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Analysis of Response to Spill; Interview With Rep. Melancon

Aired May 30, 2010 - 11:00   ET


CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. This is a special edition of STATE OF THE UNION.

We were warned that it might not work, and it didn't. The so- called "top kill" procedure failed. The company said the next step is lower a cap over the damaged well. Preparations already under way for that which is expected to happen in the next few days.

But BP and federal officials also acknowledge that the only permanent solution to stopping what is now the largest oil spill in U.S. history is to build underwater relief wells. That process is also under way but will not be completed until August at the earliest.

We want to go back to find David Mattingly, who is in New Orleans.

David, you have been all over the place. I want you just to give me an overall description of what you've seen.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, what we've seen, especially lately, is BP and the Coast Guard coming out every day to explain what they're doing that day. There were no signs of encouragement. And as the days went on with the top kill procedure, it was becoming clear that they were running into things that they did not expect.

They had it all planned out on paper. They were making their plans based on what they were encountering as they go, every step, so to speak, into uncharted waters. And they finally reached a step where they decided there's too much oil coming out of this, we can't counteract that oil.

And now BP, very careful to say that they made this decision to stop the top kill, along with government officials, making sure everybody knows this was a group decision to move on. And what we're seeing as a result, this huge disappointment that's resonating throughout Louisiana, because this was BP's best chance to stop this flow of oil.

And now that the top kill has failed, we're taking a step back. A step back in the sense that this new procedure that they're working on, this cap that they plan to put on top of that leaking pipe, is a plan to capture most of this oil, but not all of it. When they put that cap on, they say they're going to be able to capture what they hope to be most of the thousands and thousands of barrels leaking out of that every day. They hope to capture that, but there's still going to be some leaking into the Gulf of Mexico.

So this disaster is going to continue. We're going to continue to have crude oil leaking into the Gulf. Again, that is a huge disappointment to everyone here who hoped that this top kill would bring an end to the oil slick so that they could just deal with what they have there. But it's going to continue to go on now.

CROWLEY: David, have you been able to sort of do a check -- I know you've been down there for a while. How has the evidence this oil spill changed over time? Is it every day getting worse, or does it seem to sort of stay because this is kind of ongoing? I know some of the oil is under water, some of it is on top.

Has it changed a lot?

MATTINGLY: Well, what has changed is the evidence that's coming ashore. Every day, there's new oil coming ashore either in the form of a sheen, or in tar balls, or in some heavy crude that's been coming here, hitting the shores of Louisiana.

About 100 miles of coastline have been affected here. Every time there's a new layer of sheen, every time there's new sources of tar balls, there's a new sense of outrage.

There was a great deal of promise and a great deal of anticipation that came early with this, that all that activity on the water, the dispersants, the skimmers, all the activity out there, would somehow be able to protect them to some degree. But now every day they look at evidence of coming ashore that all the best plans and all the best efforts are not being enough to save these protected areas.

We heard the president speak earlier, just a couple of days ago at the White House, talking about how he gets it, how he understands about what this means to the people here, because he grew up in Hawaii, where the oceans there are considered sacred. Well, here in Louisiana, the wetlands are considered somewhat sacred.

This is the source of their income, their livelihood, their culture. This is the source of the most productive fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

And then, about a week ago, we see this patch of heavy, heavy crude showing up in the marshes, right where it wasn't supposed to be. That was a huge emotional and political turning point where the pressure continues to ratchet up and is continuing to go up today.

CROWLEY: David Mattingly all over the story for us.

Thank you so much.

I know the camera is going to sort of pan out here, because I want to bring in Congressman Charles Melancon of Louisiana.

Congressman, I have to tell you that when I heard the news that this latest effort had failed to plug this leak, I thought of you first, simply because I think one of the most defining moments helping America understand what's going on and what it means to Louisiana was when you were in that committee hearing and broke down talking about what was happening to your state.

I want to know what your reaction was when you heard about this latest failure.

REP. CHARLES MELANCON (D), LOUISIANA: Well, my heart sunk, first reaction. The second reaction, is, knowing the people of this region, knowing the people of this state, I'm sure it was a setback for them. But they're the kind of people that are resilient. They've showed that, they've demonstrated it.

And this morning, like me, we're going to get back up, see what's on the plate going forward, figure out what we need to do. Those that are fishermen and others that are out in those marshes are going to be back out there continuing to put the boom out, continuing to try and protect what's so sacred and important to them, and do the best we can, and hope that at some point in time, sooner rather than later, this well is capped, this well is plugged.

CROWLEY: I know you need the well to be plugged so people can start really dealing with the leak. What do you most need that you think the federal government can deliver that you don't have?

MELANCON: Well, that's the frustration. I can't think of anything that the government can do.

We don't have supply vessels, drilling rigs, mud engineers. We don't have -- what we need right now, of course, is boom, from a standpoint of giving the people here in Louisiana the hope that they can boom out the areas that are so important to us. I guess if I've got to say what they can help us with, that's the primary thing right now. But primary to everybody, the nation, the world, is getting that whole plug, getting that thing tightened down so that we can then deal with whatever oil is out there, rather than having continuing flow of more oil coming.

CROWLEY: And finally, Congressman, I want to, for me -- and I have Donna Brazile here and Joe Johns, and they want to talk to you as well. But I want to -- you are running for a Senate seat against Senator Vitter at this point. And I want to play you something that he said to me this morning, because they think we may have found an area of agreement here. The subject is BP.


SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: I'm not satisfied. There's been failure, particularly with the effort to protect our coast and our marsh. And that was the biggest topic of discussion in a very frank meeting we had with the president on Friday. BP is paying for all of that, but that's really the federal response to oversee and leave that effort to protect the coast and the marsh. And it's been a failure so far. And we explained very clearly the significant changes that we think need to happen.


CROWLEY: I have to believe that you agree that BP has fallen quite short.

MELANCON: Yes, I have. One of the things that I'm optimistic about, having dealt with and worked with Thad Allen after Katrina, he's a matter of fact type person. He's direct, he's blunt, he's respected. He makes decisions quickly and then acts on them. And that's some of what we needed here.

I think in the last week, we've seen a better communication link between our local officials and the BP/Coast Guard unified command. As a matter of fact, he's gone to where he put a body person on each parish official to make sure that they didn't have any reason why they couldn't communicate on an hourly, daily basis, their problems and their concerns.

So, we're moving good in that respect. I'm encouraged by Mr. Allen being here, Admiral Allen being here. And I hope that that will make the land action and battle move forward and get better.

CROWLEY: Congressman, I want to bring in your fellow Louisianan, Donna Brazile.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, good morning, Congressman. How are you doing?

MELANCON: Hello, Donna.

BRAZILE: Well, I wanted to ask you --

MELANCON: Good morning. I'm doing fine.

BRAZILE: Good morning, sir.

I'm familiar with your district, as you well know, Houma and Chalmette and New Iberia. I want to talk to you about the air quality, of course, whether or not you're getting the kind of help you need from EPA. I know Lisa Jackson is heading down there this week. But in terms of sampling the water, ensuring that everything is safe, the seafood, are you getting cooperation from the federal government on those issues as well?

MELANCON: It's getting better, Donna. One of the problems we've had is there was some indication the Stafford Act ought to be invoked for this, maybe some problem areas in there, because of the clause that deals with an intentional explosion or act. And this wasn't intentional act. At least I wouldn't hope that it wasn't.

But at the same time, having worked with Kathleen Sebelius' agency, we are now getting a mobile unity, a mobile unit, that will be down in Plaquemines, on the ground, Tuesday. We've worked through details because of the laws that we had to work around and get that done.

Air quality, I'm told that I think EPA has some frustrations. Supposedly, there's air monitoring, water quality monitoring going on. But I'm told or hear that we are not seeing those reports from BP. And so, therefore, I'm going to encourage Lisa Jackson to engage directly.

Behind me is the NOAA vessel that I understand will go out and start taking those depth soundings, or depth check on water quality as far down as they can go. And it's pretty far, I understand.

CROWLEY: Congressman Charles Melancon of Louisiana.

We really want to thank you. All kinds of things to think about down there. We know you are on top of it. Thank you so much.

MELANCON: Very much. Thank you.

CROWLEY: When we come back, the former head of Shell Oil will be here to tell us what he thinks should and should not be done in response to the oil spill disaster.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to our extended coverage of the oil gusher in the Gulf.

This is a very familiar picture now, unfortunately, to all of us, that is live, ,and that is what it looks like after the failure of something called "top kill." The BP executives had hoped that they could somehow stop this gusher with heavy mud, followed by concrete. It didn't work.

They called it off. They are now working on lowering a small cap onto that. They hope to contain some of it.

Thank you and welcome back.

Joining us now from Houston, Texas, is the former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister. He is also author of the book "Why We Hate the Oil Companies: Straight Talk from an Energy Insider."

Mr. Hofmeister, if we didn't hate them before, certainly we are getting there now.

Let me ask you, as you look at what's going on with BP, what it is dealing with and what it is not dealing with. Where are they falling short, or is it everywhere?

JOHN HOFMEISTER, FMR. PRESIDENT, SHELL OIL: Well, one of the things I do say in my book, Candy, is people have a hard time imagining the size, the scale, the magnitude of what happens with these oil companies and the wells that they drill. Now we see playing out in front of us the largest oil spill in the history of the country.

I think that we are still relying upon old techniques for the control of the surface oil. I think we have to change our mindset, put a new paradigm in place. And instead of dispersing and burning and booming, what about collecting? What about collecting that oil, setting up a row of barges, a wall of barges with high-volume pumps, or use of supertankers that could drift back and forth in the sea, sucking in huge volumes of, yes, water and oil, but get the water off the sea to start with?

We don't seem to be going in that direction.

CROWLEY: Could you take the oil off the sea, obviously with water, cleanse it and then put the water back in?

HOFMEISTER: Yes, that's what could be done. In fact, there was a spill not reported because of the location off the Saudi coast back in the early '90s, larger than this spill, from what I'm told, where a flotilla of supertankers did just that. They would take the oil off the surface with water, dump their load on shore. Clean the water, send it back out to the Gulf, and get the oil out of the water that way.

CROWLEY: So, if the Saudis can do it, and it seems like an obvious thing -- you know about it -- why has this not occurred to BP?

HOFMEISTER: It's been presented, and it's presented to the Coast Guard. This is where I'm concerned that we have something called NIH, not invented here syndrome, because this is a different paradigm. This has never been done in the United States before. There may be arguments against it which I'm unaware of, but we've been asking for either a thumbs up or a thumbs down for weeks now, and it hasn't happened.

CROWLEY: So you think, essentially, ,we don't want the Saudis to come here and clean up what we can't?

HOFMEISTER: Well, I think we could acquire the supertankers. There are supertankers sitting out in the oceans that are full of oil, waiting for a place to go. Buy them out, buy out the oil, rent those supertankers, equip them with the piping that they would need to float along the ocean, sucking in that oil.

It would not be cheap. It would not be logistically easy. But I believe that under the circumstances we have now, ,with the failure of top kill and the failure of junk shot -- and the containment may work, maybe the containment will be helpful. But there's still a lot of oil out there that I would hate to see drift ashore or be forced ashore through a hurricane some time, let's say, in June or July.

CROWLEY: Would that also work for oil that's beneath the surface? Because we're led to believe there's kinds of layers of this, so you sort of see there'll be water, and then there's oil, and then there's more water and then there's the top. So, could you get other layers? HOFMEISTER: It's my understanding that you can attach pipe to pipe to pipe to go down to some depth. The depth would have to be dependent upon the power of the pumps and the motors driving those pumps in terms of how deep you could actually go given the weight of the water. But those are very powerful pumps on a supertanker, so you could go down quite some depth, I believe.

CROWLEY: Mr. Hofmeister, I want to bring in someone who has just joined us, Fran Townsend, who knows a thing or two about things being invented somewhere else.

And you laughed when he talked about if this is just something that was not invented here, NIH.

Is that a familiar --

FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is, Candy. And unfortunately, as we were talking during the break, this is one of these -- we are our experience. And so, what is the most recent experience with a catastrophe of this size, especially in the Gulf? And that was Katrina.

Thad Allen came in when the Coast Guard and Katrina had been the first responders. And these wonderful pictures, and he came in and solved it.

TOWNSEND: What it looks very much like is the U.S. government is playing the playbook from Katrina. That's the biggest catastrophe they know, and this is a very different catastrophe.

In Katrina, Thad Allen was directly in command of all the assets. He's not here. He's sort of removed.

They talk about directing BP, they talk about being in charge -- that is, the federal government -- but they don't really -- we see they don't get information in a timely way. They are not getting -- they weren't, in the beginning, getting all the data they really required on the science of this. And so, they need to come clean with the American people and really be honest about, we don't have the capability, and be open to these new ideas that we are hearing here today.

CROWLEY: Mr. Hofmeister, BP is not being helped by this, so one has to assume that they want this stopped and they want this cleaned up every bit as much as we do. So, what accounts for what seems to be a total lack of even the thought that one of these deepwater rigs could catch on fire, explode, and somehow affect what they were pumping and put it out into the waters? Why was there no apparent effort for somebody to kind of think forward, how would we handle this?

HOFMEISTER: Well, you raise a good question. But after 40 years of experience and some 35,000 wells, the industry has relied upon the blowout protector as the fail-safe mechanism and the contingency plan on top of any other contingency.

What we have to find out in this case -- and the "60 Minutes" show a few weeks ago suggested that somehow, that blowout protector below the Deepwater Horizon was damaged. If it was damaged, drilling should have stopped. All activity should have stopped to either repair or replace that blowout protector.

I don't know how many other contingencies you can create. Obviously, the best minds in the world would go to work on that. But with 40 years of history and no blowout heretofore, but perhaps evidence that this contingency plan had been compromised, I'm worried about the implications -- and I say this in my book -- for the long- term history of oil production.

There's another issue which is also very important. Why are we in the deep water with all that risk in the first place? We're there because the industry is not allowed to drill in shallow water, which is much less risky, based on government policy.

The last 30 years, the industry has been basically forced into the deep water because it's there. And the western Gulf of Mexico has been tolerated by Texas and Louisiana as a source of oil.

So, we keep going deeper and deeper. We could be in shallow water today with zero risk.

JOE JOHNS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Hofmeister, it's Joe Johns here in Washington.

One of the questions I have is, based on the information we now know, including some which is on the front pages of the newspapers just this morning, why on earth would an oil company continue to go forward knowing what they knew, presumably, for the last year or so, that there was a problem here? Why would they keep going?

Is it just a simple profit motive, or what do you think?

HOFMEISTER: Well, I just penned an op-ed for a group of Canadian newspapers in which I say that it's my belief that, when all is said and done, what will be revealed in this case are serious human factor failings. The equipment was first rate. There's nothing bigger or better than the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The steel is steel. The equipment is the equipment. How come it didn't work is going to have to be looked at in terms of the judgments that people made, the level of communications and honesty around those communications, the decisions that led to taking the mud out, the cement job which may have been botched. Those are all human factor, not equipment factor.

And if we look at the long-term evolution of the industry, and how we continue to supply ourselves with oil, we can control for all the mechanical systems. That's the easy part. The hard part is the human factors.

JOHNS: But if there's a guy who says we've got to pull the plug, is that guy going to lose his job given all the money BP can lose?

HOFMEISTER: Well, if BP was worried about losing money over an extension of the drilling rig, they're losing a whole lot more because of poor judgments that may have been made.

CROWLEY: Mr. Hofmeister, let me bring in our Fran Townsend. As you know, was a national security aide to President Bush and is now a consultant with us. She has a couple questions.

TOWNSEND: Mr. Hofmeister, you know, we've talked a lot about BP, but, you know, it seems to me that when the license was granted for this very risky drilling proposition, as you note, where was the federal government in ensuring that there was contingency planning -- you know, capability -- in addition to the blowout protector? And frankly, why wasn't there practice and training, together with the government, for a potential catastrophic event? HOFMEISTER: Well, I think the catastrophic event and the mindset of -- both mindset of the industry and the government really ended at the blowout protector because of its fail-safe history. And beyond that, I don't think there had been much scenario creation to, what if the blowout protector failed?

I think the MMS has been trashed unfairly. My experience with MMS was as a tough regulatory, very determined group of professional people. Maybe they had some cases that I don't know about that were problematic, but as the procedures are laid out and signed off by company and by government, if people are doing their jobs, the equipment is basically up to the task. But if people don't do their jobs effectively and well, maybe they didn't have experience, maybe they had a bad day.

Pilots fly into the ground not because they choose to, but they made a mental calculation error. The Polish president died because of perhaps human factor.

So I don't blame the MMS. I don't blame the industry. I'm really looking deeper into what went wrong with the people involved in this case.

CROWLEY: John Hofmeister is the former president of Shell Oil Company. He's written a book.

And we want to come back and talk to you more, but we will have to take a quick break.

And we'll be back.


CROWLEY: We're going back to Louisiana now and bring in Democratic strategist, as well as CNN contributor, New Orleans resident James Carville.

Back with us here in Washington, Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, Donna Brazile; CNN's national security contributor, Fran Townsend; CNN correspondent Joe Jones; and in Houston, Texas, the former president of Shell Oil, John Hofmeister, who is also the author of the book "Why We Hate the Oil Companies," which brings me to James.

James, you know, I tell you, so much of what has been sparked, certainly as far as the president's outward demeanor, his getting down to the Gulf, I think was sparked by both you and Donna, who really embodied the rage. I cannot imagine and would like to hear what you thought when you found out this latest effort to cap the oil gusher failed.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Profound depression. And now we're dealing with -- we have to calculate, because BP says that they will have a relief well drilled in August, so we know that's a lie. Let's just kick that out immediately and assume October, if we're lucky. So, how much more of this is going to be filling the Gulf between now and October? What's going to be -- what are we anticipating, and what is our strategy for dealing with this volume of crude that we're going to be dealing with in the northern Gulf? That's the first thing that we have to do.

We've got to deal with this not the way it is today. But they're not going to -- I hope they do, and I hope, you know, try number five, that works.

But we have to assume that everything they've tried has not worked, everything they said is a lie. And that's the only assumption that you can use when you're dealing with somebody like BP. And I hope that we have a strategy and a plan to deal with that as soon as we possibly can.

CROWLEY: And how do you feel about the president's reaction over the past couple of days? Do you see an improvement in terms of the administration's involvement, in terms of the president's attitude that you once called lackadaisical?

What do you think now?

CARVILLE: You know, I said what I had to say. I thought it was necessary. But after the events of yesterday, me fighting with the White House is petty.

And I think the president came down, and I like what he said. I want to be supportive. I love my state. That's my number one priority here.

And, you know, I mean, I'm in a cease-fire mode right now. I just want to get a strategy.

I want the president to address the nation, to tell them how vital the Louisiana coast is to the country, and the amount of resources that have been extracted from us, and who he has in place and what's going to be our strategy, how much oil does he anticipate that is going to be dumped into the northern Gulf? What does he thinks the consequences are?

I want the best scientists, the best research, the best planners, the best everything. We need an utter long-term commitment.

People down here are fearful. We love our culture. You know, and maybe other people don't under that.

I've often invited on CNN for Mr. Axelrod to come down and see what it is and our emotional connection with each other, and with our marsh and with our land, and what it means to people here. And the fear that Louisianans fear very justifiably, that they've been abandoned in 1955.

The federal government has taken $165 billion of revenue out. The oil companies built canals that they never -- destroyed the wetlands. Our sediment has been dammed up on the northern Missouri River. Our levees were built shoddily. And our response to Katrina was not anything it should be.

Everybody in Louisiana knows for a fact if this would have happened off of Nantucket or Palm Beach, it would have been an entirely different reaction. And, you know, we've just had enough.

We're just not going to take it anymore. We're not going to be used. We're not going to be abused. We're going to stand on this one, and we're just going to stand in.

The people are very, very, very afraid, but they have a real sense that -- well, they know BP would abandon them, but a real sense that everybody would like to just get out of this mess. And we're going to keep in it, and we're not going to move, and we'll just resolve it.

CROWLEY: James is in a semi-cease-fire mode. But he brings up something that I need you to explain to me, Donna, because I don't get it.

I don't under why Louisiana thinks -- why James clearly thinks that had this happened in a different coast, up the East Coast, instead of New Orleans, that the response would have been different. We heard this in Katrina, too. And I just don't think that's true. I think I see government incompetence, not neglect of an area.

BRAZILE: No, Candy. I think the experience of many residents in the state of Louisiana was that people waited, that they waited for Louisianans to somehow or another walk off their roof into 10 feet of water into some dry land.

What we saw, the federal response and that of even the state response and the city as being not just incompetent, but that people didn't care. It is our feeling that the country does not understand --


CROWLEY: Do you think they would care more in West Virginia or --

BRAZILE: I don't think -- we believe that the country doesn't understand how important the region is to the nation, the vitality of the nation, the petrochemical products, the seafood industry, the economy itself, one of the largest ports in the country. We are vital to the success of America. That's what we feel, and we don't think the country understands that.

CROWLEY: Fran, you were there --

CARVILLE: Candy, I'll tell you, I think you're a smart woman, Candy. I think you're a smart woman. But I don't think -- you have to come down here and see what they've done to our wetlands. We lose the size of Manhattan every day.

What has the country done about this? You have to go see the canals they've built in our wetlands, the $165 billion that they've taken away from us. You'd see the shoddy levees they built.

You don't think they'll do that anywhere else. The country feels like it is entitled to abuse this state and forget about us, and we're sick of it.

And I want you to come down. I think you're a good person, I think you're a smart person. I want to get you and show you what's happened to us, what they have done to us.

And you know good and well, we had -- on a rival network, somebody said, "Well, if this thing hits Pensacola Beach, that's going to be a real tragedy." They don't produce anything off of Pensacola Beach. We are the highest quality seafood are in the world.

CROWLEY: Let me bring in Fran Townsend on this.

CARVILLE: Come down and let me show you what they've done to us.

CROWLEY: I absolutely -- and you know I've been there many times. And I take your point about things that have been done that are awful to one of the biggest treasures in the country. I guess where I fall off is the idea that somehow that kind of neglect wouldn't help elsewhere, in West Virginia or elsewhere.

But let me bring in Fran Townsend.

Because you were there for Katrina. You heard the same things.

It is a very deep feeling in Louisiana. We heard it when we went down there several weeks ago. People thinking we feel like we are not even seen as U.S. citizens.

TOWNSEND: Yes. And it is -- in the aftermath, when I was looking at the Katrina lessons learned, what did we understand after the fact about this tragedy, I went to the parishes. I met with the parish presidents, where this feeling is raw.

It was -- and it continued to be raw, even in the wake of Katrina. And so I'm not surprised by how James and Donna feel.

It is -- interestingly, Candy, to your point, if we don't have the ability to cap a well at 5,000 feet, it doesn't matter whether that well is off the coast of Louisiana or that well is off the coast of Palm Beach. We still lack the capability.

But it makes no sense -- I can tell you as a former federal official, as a former assistant commandant of the Coast Guard, to fight this feeling you've got to be willing to wade in there. The president waited too long to go the first time. And while I think administration is frustrated that they're being criticized, they needed to be talking and absorbing some of this, and dealing with the emotion in that area from day one. And people are frustrated that that wasn't happening from the very beginning.

CROWLEY: And clearly, what James is talking about here is decades and decades of resentment about -- it isn't just, all of a sudden, oh, they're not paying attention to the oil. He's talking about so many things that happened a long time ago.

And I want to continue the conversation. I'll get to Joe.

We're going to take a quick break and we're going to carry on with this.


CROWLEY: Welcome back to our extended edition of STATE OF THE UNION, where we are talking about the ongoing crisis, catastrophe, almost not a word big enough to explain what is going on here.

Fran Townsend, Joe Johns, Donna Brazile, James Carville, John Hofmeister still with us from Houston, the former president of Shell Oil Company.

James, I keep making you angry here. I know you don't want to talk about this is just the past. I'm just saying that it started a long time ago and continues. That's what you're talking about.

CARVILLE: Right. Yes. Yes.

Every year, we're losing land. We're losing land as a result of action by the rest of the country. And every day, every hour we speak.

And we're going to lose the mouth of the river. I'm almost certain of that because of this. And boy, the consequences of that are just breathtaking and staggering for the rest of the country.

And I'm sorry, Candy. But this would have happened in Nantucket, their response would have been, well, gee, we sent the deputy secretary of Interior up there. They would have moved the whole government.

I really believe that. And there's not a single person in Louisiana that doesn't.

CROWLEY: Including Donna Brazile, who's been taking some incoming e-mail, because there's a lot of resonance to what James is saying.

BRAZILE: Well, most people echo James' sentiment in terms of his fair share. I mean, Mary Landrieu is fighting just to get some of the oil revenue that we've earned, the country is earning. They get the royalties. Louisiana just wants a part so we can go back and clean up our wetlands and we can protect our marshlands.

I'm also hearing from people from Mobile, ,Alabama, from Pensacola, Florida. They feel neglected as well -- Biloxi, Mississippi. This will also impact their coastal areas, impact their economy, their livelihood, and they want James to fight for them as well.

JOHNS: The thing that's interesting about this is, whether you look at parts of Louisiana, some other places that don't have so much money and feel like they don't have so much power, I think of West Virginia. I think of southeast Washington, D.C.

There are places in this country that people consider, if they live there, sort of a dumping ground, where the government sends the very worst because they know these are people who are not going to have the power to really sue them, to really take them to task for what they do. They do whatever they want -- this is the sense -- and then they go away and leave those people abandoned, as James says, to fend for themselves.

So, there's this real sense of anger that grows in communities that don't think they have power to do anything about what a corporation does. And if government isn't standing for them, it's a huge problem.

CROWLEY: Fran, this must all sound really familiar to you.

TOWNSEND: It does. And while I come back to this notion where the federal government says we're directing the response, well, that's not true.

We see that -- it really is BP that's running this response. The federal government, half the time, doesn't even have accurate information. But there is something to addresses James' concern that the federal government can and must do, and that is be the advocate for the residents of this area with BP. They have to change the conversation and make it clear that they are on the side of American people, they are on the side of the residents of this region in advocating and fighting for them with BP to do the right thing.

And frankly, the Coast Guard and administration, we've seen them begin to shift. But the admiral in charge, Admiral Thad Allen, has got to stop saying he trusts Tony Hayward because he answers his cell phone, and has got to start being the guy who has beaten BP to get them to do the right thing by the people of Louisiana.

CROWLEY: I want to bring John Hofmeister, the former president of Shell Oil Company, who has written a book about "Why People Hate the Oil Companies." And I think we have a pretty good indication of why here.

But two questions. The first, Mr. Hofmeister, is, do you buy into the premise that Joe Johns just talked about, which I think is actually pretty widely held, that the poorer the area of the country, or the less power it seems to have, the more big oil -- and the government -- but big oil will take advantage of that, because these are not people with deep pockets who can go after the oil company?

Do you think that's a fact?

HOFMEISTER: Well, it's a very important assertion. And I think the reason I wrote the book was really to get the battle royale that we have between the energy industry and the government and the people of this country, get that behind us.

Lord knows we need energy, and the more domestic energy we can produce, the better off we are. But the notion that the oil companies and the government are in cahoots, no, they fight each other all of the time. That is not in the best interest of the American people.

We need to understand how complex all of this is so that we can go forward on a 50-year program that settles all this once and for all, including fix the wetlands in Louisiana.

CROWLEY: And quickly, if you could, I want you to try to reassure James and Donna and other Louisianans that it is possible to clean up what is happening now and what will happen in the weeks ahead. Is that technologically possible?

HOFMEISTER: If we could stop the oil from coming on shore, as I described, it would be a head start. Over the history of time, it does take time, but oil can be cleaned up. It's not fun, it's ugly. But more importantly, we need a major, major program to restore those wetlands, even after all of this is done.

CROWLEY: John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil Company.

Thank you so much for joining us today.

We only have a few minutes left in this hour. We will be back with our panel after this.


CROWLEY: We are back and concluding this hour with our excellent panel.

James, I want to end up with you and ask you this -- over the past week, where has James Carville found hope?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, the hope is, like, in people. And we've weathered a lot of things. And I found hope and a really sense of resolve down here that this time we're not going to allow it to happen to us. And we're going to really bond together to make people pay for enormous, enormous crimes that have been committed against our people.

And I love -- you know what? This is a place of hope. This is just a wonderful place.

I wouldn't -- my wife and I were talking, and the only regret we made is we didn't move here sooner. And we've got a lot of work to do, but we're going to figure this out.

CROWLEY: You are hearing behind James a sound very familiar to him, the riverboat.

James, hang in there. I'm going to come down and tour the place with you, I promise.

Donna, final moments?

BRAZILE: Louisianans, the people of the Gulf, are the most resilient people in the world. My hope lies in the people, but my prayers are with those workers out there today to cap it, to contain it, clean it up, and then help us compensate the losses, and to clean up our coast.

JOHNS: My hope is that the story gets out. There's a lot of reporting that suggests that either federal, state government, people are interceding from time to time to try to keep media people from getting all the pictures and showing how bad it really is, showing what's happening there. My hope is that people will leave us alone, let us do our jobs, and get the story out to the country, however bad it is.

CROWLEY: You know, Fran, this is a horrible pun, I don't mean it to be, but it does seem to me that in this deepwater drilling, we are truly out of our depth, that somewhere along the lines it never really should have started. Except for it started with the people who didn't want to look at the oil rigs.


FRANCIS: That's right. And, look, the failure of top kill is now a tragic opportunity both for the people in Louisiana and for the federal government.

It's time to stop saying you're directing -- for the federal government to stop saying we're directing the response, we're in charge, and actually command it. They need to come in there and they need to deploy technologies like Mr. Hofmeister talked about to clean up that oil. Get the supertankers in there, because people want to see action.

They're sick of speeches and pressers where information is wrong or it's inaccurate or it's not complete. They want action. And this is an opportunity now for the White House, if they're frustrated with the criticism, to turn this story around and really take command of what is a burgeoning tragedy.

CROWLEY: Donna, are there things too big for the federal government?

BRAZILE: I don't think so. I agree, the federal government should take command. But also, I just want to say something.

When those insurance companies made people grovel for their money after Hurricane Katrina, that was the most insulting. It's bad enough they had to wait, but to make them grovel for their money -- I hope BP does not make those fishermen, those communities grovel for the resources.

This is shrimp season. Unlike most Americans, winter, spring, summer and fall, we have shrimp, oyster, crab and crawfish. This is sour livelihood, but this is also the livelihood of American, because we provide so much seafood, so much culture, so much petrochemical projects.

Give us the compensation. Stop cheating us, stop shortchanging the Gulf Coast.

CROWLEY: And I think what we're getting here, Joe, is -- quickly -- this is about culture as well.

JOHNS: It's absolutely about culture, but for the people at BP and anybody who's interested in this, the most important public relations thing they can do is get rid of the spill and start cleaning it up. I mean, that's the bottom line.

CROWLEY: Thank you all very much. Really appreciate all your input.

Coming up at the top of the hour, more of our coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including a conversation with BP's managing director, Bob Dudley.