Return to Transcripts main page

AMERICAN MORNING

Bermuda Bruised from Hurricane Igor; Dying to Help in Pakistan; Tea Party Gets Religious; BP Has Permanently Plugged Well in the Gulf of Mexico

Aired September 20, 2010 - 06:59   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Breaking news. Bermuda waking up bruised from Hurricane Igor. High winds and heavy surf from the massive storm bearing down on the resort island overnight. The AMERICAN MORNING extreme weather team in place with the latest track and forecast straight ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. Thanks so much for being with us on this Monday, the 20th of September. I'm John Roberts. Good morning.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. This is kind of fun.

ROBERTS: It is. It's great to have you here with us.

CROWLEY: Yes. It's good to be here. I'm Candy Crowley. Kiran has the morning off. We will have the latest on Hurricane Igor in a second, but first, here are this morning's top stories.

A successful seal. BP says it has permanently plugged the well in the Gulf that is almost five months after the explosion that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. More than 200 million gallons of oil seeped into the water.

ROBERTS: She is a Tea Party rock star, but Christine O'Donnell may be rocking the boat with conservative voters that she'll need in November. We're digging deeper on O'Donnell's remarks more than a decade ago about dabbling with witchcraft. Jim Acosta following that for us this morning.

CROWLEY: And a place where saving lives can cost lives -- our Kaj Larsen is embedded with aid workers in flood-ravaged Pakistan. Many of them are no longer willing to help at a time when the need is the greatest because the Taliban is turning them into targets. A CNN exclusive straight ahead.

ROBERTS: We begin the hour, though, with Bermuda taking quite a beating from hurricane Igor. We got a live satellite loop of the storm, the center roaring right past the west coast of the island overnight, missing direct landfall by just 40 miles. Of course, they got the worst part of the storm, that northeast quadrant. The enormous system is generating huge waves, pummeling the islands with powerful winds and driving rain. Trees are shredded, two-thirds of the island has got no power right now. CNN's your hurricane headquarters. Rob Marciano is tracking the storm.

First, though, let's go to Reynolds Wolf. He's live in Elbow Beach, Bermuda. And Reynolds, when you look at the track of that storm, the worst of the wind and waves looks like it hit the southern part of the island, which is where a lot of the resorts are.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, including Elbow Beach, which is directly behind me, which really caught hell yesterday afternoon and certainly during the evening hours and a little bit during the overnight.

We've been following this system, this tropical system since back on September 8th. And the CNN weather alert team has seen this fluctuate in power from a minimal hurricane to a major hurricane. And I'll tell you, within hours of it coming very close to the island, part of the eye wall itself collapsed, and that caused the storm to be fairly weak, only category one as you mentioned, as you mentioned, John. It passed just west of this point.

But still, we're in that northeast quadrant, and that is the thing that helped bring in some of the heavy rainfall. The relentless wind and at the same time that pounding surf.

We've got video to share with you and the rest of America that basically tells the story. The effects of that water coming onshore caused flooding in low-lying areas. The wind, a different factor altogether, certainly one of the contributing factors that caused the widespread power outages across Bermuda.

Some places may not get power restored in terms of weeks. Roadways have been closed. On this specific property here at Elbow Beach resort, we've got trees down, a lot of branches down. We spoke moments ago with the property manager, and he said that although there's been about 70 percent of the beach is now gone due to erosion, they came out just fine, all things considered. Coming with the storm this big, moving this closely, they really did luck out. Let's send it back to you, John.

ROBERTS: All right, Reynolds Wolf for us this morning in Bermuda. Reynolds, thanks so much.

CROWLEY: Rob Marciano has been keeping an eye on Igor throughout the morning. I feel like Igor's been with us for a month.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: He has.

CROWLEY: I'm sorry, I know it's fun to you, but good heavens. Where is he headed now, and when does it dissipate?

MARCIANO: Starting to pick up speed and it's becoming what we call extra-tropical, which means just a northern Atlantic storm. But nonetheless, it's still a hurricane with winds of 75 miles an hour. They had winds gusting to 93 miles an hour on that island of Bermuda.

And even though it's out there in hurricane country, it's such a tiny island, they don't get direct hits very often. They got hit pretty hard last night, though, with sustained hurricane winds for quite some time. This thing's so large it just was just a long-term event. You had tropical storm-force winds, almost over 24 hours long. And that just takes a beating on those trees, and that's why the power is out.

Here is the forecast track. Now we're into the west, getting caught by the jet stream. The same storm that brought some of the rough weather across the northeast a couple of days ago is not picking it up and throwing it out to sea. But tropical storm-force winds possible across Newfoundland, Canada.

And all of those waves are rolling into the east coast beaches. We've got heavy surf likely for the next 24 to 48 hours. And this is our next system off the coast of Africa could very well become our next tropical depression if not tropical storm by the end of today.

We'll talk more weather in just a little bit. Guys, back over to you.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Rob.

ROBERTS: And we're able to e show you some of the best pictures and video, by the way, from the storm from our iReporters. Our iReporters are always faithful in instances like this. If you've got video of breaking news, send it to us at CNN.com/iReport.

CROWLEY: We are following breaking news this hour. A raging wildfire outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. At this point, we've now learned 1,600 homes are directly in its path. City officials in Herriman say it's absolute chaos. The National Guard is helping in the fight. Ironically, authorities believe National Guardsmen firing machine guns at a firing range likely sparked the whole thing.

This video is from one of our iReporters. He's watching as the fire spreads toward his home. The flames are only a few miles away. And the smoke's so thick you can see a haze over the entire valley.

We want to get a handle on what's happening out there. Chief Michael Jensen with the Herriman Unified Fire Authority joins us on the phone. Thank you so much, chief, for taking a few minutes out for what looks like a pretty horrific fire. What happened to it overnight?

CHIEF MICHAEL JENSEN, UNIFIED FIRE AUTHORITY (via telephone): Luckily for us, the fire has gone down, the winds have lessened, and the temperatures have lowered. We're actively still fighting the fire. We have bulldozers that are out causing -- or creating fire breaks as well as firefighters laying down foam and water as it approaches homes.

So what we're worried about is the winds are going to shift with the canyon, the morning canyon breezes. So it's going to push the fire back towards some other homes. And so we're just nervous about that right now.

CROWLEY: And so is that your biggest worry this morning as you fight to contain this fire, the winds?

JENSEN: It is. The winds are what hampered us yesterday. And they're going to switch and have -- they're going to blow in the opposite direction this morning. And so we're worried we've got some homes. The fire did some flanking on us last night. And so we're worried that it's going to come back on some homes this morning.

CROWLEY: And we've confirmed, at least you all have confirmed for us, that four structures were destroyed. Overnight, was there any more damage, or is it basically now burning brush and threatening homes?

JENSEN: Yes, we have the four homes confirmed. We just had them threatened over the night. We actually made some pretty good stops. The winds did shift as a front came through and posed imminent damage on probably 20 to 25 homes. We were able to stop the fire and knock it down before it got to those structures.

JENSEN: Chief Michael Jensen of the Unified Fire Authority out there in Utah. We thank you so much for taking time out. Hopefully we can check in with you again as you try to fight this fire.

ROBERTS: New this morning, freed American hiker Sarah Shourd back home in the United States after spending 14 months in an Iranian prison. She says her home coming is nothing to celebrate because her fiance, Shane Bauer, and her friend Josh Fattal are still behind bars in Iran, accused of espionage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SHOURD, FREED AMERICAN HIKER: Shane and josh do not deserve to be in prison one day longer than I was. We committed no crime, and we are not spies. We in no way intended any harm to the Iranian government or its people, and believe a huge misunderstanding led to our detention and prolonged imprisonment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The remaining hikers' families have requested a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly meeting. Ahmadinejad has proposed an exchange with Iranian prisoners held here in the United States as a humanitarian gesture.

Iran's president is going to be Larry King's guest, by the way, on Wednesday night 9:00 eastern on "LARRY KING LIVE."

CROWLEY: BP says its ruptured oil well nearly 18,000 feet below the surface of the ocean is now effectively dead. Cement sealed the well over the weekend and so far tests confirm its holding. President Obama welcomed the news yesterday but warned there's still much to be done to repair the damage done in the Gulf of Mexico as well as to its shores.

At 7:30, Admiral Thad Allen, the lead commander of the disaster, talks to us about rebuilding.

ROBERTS: To politics now and the Tea Party darling who captured Delaware's GOP Senate primary last week may have explaining to do this morning. Comedian Bill Maher dusted off an 11-year-old tape on Friday night from an old "Politically Incorrect" program, and 1999 was the original air date. And Christine O'Donnell is on it confessing to an involvement with witchcraft.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL, (R) DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I dabbled into witchcraft, I never joined a coven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were a witch?

O'DONNELL: I didn't join a coven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this, you're a witch. You go on --

(CROSSTALK)

O'DONNELL: That's exactly why. Because I dabbled into witchcraft, I hung around people who were doing these things. I'm not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they did. In one of my dates --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to hear about this.

(LAUGHTER)

O'DONNELL: One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn't know it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your first date was a satanic altar.

O'DONNELL: Yes, we looked at a movie and we had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: "The Wilmington News Journal" has a quote from O'Donnell saying, quote, "I was in high school. Who didn't hang out with questionable people in high school?" Karl Rove, though, not satisfied with that response. The former Republican strategist says America needs to know more about Christine O'Donnell.

In 15 minutes time, Jim Acosta reports on the Tea Party and the religious right on the verge of becoming a match made in heaven.

CROWLEY: I still hang out with questionable people.

ROBERTS: Although if it's a satanic altar -- thank you very much. I really appreciate that. (LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: A little joke here. Little joke.

And Lady Gaga is using social media to pressure Congress and bring an end to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gay soldiers. She'll be at a rally in Portland, Maine, today, trying to convince the state's two Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, to vote yes tomorrow on a defense bill that authorizes a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Lady Gaga is using her Facebook page to publicize the rally, thousands of her fans already responding by indicating they like it.

ROBERTS: In flood-ravaged Pakistan, they need all the humanitarian aid they can get right now. But the number of aid workers is on the decline now that the Taliban is making them targets. Our Kaj Larsen embedded for weeks in Pakistan's humanitarian hot zone up next with the CNN exclusive.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: It's coming up now on 14 and a half minutes after the hour. We're back with the Most News in the Morning. And new this morning, terrifying experience for Michigan State's celebrating football team as their coach had a heart attack right after the game.

They had just pulled off a trick play to beat Notre Dame in overtime with Coach Mark Antonio began having chest pains. Fortunately the heart attack was minor and Antonio's doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

CROWLEY: Wow, still scary.

And no timeline for 33 trapped Chilean miners. A third escape tunnel is underway, but the country's president says there's no way to know when or if it will reach them. The newest drill can power through 90 feet of rock every day, but rescuers are moving slowly so its power doesn't also cause a collapse inside the mine.

ROBERTS: Even at 90 feet a day, don't forget, they're 2,300 feet beneath the surface.

CROWLEY: And they've been there -- like, are we closing in on a month or more than a month?

ROBERTS: Yes. They think it's about a month now. But that's still just probably a quarter of the way through their ordeal.

In a country ravaged by catastrophic floods, help is hard to come by right now in Pakistan. Nations are promising millions of dollars in aid, but humanitarian workers have become targets. One Taliban leader hinting that they are considered fair game.

CROWLEY: Sorry, our Kaj Larsen has been bringing us stories from the most remote and dangerous parts of the country. He was embedded for weeks with foreign aid workers and has this CNN exclusive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAJ LARSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's over 100 registered international aid groups in Pakistan. Increasingly, they're taking more and more security precautions.

This is the U.N. It's like a fortress. Armed guards, constantino (ph) wire, walled compounds, that's just the reality of operating as a humanitarian here.

(voice-over): Thomas Conan, a 13-year-veteran and field director for Doctors Without Borders has witnessed the growing threat.

THOMAS CONAN, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: It's true that Pakistan is -- I can't say it's an easy environment. It's a difficult environment for workers to work with. There have been a number of security incidents not only on the workers but on everybody and the civilian population actors (ph).

LARSEN (on camera): But it's not just Pakistan. In conflict zones around the world, aid workers have gone from helpers to targets.

(voice-over): In fact, in the past three years, over 400 aid workers have been targeted or killed around the globe. And now Pakistani Taliban have specifically threatened western aid workers helping with flood relief. Increasingly, aid groups are relying on locals to do the work to lower risk. We met up with Aamir Gamaryani over tea, a local Pakistani who works for Relief International delivering aid to flood victims.

(on camera): Is it safer for you to operate? For you to provide the relief than for the western organizations? Because you're local, you speak the language?

AAMIR GAMARYANI, RELIEF INTERNATIONAL: Yes. If (INAUDIBLE), they would be very attractive target.

LARSEN (voice-over): With Aamir, I looked at some of the damaged flood areas and talked security.

(on camera): What is the biggest concern for aid workers?

GAMARYANI: Well, I think it's the image of Pakistan, which has lived to a quite a confusing situation. The people are afraid that when they will come they will be harmed.

LARSEN (voice-over): And in fact, during our time with Aamir, when we did actually run into some foreign aid workers, they were accompanied by armed security. Protection the locals often do without.

RUTH FABER, MSSION EAST: We've been working for 12 years in relief and development, and I can definitely say that when we started if you're a relief worker, you had a certain amount of protection.

LARSEN (on camera): So why is the humanitarian space shrinking? What makes it so difficult to be an aid worker these days?

One theory is the blurring of the lines between traditional military and humanitarian operations. As the military becomes involved in more and more humanitarian ops around the world, the difference between a soldier and an aid worker is becoming fuzzier. (voice-over): Increasingly in Pakistan and other conflict zones, militants perceive military and aid workers as one in the same, the enemy, which increases their risk as potential targets.

CONAN: A relief being provided, protected also with weapon. Of course, it's participating to these blurring of lines.

LARSEN (on camera): A Pakistani military base in Singh (ph) Province are about to go on a humanitarian aid food delivery mission with the U.S. Marine Corps.

(voice-over): The ongoing flood crisis is a perfect example. The U.S. military is directly engaged in humanitarian operations in Pakistan.

CAPT. JUSTIN PITCOCK, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I mean, I've never seen anything like it. Water world is what somebody else called it.

LARSEN: As we completed this military aid mission, I thought about the challenges facing traditional aid groups.

FABER: The risks to come to actually help people to stand alongside people and communities who have lost so much is something that we're willing to take.

LARSEN: In countries like Pakistan, doing good has never been more dangerous.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Let's bring in Kaj Larsen. He is with us here in New York this morning. Humanitarian workers, we were talking about this during your piece. They used to be off limits. What's changed?

LARSEN: Yes, that's absolutely true. It used to be that having a Red Cross plus on the side of your -- on the side of your vehicle almost acted like a de facto bullet proof vest and you can practically drive through a fire fight. What's really changed is the perception of aid work as not being neutral anymore. And so more and more increasingly so, aid workers are being targeted in conflict zones. Pakistan was a perfect example.

CROWLEY: And if you were -- your sense in this particular area that is in Pakistan in these remote villages that this is also quite political. It probably goes without saying that the Taliban doesn't want western forces in there helping people.

LARSEN: Yes. That's absolutely true, Candy. The Taliban wants to be perceived as the group that's aiding people who are in need. And so any western aid workers, they already have an agenda for targeting them. Now wanting to be perceived as the helping ones in the region, this just increases the risk again.

ROBERTS: You know, you were in there with Team Rubicon, a group of ex-military who it's kind of like the A-team that goes into humanitarian crises the world over and does what a lot of NGOs can't do. Because of their military background, were they a particular target from the Taliban? Or did the Taliban not want to mess with them?

LARSEN: I'll tell you, John. What Team Rubicon did is increasingly what all aid organizations have to do, which is that they have security procedures and operational security procedures, offset procedures to protect themselves. And whether you're with the U.N., whether you're with Doctors Without Borders, what you're finding increasingly is that the aid has to be accompanied by a massive security apparatus. And again, this has the perception of contributing to this idea that they're not neutral actors.

ROBERTS: Right.

LARSEN: It's hard to deliver food when you're surrounded by armed guards.

ROBERTS: All right. Kaj Larsen, great series of reports, and welcome back.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good to see you this morning.

Coming up, will the religious right join forces with the Tea Party to pile on Democrats in the midterm elections? The view from this weekend's Values Voter Summit just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CROWLEY: To the Most Politics in the Morning. Just over six weeks until the midterm elections and conservative voters are reading the tea leaves.

ROBERTS: The rise of the Tea Party Movement, which carried Christine O'Donnell to victory in the state of Delaware is raising the prospects of a powerful political alliance. That was on display this weekend at the Values Voter Summit. Our Jim Acosta is following that for us. And he's live in Washington this morning.

Hi, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning guys. You know, they had one of those straw polls that they often take at these conferences, political conferences. And check this out. Look who won at the Values Voter Summit this weekend. Indiana Republican Mike Pence won over Mike Huckabee who won last year. And what's interesting about Mike Pence is that he not only has the support of Christian conservatives, but the Tea Party Movement, which is something that we saw on display this weekend sort of a joining of forces, if you will, of these two political movements that can certainly do a lot of damage when it comes to winning elections.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): For conservatives, it could be a match made in political heaven. The nation's growing Tea Party Movement joining forces with the religious right.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Would you like to alter your Congress?

ACOSTA: In years past, the Values Voter Summit staged this weekend in Washington was a haven for social conservatives. But the speaker scheduled this year was packed with Tea Party rock stars. That, say the summit's organizers, was no accident.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think there's a natural alliance between social conservative voters and the Tea Party voters. In fact, I think if you were to poll people here, 99 percent of them have been to a Tea Party event.

ACOSTA: Such an alliance would combine as values voters who helped George W. Bush win two terms with the nation's fastest growing political movement. Republican leaders in Congress like Indiana's Mike Pence see the potential.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: We've seen since the days of Ronald Reagan that when we are united around a commitment of fiscal discipline, a strong national defense, and traditional moral values, that's when we experience the most success and we have the most impact on the life of the nation.

ACOSTA: Conservatives point to Delaware's Republican nominee for the Senate, Christine O'Donnell, as the perfect hybrid candidate for both movements. She's embraced by the Tea Party and social conservatives.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: They call us whacky. They call us wing nuts. We call us we, the people.

ACOSTA: But O'Donnell will have to explain to values voters what she meant when she said in 1999 that she experimented with witchcraft.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: I dabbled into witchcraft. I never joined a coven. But I did, I did --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute, you were a witch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she was a witch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were a witch.

O'DONNELL: I didn't join a coven. I didn't join a coven. Let's get specific.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ACOSTA: But there are some Tea Partiers who aren't ready to join forces. They insist their movement is simply about getting the nation's fiscal House in order.

AMY KREMER, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: We've been very successful and we are focused completely on the fiscal aspect of the economy. We're not focused on the social issues.

ACOSTA: Others at the summit argued Tea Partiers and Christian consecutives were already a natural fit. Take this mother and daughter. Laurie Slough worries about the national debt.

LAURIE SLOUGH, VALUES VOTER SUMMIT PARTICIPANT: I mean I lose sleep over it at night sometimes. I really do.

ACOSTA (on camera): You lose sleep over the national debt?

SLOUGH: I do. Yes. I'm serious. I really do.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Her mother Fay says she's a Born Again Christian who doesn't believe President Obama is honest about his own faith.

FAYE HARDIN, VALUES VOTER SUMMIT PARTICIPANT: I'm a Christian, he touts all the time. But when you get down to his actions, he elevates Islam, and he suppresses Christianity. If you want to say death to America, vote Democrat.

ACOSTA (on camera): You really believe that?

HARDIN: Absolutely.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: We should point out the president and his family did attend church on Sunday, a Christian church. And the question in the end about these two movements joining forces, in many ways, they already are. The question isn't whether or not they're going to come together as a single political force. The question is whether or not they can win. And getting back to Christine O'Donnell and her comments about witchcraft over the weekend, John and Candy, I just want to let you know I did play Dungeons & Dragons in high school and if I'm not mistaken, I think I still have the 20-sided dice somewhere. So, you know, please don't hold it against me.

CROWLEY: I think if you're not playing now, you're fine.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Jim.

Just ahead at 7:40 Eastern, we're going to talk with Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence about winning that values voter straw poll and what it might mean for his future.

CROWLEY: And great news for the gulf over the weekend. BP says it sealed the leaky well for good. We have the lead commander for the gulf oil spill, Thad Allen, just ahead to tell us the bigger question about the damage that's been done. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: We're crossing the half hour now. It's time for this morning's top stories. Hurricane Igor ripping up trees, knocking out power on the island of Bermuda overnight. Residents report enormous waves crashing under roads. The center of the huge storm passing just to the west of Bermuda's coastline. Dangerous rip currents, a big threat now at beaches from Florida all the way up the East Coast to Maine.

CROWLEY: They are battling hard this morning to bring a wildfire under control in Utah. Authorities believe it started when national guardsmen were practicing with machine guns. Now an entire mountainside is on fire. And residents in more than 1,600 homes have been told to get out. So far, no one's been hurt.

ROBERTS: And good news from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, BP says it has permanently capped its ruptured oil well. Tests confirmed that the cement seal from the weekend bottom kill operation is holding.

It's been nearly five months since the first drop of oil spilled following that deadly explosion in the gulf. Admiral Thad Allen is the man who has been overseeing the efforts and the one who ultimately pronounced the well dead. He joins us now from Washington.

Admiral, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for joining us. You know, there has been so much mistrust in the gulf both of BP and of the government.

What assurances, Admiral, can you give people along the gulf coast there that this well is, indeed dead? It's the last we're going to hear from it?

ADM. THAD ALLEN (RET.), NATIONAL INCIDENT COMMANDER FOR GULF OIL SPILL: Well, John, we followed a very deliberate process. And, in fact, we stretched the time line out to make sure we did not take any risk at all that the well integrity would be compromised and that we did everything possible to make sure there'd be no hydrocarbons or oil flowing into the gulf. There still is a plug and abandonment process that will be done by the Department of Interior that will basically totally blank the well out. But as of yesterday when the pressures held on the cement plug that was put in by the relief well, we can consider this well dead.

ROBERTS: Are we any closer, admiral, to knowing what happened here? BP says when they tapped into the well, with that relief well, they found that there was no oil or gas in what's called the annulus, which is the area surrounding the well casing. It's the pipe that's put down. So it's between the well casing and the surrounding rock. There was no oil. So they say this wasn't a well design problem. Do we know what caused it?

ALLEN: Well, I think the joint investigative team which has been paneled and as you know now, they have the blow-out preventer and other evidence will have to determine that. I can tell you that we did not know the condition of the annulus, and that's always been the big question mark. And that was the reason we need to come into the bottom with this relief well. But you are right, there were no hydrocarbons in the annulus.

ROBERTS: So if there wasn't any hydrocarbons again in what's called the annulus, is that an indication that it all came up from the bottom? Didn't come in from the side like some analysts had speculated?

ALLEN: Well, there are a lot of theories and the investigative team is going to have to figure that out. A lot of people would tell you further down in the well, there was some kind of a crossover between the annulus and the casing pipe down below where it was cemented. But I'm sure we're not really going to know that until the investigative team has finished their work.

ROBERTS: So the well is dead but the response goes on. As of Friday, there was still 2,600 vessels out there, 2,500 people working on clean-up operations. How long, admiral, is that process going to go on?

ALLEN: Well, it's going as long as it takes to get the marshes and the beaches clean. We have detailed plans that we've negotiated with the states and the parishes in Louisiana. But to determine, if you will how clean is clean, and in some areas, we're going to stay with this for quite a while. The marsh areas in Barataria Bay, for instance, (INAUDIBLE) down by south pass, still have oil in them. We still need to work on it.

And some of these places we're going to just have to negotiate, we agree there could be nothing further that can be done, then we'll say that's it. But right now, we're still at it.

ROBERTS: Admiral, of course, big questions about the long-term effects of this oil spill and what they will be. Samantha Joy who is a researcher from the University of Georgia says they have found in the area around the well and to some degree an area extending out from the well that there is oil that has settled into the sea floor. It's actually buried itself as much as two inches into the sediments.

NOAA is somewhat disputing those findings saying "hey, there's lots of oil around the gulf of Mexico. It might just be that. No indication it's from the well" What do you say to the claims that there's so much oil in the gulf that it has actually settled into the sediments of the sea floor and could be affecting the ecosystem there?

ALLEN: Well, John, I don't think we can know too much about the Gulf of Mexico and the presence of hydrocarbons in the water column. Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of NOAA and I have been working very, very closely together over the last several months to develop a long term sub sea oil monitoring plan that we can not only use for the recovery and the response that we're doing right now but also long- term restoration.

What we really need to do is harness all the resources of the federal government and the state and local institutions, including academia and build a database that can tell us more about the gulf. Right now, the readings we're taking don't show large concentrations. But really talking about microscopic particles of oil. We really need to understand better what's happening on the sea floor and that's what our intention is right now to actually do testing out there.

ROBERTS: And Admiral, BP has left open the possibility of drilling into the Macondo Reservoir again. Certainly there's an awful lot of oil beneath the sea floor there. But the question many people might have is after what happened with that well, is it a good idea to try tap back into that reservoir?

ALLEN: Well, I think whether they tap back into that reservoir or not will be something between BP and the Department of Interior. That's a policy decision. Frankly, it's above my pay grade. But I do know that through the joint investigative team and the reviews that are going on, not only deep sea drilling, but the response itself, there'll be a high level of assurance that will be taken by the government before any decision is made.

ROBERTS: What's your personal sense of it after being so involved this long? Should they go back down there?

ALLEN: Well, I think we've got a lot of problems with energy in this country related to fossil fuels and the need to move to other types of fuels, and this will have to be a very balanced discussion taking into account all the risks associated with that and also the need to basically have an energy policy moving forward as we transition to more environmentally friendly fuels.

ROBERTS: All right. Admiral Thad Allen for us this morning. We should mention that admiral, you're with this until October 1st, and then you're transitioning to public life?

ALLEN: That's correct.

ROBERTS: Or private life, I should say.

Admiral, great to talk to you this morning. Thanks so much.

ALLEN: Thanks, John.

CROWLEY: He wouldn't like this, but he's become quite the diplomat since going down there.

ROBERTS: Yes.

CROWLEY: Coming up, though, we have Mike Pence. He is the people's choice, at least some of them. The Indiana congressman was a surprise winner in a presidential straw poll at this weekend's convention of Christian conservatives. He joins us next. 37 minutes past the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: 20 minutes now to the top of the hour. We're back with the most politics in the morning. The Republican field for 2012 is already crowded. And this morning, there's another name to consider. That of Indiana Congressman Mike Pence.

CROWLEY: He won a presidential straw poll at the Values Voter Summit this weekend. A meeting that in the process raised some questions about the marriage of the Tea Party and traditional Christian conservatives.

Congressman Mike Pence joins us now from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Congressman, thank you so much.

What are we to make of your victory?

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Well, obviously, you know, when my family and I were walking out of Purdue state game on Saturday and we got the text message that we prevailed, we were honored by it and the confidence expressed by people there, and we were humbled, but our focus really remains.

And I think the focus of the people at the Value Voters Summit remains on November 2nd. I mean, we'll let the future take care of itself. But I think if anything connected to people last week, it was more the message than any particular messenger. And it's that the American people want to see this congress come back to the common sense and common values of the American people.

ROBERTS: Congressman, there's some question this morning as to how the agendas of Christian conservatives and the Tea Party mesh with each other. I know that you're a person who has gotten support from both sides. But the Tea Party by and large hasn't really put moral issues at the forefront of its activism. It's been about fiscal conservatism, smaller government. Can those two things live comfortably together? Or might the focus on moral issues, abortion, gay marriage not sit well with what the overall issue of the Tea Party message is?

PENCE: Well, John, I think - you know, I hear that media narrative. But I got to tell you from when I was one of the folks leading the battle against the Wall Street bailout and then saw the emergence of the Tea Party movement that is still very much in full force today, I got to tell you, I've never seen the bifurcation.

The people that are coming out the Tea Party rallies, the town hall meetings, they're tired of runaway federal spending under both political parties. They're tired of the deficits, and the bailouts, and the takeovers. But they also, in my experience, embrace the broad main stream values of the American people, the commitment of the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage.

So I think, you know, I think it's a bit of an artificial distinction, these are every day Americans, many of whom have never been involved in politics before who are stepping to the forefront. Yes, they're concerned about spending, but it's not just about getting spending under control. It's also about just getting back to common sense and common values.

CROWLEY: Congressman, a question about Christine O'Donnell, the Republican choice for Senate out of Delaware, I'm sure you know that a new clip has come to the forefront showing her saying, well, she dabbled in witchcraft during high school. She's kind of pushed back and said, "listen, who of us didn't hang around with questionable people in high school?" But there have been other things out there about student loans and how she makes a living.

Do you have any misgivings about O'Donnell as a candidate?

PENCE: Oh, gosh. Look, you know, it's really something when Bill Maher becomes the vanguard of religion in America, isn't it? I mean, welcome to the silly season. Look, you know, you ask me about last weekend and, you know, I don't think it was about me. I don't think Delaware's about Christine O'Donnell. I don't think Alaska's about Joe Miller as much as it's about the message.

And I know there'll be this nitpicking and attempts to take things out of context. Certainly she has some explaining to do about that to her voters in Delaware. But at the end of the day, what's bringing people out and I think what's creating a momentum for what could be real change in America is that the American people are tired of the borrowing, the spending, the bailouts, and the takeovers, and they're just looking for men and women that are willing to stand up and be counted and take on the establishment.

ROBERTS: Congressman, you said that Bill Maher is now the vanguard in the silly season. Obviously, Bill Maher is having fun with this, he's a comedian. But other establishment Republicans have rung in on this too. Karl Rove again yesterday very critical of Christine O'Donnell, saying that she's talked about a lot of "nutty things," calling her background "checkered." And he said "There are serious questions that have been raised about Miss O'Donnell's background, character, statements, and previous actions.

You said that she needs to answer to the voters of Delaware but do you have any questions? Or are you fully comfortable with everything you know about her?

PENCE: Well, look, I don't vote in Delaware. Christine O'Donnell, I think --

ROBERTS: But at some point you might have to work with her.

John, I think she was right yesterday to focus on communicating with her voters in Delaware about what she said on that. Again, I think we're in the silly season here. I think we're going to continue to see efforts, whether it's in Florida or in Alaska or in Nevada or in Delaware, or here in Michigan, where we got people like Tim Walberg, a strong conservative, fighting to return to Congress from Battle Creek.

Look, you're going to see an effort, I think, by the left in this country to change the subject to personalities away from the subject of the message, which is we've got to get this economy moving again. We've got to get spending under control. And that will require sending people to Washington, D.C. that have the courage to stand up to the status quo and to put our fiscal House in order. CROWLEY: Congressman, a question about Alaska. We have Lisa Murkowski, the sitting senator, a Republican, who Friday said I'm going to run as a write-in. She, of course, was defeated by a Tea Party candidate in her bid for reelection for her own seat.

Do you think that she has basically by splitting the Republican vote -- hasn't she just handed Alaska to the Democrats?

PENCE: Well, look -- I don't think so. I think Joe Miller will still do fine up there. It feels a little bit like last night in the Colts/Giants game when that Giants player just threw his helmet into the stands.

Look, Senator Murkowski, I've got a lot of respect for her, but look, the voters spoke in that primary, they chose a principled conservative in Joe Miller to be their standard bear and I expect he's going to be going to the United States Senate on November the 2nd.

CROWLEY: Indiana Congressman Mike Pence. I clearly need to watch more football.

Thank you so much for being with us.

ROBERTS: Good to see you this morning, thanks.

PENCE: Thank you, Candy.

ROBERTS: Still to come, Rob is tracking the latest on hurricane Igor. The storm kicking up dangerous rip tides up and down the East Coast this morning. His forecast coming up right after the break. 13 minutes now to the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Seven minutes now to the top of the hour. Back with the Most Politics in the Morning. Crossing the political ticker this morning, President Obama making a direct appeal to a crucial voting bloc.

CROWLEY: Our senior political editor Mark Preston is live in Washington.

Good morning, Mark.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, good morning, Candy. Good morning, John.

Who says the White House isn't engaged in the midterm elections? Let me just tell you a little bit about this story. An underreported story this past weekend. President Obama appeared before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, it was their awards ceremony. But he had a political message for them. He said you need to get out and vote. Go home, talk to your constituents, go to the barber shops, the beauty shops, the churches, and tell them that we have work to do. It's no surprise and look, everyone understands that President Obama needs to rally the Democratic base, especially African-Americans to help Democrats in the midterm elections.

Moving on Candy made news yesterday on her show, "STATE OF THE UNION." Lisa Murkowski who was the Republican nominee or the candidate up in Alaska, she was supposed to win nomination again. However, she lost to the Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. She's going to run as a write- in candidate. And she told Candy yesterday -- perhaps we can talk about it on the back end - that she was the victim of a smear campaign by Tea Party activists.

Closing it out, Lady Gaga is getting political. That's right. The pop star is heading to Portland, Maine. She's holding a rally this afternoon to try to pressure the two main senators to support the idea of ending ""Don't Ask, Don't Tell"," a very crucial vote on that issue in the Military happening this week in Congress -- John, Candy.

ROBERTS: So Mark, are we expecting there to be a big fight in the midterm elections on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"? Because Mike Pence, from Indiana, who we talked just a little while said earlier he thinks there needs to be a united front against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Now you've got a very popular pop star up there in Maine putting pressure on Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to repeal it.

How is this fight going to shape up? Will it be a major issue?

PRESTON: I think it's going to be a major issue for Republicans to try to energize their base, especially social conservatives. They talked about it this past few days here in Washington, D.C., John. They need to get their voters out. For Democrats, it's really not that big of an issue. For most Democrats I should say, John. However, for Democrats in the south, in the Midwest, it could be a little bit of a polarizing topic. We'll see what happens if Democrats can get the 60 votes to overcome this Republican filibuster in the next couple of days -- John.

CROWLEY: Mark, there has been a lot of talk about whether, can this marriage survive between the Tea Party and the Republican Party. Your sense is it depends on what Republican you talk to here, particularly coming off that values voter summit.

PRESTON: Yes. And you're right. Let's look at the two trains of thought at this point. Is it about the economy, or is it about social issues? It's about the economy right now, Candy. The fact of the matter is voters are energized, they are angry. People are out of work, the economy is still in a depression. But will these social voters try to turn it to their way. So we'll see what happens, Candy. It will be a fight past the election.

ROBERTS: Mark Preston for us this morning. Mark, thanks.

We're going to check back with Mark in the next hour. And for all of the latest political news go to our web site CNNPolitics.com.

Top stories are coming your way in two minutes. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)