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Bill Clinton: Blowing Up Well Possible; Kagan Hearings; Supreme Court Expands Gun Owners' Rights; Senator Byrd Dies

Aired June 28, 2010 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, Bill Clinton embraces an explosive idea for stopping the Gulf oil spill. I want you to stand by for Wolf's exclusively discussion with the former president. He explains why he thinks President Obama is getting a bum rap.

Also this hour, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan defends her record after Republican senators come out swinging. But even some Democrats have raised a red flag or two at Kagan's confirmation hearing.

And gun rights advocates are calling today a great moment in American history. We'll look at a new Supreme Court ruling against a city's handgun ban and what it could mean for the future of gun control.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a dangerous and politically risky idea for stopping the Gulf oil spill. Now, this is an idea that appears to have some new support from none other than former President Bill Clinton. Now, he is suggesting that, in the end, it might be necessary, yes, to blow up the leaking well. Clinton answering some questions from our own Wolf Blitzer at a global forum in South Africa hosted by CNN and "Time" and "Fortune" magazines. In this exclusive discussion, Wolf asked Clinton about President Obama's handling of the oil disaster and the criticism that he hasn't shown enough empathy.


WILLIAM CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One of the best things that they've done is to deploy massive naval and Coast Guard resources and finally start taking help from other countries. But unless we send the Navy down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of rock and debris, which may become necessary -- you don't have to use a nuclear weapon, by the way. I've seen all that stuff. Just blow it up. Unless we're going to do that, we are dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP.

Let's just fix the problem. And then we can hold everybody accountable and emote or not emote or whatever. But I think the president's gotten a bum rape on this emoting deal. I think that you've got to be who you are. You've got to be who you feel comfortable with. And whatever your personality is, it is.

But I don't find him lacking in empathy just because he doesn't blow his top at the slightest provocation. I think it's a bum rap.


MALVEAUX: A senior administration official tells CNN that the Obama White House still is flatly ruling out the idea of blowing up the leaking well. We're going to have much more of this exclusive Q&A with Bill Clinton ahead.

President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, is undergoing her own task by fire right now. She just delivered her opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary Committee, after getting an earful from members who questioned her politics as well as her experience.

I want you to listen to some of the jabs at the start of Kagan's confirmation hearing that happened earlier today.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Throughout her career, Ms. Kagan has associated herself with well-known activist judges who have used their power to redefine the meaning of words of our Constitution and laws in ways that, not surprisingly, have the result of advancing that judge's preferred social policies and agendas.

SEN. HERB KOHL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Your judicial philosophy is almost invisible to us. We don't have a right to know in advance how you will decide cases, but we do have a right to understand your judicial philosophy and what you think about fundamental issues that will come before the court.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: And I look forward to trying to better understand how you will be able to take political activism, association with liberal causes and park it when it becomes time to be a judge. That, to me, is your challenge.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: There is no basis to question your integrity. No one should presume this intelligent woman, who has excelled during every part of her varied and distinguished career, lacks independence.


MALVEAUX: A short while ago, Kagan told senators she believes that Supreme Court justices must be even-handed, impartial and give every American a fair shake and they should know the boundaries of their power.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.


MALVEAUX: More on the hearing and what comes next ahead with the best political team on television.

The importance of the Supreme Court on display today with a new ruling striking down Chicago's strict handgun ban.

I want to bring in our CNN's Kate Bolduan with that.

Now, this is a new setback for those who promote gun control.

Tell us about this, because this has far reaching implications.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Far reaching implications, Suzanne.

On the final day of the term, the Supreme Court ended with a landmark decision expanding an individual's right to own a gun. The effect, as Suzanne said, will be felt in Chicago and across the country.


OTIS MCDONALD, PLAINTIFF FOR HANDGUN RIGHTS: That's all I want is a -- is just a fighting chance. Give me the opportunity to at least make somebody else think about something before they come in my house on me.

BOLDUAN: (voice-over): Wanting to defend himself from what he calls the drug dealers and gangs in his South Side Chicago neighborhood, 76-year-old Otis McDonald began a fight that ended Monday on the steps of the Supreme Court. This community activist won a challenge to Chicago's strict handgun ban. The Justices effectively striking down a law in place for nearly 30 years.

(on camera): What does this decision mean to you after this long journey that you've described?

MCDONALD: It means I can rest a little better at night. I believe -- you know, I will believe now and I will believe resting at night that another person will have an equal chance to protect themselves in their own home.

BOLDUAN: Two years ago, the Supreme Court invalidated a similar ban in Washington, DC. But that only applied to federal law. Justice Samuel Alito, writing this 5-4 majority opinion, took that view even further, saying the Second Amendment, quote, "applied equally to the federal government and the states." But Justice Stevens, on his last day on the bench, disagreed, saying this decision, quote, "could prove far more destructive, quite literally, to our nation's communities and to our Constitutional structure."

Chicago's mayor, Richard Daley, says he's disappointed.

MAYOR RICHARD DALEY (D), CHICAGO: That person has the right to a gun in his home.

Does he have a right to point a gun at his child?

He's the parent.

Does he have the right to point a gun at his spouse?

Does he?

You know, that's -- those are valid questions to ask.


BOLDUAN: Chicago is now working to rewrite its ordinance to comply with the high court ruling and still retain tough gun restrictions. The Justices did signal that what they called reasonable handgun regulations, like on who can -- who can buy guns and where you can carry them, it would presumably be allowed to stay in place -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Kate, what kind of gun controls would be allowed?

BOLDUAN: It's a huge question. That is actually the key question that was left unanswered by the Justices. Really, when you get these rulings, the question is and still remains, where are the boundaries?

What kind of gun control measures are OK and which aren't still to be discussed and debated. And that will happen in the courts.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you so much, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

MALVEAUX: Another Supreme Court ruling today touched on religious freedom and gay rights. The court ruled 5-4 in favor of a public law school in California that denied official recognition to a student group called the Christian Legal Society. Now, the school said that the group's religious policies effectively banned gays and lesbians in violation of the federal anti-discrimination rules.

Colleagues of Senator Robert Byrd say his death today is leaving a huge void. It is also creating new uncertainty for the future of Wall Street reform. On Capitol Hill, flags were lowered and flowers placed on the West Virginia Democrat's empty desk. Byrd was 92 years old and the longest serving member of the U.S. Congress in its history. He is being remembered as a fierce advocate for his state and staunch defender of the U.S. Constitution, who rose out of wrenching poverty.

In a statement, President Obama said of Byrd: "He scaled the summit of power, but his mind never strayed from the people of his beloved West Virginia. He had the courage to stand firm in his principles, but also the courage to change over time."

And here's what Vice President Biden had to say.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He never lost sight of home. He may have spent half a century in Washington, but there was a guy, if anybody wondered, he never, never, never, never took his eye off his beloved Mountain State. And we shall not, to paraphrase a pope, we shall not see his like again. And the Senate is a lesser place for his going.


MALVEAUX: Now let's look at what Robert Byrd's passing means for the Democrats' agenda and the party's power in the Senate.

Our CNN's Brian Todd is looking into that -- and, Brian, obviously, you know, a sad day for many. But then they're also looking at what this means for the -- for the larger party, specifically the Financial Reform Bill.

Can you speak to that, because that was really very much a success.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was. And it was in the balance even before Senator Byrd died. And now it is even more, Suzanne.

The first time around, that Wall Street reform bill passed the Senate with just one vote to spare. Now, without Senator Byrd, Democrats have no margin for error.

And Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts said on Friday, he's not sure if he can vote for it anymore. He cited an $11 billion tax on banks added to the latest version. Now, Democrats could try to win over either of their no votes. Those are Senator Russia Feingold or Maria Cantwell, both of whom said this bill wasn't tough enough. But Feingold said again today he's not budging. So if Brown says no, they may have to wait until they get a new senator from West Virginia -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And how long do we think that that might take?

TODD: Well, that's a -- a huge question at this point. West Virginia governor, Joe Manchin, is not expected to appoint a successor this week. That's according to "The New York Times." Byrd was a Democrat. Governor Manchin is a Democrat. So we assume he'll name another Democrat, of course. But the timing here is very tricky Byrd had another two-and-a-half years left on his term. The law says if the term is two-and-a-half years or less, the appointment lasts the whole rest of the term. But if it's longer than two-and-a-half years, an election should be held sooner.

Now, counting from this morning, it's a few days longer than two- and-a-half years, raising the possibility that another Senate seat could be in play for November.

But the filing deadline in the primaries have already passed. That was back in May of this year. So the secretary of state just announced, because of that, the election cannot be held until 2012. So the governor's appointment will hold until November of 2012 -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, Brian, if an election were still held this year, could there be, possibly, a turnover in that race?

TODD: There could be. I mean, obviously, it depends on, you know, the momemum -- the momentum of the Democrats.

Joe -- excuse me, John McCain won West Virginia in 2008 in what was a good year for the Democrats. No one is predicting a good year for the Democrats this year.

However, if Governor Manchin were to run, which is a possibility, he won reelection with about 70 percent of the vote last time. He's a very popular governor. So that -- you know, that could really play into it, if Governor Manchin decides to run for that seat.

MALVEAUX: OK. All right.

Thank you so much, Brian.

A new major spy case -- 10 people arrested, accused of being secret agents for Russia. We're developing that story.

And the Gulf Coast prepares for a hurricane that may steer clear of the oil leak but still create big trouble.


MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- hey, Jack, I told you I'd be back.

CAFFERTY: I -- I've been looking forward to it all weekend, Suzanne. This is -- this completes -- completes me.

Forget all the talk about an economic recovery, the United States might be going in the opposite direction. Paul Krugman, who writes for "The New York Times" and has a Nobel Prize in economics, suggests that we are in the early stages of a depression.

Krugman says a failure of policy is to blame, that it's a mistake for governments around the world to raise taxes and cut spending at this time. Krugman says nations should be spending more to stimulate their economies.

At the end of the day, of course, it's the unemployed and their families who will pay the high cost of the depression. Krugman writes about the, quote, "tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years and some of whom will never work again," unquote.

Speaking of the unemployed, almost one million Americans are losing their unemployment benefits because the Senate failed to extend the deadline last week. The bill didn't get the necessary 60 votes to pass because lawmakers are looking for ways to put the brakes on skyrocketing deficits.

That same bill contained another $24 billion for Medicaid funding for various states. And since the states won't be getting that money right now, they're going to be forced to cut hundreds of millions of dollars on top of what they have already cut.

It's getting ugly out there.

Despite the Obama administration crowing about Recovery Summer, 78 percent of Americans say the economy is still in a recession, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.

Some recovery.

Here's the question -- is the United States entering a depression?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

I think I'm entering a depression reading about this stuff every day. It's horrible.

MALVEAUX: Oh, cheer up, Jack. Come on. It will be OK.

All right. We'll get back to you soon.

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is gearing up for another go- round with senators tomorrow, after the first day of her confirmation hearings.

I want to bring in our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley; our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin; former federal prosecutor, Victoria Toensing; and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Obviously, we've all been watching very closely this first day -- a big day for her. But it really is just setting the table. And I think it's setting the table for, potentially, a big fight over her experience or her lack of experience.

I want you guys to take a listen to Senator Jeff Sessions and how he put it this morning.


SESSIONS: Ms. Kagan has less real legal experience of any nominee in at least 50 years. And it's not just that the nominee has not been a judge. She has barely practiced law and not with the intensity and duration from which I think real legal understanding occurs. Ms. Kagan has never tried a case before a jury. She argued her first appellate case just nine months ago.


MALVEAUX: So the first punch was delivered. She'll have a chance to answer all those questions tomorrow.

But how much of this is a problem for her?

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: I don't think, actually, that -- the actual resume is the problem, at least insofar as experience is concerned. I think the larger problem, as signaled by most of the Republicans, is the political bent to that resume, that they're not so much saying, well, she doesn't have experience as a judge, they're saying she's got political experience.

So is she about the law or is she about politics?

So I think it's about not -- not the years spent on the bench or the years arguing before a bench, but about what was her other experience and is that going to be what informs her decisions.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The days of Supreme Court nominees being confirmed with more than 90 votes, like Scalia, Breyer, Rehn -- Ginsburg, Kennedy -- all got confirmed with more than 90 votes. Those days are over. Elena Kagan is not getting more than 90 votes. But it sure seems likely that she's going to get more than 50. And that's all needs. So conservatives are attacking her. They're not going to vote for her. They never were going to vote for her. But she doesn't seem in any trouble to me at this point.




TOENSING: It -- it matters in this regard. The White House is trying to sell her as somebody who knows what real people really have going on in the law. And she doesn't at all, not when you've been in government or academia your whole life.

So why are they trying to send a message that she's something that she isn't. Just say, oh, she's an intellectual. We want an intellectual on the bench.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, but the whole point is what drives her. And maybe it's a question that they're going to ask that you just can't answer. But they want to make sure that she's not driven by something that drives them, which is politics, but that actually she's driven by the law and by precedent.

And, of course, when they ask her that question, she is going to say what she said in her opening statement, which is, I am, of course, driven by the law and not by politics.

But, you know, Lindsey Graham, today, Senator Graham said, "What did I expect from President Obama? Just about what I'm getting." Which is, he expected a Democratic person to be nominated for the court. It's not somebody...


TOOBIN: I -- I remember when I was covering...

BORGER: -- that John McCain would have nominated.

TOOBIN: -- the Roberts hearings and Senator McCain, I went and talked to him a little bit. And he said, you know, what -- what do you expect?

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: Elections have consequences.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: Barack Obama won. He gets to appoint his people to the Supreme Court. And by and large, they're going to get confirmed by a Democratic Senate.

MALVEAUX: Well, White House aides that I spoke with today are very pleased with how this is going, obviously, because, you know, this is exactly the kind of candidate that he chose. She's not -- she's a bit left, but not too far left.

But obviously, it enrages those who are from the far left and the far right. It infuriates them. And it's very, very frustrating.

Do we think -- what do we think of the tone of this?

Do we think it's going to be civil?

Do we think it's going to change?

Or did you see any hints of...


CROWLEY: I think you're going to have tough, but civil, because I think that the Republicans have learned -- and the Democrats have learned in a different era -- that if you look like a bunch of mean old white guys standing up there at the bench, it comes -- on the -- the podium -- that it comes back to haunt you.

But I do think you're going to hear tough -- and because of context. It's June, the November elections -- both these sides, both the liberals and the conservatives on that platform, the senators, are playing to their audiences right now. So you're going to hear what -- what they want to say, but nothing that's going to come across as nasty. TOENSING: But let's not forget Senator Obama's standard. And that is that he thought John Roberts was entirely qualified, had the right temperament and everything, to be on the Supreme Court. But he was going to vote against him because he didn't like his politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, and you're going to have that be the standard...


TOOBIN: Well, great.


TOOBIN: And 58...


TOOBIN: -- and 58 senators -- 58 Democrats...


TOOBIN: -- probably like her politics and they're going to vote to confirm her.

TOENSING: That's the new standard.


TOENSING: And it didn't used to be.

BORGER: But to Candy's point, you know, this is, in many ways, about the election. And they're going to put the Obama standard on trial here, which is going to be the standard of big government, the whole question of empathy in judging and so-called activist agenda of Democrats...

TOOBIN: But, you know, what kind of crazy city is this where empathy...


TOOBIN: -- is a terrible word?


TOOBIN: Why is empathy so bad?

I -- I don't understand that.

Isn't that something that we want good judges to have?

TOENSING: Oh, you understand that.


TOENSING: You should know what that means.

TOOBIN: Oh, that's right. And -- and the way to interpret the law is you just read the Constitution and the answer appears in front of you.

TOENSING: You're supposed to read a statute...

TOOBIN: Of course not.


TOOBIN: (INAUDIBLE) read a statute. But you read -- you have to fill the gaps.


TOOBIN: The Constitution doesn't...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Constitution...

TOOBIN: -- answer these questions.


MALVEAUX: You don't think there should be any empathy (INAUDIBLE)?

CROWLEY: No, I'm not saying there shouldn't be any empathy. I'm just saying there can be -- listen, I think it's silly and they brought it up because it's something that Obama put out there. And they're -- and they get into the whole strict constructionist argument.

But the fact of the matter is no one is saying you shouldn't have any empathy. What they're saying is that shouldn't lead your decisions.

BORGER: No, it's what Roberts said he'd call -- he just calls the balls and -- the -- and -- and the strikes. He doesn't bat. And that's the Republican version -- or the alternative to empathy, which is, essentially, more impartial. There is some sense that empathy actually means feelings and that that shouldn't interfere with the law (INAUDIBLE)...


TOOBIN: I stand by what I said. This is an insane city where (INAUDIBLE) -- where empathy...


TOOBIN: -- is an epithet.

MALVEAUX: We all agree on that point. We're going to leave it there.


MALVEAUX: And tomorrow, we'll have much, much more, as the hearings continue.

Thank you, all of you. It's a crazy city that we cover.

An alleged Russian spy ring in the U.S. now busted -- we have new details coming in.

And Wolf Blitzer goes one-on-one with former President Bill Clinton talking about President Obama and the Gulf oil disaster.


CLINTON: You know, I did everything I could to defeat President Obama. And I wanted Hillary to win. But I think he's done a better job than he's getting credit for.


MALVEAUX: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming in right now to THE SITUATION ROOM -- hey, Lisa, good to see you.

What are you working on?

SYLVESTER: Hi, there, Suzanne.

Well, the Justice Department says it has arrested 10 people it accuses of spying on the U.S. for Russia. It describes the suspects as trained Russian intelligence operatives looking for new recruits. Nine of them are also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. All of them are scheduled to appear in federal court. The Russian embassy says it was unaware of the arrests and is now seeking more information.

New fallout from a raid by Belgian police on that country's Catholic Church headquarters. Members of a church commission helping sex abuse victims have resigned en masse to protest last week's action. Police spent hours combing the building looking for documents pertaining to child sex abuse. They even drilled into the tomb of a cardinal. The pope is calling the raid deplorable.

North Korea is accusing the United States of moving what it calls heavy weapons into the demilitarized zone dividing it from South Korea. The North calls it a premeditated provocation. A U.S. military spokesperson did not immediately return a call requesting comment. Tension has been growing on the Korean Peninsula since the sinking of a South Korean ship widely blamed on the North.

And Formula 1 meets green driving. Yes, the engineer who created the iconic McLaren F1 supercar that has a top speed of 241 miles an hour is revealing a few efficient city cars. It gets 74 miles to the gallon. It is less than eight feet long and four feet wide and is expected to have a price tag of $9,000. So it looks like that car will be fairly easy to parallel park, so that's an added bonus (INAUDIBLE)...

MALVEAUX: Are you going to turn in your car?

SYLVESTER: I don't know...

MALVEAUX: To trade it in?

SYLVESTER: -- no, I don't know about the car seat -- getting the child car seat in the back of that little one. So...

MALVEAUX: It might be a little tough.

SYLVESTER: Yes, a little tight.

MALVEAUX: The price -- the price tag for me, I don't know. We'll see.

SYLVESTER: Yes, $9,000.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: Thanks, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: As President Obama struggles with the Gulf oil disaster, some of his critics may be wondering, what would Bill Clinton do?

Ahead, more on the surprising answer from the president in an exclusion conversation with our Wolf Blitzer.


CLINTON: Just blow it up. Unless we're going to do that, we are dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP.



MALVEAUX: President Obama is facing one of the greatest crisis of his presidency in the gulf oil disaster. What advice would the last Democratic president give to him? Our Wolf Blitzer caught up with former President Bill Clinton in South Africa and asked him in an exclusive interview.


BLITZER: President Obama has been criticized for not showing enough passion or emotion. You, on the other hand, when you were president, felt everyone's pain, as we all recall. What is the best strategy when you're president of the United States? Do you feel people's pain, or are you better off as a cool, calm force? CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think it's interesting -- the same people that made fun of me, now they go after him and making me look like a paragon, which ought to tell you something about both sets of criticisms.

But look, you know, I did everything I could to defeat President Obama, and I wanted Hillary to win, but I think he's done a better job than he's getting credit for. And I really -- I feel very strongly about this.

And I think that insofar as he is responsible for any of his -- part of this is, by the way, unavoidable. I went through this. Until people feel better about their own lives, they're not going to feel good about their president. There's nothing you can do about that. Because the American people hire you to win for them, and if they don't feel like winners, then they're not going to give you very much credit, even if you have done good things. So some of this credit will come.

But on the empathy issue, I personally think it's a bum rap. That is, you know, we're -- he and I grew up in different cultures, we're of different generations, we express ourselves in different ways. He is a brilliant, articulate, and I think exceedingly empathetic person, but his whole -- and look, when he got into politics, he didn't want to sound like a fire-eating preacher for fear of being racially stereotyped. I mean, he couldn't win for losing on that.

So I think that -- my advice is for everybody in public life, the most effective public persona is the one which is true and has integrity. And the only thing I wish about this whole Gulf deal, you know, is that -- I think the federal government's position ought to be very straightforward. The most important thing is to fix the leak. If anybody can help us fix the leak, I'm for it.

The second most important thing is to keep the oil away from the shores. The third most important thing is to minimize the damage of the oil that reaches the shores.

The fourth most important thing today is to figure out who did what wrong and hold them accountable, whether it was somebody in British Petroleum or somebody in the U.S. government. And I'll do that, but let's do one, two and three first. And then, yes, he should show empathy, and yes, he should feel their pain and all that. But what people want is to fix the leak. So one of the best things that they've done is deploy massive naval and Coast Guard resources and finally start taking help from other countries.

But unless we send the Navy down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of rock and debris -- which may become necessary -- you don't have to use a nuclear weapon, by the way, I've seen all that stuff, just blow it up.

Unless we're going to do that, we are dependent on the technical expertise of these people from BP. They had 11 of their folks killed on that explosion. The people that are working on this, whatever the managers did wrong or didn't, they're good people. They're trying to do the right thing.

So I think we ought to just row in the same boat for a while until we plug the leak, keep the stuff away from the shore, minimize the damage of what's on the shore.

There are 20,000 Vietnamese immigrants who came to this country who are making a living off the shrimping business, all of whom are thinking about their families facing bankruptcy now. Let's just fix the problem, and then we can hold everybody accountable and emote or not emote or whatever.

But I think the president has gotten a bum rap on this emoting deal. I think that you got to be who you are. You got to be who you feel comfortable with. And whatever your personality is, it is. But I don't find him lacking in empathy just because he doesn't blow his top at the slightest provocation. I think it's a bum rap.

BLITZER: Just one clarification. Are you concerned that those two relief wells that they're drilling right now, are supposed to be ready in August and stop this leak, might not work?

CLINTON: Yes. At some point I think we'll have to ask ourselves -- I just am not into (ph) this, you know. I've not been part of the decision-making process, so I'm not second-guessing anybody. I'm just telling you this is a geological monster, and I'll tell you one thing, whoever did the sighting for BP knew what the heck they were doing. It's one heck of an oil well. There's more oil down there than I ever dreamed. And it can't wait to find its way into your car because it just keeps gushing up, you know. And it's a geological nightmare.

The Navy could probably stop it, but there are all kinds of consequences that would have to be considered. That is, you can't basically put in a huge amount of explosives down there -- you could shut that well, but what else might you do that might upset the ecostructure of the Gulf? So, I don't know the answer to that. But until that happens, until he makes that decision, to the best of my knowledge, we have no tool that belongs to the federal government to shut that well down, which means we are dependent on these people that are killing themselves day and night, who work for BP or for other oil companies or engineering affiliates, that are working on this.

And so I'd just like to see us calm down and work on those three problems I said.

And which is -- most, interestingly enough, most of the help we've been offered from other countries is designed to put out booms and do other things. One of the countries, Norway or another, has some sort of automatic sort of wing that comes off the ship and scrapes up oil that we don't have. I think we ought to get all that stuff over here and just work on solving the problem.

And he's going to be plenty empathetic, and he's going to have a lot of opportunities to do it. And if we have got 20,000 immigrants that have done great honor to our country, whose families go down, we're going to have to empathize with them and all my fellow Scots- Irish rednecks that are making a living down there and figure out what we're going to have to do to put their lives back together. There's going to be plenty of opportunity for empathy. Let's plug the leak and stop the damage.


MALVEAUX: Along the gulf coast, they're bracing for a new threat for a tropical storm that could soon become a hurricane.

And the perils of working as a window washer caught on tape.


MALVEAUX: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories that are coming in right now to THE SITUATION ROOM. Hey, Lisa, what are you working on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Suzanne. South Carolina's Democratic candidate for Senate is under scrutiny today. The state's law enforcement division is investigating how Alvin Green could afford the $10,000 primary filing fee. The unemployed political newcomer says he used his personal savings to pay the fee just months after he was given a public defender as he faced criminal charges because he said he couldn't afford a lawyer.

A GE executive who collapsed moments after introducing Vice President Biden has been released from a Louisville, Kentucky hospital. Jim Campbell is CEO of the company's appliance and lighting division. He had just welcomed the vice president to an event highlighting jobs created by the recovery act when he fainted. A GE spokeswoman says it was heat related. Campbell is now fine.

Two workers installing a new window in an Atlanta high rise, they got stuck about 47 stories above the ground when the engine on their platform failed. Firefighters rappelled down the side of the Bank of America building with equipment that allowed them to hoist the men to safety. See them there? Neither of the men were hurt. It's a happy ending to that story, but can you imagine that? 4 7 stories above the ground.

MALVEAUX: And not knowing when you're going to get down. That's so scary. Thank god they're okay.

SYLVESTER: Bravo to those firefighters. Look at the job they're doing. That's not an easy thing. That's one of those things where you hold on for dear life. There they are getting to the top, too.

MALVEAUX: Close one. Thanks, Lisa.

We're getting more information on the arrest of ten people accused of spying for Russia. There are new details at the top of the hour.

Plus the oil disaster's impact on sharks. A new mystery surrounding these mysterious creatures.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: BP says one of the relief wells designed to kill the gushing oil at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico is now within 20 feet horizontally of its target but engineers plan to drill another 900 feet vertically before cutting in sideways. They're still looking at early August before it's done. On the surface they're planning to bring in another rig that would help collect as much as 25,000 additional barrels of oil each day. But calm seas are needed for much of this operation and tropical storm Alex now is threatening to bring waves as high as 12 feet to the site of the leak. BP says it's captured more than 438,000 barrels of oil and gas from the leak, but 1,000 barrels an hour. Experts estimate that the well is spewing as much as 60,000 barrels a day.

While the spill's impact on birds and some sea life is painfully obvious. No one is quite sure of the toll that it's taking on sharks. Our CNN's John Zarrella went along with some experts trying to find out.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A six-foot shark. The researchers work quickly, taking blood and tissue samples, measurements.


ZARRELLA: University of Miami researcher Neal Hammerschlag is studying the habits of sharks in Florida waters. The oil spill has given his work a new more urgent dimension.

NEIL HAMMERSCHLAG, UNIV. OF MIAMI RESEARCHER: There is a possibility that these animals might be able to anticipate the oil or sense the oil and actually move away from it. It's really unknown right now.

ZARRELLA: This lemon shark will provide valuable data, but when it comes to what Hammerschlag is looking for, it's, well, a lemon. He's after the great sharks; tigers, hammerheads, bulls. They travel greater distances. If his team lands one, it will be tagged with a satellite transmitter. If the shark goes in or near the oil, Hammerschlag will know it. One shark Hammerschlag's team tagged transmitted nearly every day for three months. But two days after the Deep Horizon explosion, the transmissions suddenly stopped. Coincidence? Perhaps. Here's what Hurley the hammerhead's track looked like the days before it disappeared.

HAMMERSCHLAG: The tag could have failed or it could have headed off somewhere else in deep water and just not come up in the last few months, but that's very unlike the shark's character.

Who is biopsy?

ZARRELLA: On this day at sea, the lemons keep coming. Three black tips, too. The blood and tissue from these guys will be tested for concentrations of hydrocarbons from oil. They worry sharks could be easily contaminated, even if they never swim near the oil. HAMMERSCHLAG: They don't want people to catch any of that fish, but I don't know if the sharks got the memo.

ZARRELLA: Because it's a natural predator, a reduced shark population impacts the balance of nature. There will be enough work, scientists say, to keep researchers busy studying the effects of oil on sharks for decades.

John Zarrella, CNN, in the Gulf of Mexico.


MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail plus the man tapped to take over the war in Afghanistan. Will General David Petraeus change the rules of engagement? A look at what's in store as he faces confirmation.


MALVEAUX: Jack joins us again with the "Cafferty file." Hey Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Suzanne. Depressing question this hour. Is the U.S. entering a depression?

Don writes from Canada, "As difficult as it is to criticize a respected economist like Paul Krugman, my common sense tells me the more government stimulus spending is a crazy notion. American and Canadian governments and bureaucracy at all levels have become too large, too costly, too inefficient. It's too easy to spend someone else's money. Drastically reducing government spending could hurt the economy in the short term, but it would set the stage for a bona fide recovery down the road."

Russell in New Hampshire writes, "It's clear, in order to survive a years' long depression we're going to have to attack the defense budget with a meat cleaver. A lot of generals in the pentagon will have to lose their jobs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to be ended or sharply reduced. We have to care for our people, many of whom will never work again, and the costs of a few rockets will help play the unemployment bills."

Ron writes, "Though more spending is recommend by many leading economists to avoid a depression, I think finally the people and the financial markets may have figured out that this will only postpone the inevitable. You can not spend yourself out of debt. The baby boomers have lived nicely on borrowed money, and while they retire comfortably, the rest of us can start paying their bills."

Donald writes, "It's not fair nor is it going to solve the problem to only take food from the mouths of the poor. But until new non-regressive tax revenues are raised, the skies aren't going to clear. Two campaign pledges the president nailed on, removing us from Iraq and raising taxes on those making more than $250,000. Both would go a long way towards perking up the economy." And Bud writes from Washington, "I bet a lot of working folks think the depression is already here, Jack. I have friends who have been out of work for two years. I'm fortunate. I work for an I.T. federal contractor. Our company is doing well. But the Washington metropolitan area is not the real world. People don't call it Disneyland east for nothing."

You want to read more on the subject, go to my blog at Did you know you were in Disneyland east?

MALVEAUX: No, I didn't know that. Thank you.

An alleged Russian spy ring is now busted. The suspects are accused of stealing the identities of dead Americans. We're getting new information on this unfolding story. And the controversy General David Petraeus will likely face as the new commander in Afghanistan. Life and death decisions as he gets ready for his confirmation hearing tomorrow.


MALVEAUX: We're just learning more information about Stanley McChrystal who was fired last week as the top general in Afghanistan. Now a U.S. army spokesman that General Stanley McChrystal has told the army that he will retire. Also we're near the end of a very bloody month in the Afghanistan war. General David Petraeus is going to go before senators tomorrow, hoping to be confirmed as the new war commander. His abrupt nomination to replace General Stanley McChrystal may pale in comparison to the challenges that he could face in the weeks and months ahead. Our pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr, she is here with a preview in what this means. Hey, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hi Suzanne. A lot of people around the pentagon will tell you the biggest challenge for General Petraeus at the confirmation hearing may be trying to show the senators he can make progress in the war.


STARR: Here is southern Afghanistan's region, coalition forces talk again with local Afghan leaders. Four months ago, the U.S. promised to bring security to this area, but the Taliban are still here and across much of the country.

LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: I think the president said it best of all. This is a very tough fight that we're engaged in. There are serious problems here.

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, CMDR. U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: I don't think you' heard overoptimistic statements for me. In fact, I won't use the term optimism or pessimism for that matter. I use realism.

STARR: If General David Petraeus is confirmed by the Senate and takes over the war, he faces controversy and challenge. First, he must show he gets along with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Richard Holbrooke, both criticized by now fired General Stanley McChrystal. On the ground this is a war in trouble. This is the deadliest month of the war for the coalition. After complaints by some troops feeling their lives are at risk because of tight restrictions on combat, Petraeus is going to review the rules, but no hint of what changes, if any, he will make.

PETRAEUS: Our normal impulse of closing with the enemy of pressing the fight can sometimes result in dropping a bomb on a house that you're not sure is inside.

STARR: And there are worries that Afghan president Hamid Karzai is now negotiating with senior Taliban leaders and war lords.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Karzai is acting like he is because he's beginning to accommodate for a situation where he finds himself with Americans withdrawing.

STARR: President Obama may have diffused the major controversy about that July 2011 date to begin withdrawing U.S. forces, the president now leaving himself some wiggle room.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: There has been a lot of obsession around this whole issue as to when we will leave. My focus is right now how do we make sure that what we're doing there is successful?


STARR: Now General Petraeus's real test may be getting that offensive into Kandahar, the Taliban's stronghold in the south, getting that offensive fully underway. It's another item on General McChrystal's war agenda that General Petraeus now has to take over. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, there's breaking news. An alleged Russian intelligence ring is broken up with arrests in several cities.