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JOHN KING, USA
Gushing Oil and Flaring Tempers; Health Hazards; Governor Crist Interview
Aired June 2, 2010 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf. Tonight, another setback in BP's latest effort to stop the Gulf oil spill and more evidence of fraying tempers as the catastrophe threatens more and more sensitive and economically critical coastline. The oil has reached shore now in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. And Florida's governor joins us in just a few minutes to tell us how fast the slick is approaching his state's sensitive beaches.
First, what you need to know most. The setback came when a diamond-studded saw trying to cut through a pipe a mile under water got stuck this morning. And once freed was determined to be too damaged to finish the job. BP says it will get a new blade or robot- operated sheers and resume the work. We're keeping a close eye on those underwater camera feeds.
The federal government declared more waters off limits to fishing, 37 percent of gulf waters are now covered by the ban, more evidence of the growing economic toll. President Obama cited the spill during an economic speech earlier today in Pittsburgh and the change in the politics of oil was clearly obvious as the president called for stepping up efforts to find new energy sources.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It means rolling back billions of dollars of tax breaks to oil companies, so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Louisiana's governor would prefer Washington's focus be much more on the here and now. And if nothing else, Governor Jindal has proved tonight the administration is watching his every word. Governor Jamal's daily briefing included this complaint about delays in building sand berms off his coast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: As of today, BP still hasn't moved on that single project. And let me be very clear today. We've said to BP, do one of two things, either sign the contracts to move the dredge to get this work started or if you're not willing to do this, write us the check and get out of the way.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: A few minutes later as that briefing continued, aides whispered to the governor that the White House had sent word BP would be paying for the entire project. And take a look at the bottom right of your screen right now. That's our meter estimating how many gallons of oil have spilled so far. Based on government estimates it's gushing at the rate of 33,000 gallons an hour or nine gallons a second.
For a closer look at day 44, let's bring in our contributors, James Carville and Mary Matalin who of course live in New Orleans and have been watching this very closely. Mary to you first, still on the scene -- James of course is with me in Washington today.
When you hear Governor Jindal first expressing his frustration that BP won't get moving on those projects and then being whispered to while the White House says the money is coming, does that give you any optimism that the bumps in the command and control, in the communication and coordination, are perhaps, perhaps, getting better?
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: The -- clearly they are, Thad Allen's operation is flattened and they're out there. They're not out everywhere. And as Anderson has been talking about, they're not where we were even just earlier this week. But BP saying they're going to pay for it and actually paying for it are two different things, so when we have that big boot on their neck, that's not made them do anything.
And until -- the state just cannot pay for this. They have to -- and no contractor is going to start dredging until they see the money. Show me the money. Until BP shows them the money, the government is saying that they're making BP pay for it doesn't really mean anything. So yes, there's optimism that everybody's attention is had but actually impacting the containment effort which is critical, even more critical than the cleanup right now, doesn't seem to be advancing.
KING: And the point, James, that Mary makes, essentially there's a question of trust. And every time BP says something, especially the CEO, Tony Hayward, frankly you're shocked by what he says. I want to read something that he told "The Financial Times" in an interview today, what is undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit. He accepted it was quote "entirely fair criticism" to say the company was not fully prepared for deep water oil leak.
So the company that drilling this far out that has to tell the federal government it is ready if catastrophe strikes the CEO is now saying it's undoubtedly true, we did not have the tools you would want in your tool kit.
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think an application, when they green lighted this, they said that it was so unlikely we didn't need it, I believe as I recall. Look this is horrendously negligent for them to do this. I think it's horrendously negligent for the government to permit something like this without some kind of a plan and boy are we paying the price now. KING: And so then in the context of that, the lack of trust with the CEO Tony Hayward, I want you to tell our viewers, you bumped into him last night, a chance encounter, at a restaurant in New Orleans.
CARVILLE: Right. Right -- I came -- he walked into this restaurant, 1179 (ph). It's a restaurant that Mary and I know very well. I told him it was kind of an insider's Creole Italian restaurant. And (INAUDIBLE) Admiral Allen was there. He called me a couple -- we talked on the phone and we were trying to hook up and he wanted me to come out and see some of the things they were doing. And so I said (INAUDIBLE) he said do you recognize (INAUDIBLE) and I said yes (INAUDIBLE) Hayward.
And we had a talk about Columbia (ph) where we all had some experiences with I think is going to be the next president, at least I hope (INAUDIBLE) and then he said he wanted me to know that he was really committed to doing this. And I expressed skepticism that look I -- you know, I hope you're right but I just don't trust you right now. I don't trust anybody right now.
(INAUDIBLE) anybody in Louisiana. And basically to make a long story short, he said that within a year we'd meet again and I would be satisfied with the kind of work that BP is doing. And I said, look, there's nobody that wants to be proven wrong more than I do. I would love to be here in a year and say, you know, I really am impressed with what you did. But between now and then I'm going to be awfully, awfully skeptical. And I'm awfully skeptical -- I've become like a lot of people. I'm awfully skeptical of this. I'm awfully skeptical of a lot of things right now.
KING: Let me ask you a perception question, Mary to you. And this perhaps is grossly unfair because no one has questioned and many people have praised the credentials of Admiral Allen. He was down there after Katrina. He's well known in the community.
But if the criticism is that this industry that is now responsible for this spill, this leak has been too cozy in its relationship with the government, too comfortable with the people who are charged with overseeing it, should Thad Allen be out having dinner with the CEO of BP at a time when the whole community of New Orleans, the whole country, and in fact the entire world is watching so closely saying guys get your act together?
MATALIN: No, I don't think anyone would accuse Thad Allen of being too close to Hayward in a negative way. And people keep conflating -- this is what is wrong with the perception -- conflating this "plug the damn hole" with contain and clean up what's already out there. Only BP, the DOD, everybody in the world says only BP has the technology, resources, know-how to plug the damn hole.
But you have to stay right on top of Hayward obviously. And somebody should get him off of TV between saying that workers who are in the cleanup have food poisoning or he wants his life back, just that guy should stay off TV and he should keep his boot on their necks. But I don't think -- we're not -- that's not about perception. This is really not political out here. And we've been talking about the economic damage so far. We haven't even begun to understand the economic damage from the offshore services, which is not tens of thousands of jobs. It's hundreds of thousands of jobs that are going to be lost because of this moratorium, which is arbitrary and capricious, so many complicated issues which are just too quickly moving to politics and perception. We need to just get the job done and not -- and stop with the knee-jerky politics.
CARVILLE: Well first of all, Admiral Allen is certainly capable of answering. But one of the things that he did mention is about the act of 1990, after that Valdez spill, of what the responsibilities was, and he said he wanted to brief me on that. We were in a restaurant and I was enjoying a maker (ph), so I probably wasn't looking for a briefing on a 1990 congressional act.
But and I think he did BP -- I'm not going to get into that. I'll let Admiral Allen explain that. But one of the things I did tell Mr. Hayward, I said look, this is just free advice and take it for whatever it is worth. You need to get one person advising you on communications and somebody that you trust because it wasn't a good day yesterday. And he sort of acknowledged -- he sort of acknowledge that. But yes they're -- he didn't have a good day the day before yesterday.
KING: A quick break -- James and Mary are going to stay with us. When we come back, we'll get to Mary's point about the economic impact, more projections about the economic impact. We'll also take you under the waters in the Gulf to give you a bit of an update on what happened today in the setback in that effort to try -- to try finally to cap the gushing oil.
KING: Aerial shots there of the beaches along the Gulf Coast. You see the orange; those are the booms trying to protect the coastline from the oil of this spill, day 44, and among the highlights today in watching this story, the president of the United States giving a speech in Pittsburgh. It was a speech to talk about the broad economic recovery, the president says is under way, but he also talked about the spill, saying for starters, that his administration would stay on top of it. But the president also made the case that any American, despite their view on offshore drilling should look at what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico and support him as he pushes the Congress to act on legislation currently stalled in the Senate, that the president says would put America on a quicker path to a clean energy future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In other words, our continued dependence on fossil fuels will jeopardize our national security, it will smother our planet, and it will continue to put our economy and our environment at risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: And yet Mary we were talking before the break, the president clearly seeing an opportunity here and I don't want to be overly cynical, but an opportunity to say, look, watch this spill, we need to get this legislation through the Congress. But in your community down there, some of the feedback is just the opposite. Because so many jobs, thousands of jobs, are dependent on offshore drilling. You're hearing complaints from people down there saying Mr. President, lift the moratorium on these other deep water operations and let us get back to work. How does the president deal with that conflict?
MATALIN: The moratorium is completely unclear here. It's not just deep water. It's anything at depths greater than 500 feet. That's shallow water. It's not tens of thousands, it's hundreds of thousands. Their own report says 150,000 direct jobs. It's way more than that in indirect jobs. The National Association of Manufacturers, this will be hundreds of thousands of jobs. It will be billions of dollars, close to $8 billion in revenue and it's four percent of our production.
If he doesn't want to be reliant on foreign oil he has got to reexamine this moratorium. And we -- you know Republicans and conservatives and everybody's for all of the above. We're for alternative. We're for renewable. What's holding this thing up is this carbon credit scam. If they just want to start dealing with renewables and alternatives, we're a sunny state. We're for solar here. We're for all of that and so are lots of Republicans. They've gone off in this really far left way. If they would drop all that, we could have an energy plan signed tomorrow.
KING: But James, if you're the president of the United States and you've advised presidents at times of crisis, if you're looking at this every day and you're being briefed every day about the spill is spreading, the economic impact, the CEO of BP saying you know we didn't have the right tools in our tool kit to deal with this, can you at least understand -- I appreciate Mary's argument about the community and jobs but you understand where he would say well I'm going to hit the pause button.
CARVILLE: Well you know hit the pause button also (INAUDIBLE) we had earlier reports -- I don't know if it's been resolved yet -- that there was another rig, a BP rig that was in trouble out in the Gulf. What I'd like to see is the president sign, certify that MMS is now a function, competent, capable government agency with integrity and let every CEO that is operating a rig beyond that moratorium effect, says that they certify that safety first, that the rig can be operated safely and they take personal responsibility for it.
If you have that, I think we do need the oil. I think it is part of our culture in Louisiana. I think this is having a devastating effect on our local economy. And the truth of the matter is, is that this stuff cannot be operated without some risk and we learned that in a very, very, very real fashion. And the president needs to get -- tell us MMS is fine. These CEOs of these companies operating in this thing need to certify that it is safety first and they and their boards accept personal responsibility for this. KING: Especially in the deep water though, Mary, and as we have this part of the conversation I want to show our viewers some of the sequence of the events today underwater, especially in the deep water environment where we have seen this tragedy. We had the original containment dome. That failed. You've seen now the efforts, the "top kill" effort failed.
Now you see the efforts to use this blade to cut through the pipe and then essentially put a cap on top of the pipe and bring the containment out, has to be 44 days into this. The oil is still spewing out. There has to be a sense of frustration. I understand the economic debate, but when it comes to the deep water, is the feedback in the community not until we have a fire department that can fix this we've got to go easy?
MATALIN: This is not what -- that's what I'm trying to say. Nobody -- the moratorium is so unclear in its execution, in its written -- everything is shutting down. One of clarifications was it is not just deep water, it's 500 feet. That is not deep water, so everything is shutting down. And the service vessels are shutting down.
Those economic consequences are happening now. That is not -- that's a Louisiana issue. It is a national issue. I don't know how the president -- I don't know how they do these things. He's talking about economic growth. This will lose more jobs exponentially faster than he's saving and creating them because of the indirect impact. It's that people haven't even thought about this yet. It's not a local issue. It's a national economic impact and it is $8 billion to the federal treasury in a time of debt.
I'm not being provincial or parochial and I'm not attacking the administration. They need to take another look at it. You wouldn't shut down the entire airline industry if you had one crash. This seems to be -- BP seems to be particularly negligent in this case. What (INAUDIBLE) all those other rigs that are working? And it's not just deep water. I'll say it again. Everything is shutting down here and somebody better look at this, until we're fighting over this a month from now, a day late and a dollar short.
KING: James and Mary we appreciate your time on this one. Obviously the emotions still running quite high, we'll continue to stay on top of the moratorium issue as well as the effort here to finally cap the leak. We appreciate your time tonight.
And a lot more to come tonight on this as we continue the program, when we go "Wall-to-Wall" we'll look even more closely at just how far the spread is spilling -- the fishing waters it is now threatening and the operation under sea. Well we learned today it's just not cutting it.
When we go "One-on-One" today we've talked a lot about Louisiana, well Florida's Governor Charlie Crist will join us. The oil is nearing his shore. He'll talk about the devastating potential economic impact and grade the president's reaction so far. In our "Play-by-Play" tonight you heard us talk a bit about this. BP is doing a lot of damage control and you might say its CEO has had a series of uh-oh's. And when Pete's on the street tonight he's going to explore this issue. Is it possible that the fix here in the Gulf of Mexico, maybe it will have a Hollywood ending.
KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, a closer look at the spreading oil and this growing economic impact. In just a second, we'll bring Dr. Sanjay Gupta into the conversation. But first I want to show you how this oil has spread. Here's the -- this is the slick right here. That's about a week out. That's April 28th, eight days after the explosion.
Well here's where it was on May 1st, the yellow color now getting closer to the Louisiana coastline, obviously spreading out this way. Then May 18th, a much larger slick you see there. Here's where it is today. I'll click in here, you see right there a larger slick, also getting closer to shore. And this is a very critical area now as we continue the conversation, the gold outline, the yellow outline, 37 percent of the waters in the Gulf of Mexico now off limits to fishermen.
Our Sanjay Gupta is in the region checking into the health concerns, the economic concerns and he spoke to Acy Cooper today. He's the vice president of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association, a shrimper who is now working as a BP oil spill cleanup worker who had a number of concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACY COOPER, VP, LOUISIANA SHRIMPERS ASSOC.: All we're asking for is something simple, it's not like we're asking for the world. We're just asking for them to be safe, put it on their boat. (INAUDIBLE) they don't need it, well (INAUDIBLE) problem, but when they get in and start cleaning and it smells bad and their eyes burn, put it on that way you'll have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's bring Sanjay into the conversation. Sanjay you're down there talking to these guys. Why haven't we heard more complaints from the fishermen and why are we just starting to hear them now?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean that may be the first time a fisherman has actually spoken up, a fisherman turned cleanup worker. I don't know if you know this, John, but many of them actually signed forms, which are essentially like gag orders in order to work for BP, in order to be part of the cleanup effort they really -- weren't supposed to talk about what they were seeing or what they were experiencing.
But Acy Cooper, who you just met there, he told me he'd simply had enough. He was worried about his friends. He was worried about them not getting the protective gear. And that's why he really for the first time sat down and talked about everything.
KING: And are they starting to get the gear now that they're complaining to you?
GUPTA: You know what's so interesting about this John is that the short answer is not exactly. I mean, the folks at BP say they really don't think there is a health concern here, so protective gear is unnecessary. When asked about the people who got sick, they said that was most likely due to food poisoning. That is sort of their position on this.
People who are trying to get them the protective gear say look, the reason BP is not providing this protective gear is because it would be acknowledging that there are potential health risks and they might be asked to pay for any health problems that develop in the future. So you can sort of see the back and forth there. In the middle of all that, people like Acy Cooper and hundreds of others frankly, are you know out there cleaning up the oil, their mouths and faces literally two feet away from this oil slick without masks on. And that's why he really wanted to talk.
KING: And so help us, you know, you're there as a reporter but you're also a doctor. The medical risks, when BP says food poisoning, does that match up at all with the symptoms you're seeing and with the hazards they're facing?
GUPTA: It really doesn't seem to. I mean they're having a lot of respiratory problems, things that are more related to breathing. It's hard to attribute that to food poisoning. You know, John, people keep calling this unprecedented. And I think it's probably a good word. But in the scientific world we do look for some sort of examples that we can learn from in the past. And Valdez is one of those examples.
We do know that there were people who got sick that were part of the cleanup effort after Valdez. And it wasn't just in the short term, people who you know had nausea and vomiting which got better after breathing in fresh air. These are people who even more than a decade out continued to have significant problems. Is there a cause and effect relationship absolutely established scientifically? No. But this is -- you know you sort of learn from previous events like this and that's what a lot of people are pointing to. What can we learn from there, what can we apply here.
KING: Sanjay Gupta, we appreciate your insights from the scene for us and for getting out and doing that critical reporting. And just -- before we have to break, just to back up what Sanjay is saying about the stakes for these fishermen. The Gulf of Mexico economy, it would be the world's 29th if it was a country, $234 billion a year, 124 billion from oil and gas. More than 100 billion from tourism and of course the fishing industry is a critical part of it.
We'll continue the conversation. When we come back, we'll go "One-on-One" with the Florida governor, Charlie Crist. The slick is approaching his state, his fishing industry, his tourism industry, his economy. Governor Crist when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".
KING: Tonight Governor Charlie Crist is warning Florida residents that oil and tar balls from the Gulf spill could hit the western panhandle in a day or two. He's just back from an aerial tour of the coast and joins us now from Tallahassee to go "One-on-One".
Governor Crist, let's just start with that. What is your sense? When will it hit your shores and how much damage are you looking at?
GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA: Well, we're not sure. We really just don't know at this time, John. You know I was in the panhandle all along the coast over Memorial Day weekend and went from Pensacola to Destin down to Panama City and we had been briefed on I guess it was Monday, Memorial Day itself, that it was about 80 miles offshore. Then we find out you know late yesterday that they thought it was about seven miles off and then last evening we found out it was back to 10 miles offshore.
So it all depends on the weather. And it's difficult to tell but I've toured the area today and the idea there was to make sure that we had enough boom, we could protect our state and do what was necessary to make sure that we keep our beaches as clean as possible. It's a huge industry to Florida, tourism is so important, and we want to do everything we can to protect the beauty of the "Sunshine State".
KING: Well let's start with the protection part. Are you getting everything you need from BP in terms of financial help, equipment, anything you need or are you waiting?
CRIST: Well, thus far we are. But the emphasis on thus far. We've made another ask for additional moneys. We received an original $25 million in order to help prevent the oil from coming on the shore in addition to cleaning it up. Another $25 million thereafter to promote tourism so long as the tar and the tar balls and the oil didn't come on the beach. We've asked for additional moneys on top of that because it looks like it's fairly imminent that this will hit Florida.
KING: What's the worst case scenario they give you? I was looking at some estimates today that say hit the western area of the panhandle area first but with the loop current could also end up coming ashore around Miami down there. What is the worst case scenario you are getting from your officials?
CRIST: The worst case scenario is that they wouldn't be able to put the cap on this thing and slow it down until at least August. That obviously would be a horrific event. We would have to be at the ready 24/7, which we, of course, will be and do everything that we can to protect our state. But, you know, that is the worst case scenario. We certainly hope that isn't the case, that they're able to plug the hole and have an opportunity to stop this thing before it gets worse than it is already today. KING: What are you hearing from your economic development, your tourism officials, about a lot of people act on fear, Governor. People think there might be a problem. Are you seeing cancellation of hotels, cancellation of vacation plans?
CRIST: We had seen some of that. We started the marketing campaign Memorial Day weekend and they had a great weekend, frankly. Record turnout at some of the restaurants and hotels. We're very pleased for that.
KING: I want to read you a quote from Tony Hayward today. He gave an interview to "The Financial Times" and he said this about their readiness for when this happened. "What's undoubtedly true is that we did not have the tools you'd want went your tool kit." He went on to say, "It's an entirely fair criticism to say the company was not fully prepared for a deep water leak." What does that tell you about BP if the CEO is saying yes you're right, we didn't have what was necessary?
CRIST: Well, what it tells you is they shouldn't have been doing it in the first place in my opinion. I think that you know if you didn't have backup plans, if you weren't prepared, if you didn't have the tools necessary to stop something like this once it began, then you shouldn't have been doing it from the get-go. That begs the question, why were they doing it, how did this come to pass? And we've got to put a stop to it.
KING: It begs this question, too, do you trust them now?
CRIST: Do I trust them now? Well, I think, hard to say, I mean, if they tell us now that they didn't have the tools necessary to deal with it and obviously that is the case, you want to be able to trust them. But you have to be very skeptical at this point.
KING: What does it tell you about the federal government which is the oversight of this industry offshore if BP is operating in the deep water and we know now the devastating possibilities if the federal government isn't making sure they have that tool kit?
CRIST: Well, I think we've all seen some of the news accounts that have talked about the potential corruption that relates to the agency that is supposed to manage it, the one in charge of giving the permits and that there was a cozy relationship there. Certainly it appears that was the case. It's inexcusable.
KING: What about now, you were in the gulf region just the other day, among the officials you met with was the president of the United States. How is he handling this?
CRIST: I think the president is doing everything he can, from my perspective he's been here a number of times. I'm sure he'll continue to come back. That's important for the administration to do and they're doing daily phone calls with the governors in the affected area. It has to be all hands on deck, we have to be working together, we have to work together to stem the tide of what we're dealing with here. I don't think it's the time to be pointing fingers. It's the time for us to come together, work together and do everything we can to protect the Gulf States and in my case, Florida.
KING: Maybe not the time to be pointing fingers but you're perspective seems very different from that of Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana who in the last 24 to 48 hours has become increasingly frustrated saying he says he keeps asking for things, being called to meetings or being told it's being kicked up the chain of command. He says he can't get the white house and others in the federal government to give him the things he needs urgently.
CRIST: He can only speak for himself. I understand that. I can certainly appreciate the level of frustration. It's already on their shore. From our perspective we've had good cooperation and hope that we continue to do so.
KING: I want to talk to you a little bit about your relationship with the president because while we're having a conversation about an environmental catastrophe here, this has been part of your political year back in the state. You know full well you're now running for Senate, non party affiliate, essentially as an independent. You were initially running as a Republican and that famous hug when the president came to see you back in February 2009, you were greeting him, he was coming down. You said nice things about the stimulus plan. You were hammered by Republicans for that. Everyone was watching the other day when you were in the gulf and you came up to the president and had a little back slap with him there. Any conversation at all about your current political environment when you were having interaction with the president?
CRIST: Well no not really. I mean just an appreciation for the fact that he was down on the coast. I think it's important that the leader is here and is present and attentive. As it relates to the stimulus, it's clear to me John it was the right thing to do. It saved hundreds of thousands of jobs in Florida, 20,000 of those educators. You know, we were at a time in our economic history where it looked like the economy was literally going to fall off the cliff. I think we had to do something in order to help the patient, in this case, America's economy. And it has helped. It's helped here in Florida and it's helped throughout the country. I think it was the right thing to do and we're grateful for it.
KING: Governor Crist, appreciate your time tonight and certainly wish you the best in the days and weeks ahead as you deal with this tragic oil spill.
CRIST: Thank you so much, John, good to be with you.
KING: Thank you, Governor, take care.
And next, today's most important person you don't know, he's proof in this election year, incumbents have zero room for error.
And in the "play by play," BP's top boss attempts to do damage control, over and over and over.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Today's most important person you don't know has something in common with millions of Americans. He needs a job. The good news is, he's flexible. Parker Griffith was a Democratic Congressman from Alabama. When the political winds shifted last year he became a Republican Congressman from Alabama. The political winds have shifted again. Yesterday Griffith became the latest party switching incumbent to the lose his primary. He only got 33 percent of the vote. Griffith turned 68 in August. He was the oldest member of the house's 2009 freshman class. He does have other skills to fall back on. He's been a math teacher, he's also an M.D. and he helped run a business that included health care facilities and funeral homes.
As he looks for his job maybe he can get some advice from my guests here in the studio, Republican strategist Kevin Madden and Democratic strategist James Carville back with us. Arlen Specter switched parties, he loses. Parker Griffith switches parties, he loses. Is this part of the anti-incumbent, anti-political?
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well first of all, I'm not sure I'd want to go to a doctor who owned a funeral home.
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He has a conflict of interest there.
CARVILLE: He needs to work on his resume a little bit.
MADDEN: To your question, John, voters are fed up with the political shenanigans. This used to be seen as brilliant politics back in the day, that you would move from one party to the other to take advantage of another party's organization or money or a changing mood. And now, voters are extremely willing to make you pay a price for that political expediency nowadays. Before it was often rewarded.
KING: Let's move on, another great political story, lead story on my radar today, President Obama making his fifth trip as president to the crucial state of Pennsylvania. His speech in Pittsburgh looked ahead to the midterm elections and labeled the Republicans, surprise, the party of no.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: From our efforts to rescue the economy, to health insurance reform, to financial reform, most have sat on the sidelines and shouted from the bleachers. They said no to tax cuts for small businesses. No to tax credits for college tuition. No to investments in clean energy. They said no to protecting patients from insurance companies and consumers from big banks.
KING: Now, I think this is the message most Democrats want the president to give but they aren't going to buy him an espresso machine.
CARVILLE: The president insists that's who he is. You know, some people are comfortable with that. Sometimes we sort of need that. We're going into his cycle. The one thing we do know is that the Democrats are not very popular but we know to only people less popular than the Democrats are the Republicans. I think what people are saying is, you've got to draw -- whether or not you want to keep us, we might lose but do you really want to replace us with them, we have a shot. Therein lies the change.
MADDEN: He is who he is. He's a finger-pointing, blame- mongering person right now. He's not leading this country at a time of very great challenges. That was a commencement speech at a university and he chose to point blame on Republicans. It's not unprecedented. I'm sure there have been presidents before that have given speeches and used rhetoric against the opposing party. But John Boehner and Eric Cantor today I think they were right in their language. They said it diminished the presidency.
CARVILLE: When I've said that, you said he needed an espresso machine. I was talking about his demeanor. I cannot think of anything you couldn't blame the Republicans for. They were against the financial reform, the economic recovery.
MADDEN: He's doing this for one thing. He's setting up these strong man arguments and it hasn't worked.
CARVILLE: He's deadly accurate. He's right on. It's a perfect description --
MADDEN: So much for post partisanship.
KING: At least the first part of this one you can't blame the Republicans for James. The Republicans won't let go of the white house effort to try to get Bill Clinton to talk Congressman Joe Sestak out of challenging Senator Arlen Specter. Today the top Republicans from two judiciary committees, judiciary and government oversight, asked for more specifics. That memo the white house released late last week. "Even if we suspend our disbelief that the white house asked a former U.S. president to call in a member of Congress to offer a mere unpaid advisory position in exchange for dropping out of a Senate race, the facts alleged in the Sestak memorandum still appear to violate several sections of United States code." The headline being the Republicans think they have something here. They'll keep asking for details.
CARVILLE: This is like did Foster commit suicide and shooting up watermelons in the backyard. If they want to waste their time on this. I'll tell you the facts America is that Specter switched, Rahm Emanuel, apparently he called President Clinton to say if Sestak gets out of the race, he'll get a point. We know what the facts are. If they want to deal with that, deal with it, that's fine.
MADDEN: Look, it's a political problem for a president that he came to power in 2008 by saying politics of usual is over. I'm going to change Washington. I'm going to reform it. That's going to be about ideas. It's not going to be about back-room deal making and this is back-room deal making and the evasion that has come in trying to explain it is something that voters right now are rejecting. They're rejecting it summarily in elections and I think it becomes a big problem.
CARVILLE: I have to say something. We have a report where Mineral Management Services using dope and being paid off by oil companies and everything. They don't want to investigate that but you want to investigate somebody in politics --
KING: Time-out. Save your energy. Kevin and James staying with us. We'll be back with the "play by play." When we are, we'll break down the BP CEO's, Tony Hayward's comments of late and see why some people are calling them maybe crude.
Still to come, Pete is on the street. Is it time to call in aqua man to plug the hole?
KING: A quick look at tomorrow's news tonight. Headlines made right here during this hour. Florida Governor Charlie Crist tells me President Obama is "doing everything he can in terms of the oil spill and that it is imminent that the oil will hit Florida's coastline."
CNN's James Carville says he ran into BP's boss, Tony Hayward and the Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen having dinner together last night in New Orleans.
Underwater robots are still trying to saw through the damaged riser pipe. The saw got stuck earlier today.
And remember at the top of the hour when our counter estimated 34,081,000 of oil had spilled? Since then add another 33,000 gallons to the leak and it keeps coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here comes the "play by play."
KING: Move on to "play by play," you get the drill. James Carville, Kevin Madden still with us. We're going to break down the tape and let our experts talk about it. We're going to start with the man you saw having dinner last night, James. Tony Hayward is the BP CEO. He's been one of the spokesmen for the company. There are many who think perhaps the company would be better off if Tony Hayward would keep quiet.
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: Everything we can see at the moment suggests that the overall environmental impact of this will be very, very modest. I'm sure they were genuinely ill but whether it was anything to do with dispersants from the oil or whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill, food poising is clearly a big issue when you have a concentration of this number of people in temporary camps. There's no one wants this thing over more than I do, I want my life back.
KING: You guys both advice candidates, advice companies from time-to-time in communication strategy. On a scale of 1-10, how's this guy doing?
MADDEN: That was a minus 0, minus 2. Two things you learn in politics are managing expectation and empathy. On the managing expectations part where you say that this is not big deal, what you're seeing is pretty minor, that's a big problem. You have show that it could be worse and you have to empathize with the people's worst fears. The last part, it's not about you. This is about a region. This is about people's careers. This is about an entire lifestyle down there. To make it about himself you know it was very poor judgment.
KING: He apologized for that one.
CARVILLE: He did. I said, look, I told him last night, this is free advice but I would find a communications person I trusted.
MADDEN: A part of what he said was empathizing but it's that one line out of six lines that ends up on YouTube.
KING: If we don't think that BP just the image of BP has taken on a negative, I want to show you an event this morning. Thad Allen was supposed to give his briefing and you see there BP on the podium. Well, that's a smart staffer that, we will make that go away, but we go 1, 2, sticky, good, there's the b, come on, get the b out of there. That's good Velcro. That is good Velcro, but that is also determination, coast guard men helping out and then Thad Allen gives his briefing. How'd you like to be Thad Allen, look up in the room.
MADDEN: It's a marriage of necessity BP and the government. But the government and many of the folks that are speaking for the government, they want to be as far away from BP's problems as positive.
CARVILLE: I've been in the Marine Corps. That's what you call taking the initiative. I'm trying to get the rank, looks like a lieutenant commander. I can't tell. That's being smart.
KING: He's smart, maybe got a promotion.
We're in a campaign here so one of the things you look for, how are the big things happening in the news trickling into the campaigns. I want to play for you an ad used being against Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democratic incumbent in Arkansas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big oil has another gusher but this time it's tens of millions in campaign cash. Over the last two years, Blanche Lincoln has taken more oil and gas money than any other U.S. senator, over half a million dollar since elected. Maybe she got that money because she helped Bush and Cheney give oil companies $14 billion in tax breaks or because she voted to allow risky offshore drilling for BP and others.
KING: I think you get the picture. Do you expect a lot of this? I mean she's right now in a runoff, Democratic runoff, the candidates in a primary. Do you expect a lot of this, this year?
CARVILLE: First of all in the interest of disclosure, I've sent out fund-raising letters for Senator Lincoln. I have to be very careful. You know you will get hit. This is politics. That happened, her opponent is hitting it. I assume the facts are right, I assume for the moment they are, it's a fair ad. MADDEN: That's what happens on politics, you try and seize on the storyline of the day, tailor that message to the local electorate. You know I think it's a difficult - it's a more difficult argument to make when you consider the fact that President Obama was a large recipient of BP, too.
KING: Well we call this play by play. Let's move to sports. We're all basketball fans here. I will hold this up. I happened to bring it in. I grew up in Boston. I'm a Wizards fans here in Washington but this is in my blood, we know they will win the championship. The control room is mad at me right now. Lebron James sat down for an interview with our Larry King and he talked about the free agent class. Lebron is a free agent. Chris Bosch is a free agent. Dwayne Wade is a free agent. He said maybe we can all get together and talk together how this should all work out.
LEBRON JAMES, TWO TIME NBA MVP: I don't know to that extent but it will be fun. It will be fun to get all the free agents together and figure out a way how we can make the league better.
KING: If I had your money, maybe I could buy them as a team, keep them all.
CARVILLE: You probably need like you'd have to be an oil company to afford all that. I don't know if there's an anti-trust thing of free agents getting together. You to have be careful what you do.
MADDEN: Be payback. Basketball players and what happened, remember Jack Morris back in the late 80s, all the owners got together and collude aid intelligence Jack Morris.
KING: Great get by Larry, having a good week. Good to hear Lebron. Hope he doesn't end up on my team. That's all I have to say. Kevin and James, thanks so much.
Not quite Hollywood a-list but celebs are getting involved in the gulf spill. Is it enough? Who would you like to see help? Pete is on the street after the break.
KING: We all want that oil leak stopped. People are asking, who should do it? Some have even said brought in to consult with James Cameron. He's the great film producer and director who's had a lot of experience with underwater photography. Who can help? We sent our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick out to crack the case. Pete?
PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, in a horrible situation like this, it seems like everybody wants to do something, everybody wants to help and we're all living in this nightmare that won't go away. So I figured maybe we should just go into some kind of parallel fantasyland and that's what I went out and let people enjoy for just a few minutes today.
DOMINICK: You guys have any solutions for the disaster in the gulf?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was thinking about imploding it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Either a nuclear bomb or bubblegum.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throw all the politicians in the hole.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make love not war.
DOMINICK: Make love? We can't do that. I'm a married man, miss. I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not that you can't, it's that you won't.
DOMINICK: That she won't let me, let's be honest.
What superhero should we send down to fix this problem? You should know my scenario, aqua man is on injured reserve, he's covered in oil.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Superman.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Superwoman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anderson Cooper.
DOMINICK: Anderson Cooper you want to send. He's not a superhero.
Spider-man cannot handle the water pressure that deep.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Batman.
DOMINICK: Batman can only conduct the investigation. I'm being realistic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
DOMINICK: I'm being honest. What superhero are we going to send?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need a new superhero. How about that?
DOMINICK: Perhaps Pete on the street? Da-da da-da.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part the waters as you get down there and have enough time to do the whole thing.
DOMINICK: Can you levitate? Some kind of freezing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can attract cute American boys.
DOMINICK: You can attract American boys? It's working on me. No.
DOMINICK: John King, if only superheroes were real. I guess we're back to reality here.
KING: All right. Pete thanks for the crash course there. That's all for us tonight. We'll see you back here tomorrow night. "Toxic America" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta starts right now.