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BP Gulf Oil Leak

Aired May 26, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thank you, Wolf. It is day 37 and a high-risk, high-stakes operation is under way in an effort to finally, finally stop the leak spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The operation began five hours ago. And though there initially was some hope we would know tonight if it had succeeded a top BP official just moments ago said it could be another full day.


TONY HAYWARD, BP CEO: At least another 24 hours. And it will be 24 hours before we know whether or not this has been successful.


KING: We have reporters throughout the Gulf region. We're also keeping our eyes glued to the live video feeds coming in from the Gulf waters as BP pumps sand and cement into that well hoping it can finally stop the leak. It's an operation performed on land all the time but unprecedented 5,000 feet down in icy murky waters. Like trying to do brain surgery a mile deep on the bottom of the ocean is how Mississippi's governor put it earlier today.

Louisiana is bearing the brunt of this, 100 miles of its coastline affected and its governor is openly frustrated saying both BP and the federal government are moving too slowly, along with Governor bobby Jindal today as he assessed the impact where our contributors James Carville and Mary Matalin who join us now for a firsthand account and with their take on both the environmental damage and the political fallout.

James and Mary, let me just begin. Take us out there and tell us what you saw, how grim it was.


MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I was out there Sunday so what people need to understand is the grimness is exponential. The velocity, the speed with which this gunk -- it's not solid oil, it's paste, it's goo, it's crude -- the speed and the velocity with which it's killing everything in its wake, so we were in a -- one of the oldest wildlife management areas in the country today, it's certainly the oldest one in the state, almost 100 years old, 500,000 acres completely surrounded.

The government and the Coast Guard and BP were told the oil is coming. They were told the oil has hit. They were told the oil is one foot up. Today it was four feet up and the whole marsh is dying. It's assaulting the interior marsh. Anderson will have video of this later, but it's dying and it's going to just float off into the ocean.

KING: And, James --


KING: And so then when you hear that -- when you hear that BP says it will be another 24 hours perhaps before we know whether this has succeeded, what goes through your mind?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, look, I obviously hope that this does it. But I'm not exactly sure why the two -- why can't they have private contractors out there? That's easy enough. I don't understand what BP is doing. And I think if the president comes down here on Friday and he doesn't go to Grand Isle because they're waiting for him there (INAUDIBLE).

If he goes in these marshes, which are some of the most productive and sensitive areas in the United States and you can go in there and see it and Anderson is going to have some dramatic footage of just how bad this gunk is that's gone on down there, those things, John, there was literally no activity. None. Now, it's true that the government doesn't have the ability to do this.

They can force BP to put contractors down there. There's any number of people, any number of things that can be done and they're not being done now and I don't think the president is being advised properly. I think people are telling him that BP is his partner in this. BP is not his partner. They don't wish him well. They don't wish anything well. They're trying to limit their liability and limit the number of damages they have to pay and they need to be held accountable.


MATALIN: Can I just add this, John, for the long term? Because just -- this is not in the photo op and all -- this is going to -- this is the most fertile and productive place for wildlife and fisheries almost in the world, but this -- and not that anytime would be good. But right now they're spawning, they're mating, they're hatching.

It's the worse possible time because the whole multiple generations are being wiped out. It's not just what's dying now. It's what's not going to live by virtue of this death that could be stopped now. Now and we're not even talking -- we haven't touched on the families, the fishermen, the culture, the way of life --

KING: Well --


KING: Let's do that. You're both clearly and understandably frustrated. Let's show our viewers just what you're talking about because the Gulf of Mexico economy, if it were a country, it would be the world's 29th largest economy, oil, tourism, fishing and shipping, $234 billion a year. Oil and gas 124 billion of that tourism, more than $100 billion per year and with each of those dollars comes jobs and livelihoods and homes and mortgages and the like.

I want you to listen because I sense -- I know your answer, but I want you to listen to the president of the United States who insists that the federal government is making a full-court effort here.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to bring every resource necessary to put a stop to this thing. But a lot of damage has been done already. Livelihoods destroyed, landscapes scarred, wildlife affected.


KING: Do you believe the federal government, James and Mary, has put every resource necessary on the floor to put a stop to this thing?

CARVILLE: Well, I think what he was saying, in defense of the president he was trying to put a stop to the oil, to what Maureen Dowd called the plume of doom. And I'm sure -- and I'm sure BP wants to stop that. Let me clear. No one wants this thing to go on.

And I don't think -- in defense of the president, I don't think he was talking about stopping the invasion of our wetlands because that's clearly not the case. So I'm going to assume and I think I'm correct in this that he was talking about stopping this gusher (INAUDIBLE) the spill out the Gulf but clearly nothing has been done at the mouth of the river. There was nobody out there. There was no activity. There was nothing.

MATALIN: We sailed through Plaquemines Parish through these marshes for two hours. We didn't see one boat, not one rescue effort, not one skimmer, not one container. There were booms around the marshes, again, the oldest wildlife management area almost in the country. They put a boom in and then they just let it -- it's gunked up, it absorbs all this stuff and it's just smashing into the marshes. They didn't even come back and get it. It's just -- it's holding the oil in there. It is assaulting the marshes. We didn't see anything for two hours and I didn't see anything on Sunday either.

KING: So the Plaquemines Parish -- president -- you just mentioned him -- he said he thinks Thad Allen, the president's -- leading the response down there, the former Coast Guard commandant, he called him an embarrassment. He said he ought to resign. When the governor came ashore he said one of the things that frustrates him is all the red tape.

That if you go somebody down there and say I need this done, they pump it up the chain, the command, two levels, three levels, four levels. Is this a question of presidential accountability or somewhere below that?

CARVILLE: Well, I think that the president -- my own personal view is I think someone has convinced this White House -- and I don't know who it is. Maybe it's a BP lobbyist -- we can't get a list of the lobbyists they have, the PR people they've hired. They've hired everything that walks in Washington. Somebody has convinced him that BP is their partner and as I said earlier they're not your partner. They're going to take --


KING: But James, you've advised presidents --


KING: I don't mean to interrupt --


KING: I don't mean to interrupt, but you've advised presidents so there's plenty of blame for BP. But in terms of the federal government, you know the resources available to a president of the United States. If he's being ill-advised, it's not just by BP.

CARVILLE: Right. Well I tell you I don't know. The explanation is one that I guess I'll read about. But I think when this president comes down here Friday and actually sees what's going on, I think -- I think we're going to swing into action here. I'm very optimistic that we're going to have a sea change here Friday. I just think that the president is not being told what the situation here is in a very candid way. And I urge him to come and take a look at it because if he sees what our viewers are going to see on Anderson Cooper tonight, he's -- we're going to see some real action down here.

MATALIN: John, can I just add, Billy -- Billy Nungesser of the Plaquemines Parish president is frustrated. People remember and admire and almost revere Admirable Allen for his heroic effort in Katrina. But there -- what happens is -- what they will tell you there's no situational awareness, there's no real-time response. So they -- they -- the state, the National Guard, will tell them where some oil is. They'll go to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard guy goes into a room with BP and they say just a minute (INAUDIBLE) maybe they say we'll be back in 24 hours. I don't know if you can blame Thad Allen for that, but Billy's frustrated.

KING: Here's my question.


KING: If you're optimistic the president is about to swing things into action, why does it take 37, 38, he'll be there on day 39?

CARVILLE: Well I'm sure that they've done some things, OK let's be -- I've been as critical of this president as anybody and we don't need -- I'm sure that they would point out that they've done any number of things. I don't think this president has been adequately assessed as to the gravity of this situation. I think he is a good man. I think he -- I think when he sees this that we're going to see some real sort of action here. And you know -- and I guess what they'd say is if we had to concentrate on filling up the -- a hole in the middle of the Gulf. But, you know, you know let's remember that this is a difficult situation, but they need to -- we need some action here and we've got to get this thing moving very quickly here. This is a disaster of the first magnitude. And BP is not the partner.

You know John, the chairman of BP said that BP was a big, important company and the United States was a big, important country. That they would both be -- BP is not equal to the United States government. And this president needs to tell BP, I'm your daddy, I'm in charge. You're going to do what we say.

You're a multinational company that is greedy and you may be guilty of criminal activity. It's time that we understand BP does not wish this thing well. They have been negligent. They need to whip out their checkbook and start moving into action. The president needs to push them.

MATALIN: We cannot excuse -- I'm not arguing with you -- we cannot excuse the inaction at the level of the federal bureaucracy. What these guys say down here and they learned a lot of lessons from Katrina which is when the feds are in it to win it, they do. And that is not happening. Bobby -- the governor has swung into action from day one, all the parish presidents, when the president was here on May 2nd he had a detailed parish-by-parish protection and containment plan. But they need -- they don't have the resources. They don't have the materials. And we're still not getting it.

KING: We're going to ask James and Mary to stand by.


KING: We'll be back -- just one second --

CARVILLE: This is corporate negligence and corporate greed on an unbelievable level.

KING: We'll be back in just one second with James and Mary. They'll continue to tell us about their first hand tour. Mary will explain to us what she brought back from the murky waters. Stay right with us. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with our contributors James Carville and Mary Matalin who themselves are just back from a horrifying boat tour of some of the devastated areas off their hometown, the city of New Orleans. And James and Mary, one of the big questions we still can't answer is how much oil. I'm showing our viewers just an animation here of the scope of the spill.

The darker the color in here the thicker the oil on the side off the coast of Louisiana, one of the questions is how big is this. And here are some of the things we're dealing with. A tanker capacity, you've all seen a tanker pulling into a gas station, holds 9,200 gallons. The government estimate is that 822 tankers worth of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

But Purdue University believes it is much higher than that. Its estimate is 11,504 tankers. That is an enormous difference in the two estimates and an enormous potential threat to the Gulf. Mary, I see you brought something back with you. I want your sense, having looked at it today and looked at it in the past as to the thickness and the spread of it as you were out there watching it.

MATALIN: All right. Spew is not a verb that goes with this and when the president comes everybody who comes needs to touch it. They need to smell it. This is a water bottle. It sticks to everything. You can't get it off your hand. They can't get it off of anything. It's not spewing. It's gurgling. It's sludge. It's sludge and it's deep and it's everywhere. You have to touch it. You have to smell it.

CARVILLE: Right. This is not WD-40 or three in one oil which you put in your car. This is some of the vile and nasty stuff that you can imagine and again I do hope and I think when the president comes down and sees this and when people see what Anderson has on his show tonight, they're going to see just how -- just what this stuff is and just what a problem that we're having here.

This thing is a -- and these are productive, high-quality areas. And BP -- and you know there needs to be an investigation. This minerals management service, this has to be the most inept and again I think some evidence of criminality there. There has to be accountability here. We hold a third grader accountable to what they learn. We have to hold these -- we have to hold these companies and these bureaucrats accountable for what they do too.

MATALIN: But before we get to accountability, America, just help. Just help. Anybody can help -- can put pressure on those who can help. There will be plenty of time for accountability and criminality and all the rest of it, but now get down here. Clean it up. Contain it. Don't let it do any more damage.

KING: And guys, when you're out there looking at the devastation of this, the governor or anyone else along talking about the -- I know there's a lot of worry about a worst-case scenario. But a best-case scenario of what is the likelihood that that can be cleaned up in the short term, not only to protect the marshlands which are critical to protecting New Orleans from hurricanes but also to get the sea life back, the ecosystems back, the fishermen back in the waters?

MATALIN: Well, one thing we haven't talked about is nobody knows the effect, the impact, or even how much dispersant has been released. CNN has the under -- the subsurface cameras. There is nothing down there. The fish are leaving. LSU, the wildlife and fisheries, they don't even know what they're ingesting. I mean there's no -- we don't even -- currently have the science to answer that question.

CARVILLE: Well you know you're right. And this is -- you know we're going to have to clean this up. This is inept regulation, this is companies without regard for what they do. We're going to have to clean all this up, but there's a mess. I have no idea, but just being a layperson looking at it, it's hard for me to imagine that this thing is going to be cleaned up very quickly or be cleaned up before hurricane season. I would give anything if it would be, but right now no one is trying so how can we know.

KING: And in terms -- in terms of --

CARVILLE: No one is trying.

KING: In terms of being out there, you said you saw nothing, no boats on the water, birds overhead, anything in the water?

CARVILLE: Nothing -- nothing -- nothing --

MATALIN: It's dead. It's dead.

CARVILLE: It's dead. Well we saw some -- I did see -- one time I saw a fish jump. That was it. There was no activity. There's no fish -- this is the most -- this is the busiest time of the year. It was a beautiful day. Everything is shut down. There was nobody -- there was no nothing. There was nobody cleaning up.

There was no activity. I said you could have been in Antarctica. You could have been in the middle of the desert somewhere. I mean there was nothing. I mean it was just -- it was just the eeriest silence. It's very beautiful. The grass there they call it Rosa Cane (ph). It looks like, you know some many version of sugar care or what we'd call -- what I call Johnson grass on steroids. And but you can see that it's dying and when it dies all of these wetlands are just going to vanish. I mean you know kind of like where's the Sierra Club. Where are some of these people? Where's Ducks Unlimited? Where are the hunters and the fishermen and something? I mean somebody has got to be activated (ph). This is -- again, this is like the most productive land in the United States. It's unbelievable the take of really high-quality seafood that comes from here and it's just -- it's a big mess.

KING: We're going to ask James and Mary to stay with us. We'll have one more block with them as we go -- come ahead. Also, a lot more to come in the program tonight including a closer look at the investigations into all of this. Priority one of course is to stop the spew of oil up from the ocean floor, but when we come back later, "One-on-One" with Representative Bart Stupak. He's part of the congressional investigation that's already turning out evidence that BP knew something was wrong in the days before that big explosion.

Later tonight also on my "Radar", "American Idol," America is turning out to vote in that one and Cheney versus Palin in some of this year's most interesting races. In "Play-by-Play" tonight hoping for change. We'll explain what we mean by that.

The president's involved and the president says he's hearing voices at times. That's a funny one. You'll want to stay with that. And Pete's on the street tonight and what he is asking you. Well he's asking you why you don't like Washington.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Tonight's breaking news. BP CEO announcing just a short time ago that it will be at least another 24 hours before we know if its "top kill" operation to plug the Gulf oil leak is working. We're expecting a Coast Guard news conference at the top of this hour. Stay with CNN live and we'll bring you that and all breaking news developments in this dramatic story.

Let's continue our conversation now with our contributors James Carville and Mary Matalin themselves just back from what they describe as a horrifying tour of the some of the affected areas. Along with you James and Mary on that tour was Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish. We talked about it a little bit earlier. Here is his assessment of the environmental damage. I want you to listen.


BILLY NUNGESSER, PRES., PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LA: We will lose more coastline from this catastrophe than from all four hurricanes, Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike as a projection and I think it's going to hold true.


KING: That is a devastating assessment. Is that what you saw when you were out there?

CARVILLE: Well I can't -- I'm not in a position to -- to -- to say whether (INAUDIBLE) obviously heard that. I am in a position to say that the amount of coastline we're going to lose is going to be enormous because as I am told it makes imminent sense that you can see how stressed this -- this vegetation is. This Rosa Cane (ph) as they call it. And you obviously when that dies, these islands as you call them are just mud and you can see that they are going to wash away. And I don't see any plan or anything to try to come in and try to save these.

And I don't have to tell you, John. You know this. These are the buffers that fly for these storms that come up between a populated area like we're standing right here like New Orleans. And I think it's like four inches of storm surge for every mile of this you lose. So the consequences of this are -- are enormous and -- and somebody -- they had a (INAUDIBLE) woods (ph) hold of people. Where are the scripts (ph) people -- where are the marsh studies, where are the people out in these marshes studying this and figuring out what can you do to rebuild this right away? Let's get some dredges. Let's get something going here. Let's get some action. That's what we need.

MATALIN: Well speaking of dredges, one of Billy's -- his number one frustration is they have the dredges, they have the borrowed sand spots that they can build these sand berms and they -- every time the Corps asks for some explanation, they are standing at the fax machine -- they're sending it to them, but they cannot get an emergency permit.

For weeks they've not been able to get an emergency permit. Where there are sand berms, they are stopping the oil. That's why they're frustrated. It's like watching the hurricane coming up the coast. You have the capacity to stop it and they're just standing there like this and not doing anything.

KING: And it's Washington --


KING: It's Washington they can't get those permits from?


MATALIN: That's the Corps of Engineer emergency permit.

CARVILLE: Yes, I mean -- and I'm sure that you know that the Corps has an answer to this and I -- I -- because people here are going to try something. And you know, we have to have a plan, a strategy, to take our best shot at this. And right now I don't see any -- honestly, I don't see a strategy in place. I didn't see -- I don't see a strategy. I didn't see anybody out there. I didn't even see anybody that was even trying.

And that's -- that's -- and these guys are getting you know -- down here it's -- people are stressed, and, you know, we're just very anxious and very hopeful that -- that things will really change when the president comes down here on Friday. That's our hope. We've got to get -- we've got to get a new strategy here, a new plan, new people in charge.

MATALIN: New urgency or any urgency.

KING: A sober assessment from James Carville and Mary Matalin. Guys, appreciate your time tonight. A very tough thing to digest, but it will be very helpful to our viewers and hopefully very helpful to the White House and others as they look at this. We'll keep in touch with James and Mary.

When we come back, "One-on-One" with Congressman Bart Stupak. He is leading the congressional investigation not only into what went wrong but asking a lot of questions about what needs to be done now. Stay with us.


KING: There are a number of investigations under way to figure out what caused the disaster in the Gulf. BP has sent Congress a memo showing the company was aware of several previously unreported warning signs just before the April 20th explosion that caused the leak. The congressional subcommittee that received that BP report is chaired by Michigan Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak, who's here to go "One-on- One."

I want to get to that disturbing memo your committee put out, because it is, it's disturbing and it has all these alarm lights that probably should have been heeded. But I want to start first in the here and now. As you watch this unfold and you watch the response, there is a great deal of frustration with BP. There is also a growing sense of frustration with the federal government. The Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida this morning went as far as to say this.


SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: If this thing is not fixed today, I think the president doesn't have any choice, and he better go in, completely take over, perhaps with the military in charge.


KING: Is that venting frustration, or is that realistic? A, can the federal government take charge in a way to do things operationally? Does it have the equipment? And should it? Is it time for that?

STUPAK: Well, I'm sure it's frustration. And anyone in the Gulf I'm sure is frustrated, not just the loss of life lost, 11 people on that rig, but all the damage you see day in and day out, and continues to mount. The lack of response, the slowness in what we saw.

And with the memo we put out yesterday, out committee, the timeline from five hours, two hours, 51 minutes, 41 minutes, 18 minutes, all the time there were warning signs this thing was going to blow.

KING: Let's go through some of that. Let's go through some of that, because I want our viewers to see the details when you do. The warning signs. Three flow indicators within one hour of the explosion. Unusual activity within five hours of the explosion. Concerns about the maintenance history, the modification, the inspection and the testing of the blowout preventer, which is essentially the last line of defense from a tragedy.

STUPAK: Right.

KING: In your mind, do you have any doubt BP should have known it had a problem and should have done something a lot sooner to stop it?

STUPAK: Going back through, and we looked through over 105,000 pages of documents, talked to the experts, the scientists. Two hours out, the fundamental flaw was made. The oil, the riser, was -- fluid was coming out, gas was coming out. There was the spurt, as they called it. Right then and there, two hours out, all the experts said, that was the fundamental flaw.

That's when you knew you had more pressure was coming out, you couldn't control it. You should have started shutting things down.

They didn't. They moved forward. As you said, an hour out, there was another warning sign. 51 minutes, warning sign. 41 minutes, another major warning sign. 18 minutes. They should have started shutting things down. They kept moving.

KING: Why didn't they? STUPAK: The right hand wasn't talking to the left hand. They didn't follow the plans that they had submitted to the MMS. In all fairness, there was a plan. They weren't following that. They didn't know how much mud was going in, how much seeping out, how much pressure was in these lines. When you had 1,400 pounds per square inch on one side of the pipe and zero on the other, that's a major error. And it should have been dealt with and was not dealt with properly.

KING: I applaud the effort to investigate, because we need to know this information. But I have a question in the sense that, after the mining disaster recently in West Virginia, everybody looked at it and said, boy, the Mine Health and Safety Administration needs to do more. The inspectors aren't getting there, or there's loopholes in the rules so that when you find violations, the companies get to punt it down the road and they don't have to shut down and deal with them. In this case, we've heard so much about the MMS giving -- allowing people to proceed even though they don't have the federal environment permits, cozy relationships, some corruption in the agency.

Why do people have to die in the mining case and in this case and the environmental tragedy as well before we see all of a sudden people in the Congress and elsewhere in the government say, we need to do more?

STUPAK: They shouldn't have to die. No one should have, nor should we have to put our environment at risk, like we are right here in the Gulf because of a blowout.

However, like today, I also chaired the Toyota hearings. And we're passing a bill to put $3 on a car, $3 user fee, to help fund the NHTSA, so we have the expertise in these areas. And I mean, you know, the other side made a big stink about the $3 we're going to add to a car to fund NHTSA, so we have the scientists, the engineers.

These regulatory agencies -- and I'm not being partisan here -- but in the last administration were devastated. People were laid off, people were let go. They were down to skeleton crews. They cut corners. They didn't have experts who knew, whether it was NHTSA or the Mineral Management Administration--

KING: This administration has been in power for 15 months, though.

STUPAK: It's been trying to ramp up. You've seen on your own show, you reported that it takes about five months to hire anyone (ph) in the federal government. This president said, let's do it in five weeks, and we're moving. We're getting there.

You see all the secretaries, undersecretaries who are tied up in the Senate, these senators put holds on them. We can't get the proper people in the right place. The people that the president has nominated to take control, to take charge of these regulatory agencies are being blocked because some senator has a hold because he doesn't like what happened five years ago.


STUPAK: It's crazy.

KING: Do you trust BP, knowing what you know, knowing what you found in your report? They're the lead right now in trying to fix this. Do you trust them?

STUPAK: No. The reason we put out the memo is because BP wasn't telling us the truth, whether it's the modifications on the blowout protector, where I've spent a lot of time. Now we find that BP did know there was modifications on the blowout protector, and they didn't have the right schematics there to deal with this blowout protector. We've been pushing BP. How many other blowout protectors do you have? Not just BP, Shell, all of them, Exxon, in the Gulf? Have you checked them to make sure that your settings are tight, to make sure your batteries work?

KING: How many of these could be out there? How many more of these could be out there?

STUPAK: Oh, there's probably actually going on probably about 30 to 50, maybe.

KING: And lastly, do you think we need more rules, more backup systems, more requirements, that they not have one (ph) blowout protector, or do we need the existing police, the government, the regulatory agencies to do a better job?

STUPAK: Both. You need the existing police, and if you're going to drill in environmentally sensitive areas, then let's have some redundancy, let's have a backup system. That acoustics blowout protector that they should have had, could have had, that would have been $500,000. That's what it costs to use that. Remember, they use these blowout protectors. You use it, you move it to the next time when you start drilling. So you make a one-time investment and use it over and over again, but you have to maintain it, you have to keep it in good shape. You have to make sure the batteries work. I mean, this--


KING: -- didn't have to happen.

STUPAK: This did not have to happen. This was just pure negligence. And not just BP. You have Transocean here, you have Halliburton, as our timetable showed last night, with the cementing, the problems going on there. So I mean, you got -- it's not just BP. It was -- all the players down there let us all down. And not only let us down, the American people, but all those families of people died, as you said earlier. Do people have to die to get to the bottom of this? I hope not.

KING: Congressman Bart Stupak, we appreciate your time today. We'll keep in touch in the days and weeks ahead.

When we come back, the most important person you don't know just won the primary when no one thought he could win.


KING: Today's most important person you don't know just pulled off the biggest political upset you didn't see coming. Raul Labrador won the Republican primary in Idaho's first congressional district beating Iraq war veteran Vaughn Ward who's been recruited by National Republicans, endorsed by Sarah Palin, and had a six to one edge in fund raising. Labrador plays for tenacity and his supporters credit were put in together a viral video. It shows his opponent giving a speech that sounded, well, exactly like one delivered by Barack Obama.

Labrador is a two-term state lawmaker. He and his wife, Becka, have five children. Even though he's backed by local tea party groups, Labrador now faces the only Democrat endorsed by the National Tea Party Express, first term conservative Democrat, Walt Minnick. Democrat Paul Begala and Republican Kevin Madden with me here in studio. It seems in this campaign here that if a whole bunch of popular people endorse you that mean you're going to lose.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's true. You want to stay as far away from anyone in Washington who thinks that you would do a good job because the American public thinks everybody in Washington is doing a terrible job. So, I think if you get your local postman, your newspaper boy, delivery guy to get you an endorsement, you're probably better off which is, by the way, how I started in politics. I had a newspaper route and I used to deliver pamphlets to all my customers.

KING: It's funny. I had a newspaper route and that's what convinced me not to get involved in politics.


KING: You want to endorse anybody right here?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, exactly. I want to endorse Raul Labrador because he's a Washington insider. No. It was telling in that race -- I think you're right. It was that viral video that Vaughn Ward had. He had cribbed a lot. If you're going to steal, steal from Barack Obama, OK? He's the best writer and speaker in the political scene today. But that's a little awkward in his party to be stealing Barack Obama's lines.

KING: Right. Now, let's take a peek, walk through some of the stories on my radar tonight. New developments in the effort to solve one of this campaign's great political mysteries, who asked Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak if he'd take an administration job instead of taking on Senator Arlen Specter. Today, Republican jet sessions the Senate judiciary case top Republican says it's time for a special prosecutor. Session says a mere assurance from the White House counsel is plainly not conclusive. It's time to get to the bottom of this.

Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania's democratic governor and a powerful force in his party circles says it's certainly nothing illegal happened but quote "the White House and Joe Sestak should be a little more detailed and put this behind them".

MADDEN: Look, I think this is only going to get worse. Whoever at the White House and whoever in Congressman Sestak's campaign thinks that trying to cute your way through this by not saying anything is going to let make this is going to hope that the problem -- with the hopes that the problem will go away has made a terrible mistake. I think this is something that Republicans are going to continue to hammer on for next week, and it's going to continue to be a central part of any political story in Pennsylvania at a time where Congressman Sestak needs to make it about the issues if he's going to win.

BEGALA: But the Senate Republicans needed a Democrat on board before they did this. If I were advising them, I'd say, these things always look partisan unless you have somebody from the other team, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan was one of the first Democrats who said there should be an independent counsel for whitewater. That what started us off on that $70 million --

KING: All right. David Axelrod told me the other night these are legitimate questions. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate yesterday said he thinks somebody should answer what happened here. Now, you have Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor --

BEGALA: And he's right. Governor Rendell -- excuse my disrespect. Governor Rendell is right. It's unimaginable that there's any violation of law here. It's unimaginable. Ax told you that. He said, well, it could be a serious violation of law. No. I'm a lawyer, David. There's not even a potential violation of law. It's just called politics.

MADDEN: That's not true. There is very clear in the U.S. code what you can and cannot do for trying to encourage a certain level of political activity for a job, for any direct or indirect benefit. So, there's a very, very important question here.

BEGALA: First off, the Republican head of the ethics office for Bush looked at this and said he can't imagine that there's a crime here.

MADDEN: Imagining is one thing. Exploring --

BEGALA: It can't be a crime. It's politics. It's horse-trading politics that happens every single day. Ron Kaufman who is President Bush Sr.'s political director, he said, if this is a crime, every president going back to George Washington was a criminal.

MADDEN: The statute on limitations on Washington has expired. I'm certain of that.

KING: All right. Let's move on since we're not going to settle this right here. Both Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin have been endorsing Republican candidates in this year's primaries. Let's check the scorecard to see how they're doing. So far, Palin's endorsements are Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate race and Rick Perry in the Texas Governor race. Cheney back trade race in Kentucky in Kay Bailey Hutchison in Texas. In next month's governor primary South Carolina, Palin is with Nikki Haley, Cheney backing Gresham Barrett. We'll keep you posted. What do you think?

MADDEN: Look, you know, I think this is great for us in here in Washington. We're the only ones who have scorecards, and we sit there and said, oh, so and so endorsed this guy, that guy --

KING: You don't think Cheney and Palin have scorecards?

MADDEN: Look, I mean, voters aren't making up their minds on who to support based on this. I think what happens is it helps somebody like Nikki Haley who before was a little bit below the radar get a little bit more attention. But we make way too much -- quite frankly I'm bored with the endorsement scorecards.

BEGALA: Endorsements almost never matter. I think Kevin's right. If you're really at the bottom and you get somebody with star power to endorse you, it's helpful or if it's hugely counterintuitive. OK. So, Colin Powell endorsing Barack Obama, Republican Secretary of State, Democrat, that's a big deal, but other than that, these are all just a waste of time.

KING: Just like Joe Sestak getting Bill Clinton's -- never mind.

BEGALA: No. But --

KING: Let's move on to the reason you two guys came in tonight, because you knew we were going to talk about this. Later tonight, we'll know the winner of the biggest election in the country, the new "American Idol." Will it be Lee DeWyze or Crystal Bowersox? The American people are voting. And according to our friends in Crimson Hexagon, Lee definitely has more fans and people endorsing him.

We, political junkies, are waiting to see if more people voted in the finale than vote for president. 132 million people voted in the 2008 election, 100 million voted in last year's Idol finale, although, fans can vote more than once, something Begala has been pushing for political campaigns forever.

BEGALA: Yes, you know, I've got to tell you, I'm going to be watching. I know you won't have any interest in this, but, you know, on another channel, as they say, Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics. That's what I'm -- I have never watched, ever, "American Idol".

KING: I feel badly for the people of Orlando that the Celtics decided to go back there and win it there.

BEGALA: I knew that the Boston and you take up for yourself.

KING: Right. Kevin and Paul are going to stay with us. When we come back, just whose voice is in the president's head? And still to come, our offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick, on what you really think about Washington. Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: All right. Two of the best here for tonight's play-by- play. Before we get there, remember that voice you just heard there. We're going to come back to that in a minute. Kevin Madden and Paul Begala still with us. The president was out on the west coast last night, two big fund-raisers for Barbara Boxer, who's up for re- election could have a competitive campaign. And the president, he talked about the economy. He talked about this oil spill. Then he talked about, well, as Sarah Palin would put it, the hopey-changey thing.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know it's been 18 tough months, and I know I've got more gray hair. I know, you know, some folks say, well, you know, he's not as cool as he was, you know, when he had all the posters around and everything, you know. Now, you know, I've got a Hitler mustache on the posters. That's quite a change.


KING: He's funny when he wants to be.

BEGALA: You know, it's something we don't see enough of from this president, self-deprecating humor. It's the ultimate revenge just to be able to just laugh it off. And I think he looked good there.

MADDEN: That's true. And it does, I mean, it's a very important skill to have in politics, particularly, when you're going through a very tough time. And it's also a good way to kind of project it on your opponents which is that it's not something that I really take too personally.

KING: The president is a gifted communicator. His vice president can be a gifted communicator, but occasionally makes what we shall call faux pas. We've all been covering the story, the Democratic candidate the Senate in Connecticut, the state attorney general, Dick Blumenthal, said some things about his military record that weren't quite right, exaggerated, said at some speeches that he had served in Vietnam. You would think that no Democratic politician would want to touch that. No democrat politician except Joe Biden.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was not in Vietnam. I don't want to make a Blumenthal mistake here, but God love him, as my mom would say.


MADDEN: You know, when he says God love them, a siren ought to go off in every single newsroom because then they know that Joe Biden just said something that is going to get him in trouble on the local news. BEGALA: Joe Biden, God love his mouth, but, you know, I think there's way more good than bad with him. This president is so disciplined, and that's admirable. But there's an authenticity with vice president Biden that you take the bad with the good. I would take every one of those gaffes for that son of a steel worker. I think his dad sold cars actually, but you're on the guy from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who's really rooted in working class values. I love the guy, gaffes and all.

KING: All right. Gift that keeps on giving for us. At the top of the segment, you heard that voice, play-by-play. That is the voice of our friend, Marv Albert. One of the great sports broadcasters of all time. He did an interview with the president of the United States to talk about the intersection of politics and sports, the NBA playoffs that are underway. And the president conceded to Marv that, sometimes, he hears voices.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the back of my mind, Marv Albert is making, of course, the call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, it's Obama with the ball, top of the key, three seconds left, unleashes for three! yes!

OBAMA: I have your voice in my head as I'm shooting three.



KING: The voice of Marv in the president's head. I don't know --

BEGALA: Just talking about authenticity, he's an authentic fan. He is a sports fan. And most sports fans see that and can relate to it perfectly. Every one of us who goes out in the driveway with Billy and Johnny and Charlie and Patrick, like yes, from the corner!

MADDEN: you know, I still to this day associate Saturdays with Keith Jackson's voice and baseball with folks like Phil Rizzuto, a lot being a Yankee fan. So, it's something that you know I think a lot of people have a connection to.

KING: We'll all listen to Marv as the playoffs continue. Kevin and Paul, thank you very much.

MADDEN: You bet.

KING: Now, why does everyone hate Washington? Come on now. Pete on the street finds out when we return.


KING: Couple of minutes away from the top of the hour. Let's check in with Campbell Brown for a preview. Hi, Campbell. CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, John. We're going to be live across the Gulf Coast tonight with the latest developments on day 37 of this BP oil disaster, but we are waiting right now, John, on a joint news conference from both BP and the coast guard that is supposed to begin in just a matter of minutes. We're going to take you to that news conference live as they brief us on their efforts to try to plug the oil gusher that's going on at this moment. And we'll also talk about that explosive new testimony today on what was happening on the rig before it exploded. We'll see you in a few minutes, John.

KING: Campbell, thanks.

We'll get to Pete Dominick, our offbeat reporter who's been out on the street asking people why they don't like, right here where I work, in Washington -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, I think you're taking this too personally. It's not your with home they don't like. It's the people representing them, the people we send there they don't like. I went out and asked people why, why don't they approve of Congress.


DOMINICK: What do you think? Do you approve of Congress' performance?


DOMINICK: Why not? Do we know why? Do we ever know why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because they don't do what they say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, all they do is try to make more money for the next elections and they don't legislate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because of the people in Congress.

DOMINICK: So, it's the people and not the system.


DOMINICK: So, why don't you run?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the only time I'll run is from the office.

DOMINICK: You'll only run from your office.


DOMINICK: You can literally in terms ride running not walking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so tired of hearing people, you know, about Congress, House, Senate, it's Republicans, Democrat. It's voters. You know, we have to be smarter.

DOMINICK: Why don't you run for Congress? You seem like an honest guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this point, too exhausted to run.

DOMINICK: Too tired. Me, too. I'd like to get nap.

Do you ever look at congress at any point and say, this is it the greatest Congress we've ever had?


DOMINICK: During Kennedy you thought these guys are really doing a good job?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it was what it was.

DOMINICK: Did you ever have a high rating, a high approval of Congress in your lifetime?


DOMINICK: You were never like this is -- the 90th Congress is awesome?


DOMINICK: Did you ever use the word "awesome"?


DOMINICK: Fair enough.


DOMINICK: So, I wonder, John, was there any time in history where Americans were like, oh, I love this Congress? They are the greatest Congress ever?

KING: People rarely like the Congress. The big question is, they usually say, I hate the Congress. The Congress is awful. They're all crooks. And then they vote for their own member of congress. that's the big test this year. Will their angry get local? Yes? No?

DOMINICK: I just lost you. Sorry. I think that people get upset with all the money in politics, on all sides of the aisle. I think that's the real concern. They have to raise so much money just to run.

KING: I'm going to make a contribution right now to the Pete Dominick for Congress campaign. Goes right here. Pete, we'll see you tomorrow. Thanks for joining us tonight. Remember, big developments in the BP oil spill up coming on Campbell Brown. She starts right now.