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Hurricane Ike Approaches Texas; Analysis of Sarah Palin's Interview

Aired September 12, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight they're calling him a killer -- Hurricane Ike is slamming Galveston Island and nearby Houston.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: This is a life or death matter. If you live in one of the evacuation zones, get out.


KING: Highways are jammed. But millions are hunkering down, as extreme winds and a towering wall of water could mean catastrophe for the Texas coast. We'll have up to the minute on the scene reports.

Plus, Sarah Palin's first big one-on-one interview -- did she weather the media storm?


GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he's regretting not picking her now.



Good evening.

First, there will be two editions of LARRY KING LIVE tonight. This one, 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 Pacific. And we'll have another live edition at midnight, 9:00 Pacific, as we cover Hurricane Ike.

We'll get into politics later.

We've got correspondents everywhere throughout Texas.

We'll start in Galveston, which is going to get hit the worst.

Gary Tuchman, CNN national correspondent, where are you and how bad is it?


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm not hearing any of the like...

KING: We can't get Gary's audio. We'll get -- we'll check right back, Gary, as soon as we get it.

Susan Candiotti is in Clute, Texas.

Where is that -- Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, that's about 50 miles or so south of Galveston. We're also just inland from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. A coastal community just to this side of us and it's called Surfside. And just behind us, I want to give you a look right now, this home is -- this area is home to a large number of chemical plants, including some run by Dow Chemical, BASF. They make chlorine here. There's liquid nitrogen here. And nearby, there's some natural oil reserves here kept by the U.S. government.

Now I want to tell you that earlier this day, they had to make at least eight rescues by nearby Surfside Beach. They went out in boats to get these people out -- people who had ignored mandatory evacuation orders. And they had to go in by boat. And some had to be escorted out on their own jet skis -- a father and a couple of his teenage children, believe it or not.

Now, also, they managed to get these rescues done by wading out in waist high -- chest high water. In one case, the police chief went out there. Left his guns at the side and waded out there and just wearing his police uniform to get these people out.

They know that there is one person who has stayed behind. They tried to talk them out. He's over there now. And now the bridge that leads to that island community is under water on the mainland side. So all the authorities are out of there. They had us clear out of there. And that man could very well be there all by himself.

They are no longer sending sheriff's deputies out there. It's -- the winds are too high and we're already experiencing power outages. And, frankly, the weather isn't that bad just yet.

KING: Thanks.

Susan Candiotti in Clute, Texas.

Now, let's go back to Galveston.

We think we've got Gary Tuchman cleared up.

Where are you and how bad is it -- Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, it is very bad here. And this is Galveston. We're on the beachfront highway. The beach -- the Gulf of Mexico is right behind me. And Hurricane Ike is right behind me.

This road usually crowded with cars. But the water has been coming up over the 17-foot sea wall all day. The last hour, Larry, the conditions have deteriorated rapidly. Fifty-seven thousand people live here. Most of them seem to be gone. And be, they'd be, because the National Weather Service has said that anybody who lives in a one family house that's only one or two stories high faces certain death if they don't leave. That's the words they used -- certain death. I don't know if it's going to be certain death. I do know it's an extremely treacherous and dangerous situation and it's gotten worse just in the last 30 minutes.

KING: Gary, forgive me if I'm wrong, wasn't Galveston once nearly wiped out, years ago, in a hurricane?

TUCHMAN: A hundred eight years ago this very week, Larry, September 8th, 1900 -- the worst natural disaster in American history. The hurricane came over the same path -- over Cuba, hit Galveston. Up to 8,000 people were killed. That was one out of every five or six people who live in Galveston were killed in 1900. It almost destroyed the city.

KING: Yes.

TUCHMAN: They rebuilt the city and they built that sea wall as a result of the 1900 hurricane.

KING: I remember reading a lot about that story.

We'll go to Baytown, Texas and our man, Ali Velshi, who's CNN's senior business correspondent.

They're making forecasts, Ali, that the total storm damage will be $11.8 billion, property $10 billion, $4.6 million in buildings hit by the path, $14.9 million in the path of the storm.

Do you buy all this as being this bad?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's this flooding and the power that's going to go out and these winds are going to cause a lot of damage for a couple of reasons. One is, Houston is in the path of this and there's a lot of expensive stuff in Houston. The other thing, Larry, is that Texas is home to one quarter of the United States' refining capacity -- 26 refineries. Thirteen of them are shut down right now.

Here in Baytown, the biggest refinery on the entire continent is here. It's shut down. It converts 590,000 barrels of oil a day into gasoline.

We've seen gas shortages around here. We've seen gas spikes in part of the country. There's one gas station we know of in Florida charging $5.49 for a gallon of gasoline.

And we don't know what the damage will be to the refineries, but they do need power and they do need not to be flooded. And everybody tells me one thing about this storm -- we're north of where Gary is and we're East of Houston. The power is going to go out and it's going to flood -- Larry.

KING: Wow!

Anderson Cooper is in Houston. He'll be on following this program, hosting "A.C. 360."

How bad is it there and how prepared are they?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's not bad at all at this point. And we're just starting to get a little bit more wind, seeing a little bit of drizzle of rain. But it is, you know, the proverbial calm before the storm at this point.

We have been watching very closely and a lot of folks in Texas who have been sheltering in place. That's what they were told to do by the government here yesterday and today -- don't get on the roads, don't clog the highways, don't try to make a dash for it, just stay where you are.

This is a city which has seen hurricanes before, but not anything potentially like this. This is the first major hurricane to hit a metropolitan area since Hurricane Katrina.

The big concern here in Houston right now, Larry, is not the

storm surge, it's the heavy amount of rain that's going to take place here. That's going to cause some flooding, most likely in low lying areas if it comes.

But it is the winds that we are anticipating -- hurricane force winds hitting this city head-on around 2:00 a.m. Laporte) local time. Around 3:00 a.m. Laporte) on the East Coast, 4:00 a.m. Laporte) it may be at its worst, 3:00 a.m. Laporte) local time here.

A lot of high rise buildings, Larry, as you know, in Houston. They got hit pretty hard in Hurricane Rita. Where we expect to see a lot of broken glass and see that glass maybe flying through the air.

So folks are being told to stay indoors as much as possible. Right now, I mean, it seems like people already -- the news reports have been on 24 hours a day about this storm. People have been watching it all day. You still see some people just kind of walking around on the streets, kind of taking pictures, just looking at the city, because it's pretty much empty on the streets and you don't get to see that very often.

But, hopefully, they are going to get to shelter pretty soon, because you can sense this storm is coming and it's coming fast.

KING: Anderson Cooper in Houston. A very important baseball series affected by this. Houston is playing the Chicago Cubs. They've canceled tonight, of course. They've canceled Saturday. They're going to try maybe to play a doubleheader on Sunday and a single game Monday. We're at the end of the season. These games important to both teams.

More on Ike next.

Stay with us as he smashes the shore.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with this special early edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

We're going to go back and check with Chad Myers.

He's been with us throughout the day, CNN meteorologist, severe weather expert -- Chad, could Galveston go under water?

MYERS: Absolutely. I would say probably -- well, I don't know, I won't say a percentage, because it's over 90 something percent. There probably will be 12 square blocks that will not go under water. And here's why.

When you get a surge like this, this will be catastrophic flooding -- not so much from the ocean over here because of this sea wall that they built. But this little green strip of land where Gary Tuchman is, that's the only area of Galveston that may not go under water.

There will be 15 to 20 feet over the rest of the island, all the way, flooding from the back side around. Yes, there will be splashing here and there will be good pictures from the sea wall. But the water is going to get into the bay and it's going to flood the entire area here along the bay.

Think about like taking one billion gallons of water and throwing it into this bathtub. Well, this bathtub is just going to splash everywhere. Water's going to go up, north, south, east, west, through all of the creeks and streams and some of these areas here.

If you just get a little bit farther off to the east here, there's going to be 30 -- potentially 30 feet of water in some of these areas on the other side of High Island; Port Arthur, Texas, probably 15 to 20 feet, as well.

We haven't talked a lot about this, but this is going to catch a lot of water, too. All the way up to Beaumont under water in many, many places -- Larry.

KING: Wow!

Gary Tuchman, back in Galveston, to your knowledge, has everyone left?

TUCHMAN: Most people seem to have left, Larry. Earlier today, when we could still do it, we went around Galveston and I went up and down scores of blocks. Almost every house was evacuated.

We did see a few people sticking it out. I saw a couple arguing about whether they should leave. The woman said I want to get out of here. The man said let's wait a little longer. I don't know if they ever left. But it seems most of the 57,000 -- 60,000 people who live here in Galveston are gone.

And if they're gone, they're smart because, as Chad just said...

KING: What about...

TUCHMAN: ...this is going to be a terrible event for the city.

KING: When are you going to leave?

TUCHMAN: Well, we're not leaving yet, Larry. And I'm going to tell you why. We're not in a one or two story building. We can't show you now because it's so dark out. But we are staying at a hotel that's right on the beach -- 15 stories, built like Fort Knox. It's on top of a small mung, basically, on top of a hill that's very high up. It's surrounded by moats.

It was built specifically to withstand this type of hurricane. So there's lots of members of the news media staying there.

Also, police from the city and emergency operations officials. We're all in the hotel hunkered down together.

KING: Stay safe.

Rick Sanchez, the anchor of CNN NEWSROOM, is in Laporte, Texas.

Where is that -- Rick?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Laporte is about southeast of Houston. The significant thing about Laporte is, Larry, it's right on Galveston Bay. And that's why this story today has turned into a bigger story because we're looking at a worse storm than we were looking at yesterday.

Yesterday, we we're thinking it was going to have an area of impact probably around Freeport, which may be about 40 miles away from where we are.

Now it's looking like the eye, as you've seeing from reports from Gary, it's really coming up right through Galveston.

Well, what's after Galveston?

Galveston Bay. So what you have is you have water being pushed from a large body into a smaller body -- which is gvbb -- into even a smaller body, which is the Houston ship channel. So all that water is going to be pushed into this area. So all these communities -- where, about three blocks from where I am, you would actually find Galveston Bay, that water is going to be pouring into this community. And that's why 90 percent of the people in this area have now evacuated. That's why this town and all the others along the bay are now -- there you see a police officer running by. They've enacted a curfew that's be going until 5:00 a.m.


KING: All right. You're cutting in and out. You're cutting and out, Rick.

Chad Myers, back to you. Does this compare to Katrina?

MYERS: In property damage, no. And that's simply because of what Katrina did to Bay St. Louis and Waveland. And then, after the storm was all over, what the waters did from the levees into New Orleans. And that was hundreds of billions of dollars in damage.

New Hampshire I saw you and heard you say this number earlier. Just from property damage alone -- it's hard to read, but that's $10 billion. And this is the Census track. Everywhere that there's a Census track in red, that's $1 million of damage or more.

Look where that's centered, Larry. That's centered right over Houston and all the way up. That's Dallas. This is not going to lose all that much intensity as it comes onshore. That's why Houston -- the big buildings of Houston are in so much trouble when it comes to those winds of 95, 100 miles per hour later on tonight, into tomorrow morning.

KING: Wow! Rick Sanchez, we cut out of you and we had finished hearing what you had remaining to say about -- everyone is gone from Laporte?


KING: Again, we lost you, Rick -- Susan Candiotti, has everyone left Clute, Texas?

CANDIOTTI: Pretty much so. It's like a ghost town. I wouldn't say so much -- you know, Clute, they said 70 percent of the population of this county -- it's called Brazoria County -- has cleared out because they've been under these evacuation orders for several days now. So they've had time to leave. Especially over on that island community, that was the sticking point I was telling you about earlier. Despite the evacuation orders, they had at least eight people they had to get out by boat and by jet ski today -- people who ignored it. And, you know, you ask the police chief why?

Why don't they leave?

You know, the storm surge is expected to be so high here. They're only, Larry, four feet above sea level. And then these homes that are built on stilts maybe brings the first floor up to 14 feet. And if you're talking about a storm surge of 18 feet or higher, obviously these people would be in trouble.

But the police chief says it's hard to convince people to leave their property. They love these homes. They figure it's on their own property. It's their place. Try to get them to leave. Some will, some won't. But it is like a ghost town and they think only one man has stayed behind in that coastal community of Surfside just over the bridge.

KING: Thanks.

Thank you so much, Susan Candiotti. Politics and Sarah Palin next. And we'll continue to watch Hurricane Ike, with updates throughout the show.

Don't go away.


KING: Now let's go political with Paul Begala.

Our panel is all in Washington.

Democratic strategist, author of "Third Term: Why George W. Bush Loves John McCain."

Susan Molinari, former Republican member of Congress, was an adviser to Rudy Giuliani's 2008 bid and is a supporter of John McCain.

Maria Cardona, former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton's campaign, now supports Senator Obama.

And Carey Holt, who was national spokesman for the Bush/Cheney Re-Election Campaign in 2004 and is a supporter of John McCain.

Paul, how did she do?

I don't even have to tell you who she is.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, SUPPORTS OBAMA: Yes, you know, I watched that interview, even as a Democrat. I saw someone calm, confident, in command, comfortable. The problem was that was Charlie Gibson.

And then we saw Governor Palin of Alaska. And, you know, I don't fault her for not knowing much or caring much or being interested much in foreign policy. I think you could probably be quite a good governor of Alaska or many other states without that knowledge.

But it is a little shocking that John McCain would pick someone who doesn't even know like President Bush's doctrine on preemptive war and preventive war, to be his vice president. I mean it does give the lie to the notion that this is country first.

KING: Susan...

BEGALA: It was clearly a political pick.

KING: Susan, what did you think?

SUSAN MOLINARI (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, SUPPORTS MCCAIN: Well, I think -- I think, you know, she did a phenomenal job. I think the fact that the front of every New York newspaper didn't say, you know, she blew the race, she made major gaffes. You know, we do have a gaffe watch for one of our candidates, whom I actually have genuine affection for, Joe Biden. He's a great senator. But we have gaffe watch for him. She didn't make gaffes. And the Bush doctrine -- let me just say, Larry, we are not all as brilliant as Paul Begala. I asked a significant amount of friends I had. I didn't know what the Bush doctrine was. It could be, you know, four or five things with regard to Bush's foreign policy when you're talking about the Bush doctrine.

Is it promoting democracy abroad?

Is it, you know, preemptive?

I mean there were things that we could all interpret as to what the Bush doctrine was.

So I think she did a phenomenal job.

KING: All right...

MOLINARI: I think a lot of pressure was on her in that we're still spending days and days talking about how she did. And the fact that, you know, she made not one mistake and made some really good and glorious points shows that she's in it to win.

KING: Maria Cardona, well, let's have you watch this clip and comment.

ABC's Gibson covered a wide range. At one point, he wondered if it was sexist to ask whether the governor could do it all.



PALIN: Of course, you can be the vice president and you can raise a family. I'm the governor and I'm raising a family. I've been a mayor and have raised a family. I've owned a business and we've raised a family.

And when people have asked me, when I was governor and I was pregnant, gosh, how are you going to be the governor and have a baby in office, too?

And I replied back then, as I would today, I'll do it the same way the other governors have done it when they've either had a baby in office or raised a family. Granted, they're men, but do it the same way that they do it.


KING: Maria, how well did she handle that?

MARIA CARDONA, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN: I think she handled it well. I mean I do think that, for sure, if she had been a man, that question would not have been asked of her. So I think in that respect, it is something that we have to look at. And we have to understand that this is a choice that she made. This is a choice that she made for her family. And no one should judge it. I'm a working mother. It's a choice that I made for my family. And no one should judge me on that.

I think that ultimately, though, what people should judge this ticket on is on what policies John McCain is going to follow. Again, I will repeat what I've been saying from the very beginning when she was picked. This is not about her. It is about the fact that a McCain administration will continue the failed policies of the last eight years for another four years. And that's what the American voters and the American people don't need.

KING: Terry, watch this clip. Charlie asked her whether she's prepared to be a heartbeat from the presidency.



PALIN: When he offered me the position as his running mate, the first thing I said to him was, if you really think that I can help the ticket, if you really think that I can help this country, absolutely, I want to do this with you.

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: And you didn't say to yourself, am I experienced enough?

Am I ready?

PALIN: I didn't hesitate, no.

GIBSON: Doesn't that take some hubris?

PALIN: I answered him yes because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink. You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission -- the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war -- you can't blink. So I didn't blink then even, when asked to run as his running mate.


KING: Terry Holt, didn't that take some hubris?

TERRY HOLT, FORMER NATIONAL SPOKESMAN, BUSH-CHENEY 2004: It took courage and confidence. And I think that's what we need in a vice president. It's certainly what the American people expect from their leaders.

You know, we've had -- over the last few election cycles, we've had security moms, we've had soccer moms, now we have hockey moms.

When is it going to dawn on people that the American woman and people that run for office have to make a real connection with the voter in their lives?

And so many of these politicians today don't make that connection. This woman came off as qualified and capable and articulate, and, on top of everything else, contrary to most politicians in this country, people like her. And I think she did really well last night.

KING: Paul Begala, does it matter, because vice presidents and presidents can disagree, that Senator McCain favors stem cell research and she does not, that she favors no abortions in any case?

He would favor abortion for incest and rape.

Does that matter?

BEGALA: I think not enormously. I think it is misleading, though, for Senator McCain to be running a commercial that says we, he and his running mate, support stem cell research.

Every pairing is going to have is some disagreement. There's no doubt that Senator Obama and Senator Biden have voted against each other on any number of issues. And I think that's OK.

But I think it's very important not to mislead people. And for Governor Palin, who was the queen of earmarks -- I mean her state is a welfare state. Her state gets $1.84 back from the federal government for every dollar they send. They get more money from you and me than any other state in America per capita.

That's OK, I guess. But then she campaigns with McCain saying she's against earmarks. She brought home so much pork, she got trichinosis.

So that's what I don't like is the hypocrisy of this ticket.

KING: We'll have Susan respond after we come back. Lots more weather coverage coming, as well.

In fact, we'll have a hurricane update and then continue our panel discussion right after the break.


KING: We'll be back with our outstanding political panel in just a moment.

Let's go to Galveston, Texas and check in with Rob Marciano, our CNN meteorologist.

How bad a night is this going to be -- Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's getting worse, I can tell you that. And we're not even that close to the eye. So it's been a pretty tranquil afternoon with the exception of the surf. The wind and the rain have not picked up until the last couple of hours. But that surf, which you can see somewhat, is still just churning and pounding off this sea wall, which has done very, very well, surprisingly. Ten feet in spots, 17 in others. And boom, it's been hit like that all afternoon. The core of it is granite. I mean that shouldn't be moving.

The question is, will the water get up and over that and stay up and over that and continue to surge over past this (AUDIO GAP) and inundate the rest of the island?

A lot of people here have evacuated. My colleague, Gary Tuchman, he said it's been a ghost town. A lot of the officials say that there's still about 40 percent of the people left. If they are, we haven't seen a whole lot recently. That's good, Larry, because that means there they're in some sort of shelter and abiding by the curfew that was just instituted at 8:00 tonight and lasts until 5:00 in the morning.

KING: Thanks so much. We'll be checking constantly with our team throughout the night. Rob Marciano in Galveston.

Back to our panel. Susan Molinari, I want you to look at this. Sarah Palin is asked about Barack Obama's decision not to pick Hillary. Watch.


GIBSON: I saw you quoted somewhere speaking rather admiringly of Senator Clinton during the primary campaign. Do you think Obama should have picked her?

PALIN: I think he's regretting not picking her now. I do. What determination and grit, and even grace through some tough shots that were fired her way.


KING: Susan, you agree with that?

MOLINARI: I think this woman is so fast on her feet. I absolutely love it. I do agree with that. I think that's why the Democrats are so nervous right now. They didn't pick Hillary Clinton. One in five women, Hillary Clinton supporters, now are saying they're seriously going to vote for Senator McCain. And it's bigger than just that. If Sarah Palin gets elected vice president and we get to watch her help do all those things we've talked about, help run the country, you know, lead as so many vice presidents do, in so many areas where the president can't be at the time, and deal with the family and her stress, there's going to be a huge realignment of women voters to the Republican party.

The Democrats made a big mistake in not picking Senator Clinton. No disrespect to Senator Biden. But this would have been strength. It allowed us to really make the argument to those working moms and women throughout this country. She has proven up to the test on so many levels.

KING: Maria, on the other hand, many women, I think more women than less women, favor abortion. And here is what Sarah Palin was asked about that.


GIBSON: John McCain would allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. You believe in it only in the case where the life of the mother is in danger?

PALIN: That is my personal opinion.

GIBSON: Would you change and accept it in rape and incest?

PALIN: My personal opinion is that abortion allowed, if the life of the mother is in danger. Please understand me on this. I do understand McCain's position on this. I do understand others who are very passionate about this issue, who have a differing view.


KING: All right. How do you react to that, Maria? Does that help or hurt?

CARDONA: First of all, let me just say that I think that Sarah Palin needs to spare us the false sentiment about Hillary Clinton. She's somebody who actually criticized Hillary while she was on the campaign trail. Frankly, McCain, you know, was at one of his town halls and laughed when one questioner called Hillary the B word. That is not something that is at all -- you know, that we accept as truth from them.

Secondly, on the abortion issue, I think that, you know, you hit the nail on the head when you talked about the issue in general. This is an issue that is important to a lot of women, The issue of choice. And she has said herself that she is, you know, as anti-choice as they come, as anti-a woman's right to choose as any candidate can be. So I think at the end of the day, we have to look at these tickets for what they represent, the policies that they represent. And what they're going to offer this country if they get elected.

A McCain/Palin administration will no doubt give us four more years of the past eight years. What's astounding to me is that in the convention neither her speech or Senator McCain's speech talked about the challenges that lie ahead and what real solutions they would offer us. And while Obama and all of the Democrats, that's what they did. So I think there's a stark difference here.

KING: Terry Holt, I want you to watch this clip. McCain was a guest on "The View" today, his fifth appearance on that show. He came in for a little bit of a grilling. Watch.


JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": There are ads running from your campaign. One of them is saying that Obama, when he said you can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig, was talking about Sarah. there's another ad that says Obama was interested in teaching sex education to kindergartners. We know that those two ads are untrue. They're lie. Yet, you at the end of it say I approve this message. Do you really approve them? MCCAIN: Actually, they're actually not lies. Have you've seen some of the ads that are running --

BARBARA WALTERS, "THE VIEW": By the way, you yourself said the same thing about putting lipstick on the pig. You yourself used the same expression.

MCCAIN: When I was talking about a health care plan.

WALTERS: But he talked about changed. He wasn't talking about Sarah Palin.

MCCAIN: Senator Obama chooses his words very carefully. He shouldn't have said it. He shouldn't have said it. He chooses his words very carefully. This is a tough campaign.


KING: Terry Holt, who's -- what do you make of that?

HOLT: I don't know what to make of it. And I don't know -- whenever I walk past the kitchen and that show is on in the morning, I can't imagine wanting to do that with those two ladies in particular. But I think John McCain is, quite frankly, pretty brave for going into those circumstances. First of all, the question was assumed that it was a lie. You know, the whole circumstance, sometimes these interviews, I think they're a little out of control.

My sense is that John McCain is going to win because he's a serious candidate. Not because he can jump up and down on a talk show host's couch.

KING: But she did have a point that his -- the quote about kindergartners is not teaching sex to kindergarten kids. It's dealing with predators.

HOLT: Yes, but I mean --

KING: That's a misleading ad.

HOLT: Yes, but this is all about destroying politics, destroying democracy. In my view --

KING: Why support the ad?

HOLT: Every time somebody picks up and decides they're going to become a national figure, it's picks them apart until they're nothing but bones left. And the nature of politics today, it's so negative, that even like Hollywood figures, who never say anything bad about anybody, wind up using curse words to describe how they feel about Sarah Palin from Alaska. I mean, it's such a destructive political environment that I'm not sure the American people care two cents about these kind of interviews.

KING: We've got to get back to our hurricane. Thank you all very much. We'll be calling on you a lot. And we'll be back with more after this.


KING: Reminder, this is the early edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be back at midnight Eastern, 9:00 Pacific, with edition number two, as we cover mainly Hurricane Ike. And let's go back to Rob Marciano on the scene in Galveston, Texas. When is the worst going to come, Rob?

MARCIANO: Well, probably the next few hours, Larry. It feels like we're getting close to the eye wall. The winds and rain have picked up. Right now, it's sustained at about 60, possibly gusting as strong as hurricane force. If you're near a building, at times that compresses the win and accelerates it. We've experienced that quite a number of times and have almost fallen over in those instances.

But the wind direction has not changed. That tells us that the storm is really on the same course. If you stand with your back to the wind, and look left, that's where the center of the storm is. That's where it's been all day long. So it has to be heading this way. And that's where we expect to see the eye to come on shore some time in the next few hours, over night, 2:00, 3:00 in the morning.

Larry, it's been quite some time -- I'm sure others have talked about the history here in Galveston; 1900, that horrible one, the benchmark of all ones here in the U.S. But it's been since 1983 since these folks have seen a direct hit from a hurricane. So maybe memories are faint. It's what these storms can do. I tell you one thing, this sea wall has held up reasonably well. And I think mostly because the winds have paralleled the coast all day long. Once the winds begin to come onshore, and that will happen eventually when it makes land fall, then we'll get the big surge. Then we'll see water likely come up and over here, likely start to climb this hill. And that's when it could spell trouble for the folks who even live in the protected area of Galveston.

Those who live in the unprotected area, Larry, they're already inundated. Some of those people earlier today, even before night fell, were trapped.

KING: Thanks, Rob. We'll be checking back with you, Rob Marciano. Let's go to Clute, Texas, and Susan Candiotti. How bad is it there? Will you hang throughout the night?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We will. We'll be here all night long, Larry. I'm told about 50 percent -- 70 percent of the people, rather, that live on the island community have left town. The authorities say they're happy about that. But we're also keeping an eye right behind me at all these chemical plants owned by Dow and BASF. You can see the flames still coming out from there. I'm told that's burning off waste. They have virtually shut down production or slowed it way down. You've got a skeleton staff there. They say they've gone through all kinds of disaster drills and they feel that will be safe and can withstand hurricane force winds. We sure hope so. And in the meantime, this place really is like a ghost town. The authorities are not sending anyone else on the street anymore. If anyone gets into trouble, unfortunately, they will be on their own.

KING: Back to Rick Sanchez, he's in La Port, Texas. Spent a lot of years in Miami, so he says, did I, seen a lot of hurricanes. How bad is this one, Rick?

We've lost Rick again. We're having a problem with Rick's audio. So we go to Chad Myers, our CNN meteorologist at the CNN Weather Center. He is safely in Atlanta. You've covered a lot of these. How bad is this one? How do you compare this one, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This one is probably going to be equal to Katrina's surge in many areas east of where the eye makes land fall. And we know what happened to Bay St. Louis and Waveland and Beluxi and Gulf Port. Those areas were inundated with dozens of feet of water.

Here is the storm right here. I'll take the radar off for just a second. You can see the coastline. There's Rob Marciano. There's Susan Candiotti right there. That's where Anderson Cooper is. Put the radar back on, Dave. And the first bands are really now getting to Rob Marciano. That's why he was seeing such big winds there.

Let me show you this in three dimensions. I think you're going to be really impressed with this eye wall. We're building this eye wall here. It's getting smaller. What does that mean? It's like a skater that brings her arms in. You know, when they bring their arms in, they skate a lot faster, that's what's happening here. This eye wall is getting smaller and the storm is going faster.

That is not good news, whatsoever, because this is what Houston looks like. Maybe you haven't seen it. Maybe you've never been there. Look at all of these buildings, guys. Look at this, just all over. There's glass in every one of these buildings. During the other tornadoes, or hurricanes that we've always worried about, we've always worried about these buildings, always worried about this glass in downtown Houston. It's everywhere, Larry. It's going to be a long night. It's going to be a bumpy night. There are going to things that go bump in the night all night long.

Look at all these tall buildings here. It's going to be a long duration, six to eight-hour event. It's not going to be a 15 minute wind. This wind blows and blows and blows. You just wonder when is it going to stop.

KING: Thanks, Chad. By the way, if you want an idea of how big this storm is, Ike is just about as big as Texas.

We also have breaking news near Los Angeles at this hour. A commuter train and a freight train collided earlier today. Four people are confirmed dead. Dozens have been injured. It's near Chatsworth, just outside L.A. Three hundred and fifty people are believed to have been on the train. Rescue efforts have been under way for a couple of hours, and continue right now. It's not known what caused this crash.

Back with more on Ike after this.


KING: Let's go back to Ali Velshi, our CNN senior business correspondent. He is in Bay Town. How well are the authorities doing, Ali?

ALI VELSHI, CNN SENIOR BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the refineries are shut down in many cases; 13 of 26 refineries in Texas have been shut down, including all of the ones around here, including the biggest one, Exxon/Mobil's Bay Town refineries.

But earlier, Larry, you were referring to the newest damage estimates, the prediction by analysts that it will cost about 11.8 billion dollars in damage. That doesn't count the increase that we're all going to pay for gasoline if there is damage to these refineries. We've already seen spikes over the last few days. In some cases, we've seen gas over five, 5.49 at one place in Florida. So that's not counted in there.

This is going to be felt by Americans across the country regardless of whether they're in the path of this storm or not. A quarter of the country's gasoline is refined in Texas, much of it right around this Houston area. We're right around the entrance of the Houston shipping channel. There is going to be damage around there. The refineries are shut down. They may flood. Power will go out. If they can get the water, if they can get that electricity started in the next few days, the damage will be minimal.

But it could be bad. We're seeing shortages of gasoline in this part of the country. If there's major damage, that might start to spread further north.

KING: Good point, Ali. Rick Sanchez, let's try him again in La Port, Texas. As we were saying earlier, we've both seen a lot of these things. And the worst is yet to come, right?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Here's what makes this particular hurricane so significant. You and I have talked about this before. All hurricanes have different patterns and different personalities. I was just on; thousands of people that I'm talking to are watching this newscast right now, same question, why is this wall of water such a big story in this hurricane?

Here's why. We were thinking a couple of days ago that this storm was going to go to Freeport, which is west of where we are. Now, it's looking like the eye of the storm is actually going to go, Larry, right through Galveston proper, then through Galveston Bay and then into the Houston ship channel. What it is doing is, it is actually moving all that water from one big body of water into a little smaller body of water, into a really small body of water.

So the key here is, places like La Port, where I am now, which are next to the Galveston Bay, are being affected in ways that perhaps they hadn't been affected before. That's why all these evacuations are going out. That's why 90 percent of the people are gone and I'm sitting in a downtown area that's just about desolate right now. That's why there is a curfew if this area as well. They expect the water will come up not only here, Larry, but all the towns surrounding this area, all the way up the Houston Ship Channel into Houston proper.

KING: Thanks so much, Rick. Susan Candiotti in Clute, Texas, have you seen any people?

CANDIOTTI: An occasional pickup truck or car will drive by. But the sheriff's office just told me that they are reining in their people, pardon the expression, because it is raining hard right now and the winds are starting to pick up. And they're not going to allow them to go out anymore. And frankly, even if we wanted to get back out to surf side, right there on the beach, we couldn't get there because the bridge on this side has water -- it's at least under seven feet of water at the end of that bridge.

So they're really cut off from civilization over there, if in fact anyone is left. We think it might be just one man who is over there, probably hopefully listening to radio, some kind of communications. But so far, fortunately, no emergency calls, no calls of any injuries. So for the most part, people have paid attention to these mandatory evacuation orders. You know, Larry, they've got a series of levees built up here, and they've also been shutting off some of the water through some of the grid systems here to try to prevent that storm surge from doing too, too much damage.

But they are keeping an eye on this one and they're quite worried about how they're going to make out.

KING: Thanks, Susan. Gary Tuchman, I know you're going to be in a safe, big hotel that's kind of hurricane-proof, but are you a little concerned?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, we've covered these hurricanes. I myself have covered them for 26 years now. So we know what to look out for. We know what to be careful for. I will tell you, Larry, if this was a category four or five, we definitely would not be on Galveston Island right now. We know this is not going to be as huge a wind event as we felt before. There is going to be a lot of rain.

It is a big storm. There is no question flooding is a major concern here. We may indeed be stranded. We're all ready for that. We have food and water. As far as us being in danger on the 12th floor of this hotel we're staying at, with the police, with emergency officials, with families that are actually seeking shelter in the hotel, we're very content that our 15 or 20 CNN people here will be safe. There is never a guarantee, but we're reasonably certain we'll be safe and we'll be able to cover the story. That's why we're here.

KING: They better be. We'll be back with some more moments on Hurricane Ike. Don't forget, we'll be back again in a couple of hours. The full force of Ike is about five hours away. We're stick with it. More on what they're calling a killer storm next.


KING: We're back. Chad Myers, our CNN meteorologist, severe weather expert, if you're on the ground during one of these, does it matter if it's a category two or a category three?

MYERS: No, because it is 110 miles per hour and category three starts at 111, Larry. I can't tell the difference in one miles per hour. No, this is a very dangerous, almost -- almost major hurricane. But it is big because it was so large in width. This thing had from the center -- from 100 miles to the north hurricane force win. Those hurricane-force winds are now brushing the southwest coast of Louisiana. It's now only about 60 miles from Galveston. So Galveston about to feel some of the worst winds.

Then we talk about this surge, this storm surge. It is right from the eye and then a little bit farther to the north. This is where all the wind is blowing this way. This bubble is right here. It is probably three or four hours from being here, right in that Gulf -- Galveston Bay.

KING: Why do you say almost major?

MYERS: Well, because they call major hurricanes starting at category three. Category three, four and five is considered a major hurricane.

KING: It is one mile an hour away from being a major --

MYERS: Yes. It's all -- yes.

KING: I'm going to call it a major.

MYERS: Go right ahead. You have my permission.

KING: Gary Tuchman is in Galveston. Are you surprised to learn it is one mile away, Gary, not yet a major.

TUCHMAN: It is a minor hurricane, Larry. But if that wind increases one miles per hour, it will be a major. You know, it feels like a major one to me. Yes, I understand the differentiation. As Chad could probably tell you, it is possible it can pick up that extra one mile. They'll never say it's 111. They'll say it's 115. That's the next designation. They're not that exact. The fact is it is a serious hurricane and this is the moment of truth for the people of Galveston, Texas.

KING: Because it's getting -- about 55 miles away, right?

TUCHMAN: Yes. We're thinking in three or four hours, the eye will cross over here. If it happens like we expect, we're going to have a little bit of complete calmness here. It is an amazing phenomenon. People don't experience it much. But when it happens here, it will be an amazing feeling for the people of Galveston.

KING: Thanks, Gary. Rick Sanchez, who has been through a lot of these, the eye is a fooler because long ago they thought it was over.

SANCHEZ: Yes, well that's the difference in this hurricane in particular, Larry, that we're talking about a storm that's going to a metropolitan area. The thing about storms is, it is not really so much about the size, it's the intensity and where it is when it makes land fall. If this thing were going a little south of us, it would be affecting a lot of cows that are part of the beef industry here in Texas. But it's not doing that. It's going through a major metropolitan area, one of the biggest cities in the United States.

It's been a while since we've seen a storm actually do that. If you actually look at Katrina's path, Katrina's path didn't really go into New Orleans. It was even west of it. It was the water that pushed into it. This time, we're looking at a storm that's actually going up the Houston ship channel, if it stays on its current trend. That's why it's so significant an that's why so many people are being evacuated here, man.

KING: Want to thank all of our people on the scene. They'll be there all night long, Rob Marciano, Gary Tuchman, Anderson Cooper will follow in a moment, Rick Sanchez, Ali Velshi, Susan Candiotti, and, of course, Chad Myers manning the desk in Atlanta.

Before we go, I want to tell you about our web extra. It's a tribute to one of our own, LARRY KING LIVE producer David Theal (ph). David was one of the heroes on 9/11 during the attack on the Pentagon. If you want to see this, go to for my interview with David about that day and see why and our country are so proud of him.

While you are there, check out Reese Witherspoon's guest commentary and download our latest podcast, Michael Moore. It's all at Don't forget about seven weeks to go. Roland Martin takes a look at what really makes people vote the way they do. That's Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 p.m. on CNN. We'll be back at midnight eastern, 9:00 pacific, for a second special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be checking in with our correspondents in Texas for up to the minute reports on Hurricane Ike. And now here's Anderson Cooper in Houston, and "AC 360." Anderson?