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CNN ELECTION CENTER

Gustav Hits Gulf Coast; Hurricane Shortens Republican Convention

Aired September 1, 2008 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, the Gulf is critical, as we have been saying tonight, to America's oil production.
Ahead of Gustav, oils companies stopped production and evacuated facilities, shutting down roughly 15 percent of the nation's total refining capacity. Altogether, about 14.2 million barrels of refining capacity were halted.

Ali Velshi is here to tell us what all of this means.

And, Ali, what are the experts estimating about offshore platform damage at this hour? Do we know?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it might be, Campbell, the one piece of good news out of this whole hurricane. And that is, the price of oil dropped more than $4 today because people are thinking maybe the damage wasn't that bad.

There are a couple of differences between now and Katrina. One of them was that Katrina sat around the Gulf, was Category 5 in the Gulf of Mexico. It churned up all those undersea pipes. It wrecked platforms and rigs. This coming in as a Category 3, not hanging around as long in the Gulf of Mexico, there might be some sense that there's not as much damage.

The other big difference, though, is that, three years ago, when Katrina hit, oil topped $70 a barrel for the first time. Today, it came down $4 to $112 a barrel. So, there's a lot air in the price of oil.

Now, right around where I am, the Gulf of Mexico is about a quarter mile to my right. When I was standing there before the storm came in, I could see two dozen rigs and platforms. There are 4,000 of them in the Gulf of Mexico. They are all evacuated.

There are lots of pipelines that have been shut down. There's no oil coming in. Imported oil is not coming in. And oil is not being refined right now. But the bottom line is, we don't know what the effect will be for another day or so. The effect on oil prices has been positive for now -- Campbell.

BROWN: Ali Velshi for us out in the wind and rain -- Ali, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

And we are about to reset for those of you watching for us on the CNN Airport Network and listening to us on XM and Sirius Satellite Radio, everybody right now still focused on Hurricane Gustav. FEMA says parts of southern Louisiana are in -- quote -- "grave danger" amid fears that some levees could give way at any moment.

Gustav slammed into the Gulf Coast this morning. It is still battering parts of the state with winds up to 80 miles an hour. Nearly two million people have fled the storm and half a million homes and businesses are without power tonight.

At this moment, Plaquemines Parish is being evacuated. And officials are afraid that a levee there may give way. We keeping a close eye on that. We have got reporters throughout the path of the storm tonight with minute-by-minute coverage. If you have family, friend at an airport right now, they can get the very latest from our CNN Airport Network.

And for anybody in the path of the storm, we're on both Sirius and XM Satellite Radio for you.

Meanwhile, the other big story of the day coming out of Minnesota. The Republican Convention already scaled down in the shadow of Gustav was surprised today by the very personal news that vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant and planning to marry her high school boyfriend.

And the more Palin and McCain say about it, the more questions they raise. We are going to talk tonight about when John McCain found out about it, who knew what when. This is not the kind of news that you necessarily want to start a convention that has already been thrown off balance a little bit by a hurricane. We are going to have reaction to that and a whole lot more coming up this second hour of a special breaking news ELECTION CENTER.

But, first, let's get right to the very latest on Hurricane Gustav.

Anderson Cooper is reporting on the storm from the New Orleans French Quarter. Chad Myers has been tracking it from the CNN Severe Weather Center in Atlanta, again, FEMA warning parts of southern Louisiana in -- quote -- "grave danger" because of flooding.

So, Anderson, give us the very latest. Tell us what's going on there.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, Campbell, we just started to get drenched by another pouring, downpour of rain. It's been very intermittent over this last afternoon, still kind of some gusts of winds here and there in New Orleans.

We were down in the Lower Ninth Ward looking over at the Industrial Canal. Some of the earlier flooding that had occurred there has been dropping significantly. It dropped about two or three feet over the space of several hours. And the flooding in the Lower Ninth Ward was very minor, certainly compared to the devastation that we saw three years ago. It's really nothing by comparison.

But this rain is going to certainly increase fears of flooding in some areas. But, overall, at this point, it certainly seems as if New Orleans dodged a bullet with this storm, got a (AUDIO GAP) break from some very much more -- I should say much more effective planning by state, local and federal officials than what we saw three years ago.

Certainly it seems, it appears at this point at least, and this thing is still going on -- it's still early hours. Oftentimes you see surge coming even the next day, the next morning after a storm of this size. So, we are going to be keeping a close eye on those levees, on that levee in Plaquemines Parish, which seems to be a pretty minor, if in fact that is what has occurred there.

But again we are going to be watching those inland waterways very closely, those canals very closely over the next 12 hours or so to see if there's any new or any increase in storm surge, particularly if it continues to rain like it has been, Campbell.

BROWN: Anderson, we lost your signal for a minute. You are fully back, though, let me tell you.

But I did want to ask you. I know you were in the Lower Ninth Ward earlier today. We all remember how bad the damage was there after Katrina. But what did it look like? Did it fare as well as everything else?

COOPER: There is really no change in the Lower Ninth Ward. Frankly, it looked devastated last week. It still looks the same as it did last week. There's no real, that I saw, consequential flooding, just a little bit of flooding by the Industrial Canal in some of the port areas by the levee.

We saw some seepage underneath some of the floodgates on that levee. But you have got to remember, that Industrial Canal does not have a gate. A lot of the other canals now in New Orleans have gates, like in the Harvey Canal in the west bank, which is one of the places we were watching very closely over the last 12 hours, Army Corps of Engineers for the first time actually lowered the flood gates there to prevent any storm surge that may have occurred through the Harvey Canal.

So, there is not that kind of gate built yet. That is something they plan to build over the next four years or three years or so, by 2011. They are going to spend a lot of money on that. But, at this point, we saw overtopping of the Industrial Canal, saw obviously some water coming into the Lower Ninth Ward, but it is nothing compared to what it was three years ago.

And there are some new houses have been built, Brad Pitt's project, which is a lot of people know about. Those houses seem to be holding up very well, the ones that have been built so far (AUDIO GAP) rebuilt there thus far seem to be holding up OK. We didn't see a whole lot of flooding or really much damage at all, maybe a few downed power lines and a few downed trees, if that, Campbell.

COOPER: All right, Anderson Cooper for us tonight from New Orleans -- Anderson, thanks.

And now let's bring in Chad Myers in the CNN Severe Weather Center.

So, Chad, can we rest assure the worst is over here?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. The worst is over for New Orleans.

Now, the worst may not be over for Shreveport, but the stuffing will be knocked out of this storm by the time it gets there. The winds are still 75. It is still a hurricane at the 8:00 advisory. The biggest threat I think tonight will be some localized rain, freshwater flooding, not coastal water or surge, but also the threat may be of a tornado or two.

It is still raining in New Orleans and it's going to rain there for a while. New Orleans can take a lot of rain. The pumps pump it out very well. But after a few hours, it only can hold and handle one inch per hour. After that, then it starts going up.

Then here you go. Greensburg and Liberty, right here, that's a tornado warning for you. That's kind of what we're expecting. Some of these storms will rotate tonight.

The storm missed New Orleans. It did hit Houma. It hit Montague (ph). It hit Morgan City, New Iberia, and then kind of a Category 1 dying off only to a rainmaker into Texas and into Oklahoma.

But now we have Hanna. Hanna is the next storm in the Atlantic Ocean. Hanna may make a run at either northern Florida or into the Carolinas. It's too hard to tell right now. It's a Category 1 in the Turks and Caicos. And there's your cone all the way from Wrightsville Beach almost the way down into central Florida. But that's a 100- mile-per-hour storm. That may be Charleston. That may be Wild Dunes. That may be Tybee Island. We just don't know yet.

And then tonight we have Ike, Tropical Storm Ike. That's the I- storm. So, we have G, H and I all in the water all at the same time. And this is forecast to be a Category 1 storm into the Bahamas on Saturday. Don't know what it does after that. This is five days out. I can't get you eight days out. It's just too hard to tell. But we are going to see the storm, almost 100 miles per hour by the weekend. So, one little, two little, three little hurricanes right there in the middle of water. Finally, Gustav though dying off tonight, the other two getting stronger -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Chad, keeping an eye on things for us. Chad, appreciate it.

As Hurricane Gustav churns inland tonight, cities and towns in northwest Louisiana, as Chad just mentioned, are facing torrential rains, damaging winds and flooding. One person was killed when a tree fell into a home in Lafayette, Louisiana.

John Zarrella is in Lafayette. And he is joining me now from the banks of the Vermilion River. And, John, I know flooding is the big concern there now. Tell us what officials are doing at this hour in an effort to try to minimize some of the risk.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, there's really not a whole heck of a lot that they can do right now. The evacuation was not mandatory here, but voluntary.

In fact, a lot of people that were staying in this hotel had come here seeking shelter are already leaving the hotel and going home this evening. In fact, we could see a lot of cars on the main street out here, Pinhook Drive, a lot of transportation, a lot of people already out looking around. So, there isn't a lot they can do.

You're looking at the Vermilion River here. And it's actually still being push inland, and that's from Vermilion Bay down to the south. The water is still being pushed up from the bay, into the river and upstream. Now, we have seen some of the water go up about a good six feet, Campbell, in about five hours today, but it's leveled off now. Although it's still moving upstream, we don't see it getting any higher here, which is certainly good news.

But of course the concern was that, with the extent of the water, the rain that fell, we had about three inches of rain, five inches of rain that fell in less than three hours in this area. So, the concern was potential for some flash flooding. And as the storm moves inland and fills up the creeks and the rivers and the tributaries, as Chad was saying, one of the big concerns with this storm is still going to be inland flooding.

But again city officials here telling us, local officials saying they feel very good. First-responders are out now surveying the damage. I can in fact hear an emergency vehicle in the background. We have heard a few of those, saw a fire engine racing up the street a little while ago. But they're now getting out. They're assessing the damage. But, again, at first blush, here in Lafayette, they feel very, very fortunate that, as Chad was saying, this storm was dying out as it was passing from Houma to Morgan City to New Iberia.

By the time it got here, it had lost a lot of steam. I don't think we saw hurricane-force winds where we are in Lafayette, although they may have seen it in other portions of the city -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, John Zarrella, hang in there for us, John. Appreciate it.

Coming up, New Orleans' newest repaired levees facing their biggest test. Are they going to continue to hold up? We're on that.

Plus, the news that rocked the Republican Convention today. Vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. When did the McCain campaign find out about it? Will it mean anything in this campaign? We will talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A tornado came down about six years ago and knocked down a whole bunch of these trees.

(SIREN BLARING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. I cannot tell if that is the tornado siren. That's the tornado siren. We need to get inside. Come on, right now. Go, go, go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: That's Edie Flores (ph) of Picayune, Mississippi, who sent this I-Reporter in. Thanks to you, Edie. We appreciate it.

Hurricane Gustav is battling Louisiana tonight as this deadly storm sweeps inland.

We want to go now to Lieutenant General Russel Honore, who led the military response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He's also a CNN contributor.

And, General Honore, you have been in direct contact with the Army Corps of Engineers throughout the day. Give us the latest in terms of what you're hearing.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL RUSSEL HONORE (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Yes, Campbell.

They're listening to the Corps' briefings today and getting updates from them. The levees -- or the primary levees along the canals are stable. The Corps recently closed the gates that prevent the water from coming in from the Lake Pontchartrain. That's getting the effect they want.

The situation seems to be stabilized to prevent the water from getting into the London Bridge and into the 17th Street Canal. But that right now, with the exception of Plaquemines Parish, seems to be stable right now. Over.

BROWN: And tell us, in terms of the main concerns, I think, what we should be focused on, looking out for, generally.

HONORE: That would be four points, Campbell, number one, the impact of 900,000 people in the region being without power, some of them for up to three weeks.

But tonight and tomorrow, the biggest challenge that the government of Louisiana and the federal government and industry will be to assess the damage to key industry and to work the redistribution of gasoline to gas stations, gasoline to gas stations that may not have generators that will precede the next big event, which is reentry to the city.

While we're working assessment and making decisions about reentry of those 125 million people who displaced, the state, the National Guard, and the Fish and Wildlife will be going through what we call search-and-rescue, which is based on a grid system that would allow them to systematically search, to do search-and-rescue, using platforms from multiple levels, from UAVs, to satellite imagery, to aircraft using night-vision, as well as a rolling video.

Reentry decision is going to be frustrating for people. I have been hearing parish presidents for the last three hours talking about, they want to clear the roads, they want to clear the debris before they let people back in. Some of them want to go as far as letting the grocery stores come back. This is going to be a frustrating period for those people who evacuated on their own, in their cars, who want to get back to their home and figure they know what to do.

The fourth point is dangers associated, post-storm, post- flooding, post-power being out, dangers such as we have got a lot of people out there running generators. As the power companies come around, make sure your generator, you follow the operator's instruction, because you actually can electrocute the power people as they come out to try and put power into the main line. As you have generator power coming into your house, if you don't block that power from going into the main line, that would be dangerous.

The other piece is downed power lines and people trying to clean up debris. Those are the big ones that will be focused on, but the hardest one will be the search-and-rescue. Over.

BROWN: All right, General, we appreciate your time tonight. As always, thanks very much. We will be staying in touch with you throughout the evening as we keep an eye on all this.

We are going to switch gears though to the political story, a big one that is only getting bigger now. John McCain's running mate had a family secret. It is now out in the open. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announces her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant and unmarried. Will it affect the campaign? And just how much did John McCain know about all this when he chose Palin for his running mate? We're going to have reaction tonight from a McCain campaign spokesman.

We will also go back to southern Louisiana, where concern is growing about whether or not a levee can hold. They're keeping a close eye on it. We will have that when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: On any other day, this next political bombshell would have been the lead story.

Republican vice presidential candidate Governor Sarah Palin today confirmed, her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. An aide to Senator John McCain says Palin told McCain about it last week.

Dana Bash has been tracking the story all day. She is joining us from the Alaska delegation at the Republican Convention in Saint Paul with the very latest -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) Sarah Palin.

But in talking to people who were here earlier inside the Alaska delegation, people who know her best politically better than anybody else probably at this point on a national stage, they say even they didn't know something that in terms of making her the vice presidential pick, some of John McCain's top staffers did know and kept a secret.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): Behind Sarah Palin at her V.P. announcement last week, her family, 17-year-old daughter Bristol held her 4-month- old brother. Unknown then, Bristol was hiding a secret. She is five months pregnant, and intends to keep the baby and marry the father.

John McCain's campaign dropped that bombshell as Hurricane Gustav dominated the news. In a statement to reporters, Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, said: "We are proud of Bristol's decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support."

Top McCain aides insist to CNN that McCain found out early in Palin's vetting process that her teenage daughter was expecting a baby and say Palin herself told McCain in a conversation last week.

STEVE SCHMIDT, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Senator McCain knew that it probably eventually, you know, would become public, as did Governor -- Governor -- Governor Palin. You know, obviously, people -- people would know, because she's going to have a baby, that she was -- that she was pregnant.

BASH: McCain advisers say they decided to make Bristol's pregnancy known now to dispel rampant and inaccurate Internet rumors on liberal blogs, like the Daily Kos, that Sarah Palin's 4-month-old baby, who has Down syndrome, is really Bristol's child.

McCain aides insist they got so many calls, they decided to get the truth out about Bristol's pregnancy.

SCHMIDT: What we want to see happen is the privacy of Governor Palin's daughter respected.

BASH: Barack Obama said he agreed.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have said before, and I will repeat again, I think people's families are off- limits, and people's children are especially off-limits.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, Campbell, you remember what a well-kept secret this was, the fact that Governor Palin was going to be put up for John McCain's running mate. And the way it was kept a secret is only a very few people were heavily involved in vetting her. But I talked to one of the sources very involved in that, and they insist they did know very early on, that she was very up front about the fact that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. And I am told by one of those sources that they made a judgment early on that it is a private matter, it is not disqualifying, and they hope that the American people understand -- Campbell.

CNN All right. Dana Bash for us tonight -- Dana, thanks.

The Republican Convention was scaled back, as many of you know, in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. But an abbreviated session did take place earlier this evening. Laura Bush took to the podium.

Here's what she said about the storm.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Events in the Gulf Coast region have changed the focus of our attention.

And our first priority now, today, is to ensure the safety and the well being of those living in the Gulf Coast region.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So, what are the plans for the rest of the week?

John King joining us now from Saint Paul with some of the details.

And, John, I know that Republicans treading very gingerly out there. They don't want to look like they're having a big party, obviously, when people down in the Gulf Coast are suffering right now. What's the latest? Are we going to see a full convention program tomorrow night?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Unclear, the answer to whether we will have a full convention program, Campbell.

I am told -- and the meetings are ongoing as we speak tonight, but I am told there will be a larger agenda tomorrow and there will be more of a political agenda is how one of the sources put it. But they're still in these meetings tonight and they're trying to decide and they're trying to get the latest actually from the Gulf state governors, the governors of Louisiana, and Mississippi, Alabama, all Republican governors. They're trying to get the latest from them on whether they think it would be appropriate to have a more political speech here.

And then they have to address the challenge folks, what will they do? Will they take some of Monday's program, move it into Tuesday? Will they invite President Bush to address this convention? He would have been the big headliner tonight. And there some controversy to that. He will not travel here, Campbell. We do know that. But I am told the president available to deliver an address to this convention via satellite if he gets an invitation. That is a decision of course that will be made by the McCain high command. We're waiting for the answers.

BROWN: And, John, as America was heading to the Labor Day weekend, John McCain unveiled his running mate, Sarah Palin. We all know that she has had a rough couple of days. What can we expect from her in Saint Paul this week?

KING: That's another fascinating question, because we have seen so little of her. She is here in the convention city and I'm told she has no public schedule at all tomorrow. She will spend the day in speech preparation, preparing to deliver what is now an even bigger speech for her, accepting the Republican vice presidential nomination.

Campbell, look for her tomorrow to perhaps go out and make what they call an off-the-record stop here during the convention, maybe go over to where they're raising money for the hurricane victims down on the Gulf Coast, maybe stop by a delegation breakfast or two. As of now, though, they are saying she has no public schedule at all.

But we're hearing more and more from Republicans that, while the chief challenge of this convention is to position John McCain against Barack Obama on issues like the economy, on issues like national security, they now understand, with a relatively unknown vice presidential pick and now a vice presidential pick who is generating some headlines, that they also need to reassure not just the American people, but the delegates in this hall, who are very happy about this selection, but they just want to see her. They want to get to know her better.

They want to make sure that she is up to the spotlight that she will now without a doubt get in the 60 days ahead -- Campbell.

BROWN: John King for us tonight -- John, thanks.

After just one day of the Republican Convention and a day that was vastly scaled back, things may not be going exactly the way the McCain camp might have hoped. Today's revelation about Sarah Palin's daughter certainly didn't help.

A little while ago, I talked to Tucker Bounds, spokesman for the John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Thanks so much for taking the time to join us tonight.

I just want to begin by asking what we have been discussing before you sat in the chair, Governor Palin sharing a very difficult personal story today, the news that her unmarried teenage daughter is pregnant, that she plans to have the baby, to marry the father.

Explain to us when John McCain first learned about this.

TUCKER BOUNDS, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, he learned about it during the vetting process, before his selection.

He did not consider it a disqualifier. Governor Palin has a long record of reforming Alaska, taking on the establishment for 13 years. She started out as a civic activist in the PTA, went to the city council, on to be the mayor of her small town, took on big oil as the -- on the oil and gas commission in Alaska, then to the governor's office, where she's made serious bipartisan reforms. That's the reason she was selected.

Certainly, her personal family matters never disqualified her from serving public office, serving a higher office in a cause greater than herself. That's John McCain's message. She fits it perfectly. And we're happy to have her.

BROWN: Tucker, though, this obviously, putting this young woman, Bristol Palin, smack in the media spotlight at what already has got to be a very challenging time in her life, I mean, how do you respond to people who wonder why her mother would have subjected her to this kind of scrutiny by accepting this high-profile position?

BOUNDS: Well, I think Governor Palin understands that these are serious times and we have serious challenges, and it's time to shake up Washington. That's the reason she was happy to take John McCain's invitation to go to Washington, make the changes that Americans need and Americans depend on. She's an expert on energy. She understands that we need an all the above energy approach that includes the alternatives and the renewable fuels.

BROWN: Right.

BOUNDS: This is an important decision. So I think that it's dangerous to confuse her civic decision to get involved, to make a difference in her country.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: No. But doesn't --

BOUNDS: It's a personal thing out of this.

BROWN: I understand that.

BOUNDS: Certainly there is a request for it to be private.

BROWN: I recognize that. But in an ideal world, it would be private. But you know, this is a presidential campaign and nothing is private.

The world is watching. And if we, you know, as much as everyone might want to give this young woman her privacy, you know that's not going to happen. And so, you do risk putting her through an incredibly difficult process by accepting this job if you're her mother. You can't deny that, right?

BOUNDS: Well, the Palin family had made clear in their statement that they were hoping and continue to hope that this will be a private family matter. That was their intention from the very beginning. Media inquiries and attention are going to happen in the campaign and they understand that. But it's important for us, as we have a conversation with voters about how we can change Washington, how we can move forward and take on the big challenges that Americans expect of their public officials...

BROWN: Right.

BOUNDS: ... that we keep a private matter private among their family.

BROWN: Right.

BOUNDS: Certainly all of us, certainly all of the members of the media would expect that of Americans and that's the way we're proceeding.

BROWN: Tucker, you know, foreign policy experience has been a huge issue in this campaign because you guys made it a big issue in this campaign...

BOUNDS: Yes.

BROWN: ... pointing out time and time again as you did that John McCain had far more experience than Barack Obama and that nothing in your view was more important in the campaign, than the ability to be commander-in-chief.

BOUNDS: Yes.

BROWN: So I don't have to tell you that there's a feeling out there by some that you're not holding your VP pick to your own standard -- the standard that you defined. So explain to us why you think Governor Palin is ready to be commander-in-chief.

BOUNDS: Governor Palin has the good fortune of being on the ticket with John McCain who, there is no question, is the most experienced and shown proven judgment on the international stage. She understands foreign affairs. He has a familiarity and has displayed (ph) it as possible.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: Well, we know all that about John McCain, Tucker. I asked you about her, though, because we all know the role of the VP, as John McCain has defined it, is to be able to step into the job of the presidency on day one if something should happen to the president. So I'm asking you about her foreign policy experience.

BOUNDS: And certainly -- yes, Campbell, certainly there are a number of people that are supporting Barack Obama's candidacy and feel like he's experienced enough to take on the Oval Office. Our feeling is that Governor Palin has...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But you're not answering my question. BOUNDS: ... just as much experience as Barack Obama.

BROWN: OK. But you set a different standard.

BOUNDS: Just as much experience as the presidential candidate of our opponent.

BROWN: So does she -- you said it, what I'm saying is, that you set a different standard by arguing how important it was with John McCain. And no one is arguing with you that he has much more experience than Barack Obama. So I'm just trying to get someone from the campaign to explain to me what foreign policy experience she has or what qualifications she has that would allow her to be ready to be commander-in-chief if something should happen to Senator McCain.

BOUNDS: Well, Campbell, let me be clear, right?

BROWN: That's a fair question, isn't it?

BOUNDS: I don't think there should be any problem explaining her experience. She has executive state level experience. She's been in public office reforming Washington. She's been in executive office longer and in a more effective sense than Barack Obama has been in the United States Senate.

BROWN: So --

BOUNDS: She's been the commander of the National Guard of Alaska's National Guard, who's been deployed overseas.

BROWN: OK. OK, Tucker --

BOUNDS: That's foreign policy experience.

BROWN: All right. All right. Just give me --

BOUNDS: And I do want to mention that these are --

BROWN: Tucker, sorry, if I can interrupt for one second -- commander, because I've heard you guys say this a lot.

BOUNDS: Yes.

BROWN: Can you just tell me one decision that she made as commander-in-chief of the Alaska National Guard, just one.

BOUNDS: Yes. She has made -- any decision she has made as the commander of the National Guard that's deployed overseas is more of a decision than Barack Obama has been making as he's been running for president for the last two years.

BROWN: Tell me. Tell me what it is. Give me an example of one of those decisions. I'm just curious. Just one decision she made in her capacity as commander-in-chief of the National Guard.

BOUNDS: Campbell, certainly -- Campbell, certainly, you don't mean to belittle every experience, every judgment that she makes as commander of the National Guard.

BROWN: I'm belittling nothing. I just want to know one judgment or one decision. I would love to know what one decision was. I'm not belittling anything, Tucker, I'm really not. I just am curious.

BOUNDS: Yes. As she makes a decision as to how to equip, how to command the National Guard in Alaska, that is more to be curious and more of a judgment than Barack Obama's making on the campaign trail.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: But, Tucker, those are the Pentagon's decisions. That's General Petraeus, that's the White House.

BOUNDS: That's the White House.

BROWN: No governor --

BOUNDS: Pardon me?

BROWN: No governor makes decisions about how to equip or deploy the National Guard. You know, when they go to Iraq, that decision, as you well know, are made by the Pentagon?

BOUNDS: Actually, Campbell, they do. Campbell -- Campbell, on a factual basis, they certainly do.

In Alaska, if you have any sort of emergency as things are happening in your state, the National Guard is under the command of the governor. That is more of a command role than Barack Obama has ever had. I would argue that on our ticket, John McCain and Governor Palin, between the two of them have far more command experience in the military than either of the candidates on the Democratic side.

And I do want to argue, this is about the top of the ticket. Ultimately, when people go into the ballot box and decide between Barack Obama and John McCain, they're going to decide between John McCain's record of reforming Washington and Barack Obama's rhetoric on the campaign trail.

He doesn't have a lot of experience, certainly has no military experience, no command military experience, which both of our candidates have. That's an important distinction I think voters will make the right call in November.

BROWN: All right. Tucker, I'm going to just give it to you, baby. We'll end it there.

BOUNDS: Thank you, Campbell, I appreciate that.

BROWN: But I really -- I appreciate you coming on and taking the time to have this debate. I think it's important. People, you know, don't know a lot about her and they want to understand her qualifications as much as possible.

We're not beating you up here. We're not trying to. BOUNDS: Yes.

BROWN: We're just trying to educate ourselves and educate our viewers. So I really do appreciate your time and thank you for coming on.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: As we've been telling you, Senator John McCain's running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, confirmed today that her 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. What could that mean for the Republican ticket? Based on what we just heard there from Tucker Bounds, we want to talk about that now with our panel, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, with me here in New York.

And, David, the McCain campaign who you just heard trying to put a good face on the situation generally but they're having a tough time with this, aren't they?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: They are. But let me just say by way of preface, I do think John McCain and the Republicans have handled Hurricane Gustav well. This has been -- they've been sensitive.

BROWN: They've got dealt an unfair blow on that in that sense.

GERGEN: They did. And I think that did well and they showed a lot of respect for the victims, and you have to give them credit. I mean, they sacrificed a night of their convention to do this and I think that they deserve high marks for the way they've responded.

Having said that, on the Governor Palin thing, I think what's now obvious is that when you have this new person introduced on the national stage, and suddenly you're saying this person will now be vice president, perhaps president, the press is naturally going to ask -- start asking a lot of questions and I think their revelations today are just going to reinforce the investigative side of the press trying to go in, who is this person? What do we know about her? And there are going to be other stories and new issues raised.

And the second thing is, this is going to cause a lot of buzz among the voters, because evangelicals are again rallying to her, because they say that the daughter, just like the mother, made a pro- life decision to go ahead and have the child. But you're going to find other voters who are going to say, what is -- what's going on here? You know, and I think it's going to cause some negative ripples.

But my hope is that I think Barack Obama and John McCain are right, that I hope we personally don't spend time sitting in judgment on her as a mother. But I think pursue instead the question what kind of commander-in-chief would she be, just the kind of questions you've been pursuing now. How qualified is she to be vice president and potentially a president?

BROWN: Gloria, what do you think? Do you agree? Do you think this is going to have an effect?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the question of commander-in-chief has always been sort of the question since he chose her on the first day. And the thing that I'm really looking at, Campbell, is who does this really help John McCain with this choice?

And so far, our polling shows that it has not helped him with women but it has really helped John McCain solidify that base, the sort of culturally conservative Republicans that have always been very wary of John McCain. They are a lot less wary about John McCain right now.

This is also a challenge to those voters. Will those voters now come out in November and put John McCain over the top? What we don't know yet, Campbell, and I'm hoping we'll have some polls in a few days that will show us this, we don't know how this choice is playing with independent voters. I really want to look at that.

And also, we have to say, people still don't vote for vice- presidential candidates. Now, if so many questions are raised about Sarah Palin, will that change that? I don't know the answer to that. So I'm sort of waiting to see how this all continues to play out.

BROWN: Did you want to jump in?

GERGEN: I don't necessarily agree that they don't vote on vice presidents. You know, if bad things happen to a vice-presidential candidate, you know, it can have a lot of implications for the ticket.

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

GERGEN: And Gloria knows that as well as I do. But let me just shift to one thing, Gloria, I'd be interested in your view on this as well.

You know, we, in the press, are putting a lot of attention on her speech Wednesday night. That will be a major introduction and similarly there's a lot of attention to her debate with Joe Biden in early October. But to me, those are the easy ones to prepare for as a candidate...

BORGER: Right. Absolutely.

GERGEN: ... ones that's straight out of a script. And Mark Salter, who's a speechwriter for John McCain, is a wonderful speechwriter and I'm sure he can help her with this. And you can prepare someone for a debate. You can anticipate most of the questions. In two, three days you can get them up.

But really, the real test is what happens after Wednesday night when she gets -- when she starts mixing up with the press and with audiences some questions start flowing to her.

BORGER: I agree.

GERGEN: It's hard to prepare somebody for all that, and I think those are going to be a much more important test ultimately.

BROWN: When we ultimately find out where she stands on many of the issues because right now we don't know.

BORGER: I agree.

BROWN: Foreign policy or domestic policy, really what her positions are.

BORGER: Well, if she doesn't have any positions on certain issues, you can be assured she's going to agree with John McCain on most foreign policy issues.

But you know, I agree with David. The press will be following her, will be asking her tough questions, will be doing their own independent reporting. What kind of venues will they be putting her in? Town hall meetings -- you know, I'm told she's quite good at that.

And also, don't forget, the American public has a very short time now to get to know her and to get to feel comfortable with her. And I do agree with David on one point, generally, people don't vote on vice presidents. But if, you know, the first rule, the cliche is first do no harm.

Well, they have to make sure that that this is the case right now. I think John McCain really took a risk here. In a way, he appointed someone who reminded him of himself.

She's a maverick, she's a reformer. They want to run as a reform ticket. That's what they're going to try and do and we'll see what appeal that has to independent voters.

BROWN: Let me ask you quickly, though. Tonight we also learned that Governor Palin hired a lawyer to handle an investigation against her in Alaska. This involves charges that she fired the state police chief because he wouldn't fire her former brother-in-law who had gone through a divorce battle with her sister. You know, is there anything to this really, Gloria? Do you know? I mean --

BORGER: We don't know. We really -- you know, we are starting to investigate that. This has been something that the Alaskan newspapers, Campbell, have been covering for quite some time. But it is a legitimate issue. It's a question of whether somebody used the power of their office in a wrong way.

I'm told she's hired an attorney a few weeks ago and we'll get to the bottom of it. But she is a reformer so this does sort of raise a question about how she's used her power. It's a completely legitimate question to ask.

BROWN: Quickly, David.

GERGEN: You can just see those investigative reporters buying tickets to Anchorage. There are going to be a lot of them coming down there and will hang in there. And there's a big report coming out on all of this on this particular issue, as you know, in late October, just before the elections.

BROWN: All right. We'll leave it there. Lots more to talk about for sure. But David Gergen, Gloria Borger, appreciate it.

Hurricane Gustav -- we're going to move back to that, as we've reported to you earlier, shut down all oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. Our Ali Velshi is standing by at one of the major choke points for oil imports which was entirely underwater today.

Plus, a very scary night. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta rides along with emergency crews as Hurricane Gustav barrels into New Orleans. He's going to be with us as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up in just a few minutes with more of our continuing coverage of Hurricane Gustav. Larry, what have you got for us tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Thanks, Campbell. We're going to have up-to-the-minute reports on Hurricane Gustav. The worst, by the way, may not be over. We'll check in with correspondents all over the gulf coast for late breaking developments.

Plus, of course, the big news today about Sarah Palin's daughter. McCain's vice-presidential pick acknowledges that her 17-year-old is pregnant. Is that a political or a personal issue? It's a topic we'll get into, on "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right, Larry. We'll see you in a few.

New Orleans emergency medical workers, like many other critical city workers, faced a dilemma -- evacuate in the face of Hurricane Gustav or stay behind to attend to the citizens who remained in the city.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta rode along. Is he with us or not? He is with us. OK.

I know you're getting rained on, so we keep losing your satellite signal. Sanjay, I'm glad you're with us. I know you spent all day and all night yesterday at several hospitals rushing to get emergency plans in place. Tell us about it. Set the scene.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it is a real double-edged sword for these folks just for the reasons you mentioned, Campbell. Oftentimes these rescue workers are being told to evacuate but also being told to come and help out and try and rescue people at the same time.

So, EMS, a lot of people don't know this, but EMS was actually going out up until the very worst of the storm hit. Unless the winds were sustained at 50 miles an hour plus, they are allowed to go out.

We did ride along with them. They patrolled the areas. They went by to levees. They looked carefully at what was happening there. They went to some of those areas that we've talked so much about. Lake Pontchartrain, looked at that raging water over there.

Again, very difficult decisions. Oftentimes I spent a lot of time with these emergency workers. They have families. They're trying to keep their families safe and at the same time, trying to service this community as well.

So it's really remarkable. Most of the hospitals actually stayed open. They evacuated some of the sickest patients, but most of them stayed open for business -- Campbell.

BROWN: And have they been seeing, Sanjay, a lot of action? Is there any update on injuries coming in? Hopefully not, but do they have any sense at this hour?

GUPTA: No. You know, and it's interesting because we asked the same thing and there's a command central set up in several hospitals. They're all talking to one another, trying to figure out where patients should go. And, in fact, there was really no new patients that came into any of the hospitals, which is exactly what they expected.

This is typically what happens during the storm itself for two reasons. One, is they just simply can't get to the hospital. And, two, EMS, after a certain point, can't get to the patients. So that's why you don't see any action. But in the days to come, if you look at the natural history of these hurricanes, it's the days to come, the hours and days where you may start to see some patients that are coming back into the hospitals.

BROWN: All right. Sanjay Gupta for us after a very long day. Sanjay, we appreciate it. Thanks so much.

And of course, the gulf is critical to America's oil production. Ahead of Gustav, oil companies stopped production. They evacuated their facility shutting down roughly 15 percent of the nation's total refining capacity. All together about 2.4 million barrels of refining capacity were halted.

Ali Velshi is with us right now to tell us what this all means. And, Ali, what are you hearing? What are they estimating about any damage that may have occurred on oil platforms?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Campbell, we came down here to cover the oil story. We ended up in Grand Isle, Louisiana, which is, right, a barrier island. We weren't really expecting to be right in the heart of the storm, but we ended up doing that.

The damage here is fairly extensive, about 20 miles west of me is Port Fourchon, which is really the most key place in terms of offshore oil. We don't know what the damage is because we can't get there because the roads are full of electrical poles and things like that. So we don't know exactly what is ahead of the storm.

They shut down all the offshore oil rigs and platforms, more than 4,000. They brought about 10,000 people in, workers who work offshore by helicopter to the mainland. They've shut down a number of pipelines and refining facilities. About nine refineries have been shut down and three of the four Strategic Petroleum Reserve operations, two in Texas and two in Louisiana. Three of the four have been shut down.

There's also a major pipeline that's been shut down that runs from here to Chicago picking up a million barrels of oil per day. Here's the bottom line, though, Campbell.

The price of oil went down by $4 a barrel today, indicating that the suspicion at least early is that there hasn't been as much damage as Katrina did. We will not know. We will not have estimates for probably another day or two. But the bottom line is, where everybody expected oil go up, it has gone down.

Now we have seen gasoline price increased a few times this week. Yet to see what the impact will be and that's got to do with the refineries. We'll keep you on top of that. At the moment, we're seeing oil prices lower than they were yesterday -- Campbell.

BROWN: Some good news there. Ali Velshi for us -- Ali, in the wind and rain. Ali, as always, thank you.

Gustav's aftermath, FEMA says the levees are holding but parts of southern Louisiana still in danger. We are going to have the latest. Stay with us. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Before we wrap up tonight, I want to go back to Louisiana and get the very latest on Gustav. With us first, though, meteorologist Chad Myers in the CNN severe weather center.

Chad, we may have seen the worst of Gustav but there are two other storms out there right now on its heels. Tell us what's coming?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hanna and Ike, both out in the Atlantic. Hanna may be coming to the Carolinas or northern Florida as a pretty big storm. This storm which was a Category three for a while came onshore as a Category two well south of New Orleans. The real damage is going to be Houma and also toward Morgan City, right there along U.S. 90.

New Orleans is still getting showers and thunderstorms. There are still bumps in the night tonight. There are still will be tornadoes in the night tonight.

One reported by amateur radio near Greensburg, Louisiana, moving up toward Liberty in Mississippi. Here are the winds right now.

Baton Rouge down to 29. New Orleans still a gust there at 42. Biloxi almost 40 miles per hour.

This storm does move away from all these cities tonight. The winds go down but the tornado threat does not. We'll have to watch that. This entire storm continues to move. That's the good news. It so far does not stall out. When storms stall, that makes flooding big time flooding. We don't see that happening right now.

The very next storm that we have to worry about will be for Friday, and that would be moving up maybe up to the Charleston coast. We'll have to see. Remember, the cone is wider than that little line in the middle. We'll keep watching it for you. And back to you, Campbell.

BROWN: All right. Chad, thanks very much.

Before we go, I want to check in with John Zarrella, too. He's down in Lafayette, Louisiana, south central, Louisiana. Lafayette, especially hard hit earlier. How are things there right now?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pretty good, Campbell. You know, those trees behind me they're not normally in the water but that's how high it came up here today, about five, six feet but it's leveled off now. One of the concerns, of course, was the potential for flooding but that appears to be abating.

The emergency managers here in Lafayette telling us sadly one fatality, a young man, when a tree fell on his house. Other than that, 40 percent of the power is out. But that seems to be the worst of it.

Now, we did have a correspondent colleague, Ed Lavandera, who made it down 50 miles southeast of here to Morgan City. He says some power lines down, some minor damage but did not see any major flooding all the way down to Morgan City. So, some very good news right now coming out of this part of the state of Louisiana. It seems that we may have been very fortunate here -- Campbell.

BROWN: All right. John, appreciate that.

Quickly again, we're going to check in with Drew Griffin who's in Plaquemines Parish, where there were some concerns about the levees there. Drew, what do you know?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Sheer panic about 4:00, when this levee, this canal between the two parishes, Plaquemines and St. Bernard, started to get overtopped. There was a mass call for sandbags and that's all we've been seeing since we arrived here, Campbell.

The National Guard, the Sheriff's Department, FEMA, everybody down here with sandbags, sandbagging the levee and the water has gone down. So it has passed.

We did take some video at the height of it. And you can see there was some real danger here and the Plaquemines Parish president was just screaming for help. And this time around, not like Katrina, but this time around, a well coordinated effort to clam this up.

They're working through the night behind me, as you can see, to put even more sandbags on. But the last we checked, the water has gone down and this crisis has abated.

BROWN: And, Drew, we all remember that area from Katrina to St. Bernard Parish, which is right across the canal, was one of the hardest hit areas. But it looks like that they have gotten through the worst of it, and with these levees not breaking, everything for the most part OK, right?

GRIFFIN: Yes. I should tell you, I am in St. Bernard's parish. And during Katrina, I would be swimming right now. So they have very, very bad memories here.

And what was difficult was that this levee was having an incident on both sides. Nobody wants to say here that the levee breached. On the Plaquemines side, they're saying it was overtopped. And on this side in St. Bernard's, they're saying there was seepage but it was coming right through a gate that closes off a railroad bridge.

Look, it was serious enough that the Plaquemines Parish president was literally on WWL radio down here screaming for help for anybody to come. So it was nervous for a while -- Campbell.

BROWN: Yes. Dodged a bullet for sure, Drew Griffin. Drew, thanks.

And we want to quickly check in with Anderson Cooper who had an exclusive interview tonight with Senator Barack Obama.

Anderson, what did he have to say?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I talked to Senator Barack Obama a short time ago from the Lower Ninth Ward where damage from Katrina is still visible in the Lower Ninth Ward. I asked him about his assessment of the federal, state and local government response. I also asked him about criticism from some Republicans that he doesn't executive experience, and criticism that Governor Palin has more executive experience as mayor and governor of Alaska. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My understanding is, is that Governor Palin's town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We've got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month.

So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years, and certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed, just dealing with this issue post Katrina.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: All right. More of Anderson's interview coming up on Larry King.

That's it from the ELECTION CENTER. Stay with us for all the hurricane news tonight.

"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.

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