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THE SITUATION ROOM
Families Wait for Loved Ones from Disabled Cruise Ship; Democrat Attempt to End Hagel Filibuster Fails; First Images from Stricken Ship
Aired February 14, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Effort to break a filibuster that would have allowed a formal roll call vote for Chuck Hagel to be the nation's next defense secretary has now failed. They needed 60 votes to break the filibuster. They only got 58. Dana Bash is our chief congressional correspondent. Major setback right now for the Obama administration, for the Democrats, they couldn't break that filibuster.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. And it is a change over what we thought and what they thought, even just a few days ago. And the reason for the change is because some Republicans who had said that they would not support a filibuster, that they would oppose it, vote yes today, effectively, changed their mind. They changed their mind, they said, because they wanted to stand in solidarity with their fellow Republican senators who were insisting on more time to contemplate Hagel's nomination, more time to try to get answer to questions that they insist that they still have over speeches that he gave, how he was paid, things like that.
On the Democratic side, of course, they have been arguing that he has given above and beyond the information that senators need for his confirmation.
But at the end of the day, what's going to happen, Wolf, is next week, there's going to be a Congressional recess. No one will be here. And the expectation is that they will take this vote, once again. And several of those Republicans that I was talking about told me that they will vote yes next time.
We'll see if anything percolates over the next week to change it once again.
BLITZER: Have you had a chance yet, Dana, to look at the roll call, to see who the three Republicans who joined the Democrats to vote in favor of this effort to break the filibuster were?
BASH: Susan Collins of Maine was one. She actually had a phone call from Joe Biden yesterday and told him that she was going to be with the White House on this. And she actually just told our Rachel Streifeld moments ago in the hallway that she did it because she believes the president has a right to have whomever he wants in his cabinet. Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, also said that she was going to -- that she voted with the Democrats. That's because she said she didn't want to break her word, because she had always said she won't oppose a filibuster.
And we -- I believe the other Republican was the senator from his home state of Nebraska, but we have to find out for sure.
BLITZER: And I...
BASH: I know that the two female senators, Republican senators, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, did break with their party on this.
BLITZER: We'll check.
And Orrin Hatch voted present, is that right?
BASH: That's our understanding. It's something he is wont to do on votes like this, procedural votes. He has voted present in the past.
BLITZER: Well, it's clearly a setback for the administration.
Gloria is here.
Gloria Borger is our chief political analyst.
A setback for the White House. They wanted this to break...
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
BLITZER: -- so they could have a formal up and down vote, 51 votes would lead to confirmation. This is a setback.
Here's the question, because there's been a lot of rumors out there, speculation, maybe Chuck Hagel himself, given the up war (ph), given the fact that to be an effective Defense secretary you need bipartisan support. He's not getting it, ironically, even though he's a Republican -- served for 12 years as a Republican senator, maybe he himself would tell the president...
BLITZER: -- for the good of the country, maybe it's best I withdraw my name for consideration.
BORGER: No. And every signal we got today from the administration is that that is -- couldn't be further from the truth, that both he and the White House intend to fight this. And the White House believes that when they return from their Congressional recess, as Dana was pointing out, that when they have another vote -- they've made their point and that they would then vote to allow his confirmation to come up for its final vote.
The question that I have, Wolf, is, is there kind of a hangover on this to the confirmation of John Brennan as head of the CIA? John McCain had a press conference earlier today and said he is going to continue asking questions about who knew what when on Benghazi. And those questions will go to John Brennan.
BLITZER: A major setback for the Obama administration. Chuck Hagel still has not been confirmed. They are going to have to wait several more days. We'll see what happens in these days to follow.
Thanks very much, Gloria and Dana.
Let's get back to the other breaking news story we're following. Right now, we're getting our first look at the unimaginable conditions on board that stricken cruise ship, the Carnival Triumph. It's now crawling -- crawling at a very slow pace to port. It's being towed by tugboats to Mobile, Alabama.
The ship is now close enough to land that passengers can send pictures. And what a disturbing sight some of these pictures are. Conditions inside the ship -- inside -- described by some as putrid. At least that's the word one passenger put out -- public areas fouled by raw sewage, people forced to use plastic bags instead of toilets.
And take a look at this. Our helicopter captured passengers lying on the deck spelling out the world "help."
The Triumph is still estimated to be at least -- at least six hours away from docking right now. The 3,000 plus passengers, 1,000 plus crew members, so many of them desperate to end this nightmare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in desperate need and we need food. We need water. You know, so just come and help us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We have reporters on land, in the air and in boats. They're all watching the Triumph as it limps into port.
Victor Blackwell is in a boat alongside the Triumph right now -- Victor, tell us what you're seeing.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT:
I'm seeing a much closer view of the Triumph than we've seen up to this point. The Coast Guard is keeping a distance of about 500 yards of anyone not involved with bringing this in to port.
We just got some good news. I've been speaking with the captain (INAUDIBLE) of the vessel that we're using to stay so close, is that Carnival's Triumph has now passed what would be the strongest current coming against this ship headed out, because on the left of the screen is Fort Morgan, which is on the other side. You can't see it, it's Dauphin Island. And any water headed out to the ocean -- or out to the Gulf, rather -- would come past us at that point. It has now made it past that point and into Mobile Bay. So it is still in the channel, moving in the right direction. Again, this will be probably another six hours, as you said. It will be well after midnight before the last person on Triumph disembarks and hits land again to begin that progress to get back home. They can either go to hotels in New Orleans or they can take buses to Houston or Galveston to start that travel home -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Are there a lot of boats nearby within this area where you are watching the Triumph make its way slowly to port?
BLACKWELL: There is -- I can see one private vessel from here. But mostly what I'm seeing, of course, these two tugs are involved. There's the Coast Guard that is here. There's also Homeland Security that was here. Those pilots were out here, the Mobile and the Alabama that are working with this tug to guide it along the channel.
So, no, not many private vessels, but a lot of the vessels involved specifically with bringing Triumph into Mobile port.
BLITZER: And you can make out that tugboat that's -- that's bringing that huge, huge ship into port. You can see it from where you are. It looks -- they -- they had a break in that tug line earlier in the (INAUDIBLE).
But it looks pretty good right now, right?
BLACKWELL: Yes. That was a few hours ago. And you can see that there is tension in that line. We heard, actually, through scanner traffic, which maybe you can hear behind me right now, that that line broke.
Then we saw the pilot boat that is -- that came up to kind of guide this in rush back to the tug and try to rig that up again to get it moving again.
While it was unconnected, this ship swerved 180 degrees back and forth at the beginning of this journey. But now, it is moving in the right direction. It will likely pick up pace because, as I said, it's moved past the strongest current that was fighting against it.
BLITZER: So it's a pretty amazing moment right there, Victor. Anything else you want to share with us before I let you go?
BLACKWELL: Well, I can tell you that what these people are feeling is cold. I mean it's much colder than they expected. So the people who were standing on this deck -- and I know you can see them from the helicopter shots -- did not expect to be coming into these temperatures. So, again, they are in bath robes. They have people who are waiting in the port with coats for them, because it was in the 30s this morning, 40 in the afternoon. As we move into the evening, it's going to be even cooler. So they're getting a bit of a shock, although they're excited to hit land -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But it is -- there's no rain or anything like that, right? BLACKWELL: No, there's no rain. But there was some rough weather here yesterday. That was actually one of the major concerns, that if the weather that held yesterday and the previous day were -- appeared today, that that would create another problem for this ship. But clear blue skies. Actually, the shot that we saw this morning, that 10 to 15 mile an hour wind, that has died down. And it looks like things are going well, if that line holds and this tug continues to pull Triumph.
BLITZER: Victor, thanks very much.
We'll stay in close touch with you.
Be careful out in the waters over there, as well.
Joining us now on the phone is a passenger on board the Triumph.
Parisa Safarzadeh is on the phone.
She's -- she's one of the passengers on the boat.
Parisa, tell us, first of all, how you're doing.
PARISA SAFARZADEH, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: Hi, Wolf.
Considering, we're doing OK.
BLITZER: You're doing all right?
P. SAFARZADEH: We are. We're making it through. We're doing all right.
BLITZER: All right, well, that's good, because you only have a few more hours to suffer on board.
Parisa, your mom Sheila, we spoke with her yesterday here on CNN in THE SITUATION ROOM.
She's also on the phone.
First of all, Sheila, say hello to your daughter, Parisa.
SHEILA SAFARZADEH, MOTHER OF TRIUMPH PASSENGER: Hey, sugar.
P. SAFARZADEH: Hi, mom.
S. SAFARZADEH: How are you, baby?
P. SAFARZADEH: Good. We'll be home soon.
S. SAFARZADEH: I know.
P. SAFARZADEH: It will be OK.
S. SAFARZADEH: I'm so proud of all of you all.
P. SAFARZADEH: Oh, my God, thanks. But the crew is who you should be proud of. They've been exceptional.
P. SAFARZADEH: -- hit their breaking point. The crew has been really wonderful.
S. SAFARZADEH: I think all of the passengers should all be so commended because it's been a very difficult time for all of you all. (AUDIO GAP). And I'm so happy that you all are almost home.
P. SAFARZADEH: Oh, we -- trust me, we're very happy, too.
BLITZER: Parisa, tell us what it's been like these past few days. I'm sure your mom, Sheila, who's on the phone now, she wants to know.
You were -- I know you recently graduated from college. You work in PR. Your mom is in a nurse. And she, first, of all, she's a mom, so she's obviously been very worried about you.
So tell us what it's been like.
P. SAFARZADEH: You know, immediately, it was panic. None of the detectors went off, as in the fire alarms, smoke alarms (INAUDIBLE). And none of that activated.
So, initially, it was pure havoc. It was all word of mouth, people grabbing life jackets, you know, random announcements on the PA, but not too much information.
And, of course, when we finally all made it to the top deck and saw all of the smoke, you can imagine, Wolf, we were just pretty frightened.
But since then, it's been an overwhelming amount of camaraderie and, you know, just sticking together. I'm actually quite impressed with everybody on this ship. And I think I can confidently say that from the captain (INAUDIBLE), we're really impressed with everybody's teamwork here. I think we're just most frustrated with the -- the head office.
BLITZER: Yes, so it sounds like it's been a rough ride.
You were there on this cruise ship with a bunch of friends, is that right, Parisa?
P. SAFARZADEH: Right. We graduated in December, so we all put our heads together and thought, well, what better way to celebrate than go on a cruise?
And, you know, we had one fun day in Mexico. So that's what we keep reliving on. And whether it's, you know, urine and sewage leaking from the ceilings or, you know, babies crying because they've run out of formula, it's been overwhelming.
But, you know, we're making it through. BLITZER: Sheila, do you have a question for your daughter, Parisa?
S. SAFARZADEH: No. I just admire their -- her spirit. It makes me grateful that we all have a chance to get up the next morning.
BLITZER: So, Parisa, tell us what you're going to do. If -- the ship is supposed to dock any time between 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. Central and midnight Eastern. It's going to take four to five hours to get all 4,200 people off that ship.
What do you want to do when you get off the ship?
P. SAFARZADEH: Well, at this point, we're used to long lines and long waits, so, you know, no rush, honestly.
But I can tell you, on behalf of my friends and I, we are desperate for a hot shower, just good conversation and dry land. But, you know, we're just going to jump in a car and actually drive back home, because we're not, you know, interested in sitting on a bus or waiting a couple more days to fly home. We want to see our family and friends and sleep in our beds.
We'll be heading from Mobile straight to Houston when we get back.
BLITZER: How long of a drive is that?
P. SAFARZADEH: I've been told it's about 10 to 12 hours. We've been, you know, pretty much confined for four or five days, so what's another 10 or 12 more, right?
BLITZER: And, Sheila, you're going to be waiting for your daughter. You must be very proud of her. She sounds pretty good under pretty dire circumstances.
What's your reaction, mom?
S. SAFARZADEH: I'm very, very proud of her. And I know her friends did equally as well. They're a group of young, super smart, compassionate professionals. And I can't thank them enough for seeing that the truth was coming out, so everybody knows what they were going through. I really appreciate that.
BLITZER: Parisa, do you plan on doing any cruises any time soon?
P. SAFARZADEH: Absolutely no, Wolf. However, I told my parents, or my dad the other day, when I talked to him, like, you know, since this was a botched graduation gift, could we get another one, possibly a flight (INAUDIBLE), maybe a road trip. That would be better.
BLITZER: I think you've got a good sense of humor and you're a good -- a good passenger. And you've had -- shown a lot of patience under pretty awful circumstances.
We're glad we could reconnect both mom and daughter via cell phone.
Parisa, thanks very much.
Sheila, thanks to you, as well.
I know you guys are anxiously looking forward to getting back together.
Good luck to both of you.
P. SAFARZADEH: Absolutely.
Thank you, Wolf.
S. SAFARZADEH: Thanks.
BLITZER: All right, this just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
This video comes from passenger Megan Clemens Foxall (ph), taken early Sunday morning when the fire started.
You can see thick black smoke coming from the top of the ship from the smoke stack. Foxall tells CNN she knew something was wrong. When she saw the smoke, she heard an alarm going off. She didn't find out from crew members until hours later. There was actually a fire. Passengers were just told by the crew, and I'm quoting now, "There is a situation and it's under control."
Of course, the fire caused the ship to lose power and to drift and we've seen these horrible conditions over these past several days unfold. But these are the pictures that we're seeing of the smoke on board. You can actually see the fire that started this enormous, enormous problem on the Carnival "Triumph."
We're getting more pictures, more interviews with passengers of the "Triumph" coming in in our 6:00 p.m. hour. We'll have an interview with one person who describes the cruise in his own words as simply a nightmare. We'll be getting a lot more pictures, interviews coming up. We'll stay on top of this story as the Carnival cruise ship, the "Triumph," slowly makes its way to port.
BLITZER: All right. There you see the Carnival "Triumph" slowly making its way. It looks like it's passing some sort of -- I assume that's an oil rig out there in the -- off the port of Mobile, Alabama. Still going to take several hours before it reaches the port. It's moving about five-mile, five or six miles an hour, very slowly as that small tugboat tries to pull it towards shore.
Hopefully, there won't be any more problems. It will get there some time, we're told, between 10:00 p.m. eastern and midnight and it could take as long as four to five hours to get all 4,200 people off that vessel. Martin Savidge is on the dock with family members who are waiting for their loved ones. You've got some special guests, right, Martin?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do, Wolf. Yes. We're waiting here at the Alabama Cruise Center. This is ground zero for the family members that are waiting anxiously for this ship to tie up here. Joining me now are Beth Atkins, Rusty Atkins, and John Hare, and you all have family on board that vessel right now. And John, let me start with you, because I just want to get a sense. What is it waiting, waiting, waiting like for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll, I've tried to keep my peace about knowing that I can't control that situation. I felt a lot better today. I was able to talk to my wife for the first time since Monday at two o'clock. It feels so good to know that they're safe and sound. That's the main thing.
SAVIDGE: Your wife and daughter, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
SAVIDGE: And then, Rusty, same circumstance here, I mean, for the both of you, you too, Beth. Let me point this in the right direction that will make it a lot better. The wait and just hearing as it gets delayed, delayed, delayed, what's that like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very frustrating. We want to see our family members so bad. And we want to get them off the ship as quickly as possible. It seems like it is being delayed, keeps adding delays. It's very, very frustrating.
SAVIDGE: Beth, this all began, of course, on Sunday or when did you first hear?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sunday around two o'clock, I believe, that she called and told us that the ship was on fire, and then Monday, we got a call back with the devastating news of all of the issues that were going on, the food issues, the restroom issues, the smell issues, you know, so on and so forth.
SAVIDGE: We know it well. What are your feelings towards this cruise line right now? Are you feeling that you're getting the information as a parent, as a loved one waiting on shore?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not consistently. The information that we received the last few days has been so inconsistent. You call one time and you get one information. You call back and you get totally something -- totally different. Delayed information it seems like.
SAVIDGE: And that's been a big problem. We should point out, many of the people, family members here have said that they haven't they've been kept informed. You had a long drive. You came all the way from Indiana?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It was a round-about trip, but yes, sir, we are from Indiana.
SAVIDGE: If you drove straight through, that'd be 18 hours?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. If I drove straight through. Right.
SAVIDGE: What is the plan now? What is the plan as far as getting back with family? And where are you going to go next?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my. Well, first of all, we can't wait to see them and then we're going to take them and whatever food they want, whatever -- if they want to get cleaned up, that's what we want to provide for them as quickly as possible.
SAVIDGE: Are you going to go with the plans that Carnival had instituted or do you feel family knows best?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we just heard that we're able to go to a hotel provided nearby. That's fine by me. It's still Valentine's. We've got time to celebrate.
SAVIDGE: All right. Thank you all for taking the time to talk to us. We can't wait for you to be reunited.
Wolf, that is kept in a lot of people's minds. So, this is Valentine's Day here. There were a lot of plans, because these families were supposed to be reunited long ago and it's going to happen tonight or maybe tomorrow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: These people deserve a shower very quickly once they get off that ship. Martin, thanks very, very much.
Let's check in with our meteorologist, Chad Myers. Chad, it's a slow-moving vessel right now. They say it's resumed course and you'll explain what this means. It's resumed course towards shore at 1.1 degrees, speed is 5.4 knots or 6.21 miles per hour. 6.12 miles per hour is better than one mile per hour which it was only a few hours ago.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: In fact, it was doing one mile per hour backwards two hours ago when the line broke from the towboat to the ship. All of a sudden, the ship was literally just wandering off into space. It was backing up. The other towboats were trying to keep it steady, another towboat was hooked up to it. Now, it's finally making way again.
It is still 29 miles from the dock. And that's the rub. They can see the shore. They can see the beach. They can see Ft. Morgan. They can see the other side here, Dauphin Island, but they are still very far from where the port it. Here's what happened during the day as they were doing fairly well. As the line broke, it just drifted out here in the ocean. Finally got hooked back up and straight down the nans and the cans right down through that little channel right there. There it goes. That's the line that it's already been. There's the ship right there, but it still has 29 miles to go. Between the two nans and the cans right there, the red on the right, red right returning. That's the first thing you ever learn as a mariner from Chapman's piloting book. There's another set of (INAUDIBLE), right, through here. It's going to make a slight left-hand turn and then down into Mobile Bay at four, five, maybe six miles per hour.
That's going to take a really long time. If you want to travel and you want to track it. You can. In fact, there are some areas here. There's one graphic we've been watching, one website as well. This is called Vessel Finder. You can look over here to the side doing four knots, doing 9.8 degrees, and there's the ship right there.
Six, seven hours still to go, Wolf. And then, they have to dock and because there's only one elevator working, it could take four hours to get everyone off. I think we're going to be here all night long.
BLITZER: I think you're right. Get ready for a long night for everybody, but hopefully, those 4,200 people will get off in less than four or five hours, but we want everybody to get off safely as well. Chad, we'll check back with you.
We're, of course, not going to lose sight of this cruise ship limping its way back up the channel towards Mobile, Alabama and some comfort for the thousands of passengers, 3,200 passengers, more than 1,000 crew members. We'll continue to watch this slowly moving vessel.
Up next, though, also, we're taking a look at the most expensive weapon ever built. Yes. A $400 billion price tag as the Pentagon faces $500 billion spending cuts. What's going on? Stand by.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This week on "The Next List, meet Ed Lew (ph). He's building a space telescope. He says it's going to protect the Earth from asteroids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the sentinel space telescope.
GUPTA: That's it? That's basically the size of it there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The real one is about the size of, say, a delivery truck. So, it's about 23, 24 feet tall. And, it's about 2,600 pounds. In over 6 1/2-year period, it is going to scan Earth's orbit multiple times and map all the asteroids across Earth's orbit (Inaudible) asteroids it could get hit with.
GUPTA: So it's going to track about a half million asteroids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, each month it's going to discover about 10,000 asteroids.
GUPTA: Each month. 10,000?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each month. Yes. So which is more than all other telescopes throughout history have combined to discover. So, it will do that every month.
GUPTA: Watch more and former NASA astronaut, Ed Lew (ph) and his urgent mission to save planet Earth this Sunday on "The Next List."
BLITZER: There you see a live picture of the Carnival Triumph slowly making its way to port. It's moving at around five or six miles an hour. It's being tugged in. It should be getting there, assuming all goes well, sometime after 10:00 p.m. Eastern, and sometime before midnight, that's if all goes well. It hasn't all gone well by any means over these past several days, even in these past few hours there was a break in the tug line but they fixed it. It's now moving. Let's hope it moves in safely and surely in the next several hours. We'll continue to watch this story.
But I want to also bring you up to date of some other news we're watching, including some drastic Pentagon cuts now only a couple of weeks away. Many critics are pointing fingers at a new warplane that's hundreds, hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, isn't even operational. It's being called, quote, "The most expensive weapon ever built."
We're talking about the high-tech F-35. Listen to this. According to "TIME" magazine, our sister publication, the F-35's price tag has nearly doubled since 2001 to $396 billion. It's described as a, quote, "flying Swiss Army knife," able to engage in dog fights, drop bombs and spy with versions that work for the Air Force, the Marine Corps, and the Navy.
Joining us now is "TIME" magazine's managing editor Rick Stengel. "TIME," as you know, is our corporate sibling -- corporate sibling of CNN.
Rick, it seems like a lot of taxpayer money has been totally wasted already. What's going on because at a time when we're worried about paychecks for troops, they're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on this.
What's going on?
RICK STENGEL, TIME MANAGING EDITOR: Now, Wolf, you know, they say generals fight the last war. They sometimes build weapons for the last war. And the F-35 was conceived as the fighter to end all fighters. The successor to the F-16. It would work for all the different services. But it was conceived and designed so many years ago in some ways it's about the 20th century warfare.
Now in an era when we have drones, we have drones all over the place, the question is, should we really be spending $400 billion and should taxpayers be spending that money for a weapon system that may be obsolete by the time it rolls off the runway. BLITZER: It was a really great article. I read the whole thing. Mark Thompson, your reporter, wrote it. He's -- he's a great journalist with a lot of experience in these military matters. It's by no means the first time there's been a battle over high-tech military infrastructure, if you will, weapons, if you will. There's always some fighting going on. But so much has already been spent.
Here's the question. Would it be a mistake to just drop this thing and move on?
STENGEL: Well, one of the things that Mark says, Wolf, is that you might want to look at this program and restrain it a little bit, to take it a step back, to develop some of the other jets that are working, like the F-16, the F-15, and blend all of that together to a system that actually works better for today's warfare and actually save some money for the taxpayers.
BLITZER: The article says the F-35's contractors employ 133,000 people across 45 states. Lockheed Martin says there will be more jobs available. So there are a lot of politicians who have a stake in this aircraft, right?
STENGEL: Yes. The politicians have a stake in the aircraft because there are factories in their districts. They get contributions from the companies and one of the things that the Pentagon did as well, knowing that the sequester was coming, they put about $5 billion worth of contracts out the door before the end of the year.
BLITZER: It's a great article. It's in the new issue of "TIME" magazine.
Rick, thanks very much for joining us.
STENGEL: Great. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: By the way, you have a good cover on the Pope as well, "The Once and Future Pope: The New Politics of the Catholic Church." I read that article as well.
Rick Stengel from "TIME" magazine.
U.S. Airways and American Airlines are joining forces in a massive $11 billion deal which will form the largest airline in the world. The proposed merger, which will use the American Airlines name, is the latest in a series of moves that have combined 10 major airlines in just four mega carriers. A huge, huge development on that front.
Getting back to our top story, graph descriptions of appalling conditions. We're going to hear directly from more of the passengers desperate to get off the Carnival Triumph.
BLITZER: We're continuing to watch the Carnival Triumph slowly, slowly makes its way to port in Mobile, Alabama. You see the tugboat that's behind the vessel but another tugboat is pushing it in, bringing it in to port. Should be getting in sometime between 10:00 p.m. Eastern and midnight, assuming all goes well.
We got brand-new pictures that are being sent in to us from some of the Carnival Triumph passengers, including Sylvester Davis. So take a look at this Sylvester Davis is joining us on the phone right now.
Thanks very much for helping us. We've got some pictures that we're seeing that you sent us. First of all, how are you doing, Mr. Davis?
SYLVESTER DAVIS, PASSENGER ON CARNIVAL TRIUMPH: It hasn't been a picnic but we're hanging in there.
BLITZER: What's been the worst part so far?
DAVIS: The worst part is just the -- as you've seen the pictures, just the urine everywhere and the feces everywhere and just the general conditions. The crew is doing the best they can. But it's just been an awful situation.
BLITZER: Is it getting -- has it been getting any better as you get closer and closer to port?
DAVIS: It got a lot better -- most of the notifications went out that the NTSB and the Coast Guard was coming on board. They spent a lot of time cleaning up. And it's sort of frustrating because it doesn't look like now the way it's been looking and the way we've been living.
BLITZER: Have you had enough food?
DAVIS: When we first started off on Sunday we were having tomato sandwiches and lettuce sandwiches, and cucumber sandwiches. After we got the delivery from -- I think we got a delivery from Elation and Conquest Carnival ships, the food got a little better.
It's been kind of hit and miss, kind of spotty. You know, we have some, then we run out. But -- it wasn't unusual to wait three hours in line for food. Most of the food was cold -- was cold food and then after a while they got -- we're going to have power to have one grill off. We could get hot food. But of course that line was long and it wasn't uncommon to wait 3, 3 1/2 hours in that line if you wanted hot food.
BLITZER: I'm going to put some of the pictures you sent us up on the screen, Mr. Davis, and you can maybe give us a little background. You sent us a picture of a charging station, showing cell phones being charged. I assume that's why we're talking, because you were able to charge your cell phone?
DAVIS: Yes. People released -- did a lot of scavenging and we found anywhere -- someone found spaces where there was power, no people were -- people were pulling power strips off the back of monitors, they had air then (INAUDIBLE) and hooking them up and then the word would get around and everybody would just hook up and try to get their phones charged. Because that was important because, again, we don't have any cell service. We didn't have any cell service directly on this ships so after the ships came up to give us supplies, we could use their cell tower and we could make calls, but that was the only time we could get calls or anything else out.
BLITZER: You also sent us pictures of backed-up urinals including buckets underneath those urinals. Pretty disgusting. That -- you said this is the worst part of what you had to endure?
DAVIS: Yes. Yes. They -- basically those three buckets, you see the red buckets, as you see, they've got the black bags over the urinal, that was the men's restroom, and they wanted you to basically urinate in those buckets.
BLITZER: Wow. There was a letter you also sent us from the captain explaining how he's been selected by the NTSB for a brief interview before he debarks the ship once they report. What did they tell you about what the National Transportation Safety Board is going to do?
DAVIS: That was a letter that someone showed us and we just took a picture of. I don't know how those people got selected. One of the ladies down by the cabin where we were originally supposed to stay have been selected to be interviewed. They didn't even announce over the intercom that they were even doing any interviews. So random people, I don't know how they got selected. They're are about to make an announcement here. I'm sorry.
BLITZER: Let's listen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. Immigration, we ask at this time we are going up the (INAUDIBLE) on deck. As you know the Immigration has been a real friend. Have already (INAUDIBLE). The Customs with you on all of your documentary. But (INAUDIBLE) eight and nine at this time. Thank you.
BLITZER: Hey, Mr. Davis, what did they just announce?
DAVIS: They announced that the deck 8 and 9 are now proceeding to go through Immigration -- Customs and Immigration and Coast Guard came on board so they can go deck by deck and that they are going to clear us the Immigration on the ship and hopefully that means when we finally dock we can just get off and go.
BLITZER: What is your game plan once you get off that ship? What are you going to do?
DAVIS: Well, it's been a lot of misinformation. I was supposed to get information on how to get out of here and it was supposed to be delivered to my room. So I don't really know. They had people sign up for where they were going to go and they had to find out where we're going to go and I never got the information. Some people are flying out, some people are bussing to Galveston. Some people are being flown to their original destination.
But at this point in time, a lot of people -- some people have their complete information with flight information and other people don't have anything. So you don't know whether you're going anywhere at this point. You hope you're going somewhere once we dock and everything's taken care of, but you don't know.
BLITZER: Where is home?
DAVIS: My home is in the Dallas area.
BLITZER: The Dallas area. Well, Mr. Davis, good luck to you. Good luck to all of your fellow passengers, the crewmembers. We'll stay in touch with you if we can. I appreciate you sending us some of those pictures as well.
Sylvester Davis, a cruise ship passenger. Good luck.
DAVIS: Thank you very much, sir. Have a good day.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Much more coming up on this story. Erin Burnett, by the way, is going "OUTFRONT" on this story as well. She's live in Alabama talking tonight to passengers. That follows us here THE SITUATION ROOM at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Erin is on the scene in Mobile, Alabama.
Carnival cruise lines confronting a PR nightmare. We're going to talk about that, what they've done wrong, what they've done right, and a lot more as the Carnival Triumph slowly, slowly makes its way to port.
BLITZER: There is a live picture of the Carnival Triumph as it's slowly making its way to port in Mobile, Alabama. It's going to take several more hours, should be arriving, we're told, sometime between 10:00 p.m. Eastern and midnight. Assuming all goes well. That's a big assumption, though, right now given the history of this particular vessel.
The cruise nightmare has been a public relations nightmare for Carnival cruises at the same time.
CNN's Mary Snow is taking a closer look at how the company is handling all of this. Mary is joining us right now.
What are you hearing, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, people who deal in crisis management will tell you that image right now is crucial in how Carnival handles this. One image that's gained negative attention is a picture of the CEO of Carnival Corporation. That's the parent company of Carnival cruise lines, Micky Arison, was photographed at a Miami Heat's game Tuesday night, all of this as this ordeal is unfolding for more than 4,000 people stuck on the Carnival Triumph cruise ship.
Now one important distinction here, Arison owns the Miami Heat, and one crisis management firm we spoke to says, he doesn't see that picture as being very damaging because Arison does have a responsibility to the team as well. He says overall while the Carnival cruise line has done some things right, there are questions that have yet to be answered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANCE IGNON, SITRICK AND COMPANY: Why was this condition allowed to happen? Yes, we understand that you can lose your power. But why did it evolve into such a difficult situation for these people? Wasn't there something more that the company could have done? And so far I don't see a great explanation for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Now one of the big questions is, why couldn't the passengers be taken off the ship earlier, both cruise -- the cruise line and Coast Guard personnel have cited safety reasons. Of course, that will likely come under more scrutiny once that ship has returned to dock -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A public relations nightmare, to be sure. Thanks very much for that, Mary Snow.
And there's a live picture, as you see, of the Carnival Triumph, as it makes its way to Mobile, the port in Mobile. It's moving slowly. Our helicopter is getting ready to fly over the Carnival cruise ship, the Triumph, and we're going to bring you those live pictures shortly as well.
There's other news we're following, including news of a popular Olympic athlete known around the world as Blade Runner. Today he stands charged in his girlfriend's murder. That story and much more coming up.
BLITZER: An Olympic star charged in the murder of his model girlfriend after a shooting at his South African home.
Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on, Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this story has been grabbing a lot of people's attention, Wolf. Oscar Pistorius, also known as Blade Runner, for the signature blades he uses in place of legs, made history last summer competing in the Olympics, despite his disability. Investigators have now given no motive in this death, though he has -- obviously is in custody. His first court appearance is scheduled for tomorrow. We'll be following up on that, you can be sure. Also, Democratic New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg says he will not be running for re-election in 2014. We're just finding this out. The longtime senator says this isn't the end of anything, though, but rather the beginning of a two-year mission to pass new gun safety laws and create more opportunities for working families. Now 89 years old, Lautenberg says he plans to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of his state.
And in a Google Plus hangout this afternoon, President Obama repeated his calls for changes in the nation's gun control laws. And he says that it does not mean he is against all guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I actually don't think we should ban handguns, but keep in mind that what we're trying to do is to come up with a package that protects Second Amendment rights, but also makes a meaningful difference in reducing violence. We're not going to eliminate it completely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Regardless, it's still going to be a tough, uphill battle for the president on gun control measures -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Kate. See you in a -- a few minutes.
We've seen the ship moving slowly, very slowly, all day. When we come back, we're going to take you inside.
BLITZER: Let's take a closer look inside this giant ship.
CNN's Tom Foreman is here to take us on a little tour. It's a big, big ship, the Triumph, isn't it?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really is Wolf. And until you've been in this environment it's hard to imagine just how large. This was built in 1999, $420 million. It's got 13 decks on here. And when you look at some of the upper decks like this, the Panorama Deck, you can see there are entertainment areas out here, places for people to do things, and only a limited amount of housing up here for people, rooms. You go to Lido Deck, same thing. You got a lot of entertainment and the buffet down here, things like that, exercise areas, and down here is the living area.
But as you move down into the ship, Wolf, you move into the areas where I think you're going to hear more people having complaints, because you go down the Veranda Deck, look at this, that's a lot of spaces in there for people to be living, both inside the ship and out toward the outer edge.
The Empress deck, below that, look, same thing. Tremendous number of places in here. Beyond there, the main deck. Again, lots and lots of people in a little space here. And then all the way down to the Riviera deck, you see the same effect.
My suspicion, Wolf, is as we get the ship to shore and people start telling exactly where they were, we're going to find that a lot of people in these lower decks, because you can see where the Riviera deck is, down here in line with the lifeboats here, I think you're going to find where there are a lot of people are clustered together, that's where some of the biggest complaints were because obviously, it's a lot of people, not a lot of space, and whatever services are being used down there are having more pressure on them, even if people can move around the ship -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks for that explanation.
And happening now, we're following the breaking news. The final hours of a truly hellish cruise. Passengers can see land, but they still can't escape a crippled ship that has become a floating disaster area. Only CNN has been bringing you live pictures of the Carnival Triumph from the land, from the air, and from the sea.