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THE SITUATION ROOM
Flash Floods Batter Oklahoma; Critics: Senate Primary Winner a Fake
Aired June 14, 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 very much, Drew.
Happening now, President Obama seeing more of the Gulf oil disaster than ever before. He's in Alabama this hour and he just made new promises about the cleanup, public safety and holding BP accountable.
BP is responding to federal demands with a plan to trap a lot more gushing oil in the days and weeks ahead.
But will the embattled company be able to follow through?
And a new flash flood emergency -- lives threatened by rushing waters in Oklahoma City. We've been watching the crisis and the remarkable rescues play out live.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama says the government is doing everything it can 24-7 to help people affected by the nation's worst oil spill. We heard his remarks live in Alabama just a little while ago. On this, his fourth trip to the region since the oil disaster, he's promising that the Gulf Coast will recover and end up better than it was before.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'll be honest with you, that we're going to stop as much of the oil from coming in as possible. That's our number one job. It turns out that if the oil hits the beaches, that's actually probably the easiest to clean up. So it's a concern, obviously, for tourism. It's a concern for an entire Gulf region that economically depends on the tourist season and -- and this period of time when people are out of school. But those beaches will recover.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The federal response to the oil spill is at a critical crossroads right now, as we close in on two months since the rig explosion. The president wraps up his trip to the Gulf tomorrow. He'll then return to the White House to deliver a nationally televised address from the Oval Office on the spill that evening. CNN, of course, will carry it live, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Wednesday, Mr. Obama meets with BP officials, including CEO Tony Hayward.
And on Thursday, members of Congress are set to grill Hayward and other BP company executives.
Let's go to New Orleans right now, where CNN political contributor, James Carville, is closely following the events, including the president's visit -- is this trip doing anything, James, as far as you can tell?
JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. I mean I think that the people down there -- the situation along the Mississippi Coast and the Alabama Coast is -- is fundamentally different than it is here in Louisiana. And the president is exactly right, those beaches can be cleaned up. That's tourism areas.
The Louisiana coast has very little beaches. We -- we tend to go to Grand Isle, which is maybe one of two beaches that we have in Louisiana that -- that have any -- that matter any.
But it's the marshes and it's a much more insidious thing. And we're a working state. We produce things. We're not so much a tourist state, when you get outside of New Orleans. And tourism New Orleans is fine. It's not affected at all by this.
So it -- it's a little bit of a different situation.
But -- but these people have been severely impacted. My -- my brother has a -- a place in Orange Beach, Alabama, which is right down almost on the Florida line. My family, we go there every summer. And a lot of these people rent their places out, they're leveraged. The economic impact is -- is awful because that -- they really don't produce a lot. It's more of a tourist area.
Here it's different and it requires a more difficult, more nuanced response.
BLITZER: Here's what the president told Roger Simon of Politico the other day. He granted him an interview.
Let me read it to you, James: "In the same way that our view of our vulnerabilities and our foreign policy was shaped profoundly by 9/11, I think this disaster is going to shape how we think about the environment and energy for many years to come."
Now, here's the question -- will the Gulf disaster -- the oil disaster in the Gulf -- be, for President Obama, what 9/11 was for President Bush?
CARVILLE: I don't know. And I really -- the comparisons are -- are really different. But I do know this, we know in New Orleans. If you have shoddy, slipshod engineering, you're going to pay in a big way. And what happened in -- during Katrina was not a natural disaster, it was a massive engineering failure. This is an example of people using equipment that -- that should be operated safely in a very, very unsafe manner. And we're paying the price for that.
Look, I -- I'm all for the president. I'm all for alternative energy. I'm all for clean energy. That's not going to happen for the foreseeable future. But as long as we're out in the Gulf of Mexico, which I support, we have to do it tightly regulated -- a wall between the regulators and the regulated. And these company boards cannot be trusted to do anything without oversight. They're -- they're basically greedy people who will do anything to -- to make a buck. And we have to realize that.
BLITZER: Is it smart for the president to be delivering this address to the nation tomorrow night from the Oval Office of the White House as opposed to from the region?
CARVILLE: I don't know. I think it's the largest environmental disaster in -- in -- in the history of the United States. I think it warrants a sober place. The Oval Office is -- is that. That's where the president speaks to the nation during something like this.
I'm very anxious to hear what the president has to say, as are people here. I hope he's got some proposals that seem like they're going to be pretty good. But we're going to be listening very -- we'll be listening very carefully tomorrow night.
But I think it's appropriate that he do it. This is a -- this, certainly, on the Louise -- the Louisiana coast, this is a disaster of the first magnitude here...
BLITZER: And the...
CARVILLE: -- a catastrophe, I would call it.
BLITZER: And when he meets with BP executives on Wednesday at the White House, it's a delicate line that he has to -- to walk, because on the one hand, he wants to be firm and demand certain things from BP; on the other hand, he wants to make sure BP survives so they can pay the bills.
CARVILLE: Yes. Yes, well, I -- I agree. I'm part of the fat cow caucus here. I -- I don't want them to go under. I don't want to boycott them or anything. I just -- I -- look, they're the -- they're going to be on record as the biggest tort fees in U.S. history, I think. I'm pretty sure that's the way it's shaping up.
And the one thing that you do is, you don't want -- you don't want your tortfeasor to be bankrupt. That's -- that -- that's not a good plan. And -- and I don't think they are. They made $20 billion -- $17 billion in 2009.
All we want them to do, for starters, is put up $20 billion in a kitty. That's a little bit more than one year's profit. They'll probably do better than that this year.
So I don't think there's any danger in them going bankrupt. And if they try to go into bankruptcy, I think it would call for some extraordinary measures here. But I'm -- I don't think that's a good idea at all.
BLITZER: James Carville, thanks very much.
Now to BP's new plan to dramatically try to increase the amount of oil it's trapping from the gushing well in the Gulf. It's now aiming to be able to recover up to 80,000 barrels a day by mid-July.
Brian Todd is taking a close, hard look at this new plan.
What are the major points -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The major points are, Wolf, to bring in a number of vessels -- kind of gradually in the process, over the next, you know, month, essentially, to get to the capacity of being able to get up to 80,000 barrels a day.
First, they're going to take the existing containment ship -- the Discoverer Enterprise, which can take about 15,000 barrels a day, maybe 18,000 at the most, and then add to it by bringing in the Q4000. That's another vessel that can take up to 10,000 barrels a day.
Translation -- by the end of this week, they hope to get up to about 25,000 barrels of oil a day contained. But it goes up from there. Essentially, by the beginning of July, they are going to increase the capacity by bringing in more ships. By the end of this month, the beginning of July, a third vessel either the Toisa Pisces or the Helix Producer, which you see up there on the graphics there -- one of those two ships will be in place. That means three ships in place by the end of this month.
That means, by the end of this month, up to 50,000 barrels a day can be contained, because each of those ships has the capacity to take up to 25,000 barrels of oil a day.
Now, by mid-July, they expect to have a total of four vessels on the surface. These are the four you see here. The Toisa Pisces and Helix Producer are going to be the primary containment vessels. The Enterprise and another ship called Clear Leader are going to be the backups. The Toisa Pisces and Helix Producer each can contain up to 25,000 barrels a day. That makes 50,000 barrels. And between them and the two backups, that can each take up to 15,000, then you get to a capacity to handle about 80,000 barrels a day, Wolf. That's what they're shooting for to have the capacity. But, again, the primary vessels are going to take you to about 50,000 barrels a day.
BLITZER: Well, what I don't understand, the last estimate they had, before that cup and contain -- that cap and containment, they -- the cut, in early June...
BLITZER: -- was, it was about 20,000 to 40,000 barrels a day, which was a lot more than we earlier thought.
Are they now suggesting it could be 80,000 or a 100,000 barrels a day? TODD: That was an operative question. I asked a BP official that a short time ago. He said no. What they have in place with this plan -- that includes the backup plans and essentially -- the redundancies, is what they called them. They just have to have that much capacity in place to contain that much oil, if need be. They are not saying at all that 80,000 barrels a day are leaking out now. But between the two primary containment ships and the two backup ships, they want to have the capacity, with the redundancies in place, to take up to 80,000 if they need to.
BLITZER: They're supposed to give us their new estimate this week, right?
TODD: That's right. They're going to give it to...
BLITZER: They were supposed to give it to us over the weekend, but that's been delayed.
TODD: That's right. They were going to -- they're going to get another flow rate estimate. The technical group is working on that. They'll be able to, hopefully, get some updated numbers on that for us by -- in the next couple of days -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's see.
All right, Brian.
Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Will BP ever be able to fork over the billions and billions and billions of dollars to pay all the damage claims and all the spill cleanup?
We'll take a closer look at the demands that are coming in right now from top Democrats here in Washington and BP's finances. Stand by for that.
Plus, cars and people simply swept away in terrifying flooding -- torrential rains taking their toll for a second day.
And in the midst of war, buried treasure in Afghanistan -- get this -- worth a trillion dollars or more.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: While BP struggles to get control of the Gulf oil spill, President Obama is going to try to get control of the story line. Tomorrow night, he will make his first address to the nation from the Oval Office since being inaugurated. The speech will follow a two day visit to the Gulf region nearly 60 days after the start of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The stakes for the president are high. It is his fourth trip to the region since the April 20th rig explosion. He continues to come under fire for being slow to respond.
The trip, the Oval Office address and his first face-to-face meeting with BP executives since the spill are all meant to show that the president's in charge.
The question is whether it's too late and whether the remainder of his presidency will be damaged as badly as the Gulf Coast, much the way George Bush's presidency was damaged by Katrina.
In the Oval Office speech tomorrow night, President Obama is expected to call for BP to create an escrow account, reportedly in the amount of $20 billion, to pay for damage claims to businesses and individuals whose lives have been destroyed by the oil spill. He's also expected to call for an independent third party to handle the claims process -- hand out the money.
The cries for Mr. Obama to step up have been getting louder. Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. recently called on the president to, quote, "level with the American people, use the crisis as a way to create jobs and stop the blame game."
The spill has tested President Obama's leadership perhaps more than any other single event in his presidency.
So here's the question -- what do you want to hear from President Obama about the Gulf oil spill in tomorrow night's Oval Office address to the nation?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
A defining moment, I think, tomorrow night.
BLITZER: I think you're right. It's -- and the president himself said it could be, for the balance of his administration, this Gulf disaster could have an enormous effect, just like the 9/11 incident had for the balance of the Bush administration. We'll see how...
CAFFERTY: Well, it's going to...
BLITZER: -- he deals with it.
CAFFERTY: It's going to be a defining moment for his presidency.
BLITZER: Oh, yes. Let's -- yes, I totally agree. This is -- I'm really worried, Jack, as you know. And I've made no secret about that. As bad as it is now, this thing could get a whole lot worse.
CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. Well, they're pulling -- they're drilling the second well that they hope is going to solve the problem.
What if something goes wrong with that one?
CAFFERTY: Then you'll have two of them leaking from the same place.
BLITZER: Yes, these relief wells -- they're going after these two relief wells. They're going down and down and down. But they've got to hit the size of a -- of a dinner plate.
BLITZER: And there's no guarantee, in August, this is going to work. And God only knows what could happen if it doesn't work.
All right, Jack.
Thanks very much.
Let's talk a little bit more about the stakes involved for the Oval Office address tomorrow night.
Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.
You know, you -- I know you've been doing some reporting.
Why did they decide to do the Oval Office address, the first time in his presidency?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, because the stakes for this, as you and Jack were just saying, could not be higher.
Take a look at this new Gallup Poll, Wolf, that was released today. When people were asked whether you think Obama's been too tough, about right or not tough enough in dealing with BP, you see there, not tough enough. Look at that 71 percent; about right, only 20 percent. So, clearly, a decision has made -- been made inside the White House that they have to get ahead of the curve politically here.
Why the Oval Office?
Because he's never given a speech from the Oval Office. That kind of raises the level of the speech immediately.
Ronald Reagan gave guess how many Oval Office speeches over eight years?
About 33. So it gives you a sense that Barack Obama is probably not real comfortable -- not his best venue, but this raises the stakes. And it also elevates what he's going to say. And he's not just going to say I'm concerned about the Gulf -- we see, Wolf, that he's been concerned about the Gulf; he's down there today, for example -- but that he's equal to the problem of solving the situation in the Gulf. That's what he has to convey to the American people with this.
BLITZER: And is he going to use this crisis as an opportunity to try to get energy legislation through... BORGER: I think so.
BLITZER: -- that will deal with the long-term issues?
BORGER: I've been talking to people about that today. It's very clear that the White House would like to do that, at least at some level. But the question is whether they'll be able to do that. And, again, this goes back to the question of leadership.
Is he up to the task?
Because if you have the sense -- you know, behind you, we see the -- the oil out of control. If you have the sense that the administration can't control the leak, then the question is, can they master all the other problems that they've got on their agenda, energy being one of them, the economy being another one, foreign policy problems being another one?
So what they have to say is, look, this isn't about emotion -- he's been criticized for not being emotional enough. This is about leadership -- being able to master the problem. And you're probably going to hear him talk about the need for energy policy.
BLITZER: And he's got so many other issues on his agenda.
BORGER: Well, that's...
BLITZER: He's being held hostage, in effect, to this crisis in the Gulf. He's got to move on and do some other stuff. But this -- but this is going to dominate.
BORGER: But he's got to show that he can control this, as well as do all the other things that he needs to do as president.
BLITZER: That's not an easy ac.
BORGER: No, it's not.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
Vicious flash flooding breaks out in Oklahoma, leading to desperate scenes like this one. We're going to have the latest on the rescue efforts underway right now.
And Israel takes action -- new details about how the country is responding to that deadly raid on those ships carrying aid to Gaza.
Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Lisa, what's going on?
SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf. Well, a death row inmate in Utah will likely be executed by firing squad Friday. The state parole board decided unanimously today not to grant clemency to Ronnie Lee Gardner. The board determined that there was nothing inappropriate about his sentence. Gardner was convicted of capital murder in 1985. The last time Utah granted clemency to a condemned man was way back in 1962.
And if you are planning on flying Spirit Airlines anywhere in the next few days, well, you might want to make other plans. Striking pilots have forced the carrier to cancel all flights through Wednesday. The airline is offering customers credit for future flights, plus $100. But those who want refunds have to call the airline. Pilots walked off the job Saturday, claiming the company's pay offer isn't comparable to other discount airlines. Talks are scheduled to resume tomorrow.
And Israel has approved an independent investigation into that deadly raid on a humanitarian ship attempting to break the Gaza blockade. The commission will be led by a retired Israeli judge. Two high level foreign observers will be allowed to participate in the investigation. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is rejecting Israel's investigation plan, saying it is not impartial. Israel is under mounting pressure to lift the three year blockade -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.
Every minute, more and more oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. We're going to have an update on how much of it is being recovered almost two months into this unprecedented disaster.
Also, a $20 billion demand -- can BP afford to set aside that kind of cash to pay damages to oil spill victims?
And we'll hear from the survivor of the deadly flash flooding in an Arkansas campground.
What was it like to hear her children scream, "I'm drowning, mama?"
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, he's the man many are blaming for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. As BP chief, Tony Hayward, prepares to go before Congress later this week, CNN's Allan Chernoff is breaking down some of the tough questions he's likely to face on Capitol Hill.
And a stunning trillion dollar discovery in Afghanistan.
Could it mean a new future for the war torn country -- one that doesn't involve the United States?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're following President Obama right now on his trip to the Gulf Coast. He's in Alabama getting a firsthand look at the biggest environmental disaster response in U.S. history. Here's where the cleanup stands right now. About 134,500 barrels of oil have been collected since BP placed a containment cap on the leaking well on June 3rd. BP has skimmed almost 475,000 barrels of oily liquid from the surface of the Gulf. Two-and-a-half 5 million feet of containment boom have been spilled -- have been used on the spill zone. BP estimates the operation has cost about $1.6 billion and counting.
The White House says BP now appears willing to set up a fund to compensate victims of the oil disaster that would be run by a third party.
But in the midst of this crisis, does the company have the billions and billions of dollars necessary to put in such an escrow account, as some Democrats are demanding?
Our Lisa Sylvester has been looking into that for us -- Lisa, tell us what you're discovering.
SYLVESTER: Well, the first thing to keep in mind is -- is, first, there was a letter that went out. And all but four Democratic Senators, they sent this letter to the -- the CEO of BP demanding $20 billion -- that's the number they're talking about -- to be put into escrow to pay for future claims and sick -- and for cleanup.
And they want not BP controlling the fund, but, as you mentioned, a third independent party.
In the letter, they also say the full extent of the damage may not be known for months or even years.
President Obama is also behind this effort to set up this escrow fund. And White House Spokesman Bill Burton, he said today that they are confident that BP will comply with the request, but the details are still being discussed -- and this is really key here -- including exactly how much money will be put in the fund.
Because, keep in mind, BP, as of the end of March, had only about $7 billion in cash on hand. That's according to its most recent financial statement -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are BP's shareholders still likely to get that little dividend or at least the hefty dividend that so many of them were expecting?
SYLVESTER: Yes. BP is actually scheduled to pay out about $2.5 billion in dividend payments to shareholders June 21st. And there is, as you can imagine, enormous pressure from U.S. officials on BP to suspend its dividend payments or at least to put that into some kind of holding account until we get a better handle on exactly the scope of the spill. BP's board of directors, they met in London today to discuss what to do about not just these first quarter dividends that we're talking about, but also the second quarter dividends, as well. And a decision is expected some time in the next coming days.
But in the meantime, all of this has taken a big toll on BP's shares, that were actually battered again today, losing more than 8 percent. And, Wolf, since the Gulf spill, the company's value has lost $90 billion. That is quite a large sum of money -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
All right, Lisa.
Thanks very much.
Moving onto some other news we're following, scenes like this one of a woman desperately clinging to a tree while waiting for help are playing out all over Oklahoma today, in the wake of some vicious flat -- flash flooding. The governor has just declared a state of emergency for 59 counties. The National Weather Service estimates that almost 10 inches of rain have fallen and thousands are without power right now. Authorities have rescued dozens of people trapped in the raging waters. More rain is expected. There are no reports of injuries at least not yet.
Those brutal Oklahoma floods come just days after deadly flash flooding at a popular Arkansas campground. Crews discovered a 20th victim today. But they haven't yet determined whether it's the body of the last person believed to be missing. CNN's Casey Wian is joining us now from Langley, Arkansas. He spoke to one of the survivors of Friday's disaster. Casey, what did you hear?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today, we met a Louisiana family with an incredible story of survival. While people all around them perished, the Chriss family, all nine of them, managed to survive the Arkansas campground flash flood.
WIAN (voice-over): Angela Chriss will never forget how she and eight family members escaped the Arkansas campground flash flood.
ANGELA CHRISS FLOOD SURVIVOR: We just climbed the tree as fast as we could. We just happened to be awake. My son, 23-year-old, come running down. He was camping about hundred feet from us and said, mom and daddy, the water is rising fast. Something's happening. It ain't just the rain causing it. Something is causing the gush coming down. Please. Whatever y'all do get in a tree now. The most devastating part was seeing my 16-year-old float by hollering, help. I'm drowning, mom and daddy, please help me.
And we were in that tree 40 feet up and that was your flesh and blood. And it's worst -- it's bad enough all the other people that was screaming and floating underneath us screaming for their lives. We just were helpless. When he went past us about probably 200 yards past us, he grabbed a hold of a tree and that's how he survived.
WIAN: They held on for several hours all but certain they were going to die.
Here we are, four days after the event. You're still pretty banged up. Your leg is bruised. You're having trouble walking.
CHRISS: This is stuff that will heal. I feel like I just want to tell the world that those people that perished, they're the true heroes. A lot of them, I mean, it's just the guilt, I guess, having to live and to know that we all survived. And I know the Lord. We were here for a purpose. We survived for a purpose because everybody around us kept perishing.
WIAN: The Chriss family was four days into a planned month-long trip. All they've been able to salvage is in the back of this pickup.
CHRISS: We went home with Jimmy (INAUDIBLE) because we come back with all our family members. I don't ever want people to thinking that, you know, I'm complaining about nothing like that. But I'm sorry.
WIAN (on-camera): Angela Chriss says she believes that some, perhaps, all of the deaths could have been prevented if there was some sort of a warning system in place at the Albert Pike campground. Federal officials have already said they're going to look into that possibility, Wolf.
BLITZER: I hope they do more than just look into it. I hope they do it. Thanks very much, Casey, for that.
Members of Congress are promising to ask tough some questions when they put BP chief Tony Hayward in the hot seat on Thursday. We're going to tell you what ammunition lawmakers think they have against the oil company.
And he came out of nowhere to win a U.S. senate primary. Now this South Carolina mystery man as he's being called is at the center of a controversy amid allegations that he's a fake.
In South Carolina right now, the controversy surrounding the winner of the U.S. Senate primary keeps getting stranger. Allegations are swirling around the political unknown who won last week's contest including suggestions that Alvin Greene isn't what he claims to be. Now, the man Greene defeated is formally protesting the election results. Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is watching this story for us. I've covered politics for a long time, but these Democratic candidates in South Carolina, this is about as strange as it gets.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You can't make this up, Wolf. Right now, Democrats in South Carolina are spinning theories about how this total unknown got on the ballot under their radar and then won, embarrassing the party and no doubt giving Republican Senator Jim DeMint a walk to re-election.
YELLIN (voice-over): Recognize this man? South Carolina's senior Democrats don't know him either, but Alvin Greene just won the state's Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate. On CNN's "State of the Union", a top Democrat says Greene must be a plant.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) SOUTH CAROLINA: I saw in the Democratic primary elephant dung all over the place. And so, I knew something was wrong in that primary.
YELLIN: On NBC's "Meet the Press," the president's top strategist sounded mystified.
DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: How he won the primary is a big mystery though, and until you resolve that, I don't think he can claim to be a strong, credible candidate.
YELLIN: Some background? Greene is unemployed, faces felony pornography charges. He claims to be destitute and yet he came up with a $10,000 filing fee. Oh, and he won without ever campaigning. CNN's Don Lemon just got word, he's not your typical interview either.
ALVIN GREENE, (D) SOUTH CAROLINA SENATE CANDIDATE: The election was certified as of 3:00 p.m. eastern standard time yesterday. So, I'm on the ballot here on out. I'm, you know, all the way. I'm the best candidate for the United States Senate in this race, in South Carolina.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: OK. OK. Are you always this soft spoken? Are you okay right now?
GREENE: I'm fine.
LEMON: You're fine. And you're --
GREENE: I'm OK.
LEMON: You're mentally sound, physically sound, you're not impaired by anything at this moment?
GREENE: No. Just -- I'm okay.
YELLIN: Greene won't comment on his felony charges but where did he get the money to run?
GREENE: My personal money. From the army.
YELLIN: The other Democratic candidate is contesting the election though he was barely visible either. His only ads were these web videos.
VIC RAWL, SENATE CANDIDATE: I am Vic Rawl. I am a South Carolinian.
YELLIN: Theories abound.
GREENE: I've always been a Democrat, and I am the best candidate for United States senate in South Carolina.
YELLIN: Some say voters just picked the candidate with the name they liked best.
YELLIN (on-camera): Now, the state Democratic Party has asked Greene to step aside. He has declined. There could be an official inquiry into the source of that $10,000 filing fee. Where did he get it? And then there's even talk of lawsuits. Wolf, I spoke with Don Fowler who's the very well known former state party chair in South Carolina, and he summed up his assessment in South Carolina politics this way. Citing a civil war politician who said, South Carolina is too small to be a nation and too big to be an insane asylum.
BLITZER: And it's the weirdest story. Where was the Democratic Party throughout this process? They're trying to get a candidate to run against Senator Jim DeMint, the incumbent, and these are the candidates they come up with? They don't even go out there and campaign and let the folks know who they are?
YELLIN: Well, one of the people I talked to, Dick Harpootlian, and very prominent in that state, too. He thought that the other candidate would have had a good shot against Jim DeMint if only he'd gotten through the primary. That leaves open the question why didn't the Democrats get behind that man in the primary and get him out there? Neither of them was very visible.
BLITZER: He got 100,000 votes, Greene, 100,000 people voted for someone they had never seen, never heard of, just what, because he was the first name on the ballot, and they liked the way it sounded, Alvin Greene?
YELLIN: The opponent is charging that there may have been some sort of fraud and that even the voting machines --
BLITZER: Fraud at the ballot box?
YELLIN: Some of the people think there could have been fraud at the ballot box. There's a question about how effective their voting machines are, and there are challenges --
BLITZER: That's a huge story if there's fraud at the ballot box. If the Democratic Party is just negligent and inept in South Carolina that's another story, but if there's fraud, then we should investigate.
YELLIN: They're investigating. We'll look into it too.
BLITZER: All right. Jessica, thanks very much. We're going to get more on this bizarre primary win in our "Strategy Session." That's coming up.
And what possessed this congressman to grab a college student? You're going to see the video of the incident and then we'll discuss.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session". Joining us are two CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and the Republican strategist, Mary Matalin. Let's talk about the Carolinas today, Donna. We just saw that report from Jessica Yellin. Alvin Greene, all of a sudden, is the Democratic senatorial nominee in South Carolina running against Jim DeMint. How does that happen?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Huge mystery, Wolf. Everything that Jessica said, those are the same questions that people in South Carolina are now asking themselves. How could this guy, who was indigent in November turn around, come up with $10,000, and then write a check, go to the state party headquarters, turn it in, a cashier's check, and basically disappears and then wins the election?
I think the South Carolina Democratic Party will be meeting on Thursday to look into some of the irregularities that Vic Rawl, his Democratic opponent has raised. There are some other allegations that we've heard from other people across the state. At the end of the day, no one knows exactly who is Alvin Greene and if he's a plant or if he's a legitimate candidate.
BLITZER: Because we have seen no evidence that the Republicans were involved in some, you know, weird shenanigans to get this guy on the ballot.
MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The grassy knollers out there. They go right to the grassy knoller (ph). Jim DeMint is never going to have a problem there. He's got a ton of money. He's up and the notion that Dick Harpootlian put out there who's a big Democratic key maker knows better that this is a competitive seat. It isn't. But Dick Harpootlian and the Democratic Party, if I were donor there, I'd say what? I mean what are you doing? I mean, you can't make fools of us down here, but it's something we never see in politics. A mystery.
BLITZER: It looks like the Democratic Party in South Carolina is really, really a mess.
BRAZILE: I don't know if it's a mess. No more than the Republican Party in some parts of the country where they have internal feuds and fights. The fact is, Wolf, is that if you walked in with a cashier's check made payable to get on the ballot, $10,400.
BLITZER: He got 100,000 votes. Somebody who never campaign, never did anything.
BRAZILE: You're a citizen of the United States. It's against the law to discourage Wolf Blitzer to run. Now, I don't know how he got elected but that's the facts. The voters supported him. I don't know.
BLITZER: Ballot fraud you think?
BRAZILE: Well, they have these touch screen machines. And we all know from past history that these machines malfunction. Sometimes, they produce votes that are not cast. So, we'll see.
BLITZER: All right. There's a North Carolina as well as the South Carolina. There's a Democratic congressman, Bob Etheridge, who was walking down the street and some college students had one of those flip cameras and this is what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, congressman.
REP. BOB ETHERIDGE, (D) NORTH CAROLINA: Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?
Do you fully support the Obama agenda?
ETHERIDGE: Who are you? Who are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa.
ETHERIDGE: Who are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here for a project, sir.
ETHERIDGE: Tell me who you are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just here for a project, sir.
ETHERIDGE: Tell me who you are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just here for a project.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please let go of my hand.
ETHERIDGE: Tell me who you are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just a student, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're just students. That's all we are.
ETHERIDGE: I have a right to know who you are.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we are is students.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in a public place.
ETHERIDGE: So am I. Who are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please let go of my arm, sir.
ETHERIDGE: Who are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, sir, sir, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, please let go of me.
ETHERIDGE: Who are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
ETHERIDGE: Who are you?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's the video that was posted on a conservative website. It's gone viral. As you know the captions were put up there by the conservative website. It's obvious, I mean, no matter if they were conservatives, if they were political opponents, you obviously don't behave like that. You just keep on walking. You ignore them.
BRAZILE: Well, that's the first rule of politics. But here's the other rule. When you do something like that, you apologize. And Bob Etheridge has issued a statement. He's also requested that these students, we don't know if they're high school or college, but he's requested that he meets with them. He wants to apologize. So, I think that is the gentleman thing to do. It was unfortunate. I don't know the motives behind why they approached Mr. Etheridge. He's pretty much a good Democrat, a good American, a good congressman, but he wants to apologize to these people.
BLITZER: That was a lot more than a macaca moment if you remember the macaca moment from the Virginia contest.
MATALIN: I was prepared to dismiss this, and none of us are fans of the video phone world that we now find ourselves in. You and I can to video each other but that would be aggravating to me but that was such an over reaction for a six-term congressman who is considered to be one of the potential candidates to run against Richard Burr in the Senate race. I mean, this is just way over the top reaction. No matter as you said who was holding the video phone. So, apologizing was politically mandatory, but explaining --
BLITZER: Career ending?
MATALIN: He's going to have to explain. Something's not right there.
BRAZILE: Why won't these kids come forward? Why won't these young people? He wants to apologize.
BLITZER: Even if they did have a political agenda, there was no justification for grabbing -- BRAZILE: That is why he wants to apologize. I mean, Wolf, he wants to say I'm sorry to their faces. Not on the video. He wants to say, I'm sorry. So, why won't they come forward?
BLITZER: And the question they asked is do you support the Obama agenda? The questions is it was almost like the Helen Thomas video, do you have any comments about Israel?
BRAZILE: But we don't know if this is a video that has been edited. We don't anything, Wolf. What we now is what has been put on a conservative website?
MATALIN: Maybe he's like a lot of people are going berserk when asked about the Obama agenda.
BRAZILE: I don't like this call. Not angry.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much.
Jack Cafferty is asking, what do you want to hear from President Obama about the oil spill in tomorrow night's oval office address? Jack will be back in a moment with your e-mail.
And we'll check in with our own John King. He's on the Gulf Coast as President Obama visits the region and prepares for his address to the nation.
And revelations about the late Senator Ted Kennedy, newly released FBI documents.
BLITZER: Jack is back with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the question this hour is what do you want to hear from President Obama about the oil spill during tomorrow night's address from the oval office to the nation?
The first letter comes from Gene. Most of all, I'd like to here that the booms are working, the skimming is working, and the marine biologists can treat the estuaries, marshes, and wetlands. And that they believe the fish animals and funnel (ph) will be able to reproduce and grow back to normal life ecosystems within two to three years.
Paul writes, he needs to lay the ground work for a new energy policy in this country. Yes, this will include oil, but it's the perfect opportunity to sway public support for new clean energy sources like solar, wind and, yes, nuclear. We cannot have a green energy future without nuclear power.
Remo in Texas writes, the reality of it all is that he's blown it. He had the chance and the responsibility to act 45 days earlier and he didn't. This is his defining style, and these are his results.
A in Baltimore writes, I'm not sure there's anything he can say tomorrow that's going to make anybody feel any better. Obviously, the technology required to fix this issue needs to be greater than the one that created it, and sadly, it doesn't exist at present. Why no one is being test to create and I'll never know. This is a country that sent men to the moon.
Jeffrey in Massachusetts writes, just the facts. I think he's been telling the truth, but the unvarnished truth is that BP wasn't prepared for this and didn't take step to prevent it. The government doesn't have all the answers. People who have been asking for small government need to consider what they wish for.
Stephen writes President Obama should explain to us again how it is that he would meet with no precondition with Ahmadinejad and then explain why it took nearly two months and only after incredulity on the part of the citizenry to meet with someone atop the ladder at BP.
Jonsie writes, it's a little late for talk. 56 days?
If you want to read more on the subject, go to my blog, CNN.com/cafferty file -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And we'll have, of course, live coverage 8:00 p.m. eastern, Jack, tomorrow night of the president's address from the oval office.
President Obama now in the middle of his fourth visit to the Gulf of Mexico. How is the trip playing with his critics?
And the FBI has just released new details about the life of the Late Senator Ted Kennedy. We have the documents. Much more coming up.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's going on.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. A California judge today refused to suspend the medical license of the doctor charged in Michael Jackson's death. State authorities had requested that Dr. Conrad Murray be banned from practicing medicine in California. Murray has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter in the pop star's death.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review whether California must cut its prison population by almost 40,000 inmates. The state is challenging a federal court order to reduce the number of prisoners by the end of 2011 to improve medical and mental health care. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledges the state's prisons are overcrowded, but he says the state should be able to solve the problem on its own without federal interference.
And new warnings about security problems with the new Apple iPad from the hackers who tapped into them one day after AT&T acknowledged a security breach to its iPad 3g, those responsible for the break say there are still ways for someone to gain unwanted access to the device. So far, Apple has not commented on the issue.
New details are emerging about the life of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The FBI has now posted more than 2,000 pages of highly anticipated documents on its website about the legendary Massachusetts politician. Among the highlights, records indicating death threats against him long after his failed 1980 bid for the presidency. And Wolf, this is fascinating. You know, if you're a historian, you love history, fascinating to take a look at some of these documents. And what's also interesting is how these death threats continued for years after the 1960s.
BLITZER: A lot of people will want to read them. Lisa, thanks very much.
And to our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM -- happening now.
President Obama is on his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast to assess the oil spill. This time, a two-day visit to be followed by an address to the nation from the oval office. Will it be enough for critics questioning his leadership of this crisis?