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Attempting to Cap Damaged Well; President Obama Talks to Larry King

Aired June 3, 2010 - 00:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening again. We're live in Louisiana day and night, a big development. Breaking news right now from 5,000 feet beneath the Gulf of Mexico. You're looking at a hurricane of oil and gas spewing into the water. Somewhere in that cloud is a cap sitting of a freshly-cut pipe. The capping operation got under way in earnest several hours ago.

The aim is to use that cap to try to ultimately siphon as much oil as possible to the surface to awaiting tankers. Whether or not the connection is complete, we don't know. There is going to be a conference call tomorrow morning.

Amazingly, there's no live reporting from BP or from the Coast Guard or from anyone in the federal government about what is occurring right now in this crucial, crucial operation for the future of the Gulf and for the future of thousands of fishermen and people who live in this area -- tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people.

In the meantime, the oil keeps coming ashore. We saw it coming in Grand Isle today. A lot of people there saying more oil there than they've seen in a long time. There are birds we saw today on Grand Isle -- completely heartbreaking sight -- completely just covered in oil and relief workers are saying they're seeing in the last two days a larger and larger number of wildlife.

Let's get the latest from our team of reporters in the Gulf. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, David Mattingly and Gary Tuchman. So David, what do we know about the operation going on right now?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we know about the operation is that it's not matching up to the animation that BP had showed us in the past. In the past, it had that tub tube attached to the cap as the cap was lowered in to place. This cap does not appear to have the tube going to the surface attached to it right now.

So that could be a deviation in the plan that they had to do. Perhaps there was some kind of equipment change. We know earlier before this was lowered into place, we did see a tube attached to the top of the cap.

So a lot of questions right now. Is this going according to plan? What sort of changes did they have to make? There is so many unknowns and no -- absolutely no guarantees that this is going to work.

COOPER: And we will not hear officially, I guess, until the morning from the Coast Guard about what status update is.


COOPER: Do we know why they don't have on going communication now? I mean we've called everyone basically, apparently, from the Coast Guard to Unified Command Center, everyone has left the office. There is this guy there answering the phones. And BP is just a voice mail.

MATTINGLY: At this point, it's anybody's guess. It's really amazing that there is nobody available to talk us through this. I mean not from the Coast Guard, not from BP. The joint incident command center, the joint information center absolutely no information available there. No one to talk to there.

COOPER: And Sanjay, you've been looking into obviously the health effects of all this now for days. Are you surprised what you've been hearing and seeing?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm surprised that based on all that we know about what oil can do to someone, even in the short term, certainly perhaps even worse, this oil mixed with dispersants, there hasn't been more protective gear for the people out there who've been exposed the longest.

I mean, and first I thought it was just that this case of people have the protective gear but they choose not to wear it. But then talking to a lot of the fishermen-turned-cleanup-workers, they say that for several of them, the breathing masks -- the respirators -- simply weren't even offered.

So I think they understand this is problematic. People got sick. They got nauseated. They were vomiting. They had respiratory problems. And you know, for the most part you just get a breath of fresh air and a lot of that goes away. But we do know from looking at people after Valdez that people had these lingering health effects for a long time. So that surprised me that they simply didn't have basic protective gear.

COOPER: And as we watch this operation and this live video, Kyra Phillips was actually out on a scene today where the command center is; brought out there by Admiral Thad Allen of the Coast Guard. She said actually the smell of oil there is overwhelming when you actually fly over and land and that they're spraying down the scene with water to try to dampen down some of the smell coming from the toxic fumes that are actually coming up from this leak that we're watching right now.

GUPTA: It can make people feel anesthetized. It can make people feel drunk. It can actually sort of suppress the central nervous system. Again, that should all be temporary -- I mean, to be fair. But if the exposure is prolonged and there is really no gaps for someone to get fresh air and to sort of clear their system of all those fumes, then it's hard to say how long some of those symptoms can exist.

COOPER: In terms of the wildlife, you were at the center where a lot of the wildlife are being cleaned today, and the workers there really have seen a big change in the last day or two.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What they've seen doesn't bode very well. In the first five weeks after this disaster, there is one center here in Louisiana for all the birds that have oil on them. Ironically, it's in Burris, Louisiana, and Burris is the town where Hurricane Katrina came to shore five years ago, where the center is.

But within the first five weeks, they had 60 birds brought in which is a relatively low number.

COOPER: Right.

TUCHMAN: Over the last 24 hours we've been told, the number is 60 again. It's gone up 100 percent in just 24 hours.

COOPER: Wow. So they only had 60 birds for the first five weeks.

TUCHMAN: The first five weeks a total of --

COOPER: And just in the last --

TUCHMAN: -- 24 hours, 60 more birds.


TUCHMAN: And most of them have come from where you were today, in Grand Isle.

COOPER: Right, and folks in Grand Isle -- and I don't have independent verification of this -- are saying that they were seeing the tides had shifted and they were seeing a large amount of oil that they hadn't seen previously.

TUCHMAN: What this tells the experts -- the bird center -- is that the oil is starting to spread.

COOPER: And that's certainly -- Do we know how many people are out there looking for these animals?

TUCHMAN: Well, a lot of times it's civilians in their craft that sees the animals and then calls it in --

COOPER: Right.

TUCHMAN: -- and recovers them. But it's unclear. One of the questions I asked today, you have 60 birds that came in today. How many birds does that mean? Do you have a -- these guys are experts. They are paid by BP, by the way.

COOPER: Right. TUCHMAN: These are not volunteers. They do this for a living. They go to oil spills and they take care of birds. I said do you have a formula? What percentage of oily birds have come in here? They said there is no way to know. They do know it's a much larger number that's still out there.

COOPER: And David, even if this operation works tonight, there is still going to be a certain amount of oil coming out. And really, the final operation and what they have put in -- all the eggs in the basket are drilling of these deep relief wells which I hadn't initially realized but are actually being dug 18,000 feet below the surface.

I mean the operation now that we're watching -- let's put that in full screen -- is 5,000 feet below the surface.


COOPER: They're digging a relief well 18,000 feet below.

MATTINGLY: Right. It gets harder the deeper they go. And they're literally trying to find a space about this big that they're going to intersect with.

COOPER: About two foot in diameter.

MATTINGLY: Yes, something like that. Yes, and the Obama Administration when they found out that BP was going to drill this relief well, the stepped in and said no. We want a backup. We want two wells drilling just in case the first one doesn't work.

So we're going to have to see even when we get to August, again, I keep saying this every time. No guarantees. But this time that last-ditch effort has to work. There is nothing else after that.

COOPER: And the idea is basically to intercept the well at 18,000 feet which is very close to where that reservoir is pumping concrete there -- cement -- to basically just seal up the well.

MATTINGLY: The final solution, seal it up for good.

COOPER: But the operation that we're now watching -- and we're getting various camera angles and we apologize, you know, for not being able to explain better -- but frankly, you know, we had a professor from Purdue on who was also kind of using his best judgment here.

We're not getting official word from BP as I keep repeating. But clearly, there is an awful lot of oil still pouring out there even though it seems that the cap is in place. What do you make of it?

MATTINGLY: Well, what I make of it is that they are not close to getting control of this flow of oil. The cap may be in position. It may not be secure yet, but that oil is still flowing freely and obscuring so much of what we should be seeing right now. TUCHMAN: What I'm curious about, Anderson, David, and Sanjay, you keep talking, Anderson, about how they should have a narrator telling us what is going on. Does the fact they don't imply to you they don't know or are they just oblivious to good public relations?

COOPER: Or it's such a complex operation with so many kind of ups and downs that they frankly don't want to have someone, you know, they don't want to be transparent. They don't want to reveal the ups and downs of this thing.

As we know in the top kill operation, that thing was shut off for 16 hours. They stopped attempting to put it on and they didn't tell anybody and Admiral Thad Allen went there and gave a press conference saying it was ongoing and it wasn't.

MATTINGLY: And this is going to have to change because we've made a lot of comparisons to the hurricane with the experience that people had here from hurricanes. You can't get mad at a hurricane. You can get mad at this and people are and they're getting madder every day.

COOPER: Well it's infuriating, I mean this is a critical operation for hundreds of thousands of people, for the future of this entire region. And to not have somebody explaining what is going on in real time -- again, I'm a broken record on this and I'm going to stop -- but it is just infuriating, and it defies understanding. It defies understanding that you called the Unified Command Center right now and there's this guy here, you know answering the phone and saying look, there's no one around. Everyone's left. Everyone's gone home.

TUCHMAN: It's hard for us to watch. And, you know, David you're talking about, you know, how we're not sure what's going on, you have all this anger. And you have these people who rely on the Gulf of Mexico for their livelihoods -- thousands of people, and a lot of them have taken jobs now with BP to help in the cleanup.

COOPER: Right.

TUCHMAN: And they're so torn because they're very angry like you're talking about. But they also are now getting paid by BP because they're not getting any income from fishing, so they're afraid to talk to us about their anger.

COOPER: Of course, right. It's an unbelievable thing. We're going to continue to follow this. Our coverage continues until 2:00 a.m. hour. We'll have more live coverage throughout this evening. Up next, though, we also want to show you President Obama.

He's coming back down here tomorrow. And a late development, he is postponing an Asian trip later this month -- a trip to Australia and Indonesia. He sat down with Larry King, the full interview after this short break. Sanjay Gupta is here and our coverage continues on this spill, on this operation until 2:00 a.m. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Tonight, President Barack Obama exclusive from the White House. On his first 500 days in office, facing his biggest test yet -- the catastrophe in the Gulf.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The worst case scenario was even worse than what we're seeing now.

KING: Rage over illegal immigration.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This puts American citizens potentially in a unfair situation.

KING: And the troubled economy.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We're not out of the woods yet. People are still hurting.

KING: President Barack Obama is next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

KING: President Obama faces enormous challenges on his 500th day in office. I sat down with him at the White House today to discuss some of them, and we began by talking about an environmental disaster that has no end in sight.


KING: Mr. President, thank you for being with us on our 25th Anniversary Week.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Larry, congratulations on 25 wonderful years.

KING: Thank you. Been a special honor.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Unbelievable.

KING: And honor to be here and be with you.


KING: I know you're going down to the Gulf again. But there's a question that a lot of us are pondering. After this is over, what about hurricanes? What about oil raining down? Have we thought about what we're going to do when it's over?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is an unprecedented oil spill. We haven't seen anything like this before. And that's why the minute that the rig blew up and then sank down to the bottom of the ocean, I called in my entire team and I have to tell you, Larry, that the worst case scenario was even worse than what we're seeing now, because --

KING: This is worse than what you thought it would be?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, no, no. What I'm saying it could have been even worse. So we realized right away this was going to be a big event --a big problem -- and that we had to put everything we had into it. So, right away we started mobilizing our Coast Guard, making sure that we are putting pressure on BP to activate their response.

Eventually we ended up sending our top scientists -- we now have about 100 of the top scientists from around the world in our national labs -- to look over BP's shoulders in terms of figuring out how they're going to plug the well. And we also knew, though, that ultimately, the only way to relieve the well safely is to drill what are called these relief wells.

Now BP and other oil companies traditionally just drill one. We said drill two in case one of them doesn't work. But that takes some time. It takes about three months. In the meantime, they've been experimenting with a whole bunch of other ways that they can capture the oil. But we've had a big spill.

And we know that it's going to be a long response, a long cleanup, and my commitment has always been -- for the last 40-some days -- to make sure that we are doing everything we can to mitigate the damage, to help clean up, help recover, because this is an area that already got battered during hurricane season, and this is an area that it is concerned not only for the economy of the Gulf, but for an entire way of life.

KING: Have the scientists discussed what about a hurricane?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I had a situation room meeting about a week and a half ago where we got the report that this could be a more severe than normal hurricane season and I asked, well, how does a potential oil spill interact with a hurricane?

And it turns out that -- and now these are all estimations and probabilities -- it turns out that a big, powerful hurricane, ironically, is probably less damaging with respect to the oil spill because it just disperses everything, and the oil breaks up and degrades more quickly.

It's those tropical storms and tides that would just wash stuff into the marshes that would really be an ecological disaster. But look, we've got a couple of tasks right now. Number one, BP has to shut down this well. Now, the only guaranteed shut down is the relief well, and that's going to take a couple of months.

In the meantime, we hope that by cutting the riser, putting a cap on this thing, they can funnel up the oil and that will help. In the meantime, we've still got all these barrels of oil that are sloshing around in the Gulf. They move with the currents. We don't always know where they are. But what we can do is make sure that our response doesn't hold anything back. That we put everything we've got into Louisiana, which has been hardest-hit so far, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

KING: Senator Nelson wants the Defense Department, he says, more fully involved. More troops.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah, you know, I think there's a mistaken understanding -- first of all the Coast Guard is part of our armed services and they are responsible for the coordinating along with the responsible party -- in this case BP -- to make sure that recovery efforts are top notch.

And what I've said to Thad Allen who is the national incident coordinator, and is somebody who has been dealing with oil spills for 39 years now, is, whatever you need, you will get.

KING: So if he says troops, they get troops?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: If he says that there's equipment helpful in dealing with this problem, he will get it. But keep in mind that all this has to be coordinated. Right now we've got over 20,000 people who are working there. We've authorized the activation of 17,000 National Guardsmen.

We've got 1,700 vessels already in the water. And what you don't want is a situation where everybody is stepping on each other and not doing the best possible job in coordination with the state and local levels.


KING: President Obama rips into BP, next.


KING: President Obama makes no bones about who's responsible for the oil spill, pointing a finger of blame squarely at BP. That was during our conversation today at the White House.


KING: What part of it is your baby? What part of it is the country and not BP?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, BP caused this spill. We don't yet know exactly what happened, but whether it's a combination of human error, them cutting corners on safety or a whole other variety of variables, they're responsible. So they've got to pick up the tab for cleanup, the damages, the fishermen who are unable to fish right in the middle of their most important season.

And my job is to make sure that they are being held accountable, that we get to the bottom of how this happened, that they are paying what they're supposed to be paying, that they cap this well. In terms of actually solving the problem, BP has particular expertise when it comes to capping the well.

They've got the equipment that our Defense Department -- first thing I asked was, do we have some equipment that they don't have? And they, along with other oil companies, have the best equipment, have the best technology to deal with the well at the bottom of the ocean.

What we have a responsibility for is to make sure that the recovery efforts, mitigation efforts along the coastline, making sure that fishermen and businesses that are being affected are getting paid promptly, making sure that local people are being hired. All those efforts are ones where we can do it better.

And so what we've said is you're going to pay. You will coordinate, BP, with us, but ultimately if we say that you need to deploy folks over there or you need to compensate such and such here or you need to, for example, most recently, help to dredge up and create some barrier islands in some selective areas of Louisiana in accordance with some of the ideas that the state had down there, then you need to do it.

KING: I know you appear so calm. Are you angry at BP?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I am furious at this entire situation. Because this is an example of where somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions. And it is imperiling not just a handful of people. This is imperiling an entire way of life, and an entire region for potentially years.

KING: Has the company felt your anger?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: They have felt the anger, but what I haven't seen as much as I'd like is the kind of rapid response. Now, they want to solve the problem, too, because this is costing them a lot of money, and the one thing that I think is important to underscore is that -- I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people, but that's not the job I was hired to do.

My job is to solve this problem, and ultimately, this isn't about me and how angry I am. Ultimately, this is about the people down in the Gulf who are being impacted and what am I doing to make sure they are able to salvage their way of life? That's going to be the main focus I've got in the weeks and months ahead.

KING: Governor Jindal -- Governor of Louisiana -- he's asked you to -- he's got concerns about this impact of stopping -- the moratorium you have on drilling -- and now that's been extended to the shallow waters, as well. What would you say to him?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well actually the moratorium is not extended to the shallow waters.

KING: Oh, that's wrong?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is only the deep water wells that we placed in moratorium. Look, we have just seen an environmental disaster that's come about because these oil companies said they had a plan to deal with the worst case scenario and obviously it wasn't a very good plan, because it's not working, Larry. And nobody is being impacted more than the citizens of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal's state.

So, I have said in the past that we need to transition to a more clean energy future. But we're not going to do that overnight. We've got to have to have domestic oil production, and I am supportive of offshore drilling if it can be done safely and it doesn't result in these kinds of horrible environmental disasters.

And the problem I've got is, until I've got a review that tells me, A, what happened, B, how do you prevent a blowout of the sort that we saw, C, if -- even if it is a one in a million chance something like this happens again, that we actually know how to deal with it. Until that happens, it would be irresponsible of me to lift that moratorium.


KING: For the record, just before I sat down with the president, there was a report that the Minerals Management Service had stopped issuing permits for new oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, regardless of the water depth. Hence my question to the president.

The Interior Department has since denied that it did extend the drilling freeze to include shallow waters. The turmoil over Gaza. Whose side is the president on? His answer, ahead.


KING: President Obama addressed the situation in Gaza during our interview today and the immigration debate in this country.


KING: Couple of other things. Former President Carter has condemned the Israeli raid against those ships in the flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza.


KING: Where do you stand on that? A former American president has condemned it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the United States with the other members of the U.N. Security Council said very clearly that we condemned all the acts that led up to this violence. It was a tragic situation.

We've got loss of life that was unnecessary. And so we are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened, and I think that the Israelis are going to agree to that -- an investigation of international standards.

Because they recognize that this can't be good for Israel's long- term security. Here's what we've got. You've got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they've got missiles raining down on cities along the Israeli Gaza border.

I've been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people's bedrooms. So, Israel has a legitimate concern there. On the other hand, you've got a blockade up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.

I think what's important right now is that we break out of the current impasse. Use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we figure out, how can we meet Israel's security concerns, but at the same time, start opening up opportunity for Palestinians, work with all parties concerned -- the Palestinian authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians, and others -- and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process, once we've worked through this tragedy, and bring everybody together to figure out, how can we get a two-state solution where Palestinians and Israelis can live side-by-side in peace and security.

KING: Premature, then, to condemn Israel?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think we need to know what all the facts are but it's not premature to say to the Israelis, and to say to the Palestinians, and to say to all the parties in the region, that the status quo is unsustainable.

We have been trying to do this piecemeal for decades now, and it just doesn't work. You've got to have a situation in which the Palestinians have real opportunity, and Israel's neighbors recognize Israel's legitimate security concerns and are committed to peace.

KING: You met with the Arizona governor today. Will the administration bring a legal challenge to that law?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I'm not going to comment on that, Larry, because that's really the job of the Justice Department, and, you know, I made a commitment early on that I wouldn't be putting my thumb on the scales when these kinds of decisions are made.

I've expressed a personal opinion, which is that although I understand the frustration of the people of Arizona when it comes to the inflow of illegal immigrants, I don't think this is the right way to do it.

I think this puts American citizens, who look Hispanic, are Hispanic, potentially, in a unfair situation --

KING: But you're not going to --

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And more importantly, it also creates the prospect of 50 different laws in 50 different states when it comes to immigration. This is a federal job.

What we have to do is take on that federal responsibility by working with border states on border security, and I told Governor Brewer that we've already put more resources into border security than we ever have.

We have got more border guards in Arizona than we ever have. We've got -- we just made decisions to put in additional National Guard. But without comprehensive immigration reform -- that is Congress's responsibility -- we are not going to solve this problem. And that's what we have to do.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: Hello again from Louisiana. I'm Doctor Sanjay Gupta here following late developments now from 5,000 feet beneath the Gulf of Mexico. As we speak, crews trying to secure a cap on the BP's leaking pipe way down there. The capping operation did get under way in earnest several hours ago.

Now the aim is to try to use that cap to siphon off as much oil as possible back up to the surface. Now it's hard to tell whether the connection is even complete right now. We simply don't know that information. There's going to be a conference call we're told tomorrow morning.

Amazingly, there's no one either at BP or the Coast Guard Command Center overnight to give us any sort of progress report. You saw President Obama on "Larry King Live" earlier, he arrives back here tomorrow. Now, one very late development along that as well, just moments ago we got a news release from the White House.

President Obama is postponing the trip later this month to Asia and Australia as well. No specific reason why was given in that press statement but I do want to bring in a Rice University presidential historian Douglas Brinkley to talk more about that statement the White House released a short time ago.

Doug, it's late now, obviously. This came in just before midnight this particular statement. He canceled his planned trip to Asia presumably because of the oil spill. But the statement didn't specify a reason. What do you make of that? Is there something to be read into that?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, we have the Coast Guard logs now of April 22nd and 23rd which shows that president immediately when told by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar that deep water horizon could be two or three time bigger than the Exxon Valdez said it was the number one priority.

Everybody we talked to said it is the president's priority. But people started wondering a little bit. He seems to be, you know, there have been comedy clips of him talking to all the different groups and getting engaged with basketball teams and the like. I think when top kill failed over the weekend, we've seen a president acting like a Commander in Chief with the Gulf. And he's going down to Louisiana now.

I think he wants to send a very broad message that he is on top of this 24/7 and that he's not going to be distracted by anything else. And that he's really taking this to a whole new level.

GUPTA: Doug, I don't know if can you see the images that we've been watching all night, the oil still coming out in -- just billowing out there. We got that press release from the White House at 11:59. We have not heard anything about what's going on here.

I mean you're looking at these images. I can't tell, is the cap doing anything at this point? We hear that it's in place. Does it surprise you that the White House is not saying anything about this? PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes. But, you know what? What I've been really arguing for is that we needed a better kind of way to communicate with the American people through this crisis. Thad Allen has to work all day with the Coast Guard so I think that the White House needs to come up with a way that the country can stay on top of this all the time.

Perhaps because this may not work there's been an attempt just to kind of down play it, close the doors at BP for the night, don't talk about it until in the morning. CNN's covering it live, and many people around the world are watching it on the computer screens live.

GUPTA: People are very curious. We know for sure the cap is on. We're hearing -- it seems like that you should be able to tell if the cap is on and actually doing anything. President Obama was just speaking to Larry King earlier tonight.

He said that he's plenty angry but not getting emotional about this whole situation with the cap. Does he have a point, this idea that getting emotional is not going to serve any purpose?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it depends on what kind of emotional. I think he's yet to give a great conservation speech to lead our country into understanding what we're losing in the Gulf of Mexico. I used to go out to this place Horn Island off Ocean Springs a lot. A great painter, Walter Anderson, water colorist, used to paint out there.

But that whole area has been destroyed now. I think he needs to do a rallying speech. I don't know if it's about anger. I would say it is. I would say it's about optimism; that in the 60s we had the Lake Erie on fire. And now it's the blue waters and people are fishing, and bird life's back to Lake Erie; that the Gulf can come back.

I don't think that's anger but a little bit of emotion to kind of cheer for the region that is being stricken and might face a summer all these people running tourist businesses now going to have, you know, shut down businesses. I think he needs to be a little more inspirational than he's been and also meet fishermen and motel and restaurant owners.

GUPTA: I remember you and I were speaking right around the time this all began, Doug. You were telling me a lot about some of your experiences down there. It was quite rousing. It forced me to go do some research and really learn about this area and you're right. It is so tragic to think about what is potentially being lost here. Politically, you know, the White House has insisted that BP isn't calling the shots here; that the federal government has the final say. But, you know, listening to you, it sounds like you've been skeptical of that all along. Who's in charge here?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I've been skeptical all along because MMS, a division in the Department of Interior from day one has been under legal scrutiny. The president's had to fire Elizabeth Burnbalm, the head of MMS, meaning the government is not free on this. They just can't say it's a BP problem. Our federal government wasn't properly monitoring and expecting these off-shore rigs. So that's part of the reason I think President Obama seemed a little slow out of the gate. It was a little hard to be preachy to BP when the federal government was culpable also. But the president has slowly really gotten it together.

I think the big political move he made is this moratorium saying we're having a pushing a big pause button, a time-out on further off- shore exploration off the Chesapeake in Virginia or Alaska's Arctic. And he seems to be every day gaining leadership steam in my opinion. But he's got a difficult task in the democratic party.

Bill Nelson of Florida is opposed to any new off-shore drilling. He says he'll filibuster it. Mary Landrieu was saying we need the oil and gas money in Louisiana right now. So those are two democratic senators with a totally different vision of what's going on in the Gulf.

He's going to have to keep the democratic party behind him. I think he needs to give the nation, in my opinion, a conservationist speech, talking about what an heirloom the Gulf of Mexico is and why we need to fight for it right now.

GUPTA: He is choosing his words carefully, even during that interview with Larry King earlier. Doug, we're going to hopefully you'll stick with us. We are live here throughout the morning covering this story that is this cap, trying to stop the oil. Doug, we'll talk to you him in about 20 minutes.

Coming up though, an entire way of life here in the Gulf is now in danger. It's in danger of being entirely wiped out. It's a grim thought, taking a heavy toll. I'll tell you that for sure on mental health -- everything from stress to anxiety to depression. I'll have that story for you next.


GUPTA: Welcome back. We are live in Louisiana following what is going on right now 5,000 feet below the Gulf surface. BP positioned this cap over the gushing oil well. But I can tell you it's unclear what we're looking at or if that cap is even successfully attached. Let's bring back David Mattingly and Gary Tuchman. Good morning, guys.

MATTINGLY: Good morning.

TUCHMAN: 'Morning.

GUPTA: Here we are. You know, we've been looking at the images, David, for so long, you put the cap -- is the cap on as far as can you tell or what you know?

MATTINGLY: The cap seems to be in position it's supposed to be in. We don't know if it's secured. We don't know if it has the seal down the way it is supposed to. One thing that we do know is that it's not catching any oil right now. GUPTA: Right.

MATTINGLY: You see that just storm cloud of oil all around it right now. And it's shooting out like a jet engine out the top there. And this is something that this cap has got to get control of. Once they get it all sealed up, all of that oil is supposed to be funneled through that cap through a pipe connecting it to a surface ship where they're going to collect the oil up there and burn off the natural gas.

And so far tonight, in the hours that we've been watching this, that cloud of oil hasn't changed at all. It suggests that they're not even close to getting control of that. And right now the lighter cloud that we see in there that, is actually the dispersant that they're spraying into the oil.

This is a very unusual shot. The first time I've seen something this clearly since this has happened. And you can see the rod reaching in there and just shooting a jet of that dispersant in there. When we talk about the subsea dispersants, that's how they're applying it, just spraying it right into that cloud as it comes out of the pipe.

GUPTA: And to be clear, over the last couple days, they were supposed to make a clean cut across this pipe with a diamond saw, a very hard substance, obviously. They couldn't do that.


GUPTA: So they got this more jagged cut. Even in best of circumstances with the seal, they say it's not going to stop all the oil. Is that right?

MATTINGLY: Right, and that was a real disappointment when that diamond saw did not work. They had to take it away. It got pinched in there and wasn't going to make a cut the way they wanted to.

So they came in and sheared the top of the pipe off. And it's just not as clean a cut as they would have needed to use a very good seal. So now they had to use a dome that has a less robust seal down there. And there's going to be oil that's going to be escaping out around this cap depending on the pressure that's coming out.

They're not going to be able to capture all of it. They've been saying they hope to capture a vast majority of it. But at this point, it doesn't look like they're catching anything.

GUPTA: You know, even in the best of circumstances, they say 20 percent to 50 percent may still leak out. Close to 40 million gallons now, Gary, is that right?

TUCHMAN: That's exactly right. I was here three weeks ago for the first time. I left for a little while. It is such a different atmosphere right now. You have so many people who rely on this Gulf of Mexico for their livelihood. So many fishermen, their entire adult lives are spent on it. Now they're saying in the best case scenario, we can't envision ever resuming our careers here. We are going to have to move.

GUPTA: So what are they doing? A lot are starting to help as part of the cleanup efforts.

TUCHMAN: It's really fascinating. For example, a typical charter boat captain can make $2,000 a day for 10 hours of fishing and they do it every day at this time. This is a big time of year for fishing. BP has hired a lot of them to ferry officials out to the site, to participate in the cleanup, to rescue animals.

And I don't think they make quite as much as they would make fishing but they're doing it because they need to make a living. But the problem is they know that will end some day and they don't know if the fishing careers will ever begin again.

GUPTA: You know, we look at these images, the three of us, I keep seeing these, and I wonder what it's like for people that live here, like you're saying, and who's livelihood and the fact that their lives are so dependent on this.

I was really interested in this particular topic as well, and I'll tell you there's a lot of mental distress, I think, over what's happening here. No surprise probably for a lot of people. And there's very few resources.

Those resources have decreased since Katrina. But there is this one place, the St. Bernard's project. They're basically offering free mental health care and there's a lot of people who need it. The supply has gone down but the demand has gone way up. I went and met with a few people today to see how this all works. Take a look.


GUPTA: That's Rachel, and that's Yvonne. They're both wives of fisherman who are now cleanup workers.

YVONNE LANDRY: Our last trip was May 15th crabbing, and my husband tells me it's coming back, because I love to ride. And he tells me take a good look around, he said, because this is going to be all gone. No more boat rides like this.

I'm not going to lie. I went to crying like a baby.

MORRIS: We don't know when it's going to come back. We don't know how long. I don't know if my children will be able to be fishermen.

LANDRY: I know mine won't.

RACHEL MORRIS: My husband is a fourth generation fishermen. That's all we know. What will we do? Where do we go from here?

GUPTA: How do you best describe the emotion? Frustrated? Angry? Are you depressed? How do you feel?

MORRIS: I'm very depressed because of the way my husband comes home, the way he feels every day. I am very angry because they're not doing what they can. I'm very upset with the environmental aspect of it because the dispersant that they're putting out, Britain banned it because they know how bad it is for the wildlife and communities. Why are we using it? Why are you able to use it on us?

LANDRY: Before the spill, we were running traps side by side everybody talking. Eating lunch. It was one big family.

MORRIS: I know that for me it's going to be okay. But for him, it's killing him inside. It's to the point now where he won't even come to me anymore to talk about it. It's to the point where the fishermen are wanting to fight with each other because they're all stressing so bad.

GUPTA: This place didn't exist, where would you go? Who would you talk to?

MORRIS: There's nowhere to go to even talk to anybody. There's nowhere to go where you feel comfortable enough to open up and let people know how you're feeling.

JOCELYN HEINTZ-GRAY, ST. BERNARD PROJECT: The psychologists here to train some people and be able to start the peer-to-peer counseling out into St. Bernard. When they come back home, they're not dealing -- they're venting to you and you're able to handle it because you're being trained on how to do the stress relief practices.

GUPTA: We have learned some things from Valdez. We know that mental health issues do tend to affect women more. Is that what you're seeing here?

LANDY: They're taking their children, their husband and then their own problems. They're taking it all on by themselves.

MORRIS: I have to hold my head high and I have to keep a smile on my face to keep to my neighbors and my children and their children from being upset. To show them that there is a silver lining. There is another way out.


GUPTA: They're seeing over 90 patients a week now which is a lot for them. It was interesting, both women, they lost their homes during Katrina. And so this is another big event on top of that. They both said that this is worse because in part I think they say this is manmade disaster whereas Katrina, they felt that more as a natural disaster.

So from a mental health standpoint this is much worse for them. It was just so hard. They just don't have a lot of hope right now for all that's going on. You've been here for over a month. I mean -- have you been talking to people? What have you been hearing?

MATTINGLY: At first there was shock and determination that they were going to do everything they could to work against this and each wave of oil that comes ashore, each question that goes unanswered, each promise that isn't fulfilled, people just retreat more and more.

I just sense this rage that's constantly growing. And if this maneuver that we're watching tonight doesn't work, we're going to be seeing a great deal of expression of that anger.

TUCHMAN: And just to be clear again, this maneuver, it is not the end no matter -- even if it's the best of circumstances. There is still up to 20 percent, maybe 50 percent of oil still going to leak even in the best of situations.

MATTINGLY: Right. But if we have another defeat here, another failure to capture this oil and try to get control of it, it's just going to push people deeper and deeper into a depression and into that resignation and into that anger that we've been seeing building week after week.

GUPTA: Gary, you covered Hurricane Katrina. You have been here for several days now. What is your take? How are people doing? We're focused a lot on what is happening 5,000 feet under the ocean. But how about the people?

TUCHMAN: So symbolic is a man I interviewed yesterday, a charter boat captain, 39-year-old guy. He's been in the fishing business since he was 18 years old -- 21 years -- it's how he's made his living, and he loves doing it. And now he's working for BP.

It's called the vessels of opportunity program, VOO, and he's paid $1500 a day for his boat, for his 35-foot boat, and for him skippering the boat taking people out to the Gulf of Mexico to help in the cleanup. And he doesn't know what his future holds, obviously.

He doesn't think there is a fishing future here. But he's a tough guy. He started talking. He said we were here during Katrina. It's been five years. And we were going to finally start making money this year. And he just started crying.

He walked away from me and came back and composed himself. And just watching that tough guy cry told me all I needed to know about the emotions that people are going through right now.

GUPTA: It gives me chills. These women were telling me, you know, they've had generations and generations of shrimpers in their families and then that chain they feel is going to be broken because of what is happening right now. It is sad, for sure. Obviously a big toll mentally and physically as well on human beings. So both Gary and David, stick around. We'll have much more breaking news coverage. AT the top of the hour, crews right now trying to cap this leak, all of it happening a mile under the Gulf. Stay with us. We're live here in Louisiana.