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Times Square SUV Sold Without Papers; Slick the Size of Delaware; Interview with Mississippi Governor

Aired May 3, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Rick, thank you.

Happening now, breaking news. New information just out about the SUV at the center of that failed car bombing in Times Square as investigators search for one man they hope they can hope this individual can provide critical clues into what the White House is now calling a, quote, "act of terror."

Also, that massive slick in the Gulf of Mexico is now roughly the size of the state of Delaware and growing bigger each hour -- along with the cost of the cleanup.

And it's unlike anything even longtime residents have ever seen, epic flooding triggered by as much as 20 inches of rain. Thousands of people are displaced and it may soon get a whole lot worse.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: Let's follow the breaking news this hour. New information about the vehicle that someone tried to explode in Times Square over the weekend. Sources now are telling CNN, investigators have located the man who previously owned the SUV, and he's given them some potentially critical new clues.

Let's go straight to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, who is working the story.

All right. What's the latest, Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, federal law enforcement sources say investigators are following leads in several locations, not all of them on the east coast.

One the best leads, thus far, CNN's Deb Feyerick has learned from a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation that the Pathfinder was sold on Craigslist three weeks ago by a seller in Connecticut. The buyer and seller met at a shopping mall in Connecticut where the buyer paid $1,800 in cash and drove off. No paperwork with the exchange, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are the investigators learning from surveillance tapes that were all over? MESERVE: Right. Well, they have some in-hand there, reviewing some others. You've probably seen the one of a man who's taking off a shirt in an alley near Times Square. A former investigator says you and I might not see anything here definitive of this man, but friends and relatives might recognize a piece of clothing, a haircut, a particular way of walking. And that is why this is so important to this investigation, Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the information they're getting about the actual bomb that was in this car?

MESERVE: Well, its components are now being examined and traced. One administration official says that among the things to investigators are looking at are phone records of calls to businesses that sold those components, including the propane tanks. Those very unique and color clocks, the pressure cooker, the metal box that contain in it fertilizer, the fertilizer itself and its packaging and, of course, those fireworks.


JIM CAVANAUGH, FORMER ATF OFFICIAL: It's going to be hard to go out and just track down a few M-88 fireworks. It's really not going to happen for -- I mean, it's going have to be some other way that they get to some area, some neighborhood, some town, where they think the perpetrator might have lived, worked, or frequented, and then they may be able to ask some questions of local dealers who deal in fireworks or propane or clocks, and maybe make a connection that way.


MESERVE: Cavanaugh says, right now, the key to narrowing down that geographical area is probably that car whose VIN number has led them to that seller in Connecticut, but which also may contain forensic evidence, like finger prints, DNA and fibers. A federal law enforcement official says the investigation is indeed making progress, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are investigators saying about potentially a link to international terror groups?

MESERVE: Well, as you know, there is a group in Pakistan that has claimed to have some responsibility for this attack. Officials who we've talked to throughout the government say everything is on the table. They are looking at the possibility of ties to international terrorism but they're also looking at the possibility that this was something domestic, that it could have been a lone wolf.

The investigation is very early. They are still looking at every possibility, Wolf.

BLITZER: And there have been suggestions all day, I heard them -- yet a second videotape is going to be released from a tourist from Pennsylvania who saw a man running. That tape is not yet released?

MESERVE: No. We were expecting it to be released this afternoon. We haven't seen it yet. When we do, we'll bring it to you.

BLITZER: All right. As soon as we get, we'll show it to our viewers. Maybe it can help provide a tip as well.

Thanks very much, Jeanne Meserve.

We'll have a lot more in Times Square coming up.

But we're also following all the latest developments in that giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Among them, B.P. is pledging to pay the cost of the cleanup, as well as the damages to fishermen, oil workers, others whose livelihoods have been affected. B.P. executives met today with the interior secretary, the homeland security secretary, and other top Obama administration officials to discuss the crisis which continues to grow.

As of today, an estimated 2.6 million gallons of oil have leaked from that sunken rig. The Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says the threat is tremendous.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: A place to protect our wetlands. Now, I want to reiterate this again, I said this over the weekend. This spill fundamentally -- it can fundamentally threaten our way of life in Louisiana. And that's why we wanted to sit down with Plaquemine and St. Bernard Parishes this week and we call on every parish president all along the coast of Louisiana.

We've also asked for a worst case scenario plan, and again, not a detailed plan. We thought it was important for our parish leaders, even though there are no projections, that this time, for the oil to be west of the river, we submitted plans from the Texas border all the way over to our eastern-most tip of our state in terms of how we would protect our coast.

We want to have this comprehensive plan in place for wherever oil reached. We know that slick of oil in the water can intensely quickly changing depending on winds, current, weather conditions. We saw that this weekend. We must be prepared to mitigate the effects of the oil on our coast no matter where --


BLITZER: Brian Todd is over near the scene of what's going on.

Brian, you've been investigating. What are you coming up with right now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first on the spill, we're told by officials here that the spill has not reached shore in any tangible amounts yet. But the weather has kind of broken a little bit. There has been an improvement in the weather and you really get a sense from the officials handling this containment effort that they are making some tangible progress in trying to get ahead of this thing on a couple of fronts. They are testing out, again, some chemical disbursements that they're going to put underwater. They hope to deploy those very soon.

They are drilling a relief well. They're starting to construct them, bring them over and hopefully to place them in right over this well very soon.

And, right where we are, this is in Port Fourchon, Louisiana, this is a third front in this war against this oil slick. You haven't it seen this before live. This is the pollution containment chamber. This is the so-called dome we've been talking about.

This weighs about 100 tons. It's about 40 feet tall, 15 feet wide. This is the dome that they are going to lower on top of this leaking pipe, straddle it, funnel the oil up to the top of the surface. They believe they can capture up to about 85 percent of the outflow from that once they get this thing lowered on top of the pipe.

You have special access to this thing today that nobody has gotten before. Over on my -- over my left shoulder here, to your right, they're building a smaller one. But that's not going to be ready before this bigger one is.

Now, the timetable is key. They hope to finish this bigger dome essentially within 48 hours, before Wednesday, and then get it on to a large ship that will carry us over the leak and then lower it. We ask them tangibly, you know, when is this going to be on the floor capturing oil? A B.P. official and the project engineer told us, we think, we hope within a week.

BLITZER: Within a week from today, Brian?

TODD: They say within a week. They're most optimistic scenario is by the end of this week. But they're not -- they're not trying to be, you know, overly optimistic and get people's hopes up. But they hope to get in at least by the weekend, and have it functional by the end the week.

If they can get this thing on the floor straddling that pipe, they believe they can really get a lead on this crisis and capture a lot of this oil and get it taken out of there in a very kind of safe and contained manner.

BLITZER: That's a big "if" though at this point. And we'll see if they can do that. Let's hope they can.

Brian, thanks.

We're going to get back to Brian. He's all over this story.

All of that oil represents even more gasoline. Look at this. One barrel of crude can make about 20 gallons of gas.

So, roughly 5,000 barrels spewing into the Gulf each day equals about 100,000 gallons of vehicle fuel -- 100,000 gallons. That's enough to fill the tanks of more than 6,200 cars and trucks. The latest estimate is that some 2.6 million gallons of oil have already spilled into the Gulf. What a waste.

Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."

Then electronic eyes, they're everywhere in Times Square. What other clues might they provide into that failed car bombing?

Also, a new setback for European air travel. That volcanic ash is back threatening to create new travel chaos.

And North Korea's Kim Jong-Il apparently goes abroad. And this trip could have major implications.

Stay with us. Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Good news. Jack Cafferty is back with "The Cafferty File."

Welcome back, Jack.


BLITZER: We did. More importantly, the viewers.


BLITZER: They tweet me all the time, where's Jack? Where's Jack?

CAFFERTY: Well, I'm here. Jack is back.

The circus is in town. It's over there at the United Nations today. The president of Iran is here in New York for an international summit on nuclear nonproliferation, which he probably can't even spell.

Delegates from the United States, England and France walked out of the general assembly as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blasted America and Israel for possessing nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad says countries that threaten to use atomic weapons should be punished. That's a direct reference to the Obama administration's new nuclear strategy.

The White House calls Ahmadinejad's speech predictable -- pardon me -- and full of wild accusations. The U.N. is blaming Ahmadinejad for a standoff over its nuclear program. Iran continues to insist that the enriching uranium for civilian use. The West says they're working on a bomb.

Ahmadinejad comes from a country that lives in its own world, ignoring reality and science, and blaming natural disasters on promiscuous women. A top Iranian cleric claims women who wear immodest clothing, quote, "lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery," unquote, which causes earthquakes. Another senior government official says prayers and pleas for forgiveness are the best way to repel earthquakes. The latest absurdity comes from the Iranian police who say they're going to put women with suntans in jail. It's all part of an effort to crack down on, quote, "social misbehavior" that violates Islamic law.

We should be talking to these people about the origin of fire and why wheels are round.

Here's the question: Is there any reason to take Iran seriously in a discussion about nuclear weapons?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: All right. Good work, Jack. Thanks. And once again, welcome back, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story. We're getting more information now on that SUV at the center of that failed car bombing in Times Square. Investigators are also combing through surveillance video that may contain clues.

CNN's Mary Snow is working that part of the story for us.

Mary, a lot of cameras, a lot of videotape, and they're looking for some answers.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are. And police are trying to put this together step-by-step, examining hundreds of hours of security videotapes looking for clues. So far, the biggest lead police have gained from it is a video just about 20 seconds long.


SNOW (voice-over): The NYPD wants to talk to this man after Saturday night's botched bombing attempt in Times Square. That lead came from a video camera at this restaurant, which has a camera trained on this narrow alley about a half block away from where the SUV was parked filled with propane, gasoline and fireworks.

It's estimated there are as many as 200 private cameras in Times Square. While the NYPD has dozen of its own surveillance cameras in the area, it is also turning to businesses for their videos.

LOU PALUMBO, THE ELITE GROUP: A lot of these people put the cameras in for the purpose of liability to protect themselves.

SNOW: Lou Palumbo is a former police officer who now owns his own security firm. He says the work of going through images looking for suspicious activity is painstaking and can take months, but an image of the car captured by an NYPD camera provided a timestamp at 6:28, helping to narrow the search. Police can now backtrack to try to find an image of just where the car entered the city.

But back in Times Square, police are trying to locate every camera that may have captured a clue. PALUMBO: Technically, a business owner could say, "No, I'm not giving you anything." Then you have to go through the process of subpoena. I don't believe anybody's doing that in this instance.

But there is no question, cameras that belong to and are under the control of the city of New York and the police department are clearly something that's an advantage as opposed to trying to go back and piece this together store owner by store owner.

SNOW: There are plans for a so-called "Ring of Steel" in Times Square. They're similar to a program in Lower Manhattan and in London. Among other things, it would have more NYPD cameras controlled by the police department. It's something the head of the Times Square Alliance welcomes but he says since 9/11, many businesses have added their own security cameras, and the group tracks them to work with police.

TIM TOMPKINS, PRESIDENT, TIMES SQUARE ALLIANCE: We know about it so that we're able to provide the NYPD sort of a network of contacts. So that when they say an incident happened, we say, here -- here are the people to go talk to, and then they go and look into that.


SNOW: And, Wolf, one of the challenges detectives are facing in looking through these tapes from private companies, police say the time on those tapes not always correctly stamped. And that slows down the process.

Now, besides these cameras in Times Square, there are also tourists who take videos and the police department says it has at least one video from a tourist. It says a man is seen running north on Broadway. That tape has not yet been made public -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is that man seen running of the videotape that has not yet seen publicly, is believed to be the same man who was taking off that one garment and putting it away in the vicinity of this incident?

BLITZER: It's really unclear. And the police commissioner, Wolf, did stress that these people seen in these tapes are not suspects. They are just people that they want to talk to as they backtrack this process, but it is not clear if it is the same person.

And also this -- the one thing that we do know from the police commissioner is that this man was seen running north on Broadway.

BLITZER: We'll see -- we'll actually take a look at that tape once it's been released. Thanks, Mary.

Mary is all over the story as well.

It's a country music mecca. But right now, Nashville, Tennessee, is a city under water. Just ahead, Opryland as you've never seen it before.

Also this -- the Republican Party in Florida paid handsomely for a portrait of the Governor Charlie Crist. But Crist just went independent for his senatorial bid and the GOP is hopping mad. Now, the painting is on eBay.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what else is going on?


Well, muddy water everywhere in Nashville, Tennessee. The unrelenting line of weekend storms sent Cumberland River spilling over its banks.

Look at interior of the Opryland Hotel, it's virtually under water, northeast of downtown Nashville, along the river. Fifteen hundred guests spent Sunday night at a high school. A hotel spokesman says the hotel will be closed indefinitely.

The storm killed at least 19 people in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky.

And Lynn Redgrave has died. The family announced today that the British actress died at her Connecticut home Sunday after a seven-year battle with breast cancer. Redgrave, the younger sister of actress Vanessa Redgrave was twice nominated for two Academy Awards. First for best actress in a 1966 film "Georgy Girl "and for supporting actress in 1999 "Gods and Monsters." She was 67.

Two Supreme Court justices call plans to close the porch front entrance to the public unfortunate. Starting tomorrow, most visitors will be required to enter through ground-level doors on the sides of the building's marble front step. This change is part of a modernization program for the 75-year-old building and it's being implemented for security reasons. Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said they hope more money and reduce stress could mean changing the policy fact some day.

And the Florida Republican Party, well, they said that they would do it and it has. This afternoon, party leaders posted an oil portrait of Governor Charlie Crist, who's now running for the Senate as an independent. EBay listing includes (INAUDIBLE) saying, quote, "Help the Republican Party of Florida gets their money back."

And in case you're wondering, Wolf, getting ends made sense -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. How much?

SYLVESTER: Well, we don't know what the starting bid is at this point. But bidding has started and we'll see what ends up, Wolf.

BLITZER: You let me know, OK?

SYLVESTER: Oh, definitely. BLITZER: Thanks very much. He was supposed to be on our show today, the governor of Florida. Unfortunately, he cancelled but we're hoping he'll one come back later in the week and we'll have a chance to talk to him.

SYLVESTER: Maybe he's bidding for his own portrait. I don't know about that.

BLITZER: No, he's got a lot of -- he's got a lot of issues in Florida a right now. With this oil spill, I'm sure he's very busy. And he's got a political campaign he's got to worry about as well.

All right. Thanks very much for that.

Just when a volcano appears to be settling down, the wind shifts and an ash cloud causes some serious problems again.

Also, he was praised for his handling of Hurricane Katrina. Now, Haley Barbour has a new crisis on his hands. I'll speak live with the Mississippi governor about the oil spill. Stand by for that.

And the former Democratic Congressman Jim Traficant is out of prison and he wants his old job back.



Happening now -- President Obama signs an emergency disaster declaration for the state of Massachusetts after a giant pipe break that left much of the Boston area without safe drinking water. Just how dangerous is the water and then will the supplies be restored? Stand by.

And as the massive oil slick expands across the Gulf of Mexico, we're getting a firsthand look at a new way to try to stop it. Brian Todd will show us the containment dome under construction right now.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: With a potentially crippling oil spill flowing towards its coastline, Mississippi is no stranger to disaster. Governor Haley Barbour was hailed for his handling of Hurricane Katrina. Now, there's another crisis, a serious one. Governor Barbour is joining us.

Thanks very much, Governor, for coming in.


BLITZER: How worried should the folks in Mississippi be right now about the beautiful coastline along the Gulf of Mexico?

BARBOUR: Well, we need to be prepared. My view of this is when you pray for the best, prepare for the worst. But a lot of people are assuming that this is going to be catastrophic, and that is not a safe assumption.

Right now, there's no oil within 50 miles of the Mississippi. Eighty percent of the oil slick, as it's called and appropriately -- 80 percent is literally just sheen or film right on top of -- on top of the water. That is not toxic. It's not particularly damaging.

I mean, we don't want it to come ashore in Mississippi, but it's manageable. It's a manageable problem. Our people on the coast are getting ready.

And I do think a lot of people in the country are being led to believe that this is already some gigantic catastrophe. Well, that's not the case and we're going it try to keep it from ever being the case.

BLITZER: I think what some of those who are really worried hear most, if it isn't contained within the next, you know, few weeks, if it goes on two or three months, it will be a much worse problem for the Gulf of Mexico, for the folks in Louisiana and Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, than the Exxon Valdez spill was in Alaska.

BARBOUR: Well, people say that. And that is certainly a possibility. If the well were to break back open and be flowing and at maximum potential, if it did that for 90 days -- yes, then it could be a terrible catastrophe. That hasn't happened yet, may not happen.

You mentioned the containment dome. There's been great work done in the last 72 hours putting dispersant into the oil right above the wellhead, and it looks like that is breaking up the oil and greatly reducing what comes to the surface.

Look, we're not happy with what's going on by a long shot. But we haven't come to the conclusion that this is a have-to-be catastrophe because it doesn't have to be.

BLITZER: I was just reading a story. The governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says it's time now to stop drilling or at least stop expanding oil drilling off the California coast until they get to the bottom of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico. Would that be wise right now to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico?

BARBOUR: Well, it certainly wouldn't be wise to stop the Gulf of Mexico. We've drilled thousands and thousands and thousands of oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico. And this -- this collapse and this spill is very, very, very fierce, but it is also one out of thousands of wells that have been drilled. We produce about 30 percent of the nation's oil in the Gulf of Mexico. We produce -- we used to produce about 25 percent of the natural gas. That percentage is declining, but oil drilling in our gulf has been safe 40 years, even through Katrina. Now we've had a terrible accident and incident. We need to get to the bottom of it, but we don't need to shut it down.

BLITZER: Senators Shelby and Sessions of Alabama, your next door neighbor over there say that BP will have to pay every penny of this back for this disaster. I want you to listen to what they just said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I would just say it this way. They're not too big to pay. If they can't pay, and it takes everything they got, they should cease to exist and the -- that will happen.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: In the meantime, I hope they don't go break. I hope they thrive. In the meantime, there's a lot of sources, a lot of insurance, and assets they have, and they're going to have to step up.


BLITZER: Do you hold BP responsible and should they pay the entire bill?

BARBOUR: Absolutely. That's the law. The 1990 oil pollution law of the United States. That exactly what the law says. That BP is the responsible party. And BP has never backed off from that, at least it any meeting that hive been in or calls I've been on. It is BP's responsibility, and at this stage, they're meeting every responsibility, paying for everything, and that's what they're supposed to do. Those two senators, exactly right. That's what they're supposed to do under the law.

BLITZER: Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi. Governor, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck to all the folks not only in Mississippi but along the Gulf of Mexico coast and we hope to see a result sooner rather than later. Appreciate it.

BARBOUR: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The oil spill comes as President Obama grapples with immigration and border security, a Supreme Court nominee in the works, the economy, Wall Street reform and homeland security with a weekend scare in Times Square. All of this involves big government versus smaller government. Here's what the president said about this weekend.

OBAMA: So class of 2010, what we should be asking is not whether we need big governments or a small government, or how we can create a smarter and better government. Throwing around phrases like socialists, soviet-style takeover and fascists and right-wing nut -- that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian even murderous regimes.

BLITZER: The president was giving the commencement address at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Let's bring in our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. It seems sometimes the American public wants smaller government. Sometime, though, they want bigger government, especially dealing with potential disaster, as currently in the Gulf of Mexico?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's interesting, Wolf, because when you look at what people think about the department of defense, department of the defense helping out in the gulf, they think that's great. They have a lot of faith in the department of defense. Post-9/11, Wolf when they saw those first responders go in, 60 percent of the people in this country believed that the government was going to do the right thing's they trusted the government to do the right thing. Now only 20 percent of people believe government is going to do the right thing. So when you flay clip from Barack Obama, he's got problem here, because he's got people who don't trust government to do the right thing, but he's asking for bigger government, and smarter government. You remember. What was the praise with Clinton and Gore? Re-inventing government. We've heard this before. We need a smarter government. We need a better government. The problem that Barack Obama's had is that he had a financial disaster. Had to come in and spend money on a stimulus program. He's done health care and people don't believe he's re- inventing government, they just believe he's putting the government into deficit spending. That's his problem buy the American public right now.

BLITZER: Certainly it will play out between now and November, mid- term elections. Which issues will you be looking at? Financial reform? Immigration reform? A Supreme Court nominee supposedly coming sooner rather than later?

BORGER: Well, financial reform people in the white house believe that they've got the wind at their back. That the American public wants financial reform, they can get that. A little division in the Democratic Party, though, now, Wolf. This is an administration that says we want to take on immigration reform. Lots of Democrats are saying we understand why you think it's going to energize the base, but talk about the good economic news. Make sure we get 100,000 job growth you know every month and talk about the good news of the economy. They believe that's what's going to get the voters out, and you can't have too many things on the table. Now, Supreme Court. Can't avoid it. He's going to have a nominee perhaps as early as this week, and they're hoping that will be non-controversial, relatively non-controversial, and we'll get through prissy quick.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Heard it here first.

It's a trip that could have major implications. Few people know for sure it's even happening. We're talking about North Korea's Kim Jong- Il. Is he in China?

And we're following the breaking news. New information about the SUV at the center of that failed Times Square bomb plot.


BLITZER: Let's get back to Lisa. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What else is going on Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Just when it seems things have quieted down, that volcano that erupted in Iceland last month is now causing new troubles for air travelers. Ireland's aviation authority is now restricting flights to and from Ireland due to southward drift of ash. The restrictions aren't expected to impact the British airports though.

New Orleans has a new mayor. Mitch Landrieu was sworn in as the city's first white mayor since his father held the office in the 1970s. Among his priorities, that growing oil slick along the gulf coast which causes new threats to the city's seafood industry. And he'll also have to address what's been a staggered recovery after hurricane Katrina.

Former Ohio Democratic Congressman and ex-con Jim Traficant is hoping for a seat again on Capitol Hill. The guy does not give up. Traficant, you will recall, served seven years in prison on charges including tax evasion and bribery. He filed papers to run for Congress this time as an independent. If he qualifies, Traficant could be going head-to-head way former staffer Democratic Representative Tim Ryan who now holds that seat.

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il is believed to be visiting China. A South Korean news agency reports the leader arrived in country this morning, and there's video that surfaced. You see it there of a man in a Chinese city that appears to be him. The visit could be a sign North Korea is considering a return to the six-party talks. Wolf?

BLITZER: Or at least someone who looks a lot like Kim Jong-Il.

SYLVESTER: It does. You have to look carefully at that video but it does look like him.

BLITZER: Yes, all right. Thank you very much, Lisa, for that.

With oil bubbling up by the thousands and thousands of gallons in the gulf, experts are already weighing the potential economic impact. The prospects aren't pretty. We'll consider the worst case scenario. And the seafood industry is watching this oil disaster very, very closely. We'll crunch the numbers on what's at stake for producers and consumers.


BLITZER: Our strategy session now. Joining us, CNN political contributor, Democratic strategist James Carville in New Orleans and Republican strategist Ed Rollins in New York. Guys, thanks very much for coming in. James, you're there and the oil spill, talked briefly with about that first. There's been suggestions can you actually smell the oil in New Orleans. Can you?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No. I heard that, too, and I have not -- I've not smelled it nor heard anybody talking about it. I heard similar reports when I was out of New Orleans, but I've been here, got back last night, and I haven't smelled it at all.

BLITZER: So from your perspective as a resident of New Orleans, how bad is it?

CARVILLE: Well I mean, I saw the governor today and they seem to be fairly confident they can keep it out of Lake Pontchartrain. If you look at a map, that's kind of key to sort of New Orleans and some of the surrounding area. We don't know which way the currents are going to go. But the parish, the place where the river empties into the gulf, I think this thing is pretty close catastrophic in other places on the coast. But you don't know where the currents or where the winds are going to take this. There are some reports it could be in the keys and get out into the Atlantic even. Who knows? All of it's speculation.

BLITZER: I've heard a lot of worst case scenarios out there. Ed Rollins, the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, she made that phrase drill, baby, drill, pretty popular. But a whole bunch of other Republicans before this oil disaster were effectively saying the same thing. We got a couple clips. This is before the disaster. Marco Rubio, the Republican running for the Senate in Florida, Michele Bachmann, Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota, Newt Gingrich, former speaker. Listen to this.

MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: One of the emerging issues in America this year is energy, and that's why I've joined the drill here drill now pay less effort.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Do what I did. Sign the petition so that we can drill here, drill now, because I want you to pay less.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: We could drill here, drill now, and pay less.

BLITZER: That kind of language, is it going to be damaging for these Republicans?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, it could be. I mean, I think any of the energy sources, whether it's coal, a disaster in the mines, or whether it's nuclear energy, the president wants to advocate, back to three miles, you have to be very, very careful and sensitive. It we're going to use our natural resources to become more energy independent, there has to be a very significant safety and environmental side, and I think slogans, drill, baby, drill, whatever you want to use, sometimes is insensitive to the issued and these are very complicated issues and both Republicans and Democrats as a nation if we're going to be energy free have got to be very sensitive.

BLITZER: Let's not forget, James, it was only the end of March when the president sort of reversed this and said he would now support offshore drilling off the Atlantic coast and the Florida coast, and that generated some commotion at the time.

CARVILLE: Which I'm not very good at -- but energy, all people would say, look, this was in deep water exploration, a deep water rig, and there are certainly challenges that go with drilling at 5,000 feet that may not go with drilling at 300 feet. I'll add that component, but it's a distinction worth making here. And I don't think anybody's calling for stopping the current drilling. You couldn't do that. We're too dependent on this.

BLITZER: James, I want to interrupt you. I missed top of what you said. The distinction. What distinction were referring to? When the president came out with offshore drilling you responded by saying what? I missed the top.

CARVILLE: I'm sorry. I said one of the distinctions I think people are going to make and I think all people would make was this was at 5,000 feet. I think it's a lot safer the more shallow the water that you drill in, but it will be some time before we go back to drilling in that deep of water. So it is probably going to delay the whole thing for a long time, but I don't think anybody is saying we should stop the drilling in shallow water right now.

ROLLINS: The one thing that will happen, having grown up in California and having watched the Santa Barbara disaster a number of years ago, it will prolong the progress of future offshore oil and I think to is a certain extent we all have to be sensitive to that. But there will be a lot of environment challenges. You can't watch a disaster like this and not basically as Americans, not Democrats or Republicans, just as Americans, not be concerned.


CARVILLE: We've got to find out, hopefully we will find out what caused this, because if we don't know -- like an airplane that crashes. It we don't find out the cause, no one's going to want to fly on the airplane. That's completely understandable. Hopefully we can find out what caused this so people can be assured this kind thing can be corrected. Until that happen, people, this thing is a class a disaster right now.

BLITZER: Yeah, and all sorts of worst case scenarios, Ed, out there right now. I want to comment on the coast guard writing this, as a potential worst case scenario. "This spew stoppage takes longer to reach a full closure. The subsequent cleanup may take a decade. The Gulf becomes a damped sea for a generation. The oil slick leaks beyond the western Florida coast enters the Gulf Stream and reaches the eastern coast of the United States and beyond. Monetary costs is now measured in the many hundreds of billions of dollars." That's a horrendous worst case scenario if I ever heard one.

ROLLINS: Certainly it's going to cost billions under any circumstance. I think the government's on the right track by making BP pay for all this. It's their mistake and obviously they have to clean it up. It shouldn't be but the government will have to spend money in resources. All of this area down here is so environmentally sensitive, whether it's Florida or Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain, whatever. You really have extra steps. You know, it's one thing to drill in Oklahoma and Texas, and Pennsylvania, and some other places. But when you go off shore and you get into these environmental areas, you really have got to be sensitive.

BLITZER: All right, guys, Ed Rollins and James Carville. Quickly, Ten seconds, James.

CARVILLE: Ten seconds, Louisiana suffered from two engineering disasters, Katrina, and what happened in New Orleans was an engineering failure. This was an engineering failure. We need better engineering in this country.

ROLLINS: I totally agree with that.

BLITZER: I think a lot of people will agree with you. No doubt about that. Guys, thanks very much.

Is there any reason to take Iran seriously in a discussion on nuclear weapons? That's Jack's question. The Cafferty file, and your e-mail, coming up.

And we're learning new details about the car in Times Square that set off that security scare over the weekend. The hunt is now underway for where the car came from, who bought it. We'll have the latest.


BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour, is there any reason to take Iran seriously in a grown-up discussion about nuclear weapons?

Dorra writes from Atlanta, "Yes, they should be taken seriously. If these maniacs get hold of nuclear weapons and use them against their godless enemies, the whole world might need a refresher course in that invent the wheel idea."

Greg in Dallas writes, "You can't negotiate with terrorists. It's either their way or they kill you. Muslim extremists only understand brute force and win or take all. During the Bush administration, Iran was not an issue. The problem now is, Iran does not take us seriously. If you recall, we had similar problems with Iran during the Carter administration. The day Reagan was sworn in as president, Iran released all of the hostages long held during the carter years."

Sassan writes, "Absolutely not. I lived in Tehran, lived there until I was 16. Iran will acquire nuclear weapons unless we act to destroy their plants. Sanctions will not do anything. These people believe that the west is literally Satan. Anyone who thinks we can negotiate with the Iranian people is dreaming. This comes from a guy who went to their best schools."

Donna writes from Colorado Springs, "I take what the president of Iran says with about as much seriousness as I take whatever dumb things come out of Sarah Palin's mouth. He's a little man with a big mouth, and he does seem to live in his own little world of weirdness. Hopefully he's not working on killing the rest of us."

And Ed writes from Maryland, "Symbolically in the bible, earthquakes represent rebellions. These are generally associated with corrupt tyrannical leaders not so much voluptuous women in bikinis. So maybe there is room for negotiation. We back off on the nuclear talk. If they let Iranian women show some skin. The whole country is like a beach, anyway, so come on, now."

If you want to read more about this, some of it more serious than that last e-mail, go to my blog, Wolf. BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

We're following the breaking news. New details just coming in about the SUV that someone tried to explode in Times Square. We'll have the latest on the investigation. Stand by.

And as that massive oil spill spreads across the gulf coast, what are the implications for the fishing industry and your seafood? The effects could be devastating.


BLITZER: New fallout from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A minimum ten-day fishing ban has been imposed by the federal government. It's a devastating development for the region and one that could impact the entire U.S. Americans eat an average of 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. The U.S. is the world's fourth-largest producer of seafood, with much of it coming from the five states that make up the U.S. gulf coast. Together, they produce more than 188 million pounds of shrimp alone. In 2008, worth more than $366 million, almost half of that from Louisiana alone. With so much at stake, the industry is trying to reassure consumers that gulf coast seafood is safe.

MIKE VOISIN, LOUISIANA OYSTER TASK FORCE: Seafood is still safe, and there are many more areas, so that, you know, that aren't impacted, we want to get that message out.

BLITZER: But many shrimpers and fishermen say the impact from the oil spill could be worse for them than the worst hurricane.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never experienced anything like this in my life. And Mr. Bruce has been around a lot longer than me. I mean, my opinion, it's going to be devastating. No more crabbers, no more work. No more -- I mean, you've got to change your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I rebuilt this place after Katrina, rebuilt it after Gustav, and this -- I might not be able to rebuild it this time.