CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

JOHN KING, USA

Government Getting Tough with BP

Aired June 9, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening tonight from Montegut, Louisiana. We got an up close look today at the continuing oil spill that is devastating this community and others like it all across this Gulf Coast. To fly over ground zero, the sight of the Deepwater Horizon explosion is to see vivid proof that the oil keeps flowing and keeps flowing 51 days later.

And despite aggressive efforts to keep it from coming ashore, the Coast Guard officer in charge of the response here in Louisiana tells us tonight it is inevitable more will hit the Gulf beaches and marshes for weeks and possibly months to come. Montegut is devastated because this canal behind me is in a forced calm. The shrimp boats docked along it for miles and miles idle because the waters out there are closed to fishing. At places like Happy's Crab Shack (ph), the freezers are empty and the frustration is mounting with BP and with Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up send some money down here because we ain't going to (INAUDIBLE) eat for too much longer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And as we hear from the hard working people who live here, we also see a clear shift in the tone of the federal government as the Coast Guard at the prodding of the Obama White House takes a tougher line against BP. Here are today's most significant developments.

Incident Commander Thad Allen met with BP officials after sending this letter demanding that the company be more transparent in sharing information about how it is processing claims from individuals and businesses affected by the oil spill. Thad Allen is also pushing back at critics who say the government is somehow minimizing the impact of the spill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: Well, first of all, I think in this point I am the government and we are not low balling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And BP got this letter from another top Coast Guard officer demanding that it draft within 72 hours a better plan for containing the spill and collecting the oil and gas being pumped to the surface by the cap the company insists is significantly reducing the flow into the Gulf.

As if BP isn't have enough to worry about, today its stock closed at a 14 year low of $29.20 a share. That means the company has lost half of its market share, $95 billion since the oil rig explosion 51 days ago. There were several congressional hearings today about the BP disaster including one in which the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar defended the administration's moratorium on deep water oil explorations, but promised it would be temporary.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: The president's directive that we press the pause button, it's important for all of you on this committee to know that word. It's the pause button. It's not the stop button, but it's the pause button.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: By our conservative estimate, based on government and BP figures, 3.5 times more oil has now spilled into the Gulf than spilled from the "Exxon Valdez". Joining me now to discuss this catastrophe for his state -- he's in Washington tonight -- but Democratic Representative Charlie Melancon is the congressman for this part of Louisiana.

Congressman, let me start with what you just heard from there from the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. As you know, many in the community (INAUDIBLE) even as they fight the devastating impact of the spill want that moratorium on deep water exploration and drilling lifted. They believe it is critical to their jobs, critical to the economy, the way of life here. Should the administration move more quickly or is the pause button the right approach?

REP. CHARLIE MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: Well I think that any stop could cause a problem because the restart time is unknown. Right now with an economy that we're trying to revitalize and particularly one that was a bright spot in this country, the last thing we need is for a collapse of our economy. So having a moratorium and as I expressed to the president last Friday in new Orleans, I suggested that we can ask this commission to look at those items that they can go through very quickly that will get us expedited to keep the rigs active and keep them working so that we don't collapse the oil economy, oil and gas economy, fabrication, offshore service industry that we have in south Louisiana. It's very important to us down there. So I would rather not see any pause or interruption, but we can go about policing this thing, gear up minerals management or whatever agency it is, and get out there and do the job quickly. If you need, put people that will --

KING: Obviously the White House -- I hate to interrupt, sir -- I hate to interrupt, sir, but obviously the White House is not listening to you. MELANCON: I haven't -- I was supposed to be going to the White House tomorrow. I understand that I've been bumped and I understand why I've been bumped for the families of the victims. So I'm not arguing that. But I'm hoping that before Friday, I'll have an opportunity to sit down with the White House, sit down with Rahm Emanuel. When people that -- that Secretary Salazar had a discussion with said that they didn't suggest or agree with the moratorium, I think that gives -- should give the secretary and the president an opportunity to review the moratorium because I think part of the decision was based upon these six people suggesting that it was the thing to do and in fact they didn't.

KING: Sir, I went out today with the Coast Guard, looked at this site where this happened, flew over ground zero to see that they're saying still flaring (ph) so much natural gas and more importantly to see that so much fresh oil keeps coming to the surface. There are dozens of skimmer boats out there they are trying to scoop up what they can. As you fly back into shore you see some of it in small patches. Then you see the brown patches that have been obviously hit by the dispersants. But they're still floating toward shore. Are there enough resources on the water right now, does the Coast Guard have enough out there or does it need more vessels whether it can find them here in the United States or anywhere around the world?

MELANCON: Part of the frustration I have not only with our government, but with the oil industry is we -- they are drilling with 21st century technology and we're trying to clean up with 20th century technology. That dog doesn't hunt. We should have the best -- our government probably should have had a commission after "Valdez" about having new technology developed and in place, sort of like a fire extinguisher in your kitchen if it's possible to do those kinds of things.

That's not been done. Is there enough? No, there's not enough. And obviously with the amount of volume that's coming out of that hole, I doubt we'll ever see enough of it. I don't know the answer. The frustration keeps building in the people. I just hope that we'll start allowing in some of these vessels that can come and help whether they're foreign flagged or not, at least on an emergency situation. I will work with the White House, with the unions, with whomever it is to get whatever equipment we need in here to help us keep this Gulf cleaned up as best we can until we shut it down.

KING: Sir, I'm holding up a map. I believe one of your constituents, the man who runs the levees here in Montegut brought me today. And he was making the point that five years ago after Katrina everybody promised they would fill this in. They would help restore the wetlands that were destroyed. He was pointing to, he was shrugging, talking about the devastation again in this community saying that five years ago, the government did not learn its lessons.

And his worry was that the government this time will not learn the right lessons as well. As you watch this go forward, first the short term, Thad Allen met with BP today trying to say look a lot of people down here are wondering what's happening with the claims process. Is that -- is Thad Allen's action necessary? Some say that's political show to go into a meeting, but others say that he needs to go in there and shake BP into being more transparent and more quickly. What's your take?

MELANCON: Two weeks ago when Thad Allen showed up, I started seeing a change in the attitudes. I think BP was believing that they were controlling things and the local Coast Guard people were more permissive trying to work things out. Thad Allen, I worked with him after Katrina, I can say some great things about him. He's a standup guy, matter of fact, no bull.

This isn't for show for Thad Allen. He didn't have to stay here to do this job. He's doing it because we know he can get it done. He knows he can get it done and I think we've seen a turning point. It isn't where we want to get. It may never get to where we want to get, but at least I've got somebody that I think is going to take the bull by the horns and go out there and force BP to do what the law says we have the ability to do.

KING: Congressman Melancon, we appreciate your time tonight. Please keep us posted when you do get that meeting with the president. And sir, we wish you and all your communities the best of luck.

And anyone who has been with us all week knows we started in Florida, we've been making our way up the Gulf Coast. We came through Alabama and Mississippi, made our way here to Louisiana, not only to see the devastation in this community, but because we saw the impact in those other states and the source of the oil is right here, so today with the help of the Coast Guard we wanted to take a look at ground zero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) day 51. You (INAUDIBLE) the very different levels of your challenge closer to shore, when you come out right after ground zero. Describe (INAUDIBLE) today as opposed to (INAUDIBLE) two or three weeks ago.

CAPT. ROGER LAFERRIERE, U.S. COAST GUARD: We have the same challenge that we had a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately we have a new oil spill occurring every day. So again what we have to do, we were hoping (INAUDIBLE) success with the top cap (ph) and top kill. We haven't seen that. So now we're under the assumption that we have the same oil spill every day (INAUDIBLE).

So we have got to throw more resources on it. We have to get more skimmers involved (INAUDIBLE). With the oil coming ashore, now we have the battle of the shore lines and that's what we're doing now, setting up in each of the branches here in Louisiana a sizable force that can respond to any oil reports and take care of the oil on the beaches as quickly as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just to the south of the source (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to continue to fight it as much as we can. That's why we've gone now to look externally at more resources overseas, places like Norway, France, Spain, and the UK. Admiral Allen is actually looking at where we can might free more resources from the west coast, for example. He brought in (INAUDIBLE) from the west coast, but now we're going to look at some private resources. We've got to continue to fight on the water because everything we take off the water is less oil that hits the shore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's been a huge debate, question, sometimes conflicting signals about who's calling the shots out here. Louisiana is your baby, you're responsible for it now (INAUDIBLE) chain in command the Coast Guard, how does the chain in command work when it comes to dealing with BP?

LAFERRIERE: When I assumed command a couple of weekends ago on Friday, I made it clear to BP that the Coast Guard was going to direct this response and I had 51 percent of the vote on the line (ph) and that we would make sure that they were doing everything possible to take care of the cleanup.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just saw significant resources out there right at the source. What does the long range forecast tell you about weather issues? Sometimes it's just thunderstorms and winds never get you out of there but also with hurricane season how confident are you that you could be out there as long as it takes?

LAFERRIERE: We're pretty confident that we're going to be out there as long as it takes. Of course hurricanes are going to make a difference and we're working with the locals and the county sheriffs that level on hurricane planning to make sure that we can evacuate quickly and get people off, people out in the water, people out in the land. But we're also building a resurgent plan to come back in the theater. So it important not only just to evacuate but resurge back into the theater if you need to leave, we're in for a long fight. Until this oil can be stopped, we've got to assume that we're going to be in it for the long haul.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: An interesting take from Captain Laferriere, he says this scorching heat is so hot down here on the ground, he says that is the Coast Guard's best ally out there on the waters. They're hoping the sun can evaporate much of the oil before it heads toward the coastline. The weather has also cooperated in recent days, although you heard his fears there about the oncoming hurricane season and thunderstorms. Next we head up the coast to New Orleans, CNN's Ed Lavandera shows us the desperate fight, desperate fight to keep the oil from doing more damage to the pristine Louisiana shore line.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As we flew over the Gulf of Mexico today you could see the oil in many forms. Giant slicks right out at the source where the Deepwater Horizon sunk, smaller slicks, dozens of them in different sizes floating around back and forth slowly toward the shore line and close to the shore. Big or browner clumps, that oil had been treated by dispersants and that is the big fear, keeping that oil from hitting the marshes and the shore line. Ed Lavandera joins us now. He is in New Orleans and he has been reaching out to people trying to see Ed, what can they find at their disposal booms or otherwise to protect the shore line from more damage?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this is such a hand's on effort that thousands of people are involved in along the Louisiana coast in particular. Basically what you're hearing along the Gulf Coast is that in areas like Mississippi, Alabama and Florida where there's traditional beach, sandy beach like we're use to seeing, it almost sounds like government officials are OK with oil making it up there.

They say that that is actually easier to clean. The real fear is in the marshlands of southern Louisiana where in some places at this point the oil that has gone beyond the booms are actually going in hand by hand and cleaning blade by blade of marsh grass, so very tedious, very tiresome, very difficult work to do right now, John.

KING: Ed, do they have the resources they need both in manpower to go ahead and do the cleanup, but also have enough feet of boom? When we were flying over today, you would see in those sensitive, but smaller barrier islands and the little passage ways, the canals into the marshes, some booms struck out -- strung out, but in some periods -- some places some pretty open patches.

LAVANDERA: Well right now they've deployed almost five million miles of doom -- of boom, different types of boom, if you will. There is more that is still needed. Mostly because as this catastrophe has gone on so long, a lot of the boom that was put in place weeks ago has already been saturated with oil, needs to be cleaned, needs to be replaced.

So they need to keep pumping this stuff out and making it quicker. That's why you saw a shipment coming in from Canada into the Alabama area to help them out. So depending on where you are along the coast, some places say they have enough and you hear officials in Alabama saying they need a lot more.

KING: And Ed, as they continue that effort, some of the people applying for those jobs and other people complaining are the fishermen, are the oil workers, are the people who keep the inns and drive the ferries because they say BP has been slow to pay their claims. I want you to listen to the governor, Jindal today making clear once again his frustration with a company he says is not moving quickly enough to help his communities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: You know every day they announce how much oil they burned and skimmed. Every day they announce how much money they've spent on claims. And that's great, but you really can't get a complete picture unless you know how much oil is still out there in the water and how much oil is being leaked out. You really can't get a complete picture on claims unless you know how many claims have actually been filed and still haven't been paid. So, yes, there's real frustration. Let me say this every still Louisianan I've talked to, they don't want a check from BP. They want to go back to work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ed, when you talk to people here, I assume you're hearing just what I'm hearing. Their anger has turned from bubbling to boiling.

LAVANDERA: Oh absolutely. And now John what you're starting to see, the difficult part about when you're talking about claims is that a lot of these people started the claims process two, three, four weeks ago and they still haven't seen a substantial amount of money. A lot of people have received a $5,000 check, but wherever you go, you're talking to business owners who -- talking to one guy from Grand Isle just a little while ago who has a ton of bills that come due tomorrow.

He doesn't have the money to pay for that. So they say the process is extremely tedious and just to give you some numbers about what we're dealing with here, BP is saying that they've opened up almost 39,000 claims of which about 18,000 of those people have received some money at this point. But they've only brought in about 531 claims adjusters -- so far the last count that we had, you do the math on that and for every claims adjuster they're having to deal with 75 cases, so clearly the manpower just isn't there yet.

KING: Ed Lavandera helping us tonight from New Orleans, Ed, thanks and he's right on point. Every time there's a town hall in any of these communities the number one complaint is usually the slow, what the residents believe is the slow claims process.

Still ahead tonight, we go "One-on-One" with the wildlife expert, Jack Hanna. You know him from his TV show. He'll show us what's being done to save the Gulf's wildlife from oil.

And on my "Radar" today why is the White House complaining about $10 million getting flushed down the toilet? And buy it now. Meg Whitman explains the upside of spending $71 million of her own money to win her primary.

And in "Play-by-Play" brand new Senate nominee Carly Fiorina learns the dangers of an open microphone. And kicking "A" becomes the hottest catch word phrase in politics.

And Pete on the street tonight, our off beat reporter Pete Dominick goes looking for the worst jobs in New Orleans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight a closer look at why people are so worried about the potential impact of this giant spill on a remarkable area that sustains so many species of vulnerable wildlife. Let's take a look at the "Magic Wall" -- we show you a map showing the scope of the spill and the threat it poses to some many species. There are tuna -- large -- those blue dots -- all those blue dots, that is the tuna population, especially at risk right now because Blue fin tuna are now in their spawning season.

It is a critical area of concern right down there. Brown pelicans and other sea birds often dive into the oil because the slick can make the water look calmer. If they are coated in oil of course often hard to breathe, also raises their temperature leading to hyperthermia. All four species of sea turtles in the Gulf are already threatened or endangered, you see the dots there along the shoreline representing their habitat. Some have already washed up ashore and with their numbers already low, it would be so hard to rebuild that population.

Red snapper population, herring, egret (ph), so many species at risk in that map you see right there. Now let's head across the room to take a look at the toll we know so far and especially at what the government is trying to do about it. We know the response so far on the water is thousands of boats, but there are 35 national wildlife refuges at risk in the Gulf area. Three hundred and sixty-one U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees involved so far and survey teams are all across the Gulf. What do we know so far about the toll -- 442 birds have been collected alive and they are attempting to rescue and clean them, 633 dead.

Sea turtles collected, the number now 50 alive, 272 dead, mammals, two alive, 36 dead. We need to be clear the government says it can't certify all those deaths are directly attributed to the oil spill until the tests are back, but most in the environmental community believe there is no doubt.

When we come back from a break the spill's impact on the diverse wildlife of the Gulf region -- animal expert extraordinaire Jack Hanna joins us to help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) a prettier animal right there the manatee, now let's just hope and pray that they don't start making their way into the Gulf. Let's just pray that the winds shift or the current shift or something because we just can't have anything more happen to the manatee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

KING: We're back in Montegut, Louisiana. I want to show you the canal behind me. It is the Bayou Terrebonne Canal. It is critical to the shrimp boats that head out into the Gulf of Mexico. In that Gulf, as we just showed you, so many species that are at risk because of this massive and continuing oil spill. To get a better sense of what is the scope of this threat, earlier this afternoon I went "One-on- One" with Jack Hanna.

He's the Columbus Zoo's Director Emeritus and the host of "Jack Hanna's Into The Wild". When we spoke he was at the zoo's aquarium and its manatee coast (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Jack, people say this is the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history from an animal protection, an animal rescue, a survival standpoint. What do you see as the big challenges? Obviously I'm in Louisiana and you have some species off the coast here, you have fish, you have the birds on the shore. And then you stretch all the way Alabama, Mississippi, Florida. What is the scope of the challenge here?

JACK HANNA, DIRECTOR EMERITUS, COLUMBUS ZOO: Well the challenge obviously John is tremendous right now. If this had happened, as I've said I think once before, December, January, February or March, we wouldn't probably have a third of the problem because as you just said, that happens to be a migratory pattern for birds up through there. Turtles nest there, pelicans have their eggs there. And by the way, pelican is the state bird of Louisiana is not going go anywhere with eggs.

It is like a human being with a baby-sitting there. They're not going to leave that baby if somebody tells them to get out. They're going try and take the babies with them. Obviously they can't pick up an egg and go anywhere with it. Fish are spawning. The plankton obviously is affected for not just now, but for who knows how long.

The manatee have been in the worst situation. I'm not quite sure -- I look behind me here, but we have manatee, six or seven manatee in this tank here, Columbus Zoo is one of seven places in the world where we rehabilitate manatee. And right now the manatee had the worst winter in history losing over probably around 600 manatee right now in Florida. Now they're going to come up the coast into the panhandle there and of course that could be a big disaster, so with all this put together, it's just timing couldn't have been worse.

KING: And let's talk about the immediate challenges, those animals, the species that come in contact with the oil. There are some scientists who say the survival rate among the birds who get treated heavily with oil is so low that it's not even worth cleaning them up. Jump in and address that, but also just to talk about if an animal comes in direct contact, what is that challenge?

HANNA: Well you're right, birds are difficult. Birds prune and preen themselves. You're down there right now -- I'm not there -- so you're seeing this how the birds are preening themselves, digesting the oil, affects their liver, affects their lungs, affects the kidneys. What about the dolphins? People often ask me don't -- aren't dolphins smart? Do they know what to do? The dolphins are smart, but what about the fish that eat -- the other fish that go out there that ingest the oil -- the fish do -- and then the dolphin eats the fish.

And so it's this vicious, vicious cycle is what I think, to answer your question. It's a vicious cycle over a period of time that's going to cost a lot of animals probably their lives.

To some animals, this looks like food. These little bubbles of oil looks like food. If you know anything about sea turtles they go after plastic bags, looking like a jellyfish. So these animals might think -- a lot of them, even some fishes, might think this is some sort of food and just be ingesting it.

Before you know it, the kidneys go. Sometimes it's a quick death, sometimes it's not that way whatsoever. Especially when it comes to a certain type of ingestion by birds and that type of thing. Especially birds that can't get away because the oil weighs them down. They can't get away from predators. And that can apply to many different types of animals as far as predator-prey relationship especially in the ocean.

KING: And how is the challenge different if you're trying to figure out how to deal with it, how to help, say, the offshore population, the red snapper, the tuna, the significant fish populations? How is that challenge different from on shore where you see the pelicans here in Louisiana or as you move east toward Florida, maybe it's the flamingos on shore? How is the challenge different on shore to off shore?

HANNA: Well, the challenge is different. Obviously with the pelicans, we almost, you know, lost them to DDT years ago. Then we got them back. We almost lost all the pelican. Now they're back and now of course now we're faced with this challenge of the oil spill.

As far as the challenge out in the oceans, I do a lot of diving around the world, all over the world. And, you know, as I go down there to -- you know, I don't usually go over 100 feet down, but if you can go down there you see the different creatures of the world which are phenomenal.

And I -- I couldn't begin to tell you, John, what -- how this could affect them. I mean I wish I could but I don't think anyone can other than, you know, people who really get -- dedicate their lives to the underwater world.

At least on land we can, you know, stop it maybe with some of these booms. We can stop it by way putting straw down. We can wash the birds. But you just can't go out in the ocean to wash the dolphin or a sea turtle swimming around out there.

The stress on the animal, by the way, can be just as deadly as the oil. And so that's a big difference in the open sea. Even on land, you know, people keep calling me, wanting to know how they can help.

Right now they've got -- you know, what is it? 22,000 people helping on one end of it, another 2,000, 3,000 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Refuge System. The -- Audubon Aquarium down there.

So people need to understand something. I have two people leaving here Ohio right now going down there. They don't know what they're going to do. But they want to help. But that's a great to say that, but they could do more serious injury than helping.

So you need to have an organization that knows you're coming to teach you how to save these animals.

KING: Is there a problem on that end, the organization, the infrastructure? We've watched the government try to respond just to the spill and there have been some fits and starts and frustrations and set backs in that regard.

What about in saving this precious sensitive wildlife at risk? Is there -- is it the government's role and is the government doing its job or is it the volunteer community's role? And can you build an infrastructure, I guess a first responder group that can get in quick enough and do the job right and do good, not harm as you're worried about?

HANNA: BP made a mistake. We all know that. And thanks to the way you present the news -- you all do -- as well as some other stations, at least you're trying to help. We all know what the problem is. We can start pointing the finger, John, with BP or the federal government after this whole thing is over with.

Right now let's all get our energies going to help the wildlife and the people there. Now as far as somebody organizing all this, the Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Institute, and the Audubon Aquarium. This -- and the federal government with the Department of Interior and National Wildlife Refuge Service. These guys are all getting together and putting together the plan right now.

You know I'm just asking people to quit throwing the blame around. I'm tired of hearing about it. And let's all work together to take care of the animals and the people's lives and then you all can do what you want to with whoever is responsible.

KING: Our thanks to Jack Hanna. And this footnote, the Coast Guard officer I was with today said helicopters go out over the Gulf and they will not spray those chemical dispersants. They will not spray them, he says, if there are any sightings of dolphins or whales in the vicinity.

Still much more to come tonight. As we go to break, our CNN cameras have captured some powerful images of the devastation the oil spill is having on the wildlife right here on the Gulf region. Take a look.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You know the old saying, success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan? Today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know" is the most important father of California's Proposition 14.

Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado. He's the son of immigrant field workers and a Republican. When he was a state senator last year, Maldonado promised to vote for the budget if officials put Proposition 14 on the primary ballot. They did, he did, and yesterday it passed resoundingly. Proposition 14 replaces traditional Republican and Democratic primaries with one big primary. All the candidates for an office go on one ballot, everyone gets to vote, and the top two finishers, regardless of their party affiliation, go on to the general election.

It's supposed to end old-style partisan politics even though it's the result of some old-fashioned political deal-making.

So will it change things as the author believes? Let's bring in Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, Republican strategist Rich Galen into the conversation.

Gentlemen -- Cornell, to you first -- is this a good thing? You take away Democratic and Republican alliance, essentially put everybody in the same pot so the best two goes November?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I can't lie, John. Truthfully, I have no idea. I mean it's like it's going to be a complete free-for-all, but it should be fun politics. I don't know if it's going to end partisanship or party -- or sort of party affiliation like some it does. But I got to tell you, it should be -- it should be an awful lot of fun. I don't think anyone really knows what -- what's going to be the outcome of this new system.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, you know, in Louisiana, that's the way -- that's the way primaries are right now. There's a big primary for lieutenant government but it's a wide open -- whoever the top two are if nobody gets 51 percent, they runoff.

You know, I'm a libertarian on this thing, John and Cornell. I don't think that the taxpayer should pay for partisan primaries anyway. I mean, if -- Cornell, if you and I had the Rich and Cornell Party and we went to the state of Virginia, and said we want you to pay our party, get out of here. But why should we pay for the Republicans or dm. Let them pay for their own.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: I agree.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: Thank you and good night.

KING: All right. Agreement in the -- agreement in the room. It's my job here to try to get a little disagreement.

Let's take a look at some stories "On My Radar" tonight.

Lots much fascinating results from the latest round of primaries. In California, the former eBay CEO Meg Whitman won the Republican nomination for governor. During her acceptance speech, she explained the upside of spending $71 million of her own money on the primary campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEG WHITMAN (R), CALIFORNIA GOV. CANDIDATE: Here's the really good news. I don't owe anyone anything.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So Cornell, she doesn't anybody anything.

BELCHER: Do you know who wins when you spend $71 million in a primary?

GALEN: Us.

BELCHER: The political consultants.

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: We win. We spend $71 million in a primary. I mean the spending is sort of so obscene that I don't even want to be partisan about it because I mean $71 million to -- you know, secure a nomination? That's crazy. Like regular people have no chance of - when there's that kind of money in our system.

GALEN: Well, in that particular case, California has a long history of sole funding their campaigns and by the way funding everybody else's campaigns. That's where people go when they need money.

I don't know that this is going to hurt her. I think that she has a -- she has an identity outside of just being a big spender. She didn't inherit it. She didn't, you know, kill off her husband. I mean she got the money honestly. And --

BELCHER: She didn't coffer out of him.

GALEN: Yes. Well, it's important in this type of thing.

BELCHER: I think --

GALEN: So I don't think it's going to hurt her. I think -- frankly, I think she's going to win that. But we'll see what happens.

BELCHER: Well, I don't think she's going to win. I think it becomes awfully tough because if you can drop $71 million in a primary, it becomes awfully tough to sort of say I can feel your pain, regular working families in California. I think she has a hurdle.

GALEN: Well, let me just --

KING: If you hadn't bought so much on eBay, Cornell, she wouldn't have all that money.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: All right, let's move on. Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln, she won her runoff against Bill Halter down in Arkansas. The White House is not amused the big labor lined up behind Halter. Politico quotes a senior White House official who says, quote, "Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise."

Cornell, this is your party. Is this feuding within the Democratic Party? We've seen this in a number of primaries. Labor going against the incumbent saying they haven't been good enough on the agenda. Is it harmful in the long run?

BELCHER: Well, I don't think it's harmful in the long run if this happens. And the White House and the folks over there have a right to be a little bit upset about this because, you know what? I used to work at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and we could use $10 million in a lot sort of target House races.

So at the time when races that we really need to win against Republicans come up, if we're short on money that becomes a real problem and it's sort of -- if we're spending $10 million to take out our own that's not the sort of thing what we want to see.

We haven't seen a civil war inside of our party that we've seen inside the Republican Party, however, spending $10 million to take out a Democratic incumbent when we're fighting to hold on to the House and Senate is problematic.

GALEN: And let me tell you something else. If I were a union employee and I found out that my union spent $10 million against the Democratic incumbent that would bug me a lot more that my money went to that than worrying about whether some candidate in California used her own money to fund her own campaign.

BELCHER: There's some soul searching in the union today.

KING: Out in Nevada, gentlemen, here's another one for you. You talk about unorthodox candidates. Shannon Angle won the Republican primary, will take on the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Angle is backed by the Tea Party Express, but a new ABC News/"Washington Post" poll shows Americans might be cooling on the Tea Party Movement. Its approval rating is 36 percent now down from 41 percent back in March. And the Tea Party's disapproval rating has gone up from 36 percent to 50 percent.

Rich Galen, she's a long shot candidate. Harry Reid is viewed as very vulnerable. Does the Tea Party label help or hurt?

GALEN: Well, Cornell is one of the best survey research analysts on the planet so he's going to beat me on this one. But here's the good news for the Republican candidate in Nevada. She ain't running across the country. She's running in Nevada. And I don't think it hurts her at all.

BELCHER: Well, of course I'm going to disagree a little bit here. Here's the problem. And I think we sort of see the civil war taking place in the Republican Party. And clearly she was not the candidate that Mitch McConnell and the folks at RNCC wanted and for good reason.

If you look at sort of how -- some of her views on abolishing Social Security, abolishing Medicare, it's easy to argue that these sort of candidates are outside the mainstream. And you know the seniors in Nevada aren't going to love a candidate who wants to get rid of Social Security.

There's a reason why the party establishment didn't want her to be -- to be at the top of their ticket right there because she is outside the mainstream Nevada.

GALEN: Here's what I would bet. I bet if you ask the same question, instead of labeling the Tea Party. If you said to those same respondents this is what some Americans, some people think are the right -- is the right path to take and you just listed some of the Tea Party attributes, I bet that they would win overwhelming.

BELCHER: I bet you they would not win overwhelmingly when you've got Rand Paul saying I want to get rid of Civil Rights legislation and I want abolish Social Security and the Department of --

GALEN: He didn't say he wanted to get rid --

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: Rachel Maddox said that.

KING: Time out -- time out in the room. It's harder to -- harder to referee from the road. Time out in the room, guys. But Cornell and Rich are standing by. They'll be with us in just a minute.

And coming up tomorrow, we'll be in the New Orleans area for the fourth day of our tour of the Gulf of Mexico area. But still to come tonight we'll talk to folks in the Big Easy about who's got the tougher job, those cleaning up or those trying to get that effort organized?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: For those of you just joining us, we're live tonight in Montague, Louisiana. For just a moment I've stepped inside the CNN Express. Here's some stories you need to know right now.

BP plans to bring in an oil-burning device at a tanker from the North Sea to help it deal with what we're told are 630,000 gallons a day it's capturing from the leaking well. By our conservative estimates, that spill is now 3 1/2 times the size of the Exxon Valdez.

The Coast Guard today gave BP 72 hours to draft a better plan for containing the spill and collecting the captured oil and gas.

BP stock has lost half its market value since the spill started. Today it closed at a 14-year low.

ANNOUNCER: Here's come the "Play-by-Play". KING: Back now for the "Play-by-Play" and still with us in Washington, Republican Rich Galen and Democrat Cornell Belcher.

Guys, a lot of talk about the president's interview with Matt Lauer on the NBC "Today" show the other day where he said, you know, he's not just in these meetings for a college seminar. He's in there getting a list of names so he knows whose A-S-S to kick about the BP oil spill.

Well, it's -- not only coming out in now spill conversations, it's coming up across the political lexicon. Listen to some of this reaction from some people here.

Here's Representative John Boehner. He's the House Republican leader. "Well, I think it's time for Democrats here on Capitol Hill to start listening to the American people. They want spending cuts and they want it now. And I'm wondering why isn't the president looking for someone's ass to kick on this subject."

Then there's our own contributor Erick Erickson, the conservative writing on his RedState.com this morning. "He's talking on experts not to find out how to solve the problem but to find out whose ass to kick? Seriously?"

One more from the Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele who says, "I don't get it. You tell the American people you want to sit down and talk face to face with Ahmadinejad but you don't want to talk face to face with the guy that has a hand in creating a mess in the Gulf right now and to try to figure out from him what needs to get done."

Michael Steele referring, of course, to the president's comment in that same interview that he had no plans to talk with the BP CEO Tony Hayward.

Cornell, just an interesting use of political rhetoric or did the president's potty mouth perhaps create an issue here?

BELCHER: Well, I don't think he created an issue here. And by the way, I find it amusing that Republicans are talking about sort of kicking butt on -- on cutting spending. These are the same group who gave us -- took us from a surplus to a deficit, so I mean, jog my memory a little bit here.

The president, you know, he did use tough language. Guess what? He is in fact a tough guy and their butts do need kicking. So I've got no problem with what the president said.

GALEN: OK. Inasmuch as you invited me to remember things, I will remind you that we went from a surplus to deficit when Democrats took over the House and Senate, but that's a different issue.

BELCHER: I --

GALEN: But here's --

BELCHER: I must have missed that.

GALEN: Yes, you did. You probably -- you were probably in Louisiana. The -- but here's the thing. I mean, of course I'm not a big fan of the president's, so I am perfectly happy to take the worst possible attributes of it.

And it sounded too -- when I heard it, it sounded forced, it sounded rehearsed, it sounded silly, it sounded like he wants to go back to being good old Barry. And I don't think it fits his image. I think it was jarring and I don't think it was necessary.

KING: Well, there is a question about presidential leadership and there is without a doubt, Cornell, an evolution, a tougher rhetorical stance from the administration. Whether you agree or disagree with the president's particular term about getting names so he can kick some you-know-what.

We see Thad Allen today saying I'm the government and we're not low-balling things. Insisting on a meeting with BP to talk about claims. And there seems to be an effort to essentially push BP aside, saying they're an adversary, they're not our partner.

BELCHER: Well, here's the problem with the -- and the president got pretty tough when he sent his lawyers down there to talk to BP because, guess what, there could be criminal charges here and Americans in the new polling sort of show they want some criminal charges pressed here.

I mean the president showed -- has to show toughness on that. And you know what, you know, partisanship aside, when the admiral went down there and said, you know what, I'm in charge, I actually felt better as an American, not just as a partisan hat.

GALEN: I agree with you there. I was in -- after Katrina the only heroes were the Coast Guard and they were brilliant and they are great. But here's my question. The admiral said they've got 72 hours to come up with a new plan. Or what? What's he going to do?

Here's what's going to happen. I think sooner or later BP is going to say, you know what, we don't have anything else to say, we we're out of money, we don't have anything else to do. That's yours, all those gas stations are yours. If you want us, we'll be -- we're having tea in Britain. See you.

BELCHER: And that will be the end of BP.

GALEN: Yes. That's right. Exactly.

BELCHER: It will be the end of BP.

GALEN: And we still have to clean it up.

KING: All right, let's move on. You guys do a lot of television. And when I switch from print to television about 13 years ago, they warned you right away. When you have one of these things, assume it's always on. Yet politicians forget that from time to time, all of them forget that from time to time, and they sit down, they put their microphone on, they're having a little small talk and then they step in it.

Well, Carly Fiorina, who's the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, she was close to John McCain during his campaign. She won a big primary last night to oppose Barbara Boxer in the Senate race out in California.

She sat down this morning and forgot the mike was open.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIFORNIA SENATE CANDIDATE: But on the first day of the general, Meg Whitman is going on "Sean Hannity." Did you hear that? I think it's bizarre. I mean she's never been on "Sean Hannity."

I think it's a very bad choice, actually. You know how he is. Louder (ph) saw Barbara Boxer briefly on television this morning and said what everyone says, god, what is that hair?

(LAUGHTER)

FIORINA: So yesterday.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: That's what I was going to say. They say that about both of us. What's with that hair?

KING: There, there. The tell-tale look. The tell-take look. Oh, somebody is rolling on this.

BELCHER: You know, no matter how many times you do it and let --

KING: Well --

GALEN: You know the truth is that is the -- that is the body -- every candidate at that level has got a body person. That's the person that has responsibility to make sure that that sort of thing doesn't happen.

My guess is that that person was sent out to get water or coffee or something else and she just forgot that she was wired and makes for amusing television. I don't think it changes any votes. But it is something we can all laugh at.

BELCHER: It does make for amusing television. And I actually like -- I like the senator's hair. I love it. But I can't really criticize hair.

(LAUGHTER) KING: All right, gentlemen, well, thanks for your time tonight. Rich Galen and Cornell Belcher, thanks for helping us out with "Radar" and "Play-by-Play."

Remember your microphone is still open, gentlemen, as we walk out until you're out of that studio, don't trust anybody. We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, "Pete on the Street" is out asking a very tough question in New Orleans. Who, when it comes to dealing with all this oil spill mess, has the tougher job?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Still a bit more to come from us here in Montague, Louisiana but Don Lemon is filling in for Campbell Brown tonight. He'll be taking over at the top of the hour. Let's get a preview.

Hi, Don.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John. You know we're going to talk about a growing debate over the president's new tough talk on the oil spill.

Did his threat to, quote, "kick some ass" go too far? It is burning up the Internet and the blogs. Why some say he can't afford to be seen as an angry black man.

Also tonight, new disturbing twists in the Joran Van Der Sloot investigation. How an FBI sting bankrolled his trip to Peru where he met and allegedly killed 21-year-old Stephany Flores. We've got all the latest details for you including today's reaction from the FBI -- John.

KING: Don, we'll see you in just a minute.

You think your job is hard? Well, our offbeat reporter and intrepid guy, Pete Dominick, is asking folks around New Orleans what they prefer. Cleaning oil in the baking sun or their day job?

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey, John King, what do you think the hardest job in the world is? Well, I'll go find out right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: The worst job in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Washing dishes, man.

DOMINICK: Washing dishes? What if those dishes have oil on them? Worst job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably doing this.

DOMINICK: Jogging? You're getting paid for this? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been wearing this shirt six weeks. The toughest job in the world is (INAUDIBLE) your laundry.

DOMINICK: And here's what I'm thinking. Cleaning up oil. That's probably --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know what, that is an awful job.

DOMINICK: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a hard job, no doubt, but it's so worthwhile.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I lived here, I'd probably do it for free.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would not want to be cleaning the oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's such a brutal job right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a noble cause and that is work worth doing.

DOMINICK: We're doing that right now. What about you? Have you found your job worth doing yet?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm a lady of leisure right now so.

DOMINICK: I'm sorry, a what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm retired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm retired.

DOMINICK: You're retired. That's a good job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best job in the world is raising kids.

DOMINICK: Toughest job in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keeping these girls in line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being a dad.

DOMINICK: But there's no manual labor involved, right? I mean, unless, of course, you beat the children, which you don't do, sir. Uh-oh!

How about you, young lady, what do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED KID: Well, I have to clean my dog's poop.

DOMINICK: You've got to clean your dog's poop. That's tough.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: You've got a lot of good answers there, John King. And I think you have a pretty hard job. What do you think?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Our thanks to Pete Dominick for helping us out tonight. James Carville and Mary Matalin join us tomorrow as we continue our tour of the Gulf. For now, though, Don Lemon is standing by in New York to take it away.