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Oil Disaster's Growing Cost; The New Year of the Woman?

Aired June 9, 2010 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thank you.

Happening now, oil frustration spilling over in the halls of Congress and in the heart of the disaster zone.

Can Americans really believe new reports of progress in the scramble to protect the Gulf Coast?

Also, President Obama promises to work with Israel to loosen its grip on Gaza. This hour, his talks with the Palestinian president over at the White House after Israel's deadly raid on those aid ships.

How much pressure is he willing to put on America's closest ally in the Middle East?

And it could be the new year of the woman. Female candidates make big gains in the latest round of primary season contests. We're taking a much closer look at what they bring to the table when so many voters are so angry.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

New word that more of the oil gushing from the leaking well in the Gulf is being captured right now. The president's point man in this disaster, Admiral Thad Allen, says a little more than 15,000 barrels were recovered in the 24-hour period ending last night. But that report of progress is raising more doubts about how much crude is actually spewing in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

A dramatic image today that's capturing America's frustration with this disaster. A protester disrupted a Senate hearing on the spill by pouring what looked like oil all over herself. It actually was syrup. She shouted, "We are tired of being dumped on in the Gulf." She was arrested, but many members of Congress share her anger. And they vented it today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: BP will is going to be known in the future as biggest polluter. And they certainly shouldn't be paying dividends to their investors or advertising, because no amount of advertising can cover up the stink and the smell that BP has caused in the Gulf, to this country and to their name.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, let's get an update on the flow of oil into the Gulf and the demand for more accurate estimates.

Our Brian Todd is covering the spill.

He's in Mississippi today -- Brian, what are we learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I've got a quick update for you on where the oil is supposed to hit next. We got an update just a few moments ago that oil is expected to hit the -- the actual shoreline of Mississippi, where we are, for the first time either tomorrow afternoon or possibly Friday morning. It's going to affect places like this area -- this is Pass Christian Harbor here in Mississippi -- before the -- the oil hits some of the barrier islands off of Mississippi. But we're now told that the first sheens are expected to hit the shoreline of Mississippi in the next 24 to about 36 hours.

Now, you talked about the flow rate, what's being captured. There is news on that today. Admiral Thad Allen, the incident commander, addressed some of that. He's saying now that they are able to capture, through that containment cap, about 15,000 barrels of oil a day, taking it up to that vessel on the surface and then processing it out. But what -- one of the problems that they're running into right now is that that vessel is about at capacity. That ship can only handle about 15,000 barrels a day. So they're bringing in other vessel to get some additional capacity to be able to handle more of that oil coming up.

Now, as far as the projections of what's coming out, that's a big issue, as well. Admiral Allen is sticking to his -- his estimate now of about 12,000 to 24,000 or so barrels a day. That's a big range. But he is now saying that they're examining these high res video images to try to more scientifically examine that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. THAD ALLEN, NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER: In this point, I am the government and we are not low balling. We have a bunch of technical experts that got together and they came up with two ranges -- 12,000 to 19,000 and 12,000 to 25,000. Until we get better data, that becomes rebuttable assumptions we're making on flow and everything else. And we're redoubling our efforts to continually question those assumptions and get more accuracy, especially since we know the flow rate and we're able to -- to assess production.

But I can -- I can guarantee you unequivocally, nobody is low balling anything that works for me. And I will never lowball anything. We will give you the honest data that we've got and what the basis for the -- the assumption and where that led us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Now, Admiral Allen says they hope to learn more about the flow rate and get some more precise numbers next week. They're going to bring in scientists -- analysts from several different quarters to again look at the video, analyze it and get better answers on that -- Wolf. BLITZER: They said originally when they were going to cut off that top, it would increase the flow rate by about 20 percent.

Is that an accurate number?

Was it just made up?

Because we're hearing it could have been multiples of what was going on, not just 20 percent.

TODD: Yes, you've heard the -- that -- we heard that yesterday, that it could be multiples of what's going on much higher than 20 percent. And now we're hearing a completely different figure. This is really going all over the place. Wolf, just today, in separate hearings on Capitol Hill, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and his deputy said that despite those predictions -- those estimations when they put the riser -- when they took the riser off, that it could be as much as a 20 percent increase. Now they say it's much lower -- 4 to 5 percent. So between what we got yesterday and what we're getting now, it's going all over the place. It could be much higher than 20 percent. It could be much lower. Again, that is something that they've got to bring in some better and more finite analysis to look at.

BLITZER: All right, Brian.

Thanks very much.

Brian is going to be working this story.

He'll be back later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The oil disaster took center stage on Capitol Hill today, with House and Senate panels investigating a wide range of issues, from the cleanup to offshore drilling safety to liability. Lawmakers clearly are feeling more pressure every single day to do something about the spill and to try to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing forward to try to eliminate any cap on the damages BP will have to pay. And the Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, defended the administration's six month moratorium on deepwater drilling, saying safety has to come first.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEN SALAZAR, INTERIOR SECRETARY: The place where the president of the United States and -- and I have arrived at this issue is we have put the pause button until we can have a sense of safety, that this is never going to happen again. Now when we lift our hand from the pause button, we'll get -- we'll be dependent on what we can get to that point.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Perhaps a somewhat surprising witness in today's round of oil hearings on Capitol Hill, the actor, Kevin Costner.

What does he know about cleaning up the worst spill in U.S. history?

Lisa Sylvester is here.

She's been working this story for us.

I know he's not just an actor, he's also an entrepreneur -- explain, Lisa, what he was doing testifying before Congress.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is really interesting, Wolf.

Kevin Costner says, you know, that he is a guy who is in love with the what if -- what if we can fix it?

And this is actually a question he started asking after the Exxon Valdez spill. He didn't want to wait until the oil came ashore. And he thought, what if there is a better way to clean up the oil?

So he started a company 12 years ago. And the technology may now be a key with the Gulf spill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Kevin Costner added some star power at a Congressional hearing -- lawmakers looking into the best way to respond to the Gulf oil spill. Just like in the movie "Field of Dreams," Costner decided if you build it, they will come.

As an entrepreneur, he did build it -- a machine he says is capable of separating oil and water.

KEVIN COSTNER, ACTOR: I've been to all these oil response conventions around the country and around the world. And all I see are booms and the latest helicopter. But I've never seen one machine than deals with getting the oil out. That's me.

SYLVESTER: Costner says that they have centrifuge machines that are compact enough to fit on a boat. They do not use chemical or biologic agents. He says he tried to get the oil industry and government agencies interested, but the company he financed, Ocean Therapy Solutions, had a hard time getting people to listen -- that is, until the deepwater oil spill.

The centrifuges are designed as a first response immediately after an oil spill.

Fifty-one days into the oil spill, can it work now?

(on camera): We see all the pictures and the images of this thick crude, this thick oil.

Can your machines do something about that? COSTNER: It can. In a recent test -- it just happened in the last few days, even with the dispersants and old oil, we were 99.9 percent efficient at separating the oil and water.

SYLVESTER: BP has purchased 32 machines. In optimum conditions, company executives say could treat six million gallons of water a day. Costner says the machines can also be one tool to help make deepwater drilling safe again, that if deployed at ports, they could be a quick response in case of another emergency.

Right now, production has been haunted at 33 deep water rigs.

COSTNER: There are people out of working. There's a moratorium. And there's no way to lift that unless, I believe, the government feels that people can operate in a safe way. This represents that -- that pivot point.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SYLVESTER: Now, Costner himself raised the issue in the hearing -- you know, is he just out there hawking a product?

Well, he said, honestly, he doesn't know. He said you can take his product or you can take someone else's. But he says the truth is, no one has really invested the resources to develop this kind of technology, including the oil companies.

And one other thing that came out of the hearing is that the oil companies, you know, they have made billions of dollars in profits over the years, but as a group, since 2000, have spent very little researching on this kind of cleanup technology -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point.

Thanks very much, Lisa.

Don't go far.

Many Gulf residents are drowning in debt right now, as this oil spill reaches farther onto the shore and into their lives. We're investigating the trouble people are having getting payback from BP.

And the United Nations Security Council approves new sanctions against Iran.

But will it really make a dent in Tehran's nuclear defiance?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, there's only five months now before the mid-term elections. Fewer than one in three Americans say they plan to vote for their member of Congress in November. That's the incumbent.

A new "Washington Post" ABC poll shows an increasing dislike of elected officials and an anti-incumbent mood at an all time high.

It's about time.

Only 29 percent of those surveyed say they plan to vote for their House representative. That's even lower than in 1994, when the Democrats were swept out of power. Sixty-nine percent say they're dissatisfied or angry with the government. Of course, Republicans are hoping to make big gains, but that might not be so easy, either. This poll shows a majority of people have a negative view of the GOP's policies and only a third say they trust Republicans over Democrats to handle the country's problems.

As for the Tea Party, well, half of the public has a unfavorable view of them, as well.

Meanwhile, voters across the country went to the polls yesterday -- the busiest primary day so far this year. The results were mixed. It was a big day for women candidates. In California, Republican primary voters overwhelmingly chose two female business executives. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will go on to face long time Senate incumbent fixture, Democrat Barbara Boxer. And former eBay CEO and billionaire Meg Whitman, who spent something like $80 million of her own money for a primary election, will get the chance to now run for governor.

In Nevada, the Tea Party-backed candidate, Sharon Angle won the Republican primary and will now challenge Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.

In Arkansas, Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln managed to hold onto her seat in a tight race, no doubt giving hope to incumbents everywhere.

Anyway, here's our question -- do you plan to vote to re-elect your member of Congress in November?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Here in Washington, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, met over at the White House with the president for a series of critical talks. The visit comes in the wake of some heated tensions in the Middle East after a deadly Israeli raid on humanitarian ships carrying aid to Gaza.

Let's get some more on the visit from our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry -- Ed, based on what we're hearing, what, if anything, was accomplished in terms of getting direct face-to-face peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians off the ground?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, to be honest, they're not really making a lot of progress on that. I've been getting a readout from senior officials. And what they're telling me is that what they were really focusing on was something much less ambitious here. And that was to try to get President Abbas help -- to help them to figure out a way to get more aid into Gaza while also making sure that weapons are not getting in -- trying to open things up, but try to deal with Israel's concerns that if you open the door to aid, you can also open the door to weapons.

That's a much smaller goal than trying to get the Middle East process going again. But let's face it, Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit had to be cancelled because of the flotilla controversy. So this meeting took on much less significance because of the Netanyahu cancellation.

But I'm also getting some new information that the White House believes they're going to reschedule that Netanyahu visit very, very shortly. So they are hoping to get things back on track -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At the same time, earlier in the day, the United Nations Security Council voted in favor of a new round of sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear defiance. Twelve countries, including Russia and China, supporting the resolution. Turkey and Brazil voted against it. Lebanon abstained.

Does the administration really think these new sanctions are going to make a difference?

HENRY: They do. But there's obviously a lot of skepticism. This is the fourth round of sanctions against Iran. The first three didn't really work, otherwise they wouldn't be here pushing yet again. But they think there's a difference here for a number of reasons. Number one, there's a central bank that's named in this resolution for the first time.

Number two, they believe there's -- there's a real push in terms of blocking arms control transfers. And they also believe that when you -- you look at the fact that China and Russia were on board this time, the president really laid out today that he thinks the -- this shows that there's some real teeth here.

BLITZER: Ed Henry over at the White House.

Thanks very much.

Let's continue this conversation with our senior political analyst, David Gergen -- David, what does this say about the Obama administration that they couldn't even get a NATO ally like Turkey, and Brazil, a hemispheric partner, to support these sanctions against Iran?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Wolf, this is a mixed bag, as you know. It's -- it's definitely a step forward for the administration to get a fourth round of sanctions. And it's -- you know, they -- they've been working for a long time on this. They did get China and Russia on board, as Ed Henry just reported. So that's all forward progress.

On the other hand, Wolf, these are much more modest sanctions than the U.S. had hoped for. Remember a year or so ago, Hillary Clinton was saying we wanted crippling sanctions against Iran. These aren't crippling. The oil industry seems to be spared. China can continue its trade -- its booming trade with -- with Iran. Russia seems to be able to continue its trade. And, you know, for the last eight -- and the Bush administration officials are pointing out when they got went and got the first three rounds of sanctions, they got a unanimous vote on the Security Council. Here we had a 12-3 vote. There were two important countries that were lost and one that was abstained.

BLITZER: Yes, Lebanon abstained, an Arab country. But -- but Turkey and Brazil decided to -- even in the face of direct appeals from the Obama administration -- basically side with Ahmadinejad.

How do you explain that?

GERGEN: Wolf, I think we're looking at a pattern now of these rising emerging players, like Brazil, like Turkey, like India, that are asserting more independence from the United States, perhaps because of their ownering power, perhaps because they no longer think America is going to be the great power of the 21st century.

But for whatever reason, you know, Turkey has -- you know, it's angry with us over the flotilla. But they were already not happy about these sanctions.

Brazil, you know, worked against us on Copenhagen and now has asserted its independence here. And India is asserting its dependence.

So this is, I think, a very concerning trend. I think it's something we ought to be very sober about, because the United States, in the past, has usually been able to count on these nations to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. It's -- so, you know, it's so important that we remain a great nation. We're going to find others separating out and the world is going to be a more dangerous place if we're not careful.

BLITZER: We were showing, David, some pictures of the President Lula of Brazil, Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, raising their hands in celebration with Ahmadinejad when they were in Tehran just a few weeks ago.

And -- and I say, it's one thing for Russia and China to come along and join the United States and France and Germany in supporting these sanctions, but a NATO ally -- it's still hard for lots of folks to believe that a NATO ally would defy the U.S. like this.

GERGEN: I -- I totally agree with that, Wolf. And it's worrisome. You know, Turkey is going its own way on an increasing number of things, turning its back in -- in many ways on the West. You know, and we -- it's such an important linchpin for us in -- in that part of the world. And to think that, you know, it was only a year plus ago that Ahmadinejad was the world's -- you know, the villain. After becoming a -- you know, becoming the dictator that -- you know, who squashed this -- the dissidents in his own country. And now he's being feted in various countries and, you know, and people like Turkey are reaching out to him. You know, we've got -- we've got more work to do on the diplomacy side. And we're not there on pushing Iran into -- and isolating Iran.

BLITZER: Yes, good point.

All right, David, thanks very much.

In our next hour, I speak with Susan Rice. She's the United States ambassador to the United Nations. And I ask her about these two countries, Turkey and Brazil, why they defied the U.S. on this vote today, even though she says she warned both countries' ambassadors at the United Nations that the United States wanted them to support this resolution. There will be consequences. That interview coming up in the next hour.

Also coming up, that growing ill spill in the Gulf now taking a devastating toll on many of the fishermen who work in the region.

With their businesses now in jeopardy, what are they doing to survive?

And Natalee Holloway murder suspect, Joran van der Sloot, apparently offered thousands of dollars by federal authorities. We're going to tell you some new details of an undercover sting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's go back to Lisa.

She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on -- Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, an official says at least 39 people are dead and dozens wounded after a blast today in Kandahar Province. A man whose nephews were among the injured says the explosion hit the area in the middle of a marriage ceremony. Four Americans were also killed today in Southern Afghanistan when insurgents shot down a NATO helicopter.

A federal official says the FBI paid Joran van der Sloot $25,000 during an undercover investigation into the 2005 disappearance of Natalie Holloway. Van der Sloot, a long time suspect in the Holloway case, was paid in exchange for information that would allegedly lead to her body. He faces extortion and wire fraud charges in that case. Authorities say van der Sloot has confessed to the murder of a Peruvian woman. He's expected to reenact her killing for police today.

And all non-European immigrants looking to move to the United Kingdom must now pass a English language test before being granted a visa. The rules, which are scheduled to go into effect this fall, apply to anyone who wants to join a spouse or partner in the country. The new British government says it wants to ensure that immigration is being properly controlled -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Lisa.

Thanks very much.

Some frustrated Gulf Coast residents are saying they're getting no money and they're getting no help from BP. We're investigating the slow and difficult process of filing damage claims in the oil disaster.

And first it was Al and Tipper, now another couple in the Gore family is splitting up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, CNN's Anderson Cooper joins the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, for a boat tour of that massive spill. We're about to get the latest on how well some of those barriers are holding up right now to the encroaching oil.

Plus, what really happened to an Iranian scientist who disappeared last year?

And why is the U.S. government now being accused of kidnapping him?

We're looking at two videos for answers.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Every hour, more and more oil is creeping onto the Gulf Coast and it's costing residents a lot of money. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen met with BP officials today to discuss problems with the handling of damage claims from the spill.

Alabama's governor is so concerned, he's sending National Guard troops and emergency management workers into those hard-hit areas to help residents prepare claim forms.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has been talking to people in New Orleans about the process and their frustrations.

Let's bring in Ed right now.

What are you hearing -- Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's really a fascinating situation right now. Many people across this Gulf Coast region have put in for claims dating back weeks. Many people have gotten a $5,000 initial check -- what's been described as a partial settlement.

But the problem is, this doesn't come close to covering the bills and stuff -- and -- and bills that are starting to pile up for many people. And those bills are now starting to come due.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILENE BOURGEOIS, BOURGEOIS CHARTERS: I'm having to fax this paperwork again and again.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): It's 9:00 at night and Eilene Bourgeois is angry. She's faxing another round of financial paperwork to the BP claims officer. She's done this over and over for 30 days fighting for money from BP.

Do you feel like they're just dragging their feet?

EILENE BOURGEOIS: I'm not really sure exactly what they're trying to get, but I know that it's a long process. And entirely too long because next month, I don't know that I'll be able to pay my house note because I'm sitting here with no money and no help from BP.

THEOPHILE BOURGEOIS, CHARTER FISHERMAN: All this paperwork we got to take it, copy it and send it in.

LAVANDERA: Eilene and her husband, Theophile (ph), own a lucrative charter fishing business on the Louisiana Bayou south of New Orleans, but the fishing business has disappeared. They received the initial $5,000 check from BP but that doesn't begin to cover what they've lost. He's had to lay-off all ten of his employees, and he estimates that he' lost almost $300,000 in summer business, but the bills keep coming. Theophile Bourgeois says it costs almost $25,000 a month just to run the fishing lodge. BP, he says, is moving too slow asking for detailed monthly financial statements dating back three years.

THEOPHILE BOURGEOIS: So, right now, everything is on the table and what we'll do is help you out with everything we can and it ain't working. Meaning, there's no payment received on the Bayou yet. Mortgages are still coming. So, the thing is what do we do?

LAVANDERA: What do we do? It's a question you hear in nearly every marina and fishing village we visited. What do we do?

LAVANDERA (on-camera): BP says it has opened up some 39,000 claims across the Gulf Coast, and the company says it's also brought in some 531 adjusters to handle those claims. But that means each of those adjusters is handling almost 75 claims on their own. The manpower simply isn't enough to keep up.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): BP says it's paid $48 million in claims already and vows to keep paying personal and business claims as long as the oil disaster keeps people out of work.

BOB FRYER, BP SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT: We will continue to be adding people, offices and resources as required, and we're committing the full resources of BP to make this process work for the people of Florida and for the other Gulf Coast states.

LAVANDERA: But it's not working for Eilene. the process is taking a stressful toll, and she worries the charter fishing business she and her husband have built the last 15 years might not survive the oil disaster.

EILENE BOURGEOIS: I don't want to lose my home, you know, or anything for that matter. But I know that if we don't get some help soon, that we will definitely lose something.

LAVANDERA: At the Bourgeois Charter Fishing Lodge, the lights are out for the night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn out the lights, baby.

LAVANDERA: But these are rough times. And the hope is they'll come on tomorrow and in the days and years ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA (on-camera): Wolf, what's interesting is that wherever you go, especially here in Louisiana, there actually seems to be a decent amount of goodwill stocked up for BP when it comes to this. Many people understanding that they are overwhelmed in this particular situation in getting out these checks as fast as they can. The problem is, like for example, one man that we met down in Grand Isle, tomorrow, he's going to pile of bills that he needs to pay off, and he doesn't have the money to do that with. That will start to change here in the coming days -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, he needs help. A lot of people need help. Ed, thank you.

We're tracking the growing cost of this Gulf oil disaster. BP now says it has spent $1.25 billion at least so far, that includes clean-up and containment, drilling the relief wells, and as Ed mentioned, $48 million in claims to Gulf Coast residents who lost their incomes. The company is spending an additional $360 million to build sand berms to protect Louisiana's wetlands from the oil. If you add it all up so far, it comes out to more than $31 million a day.

There's been a human cost to this disaster as well. The 11 rig workers killed on April 20th explosion. President Obama meets with their families at the White House tomorrow. The White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, was asked if those victims have been paid their due by the Obama administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don't think they're forgotten. I think they are -- they were the very first victims of what is a very long and sad tragedy. It has changed the lives of many. It changed, first, the lives of those 11 families. It will do untold economic and environmental damage. It's the largest economic disaster that this country has ever seen. They are not -- they're certainly not forgotten.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The White House is releasing more information about President Obama's return to the Gulf Region on Monday and Tuesday of next week. He'll make stops at the U.S. coast guard stations in Mississippi and Alabama. He may also go to Orange Beach, Alabama as well as Pensacola, Florida, where the oil is beginning slowly to wash ashore. Lot of nervousness in both of those areas.

Women are celebrating a big political gains over the last 24 hours. We're taking a closer look at who came out winners in the latest round of election contests and why.

Also, you're going to find out why Sarah Palin is telling President Obama to give her a call.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Check them out. These women came out of the latest runoff election contests. Big winners and perhaps none more so than the incumbent senator of Arkansas, Democrat Blanche Lincoln, who was at risk, serious risk, of being ousted in yesterday's runoff. Bill Clinton, the former president, calling her, and I'm quoting in now, "the new comeback kid". Is there any connection between these women's victories besides their gender?

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is following all the races for us. These women, some of them won and a lot of them won. It was a big night for the ladies last night. Jessica, explain to our viewers what happened.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, this seems to be shaping up as a year for outsiders, reformers, and some candidates who are willing to spend a lot of their own money. On all fronts, it's looking good for women candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): These women crushed the opposition. Are they better suited to clean up politics? Women candidates aren't saying so outright, but listen.

MEG WHITMAN (R) CALIFORNIA GOV. CANDIDATE: Two business women from New Orleans -- who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done.

YELLIN: That's republican former eBay CEO and billionaire, Meg Whitman, running to be California's next governor. She's talking about Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, challenging Democrat Barbara Boxer in the California Senate race.

CARLY FIORINA, (R) CALIFORNIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Early last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a tough passage but with that passage came stronger faith, stronger family, and a stronger conviction.

YELLIN: In the Nevada Senate race, tea party favorite, Sharron Angle, will take on Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, in the fall. SHARRON ANGLE, (R) NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: This campaign is about opposing tax and spend. Let's make a deal, politics as usual.

YELLIN: In South Carolina, Sarah Palin's candidate, Nikki Haley, now in a runoff for the Republican governor's knot. And Blanche Lincoln triumphed in her Arkansas primary to keep her Senate seat. It is a wave. But the women candidates seem hesitant to play the gender card. Take, for example, Fiorina, running against progressive powerhouse, Boxer. I asked if she thinks women make a different kind of leader.

FIORINA: We've gotten used to professional politicians like Barbara Boxer.

YELLIN: Do women do it differently?

FIORINA: Oh, I don't know. Women do many things differently.

YELLIN: Better.

FIORINA: But I also think that there are some things about leadership that are not about gender.

YELLIN: And is boxer worried the two will split the women's vote? She isn't saying.

SEN. BARBARA BOXER, (D) CALIFORNIA: People said, wow, the women's vote. I said, we'll know we've really made it when there are two women running against each other and they are totally different and that's what this could be. I know that's great.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (on-camera): Now, Wolf, clearly women were victorious last night, but it's not over in (INAUDIBLE), Fiorina and Whitman, for example. They will face Democratic stalwarts and Jerry Brown in the governor's race. Harry Reid in Nevada are both veterans of hard- fought campaigns. So, they got a long way to go before they're actually fully victorious, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jessica, thank you.

The number of women in political office in the United States has increased dramatically over the past two decades. Right now, 17 women are in the U.S. senate, four Republicans and 13 Democrats. In the House, 73 representatives are women, 17 Republicans, 56 Democrats, including the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi. Six women are governors across the country, Democrats in Michigan, Washington State, North Carolina, Republicans in Hawaii, Connecticut and Arizona.

A tea party candidate wins big in Nevada's Republican Senate primary but could some of her controversial stances on issue help her opponent? We're talking about the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. We're going to talk about that in our "Strategy Session."

And five million feet of booms lined up along the Gulf Coast to protect the wetlands up from that massive spill. We're getting ready for a first-hand look.

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BLITZER: Let's go right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us is our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin. Guys, thanks for coming in.

Sarah Palin's Facebook page, let me read to you what she writes -- please, sir -- referring to a conversation she would like to have with the president of the United States, "Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. They can help you. Give them a call. Or what the heck? Give me a call." Should she be waiting by that phone for that ring from the president of the United States?

PAUL BEGALA, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT IN CLINTON ADMIN: I guess, Sarah has changed her Facebook status to "call me," but maybe Barack Obama should. He's a smart guy. And when you think of a toxic disaster, you think of Sarah Palin right away. At least I do.

MARY MATALIN, FORMER ADVISER TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Oh, tithing, tithing (ph).

BEGALA: Oh, you know, this is a joke. Come on. She doesn't --

First off, as governor, there were two or three, I can't remember, major blockages or spills of BP pipelines in her state in September and October of 2008. When she was running around the country campaigning on drill, baby, drill. So, I don't think she's actually the person you would turn to crackdown on oil companies since she didn't do much good job in Alaska.

BLITZER: Is she serious when she puts that on her Facebook page?

MATALIN: The more they mock, the more they strengthen her and the more they strengthen the opposition to themselves. She is, in fact, one of the few governors that has had to deal with BP as have the Alaskan mayors. And I promise you, if he asked her to keep the conversation confident, she would do that because she wants to help her countrymen. We're not getting a lot of response. Thad Allen had to send a letter to BP today. President won't talk to BP. He won't talk to people who've dealt with BP. He's just keeps going on this --

BLITZER: Michael Steele pointed out today the president said in the campaign he would talk to Ahmadinejad, but he won't talk to Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP.

BEGALA: You know, Tony Hayward is the leader of, potentially, a criminal enterprise. The president of the United States should not be calling him. He did send his attorney general down there to open up a criminal investigation. That's how these guys need to be treated. They are potentially -- they have a right to a legal defense. I'm sure, they'll have more lawyers than you can possibly imagine. But, no, I wouldn't like it at all if my president was buddy buddying up with the scoundrels who are behind this mess. MATALIN: He doesn't have to buddy-buddy up, he can split that boot on his neck. That's the ass he wants to kick. He's out there like completely going out of character saying these strange and bizarre things. Why doesn't he pick up the phone and say I'm going to make your life a living hell?

BEGALA: Why don't you just do it and that's --

MATALIN: Thank you. OK. Let's agree.

BEGALA: But actions speak louder than words and this president sent -- I've criticized a lot of responses -- this president sent his attorney general to that region to open up a criminal investigation. Maybe everybody is innocent. Maybe they didn't violate 10 or 20 laws, but maybe they did. And at least we'll now because the feds are on the case, and they're doing law enforcement.

BLITZER: Let's get to some politics right now, in Nevada, specifically. Harry Reid, the Democrat, can he breathe a little bit easier, Mary, right now, because his opponent, Sharron Angle, who's the darling of the tea party movement, but she got some views out there that maybe on the fringe, not only sort of the point (ph) to abolish the Department of Education. She wants the U.S. out of the United Nations. She wanted to deregulate the oil industry, for example, I could go on. She got some views out there that are pretty controversial. Can he breathe a little bit easier right now?

MATALIN: Harry Reid lives on the fringe and on the edge. He spent $10 million to garner only 17,000 more votes than her and 25percent of the democrats had turned out didn't want to vote for him. So, they still have splits in their party, but what's interesting about this is it gives life to the notion that the tea party people are monolithic. They did split their votes, so, she got the majority of those votes.

And it gave light to the notion that it's going to blow up the Republican Party because all the other Republican candidates said they're going to support her, and the Republicans are unified to beat Harry. And Harry Reid, and they're going to go at and hammer it on and the $10 million he's already spent has not improved his ratings.

BLITZER: Is Sharron Angle in Nevada with Rand Paul is in Kentucky?

BEGALA: Yes, crazy. I mean, sorry. She wants to abolish social security. 297,000 Nevadans are on Social Security. She wants to abolish Medicare. Get this, running to be a senator from Nevada, she wants to make Nevada's Yucca Mountain the nuclear waste dump for all the other 49 states. What kind of a senator from Nevada would be for that? Even Chic Hecht.

Remember, Chic Hecht, the old Reagan Republican out from Nevada? He said, I don't want my state's to be America's nuclear suppository, that's how Chic described it, and actually, I think he was right. And the only reason that America is not dumping its nuclear waste on Nevada is because of Harry Reid. One man has stood against that and stopped it, and if he loses and Sharron Angle wins, then Yucca Mountain in Nevada will be America's --

BLITZER: It's going to be a lively campaign out there.

MATALIN: This is such an old issue. They stopped nuclear -- making any nuclear power for 30 years, and the country has suffered for it, and all you clean green has suffered for it. We haven't had any new refineries or plants in 30 years because of this Yucca Mountain has saved from blanche (ph) he's running on that as she (INAUDIBLE).

BEGALA: Those are her positions. She's at least like Rand Paul. She's candid about it.

BLITZER: I haven't heard Chic Hecht's name in a long time.

MATALIN: Isn't all of us.

BEGALA: One of his great line, though, about what they will do with that nuclear waste if Miss Angle --

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much.

Our Anderson Cooper, as all of you know, is reporting from the Gulf spill zone. He just got back from a boat tour with the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal. Anderson will give us a first read on what he saw, what he heard. That's coming up.

And the gores still are dealing with word that Al and Tipper Gore are separating. Now, comes word another couple in the family is calling it quits.

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BLITZER: Back to Lisa, she's monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. The woman accusing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, of sexual assault said she didn't try to fight him off because he appeared to have a short temper. The college student made the comments during an interview with police. The interview is part of a series of recordings being released today by authorities. Roethlisberger received a six-game suspension from the NFL. His attorney denies any wrongdoing.

And just one week after former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper announced their separation, their eldest daughter is following suit. Sources confirm that 36-year-old Karenna Gore has been separated from her husband, Andrew Schiff, for the last couple of months.

And it's not quite 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but at one time this Manhattan apartment was home to Barack Obama, and now, it could be yours. Mr. Obama shared the one-bedroom, upper Westside walkup back in 1981, while he was attending Columbia University. The place is available for rent at $1,900 a month -- Wolf. BLITZER: $1,900 or $900?

SYLVESTER: $900, rather.

BLITZER: I thought it was a little steep in 1,900.

SYLVESTER: Yes, I was going to say -- it is $1,900 actually is what my producer is telling me.

BLITZER: Is it 1,900? All right.

SYLVESTER: Yes, well, $1,900 for a one-bedroom in New York I think is pretty pricey, but it is New York we're talking about.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty coming up next.

And how well are five million feet of boom standing up to the growing oil spill?

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is -- do you plan to vote to re-elect your member of Congress in November?

David in New Hampshire, if you really want to ruffle some feathers, start pushing all states when they print their election ballots to highlight the incumbent's names in red, and underline them if they've served more than two terms. I truly believe a good portion of the voting public is clueless when it comes to knowing who their elected officials are.

Al in Kansas says, I haven't voted for an incumbent in 20 years, and I'm not going to start now. But I still have faith in the stupidity of the American voter. 90 percent of our representatives will be re-elected no matter what the polls say.

Mark in Houston, Jack, I live in Texas. I'm sure you've heard of it. That place where elected officials supported dumbed-down education system, a wannabe sheriff as governor were against clean air and were proud of it all. My answer would be no.

D.S. in California, while I'm not that impressed with Barbara Boxer, I'll have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Carly Fiorina may have impressed people in California with her CEO background, but there's a reason that she lost here in Silicon Valley where she's actually known. She got fired by Hewlett-Packard for incompetence. None of the tech businesses here will touch her.

Maxine writes, I am for term limits, period. All incumbents must go, even the seemingly good ones. It's the only way to get real change we can believe in, so when I vote in November, I will be voting not to re-elect anyone. David in Las Vegas, yes, even though I'm not a Harry Reid fan, I want someone who represents Nevada to have influence.

Jerry in Florida, the best letter I got in a while. I received an e-mail the other day proposing term limits for Congress. It suggested elected officials should be held to two terms, one in Congress, one in prison, just as Detroit and Chicago do now.

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile.