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CNN in Gulf with Crisis Point Man; Strange Twist in Oil Disaster; Does Drilling Moratorium Hurt Jobs?; Oil Crisis Hits Close to Home

Aired June 3, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, an important milestone in slowing the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico -- that's what BP is calling its latest attempt to cap the leak.

Will this new and risky procedure pay off or will it backfire?

President Obama is opening up to CNN's Larry King about the oil spill, just hours before he returns to the scene of the disaster. Stand by to hear some of that exclusive interview. That's coming up.

And an inside look at crisis management in the spill zone. Our own Kyra Phillips has had some exclusive access to the president's point man in the Gulf, Admiral Thad Allen. Strap in as they take us out to the deep water very close to the explosion site.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


BP says it should know in the next 12 to 24 hours if it's finally making progress toward capping the worst oil spill in U.S. history. We're keeping close watch on those live pictures coming in from deep underwater. The company is trying to lower a containment dome over the gushing well, after slicing off a damaged riser pipe today. Once the cap is in place, BP hopes to start siphoning oil to the surface. But in the short-term, the procedure could increase the flow of crude by as much as 20 percent.

Forty-five days into this crisis, oil from the spill is drifting farther east. It's nearing the Florida Panhandle right now. The White House says it's sending BP a $69 million bill today for the cost of this disaster, at least so far.

President Obama is set to return to the Gulf Coast tomorrow, one week after his most recent tour of the spill zone.

Just a short while ago, Mr. Obama vented his frustration about this entire disaster to CNN's Larry King. They sat down for an exclusive interview at the White House.


KING: What part of it is your baby?

What part of it is the country and not BP?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, BP caused this spill. We don't yet know exactly what happened. But whether it's a combination of human error, them cutting corners on safety or a whole other variety of variables, they're responsible. So they've got to pick up the -- the tab for the cleanup, the damages, fishermen who are unable to fish right in the middle of their most important season.

And my job is to make sure that they are being held accountable, that we get to the bottom of how this happened, that they are paying what they're supposed to be paying, that they cap this well.

In terms of actually solving the problem, BP has particular expertise when it comes to capping the well. They've got the equipment that -- that our Defense Department -- the first thing I asked was, do we have some equipment that they don't have?

And they, along with other oil companies, have the best equipment and have the best technology to deal with the well at the bottom of the ocean.

What we have a responsibility for is to make sure that the recovery efforts, the mitigation efforts along the coastline, making sure that fishermen and businesses that are being affected are getting paid properly, making sure that local people are being hired -- all those efforts are ones where we can do it better.

And so what we've said is, you're going to pay. You will coordinate -- BP -- with us. But ultimately, if we say that you need to deploy folks over there or you need to compensate such and such here or you need to, for example, most recently, help to dredge up and create some barrier islands in some selective areas of Louisiana in accordance with some of the ideas that the state had down there, then you need to do it.

KING: Some -- I know you -- you appear so calm.

Are you angry at BP?

OBAMA: You know, I am furious at this entire situation, because this is an example of where somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions. And it is imperiling not just a handful of people, this is -- this is imperiling an entire way of life and an entire region for, potentially, years. So...

KING: Has the company felt your anger?

OBAMA: Well, they have felt the anger. But what I haven't seen as much as I'd like is the kind of rapid response.

Now, they want to solve the problem, too, because this is cost -- costing them a lot of money. And the one thing that I think is important to underscore is that I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people. But that's not the job I was hired to do. My job is to solve this problem. And, ultimately, this isn't about me and how angry I am. Ultimately, this is about the people down in the Gulf who are being impacted and what am I doing to make sure that they're able to salvage their way of life?

And that's going to be the main focus that I've got in the weeks and months ahead.


BLITZER: We'll have some more excerpts from the president's interview. That's coming up later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You can watch the entire interview on LARRY KING LIVE right here tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN. I think you're going to want to see this entire interview. Larry goes through a whole bunch of subjects, including we're going to get the president's response to what's going on in Israel and Gaza.

This unprecedented catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico comes with enormous risks, from the scramble to cap the leak to the political burden on the president right now.

CNN's David Mattingly Is standing by in New Orleans.

But let's bring in our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger -- first, Gloria, you heard the president say, you know what, that the country doesn't need to see his anger. He's frustrated, he's angry, he's furious, he says...


BLITZER: -- but he's got a job to do, first and foremost.

BORGER: Yes. He said it doesn't do any good to -- to yell at these people, although that might be what he would like to do.

And, look, Wolf, what the public wants to see is results and they want to see leadership. And I think you saw President Obama starting to do that in this interview.

First of all, he had to make it clear that he's on the case with the enemy. And there is an enemy. Unlike Hurricane Katrina here, there's an enemy -- and that's BP. You see the government saying it's sending them the first bill today, $69 million -- the first of many bills, holding them responsible, holding their feet to the fire, holding them accountable.

The second thing the president has to do is not yell, not be full of anger. That's not who the American people elected. He's got to show a little bit more empathy toward the folks who are affected by this disaster, which is why we see him going to the Gulf tomorrow. And I guarantee you when he goes to the Gulf, he's not just going to meet with the political functionaries, but he's going to meet with the fishermen and everybody else who is affected personally by this tragedy.

So it's a two-pronged strategy. And that's what they're pursuing right now. BLITZER: In -- in the latest poll of polls, as we like to call it, the average of the major polls, his job approval number is at 48 percent.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: That said certainly not as good as 60 percent, as it was shortly after he took office -- 65 percent, even 70 percent, but 48 percent.

BORGER: Um-hmm.

BLITZER: What do you make of that?

BORGER: Well, it's been remarkably stable. You know, in looking at the polls over the president's first 500 days -- and we are at 500 days -- is that the president has personally always been more popular than his policies. And I think that remains the case.

I think the danger for the president here -- and they're very well aware of this at the White -- at the White House. He doesn't want to become Jimmy Carter during the Iranian hostage crisis. He just -- he wants the rest of his agenda to still be on the front burner. You know, he's got financial reform he wants to pass. He's got jobs bills he's got to deal with. He wants to talk up the progress in the economy. He's got lots of issues that are still out there, not the least of which is energy policy.

So he's got to find a way to let the American public know that he's on this case every single day, but that he's also got another job to do. And that's not only on domestic policy, Wolf. We've also been talking on SIT ROOM all week about all his foreign policy crises...


BORGER: -- that are popping up in the Middle East.

So he's got to walk and chew gum at the same time here.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a major assignment.

Gloria, thank you.


BLITZER: David Mattingly is on the scene for us -- all right, walk us through, David, exactly what's going on right now, what happened in the past few hours and what we anticipate over the next few hours.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we're -- what we've been watching this afternoon is BP making preparations to lower a cap onto that leaking well. They were able to successfully cut that leaking pipe off the top of the well and clear it away. They weren't able to get a clean cut like they wanted to, so now they're going to have to use a cap that may not contain as much oil as they anticipated.

But the plan is now to lower a cap on that gushing oil that we see down there at the bottom. It's really been a sight to see. We knew this was coming. We were prepared for it. Officials said when they cut that pipe away, we were likely to see an increase in the flow of oil up to 20 percent. We probably saw that -- possibly even more. It was really coming out in a very strong plume.

And that is still continuing as they lower this -- this cap on there.

Now the plan is that once they have that cap in place, they will siphon that oil up to a ship on the surface, burn away the natural gas and try and contain as much of this oil as they possibly can, all the way up until August, when they drill that relief well and finally seal this well off.

BLITZER: But in the meantime, even if -- if this cap containment right now works the way it's supposed to, there's still going to be oil coming out, at least until August, right?

MATTINGLY: yes. And we've seen thousands upon thousands upon thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico every single day for the last 45 days. And now we're seeing these terrible pictures coming in of wildlife that's being oiled. This is heartbreaking pictures of these birds that came into CNN just a little while ago. These are the images that are continuing to keep people enraged about what is happening here.

The CEO of -- of BP, Tony Hayward, expressed an apology and expressed the desire to make this right. But I've been on the ground here, Wolf, for over a month, out on the water, out on the bayous, out in the communities, talking to fishermen, property owners, people who live here. I have yet to encounter a single person here who believes what BP has to say to them. There is a great big credibility gap that no amount of commercials, no amount of checks and no amount of cleanup is going to correct.

BLITZER: Yes, those pictures of those birds -- those pictures are heartbreaking. We're going to be speaking later here in THE SITUATION ROOM with Anderson Cooper. He and his team took these pictures for us. And we'll get a little bit more explanation where exactly this happened and what's going on.

Thanks very much, David, for that.

A Louisiana Congressman isn't buying apologies from the CEO of BP. We've seen Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon get very passionate about what's happening to the coast. He's going to tell us why he wants Tony Hayward to resign right now.

And a CNN exclusive -- our own Kyra Phillips is embedded with the team involving Admiral Thad Allen, the point man on the scene. We'll travel out into the Gulf for an inside look at his mission in the spill zone.

And this emergency landing was unsettling enough, but wait until you hear who owns the plane.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: We'll get to a key Louisiana Congressman in just a moment.

Jack Cafferty is with us, though, right now for The Cafferty File -- Jack, another busy news day.

CAFFERTY: A fascinating day to be a fly on the wall at the White House. That's where President Obama met today with Arizona's governor for the first time since the state passed that controversial immigration law. The law goes into effect next month and will require Arizona police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop for committing another crime.

Governor Jan Brewer says she and the president agreed to try to work together on a solution to the immigration crisis. She also says that during the half hour meeting in the Oval Office, the president promised most of the 1,200 National Guard troops he's sending to the Mexican border will be sent to Arizona.

We'll have to wait and see how this all shakes out, though.

The president has called the Arizona law misguided. Mr. Obama says it's the wrong approach to illegal immigration.

However, no approach is the approach we've gotten to illegal immigration from the federal government for decades now. They do virtually nothing.

As for Governor Brewer, she doesn't seem to be too worried. The governor has said of the Obama administration, quote, "We'll meet you in court. I have a pretty good record of winning in court," unquote. And the American people support her. Despite boycotts of Arizona and complaints from folks like the ACLU, all the major polls show the majority of Americans support Arizona's new immigration law. And at least a dozen states are considering similar laws.

But why would the federal government listen to us?

At least Arizona is doing something about the crisis. There are an estimated 11 million illegal aliens in this country and almost 500,000 of them are in the State of Arizona.

Here's the question then, what would you like to hear President Obama say about Arizona's immigration law?

Go to to post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: He's going to -- his -- he spoke about it to a certain degree with Larry King in the taped interview at the White House, Jack. So we'll hear it later tonight, the full interview, airing 9:00 p.m. Eastern. He's got some thoughts on his meeting with the Arizona governor.

But let's get back to our top story right now, the growing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and a new call for the BP chief, Tony Hayward, to resign -- to resign right away.

Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon of Louisiana.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

Tell our viewers why you want the CEO of BP to resign right now.

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: Well, two nights ago, when Tony Hayward was down in Venice, Louisiana, he made a relatively flippant statement about he would like his life back. And the people of this coastal region after Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, they're struggling through those, rebuilding their lives, getting their businesses and their boats back in the water and such as that, they'd like to have their life back. They're not responsible for what has happened down here, but they're the ones that are paying the price for it.

And if he wants his life back, go on back to Britain. But send us somebody that cares about this state, that cares about these people and will be honest with us. We're -- we're feeling like, in Louisiana, that we've been lied to from the get go. It started off as 1,000 barrels a day. It went to 5,000. Now, it's anywhere's from 12,000 to 19,000, by one source, and maybe as much as 50,000 by another.

So, you know, the frustration of there are plumes, there's not plumes, there's just so much that's going on out here that people are frustrated.

BLITZER: He did...

MELANCON: They're out of work. They've shut down...

BLITZER: I was going to say, Congressman -- sorry for interrupting. But Tony Hayward did issue a statement on his Facebook page apologizing for that statement -- apologizing to the people in Louisiana. He thought it was a dumb statement himself. He shouldn't have said it.

I think -- I guess the question to you, is you don't believe him, that apology?

MELANCON: Well -- and I made the statement yesterday morning, which was the morning after I heard the statement, before an apology. And I appreciate the apology.

That still doesn't speak for BP's behavior and the way they've acted since day one. You know, this is a major issue, a major crisis for this part of the country. And this may be for decades that we suffer through this. And -- and to be flippant in any way is just it -- that's a bit cynical I guess, in some ways, people are looking at it.

These are good people. They're hardworking people.

If you go out in the marshes and see these guys putting the boom out, this is not about earning a buck. This is about saving their future. This is about saving what they love the most. This is about saving the wetlands, America's wetlands. It's the fisheries. It's the habitat for -- for water fowl and for migratory birds. It is -- it's just a phenomenal place.

BLITZER: The president is going to be with you tomorrow in Louisiana. I don't know if. You're going to see the president, but if you are with the president tomorrow, what are you going -- what are you going to say to him?

MELANCON: Well, I've got a number of things on my list. It depends how much time I get. And I guess I'll have to prioritize.

We're going to talk about -- I'm going to try and talk about the moratorium and how we find a compromise between "spill, baby, spill" and "drill, baby, drill."

We can't shut down this part of the country just summarily to not drilling at all. And we've got a safety record in the shallow waters. We ought to allow that to go forward. Let's go ahead and make sure that the safety on those rigs are there so that people don't get injured and hurt the environment.

And I understand the concern. If we go out in -- in 5,000 feet of water and get another blowout while we're trying to clean this one up, it's -- it will be totally devastating -- far worse than I can even fathom.

BLITZER: Because the president says there's no moratorium on the shallow drilling. And he's very concerned about the deepwater drilling.

Are you with him on that, the 5,000 foot drilling, should there be a moratorium on some of the existing wells similar to the well that exploded?

MELANCON: I think we can do something other than a moratorium. A moratorium only puts a notice out around the world that there's 33 rigs available to be moved to Africa or Brazil or the Far East and go drill there. And then we'll lose the jobs. We'll lose -- now, but at the same time, I want to make sure that those rigs are safe, not only for the people, but for the environment. And then I want to talk to him about how do we figure out what's down on the floor. That's where our problem is, is what's on the floor of the Gulf that's been -- been letting all that gas -- that oil and gas out of there.

So trying to find a balance between the extremes of no drilling and "drill, baby, drill" is what I hope that I can have a conversation with, if not tomorrow, I -- I'm scheduling a meeting in the White House for next week to try and meet with staff, at least, and try and talk through some of these things and seeing if there's anyplace that we can find some common ground.

We were one of the brought spots in the unemployment picture. We don't want to go into the high unemployment.

BLITZER: All right. At the same time you don't want to see this disaster explode even beyond where it is right now.

MELANCON: That's correct.

BLITZER: It's a delicate tightrope that you're describing.


BLITZER: Congressman Charlie Melancon of Louisiana.


BLITZER: We'll check back -- we'll check back with you for sure.

Thank you and good luck.

MELANCON: Thanks, Wolf.

Appreciate it.

BLITZER: CNN's Kyra Phillips has had some exclusive access to the man heading the federal response to the growing disaster in the Gulf. She's joining the admiral, the Coast Guard admiral, Thad Allen, on a rig not far from the explosion site.

We're going to talk to her. That's coming up.

And could the efforts to extinguish that explosion actually have added to the crisis we're in right now?

CNN's Abbi Boudreau is investigating.

And the country loses a golden girl. We're remembering a special woman.


BLITZER: We're going to have more of Larry King's exclusive interview with President Obama today over at the White House on the oil spill and what the White House is doing about it. That's coming up. Stand by.

Lisa Sylvester, meanwhile, is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa, what's going on?


Well, the former suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway is under arrest again. Joran van der Sloot is being detained in Chile and police say he's suspected of killing a 21-year-old Peruvian woman. At the same time, an Alabama U.S. attorney has just filed extortion charges against him, claiming he requested money in exchange for saying where Natalee Holloway's remains are. He was arrested in connection with her disappearance in 2005, but was released and has denied any involvement in her case. We are trying to get reaction from Jorgen van der Sloot's attorney.

Jury selection has begun in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, have been called to testify. The former governor is accused of trying to profit from his power to fill President Obama's former Senate seat. He denies any wrongdoing. Defense lawyers filed a motion in April seeking to subpoena the president.

And actress Rue McClanahan died this morning after a stroke. She was well-known for her Emmy-winning role as Southern belle Blanche Devereaux on the hit TV show "Girls -- Golden Girls." Her career began on the New York stage, but got a boost with television appearances in "All in the Family" and "Maude." Rue McClanahan was 76 years old -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

She was a talented actress, indeed.

Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

Five thousand feet below the water, we're following the latest attempt to cap the massive oil spill. These are critical hours right now. A jagged edge on a slice off pipe is making the operation more challenging right now. A temporary ban on deep water drilling, though, may help protect the environment. But it's certainly costing jobs in hard-hit Louisiana. We're taking a look at the very, very sensitive issue of the economic trade-offs.


BLITZER: Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal said Gulf Coast residents are at war right now to protect their beaches, their wetlands, and their way of life. CNN is covering the oil disaster like no other network. Our own Kyra Phillips has been given exclusive access to President Obama's point man in the Gulf, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. Today they traveled very close to the site of the rig explosion that unleashed this crisis six weeks ago.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are actually live, on one of the rigs that is building that relief well that is hopefully going to support sealing off that oil gusher we have seen here in the Gulf of Mexico. Right behind me is the "Enterprise Discovery," that is where right now the cut-and-cap operation is going on, and today for the first time, a positive step towards ending that oil that's gushing out here into the gulf. They made that cut, and now, right now, they're in the process, the workers here on these rigs, lowering that top hat to seal it off.

I want to go ahead and bring in Admiral Thad Allen. As you know, he is the incident commander of this oil disaster at this point.

Sir, it's pretty remarkable that we're here live watching this happen. No one has had the chance to be here since that explosion. Tell me what's happening right now, and the fact that you said we did see something positive today, and it's happening right here where we're standing.

ADM. THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD: Well, our ability to cut that riser pipe and get the opportunity to cap with the containment cap of the well is extremely important, and I know they're working hard at it route now, even as we're talking here, it's happening 5,000 feet below us. So, what I might do is explain what's going on here, is that all right

PHILLIPS: Please do.

ALLEN: Behind us we have the "Discover Enterprise" which has the riser pipe at the bottom connected to the containment cap trying to be put in place right now over the pipe cut off over the lower marine riser package. We are standing on development driller three which started the first relief well, and just in back of you, Kyra, is development driller two, which is drilling the backup relief well. So in the area of about one square mile here, you have the containment process going on the "Discover Enterprise" and the two drilling operations on development driller three that we're on and development driller two behind you.


BLITZER: Kyra speaking with Thad Allen, the overall U.S. commander on the scene. We'll go back to Kyra in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. stand by for that.

Now, a strange twist in the story. There are some experts who say the oil disaster was -- was the result of the massive effort to put out the initial fire on the rig. Abbie Boudreau of CNN's special investigations unit explains.


ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As flames engulf the deepwater horizon, after that thunderous explosion, supply vessels converted to act as fireboats and poured tons and tons of water on board, all in an effort to save any survivors, and the structure itself. But some in the oil industry say trying to put out the fire aboard the deepwater horizon was the wrong move. Making the rig more likely to sink.

ERIC SMITH, TULANE ENERGY INSTITUTE: I think it sank not because of the explosions, but because we spent two days with the fireboats pumping water into it, and arguably you could say that in sinking, that's what collapsed -- collapsed the riser and started the oil flow. BOUDREAU: Eric Smith is the executive director of Tulane's Energy Institute, and a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas business. He and others in the oil industry say the loss of the riser pipe was critical.

SMITH: Obviously gas was flowing at the time of the fire. Probably some oil was being lifted up, but we'd be in a lot better shape today if the riser was intact, even if the boat was a burned-out hull, but as long as it was floating it would have, you know, remained connected to the rise are.

BOUDREAU: Smith and others say the effort to put out the fire was a natural reaction but it may have been misguided.

SMITH: They were trying to cool the rig down and hope that the fire went out so they could get on board and stabilize things, so I don't think they were -- some guy was in the backroom saying, well, gee, let's see, if we pump water for two days, six fireboats, we'll probably sink the rig.

BOUDREAU: Of course, the deepwater Horizon did sink, damaging the undersea network of pipes and cables, along with the riser and perhaps even the blowout preventer. And contributing to the worst environmental disaster in American history. In fact, guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association warn that using tons of water affects the stability of a structure. And adds, "If this vulnerability is not properly understood and controlled, the consequences can impact all firefighting efforts severely." Just who was directing the firefighting in the wake of the explosion still seems a mystery. Asked by CNN if he knew who was in charge that day, a Coast Guard official said, quote, I do not. He said an investigation will ultimately bring out the whole truth. He added, quote, the facts as revealed by the investigation will tell us how and why this tragedy happened and how we can prevent a similar one. The well owner, BP, told CNN it was up to the rig operator, Transocean, to handle the firefighting details. Transocean did not want to comment, but a source at the company suggested it was up to the Coast Guard to direct operations. Whoever was in charge that day, the conditions were brutal.

JOSEPH FARRELL, RESOLVE MARINE GROUP: It was pretty much of a pretty horrendous fire. Of course, it was preceded by the explosion that caused it.

BOUDREAU: The Resolve Marine Group out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, had one of the biggest boats on the scene. The company president, Joseph Farrell, says there was a great deal of water poured onto the deepwater Horizon.

FARRELL: Was it the water that caused it to sink or was it the explosion, the combination of both? The water from the vessels? I -- I honestly don't know. Anything's probable, but you can't fault the guys that are out there trying to save men and put that fire out. That's a given.

BOUDREAU: Salvage operators like Joe Farrell say the heat of the explosion may have compromised the integrity of the structure, so badly that all of that water that was supposed to have helped, just might have ended up hurting.

Abbie Boudreau, CNN, Houston.


BLITZER: And we want to congratulate Abbie on winning the Livingston award for international reporting for her piece on "Killing at the Canal, The Army Tapes." Christiane Amanpour presented the prize that is awarded to young journalists. Abbie's report documented events that led up to the courts-martial of three U.S. soldiers for the shooting of four Iraqis. Congratulations, Abbie.

Let's show you the latest live pictures coming from the underwater BP cameras, where they're trying to cap the gusher. Should there be a halt to more drilling and exploration? Some argue American jobs are on the line. Just ahead, the economic crisis in the region.

And the emergency landing that hit airline safety experts very close to home.


BLITZER: We're going to check in with Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta. They're on the scene for us. They're seeing incredible sights for us. We'll take them live shortly. Take a look from Anderson Cooper's team, those are birds covered in crude oil from the disaster in the gulf. Anderson will explain what's going on, stand by.

Lisa Sylvester is meanwhile monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?


A Turkish American citizen is being identified as the youngest person killed during Israel's raid on Monday on the flotilla headed for Gaza. Furkan Dogan was 19 years old and lived in Turkey since he was two. The father said the family was not sad, though, because they believe he died with honor. Israel maintains its commandos opened fire after they were attacked.

And an emergency landing this afternoon in Texas of a plane owned by The Federal Aviation Administration, as you can see. The plane's nose gear failed to deploy properly, hitting the runway there. Emergency workers hosed down the nose of the aircraft, and helped the two men aboard make it out safely. The FAA said one of its flight inspectors had just completed a flight check when he realized that the nose gear wouldn't extend. But you can see they're coming off the plane and everything worked out OK.

Well, if the steak pictured on this billboard isn't enough to draw you in, maybe the smell of it will. North Carolina's Bloom grocery chain is enticing potential customers with the smell of charcoal and black pepper coming, yes, from the sign. A high-powered fan spreads the aroma by blowing air over scented cartridges, and they're doing it during rush hour, just about the time when people are thinking about dinner, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm thinking about it right now. I can't smell it, but I'm thinking about it. All right. Thank you, Lisa, for that.

President Obama now for the first directly weighing in on that deadly Israeli raid on those humanitarian ships headed for Gaza. He spoke to Larry King about it. We'll have excerpts from Larry's exclusive interview with the president. Stand by. You'll hear what he's saying on that and the oil spill.

And heartbreaking new images of those birds covered in oil. Anderson Cooper's standing by live with the latest.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The debate over the need for offshore drilling is heating up amid a growing disaster. And for Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal, a lot of it involves jobs for the people of the state. Let's bring back Lisa Sylvester to explain what's going on. Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, is saying, yes, it's important to figure out the cause of this oil disaster and prevent it from happening again. But Jindal has another worry on his mind, the economic hit of closing down other oil rigs on top of the job losses his state has already suffered.


SYLVESTER: Charter boat captain Larry Hoover has lost his livelihood.

LARRY HOOVER, CHARTER BOAT CAPTAIN: I'm shut down. My business is shut down.

SYLVESTER: As the oil has spewed, Hoover's income has dried up, and more job losses could be coming. Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, sent a letter to the White House warning thousands of oil rig jobs are in jeopardy, this after the Obama administration last week extended a moratorium for six months on drilling new deep-water oil and gas wells and halted work on 33 exploratory wells in the deep waters of the gulf of Mexico. Jindal says the drilling ban is another economic blow to his state.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Some of the same people, some of the same families being put out of work and losing their incomes due to this oil spill, could now be jeopardized, could now be threatened again by this moratorium.

SYLVESTER: According to the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, suspending active drilling could result in the loss of up to 10,000 Louisiana jobs within a few months, and if drilling platforms moved to other countries, thousands more jobs could be lost for good. The Louisiana Midcontinent Oil and Gas Association says lost wages for the work stoppage could reach $330 million for the 33 platforms every month. But the White House says it had plenty of reason to temporarily halt the drilling. Days of oil flowing into the gulf have killed off fish, wildlife, in sensitive marshlands. White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the pause will allow time to put in place new safety procedures.

ROBERT GIBBS, PRESS SECRETARY: We have a full investigation, and that's what the commission is going to look into, and regulatory framework that can ensure safe drilling. I think that's important. The president thought that was important. I think the citizens of the gulf think that's important.


SYLVESTER: Public support of offshore drilling has been falling as CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that two years ago 74 percent of those surveyed favored increasing offshore oil drilling. 24 percent opposed. Now, only 57 percent favor increasing drilling offshore. While 41 percent, Wolf, oppose it. Wolf?

BLITZER: Not surprised by that change. All right, thank you, Lisa.

Let's talk a little bit about the potential moratorium on drilling with a native of Louisiana. CNN contributor and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile. Donna, thanks very much. Are you with Governor Jindal on this, or are you more inclined to support the president on this?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, let me just say how I really feel, and that is I think that the moratorium should continue until we find out what caused the accident to happen. We need to make sure that there are proper safety procedures in place, that subsea blowout preventer problem has been fixed, and before we continue to drill -- and I understand the economic impact, Wolf, for every --

BLITZER: A lot of people will suffer in Louisiana.

BRAZILE: Look, not just the people that work on the rigs, but the three or four people behind them, so I understand the economic impact. But can you imagine another -- another -- disaster on top of the 20 million gallons of crude oil right now in the gulf?

BLITZER: So, you favor a moratorium on new deep-water exploratory operations?

BRAZILE: I believe that we should know exactly what happened before we continue drilling off the gulf.

BLITZER: Even the existing other drills similar to this deep- water drill?

BRAZILE: BP owns two of those drillings -- two of those rigs out there. They are co-owned jointly on another two rigs. Why would we give them a license until we know what we know what happened? I am from Louisiana, and I understand the impact on the economy. But I'm worried about the safety and survival of 14 million people that live along the five coastal states. BLITZER: We did a report that there's another rig that could be in trouble right now, and it's better to be safe than sorry, that's what I hear you saying.

BRAZILE: I want to inspect the rigs. I'm not telling Governor Jindal not to advocate for reopening up those rigs, but let's make sure the proper safety procedures are in place.

BLITZER: You saw the pictures. Anderson cooper and his team just came back. Dead birds. I don't know if they're dead. Take a look at these pictures. You can see they're not dead, but they're soaked from oil. When you see the pictures, what goes through your mind?

BRAZILE: Nothing but anger. We're all frustrated and angry. Frustrated at BP and the lack of a solution. But I'm also worried that we're not going to get to the birds, to the other wildlife, to the sea life and to human life. I'm worried about all of that. And, you know, I've been in constant communication with Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, because she was down there with Admiral Thad Allen.

BLITZER: She's from New Orleans, too.

BRAZILE: She's a proud LSU graduate, and I don't hold that against her, but she's making sure the water quality and sampling the air, and worried about human life as well as the wildlife.

BLITZER: What do you hear from your family?

BRAZILE: They're worried because it might come through the waterways during hurricane season. They're worried that the inlets are protected. They're worried about the hurricane season because it's predicted to be one of the worst ever. But, you know, down in Louisiana, we pray.

BLITZER: Yes. The president, by the way, in his interview with Larry King spoke about the impact that a hurricane could have. We're going to have that excerpt coming up. I think you'll want to hear it, because it will affect everyone in the Gulf Coast.

BRAZILE: I'm glad he's going back. And I know he'll go back over and over again.

BLITZER: Donna, good luck.

Jack Cafferty is asking what would you like to hear President Obama say about Arizona's immigration law? Jack will be back in a moment with your e-mail.

And we're monitoring BP's latest attempt to cap that massive oil leak. There's a real risk the gusher could actually get bigger.

And disturbing images once again of the oil-coated birds. Anderson Cooper is in the spill zone for all of us. He'll give us a snapshot on the toll the disaster is taking.


BLITZER: Check back with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: What would you like to hear President Obama say about Arizona's immigration law? The president met with Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer, today and they talked about that very subject.

Gary writes from Scottsdale, Arizona: "The focus of the discussion seems to be whether or not states can enforce federal laws, Obama doesn't seem to think so. But there are numerous instances of states doing exactly that with the blessing of the federal government. Take bank robbery, for example. It's a federal crime, yet the feds welcome local state and state police help when it comes to apprehending bank robbers. Since illegal immigration's a federal offense, what's the problem with states enforcing that, too? The fact is it's politics. And I'd love to hear Obama acknowledge that simple fact."

Gayle writes from Texas: "Funny, isn't it? Arizona didn't address the immigration matter when their party held the White House. Now they're playing tough. Why? Because they are racist. They dislike the president because of his race. And they despise the illegal immigrants who are Mexican."

Sandra writes: "First, I'd like him first to apologize to every police officer in Arizona for thinking they're not capable of doing their jobs without discriminating. And then I would love for him to tell Mexico to go to hell and take your people back."

T.J. writes: "It's about time. When are California, New Mexico, and Texas going to jump into the game?"

Kim in Texas: "I'm sorry that I haven't done enough, but I intend to change that. Then list the steps, secure the border, remove all those who are here illegally, and let them start fresh from their home country."

R. writes: "I'd like to hear the president say that the states have the right to enforce immigration laws already on the books. This will cost him the next election if he doesn't. Republicans are lining up to make immigration the top issue this time around. Someone needs to start listening to what the legal citizens of the U.S. want. If you are here illegally, you don't have a say."

And Don writes from Michigan: "He ought to say job well done."

If you want to read more on the subject, you'll find it on my blog at

BLITZER: I don't think he said that to her, Jack, I don't think he said job well done. All right. Jack, thanks very much.

BP said it's making progress in its latest bid to cap the worst oil spill in U.S. history. We're only minutes away on an update on where the operation stands right now. Stand by with us for that. And President Obama reveals a surprising fact -- he says it's a fact -- about the possible threat to the oil cleanup from a hurricane. What is he saying? More of his exclusive interview with CNN's Larry King. That's coming up here, in THE SITUATION ROOM.



Happening now, critical progress and spreading devastation. An important milestone in the efforts to stop the flow of oil