few moments ago I asked him when BP will know if its latest containment effort will be a success or not?


DOUG SUTTLES, BP COO: We're in the process of cutting away the riser just now. We'll be putting the cap assembly, loading that out and actually sending it to the sea bed later tonight. And we should be able to install this tomorrow. And hopefully by late tomorrow or Thursday, we should have this thing operating.

KING: And in terms of the cutting, any issues there so far or is that going according to schedule?

SUTTLES: Well, we have had one, one small issue, which is the cut away from the LMRP (ph) with essentially what are very large crimping or shear devices had a bit of an issue with some of the pipe work around the main riser. So we're actually, if you're watching the video feed, you'll see us, we're cutting away some of that piping around the outside edge so that we can make that cut, which should occur fairly soon.

KING: And the administration says in the short term, when you make this cut, the outflow could increase up to 20 percent, somewhere in that ballpark. Do you agree with that assessment?

SUTTLES: Well, it's possible. I think the analysis done by all the parties shows that theoretically it could go up 20 percent. It may not go up at all. So it's probably somewhere between those two numbers. But the good news is it won't be a substantial increase.

KING: And this is containment, not stopping, right? Even if this goes perfectly, how much do you think will still be coming out, even if this part works?

SUTTLES: Well, John, I think if this works, we should capture the vast majority of the flow. This is very different than the riser insertion tube tool, which we knew going in would only capture a portion of the flow. This should capture the vast majority. We can't say it will capture all of it because it's not a tight mechanical seal, but if it functions well, it should capture the vast majority of the flow. KING: What happens if the weather shifts dramatically. Hurricane season is here now. What happens in that period of time?

SUTTLES: Well, John, the first thing to note is the first relief well is going very well. It's actually ahead of schedule. And right now we believe it will be at the target some time in the early part of August. But between now and then, this assembly will work basically through the month of June, then by early July, we want to have in place the next containment system which allows for rapid connect and disconnect in the event of a hurricane.

That involves setting a freestanding riser from the sea floor with basically a hose connecting the top of that riser, which will be about 300 feet below the sea surface to a containment vessel and a tanker. And that should be in place by early July.

KING: As we watch this unfold -- and we certainly wish you the best in this effort -- the tone from the administration changed dramatically today. The president was in the Rose Garden talking about the possible criminal prosecution, then the attorney general came down to the Gulf States and actually said a criminal investigation was already under way. Has the administration come to the company requesting documents, requesting interviews, requesting any information as part of a criminal investigation?

SUTTLES: Not to my knowledge yet. But with an event like this, we've been retaining all the records since the beginning. What we will do is fully cooperate with the government's investigation, which we've been doing all along. And we'll cooperate with this one as well. And, of course, the main task here -- and I think they said it, too, which is at the moment we want to make sure everyone's focused in on stopping the flow and minimizing the damage.

KING: If that is the focus and should be the focus, are you surprised at all by the change in tone and the more muscular rhetoric from both the president and the attorney general?

SUTTLES: Well, I wouldn't say it was surprising. You know, clearly everyone wants this to be fully investigated from every dimension. So I wouldn't say I'm surprised the fact they've done this. And as I said, we'll cooperate with this. I think just as we've cooperated with the Marine Board and the other investigations.

KING: Do you ever get the sense that perhaps they're trying to deflect any political damage away from the White House all on to your company?

SUTTLES: Well, John, I can tell you the people I work with here in the unified command and out in the field where I spent most of the day today, that whole team is focused on only one thing, which is actually minimizing the impacts of this spill. And I see that every day with the thousands of people that are out there whether they're from the Coast Guard or BP or the contractors or the other agencies. And that's what matters to me because that's what I'm focused on.

KING: You talk about good relations there on the scene. Here in Washington, some officials including at the White House briefing today said the reason they decided to go this way is because they think the company has said things that are inaccurate or misleading. You present a picture of not much tension with the administration. Is that a diplomatic public face from you or behind the scene are their significant tensions?

SUTTLES: Well you know not only have I spoken on this, but Admiral Allen has as well that at the operating level, at the response level, there have been very few differences in view. I mean this is a team that's really all aligned on the same goals and has been since the beginning. The government clearly presses us very hard to make sure we're responding as quickly as we can. We're moving things forward, we're applying all of the resources we need to apply. But I would stress that at the working level, those differences are usually quite small. And in fact, I'm pretty pleased with the effort so far.

KING: When we talked last week, we talked about comments by your partner, the CEO, Tony Hayward (ph) who early on had said he thought the environmental impact would be very, very modest. Then the next morning he came out and said that it would be an environmental catastrophe -- excuse me.

Another comment he's made that's drawing some attention and some scorn here in Washington is that he said over the weekend that there was no evidence the oil was suspended in large plumes beneath the surface. Is that the company's position that when the government and other private scientists say there are these massive plumes under the water endangering and putting all that sea life at risk, does the company say, no, it's all coming to the top?

SUTTLES: Well you know, John, we're actually measuring, we're taking water samples all the way from almost the sea floor to the surface. And in fact we published that data every single day on our Web site so you and others can look at that. NOAA is doing the same thing and the EPA has water samples as well.

What you can see from that data is there are not large concentrations of oil beneath the surface. In fact the measurements so far are all in the parts of oil per billion parts of water, so extraordinarily small amounts. And we're looking for toxicity and dissolved oxygen (ph) and so I think it is true to say that to date we have not found any high concentrations of oil below the surface.

KING: Let me ask you lastly about the price of this to the company. I believe your costs in terms of the response so far are right at or about to hit the $1 billion mark. Your company's stock the day before this happened closed -- opened at above $60. It closed today a little over $36. How much does that, the stock price impact not only how you're handling this in terms of the response but how you speak about it publicly?

SUTTLES: John, I can tell you it doesn't impact it. I mean we've said we would dedicate any and every resource required to actually stop the flow and minimize the impact and that's what we've been doing. And as you said, actually we did cross the billion dollar mark today. And we're going to stay at this and we're going to finish it.

We've said that since the beginning. We believe that's the right thing to do. We're capable of doing that and we're going to follow through with it. And I don't think anyone has actually suggested so far that we haven't done that, we haven't applied all of the resources necessary to fight this thing.

KING: Mr. Suttles, as always, appreciate your time.

SUTTLES: Thanks, John.


KING: A lot more ground to cover. We'll break down the BP's latest statements. We'll also look at what the president and the governor of Louisiana said about the spill today when we come back with Paul Begala and David Gergen.

We'll assess the political impact and the latest on the effort to try to slow if not stop the spill. Stay with us.


KING: Some images there of the Gulf of Mexico, the oil seen spreading off the western Florida panhandle. Also hit shore today on beaches in Alabama. Let's continue our discussion about what BP is doing to try to stop the flow of oil or slow the flow of oil at least and the political fallout. Both the president of the United States and the governor of Louisiana striking out -- speaking out with strong rhetoric today.

David Gergen joins us from Boston. He of course is a CNN contributor who has advised four presidents. Here with me in Washington, Paul Begala who advised the Clinton White House as well. David, I want to start with you and what we just heard from Mr. Suttles, who says this new effort, they're going to make the slice tonight, should know by this time tomorrow if it works. He sounds very matter of fact about it thinking this time they will at least be able to contain, not totally stop, but dramatically contain the spill.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think this was the same fellow that told us a few days ago that "top kill" was very likely to work, too. We worked our way through that. I hope he's right. It's a long shot. You know they would have tried this a lot earlier if they thought they could get it done, but I -- isn't Paul, isn't he from Texas? It certainly brings to mind the idea you know all hat, no cattle --

PAUL BEGALA, CNN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You can tell when these BP guys are lying because their lips move. I think (INAUDIBLE) absolutely no credibility. They may in fact have criminal liability. I think the biggest development today is Eric Holder, the attorney general, he means business. He went down to the region. He has ordered up criminal investigations. BP, last week I told you BP should stand for better prosecute. Now it might be bound for prison. KING: Let's talk about that because there are some people who sort of mutter under their breath that this is the administration doing this publicly to seem tougher. When you ask Mr. Suttles have they requested any documents, have their lawyers been in touch with your lawyers to cooperate, he says they're not at that point yet. David, is it about having an investigation or if you're having an investigation, should you have it and then talk about what you have as opposed to announcing it and then going about the investigation business?

GERGEN: Well I have no problem with him announcing it and letting the world know. And I do think they want to flex their muscles and appear tough. There's a substantial question in my mind whether it isn't a distraction. You know I'd sort of rather focus on the problem, and then let's prosecute people later. But even so, the critical question tonight, John, is when is the government going to take command of this problem? Why are we still sitting here 43 days later with BP calling the shots?

KING: And to that point, Paul, the president today was out talking about this, but he wasn't talking about taking more command and control over the daily operations, he was meeting with the leaders of the commission he has appointed to look into what went wrong. And the president essentially said look at BP, maybe we'll prosecute BP, but he also said look at the government and let's listen to the president -- he said look at the government and find what you will.


OBAMA: In doing this work, they have my full support to follow the facts wherever they may lead without fear or favor.


KING: Is that what you want the president to say right now?

BEGALA: Absolutely. I don't know Mr. Riley (ph). He served in President Bush Sr.'s cabinet as EPA administrator. I'm told he has some ties to the oil industry. But I know Senator Graham and he is -- he is not predisposed to favor (ph) drilling. He's from Florida, of course whose coast may be damaged by this, very tough, very independent guy. And I have a lot of faith in him.

I think it's -- he's a very good choice. And I like to hear the president say, even though it was his administration that issued these permits, it's not a partisan thing. He is saying yes, look at what the government did wrong. You're going to find a lot, I suspect, that the government did wrong. We have 11 guys dead and I think that those men ought to be honored. And they ought to be honored in part by punishing those, if in fact there was criminal wrong doing, which we don't know, but at least bringing some sense of justice here.

KING: And David, do you want to be dealing with the investigation, the government's commission at the same time you're dealing with what you said, it should be priority number one, cap this thing? GERGEN: Well let me just add to Paul -- I do know Bill Riley (ph). I worked with him a lot. He's first class, so they do make -- I think they make a good pair of running this commission. But once again, I don't think we ought to be talking very much right now about the past. I don't think we ought to be talking a whole lot about the future. We need to focus on the here and now and plug the damn hole.

KING: Let's do that. Let's focus on the here and now, because one guy who is increasingly mad, he has been critical all alone, but you see his temper coming out now, is Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana who was out again today saying, I keep asking for things and they keep telling me they're going to answer me, but then I have another meeting, or then it takes another week or process. Listen to the governor.


JINDAL: We're not waiting to be rescued. We're simply saying get out of our way, force BP to do what they're obligated to do under the law as the responsibility party.


KING: If the president's trying to show that he is taking more control of this, that doesn't help.

BEGALA: No, he make -- look any plan is better than no plan. I'm not an engineer. I have no idea if building these berms (ph) the way the governor is calling for is going to help or not. But at least he's got a plan. And the fact that the feds are relying on process and meetings and permitting looks really, really bad.

Now I don't know why then Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, doesn't go ahead and build the damn dams, and build those berms (ph) anyway and wait for permission later. You know I've been married 20 years, you know it's the husband's first law, always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. So just build the damn berms (ph), Governor. So he needs to get on the stick, too.

KING: What does it tell you, David that he's so mad?

GERGEN: Well you know I think he's frustrated because there's -- you know we had this big show and tell last week. It was -- there was some indications you know that BP faked the whole thing. And you know if he's living down there with it every day, it seems to me unlike the situation with plugging the hole, when it comes to cleaning up the coast, the environment, the government ought to move BP out of the way and just send them the bill later.

This ought to be a government-run operation and bring in the military if we need them. We'll provide all the help we can and make it on an emergency basis. There's no sense here -- there's almost -- the country sees an emergency unfolding, and they have some sense that Washington tends to be sleep walking through a lot of this.

KING: David Gergen, Paul Begala, appreciate both of your help. We'll be back with you in the days to come. There is still a lot more to come in the program tonight including a shift to a very dramatic issue. We'll go Wall-to-Wall -- it doesn't want to work here -- "One- on-One" today with the Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. She is in the middle of a firestorm over immigration. She will be right here for an exclusive interview.

Also today's most important person you don't know is right in the middle of this BP conversation except you don't see him very often on camera. In "Play-by-Play" tonight the end of a 40-year love story and storming the beaches -- this goes back to BP -- one man in the National Guard says that should not be his job and Pete on the street tonight, well Pete is going to sing a happy birthday to who -- to CNN.


KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, a close look at what the administration says is a huge milestone in the fight against al Qaeda and its ability to launch terrorist attacks. You see on the map here, these star, areas where there have been drone attacks in Pakistan. The Afghanistan border here, Pakistan is here. The administration says in one of these attacks this man right here, Mustafa Abu Yazid was killed.

He is the number three currently, was the number three currently in al Qaeda. He is an Egyptian; he was one of the founding members of al Qaeda, very close to Osama bin Laden and served on its leadership council. The number three person, key operationally, key raising money and a key person in terms of the communication link back up to Osama bin Laden. This is a position -- we'll show you here a little about him the CEO of handling the finances. As I said the chief conduit to bin Laden and a direct hand, the coordinating hand in terror attacks according to the administration and intelligence agencies around the world.

Now this is a job that has been targeted many times. There have been several number threes of al Qaeda who have been killed or captured. Mohammed Atef (ph) killed in 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- you've heard his name -- the master mind of the 9/11 attacks. He is captured in 2003 and a big decision about where and how to try him. Abu Faraj al-Libi also captured back in 2005. And two other number threes, Hamza Rabia and Abu Laith al-Libi killed in 2005 and 2008 respectively.

Again bring you back to this key point on the map -- this -- on this side, the Afghan border side, and this the Pakistan border side, a key fight against the leadership of al Qaeda. Bin Laden himself believed to be somewhere in the mountains right up in here. And as we show you this and what the administration says is a huge milestone. We want to walk over here as well just to remind you of our new interactive tribute at We focused quite a bit last week on the Iraq side of this.

If you go to this amazing tribute, each star here, each dot here, the home town of an American serviceman or woman killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. And right here is Afghanistan. You see all these dots where many of the attacks took place. A couple killed in terror strikes over here in Pakistan. One thing the military does not acknowledge is that there are many special operations just over the border here on the Afghan side and some U.S. servicemen and women have been killed and wounded there.

They are almost always listed as having been killed just in -- the operation under the name of the operation in Afghanistan which is why you don't see more dots right here along the border. But a fascinating place to get a peek there, When we come back, an exclusive interview with the Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, she has been at the center of a firestorm over immigration and the new state law about illegal immigrants. And she's right here in Washington, coming up for her, a meeting with President Obama, coming up for us an exclusive "One-on-One".


ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are expected to vote soon on whether to join the boycott of Arizona businesses to protest that state's new immigration law and along the state's border with Mexico agents near Yuma seized more than a half of ton of marijuana in the past few days and arrested 14 suspected smugglers.

Joining me here to go exclusively "One-on-One" and discuss this problem, the Arizona Governor Jan Brewer -- Governor, good to see you.

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, John, nice to be here with you.


KING: It's good to have you. Let me start with this. You are here in town. When you made the flight, you weren't sure if you were going to get to see the president of the United States, but the White House now says the president would like to meet with you on Thursday. Why is that important?

BREWER: Well I think it's really, really important because I've been trying to reach out to the administration and certainly to the secretary of homeland security and the secretary of defense --

KING: Even though they say your new law is misguided.

BREWER: Well you know I think we need to sit down and we need to talk about it. You know it -- they can call it what they wish. The fact of the matter is, is that, you know, 80 percent of the American people agree with me. Agree with the state of Arizona. And I think it's important that the president and I sit down and discuss why it is important and explain to him exactly what it is that Arizona is feeling and the impact that it is having on our great state and not only on the great state of Arizona but certainly on America.

KING: So the law takes effect July 29th, I believe.

BREWER: Right. KING: When you signed it, you said, look, I had no choice. The federal government has not kept its responsibility to protect the border, to defend the border. You said you had no choice. Since then, just last week the president announced 1,200 National Guard troops to be deployed to the border, $500 million, he says in additional money for border law enforcement, other security efforts. Is that enough in your mind?

Some have said well, Governor, then why don't you suspend your law, ask the legislature maybe to suspend implementation for three months, six months or nine months, to see if the federal government can step up to the plate and do its job and maybe you don't need it?

BREWER: Well you know I think we need as much help as we can get. And certainly the fact of the matter is back in August of last year, you know, I kept writing and trying to contact and kept pleading for help --

KING: But now that you're getting some, is it good enough to say we'll delay implementation?

BREWER: I'm getting some, but the only way that I've ever heard that I'm getting it is through the news. I haven't received anything formally. I haven't received any letters, any phone calls. No one has contacted my TAG (ph) there in the state of Arizona, General Salazar, so I mean I am sitting here with no really good information. It would be very helpful, I might say if somebody would give me something in writing, telling me what they're sending to Arizona, how is it going to be distributed. Is it going to go to Texas and California and Arizona and New Mexico? Is it all coming to Arizona? We would be grateful if it were. You know, what exactly are their plans?

And that's one reason why I need to sit and I need to talk to them. I need information.

The people of Arizona are discouraged. They're fed up. We've had security flaws on the border for years now. And it's time that we do something about it immediately.

KING: And so what if the president pressed you? What if you came away saying, OK, not everything I want, but this is a pretty good down payment. What if he said, Governor, give me a chance, ask your legislature to delay implementation of this law, give me three months, give me six months? Are you open to that? Or--


KING: You think -- no -- no?


KING: You don't trust him?

(LAUGHTER) BREWER: I don't think it's a matter of trusting him or not. I think that what we've done, we've mirrored a federal law. I think the people of Arizona, certainly people throughout America agree that it is the right thing to do. We've been down this path before with securing our borders in Arizona, and nothing was finished. And so we need to move forward. You know, it's trespassing when you cross the border into Arizona, into the United States. It's trespassing. We need our borders secured.

John, listen, we are faced with terrible things that are happening to our beautiful state.

KING: There are terrible things.

BREWER: Trespassing, drugs--

KING: There was a heinous murder of a rancher down there.

BREWER: Murders.

KING: There are drugs coming across the border. But if you look at FBI statistics, they actually say despite these awful things that violent crime is essentially at a flat rate, even down a little bit. And some would say that, yes, you know, there have been some horrible incidents, but in total, crime's actually down. There's not a need for this.

BREWER: In regards to illegal immigration crime or to what kind of crime? Crime is down in Arizona. The fact of the matter is, if you're living in Arizona and you are living in the areas that are severely impacted, you are faced with it on a daily basis. And we're not going to put up with it anymore. We have borders. Every nation has reasons to have lines, borders, might you say, you know? And a nation without borders is like a house without walls. It collapses. And that's what's going to happen to America. We need our borders secured.

KING: What happens in your state -- there are many states, including your neighbors Utah and New Mexico, that allow people to get a driver's license without proof -- without having to prove legal status. If a Latino were pulled over in your state, if the officers, acting fully in compliance with the law, had reason to pull them over for something and then decided to ask -- inquire about their status, is that good enough? If I'm an Hispanic American from Utah, legally or illegally, I have a driver's license, is that enough? Or do they have to carry better papers?

BREWER: It wouldn't matter whether you were Latino or Hispanic or Norwegian. If you didn't have proof of citizenship and if the police officer had reasonable suspicion, he would ask and verify your citizenship. I mean, that's the way that it is. That's what the federal law says. And that's what the law in Arizona says.

KING: You make a passionate case about the immigration problem. I want to ask you, if cumulatively, you worry at all about the image of your state. The new immigration law passed. There was this policy about reassigning teachers with accents, there was the ethnic studies -- the ban on ethnic studies in some classrooms. As you know, critics have said that your state is sending a message that immigrants, that Latinos are not welcome.

BREWER: I think that's unfair. I don't think that's true. I think that the majority of the people understand exactly what Arizona has done and will continue to do. And it certainly isn't based on racism. And it's unfortunate, but the critics are in the minority. The majority is with Arizona.

KING: I want to ask you, as a Republican governor running for re-election this year, imagine you were 25 or 30 years old, just getting your start in politics. I just wonder if you worry about this, because you're right, a majority of the people in your state, a majority of the people nationally have said they support this new law. But if you look at polling, the standing of Republicans among Latino voters -- and that population is growing dramatically, especially in your state.

BREWER: It is.

KING: If we just -- we asked -- NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, who do you want to control Congress after the election? Democrats have a 35-point advantage over Republicans among Latino voters. Other numbers have showed the Republican Party suffering among them. Do you worry about that as a Republican politician, that in the short term this might help you, but that your party is digging a ditch?

BREWER: Well, I think the big concern is that we want all people to look at us, and as a politician, certainly I want them to know that the Republican Party embraces them. We want them to join our party. I think traditionally, their philosophy is more in line with the Republican Party than the Democrat Party. But we want a beautiful state. We want to be hospitable. We want everybody. We love our diversity in our state. And we want everybody involved. We just don't want illegal immigration and we want our border secured. It's as simple as that. We don't want to pay the price that we have to pay.

KING: Let me ask you in closing, when you sit across the table from the president of the United States, what's your number one -- I don't know whether to call it a demand, a request -- what is it?

BREWER: I think that it would probably be, Mr. President, we need our borders secured. How can we work together to get it done? We need your help. We've been putting up with this for eight, 10 years. We need it now. We can't -- we can't tolerate it any longer. We cannot tolerate it. America can't tolerate it any longer.

KING: And if his answer is, I'm going to do what I announced, but your law is misguided and my Justice Department might sue you?

BREWER: I would say, well, we'll meet you in court. I have a pretty good record of winning in court.

KING: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. We appreciate you stopping in.

BREWER: Thank you. Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you. Let us know how the meeting with the president goes.

BREWER: Thank you.

KING: Up next, today's most important person you don't know, the administration's top scientist at the oil spill command center.


KING: Quick look at tomorrow's news tonight. The very latest on the BP oil spill. A new effort to contain the spill is under way right now. Saws are cutting away the support structure around the leaking pipe. In the next day or so BP hopes to put a cap on the leak, then pipe most of the oil up aboard tankers on the top of the water. For the first time today tar balls and puddles of oil are washing ashore in Alabama. The feds today closed another 1200 square miles. The total is now nearly one third of the gulf to fishing.

As crews try to put either a top hat or shop cap on that so far unstoppable oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, today's most important person you don't know is the administration's top guy at the Houston Command Center, the energy Secretary Steven Chu. Here he is working on flow and resistance calculations during the top kill operation. As the nation's 12th energy secretary, Chu is much more than a bureaucrat. While past secretaries have been engineers, attorneys, former governors and even one, a dentist, Chu is a Nobel-prize winning physicist. He shares a 1997 physics prize for developing ways to use lasers to cool and trap atoms. Too bad it hasn't worked on gushing oil wells. Joining the conversation here in the studio, Democrat Paul Begala, Republican Adolfo Franco. To that point, Steven Chu, we've seen Thad Allen. We've seen the president. We've seen Secretary Salazar. We haven't seen much of Steven Chu. Pro or con on that.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that's a bad move by the white house. Dr. Chu not only is he a Nobel-prize winning physicist, he speaks American. He gets it. I've seen him give presentations. As an idiot, someone who can't do math, I can actually follow what Dr. Chu says. I would put him out there more to explain to people what's going on.

ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think that's right. Paul's absolutely right. Unfortunately, in this ongoing saga, what's happened is the American people really want government -- and this is an area where they want government in charge. The fact is BP's still in charge. Despite what the president has said, that I'm in charge, and if he is truly in charge, put your energy guy in charge of the effort. So I think that's been a big mistake. And I think the constant change of script by the white house is, I think, what's causing the American people to lose confidence in the president's ability to lead on this issue.

KING: On one hand, I get the point. But on the other hand, the storyline has changed quite a bit. Number one, maybe you don't understand the depth of the problem early on, then number two, you try certain operations. There was the first containment dome, then top kill --

FRANCO: But we relied on BP. I think that's probably a mistake from the beginning. I think Paul's absolutely right. You turn to Secretary Chu and confirm what BP is saying. For the beginning the president's first words on this was, well, BP's responsible, BP's in charge. We understand the aspect of paying for part of this or all of it hopefully, which will probably be impossible. But they took BP's word for it. That was a mistake.

BEGALA: They should have had operational transparency. They still should. In other words, there's a story in "Newsweek" saying that BP is keeping people away from certain areas. Who is hell is BP to restrict the free press? Why did we learn 16 hours too late that they had stopped? Why didn't we have Dr. Chu standing in that room monitoring everything that they're doing?

KING: I'm smiling a bit but not at that challenge. I don't want viewers to see a smirk on my face and think why is he smirking. I'm smiling and smirking a bit because you've advised politicians in your life where your advice to them has been keep these guys away from you. So you understand why.

BEGALA: But that's when politicians are screwing up. But now it's BP screwing up. No, really, transparency is always for the best. Actually a good press person will say let's confront the reality and deal with it.

FRANCO: That's absolutely right. The problem is the latest thing from BP is I want my life back, we want the gulf back. The president set the standard for everybody when he said his daughter asked him, have you plugged the hole up yet? And I think the American people are looking at it just the way his daughter does. Every day that he doesn't do it, he's at the helm. He is responsible. It is not BP's problem ultimately. It's Barack Obama's.

BEGALA: We can stuff BP executives into that hole and that would be a good start.

KING: Adolfo and Paul are going to stay with us but we want to make this note. We're determined to bring you into the conversation. Every week we ask you to make your case on an important topic. It's hard to believe but this coming Friday it marks 500 days since Barack Obama took the oath of office of president. How do you rate President Obama's first 500 days in office? Record your opinion, post it at Be specific, we'll play the best video on Friday. The winner gets a JKUSA mug.

Next in the play by play, the end of one of the greatest love stories in politics.


KING: Back for the play by play. You get the drill. We break down the tape with our experts. Paul Begala, Adolfo Franco still with us. Let's start with the president of the United States. Listen to his tone and his body language. This is one of his earliest statements after the spill.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: While BP is ultimately responsible for funding the cost of response and cleanup operations, my administration will continue to use every single available resource at our disposal, including potentially the department of defense to address the incident.


KING: A relatively sober tone, I would use, to say that. Listen to the president today, a lot more fiery.


OBAMA: If our laws were broken leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the people in the gulf region.


KING: Paul, he's not someone who jumps up and down, he doesn't pound, but the much more muscular words maybe not in the style.

BEGALA: Am I allowed to walk over there?

KING: You can walk over there.

BEGALA: Seriously look in his eyes. One of the things that political consultants do, we show these things with the sound off. Look at him here. The veins are bulging out. This is as angry as he gets. OK. He's not a volcanic type of guy. But his eyes are - his brow's furrowed. He's an angry. Even the body language without listening to the words conveys a very different anger than first clip which you could have turned the sound off and you would have thought he was becoming the farmer who grew the world's largest pumpkin. There's perfunctory things you have to do.

FRANCO: I think people will remember the first clip from first incident, unfortunately. In the second clip, maybe a nice study in body language, but the message is still the wrong message. You still have the message of BP fundamentally being in charge. I don't think people are convinced that this president has taken charge in either of those scenarios.

KING: Let's move on to BP. Here's the BP CEO Tony Hayward. One of the questions is trust. Can you trust what you're hearing from anybody, whether the president or top BP officials? Here he is in an interview with Sky News back about a month ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: We'll mount as part of the aftermath, a very detailed environmental assessment as we go forward. We're going to do that with some of the science institutions in the U.S. but everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impacts of this will be very, very modest.


KING: Very, very modest. He said, I should correct the record, that wasn't a couple months ago. That was a couple weeks ago. He had to reverse himself. This is Tony Hayward on CNN last week.

HAYWARD: This is clearly an environmental catastrophe. No two ways about it. All I would say in terms of the estimates, the initial rate was a government estimate. These rates are a government estimate.

KING: Now, language changed. He's blaming -- he's saying when I was saying very, very modest. That's what the government was saying about the estimate. The government would tell you their estimate was based in part on what they were getting from BP. Again, to be fair, these things change, what you know at the beginning -- the beginning turns out to not always be true. But from a question of can you trust what you're hearing.

BEGALA: No, no. I think this guy is a poster child for everything that people hate about oil company CEOs. He also said, well, it's a big ocean, just a little bit of oil, which one of the late night comics responded by saying well that's like saying if you shoot a really fat guy with a bullet it doesn't hurt as much because there is all of that body mass. He has been a disgrace. Last night he said I want my life back. Well, you know there is 11 families who lost loved ones. They'd like to have their loved ones back. He said the recovery workers who have gotten sick from breathing this toxic fumes, he said it could be food poisoning. I saw Elizabeth Cohen blowing that out of the water and committing journalism and reporting he is full of beans. You don't get breathing problems, dizziness from a bad hamburger. You get it from toxic waste that this man spilled.

FRANCO: Unconvincing. At least Mr. Toyota cried. But in this particular instance, even the second recognition that it is a large disaster, it seems as though he is reading a script there is absolutely no conviction. Absolutely no commitment about doing whatever it takes to resolve it. And you can't have it both ways. You have BP coming in and saying that they could take care of the problem, understood the magnitude of the problem, had the experts, had the equipment, had the different plans, and not blame the government. This is the classic blame game. And no one is going to buy BP's argument.

KING: Help me out with instant replay. The governor of Arizona was just here, Jan Brewer. She is going to see the president on Thursday. She has gone from being relatively unknown to being one of the most controversial politicians in America because she signed that state's tough new immigration law. Listen to this.

BREWER: We can't tolerate it any longer. We cannot tolerate it. America can't tolerate it any longer.

KING: And if his answer is I'm going to do what I announced, but your law is misguided and my justice department might sue you?

BREWER: I would say well, we'll meet you in court. I have a pretty good record of winning in court.

KING: We'll see if she is as tough when she sits across from the president of the United States. But she is not backing down.

FRANCO: I think she is incredibly tough and incredibly effective interview. And I think it reflects the majority view in the United States, certainly the majority view in Arizona. All the polling data suggests it. I think she did a credible job about demonstrating this isn't about Latins or about Latinos or discrimination, it's about border security. It's about illegal immigration. It's about securing the border. And she is absolutely right when she used the phrase that a border represents the walls of a house. With it collapses. I think that resonates with most Americans.

BEGALA: I think she delivered the interview with a smile what a lot of people find to be very harsh and off-putting message is helpful. But her problem is not with Barack Obama. She is a primary in her own party and she has Norquist, anti-tax crusader called her a lousy governor who is signing to cover up for that. And now this weekend the religious conservatives, Richard Land of the southern Baptists has said she is wrong on immigration. When you have the Christian right and the corporate right, both coming at Governor Brewer, she is under a lot of pressure in her own party.

KING: Arizona is a fascinating state this year, one of many fascinating states it comes to primary campaigns and other big races. All right. I want to close on this point. For more than 40 years they were married, they were one of the most visible couples in Washington. They had this quintessential moment at the Democratic convention. And yet we learn today that after 40 years of marriage, they have mutually decided they said in an e-mail to separate.

BEGALA: You know, it's heartbreaking. I had the honor of working with Vice President Gore and getting to know the two of them, riding on buses with them around the country. And they're just wonderful people. You know, the divorce rate is 50 percent in this country generally. Public service puts an extra strain on a family. They send out an e-mail, which to me and a whole bunch of their friends this morning breaking the news. They ask people respect their privacy. It's a mutual decision. My heart goes out to them. I know them personally. God didn't make better people than Al and Tipper Gore.

FRANCO: I will only add that if it's true what they said in the press they have grown apart, I think that's what they've said they've grown apparent and they've had different lives, I think a lot of Americans can recognize that. He has been dedicated to his career. She has been doing other things as well. They're growing apart. If that's true, it's really amendable. I will say this and I mean this as a snide comment, in the future these public displays of affection will be somewhat discounted and people will always look back at this particular clip that you showed tonight.

KING: I traveled with him a lot when I was vice president. Those were always my favorite trips because you got to see more. She would always be there with her camera taking photos at the Great Wall of China, at the Kremlin. She was always nice enough to share a photo. I wish them both the best.

When we come back, there is a happy birthday to celebrate, and Pete Dominick is on the street. The party is coming.


KING: All right. We have a little bit of a birthday to celebrate today. And the globe will give it away. You see the CNN logos right here? Each of the red dots is places where we have news gathering operations. I'm going to spin the world. Because you're going to see unlike anybody in the news business, especially the TV news business, we are everywhere. The big CNN logos, that's places where people can watch CNN as well. A little company that started in Atlanta 30 years ago now has global reach, global reach. We spin us around. We can't reach out in the middle of the ocean. But look at that as we come. Who is going to help us celebrate this birthday? Our own offbeat sing-along guy Pete Dominick.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Yeah, John King, I want to celebrate the 30th anniversary on CNN. I went out to ask people their favorite moment, personalities, and see how they were celebrating CNN's 30th.


DOMINICK: It's CNN, look! CNN's 30th anniversary. You're working hard. You're a real man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for keeping us informed with the world.

DOMINICK: Are you celebrating anything?


DOMINICK: Yes you are! You're celebrating CNN's 30th anniversary. Are you going to get hammered?


DOMINICK: You're going to party and then watch John King USA all liquored up. CNN's 30th anniversary. Can you spell CNN?


DOMINICK: That is correct.


DOMINICK: That is correct. Well done! Today is the 30th anniversary. Will you have dinner with me? No? Fair enough. You have a favorite CNN moment?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2008 election we were at Times Square for the CNN screen and they had the big --

DOMINICK: Oh, you know that guy that touches the screens all the time? That's the show we're on. John King. Why do you love John King so much?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is totally insightful and a good reporter and very intelligent. Handsome. Well spoken, balanced, fair.

DOMINICK: I hear Pete Dominick is so handsome.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, he is. Is that you?

DOMINICK: No, I don't know him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are cute, though.

DOMINICK: Yes, thank you very much. All right! See you guys later. I know where I'm celebrating 30th anniversary.


KING: Sorry to leave you any time (inaudible), Pete. That's all for us tonight. See you tomorrow night. John Roberts filling in for Campbell Brown. He starts right now.