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THE SITUATION ROOM
Effort to Cap Well Hits Snag; A Toxic Stew?
Aired June 2, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: Day 44 of the Gulf oil disaster and a glitch in the latest effort to stop the crude that's gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. This time, B.P. was able to overcome it.
Also, the politics of oil. President Obama is defending his decision to increase offshore oil drilling. Is he striking the wrong tone, though, at the wrong time?
And CNN's Anderson Cooper with an up-close look at sand berms trying to keep the oil out; CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta also on the fear of the toxic side effects of what's going on.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Yet another frustrating setback in the delicate effort to cap that gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. A diamond-tipped cable cutter attempting to saw off the damaged pipe got stuck, dashing hopes for this latest attempt to stop the gusher or contain it.
CNN's David Mattingly is monitoring all of the latest developments for us.
David, tell us what's going on underwater right now, because we know about the snag. Have they resolved it? What is the latest?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this snag hits at a very critical point in this operation. The goal is to get a clean-cut across that pipe that's leaking the oil so they can put a gap on top of it. The cleaner the cut, the more oil that cap is going to be able to hold and collect.
Well, if they have a problem now as they're cutting it, that raises questions about just how smooth that cut is going to be. So, when this pipe essentially pinched that saw and bound it up, they pulled it out, they took it back to the surface, and now, they're trying to figure out where we can we approach this cut now on this pipe and to make one very smooth cut across.
That is very important to this operation. It's going to possibly mean thousands and thousands of barrels of oil that could be collected that now might have to go back into the Gulf of Mexico if that cap cannot collect all of that oil -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But, what is the fear now? I know there have been some of the oil now, not only in Louisiana, but now, also in Mississippi and Alabama. What about Florida? How close is it getting to Florida?
MATTINGLY: It's close enough now that the state is very worried, Wolf. Everyone watching the waters, some fishing has been closed in some federal waters near Florida -- and right now, everyone seeing that come ashore near the border there at Alabama on Dauphin Island. They're expecting to see tar balls and some sheen possibly hitting Florida beaches in the panhandle sometime in the next couple of days.
This is the scenario everyone has been worried about. They've watched what's happened to the tourism business and the charter boat business and to commercial fishing business here in Louisiana. And now, it's coming towards them. The losses here could multiply almost exponentially the further east it goes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. What a nightmare this situation is. David Mattingly's on the scene for us.
The Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, clearly frustrated by what's going on. Listen to him slamming B.P. at a briefing just a short time ago:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We have no doubt at some point under state and federal law, we'll get money from B.P., but this isn't just about money. You can't compensate the people who are worried about losing their way of life. What they're worried is, they have fished in these areas for decades. They want their children and grandchildren to fish in these areas.
And that's why we want B.P. to stop delaying. They can hire an army of attorneys. And if they want, they can tie this up and the can delay this as long as they want. But that's not right for our people and that's not right for our wetlands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Clearly angry, the governor of Louisiana.
At the same time, there's growing concern about the possible toxic impact of all that oil and all the chemicals being used to try to disperse it. Some fishermen say they're already sick as a result of what's going on.
Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is joining us now from New Orleans.
Sanjay, one of these fishermen is now speaking out, and I know you're really on top of this story. Update our viewers on this part. What's going on? DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: For the very first time, really, you know, many of these fishermen who subsequently became temporary workers for B.P. signed these forms, essentially saying that they couldn't talk specifically about what they were seeing or experiencing.
This particular fisherman had simply had enough. He said he's watching too many of his colleagues become ill out there. One of his friends was hospitalized, and he really wanted to speak out and say specifically what was going on and what was necessary. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACY COOPER, FISHERMAN, CLEANUP WORKER: It's not like we are asking for the world. We're just asking for them to be safe. Put it on their boats. Put it on their boats. They need work. They need no problem. They have no problems. But when you get in there and start cleaning it, and it smells bad and your eyes burn, put it on. That way you'll have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: So many of these fishermen, Wolf, literally imagine them on their stomach and they're trying to clean this oil up off the water. Literally, their face is two feet away from this oil dispersant amalgamation and they don't have the protective gear that they believe they need.
To be fair, a lot of the types of things that he was describing, the nausea, vomiting, headaches -- those things occur in the short term and usually go away. But there are cases that they've learned from Valdez", for example, previous oil spills, where they can have some of the problems long term and that's exactly what Acy Cooper, the man you just met there, was talking about, what he's worried about.
BLITZER: Sanjay, why don't they have the protective gear, the masks, if necessary? I'm sure there are plenty of warehouses, supplies out there, and it only makes sense to be safe rather than sorry.
GUPTA: If you ask the folks at B.P., they'll say it's because it's unnecessary. Now, there's no evidence that it causes harm. If you ask a lot of the people, including some of these fishermen-turned- cleanup workers and some of the other scientists down here, they'll say, you know, it's because, if you start giving out protective gear like that, that's some admission that there is health concerns and that leads to a whole possible problem later on down the line for B.P. -- whether they would have to acknowledge these health problems, acknowledge the potential payments for these health problems, it really depends who you ask.
But, I think, one is clear, is that there's a lot of these fishermen-turned-cleanup workers who are working with this mixture that we're talking about inadequately protected.
BLITZER: What a -- what a terrible situation that is. Sanjay, I know you spent more than a year going back and forth to Louisiana, investigating another major toxic problem out there. Tell our viewers what's going on.
GUPTA: It has been a yearlong investigation. Here in Louisiana as well, it's a town called Mossville.
Wolf, you know, the question I really want to answer is that there seems to be this stacking evidence about phthalates, BPA, dioxins, a lot of chemical that people have probably heard about in the lay press, but they don't know quite what they do or what the problem is. The town of Mossville is surrounded by 14 chemical plants. So, it is one of the most polluted cities in America.
And it's a case study in many ways for how these pollutants can potentially impact human health. The cause-and-effect studies, the definitive studies that take 30 years to develop, they're not there yet. The real question is: what do we know now and what can we do to protect ourselves? That's the focus of this yearlong investigation, looking at this town and its citizens and what's happened to them.
BLITZER: Sort of reminds me when I was a kid growing up near Buffalo, Love Canal, if you remember, that toxic zone that emerged from that.
GUPTA: The Superfund site and the Superfund legislation came about as a result of that, Wolf, and for a long time, that's been a successful program. Its anniversary is upcoming or is just happening now, Wolf, as you know.
But a lot of -- a lot of people think that over -- over the last several years, decade even, it has really started to fizzle out. And there aren't as many Superfund sites declared anymore. There's not as much money. That's something we talk about quite a bit in this documentary as well.
BLITZER: We're going to be watching it, Sanjay. Thanks very much.
Sanjay is on the scene for us.
And this important programming note to our viewers -- you can see his two-part special "Toxic America." It airs tonight and tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, only here on CNN. You'll want to see it.
Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."
Then, calling out the National Guard to fight the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of troops have been authorized, but how many are actually deployed?
Also, why one Louisiana town isn't happy to see all those workers cleaning up oil from their polluted beaches.
And those sand berms designed to protect fragile wetlands, are they really working? CNN's Anderson Cooper got an up-close look. We're going to check in with Anderson this hour.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the oil disaster in just a few moments. Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" right now -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: Got a different disaster, it's time for "Cafferty File."
The good news is, jobs are finally starting to come back now. The bad news is, they're not the kinds of jobs that many Americans were used to. CNNMoney.com has a piece that reports many of the new jobs out there are temporary or contract positions, instead of traditional full-time jobs with benefits. And employers can afford to do this because with unemployment at nearly 10 percent, there are people lined up willing to take any kind of work they can find.
It's estimated, in the next 10 years, more than 40 percent of all jobs could be temporary positions. And that within the next few decades, full-time employees might become a minority of the workforce in this country. That means most workers won't have benefits like health care, paid vacation, and retirement plans -- all things that many of us have taken for granted for years and years and years. Some temporary workers are suggesting employers are taking advantage of a weak labor market and make them feel like second-class citizens.
We'll find out how weak the labor market is. We've got the May jobs report due out Friday morning at 8:30, to give us another look on where we're going on jobs. The fact of the matter is, though, that major changes in demographics also make it easier for employers to rely on temporary workers or independent contractors. For example, a lot of the younger people are OK with the idea of not being tied to a single employer. And with the baby boomers becoming eligible for Medicare, well, they don't need to depend on their employer for health insurance like they used to.
And finally, it's worth pointing out -- and this is huge -- with President Obama's health care plan, it will require employers to provide health benefits for employees but not for contractors. And that translates into huge savings for employers who hire fewer full- time workers.
Here's the question then: How do you define job in 2010?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog.
Things are changing in ways you and I probably never imagined, Wolf.
BLITZER: Never dawned on me. What a great question, though, Jack. Thank you.
With the Gulf oil spill inching closer and closer to his state, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is now formally asking President Obama to give the military a bigger role in dealing with their response. We asked the White House adviser on energy and climate change if the administration has taken action on military participation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Why hasn't the military at this point, the administration, given the call for the military to take this over?
CAROL BROWNER, W.H. ADVISER, ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE: Well, we have. We have given the governors permission to call up their National Guard. Louisiana Governor Jindal has, in fact, taken advantage of that, calling up some of the National Guard. And I'm quite certain that as we move forward, we will see more of that. So, we have granted the permission to bring in the military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, is that correct that bottom line, the National Guard is dramatically now getting involved?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, not so dramatically, Wolf.
We decided to do a bit of a reality check and look at the numbers. Let's show you the first set of numbers here that begins to tell the story. Defense Secretary Robert Gates authorized 17,500, nearly 18,000 National Guard. But, so far, only about 1,400 are on duty in the Gulf state. Why is that? What's the problem here?
So, we decided to look a little further at the numbers state by state. And let me just have you look at the numbers, Wolf, and let's just look only at Louisiana in detail for a minute: 6,000 authorized; 1,100 on duty. Governor Jindal's spokesman told us earlier today, they'd love to have all 6,000 on duty.
Why is this not happening? Well, first of all, it has to be certified by Thad Allen, the incident commander, that there are valid, legitimate jobs for them to do. They can operate on land, some of what they've been doing, especially in Louisiana, is helping with those sand berms, helping sandbags, build barriers, help a little bit with cleanup, work on some of the air operations, security.
But what the Pentagon, what the National Guard, will tell you is, that there aren't a lot more jobs for them to do, that when the governors really want it, they're there to help. What Governor Jindal's office says is, he'd love to put more out there. He can't get them certified.
BLITZER: So, what can change this equation?
STARR: Well, we asked that question: what really could happen? And one of the game changers is the weather, what officials tell us is, it's hurricane season now, if there's a major storm in the Gulf and it washes a huge amount of oil towards shore, all bets are off. Expect to see more military force involved trying to clean it up and trying to help with public health and safety.
BLITZER: Let's hope we don't get a hurricane or a tropical storm --
BLITZER: -- or any significant weather-related issues that would make this situation so much more -- so much worse. Thanks very much, Barbara.
All right. Giant sand barriers called berms -- the Louisiana officials say they'll protect fragile marshes from the spill. But just what are they? CNN's Anderson Cooper will join us with an up- close look.
And the controversy surrounding the spill isn't just about the oil. It's also about the cleanup. There are now fresh questions and complaints about the workers B.P. is hiring. We'll explain.
Stay here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the oil spill in just a few moments. But Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What do you have, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, President Obama gets a gut check from the lead U.S. commander in Iraq. The White House says Army General Ray Odierno gave a positive appraisal. He says, despite a spike in violence, the handoff of security responsibilities is well on track for the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops. All but 50,000 troops are scheduled to pull out of the country by the end of August.
And Israel is sending hundreds of activists and the bodies of nine people killed in the flotilla raid back to their home countries, defending its actions all the while. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the military did not use excessive force.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Israel regrets the loss of life, but we will never apologize for defending ourselves. Israel has every right to prevent deadly weapons from entering into hostile territories. And Israeli soldiers have every right to defend their lives and their country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: And the man at the center of Natalee Holloway's disappearance in 2005 has now become a suspect in the killing of a young woman in Peru. Authorities say they have incriminating evidence that ties Joran van der Sloot to the crime. The 21-year-old woman was found dead in the Dutchman's room and witnesses saw them together several times. Police believe van der Sloot has fled to Chile.
And tomorrow, the six-man international team will cram themselves into a capsule -- get this -- for a year and a half, a mock mission to Mars. They'll have astronaut-like tasks that are supposed to help researchers figure out the physical and psychological toll a trip to Mars would bring. So far, missions to the planet have been unmanned.
And, you know, Wolf, that capsule has no windows. It's been described as claustrophobic and they're going to be there for a year and a half.
BLITZER: Ooh, I'm getting nervous just thinking about that.
SYLVESTER: Yes, I know.
BLITZER: I'm not good in that environment. Thanks very much, Lisa.
Let's get back to our top story: the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico right now. Even B.P. cleanup efforts are being clouded by controversy. Right now, there's new concern about the temporary workers hired to remove oil and tar from Louisiana's polluted beaches.
CNN's Sandra Endo has that part of the story.
SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Raking and scooping up tar-filled sand in the blazing heat. Hundreds of beach cleanup workers contracted by B.P. descend on Grand Isle each day. They were here when cameras were rolling, the day President Obama visited the beach here last week.
The Grand Isle residents are taking issue with the busloads of workers coming into their community.
Dottie Vegas owns the deli and motel right next to the bus staging area for the cleanup crews. She alleges some of the workers made a mess of her store's bathroom.
DOTTIE VEGAS, BUSINESS OWNER: They smeared human substances all over the walls.
ENDO (on camera): Vandalized your store.
ENDO (voice-over): Police are investigating what happened and managers for the workers now prohibit crews from going into Grand Isle stores. Vegas says she's also upset with what she's seeing.
VEGAS: We see them sleeping underneath the buses, just sleeping on the beaches, just not doing what they need to be doing.
ENDO: But B.P. says workers work for 20 minutes, then break for 40 because of the heat. We tried to talk to them ourselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't talk to my employees, OK?
ENDO (on camera): OK, so, who is in charge here? Are you in charge?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not in charge of nothing. But you all need to leave.
ENDO: All these workers here have been told not to comment, not to talk to the media.
(voice-over): B.P. admits the integration of these workers into the community hasn't been smooth.
JASON FRENCH, B.P.: While there may have been some mistakes early on, we're doing everything we can to correct those and make sure that this is done in a way that the community can have confidence on what's happening on their front porch.
ENDO: The oil company says it's going to scale back the number of beach cleanup workers bused in from around 500 to around 300. B.P. said they'll use these workers who make $12 an hour more effectively with more supervision. In fact, on this day, workers were getting a mandatory drug test. Sources say 30 were fired on the spot for refusing to test and we saw them getting escorted off Grand Isle yelling "B.P. fired me from the bus."
B.P. says it's committed to a drug-and-alcohol-free workplace. Still, there are plenty of people driving for hours to get to Grand Isle looking for a job. This man, who didn't want to be identified, has been unemployed for several months. He's been staying at a motel on his own dime waiting for days for a job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, at this particular moment, I don't really care what the job is, as long as I'm making money.
ENDO: Even the cleanup, it seemed, can't escape controversy.
Sandra Endo, CNN, Grand Isle, Louisiana.
BLITZER: Massive sand berms, critical barriers designed to protect the most fragile part of Louisiana's coast. But are they really working? CNN's Anderson Cooper is investigating. He's standing by to join us.
And there's more than just oil spewing. There's outrage at B.P., and it's flowing along the Gulf Coast. CNN's Jeanne Moos will take a most unusual look.
BLITZER: Booms, berms, and tiger dams, all critical tools to limit the amount of oil reaching the Gulf Coast. But what exactly are these devices, and how effective can they really be?
Let's talk about it with CNN's Lisa Sylvester. You've been investigating. Explain because we're hearing word, some of us really don't know what they mean.
SYLVESTER: You know, Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, has talked a lot about sand berms. Jindal is hopping mad. He is saying let's get more of them built. And the White House announced today that B.P. is now going to have to pay for six of these sand berms. But Jindal said, so far, the company has been slow to act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JINDAL: As of today, B.P. still hasn't moved on that single project. And let me be very clear today: we've said to B.P. do one of two things -- either sign the contracts to move the dredge to get this work started been, or if you're not willing to do this, write us the check and get out of the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: So, here is what Jindal is talking about. This is a sand berm that the state of Louisiana had built to bridge an inlet at Elmer's Island. And this was only a short distance, and it didn't require federal permits. We have pictures of it as it was being built, and they literally just haul sand in to try to close in the gap.
Something else that they're using is called booms. These are rubber devices that float on water, and they actually have a skirt that extends for a couple of feet underwater. The booms are meant to keep the oil from reaching shore, but also to corral it so that cleanup crews can then go on in and try to scoop up some of the oil.
But the problem is, you get some rough water, well, guess what happens? These booms end up washing ashore.
Something new that they're trying is called a tiger dam. You see the pictures there. This has been typically -- typically used to keep an area from flooding. The tiger dams are filled with water and they put it right along the shore. And, again, the idea is to keep the oil from moving to the beach. And finally, a new thing they're using something called a hesco basket. The National Guard has been working on this. And these are collapsible wire mesh containers that are filled with sand to provide a shore seal. So far, 2 1/2 miles of hesco baskets have been put down. But coastal geologists say all of these solutions, they are going to help, but if you get a tropical storm -- and keep in mind, it is hurricane season -- well, there go the booms and the baskets and even the sand berms could be wiped away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK KINDINGER, USGS: I don't think there is a 100 percent solution. There -- probably the booms, building the sand berm, if it's done in a timely manner and appropriate places, the appropriate places being sensitive ecological areas, I don't think you're going to stop all of the oil. Getting into the marshes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: You know, but the bottom line, among experts, is there's a sense that something has to be done, because until the oil spill is plugged, all of these solutions, Wolf, are better than doing nothing at all.
BLITZER: Yeah. Just it makes me crazy to think if there's a weather issue, if there's a tropical storm or a hurricane, all the berms and the booms and the tiger dams, everything else, they'd be useless.
SYLVESTER: And these berms are expensive, you know, to build one berm costs about $18 million. So, it's a lot of money to build these things. The booms are inflatable. You can bring them in, but, again, these aren't permanent fixes. They're not meant to be permanent fixes, and so they're really in a difficult position, because they feel like they have to do something but --
BLITZER: They will help in the short term, but it's certainly not a permanent solution. All right, thanks very much for that, Lisa.
Anderson Cooper has been out there on some of those berms. Anderson, tell us where you are and what you saw today.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I was with Governor Bobby Jindal and Plaquemines Parish Billy Nungesser for several hours basically going around looking at the oil that's has come into the marshland. You know it was a week ago today that we went out to really see the oil firsthand that had seeped into the marshes. Amazingly, we went out to the exact same spot today with the governor and with Billy Nungesser anticipating it would have been cleaned up. I mean you would think this is the area that the governor of the state went to last week and pointed out as a major -- as a problem. We went there, and the oil is all still there. Apparently some employees of BP did go out there sort of sopped it up a little bit and changed some of the booms. But, I mean, the oil, whether it's the same oil or new oil has come back, it is just -- it's all over the place. The marshes are dying, and it's stunning to see, you know, oil that has been there now for more than a week, just -- just, you know, sitting out there, in this spot which has been so prominent.
BLITZER: When I heard Governor Jindal brief reporters after that, Anderson, you know, it really jumped out at me when he said, you know, this area should really be lively with bugs and all sorts of noise and birds, and it was quiet. It was silent. Nothing was going on, as everything was dead in this area. Was that the impression you got as well?
COOPER: Yeah. I mean, the silence really is noticeable, you know. Anytime you're in a marsh, you expect to see, you know, mosquitoes bothering and stuff, but, I mean, there is nothing there. The air is clear of any kind of buffings. You see no birds. You see no life of any kind. And no people cleaning up. I mean, that's the thing, you know, last week the -- we all went out there and James Carville went out there and he was stunned that no one was there cleaning up. Well, apparently there have been some folks out there over the last week, but clearly not enough, or the methods they're using simply aren't doing the job, because, I mean, the place is just dead.
BLITZER: Did anybody give you a good explanation of why -- why the folks aren't showing up yet?
COOPER: No. I mean, BP doesn't talk to me, so I have a hard time getting an explanation from just about anything from BP. But, you know, I mean, in fairness, they have had people out there and they've used the absorbent pads to try to soak up some of it, but, you know, it's a very difficult thing. Once the oil has gotten into marshland, it is very difficult to counteract it. There's a lot of people that have a lot of different plans and ideas for suction devices and the like, but BP, it seems, has been reticent to explore those ideas, at least according to local officials here.
BLITZER: I know that Senator Bill Nelson of Florida is suggesting maybe the U.S. military should really take charge of what's going on. I know there's a lot of frustration and anger where you are, Anderson. Is there a clamoring for some -- someone else to take charge on a day-to-day basis, the pentagon, the military? Are you hearing that?
COOPER: You know, I think a lot of people make a big distinction between the operation that's happening under water, which, you know, a lot of people seem to -- to acknowledge and certainly the U.S. military seems to say according to recent statements that, you know, they don't have the technology to really to deal with this as well as BP could, so I think people here make a big distinction between the operation that BP is handling underneath the water and the operations that they are handling onshore, and I think a lot of people feel that could be done a lot better. Whether it's, you know, the military taking that over some, you know, other level of oversight or some kind of change in command structures is, you know -- I mean, I think a lot of people have different thoughts on that. I don't want to try to generalize, but clearly there's a lot of anger and frustration at the scope and the pace of cleanup operations on shore.
BLITZER: Anderson, like all of us here at CNN are committed to this story. We're not going to leave it. Anderson's going to have a lot more coming up, 10:00 p.m. eastern tonight on "AC360," Anderson, thanks very much. We'll check back with you tomorrow here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Election Day may be five months away, but President Obama may already be gearing up for a fight. The evidence, a speech he gave today in Pittsburgh. CNN's John King is joining us with details.
And more on the government's criminal investigation in to BP. Is it for real or simply a political maneuver?
BLITZER: The gulf oil disaster erupted only weeks after President Obama opened up vast new stretches of U.S. waters to offshore oil drilling. Listen to what he said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES: The catastrophe unfolding in the gulf right now may prove to be a result of human error or of corporations taking dangerous shortcuts to compromise safety or a combination of both. We have to acknowledge that there are inherent risks to drilling four miles beneath the surface of the earth. We can't end our dependence on fossil fuels overnight. That's why I supported a careful plan of offshore oil production as one part of our overall energy strategy. But we can pursue such production only if it's safe, and only if it's used as a short-term solution while we transition to a clean energy economy. And the time has come to aggressively accelerate that transition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING, USA," which begins right at the top of the hour. Is this the kind of tone the president really wants to convey in effect still defending offshore oil drilling?
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's in a very complicated place right now, because that was a speech designed to be more globally, more broadly about what the president wants to say is a slowly reviving economy and he has to, of course, address the daily catastrophe. That was a bit of a retreat, the president saying only if it can be done safely. A bit of a retreat especially from the deep water offshore drilling. The president has suspended any further deep water operations and that part of his plan seems to be in jeopardy. What he is trying to say, Wolf, use this moment, use is a tough term, but to turn politically and say if you didn't think we need to move aggressively on cleaner energy on this climate change and energy bill, look at the Gulf of Mexico. We must do this now. So, he's trying to reenergize that effort, which has stalled in the Congress right now, he doesn't have any Republican support, in the United States Senate. So, on the one hand, managing a daily crisis, on the other hand, trying to turn some political advantage out of it to try to get momentum for what has been a very difficult challenge for the administration.
BLITZER: So, to use this crisis to promote a greener policy, if you will?
KING: Yeah, "use" is a tough term. It sounds cynical and sounds pejorative and I don't read minds, but the white house has a moment to focus people's attention on energy and to say look at what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe you favor offshore drilling, maybe you don't, but whatever your opinion, this should be crystal clear evidence that we need to find new ways to get energy.
Now, can the president get the votes in the United States Senate? He said in that speech he will work some months on it. Wolf, this is a release from folks down in the region even as he tries to tell some people maybe we can't do some deep water drilling, organizations in the area are saying, wait a minute, that's thousands of jobs. So, remember, in Louisiana, even as they watch this tragedy off their shore, many people support drilling because it is so vital to their economy. So, it's an incredibly complicated issue for the president as he has faced some criticism from Governor Jindal and others from the day-to-day management of the crisis and as he tries to urge the American people to look more globally on the energy challenges.
BLITZER: I've heard supporters in the gulf say, do you know what, if there's a plane crash, you don't cancel all flights, you continue and learn the lessons and you move on, that's what they're saying about this right now, because it is a desperate effort to sustain that economic growth, if you will.
KING: And most people would say let's have the conversation about what happened six months or six years from now, after, after we deal with the immediate crisis.
BLITZER: John, thanks to you. You have a lot more on this coming up at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: "JOHN KING, USA" coming up at 7:00 p.m. eastern.
The criminal investigation into the oil spill, some say it was an unusual move for the attorney general, Eric Holder, to announce. We're going to talk about that with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend.
And as outrage builds at BP, Greenpeace activists storm company headquarters. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "most unusual look."
BLITZER: There are some questions being raised right now about the criminal probe of the gulf oil disaster announced yesterday by the attorney general, Eric Holder. Let's talk about it with our national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security adviser to President Bush. She also worked in the justice department during the Clinton administration. You think, correct me if I'm wrong, that it was sort of unusual for the attorney general to make this announcement in Louisiana yesterday?
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, there are -- there's sort of long culture and history in the justice department, not to mention regulations, ethics regulations, that discourage prosecutors, particularly someone as prominent as the attorney general, from holding a press conference to announce an ongoing investigation or one that they've started, and there are very strict guidelines about press -- press interaction by a prosecutor after an indictment. But you have to ask yourself why would -- what was the interest of the justice department in having a press conference at this stage? Clearly it's very early. There are many facts. Many things to understand, emails, documents, interviews, before they'll be able to make a judgment.
We saw a dramatic impact on the value of the stock at a time when gulf residents really need BP to be able to be financially stable to pay their liabilities. And so -- and what good purpose was to be served? I will tell you, Wolf, that there are those lawyers here in town, whose reaction was, this is a political move. The administration needed to show some action, and so people are mad at BP and saying you have a criminal investigation is at least indicating some amount of action. But it's not really the appropriate role of a prosecutor. They do their business normally quietly and behind the scenes.
BLITZER: So, even if there's a formal investigation under way, key word "investigation," you don't necessarily announce it, is that what you're saying?
TOWNSEND: Exactly right, Wolf, normally they go on a good long time before you make any announcements.
BLITZER: Once there are indictments, and if are none, there are no announcements.
TOWNSEND: For one thing, Wolf, it's a basic tenet of investigation, if you make an announcement, you don't want to hurt someone unnecessarily. And you don't want to tell the target of the investigation that you are looking for documents and witnesses. Let's be honest, the American people expect there's an investigation. There had been some press in Louisiana suggesting there was before the presser by the attorney general. And so, you know, look, if there is -- if there is knowledge and people were killed, there ought to be a criminal case here, it's just the question is one of propriety of having a press conference to announce your intention.
BLITZER: It was just basically confirming what a lot of people suspected. And it was just him, he had a bunch of U.S. attorneys with him at the scene, right?
TOWNSEND: That's right. They put on quite a show of force, if you will, by having not only the attorney general, but all the U.S. attorneys there, and clearly they are willing to commit a substantial amount of resources to get it done.
BLITZER: You worked with Eric Holder when you were at the justice department, get ready for a phone call.
TOWNSEND: I don't think so.
BLITZER: Fran, thanks, an angry one at that. Fran, thanks.
Jack Cafferty is coming up next with your e-mail.
And also coming up shortly at the top of the hour, on "JOHN KING, USA," the Florida governor, Charlie Crist, he said oil from the gulf spill could be only days away from his state.
And oil spill outrage reaches new heights. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Check in with Jack once again for the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is how do you define job in the year 2010?
Kevin in Florida writes. "J-o-b equals just over broke. With unemployment rising and an administration doing nothing about it, I see most of us begging in welfare lines. It's time the working and middle class make yet another big American stand and send all of these people packing in November. Before it's too late."
Mike in New Mexico, "What you described as the current situation is what I've been living with since 1976 when I first entered the work force. I worked in kitchens for 30 years. I had no benefits, no regular schedule or livable wage. I had jobs too many to remember that used me up and threw me out. Currently I'm a security guard. Same deal as before."
Jane writes, "A job is that place you used to go at eight in the morning and stay until five in the evening, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. Now it's that place far, far away. The Chinese worker, possibly a child, works at your job for 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for a small percentage of your former salary and without benefits. The wealthy CEO by the way still has his job and probably got a six- figure bonus for outsourcing yours."
T.S. writes, "Is this not a good trend? Did anyone believe we'd go from posting job losses to job gains without a period where we had to adjust? Give me a break. Will it go back to exactly the way it was before? Probably not. As always, we will adjust."
Ken in California, "Any work that pays a person's bills and keeps them out of bankruptcy. P.S., those employers who claim that an employee is really an independent contractor should count on a visit from the IRS. Falsely classifying an employee as a contractor carries hefty penalties."
Mark in Houston writes, "When used as a transitive verb, job, it's exactly what Congress and its related cronies have done to this country."
And Scott in North Carolina writes, "Jack, the answer is simple, Ozzy and Harriet don't live here anymore and neither does their culture."
If you want to read more, go to my blog CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Mr. Blitzer, I will see you tomorrow.
BLITZER: Looking forward to it Jack. Thank you very much, Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty file.
People furious about the spill tell BP what the company's initials should stand for. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: BP's logo is getting a major makeover from people outraged over the spill. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look at the most unusual modifications.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: While the oil spews out, so do the insults.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Halliburton and BP, you suck.
MOOS: From a group calling itself the raging grannies, from comedians ridiculing BP's methods.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's shoot garbage and mud into the hole and cover it with a big hat. What, what?
MOOS: And everyone's finding new meaning for the initials BP.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: BP stands for bipolar. They don't know what the hell to do.
MOOS: The environmental group Greenpeace shot video of its members scaling BP headquarters in London.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're taking their flag and replacing it with our flag.
MOOS: Their flag said British polluters. BP's real slogan may be beyond redemption. Greenpeace is running a redesign the BP logo contest. BP has become boycott petroleum, blind profit, be piratey. The company logo has been transformed into eyes crying tears of oil, sardines in oil, bombs with the logo as the lit fuse and oil drips taking on the shape of ghosts. One entry shoved BP's logo up a cat's behind, meow. In Manhattan, someone defaced an actual BP sign at a gas station. We're already a couple days into the spill in New York City and still no cleanup. Will they have to resort to top kill, top hat, junk shot? BP had no comment when we asked for reaction to the attacks on their logo. A logo that got pulled off the podium moments before a press conference by President Obama's point man on the disaster. Then they tried to come up with solutions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thinking --
MOOS: To plug the hole left by the missing logo. Someone even rewrote Lady Gaga's hit song as a parody
Even Spongebob was done in by the oil slick in this image floating around the web. This grocery in New Orleans sold several $20 oil spill cakes, showing the Louisiana shore with yellow booms separating the oil, chocolate frosting from the beach. And the insults seem to be spreading, though maybe not as fast as the oil.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take your broken drilling rigs and don't come back no more. MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Remember you can always to follow what's going on behind the scenes in THE SITUATION ROOM, I'm on twitter. You can get my tweets at twitter.com/WolfBlitzerCNN. That's all one word.
Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING, USA" starts right now.