Return to Transcripts main page
JOHN KING, USA
Severe Weather; Big Oil Tax Break; Senator Rand Paul Interview
Aired April 26, 2011 - 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 and good evening everyone. Tonight we're following breaking news, a new outbreak of nasty, nasty weather across the nation's midsection adding to the misery of already historic flooding in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.
Thirteen states now under tornado watches -- right now strong storms firing up eastern Texas and Oklahoma as well as across Arkansas. Already today, at least 10 deaths, at least 10 deaths are reported in Arkansas. Let's get straight to David Maxwell. He's Arkansas's emergency management director.
He joins me on the telephone right now. Mr. Maxwell, let me just start with right now this evening, as we speak, what is your biggest worry after this terrible day?
DAVID MAXWELL, DIR., ARKANSAS DEPT. OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Well our biggest worry right now is the amount of rainfall we're getting currently. You know, with the tornadoes, damaging roofs, people are going to lose a lot more of their property with the rainfall.
KING: You have 60,000 people without power, I saw a bit earlier today. Is that still about right?
MAXWELL: That's -- it fluctuates, but that's probably pretty close.
KING: And when you talk about what you need to do from an emergency management standpoint to alleviate the waters, and to help people, and to try to get their power back on, what's the number-one challenge at the moment?
MAXWELL: The number-one challenge is the debris. Getting it cleared away, so the crews can get in and get the lines back up.
KING: And as you've been traveling around the state, give me your sense of what you've seen, maybe I guess the biggest surprise you've seen, the biggest disappointment.
MAXWELL: Well, I think the tornadoes always surprise you. You see something new every time. But I think my biggest disappointment is, once again, the number of flood deaths that we've had, that we just can't seem to get people not to drive through water. And that's very disturbing. KING: That's obviously important advice. We hope anybody listening in your area follows that advice, to stay off the roads and to stay safe. From a resource perspective, do you have everything you need, or because of the severity of all this, are you stretched thin?
MAXWELL: Well, we're stretched thin, as you might expect. But we have what we need and certainly been in touch with FEMA and they're standing by to provide any assistance that the state might need. But right now, we're able to get the resources in that have been requested.
KING: And what's your sense of where you are on the tipping point of this? Are you at the point now where things get better or are you still expecting worse? I believe there's still a tornado watch for the eastern part of the state, is that right?
MAXWELL: Yes. And we've had several tornado warnings this afternoon and getting heavy, heavy rain across the state, so certainly watching for additional flooding.
KING: David Maxwell is the Emergency Management Director in the state of Arkansas, a busy man tonight. We appreciate your time, sir, as you're under these conditions. And we certainly wish you the best in the hours ahead. We'll keep in touch.
Heavy rain is the last thing, the last thing they need tonight in the flooded regions, not only in Arkansas, but in Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. Over-stressed levees in southeast Missouri started failing today, forcing thousands to head for higher ground. Forecasters say the floods in Kentucky and Missouri could eclipse the records set back in 1937.
Let's check in now with the Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Governor you've declared a state of emergency. You've been all across the state today. Let me start with a simple question tonight, what is your biggest worry?
GOV. JAY NIXON, MISSOURI: Well, the waters are rising in the state of Missouri. I mean the bottom line is if we can dodge another rainstorm tonight, things may peak sooner, but the bottom line is we've had levees break today. We've had to move almost 7,000 people out of their homes. We had 59 water rescues today by the Water Patrol and others in our state.
And then we have the Corps of Engineers moving north from Memphis. They left about two and a half hours ago, bringing charges up. And they're talking about the potential of blasting and blowing out a levee here which would flood 130,000 acres in the "Show-Me" state.
KING: And they think that might be necessary to prevent further damage I assume?
NIXON: Well that's certainly their point. There are some low points in the levee we think are natural. Boy, it seems very dramatic and dangerous action to start blowing up the levee system that's been designed and built over decades and would potentially literally change the -- where the Mississippi River floods -- where it flows.
Bottom line, we're right here at the point now near Charleston, Missouri, near Cairo (ph), Illinois, where the two largest rivers on the continent meet, the Ohio and the Mississippi. Blowing out a levee there could cause significant damage, not only for the families and the towns that would be washed away, but also for future generations.
KING: And so this sounds like you've got a pretty profound disagreement with the Corps of Engineers over strategy?
NIXON: Well at this point we do, because 36 hours, once they leave down there, they have 36 hours to barge north. We're continuing to work with them. We're looking at other options. I've just completed a meeting with all of the local emergency management officials -- the commissioners here, the sheriffs. We're getting ready to go back up in the helicopter and fly the complete area so we can have a good view of redoing, re-shooting all the elevations here to get a good sense of what -- the bottom line is, you know, Missourians fight -- we're going to fight to make sure we protect what has been very useful farmland, very safe place with levees that have worked for decades.
KING: And you have some forecasters saying you could eclipse the records of 1937. Do you believe that tonight? Are you worried about that tonight? Or do you think things are turning at least slightly in your favor?
NIXON: Water is continuing to rise. And the targets continue to be higher. We're still in a situation where the risk level is rising as the sun is setting tonight.
KING: Let me ask you lastly, Governor, do you need anything in terms of supplies, resources? Does the state -- you're looking at a list saying, I need this?
NIXON: We've got emergency shelters down here. I visited one of those this afternoon with about 280 families. They're being well fed by our faith-based initiatives and the folks helping there. I called up the National Guard a couple of days ago. This has been a busy week for us. We dodged -- you know while we had huge property damage with the tornado in St. Louis, eight miles on the ground, we didn't lose a life there. We've lost two already with these floods today and had 59 rescues. So the bottom line is that it's been a stressful week for us. But Missourians come together under pressure and we're confident we'll weather this storm.
KING: Governor Jay Nixon we appreciate your time tonight and we certainly wish you and your state the best in the hours ahead, sir.
NIXON: Thank you, John.
KING: Take care. And we will keep on top of that including checking in a few minutes with our Chad Myers in the Severe Weather Center. I want to show you a quick footnote as we move on to other stories. First, look at this shot right here from the -- CBS. It's from KDFW (ph) and just outside -- this now is outside of Dallas, Texas. The (INAUDIBLE) that's a storm-chasing vehicle with a live stream in the middle of a storm. You can see heavy rains there in the Dallas area as well.
One potential good side of all these heavy rains, we hope nobody gets hurt in this, there have been a lot of wildfires in that region, and perhaps, perhaps the heavy rains will help that effort. Again we'll stay on top of the severe weather story throughout the hour ahead.
But turning now to the nationwide problem -- you know this problem high gas prices -- this afternoon the attorney general, Eric Holder, told reporters he's already found quote "a couple of things that are disturbing" as the government launches a new investigation into possible manipulation of the oil markets. Now the attorney general would not go into detail.
Also today President Obama wrote to congressional leaders urging them to, quote, "take immediate action to eliminate unwarranted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry and to use those dollars to invest in clean energy." A quick follow-up by the White House there to House Speaker John Boehner's Monday comment to "ABC News" that he's open to doing something about big oil's tax breaks which amount to about $4 billion a year.
Let's talk things over and talk about whether the politicians are on track to help you or just talking with the former Shell Oil Company President John Hofmeister. He's the founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy. And John, let me start right there. When the president says let's take away these tax breaks, I'm sure just about everybody at home watching says, damn right. The oil companies are making record profits, big high profits. Take those away. Would it help next week, next month or next year with the price at the pump?
JOHN HOFMEISTER, FORMER PRESIDENT, SHELL OIL CO.: Well, it would probably raise the price at the pump by a small amount, a very small amount. Four billion dollars, John, in an industry the size of the oil and gas industry is really a very small -- it's almost a pittance. People then say well why don't they do it?
Well there's a different economic model for the big oil companies, the international oil companies versus the small independents. Those tax code depreciation allowances and so forth were really written into the tax code to protect the thousands and thousands of workers in small independent oil companies.
They were never really written for the big oil companies. I mean I've testified in Congress multiple times in the past that those tax rules don't really change the economics much for a company where I used to work.
KING: Let me interrupt just for one second. I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Hofmeister. Let me interrupt for one second. I just want to show our people, I just want to bring up a graphic of what this is here. This is federal oil subsidies over a six-year period. Traditional fossil fuels, about $54 billion in tax breaks go out to the industry.
And then you have traditional renewables, ethanol subsidies always come under attack here in Washington. When you look at this chunk of money right here, I understand your point that you think prices would actually go up. If the companies lose these tax breaks, they'll make consumers pay for it. But there is a pretty good argument to make, is there not, in a capitalist system at a time the federal government is running record deficits, why are we giving away money like this to businesses that tend to make pretty good profits?
HOFMEISTER: Clearly, there's an argument that can be made. But on the other hand, the other side of the argument is why don't we go produce more oil, because the royalties off of a barrel of oil to the federal treasury are so much greater than these tax breaks. And we don't hear any message out of the White House about increasing oil production materially.
And I presented a plan to Congress in February that said let's raise our national production from seven million barrels a day to 10. We could create three million jobs. And that would produce $20 billion a year in new royalty payments to the federal government, a whole lot more than the $4 billion that they're talking about.
KING: Well I just switched the map -- while you were speaking I switched the map here. This comes from Interior Department I believe map. This is a previous proposal. We took the pictures from of the president proposing some expansions of drilling some areas off limits. But what we're essentially showing you is coastal areas in the United States, coastal areas down here along the Gulf Coast, the East Coast.
Where, if you're looking at this map, where could the administration do something tomorrow that would, "A", increase production in the short term, "B", get the federal government that money you're talking about from the royalties, and "C", perhaps bring prices down for the average Joe at the pump because you had more production here at home?
HOFMEISTER: Just the dramatic nature of an announcement from the White House that we would do a material increase in oil production, eastern Gulf of Mexico, Bristol Bay, Alaska, (INAUDIBLE) Beauforth (ph) Sea, Alaska, off the East Coast, Middle Atlantic states and on federal lands and we could pursue oil shale in Colorado. There's so much oil out there to be developed, John that we're -- I'm only talking about raising our production to half of our consumption to 10 million barrels, we use 20.
And that's not really a drill baby drill message, that's only half of our daily production. The president himself asked oil exporters to please increase their production today to, you know, to the American people. Why would foreign companies increase their production to help the American people when the American government won't even increase its own domestic production for the American people? You know there is a different business model here going on between oil producing countries and the United States, which is also an oil producing country. KING: Let me let you listen to the president of the United States. He did a bunch of interviews today, four of them, with local stations around the country. Here he is talking to an affiliate in Cleveland, Ohio, WKYC (ph). The president essentially asked what are you going to help pain at the pump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no single magic bullet. Now one thing that we did today is to say that members of Congress stop giving $4 billion in subsidies to oil companies that are already making tens of billions of dollars in profits. That's what we do through our tax code.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You've addressed the last part there, where the president talks about the subsidies. But there's no single magic bullet. OK, you've mentioned one proposal that you put on the table, which is increase domestic production. What else? What else can the president and political Washington, if anything, do that might give some satisfaction to a guy out there looking at Memorial Day coming up, looking at the Fourth of July coming up and thinking, I thought I was going to be able to take a trip with my family, but not if it's going to cost me four or $5 a gallon?
HOFMEISTER: Well we've had eight presidents in a row, including President Obama, who have failed to address the long-term energy issues of the country by not having a plan. There is no plan for energy that has any sanction in Congress or that has the sustainability of lasting between changes of administration.
In the political time realities of two-year election cycles, you cannot possibly put an energy plan forward for the nation that's going to have traction and sustain itself through political changes like the Republicans taking over the House or the Democrats holding the Senate, in an election. These election year politics have precluded any kind of energy planning.
I suggest in everywhere I speak now what we need in this country is a much higher authority that can manage the energy future of this nation independently -- independent of the politics of the day, independent of a president who doesn't like big oil. We've known that since the election, since the campaign. He doesn't like big oil. He wants to see an alternative energy future. But that alternative energy future produces zero gasoline for the gas tank, maybe some ethanol at some future point.
But that only merely stretches the supply. It doesn't replace oil. And what we need is an independent regulatory commission to take over the management of energy in this country without worrying about day-to-day politics and the two-year, four-year election cycles, which have prevented the nation for 40 years from having any energy sanity as we look into the future.
So there's no silver bullet now. But with a short, medium, long- term 50-year plan that can survive congressional changes, I think we can get to affordable energy, make sure we have plenty of it, and make sure it's sustainable from an environmental standpoint.
KING: John Hofmeister proposing there essentially a federal reserve independent for energy, we'll keep in touch, Mr. Hofmeister. Appreciate your thoughts today and as you just heard Mr. Hofmeister making the case that this seems to some up all the time. If you're sitting at home saying, is that true? Listen to this. This is the politics of pain at the pump over the past decade or so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way to become less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil is to explore at home.
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I will tackle this problem and focus on new technologies.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I want America's energy sources to be dependent on American ingenuity.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We will drill offshore and we will drill now.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: We've got lots of both, oil, gas; we've got a lot of coal.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I want the oil companies to pay the federal gas tax this summer.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George Bush was on TV talking about his energy plan. Now, think about it, where has George Bush been over the last eight years?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Deja vu all over again I think it was once said by the great Yogi Berra -- gas politics never leave us.
A quick break -- when we come back we'll check in with Chad Myers in the Severe Weather Center, punishing storms across the nation's midsection. We'll check in on those.
And a big day in the Paul family -- the Paul political family -- one of them is running for president. The other one will tell us how they figured it all out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) unmonitored by the Congress --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: The map says it all as does the storm chaser a busy night and we'll likely see tonight a new outbreak of severe storms and tornadoes across more than a dozen states -- more than a dozen states. That means a busy night for meteorologist Chad Myers. He's at the CNN Severe Weather Center and you look at that map, Chad, and you just say wow.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, it really is wow. There's severe weather all the way from North Carolina on up through New York, almost into Canada here (INAUDIBLE) Ottawa and then back down through St. Louis. This entire area right there under the gun for severe weather tonight. Now, some places more severe than others. I get it.
But there still will be wind damage across parts of New York, parts of Pennsylvania, even -- maybe even in D.C. Wind damage can be just as bad as tornado damage. In fact, here in Atlanta, a couple of weeks ago and into Georgia, the whole state of Georgia eight people died. Not a tornado in sight. All wind damage blowing down trees.
You have to be careful with this. Tonight is a night to make sure you have a NOAA weather radio. There is going to be an area all the way from Nashville and down through Memphis, maybe toward Dallas, Texas, just to the north of Houston, that tornadoes may be on the ground well past your bedtime. How do you wake up? Radio doesn't wake you up. TV doesn't wake you up. But a NOAA weather radio will. It's not too late to go get one. So let's focus in a little bit.
Memphis, you have a tornado on the ground just to your northwest. Marion (ph) across the river, this is going to go up toward Bartlett (ph). It's on the ground right now wrapped in rain, don't go look for it, you can't see it. You can't see it because there's rain all around it. It's inside the rain shaft. There are tornadoes on the ground to the north and west of Little Rock.
We had baseball-size hail in Fort Smith and a bunch of severe weather still here across the eastern parts of Arkansas. Where else? Texas, in fact, we had a tornado roll across I-20 about 10 minutes ago near Primrose. This is going to be a day, if you hear thunder, you see lightning, it doesn't look right, just stay inside, get in a safe place because there's going to be severe weather on the eastern half of the entire country tonight.
KING: Chad Myers tracking it all in the Severe Weather Center. We will keep in touch with Chad as we watch this night -- it looks like a dangerous night unfold. Thanks Chad and as Chad just mentioned forecasters say all of the midsection, including Kentucky may be in for some of the worst flooding, the worst flooding perhaps since the 1930s. A short time ago we checked in with Kentucky's junior senator, Rand Paul, to discuss the flooding as well as a big political news day in the Paul family.
Senator Paul, I want to start tonight with a tough day for your state. Historic rain, some flooding expected, the governor's already declared a state of emergency. What's your sense of what's coming and is the state prepared? SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, you know, we have had staff out there in some of the Ohio River Valley counties and cities looking at this. Some are expecting that the flood out there could rival the 1937 flood. You know, we're obviously in better shape than we were then. We have more levees, more floodgates. But I think ultimately how bad the flooding will be, and what the repercussions will be will take us a couple of days probably to sort out.
KING: You're young to the Senate, new to the United States Senate. There are often questions sometimes some criticisms about how this process works, how the state keeps in contact with the federal government, sharing resources, sharing information. What's your sense early on in this one? How's it going?
SEN. RAND PAUL: I think the communication as far as I know is working pretty well. I think unfortunately we have enough disasters in our country that we have a pretty well-oiled machine as far as communicating disasters through FEMA. So I don't expect any problems there.
KING: Let's certainly hope it stays that way. I want to move on now to what is a big day in the Paul family. Your father is in Iowa this afternoon, announcing that he will again explore a presidential campaign. He has run in the past. And he is about now at least to start to run again.
Take me inside the kitchen table or whatever conversation you had with your father. There was some talk that maybe the new Senator Rand Paul might run for president. Obviously I assume one Paul will be running, not two.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, you know, the interesting thing is the Paul household in Kentucky is breathing a sigh of relief. My wife is quite happy that it's Ron Paul running and not Rand Paul. She said she's had enough elections for a while. But you know, I think this is a serious time and we have serious problems.
And one of the things that my dad brings to the table, that very few others can say, is he predicted the housing bubble. He predicted the housing collapse, the housing depression. And he's also been a strong voice for constitutional foreign policy. Not letting a president go to war without congressional authority. And there are very few other people who can say they represent that point of view.
KING: You worried at all, he's 75 years old, he would be 77 come Election Day were he to be the Republican nominee for president. Does that give you any pause at all, his age?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well the interesting thing is, is all the kids we're worried that he beats us when we go for a bike ride or when we go for a walk we have to tell him to slow down. So I think his vigor and his intellectual curiosity makes him a much younger man than his years.
KING: If he had decided not to run, was there any chance, you having just won election to the Senate, any chance you would have gotten in?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Yes, because I want to be part of the national debate. And I see my election as an election that says, you know what, we have to do something about the debt. I see the Tea Party movement as wanting a seat at the table. So I will still continue to travel. I'll be in New Hampshire tomorrow, be in Florida the following day. I've been to Iowa, South Carolina, and I've been all over Kentucky. So we continue to get the message out there because I worry that we have a crisis looming in our country where we will have trouble paying our bills.
KING: Will you campaign with your father?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, maybe some and even the last time around I usually campaigned separately, because you get a little more done when you're not traveling together. It allows me to go to some states when he's not there. And so I think I will help as much as he wants my help.
KING: He is a guest tonight on our "IN THE ARENA" program which follows this program. And Eliot Spitzer interviewed your father just before his announcement in Iowa earlier today. One of the questions he asked him was why are some Republicans deciding not to run? Let's listen to a bit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why aren't more Republicans getting in?
REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: Well I don't know. They -- maybe they have to be cautious. Maybe they believe the president is stronger than some of the polls show. And the president is liked a lot. And, you know, in politics, being liked is very important. So maybe they don't think he's as vulnerable as the polls indicate he might be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Haley Barbour yesterday, Mike Pence before that. Several other Republicans have taken a pass this time. Is President Obama vulnerable in your view?
SEN. RAND PAUL: I think extremely vulnerable. I don't meet anybody in the business community who's not upset. Most people in my state feel like he's the most anti-business president we've ever had. I would say people drop out, though, because the biggest hurdle is name recognition. The one thing, you know, Ron Paul in 2008, only about one or two percent of the people knew him early on. By the end and by now, about 80 percent of America knows his name.
So he has a much greater chance now than he did before. But many of these other candidates, even those who have been governors of states, are not well-known across the United States. And it makes it almost impossible for them to win.
KING: One guy who is very well-known, who will also be in New Hampshire tomorrow, and I'm going up to see him, and maybe we should arrange a meeting, I think that might be interesting if you're going to be in New Hampshire as well, is Donald Trump. And as you know at the CPAC conference, the Conservative Conference here in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump had some not so nice things to say about your dad. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP: By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected, I'm sorry to tell you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: And you know what else? I like Ron Paul. I think he's a good guy. But honestly he has just zero chance of getting elected. You have to win an election.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You just came out of an election with the support of the Tea Party. If you don't bump into Donald Trump in New Hampshire tomorrow, when I do any message you'd like me to give him?
SEN. RAND PAUL: The interesting thing is I was standing there behind the curtain. I was going to speak. I spoke directly after Donald Trump. And my point is, you know, look, Ron Paul's won 11 federal elections as a Republican. I don't remember how many elections Donald Trump's won, but I don't think very many.
I also think that the Tea Party may sour on when they find out Donald Trump gave $4,800 to Harry Reid in the last cycle, that his biggest contributor has been Charlie Rangel. He's given 24,000 to Charlie Rangel. I don't see anybody in the Tea Party going for Harry Reid and Charlie Rangel, so I think it's perplexing at best what's going to happen with his candidacy.
KING: Do you view him as a legitimate Republican contender?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, I'm not sure which party he's registered with now. I know he's been registered with many different parties throughout his history. I know that he hasn't voted in a Republican primary in 21 years, so I don't know. I think it's hard for an entertainer or a comedian to be treated seriously. And that's a big hurdle he will have to overcome. And so we'll let the public decide that, but I'd say he does have quite a few hurdles to overcome to be taken seriously.
KING: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, we appreciate your time today, sir and we want to close where we began wishing you and the people of your state the best as you deal with some expected storms and flooding.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Thank you.
KING: When we come back to the Middle East and North Africa, big developments today including more targeting of Tripoli. Is NATO looking to target Moammar Gadhafi?
KING: Now to the Middle East and North Africa, the NATO-led coalition bombed several targets, regime targets, in Tripoli today. Alliance military sources called it a deliberate attempt to ratchet up pressure on Moammar Gadhafi and his inner circle.
Britain's defense secretary, Liam Fox, was here in Washington today. And both he and the U.S. defense secretary, Robert Gates, discussed the more aggressive targeting of the past 48 hours.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ROBERT GATES, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: So, we consider them legitimate targets. We are not targeting him specifically. But we do consider commanding the control targets legitimate targets wherever we find them.
LIAM FOX, U.K. DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's very clear that the regime is on the back foot. The sooner that Colonel Gadhafi recognizes that the game is up either today or shortly, the better, he's a liability for his people and his country. And the sooner that he gets this message, the better.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KING: But if you need evidence, any evidence, Gadhafi isn't getting the message or listening to it anyway, the strategic city of Misrata might be exhibit A. It is under siege.
And CNN's Reza Sayah is tracking the fighting. He joins us, we will say from near Misrata, we want to protect him for security purposes.
And, Reza, there was talk over the weekend that the Gadhafi forces would come out. But we know there's continued fighting. What's the latest on the ground?
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Yes, just a brutal day in Misrata today, John -- bombing by both NATO forces and regime forces.
Remember, just several days ago, regime officials came out and said Gadhafi forces had withdrawn their troops and suspended operations. But based on what happened today, clearly not the case. Opposition officials telling us Gadhafi's forces shelling the port area in Misrata. They described it as the most aggressive attack on the port they've seen since the uprising started.
Some of the rockets, according to the rebels, are hitting near a refugee area in the port area. Of course, these refugee camps, for the past several weeks, are housing thousands of migrants who desperately wanted to get out through this port. Now, again, they're caught in the middle of the fighting, according to witnesses. At least three of them killed, several injured. That was early in the afternoon.
Several hours later, we've heard and felt several very powerful explosions. And based on what they sounded like, and what they felt like, it leads you to believe that they were the result of NATO warplanes hitting regime targets on the ground because simply the mortars that the regime uses and those old Grad rockets, those Russian Grad rockets simply don't sound like that and they don't feel like that.
So, a very active day today in this key city, John.
KING: And, Reza, the fact that Gadhafi continues to shell the city, it's a message not only to the opposition forces in Misrata, it is a defiant message to the world, the NATO alliance, which has told him now for weeks, "Get out."
SAYAH: It highlights the challenges NATO faces and the rebel fighters face in crushing the Gadhafi forces. The rebels are certainly determined. But it looks like, based on what we've seen today, the Gadhafi forces are determined, too. They are unwilling to give up this key city.
This would be a huge symbolic victory for the rebels. It would potentially be a staging ground for if and when they want to march to Tripoli. But the regime is unwilling to give the city up.
And if you take a step back and look at the big picture, there's an indication of how tough other fighters are in other cities. Imagine how tough the fight would be in a place like Sirte, Gadhafi's birth city and then on to Tripoli, the center of power is. Again, it signals a potentially long drawn out conflict.
KING: CNN's Reza Sayah for us -- Reza, stay safe.
He is near Misrata here with the fighting. He mentioned Sirte here, Gadhafi's hometown. We'll continue to track that. Reza is doing some dangerous and courageous work out there.
Let's move on in Syria today, another bloody day as well. With the escalating violence came escalating international condemnation.
The United States urged Americans to avoid Syria and said those already should leave ASAP. A half dozen nations, including the United States, are working on a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian crackdown, which human rights groups say has led to more than 400 deaths over the past six weeks.
Arwa Damon is with us now from Beirut.
And, Arwa, difficult in your reporting to get through to too many eyewitnesses. But you did speak to one source in Darfur. What are they telling you about the situation there?
ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. We did manage to get through the one eyewitness in Daraa earlier today. While we were on the phone with him, we could hear sporadic gunfire still going on in the background there. And he was telling us that he had a list of 21 names, people who have been killed on that, even the name of a teenage girl.
He was saying that he didn't know, however, when the funerals would be taking place because he complained that the Syrian military had, in fact, taken over the cemetery. He was telling us that the wounded were not being treated in the hospitals. They had to treat them in secret, undisclosed locations, because again, he said the Syrian military had taken over the hospitals -- really painting a picture of hardship and of continued concern.
And the Syrian security forces, he said, fanned out throughout the entire area. People are very anxious. Shops mostly closed.
And this also very similar to another eyewitness that we managed to get through in the Damascus suburb of Dummar (ph). He described an entire area under siege, saying that the checkpoints set up there, the security forces had used sandbags and they had heavy machine guns positioned outside of that area. And this, of course, is happening whilst the international community is watching, John. And yet it would seem unable to put enough pressure on the Syrian president, on this regime, for them to scale back this operation, John.
KING: And you mentioned the international condemnation, the international pressure. We will see what the Security Council of the United Nations does as its debates this in the coming days. But what is the Syrian government through the vehicle of state television telling its own people? As we've watched these crises play out in Tunisia, in Egypt, currently in Libya, and now in Syria, how is the regime trying to communicate to its own people and what I assume would be propaganda?
DAMON: Well, John, interestingly, they're putting forward a very similar message to the one we heard in Libya and in Egypt, blaming much of the uprisings on foreign intervention, blaming it on armed groups. The government here has been very strong in putting out this message that it is simply targeting these terrorist groups that have somehow infiltrated the demonstrators, and that is why, for example, this military crackdown went ahead in Daraa. They said they went in simply to protect the people from (AUDIO BREAK). They're putting out messages on state television -- again, reemphasizing the point that they're only targeting these armed groups that are intent on sowing unrest in Syria and in the region.
But, of course, this is in great contrast to what we are hearing from the opposition, from activists, from people in these areas. But, again, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for us to independently verify any of this information since our ongoing request to actually get into Syria are continuously denied -- John.
KING: Continuously denied -- and that in and of itself sends a signal about the intentions of the regime. Arwa Damon for us in Beirut -- Arwa, thank you.
Let's get some insights from the former undersecretary of state and the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns. And, Nick, there seems to be somewhat of a mixed message, although maybe it's not as confusing as we sometimes think it is. The White House says regime change is not the goal of the NATO mission. However, the British defense secretary says command and control targets are legitimate targets. And if Gadhafi happens to be there, so be it.
BURNS: Obviously, this is a much more difficult and more protracted war than the alliance thought when they went in. There's an effective stalemate. Gadhafi has survived. He's reconstituted his forces.
So, you see that NATO now going after his command and control centers in Tripoli, which is far from most of the most vigorous battle theaters. And that's a policy decision that has obviously been made by the NATO alliance.
But I think this divergence of public statements also points to the fact that some members of the NATO alliance have different goals than others. The United States said we're there to protect civilians. We'd like to see Gadhafi go, but that's not the purpose of the American policy. That's not the same as some of our European allies, particularly Britain and France.
KING: But you say there's no accident.
BURNS: And I don't think that NATO believes that a military victory can be won by the rebel alliance. But perhaps the strategy now is to increase the military pressure on Gadhafi so that it's more likely that somebody from within his inner circle might try to remove him from power, or that Gadhafi might, at some point, face the music and understand that either he leaves Libya for some third country, or else he's going to lose control and lose his authority after 40 years in power in Libya.
KING: And let's move on to the Syria challenge, Nick Burns, and explain to somebody out there watching who would say, why is Syria different? If Assad is using force against his own people, which we know he is, why wouldn't the United States and its allies go to the Security Council and say, let's have a resolution -- use the Libya language essentially -- allowing us to have a military intervention? Why is Syria different?
BURNS: John, you remember the very unique circumstances under which the NATO alliance intervened in Libya. The Arab League requested that NATO go in to Libya. The U.N. Security Council, including by not vetoing the resolution, Russia and China, said it would happen. So there was near universal and international and Arab support.
None of that applies to Syria. The Arab League would never give authority for NATO to go -- or the U.S. to go into Syria. The U.N. Security Council would not. I don't think that either Russia or China would refrain from exercising the veto.
And so, I think the prospect of an American military intervention in Syria is almost nil at the time.
So, what do we do? Well, obviously the administration needs to put greater pressure on the outside regime.
KING: And do you think the pressure will work and will it be part, Nick Burns, of a turning of the page? You have served in several American administrations, both Democrat and Republican.
In the sense of the Assad family -- first, the father, now, the son. At one point, they're pariahs. And then we think, let's try to do business with them, and then they're pariahs again. Then, OK, let's try to do business with them.
Have we closed the book? Do we now understand this guy is a thug, forget about trying to deal with him?
BURNS: I hope so, because as, you know, John, it's been an active debate in Washington, are we going to be better off with the outside we know than some regime that might follow him? And particularly the people who are interested in maintaining some kind of talks between Israel and Syria, or the prospect of talk, say that maybe they'd be better handled by Assad.
But, you know, this is a leader who has promoted terrorism against the United States in Iraq. He facilitated the entry of foreign fighters into Iraq, back after the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. This is a leader who has effectively aligned with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas in a radical terrorist next in the Middle East.
I think that the United States and our friends would be much better off should the Assad regime fail.
KING: There has been a lot of commentary and a fair amount of it has been critical of President Obama's handling of all of this, what some would call the "Arab Spring," what certainly has been a dramatic season of upheaval from Tunisia to Egypt, now Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and beyond.
I want to read you a couple of recent commentaries. One is Michael Gerson writing in "The Washington Post" today. He served in the Bush administration, of course. "Obama still acts the part of a college professor who has unlimited time to sift and debate his options, as though deliberations were virtue and indecision had no cost. But changes in the Middle East are demonstrating how difficult it is to conduct a seminar during a hurricane."
That's Michael Gerson, served in Republican administration.
Here's a line from a "New Yorker" piece written by Ryan Lizza. "Obama may be moving toward something resembling a doctrine. One of his advisers described the president's actions in Libya as, quote, 'leading from behind.'"
Two relatively critical takes, unless you think leading from behind is a good idea -- fair? BURNS: I think they're unfair. I think it's easy to shoot darts at somebody from the sidelines. It's much more difficult to govern and put together a coherent American strategy in the midst of a hurricane. That's what we're in the midst of, revolution, reform in 22 different Arab countries.
What the president, I think, has done very well from the start of this, he's put our weight behind reformers in Egypt and in Tunisia. In those two countries, there's at least the possibility to see an evolution towards democratic reform. But the president has also safeguarded our concrete and counterintelligence, or intelligence and counterterrorism -- I meant to say -- and defense interests in places like Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
So, he's taking a bet on democracy, where he thinks it may have a possibility of taking root. But he's protecting our traditional and very important interests vis-a-vis Iran in the Gulf.
KING: Nick burns, as always, appreciate your insights.
BURNS: Thank you.
KING: Ahead, the latest on the severe weather in several states tonight. Plus, just how much of what you pay at the pump is for gas, and how much of it is for taxes and other add-ons?
KING: Welcome back. If you're just joining us, here's the latest on the news you need to know right now:
New tornado outbreak underway tonight -- 23 tornado warnings in effect right now. Meaning tornadoes either on the ground or observed by Doppler weather radar. These warnings are in Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Kentucky and Michigan.
Remember the angry town hall meetings when Congress was considering health care reform? Well, they're back.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
KING: All that happened in a town hall held by Florida Republican Congressman Dan Webster. He's a freshman. This time, voters -- many of them -- encouraged by Democratic interest groups, upset -- very upset about possible changes in Medicare. Today, House Republicans leaders said they'll hold a number of listening sessions for their rank-and-file members when Congress returns from its break next week.
This in "The New York Times" tonight. It reports Madame Nhu, the glamorous and outspoken wife of one of South Vietnam's officials during the Kennedy administration, died Sunday in Rome. She was believed to be 87.
How much do your phone, computer, other gadgets know about you, your privacy and who could they tell? In a moment, we check in with the folks at Mashable to see what you can do to protect yourself.
KING: This will be interesting. Congress is getting ready to investigate what your gadgets know about you. Senator Al Franken has called a judiciary subcommittee hearing for May 10th to look into reports Apple's iPhone and iPad not only can keep track of your location, they're storing what one researcher calls, quote, "a scary" amount of detail about your movements.
Mashable reporter Christina Warren is covering this story which has gotten so big, even the Apple CEO Steve Jobs weighing in.
All right. Christina, so, help me out here. I love this thing. This is my iPad.
What does it know about me that I don't want it to know?
CHRISTINA WARREN, TECHNOLOGY REPORTER, MASHABLE.COM: Well, what it does is there's a file stored in IOS, the operating system that runs the iPhone and the iPad, that stores your location coordinates. So, anytime you're using your phone or your 3g iPad and you're in the vicinity of a cellular tower, it records your location. And this file is only on your phone or your iPad and backed up to your computer. It's not anywhere else.
But it has a history of the places you've been. If you've had your iPhone 4 since June of last year, it's got a record of everything and every place that you've been since June.
KING: So -- but, is any third party, anybody I do not want to have access to this information, have access to it? Or is that just a risk, not a reality?
WARREN: That's just a myth, not a reality. The reality is that the information is only stored locally on your phone or backed up on your computer using iTunes. Now, if someone were to have access to your phone or to your computer with a backup, they could use a program that these data researchers created that will show sort of, you know, a good idea of where you've been and will kind of pinpoint your location on a map. But this information isn't sent anywhere else.
KING: And so, if I'm a little paranoid, I can turn this off, right? I can adjust the location settings. But if I do that, I pretty much downgrade the value of this, right? I make less smart.
WARREN: Exactly. When you turn off location services, then you prevent applications from knowing where you are and being able to use your location to provide useful information. So, if you're really paranoid, you can turn it off.
But the reality is, that as long as you have possession of your phone and you have possession of your computer where the backup is located, you're going to be OK.
KING: And so, what is the biggest question Senator Franken wants to answer at this hearing?
WARREN: Well, what he wants to know why the information is stored to begin with. I think that's a valid question.
My question is also, if the information is going to be stored, that's fine. But why is it not encrypted? If the information were encrypted, that means, you know, if it were protected from people being able to access the file, even if they had access to your compute or your phone, then at least information wouldn't be visible. If the information is important and needs to be stores, it should at least be protected.
So, I think that the key question that Senator Franken is asking is, just why is Apple storing this information and why is it important for them to have these locks?
KING: Christina Warren, we appreciate your expertise there. We'll get back in touch as this hearing plays out. I want to find out where this goes. I'm interested in knowing it.
KNG: Appreciate your help tonight.
When we come back, imagine gas is 5 bucks a gallon. I'm going to show you exactly how much of that money actually buys oil and refined gasoline and how much of it goes elsewhere.
KING: Imagine if gas were 5 bucks a gallon. Where is that money go? Sixty-five percent of it to pay for the crude oil, 14 percent to pay for the refining, 65 cents of it, tax gone, $40 cents, distribution and marketing. That's your money.
That's all for us tonight.
"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.