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John King, USA

Gulf Oil Spill; Peter Sagal Interview

Aired May 28, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf. BP tonight says it needs another 24 to 48 hours before it can say for sure whether its "top kill" procedure will work. Yes, you have heard that before. That's what BP said last night and the night before last. The company insists there are some signs of progress. That it is doing everything it can but that it just needs more time.


TONY HAYWARD, BP CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: And we're doing everything we can to stop the damn leak and we're going to continue do everything we can to stop the damn leak.


KING: BP also says it is trying to do a better job sharing information but there were yet more examples today of some government officials saying the "top kill" pumping was under way only to find out later it had been suspended. It has been 39 days now and President Obama was in Louisiana for a firsthand update, walking an oil-stained beach, meeting with Gulf state governors and making a promise.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here to tell you that you're not alone. You will not be abandoned. You will not be left behind. The cameras at some point may leave. The media may get tired of the story. But we will not. We are on your side and we will see this through.


KING: The president was on the ground for about five hours. Was it enough to satisfy critics who say the federal response has been too slow? The commander in chief, perhaps, too detached. James Carville, Mary Matalin our eyes and ears on the front lines in their adopted hometown of New Orleans.

James and Mary, let's start tonight with the BP. They say they're doing all they can. They say it's an incredibly complicated operation. It must be incredibly frustrating to every day at this hour hear we need 24 to 48 hours more, we need 24 to 48 hours more. What is the level of frustration? And I guess the level of trust or mistrust, when it comes to what the company's telling us?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, I don't -- the one thing I do believe, the only thing that BP says that I believe is, is they want to close the damn hole. I believe that. Other than that, I don't believe a word that comes out of their mouth. But that I do believe -- I think everybody wants this hole closed.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, but you know, your first impression is the lasting impression and the bevy of bad communication at the outset and the things that they promised and not delivered they just got to earn back a lot of trust, so there's the trust would verify his very special significance here. And the boot that we're talking about on their neck it has to be a Jack boot, Jack hammer, Jack, chain them to the ground and they have to do what they're obliged by law to do.

CARVILLE: Absolutely. I believe they want to close the hole. I'll give them that, nothing else. Not another thing, but I'll give them that.

KING: You expressed concern, both of you did, James, you were quite blunt about it saying that you were afraid there would be a show put on when the president came to town, they he go to a clean place. That they would sanitize the place, that what he would see was not the truth. There were even one report, Chris Roberts, the Jefferson Parish councilman, who claims there have never more than a dozen workers at the beach where the president was today, but that BP shipped in 300 to 400 temporary workers. Do you know anything about that?

CARVILLE: Yes, you know, honestly, John, I was giving a commencement speech at LSU Law School in Baton Rouge today so I haven't been following this as close as I should. But I want to say this. The clip that I just heard what the president said, I view that as a very, very positive statement. That's the kind of thing that I think people want to hear. Now that we've heard it, we have it and it's our job here in Louisiana and in the media to be showing it as follow-up.

But I commend the president for that statement. Whether it's for show and whether they did this or that, I don't know. I suspect it might have been. But if that statement is made and he follows through it on, that's a significant gain in what we need here in Louisiana.

MATALIN: Yes, John, those -- those words, I promise you, we will not abandon you, you're not in this alone, I give you my word, those are words that mean something here and they did hit the mark down there, I'm told. People were satisfied with that. Those are words by the way --


MATALIN: They were offered up by James yesterday. So while James is trying to help this president, those White House weenies are attacking him in "The Washington Post" who will never be half as smart as James on their best day and his worst day. So they should try to help the president the way James has been trying to help the president. This is not about bashing Obama. This is about getting attention to the problem. So he said the right thing today and he had the right body language. He had his arm around the mayor of Grand Isle and he -- whether or not it was for show, the words mean something. They're going to hold it to him now with the satisfaction of the words they want to see the action.

CARVILLE: Well my wife and my daughter said that because the White House is attacking me, but it's OK. If we got the right result, it doesn't matter. That's the thing that counts. And I like what I just heard in my ear what the president said. And now we've got to just make sure that follow-up happens.

KING: Well let's listen a little more about the substance of what the president said, then I want to -- I do want to follow-up on this politics part because they do not like it sometimes, when they get criticized and you both know that -- (INAUDIBLE) Democrats are doing (INAUDIBLE).

Let's first listen to more of the president though where he made a promise he will not forget but he also was pretty candid I would say in say, look, this is going to take a very long time.


OBAMA: They're not going to be silver bullets or a lot of perfect answers for some of the challenges that we face. Understandably, the feelings of frustration and anger, the sense that any response is inadequate is -- we expect that frustration and anger to continue until we actually solve this problem.


KING: We've talked about this for a couple of days now, the governor says he needs this and it takes days if not weeks to get an answer. They're looking for more booms and it takes days, if not weeks to get there. In terms of the feedback from your friends and from the political community, in terms of the response, getting answers, is that getting better? They say they've tried to flat line the decision making process, put the decision making as they say in military speak, at the tip of the spear.

CARVILLE: Well I think they've only said that yesterday, so I mean we've got to be a little fair here and give them some time to see if it's better. And again, I want to commend the president for saying that it's going to take a while. We know that. That's the real sense and that's the real fear in Louisiana, is that we're always abandoned.

And he's saying that he understands this is going to take a long time and he's not going to abandon us. And again, I commend that. That's what I wish we would have heard but we're hearing it now and we're grateful for it.

MATALIN: You know, and they will follow the actions and they will keep making a lot of noise about this. We'll keep making a lot of noise about it. The good first step was to give them two percent of the berm, the sand berm that they wanted, then telling the state they'd have to pay for the rest. We shouldn't have to pay for anything.

BP should have to pay for everything. Ed Overton from LSU was on earlier I believe with Wolf, he's saying look, our Defense Department, we have resources to bring in these skimmers, bring in things from outside that when we have weather like this today that it's calm you can suck up this oil, bring it in. There's a way to move action. We'll be able to see quickly if he meant what he said.

CARVILLE: Right. They're words. All right let's don't give them (INAUDIBLE) they're words, but -- unlike yesterday, at the press conference, I've got to tell you, that was -- that was not that impressive. These words ring to me as much better and I'm happy for him and I'm grateful for the president for uttering those words.

KING: James and Mary are going to stand by. We'll take a quick break. We'll continue our conversation about the president's visit, about BP's recent statements and about the progress of lack thereof in the "top kill" operation, the operation designed to try to stop after 39 days the flow of oil. So far not the results BP had been hoping for. Stay with us.


KING: We're back with James Carville and Mary Matalin down in New Orleans; also joining the conversation is our CNN contributor Ed Rollins. He is in New York. I want to stay for a moment on the president's trip and some of the political fallout from it.

You mentioned, Mary, just moments ago that James was criticized by some officials in the White House, some of them friends of his, of course, for being so blunt in saying that the federal government wasn't doing as much as it should, as fast as it should. Here's what your senator -- your Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu told the "Politico".

She said quote, "the president has not been as visible as he should have been on this and he's going to pay a political price for it, unfortunately." She went on to say that if he personally steps up his activity I think that would be very helpful. And Senator Landrieu and the president did get some time together down there.

I guess first to the looking forward, has the president quieted, at least for now, that criticism, and to the second point, you know, why did they get so angry, I guess, when people who are in positions of power and influence just ask for more?

CARVILLE: Well, you know, one of the things and most of the people will say, you know thank you for speaking up for Louisiana and that's true, that's what I'm trying to do. I don't like -- it's uncomfortable -- I voted, I contributed to the president, I support many of his policies and it's uncomfortable, I don't like doing it. I don't like -- I think David Axelrod is a really, you know, quality person, a fine guy, and I understand -- and I would be irritated if I was in the White House.

I completely understand that. I completely would expect -- I would expect that. But you know the thing is, is let's just take this day and we've got some reassuring words and let's go from here. But I -- you know we've got to just stay on this. We're never going to get up. It's not going to be a time when Louisiana is going to take it anymore; we feel like that we have been abused. We've been -- we've not been treated fairly. And we're just not going to take it anymore and you know and this president probably started out acting like every other president would have acted before him but this is something -- this is different down here. The feeling down here is different.


MATALIN: Can I -- can I add to that? Ed and I have been in the White House. You don't like to get criticism from the outside. But when someone in your party as smart as James is and has contributed as much as he has to the party you should listen to him. And I know for a fact he and others of his (INAUDIBLE) were calling and saying this is real, get on it. This is urgent. This is a real problem. And when Ed and I were in the White House and we would get calls like that we would not go shoot the messenger. We'd say -- we'd consider the source and say we better listen.

CARVILLE: Yes, I can assure you that I just didn't tee off one day without like talking to people before you know --

KING: Ed, jump in --

CARVILLE: And I gave people warning.

KING: Ed, jump into the conversation. As you do I want to show people a tweet from Mark Knoller (ph). He's a CBS Radio correspondent at the White House. He's a historian of sorts at the White House and Mark Knoller (ph) tweeted this. "This is Obama's second visit during 39 days of the crisis. During Katrina, plus 39 days President Bush made seven visits to the disaster zone."

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And I think the bottom line is that President Bush was widely criticized for not taking action and probably began the unraveling of his administration --


ROLLINS: -- the competency things was the issue. I think the president the last two days has done what he needs to do, but I think (INAUDIBLE). Part of the problem is you don't have any big players down there that anybody knows. I mean you have the secretary of interior and you got the secretary of energy but nobody knows who they are. If I was running this White House I'd pull Rahm Emanuel back from Israel and I'd tell him to stay down there until this thing is fixed and people would feel much more confident.

KING: I want you guys to listen to some of the changing tone from BP --


KING: I want you to listen to some of the changing tone from BP because they have been facing a lot of criticism that it's taking so long, that the environmental impact is so bad, that the "top kill" operation -- they keep saying we need more time, need more time. About 10 days ago Tony Hayward, the CEO, said the environmental impact would be very, very modest. I want you to listen to a very didn't tune this morning when he was on CNN.


HAYWARD: This is clearly an environmental catastrophe. There is no two ways about it. And all I would say is that in terms of the estimates, the initial rate was a government estimate, these rates are a government estimate.


KING: So, Ed to you first, then to James and Mary, he's saying now it's a catastrophe but then he's also saying but don't blame me for that first comment because (INAUDIBLE) the government's numbers.

ROLLINS: Well it wasn't -- it wasn't the government's number. They're the ones that are on -- they know this well better than anybody. It's what they do for a living and I think to a certain extent they were trying to mislead, as they were earlier. I think today everybody knows it's a disaster that you get to -- you watched it on this film for three or four days now and all you see is this stuff coming out of the ground.

You see oil, today it's all mixed with mud, but I think people watch this and they just have great sympathy for these poor people that are there whose livelihood is at stake and I think what James said yesterday he should be applauded for not criticized for.

KING: James and Mary, help us out as we go to this -- into the weekend here, day 39. Just your sense, do you get a sense that things are getting better? That things are more coordinated, that people have a sense they're about to turn a corner or is just like treading water?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, you know, we've got -- the president came down today, I think we had a good day. I didn't think yesterday was that great a day. I think today he said the right things and let's hope that we got -- one of the things -- the president needs to address the nation and he's a very smart man, and with a John King kind of graphics and a map explain exactly what's going on in the coastal Louisiana, how valuable this is to the country, how much of our oil and our seafood and what the coast (ph) is like and why he's committed to that.

He needs to use his skill as a communicator. He's a very smart guy. He's (INAUDIBLE) Harvard (INAUDIBLE). He can explain to the nation about how these marshes work and why this is such an insidious thing and why it's so necessary to the country. He could do so much in so little time and you know, if he did that, and he sent you know somebody like Rahm or somebody else down here that would be great. He doesn't need to come visit every week, but he's got to tell the nation why he's directed his energy and the nation's resources toward this precious, precious, fragile land and these precious, precious wonderful people down here. That's what he's got to do and he can do that. Please do that, Mr. President.

MATALIN: No, John, there's no sense of turning the page. People's -- they don't know what tomorrow's going to bring. These people live off the land and this is the high season and there's anxiety and there's uncertainty. And that's not going to even be assuaged if things start happening.


MATALIN: You cannot forget this is going to take a long time and they need help now. Catholic charities is doing a lot, Second Harvest (ph) is doing a lot, but this is -- this is dire for those people on the coast.


CARVILLE: Congressman (INAUDIBLE) said it so true, I've never seen people down here as concerned and almost as scared as they are now. The storms, we understand, we live with that. We understand it. People are really, really scared and they're really, really afraid that they're going to be abandoned. That's the great fear down here. And that's what we're trying to fight against.

KING: James and Mary, we appreciate your help tonight and all through the week. It's a difficult time down there. We'll talk to you on the other side of the weekend. Guys, please take care. Ed will be back with us a later in the program as we explore another breaking political story today. Finally, finally some of the details, but not all of the details of that job offer from the White House to try to get Congressman Joe Sestak to drop out of the Senate race. He, of course, didn't, but we'll break down what we know and still the questions we have when we return.


KING: No matter where you live somewhere nearby this weekend you'll find a Memorial Day tribute to the men and women of the military who have given their lives in defense of this nation including the thousands who died in Afghanistan, in Iraq. That brings us to "Make Your Case", our way of bringing you into the conversation.

Every Monday we ask a question then give you all week to post an answer at our Web site This week's question should there be an Iraq war memorial here in Washington like the memorials honoring those who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam? Here's a sampling of your answers.


THOM BURGER, LAUREL, MD: Veterans go wherever they're told to go. So I don't think they should be any less remembered even though it's a controversial war.

ROHAN KHUNTE, AUSTIN, TX: I think a memorial would be a good way to just show our appreciation or just like show them that we remember them and their sacrifice.

SHEILA LOWERY, LOUISVILLE, KY: They need to be remembered and to be honored for their service to their country.

MEL BRADLEY, FLORIDA: I certainly believe there should be an Iraq war memorial for all of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen who perished in their duties overseas and Washington would be the most appropriate place for it.


KING: Here's something else you could do this Memorial Day weekend. Take a moment, go to It's our new interactive tribute to the fallen. The men and women who have paid the ultimate price in Iraq and Afghanistan -- for example, Sergeant John Kyle Daggett (ph), he's from Phoenix, Arizona, 21 years old, you see his picture here, you can also see much about his family and they can upload.

If you know John, you can upload something here, like his sister did, here's a picture here, the war mud on his face there and his sister writes down here, she hopes her brother Kyle is remembered for his amazing personality, his determination. Kyle always treated others with respect and class. He gave everyone the time of day. He put his family first.

You can do this -- as you look -- come back to the screen here. You can look here, you can go into Iraq and Afghanistan. You can look at your hometown. There are any number of ways you can retrace the history of these heroes who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if you know one of them you can upload your own IReport like Kyle's sister did.

We also hope you tune in Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern for a JOHN KING, USA special "Home and Away". Among the remarkable stories of courage and sacrifice, the Army Chief of Staff, General George Casey who lost his father in the Vietnam War, talks in very personal terms about what Memorial Day means to him.


GEN. GEORGE CASEY, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I was working here in Washington and there was a "Washington Post" with his picture on the front page saying that he had been killed. And that was my first knowledge that my dad had been killed.



ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: One of the best things about Friday is, wait, wait, don't tell me, there's a weekend right after it and that includes a quiz show hosted by my next guest. NPR's Peter Sagal is here to go "One- on-One". One of my favorite things Peter about this week, I think it's my favorite thing, is the return of Bubba. I covered Bill Clinton for a long time and when he left the White House I thought OK well he's gone now.


KING: What a mistake it was to ever think that.

SAGAL: It's been like a hole in your heart and now he's back. He completes you.


KING: It has been a hole in my heart. One of the things we learned today is there's been this whole saga, did the White House do anything wrong in trying to get Joe Sestak to drop out of the Senate race in Pennsylvania. It turns out they enlisted Bill Clinton --

SAGAL: Right.

KING: -- former president as the middleman saying hey you don't want to do this, and the White House can take care of you with an advisory position or something. Will we ever be rid of Bill Clinton?

SAGAL: I hope not for reasons similar to yours. To me the scandal here maybe is that for the first time maybe in his whole life Bill Clinton failed to seduce somebody into something. Has that ever happened? Can you imagine him standing there going what's wrong with me? Have I lost my game?

KING: He's probably sulking --

SAGAL: He's really sulking --


SAGAL: Could you explain to me because you're a political guy, what is wrong with that? Apparently the Republicans are saying that a politician asked another politician to do something for him in exchange for something else. Is that bad? Is that a crime?

KING: There is a possibility. Now the White House says they have scrubbed this every which way --


KING: -- and there's no crime because it's not a paid position and it was not a quid pro -- I'll call it a quid pro do (ph) --

SAGAL: Right.

KING: That it was just a hey you know maybe you want to do this instead and you can continue to serve in the House. But the Republicans think "A", it doesn't look great and, "B", some of them think it crosses the line, but we'll leave that to the lawyers.

SAGAL: But if that's a crime, if that is even an ethical violation don't you have to put barb wire on the Rayburn office billing (INAUDIBLE) politics?

KING: I think we would have to go back to George Washington and convict them all --

SAGAL: I know --


SAGAL: And I've noticed that one of the things that the Republicans are saying is they're saying well the problem is -- they said -- that was my indignant pose -- the problem is that Obama promised he'd change the way business was done and he hasn't. Look at him. So basically, their accusation against Obama is he's as bad as we are.

KING: Yes, he's a politician.

SAGAL: Damn him, you're supposed to be better than us.

KING: That was the whole point of it --


SAGAL: And now look.

KING: All right here's another -- Bill Clinton also comes up when people are looking at President Obama --


KING: -- and saying does he have this empathy for the Gulf Coast thing down --

SAGAL: Does he feel their pain --

KING: Does he show his anger?


KING: Ed Rendell the governor of Pennsylvania, a very colorful politician in his own right, said "if Bill Clinton was president he would have been in a wet suit you know --

SAGAL: Right.

KING: -- trying to get down to see the spill".

SAGAL: Yes, so Obama's supposed to go down, he's supposed to bring a diving bell (ph), he's supposed to bring a big cork and his angry face and he's supposed to frown, frown, seriously. I find this a little strange in that it seems as if the news media seems far more concerned with his showing the appropriate emotion than him actually accomplishing anything.

Nobody expects him, as you say to cork the well. They just want him to be more angry about it. And isn't that -- isn't that to search for a word pointless? I mean the oil doesn't care how angry the president is. The --


SAGAL: -- well. My environment has been destroyed, but at least the president was emotionally exercised and it dies (ph) happy. I just don't see that happening.

KING: Here's one thing that did make me a little mad. I try to keep emotions out of the business, but we had the COO of BP on the program --

SAGAL: Right.

KING: -- and asking him how "top kill" is going, the operation to try to plug this up, and they disclosed that they had stopped and they had stopped for a period of about 16 hours, which they said they had to do for one reason or another. But they didn't tell anybody. They didn't tell anybody and we're all watching this live feed, is it going to stop, is it going to stop, is it going to stop? Here's how Doug Suttles explains it.


DOUG SUTTLES, BP CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: We need to probably do even more to tell people what's occurring. You can imagine, to some degree, we're probably guilty of focusing so much on this operation.


KING: They're probably guilty.

SAGAL: They're probably guilty. They're probably guilty. They're definitely guilty. They're just not used to you knowing about it. I mean, these guys have been going about their evil business in the oil business for years and nobody cares and now all of a sudden, now everybody's watching their oil spill on live TV. It's apparently one of the most popular Web feeds there is.

KING: All right, ready?

SAGAL: Ready.

KING: It's our turn. We turn the tables on you. We're always rude to our guests here. And we're going to see. You did pretty good last week, we're going to see how you do this week. Here it is, question No. 1.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Which closely-watched election over the past four months actually garnered more votes than the 2008 presidential election?


SAGAL: Oh, lord. I actually know about this, because I have a wife and three daughters and they're really into this. "American Idol," of course. I just want to say, I'm on team Crystal. I think this is a travesty. I think this is a scandal. I think there needs to be a recount. I think the Supreme Court needs to get involved. And I just think that, you know, bowersox. These are in fact I'm calls these my Bowersox, I'm -- these are in fact, I'm calling these my Bower-socks in her honor. They're nice. They're just...

KING: I'm not sure she'd appreciate that or not.

SAGAL: She'd really appreciate it, but anyway.

KING: All right, we'll give you a try. That's good. You got one right -- 500 million votes, by the way, that's a lot of votes. Somebody makes a lot of money off of that, I suspect, too. Here we go, let's try your hand, question No. 2.


BLITZER: Bill Nye the "Science Guy" was on this program earlier in the week talking about the oil spill. He compared the consistency of the drilling mud to which kitchen product?


SAGAL: Oh I heard about this. Bill Nye the "Science Guy," a tremendously nice guy, he's been on my program. He once told me, which I remember this, he said breakfast is the rudder of your day.

BLITZER: The rudder?

SAGAL: I don't know what that means, but I've enjoyed it. So, he -- I remember he compared -- let me guess -- we know that the drilling mud is thick, it's like a milk shake. Did he compare to a milk shake? Did he compare it to Marshmallow Fluff mixes with Coca- Cola?

KING: No. I might try that, though.

SAGAL: Did he compare it to tuna casserole? I don't know. I'm going to give this up. I don't know the answer.

KING: Cornstarch.

SAGAL: Cornstarch?

KING: Cornstarch. He did a great thing, he had cornstarch in a pie plate and he showed us how the consistency...

SAGAL: Did he wear a bowtie?

KING: He did.

SAGAL: You just got to love that.

KING: He did. When you come back next week do you promise to wear a bowtie? SAGAL: I do.

KING: All right, Peter Sagal, think you very much.

SAGAL: My pleasure to be here.

KING: Still a lot more to come including our off-beat reporter Pete Dominick with the perfect question for New Yorkers. Should the president be more rude and more impatient with BP?


KING: Quick dose here of tomorrow's news tonight. And update on the Gulf oil spill. Just a short time ago BP announced it will be another 24 to 48 hours -- another 24 to 48 hours before they know if "Top Kill" is working. Yes, they've said that before.

BP is pumping junk and heavy drilling mud into the well to overcome the pressure of the oil coming out. Officials say it's just still too soon to say if it's working. The company's top executive though now calls this, "An environmental catastrophe."

CEO Tony Hayward also says BP is, doing, quoting again, "Everything we can to stop the damn leak."

President Obama made a second trip to the Louisiana coast, today. He picked up some tar balls that have washed on to the beach at Grand Isle. Had a briefing on the cleanup and list own Harry Truman moment.


BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I ultimately take responsibility for solving this crisis. I'm the president, and the buck stops with me.


KING: Let's talk to the president's crisis management over. Ed Rollins, our contributor, Republican, former Reagan White House, and joins us from New York. Here with me in Washington, Democratic strategist, Cornell Belcher and a Republican, Matt Schlapp, who worked in the Bush White House.

Cornell, to you first. A lot of criticism of the president saying, should have been down there again sooner. Needs to somehow convince people, even if it is true that the government is on top of this, that he hasn't quite projected that image. Was today a step in the right direct?

Well yeah, it's sort of a disconnect what happens in politics is that, you know, what we got like 1,300 vessels down there. It's not like a presence down there, but the visual didn't go along with it.

CORNELL BELCHER, BRILLIANT CORNERS RESEARCH & STRATEGIES: And you know, Carville is absolutely right in doing what he's supposed to be doing, because guess what, in politics a closed mouth doesn't get fed. So, when you open up your mouth and cause some hay it bring as tension to it, so that's what you're supposed to be doing in politics.

KING: You guys went through this after Katrina, where Bush was hammered.


KING: And I'm sure in hindsight some of the criticism may be legitimate that the government may being slow, others you probably think not so. What does the president have to do to make sure that he's getting all of the information he needs?

SCHLAPP: Well, you know John, it's really unfair, you elect a president and he can controls certain things, but he can't control everything. And a president sometimes is as frustrated as anybody. I can remember times, you know, on Air Force One or at the White House where the president wanted to know a piece of information and sometimes it's elusive and you can see that in is White House that they want to desperately solve this problem, doesn't every American, by clearly there have been gaps in knowledge and gaps in understanding. That being said, as a Republican I think the president has answers to question his needs to give, but I think we got to look back at British Petroleum and that we understand what this company did and didn't do.

KING: Ed, he's named a commission and when he named the commission a lot of people harkens back to "Challenger" and they say well, this is what it's going to do. Do presidents sometimes think if I do that then I get some breathing room now or do you have to do the investigation, but also get involved, get your hands dirty every day, if you will, with the crisis?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think as long as this is the front page story in the "New York Times" and every other paper across the country and it's a lead story all day on your shows, then the president has to be involved. Once again, it doesn't have to be him, but it has to have a presence, a big presence, and unfortunately, to date as I said earlier, the players that are there are important people, but nobody really knows who they are, because this administration has had the president out front on every single issue for a year and a half, so he needs to be out front of this.

KING: How much do the times we live in change the challenge for the president in the sense that you do have 24 hour cable now? And you also have social media. The president's being hammered in the social media chatter about all of this.

Our friends at Crimson Hexagon looked at the president's news conference. Only 14 percent of the postings about the president were positive. That's the gold part of the circle you see there, about 9:00 -- 71 percent of the postings were negative. The common complaint is the teal section in that upper right there, 27 percent say he hasn't done enough.

Now again, this is not a scientific survey by any means, but it does feed the debate out there. BELCHER: Well, it does, because, guess what, this is the world that we live in now where it's 24/7 news and now you need a face on it. I mean, what do they want the president to do, to put on a wetsuit and go down there and stop it himself? Clearly he's not going to do that. There's a lot of frustration in the White House. You know, he stepped up to the plate and saying I'm taking responsibility for -- you know, and I made mistakes. Not "mistakes were made" like some of our presidents said in the past, but "I made some mistakes," so he is showing leadership, but until he puts a human face on it someone he can point to and say that person's in charge, it's going to be really tough, just because of the politics that we're in right now.

KING: All right, let's move on to another story, this is my favorite story on my political radar today because this is a mystery we have been trying to solve. And mystery solved, sort of. White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, used former president Bill Clinton as an intermediately last year as part of a failed administration effort to persuade Pennsylvania congressman, Joe Sestak to not run for the United States Senate. After the White House came clean, Sestak was asked why he didn't tell us before.


REP JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I just didn't feel it was right for me to talk about that conversation. No, President Clinton, there was nothing wrong that was done.

Look I don't want to play it -- he calls every so often and just to check in, how's the race going and...

QUESTION: Did he give you advice?

SESTAK: I asked him for advice, yeah.


KING: All right, we're lucky tonight because two of our guests right here are two guys who guy who have worked in the White House political operation.

Ed Rollins to you first, have you ever tried to get somebody not to run, or to drop out and maybe entice them with something?

ROLLINS: We stay out of primaries, that was sort of President Reagan's goal and he had obviously had run against Ford in a primary and he had been challenged when he ran for governor. So, our policy was stay out of primaries. Did I personally sometimes try and chase people out of a race? You betcha. I didn't -- I didn't promise them jobs. The only time we took care of people was after the 26 members lost in 1982 midterm. We went out and offered everyone a job in the administration and several of them took it.

BELCHER: If I can jump in for a moment. I'm someone who worked for a Democrat congressional campaign committee and Democratic senatorial campaign committee and that this is news to me boggles my mind because I spent half of our time trying to figure out, trying to get people in races and out of races. I mean I spent half of my time on the road trying to talk good candidates into our race and talk bad candidates out of the race. So, this is interesting that it's news to me, because I'm telling you on both sides of the aisle it goes -- it happens all the time. I guarantee you that Rand Paul got a call from someone in Washington saying: "I am not sure you want to run in that race."

KING: Let me ask this question. This is the memo from the White House counsel, Bob Bower. And it goes through a chronology of events, but it lacks a lot of details. It doesn't say did the president know about this when it was happening? We're told he did not, he was only briefed in recent days. It doesn't say did Rahm Emanuel come for the counsel's office and say is this legal, am I OK if I do this? We've been told by White House sources that he did not do that. Well, I also know that at least a handful of other White House aides knew about this, that's not in here.

Fair or not, legal we assume but...

SCHLAPP: Why is it taking so much time to answer a very simple question? Why would you tap a former president of the United States to approach another person in a primary to say what they said was to approach him about joining an uncompensated board. Why does that piece of information on whether or not this position was compensated or not all of a sudden float up?

All of this information they need to get it out, they need to talk about it. If they did nothing wrong or they didn't do anything wrong, let the American people be the judge. I think their biggest problem here is the fact that it is a slow drip of new information.

KING: Is that -- do you agree with that, Ed? That if this is what it is, and it's like OK, maybe it's a little unseemly, but let's -- should this have been over weeks or months ago.

ROLLINS: Yes, they made this into too big of a story, should have been dead weeks ago.

KING: All right, Ed Rollins, we thank you on a Friday night. Cornell and Matt are going to stay with us because when we come back, up next, President Obama channeling the first President Bush when it comes to the oil spill.

And still to come, ever get angry at work? No way, right? "Pete on Street" wants to know.


ANNOUNCER: Here comes the "Play-by-Play."

KING: All right, Friday night "Play-by-Play." You get the drill. We got the day's best tape, we break it down with our pros, right here: Republican Matt Schlapp, Democrat Cornell Belcher is still with us. I want to start with a little, I'll call it, disaster deja vu, because sadly when it comes to big crises and promises by the government that this will never happen again, it seems to repeat itself. Here's George H.W. Bush back in March 1989 after the "Exxon Valdez" spill.


GEORGE HW BUSH, FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: This situation has demonstrated the inadequacy of existing contingency plans and consubsequently I have directed a nationwide review of contingency plans of this type to determine improvements that may be necessary.


KING: That's George H.W. Bush, 1989. Here's President Obama yesterday at his press conference.


OBAMA: Still, preventing such a catastrophe in the future will require further study and deeper reform. That's why last Friday I also signed an executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.


KING: Not trying to poke fun here, but we always get, we're going to investigate, we're going to have a commission, this will never happen again.

BELCHER: Cheney? Was that Cheney?

KING: No, that was a young Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

BELCHER: He didn't look nearly as evil then as he does now.


But, yeah, I mean, this is sort of thing that, sort of, when you got another president, another administration, they got to look into it, they got to try to solve this problem. I just was fixated on the young Cheney. I just could not stop looking at young Cheney, I'm sorry.


SCHLAPP: I like young Cheney and I like older Cheney, I want you to know.

KING: You like them both?

SCHLAPP: I like them both. I think the president's getting the wrong lessons out of here, John. We produce more offshore every year, 600 million barrels a year than we import from Saudi Arabia. The idea that we're going to stop producing oil and gas here only makes us more dependent on regimes that quite frankly scare us. So the idea that the lesson out of this is that we can't produce domestic energy...


KING: I don't think he's quite gone that far, he's mostly called it time out.

BELCHER: I don't think he said -- he's also the Democrat president who's taken some shots by saying we're going to open up and we're going to start doing this. What he's saying is let's hold up so we can make sure we get this right. But he's always talked about this as being a part of the key to our energy independence, not a very important part, statistically, however...

SCHLAPP: The lesson out of this is British Petroleum made mistakes with this spill, he was the No. 1 recipient of BP political contributions. He needs to get all over this company and he needs to stay on them. The lesson out of this is not that the American people should pay more for their energy because we produce less here, that's a mistake.

BELCHER: That's an incredible spin by a president who quite frankly is saying let's hold up and let's make sure we're doing this right so we don't have another incident like this. At the same time, this is a president who took a lot of hits from the left when he's saying we're going to do more offshore drilling.

KING: Do you think -- well, I'm going to move on, actually. We're not going to have an agreement on this one so I'm going to move on to politics here where maybe we can have a little bit more fun.

Remember Charlie Crist's hug? Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, when he hugged Barack Obama, that's, you know, it got him in a lot of trouble down in the state of Florida. Let's go -- see right here. Here's today. The president in Grand Isle. No, that was the older hug, there. We had the older hug. This is today. Look, there's Charlie Crist, right there. To your right, to the president's left in the picture there, standing right there, all the Gulf state governors were in, Haley Barbour from Mississippi couldn't make it, but he is there.

Now if we watch, we come through the end here. Here we go, the president is walking off and doesn't get a hug, today. But can we jump ahead? What do we got? There we go, little pat on back from Charlie Crist. Now that Charlie Crist is running non-party- affiliated, I guess it's safer to be close to the president.

BELCHER: Well, I know, isn't it crazy in American politics that, you know, for you to show some affection and some bipartisanship to the president, you get kicked out of your party. Let's remember, that guy, right there, won Florida. So I think it's really sort of -- it talks to me about sort of how strained politically we are that this guy gets in trouble for showing the president of the United States a little respect.

SCHLAPP: I think what is too bad, John, is President Obama actually could use a hug right now. He actually needed it. And let me just remind you. Governor Crist, he left the party. He didn't get kicked out.

BELCHER: I think, I bet he would differ.

KING: I think he would say he feels pressure. All right.

SCHLAPP: I think he felt pressure that he was going to lose.

KING: There was another Republican governor here. We're going to look closely at this photo here, because where is the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, who some people think might want to run for president some day. Wait, wait, well, I'm going to walk way over here, walk way over here -- there's Charlie Crist, there's governor Riley of Alabama over there, Senator Vitter over there. Some Coast Guard guys back there. See this right here? See that shoulder, right there? That's Governor Jindal, who is -- I don't know whether that's by White House advance team or whether that's by governor's advance team, he's keeping a little distance.

BELCHER: Watch me steal message here, John. Too bad he's not the front-runner and Sarah Palin is.

KING: Ouch.


KING: What is it like -- is it -- when you see these events, when you're the White House political guy and you're traveling like this, are they fighting over spots over who gets to be around the president?

SCHLAPP: Oh, absolutely. They're fighting over how many aides are with them in the car or the helicopter, et cetera. These things aren't accidental and I would hope that the president could handle the photo op well because that's the least of his worries. I mean everything here is choreographed.

KING: He is being tough tonight. Now, you're laughing.

SCHLAPP: It's Friday.


BELCHER: Yeah, but, you know. OK.

KING: All right. Thanks for coming on a Friday night, Cornell, Matt, have a great weekend. Congratulations. Matt has a new baby at home.

BELCHER: Congratulations.

SCHLAPP: Thank you. Got to get some sleep.

KING: Get a little sleep this weekend.

The president has been taking heat for appearing not to be angry. What about you? Ever show some rage at work? Nobody around here knows anything about that, but "Pete on the Street" has been finding out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: A few minutes away from the top of the hour. Rick Sanchez is filling in for Campbell Brown tonight. Let's get a sense of what's coming up.

Hi, Rick.

SANCHEZ: And the questions have to be asked, John -- 16 hours? I mean, 16 hours they stop pumping the mud, and in the 13-1/2th hour, Admiral Thad Allen comes out and says, no they're still pumping the mud. Apparently the White House, the president didn't know that they had stopped pumping the mud. Did BP tell them? and by the way, BP comes on the air tonight and says, oh, this is all kind of normal operating procedures.

You know, well, it's like I said, John. The questions have to be asked about this and that's what we're going to do in this special edition, coming up at 8:00.

KING: We'll see you in just a couple of minutes, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Thanks, John.

KING: A lot of people are angry at BP, just showed Rick talking about it. We've been talking a lot about it. What about you? People are saying the president should be more angry. Do you get angry at work? We sent our intrepid offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick to find out.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John King, I was saying on my radio show I thought maybe the president needed to show a little bit more emotion, perhaps pump his fists a little bit more. Everybody told me I was wrong. I went out to find out what people on the street thought and how they act in their work lives.


DOMINICK: Do you think the president getting angry and pounding his fist.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that's not appropriate for a president.

DOMINICK: You don't think it is? OK, so you don't think he should get angry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he shouldn't get angry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He just needs to (INAUDIBLE) more emotion.

DOMINICK: More emotion?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, more action, more action.

DOMINICK: You ever get angry and let somebody have it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. And raising your voice is not a good way -- it's a way of showing power, projecting power. DOMINICK: Don't tell me! You don't tell me!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think America needs a little more like...

DOMINICK: When was the last time you let somebody have it? You made that...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My cabdriver yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, I let him know.

DOMINICK: What did you say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in traffic and I was like you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you should know. Excuse me.

DOMINICK: You can say that. Hey, we got an editor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should know where you're going.

DOMINICK: Do you ever yell? You seem like a mature, calm guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I work in construction for 42 years. You don't want to hear me yell. I'll bust that microphone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do film directions, so I yell at people all day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. Hold on a second.

DOMINICK: Oh, you're really? Really? Now I'm getting angry, sir.

When was the last time you really raised your voice and you got angry at somebody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about ten days ago. My son total mid car.

DOMINICK: Are you going to get a phone call?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi mom, how you doing?

DOMINICK: Your mom is hot for me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. I'm going to see how angry he can really get.

DOMINICK: Hey, fella, don't be answering your phone anymore there.

You don't seem like you ever get angry or raise your voice. You seem very relaxed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really? Would you like me to yell?

DOMINICK: Oh, wow. All right, I was wrong. I was wrong.


So John King, what's the answer? In your career, you've covered like 34 presidents? Is it ever appropriate for the president to get angry and should this president?

KING: I think this president is just different, personally. I assume that when he says he is as mad as anyone, he means it. He's just not as emotive as say Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. But George H.W. Bush had a personality similar to this president in the sense that he wasn't openly angry all the time, but I'm sure things riled him up. But, you know, as a guy who always controls my anger, Pete, I can understand.

DOMINICK: Yeah, John King, really. I don't see you as a guy with a vain popping out of his forehead and screaming at the top of his lungs. Am I right or wrong?

KING: You would be wrong. you would be wrong. I have some veins that pop out occasionally. And the staff will tell you occasionally I lose my temper.


KING: Sometimes it's warranted and sometimes it's not.

DOMINICK: Now, I get worried because I never want to raise my voice at my kids. Any advice on that as a parent?

KING: Yes, take a long walk, take a deep breath. Remember, they're a gift. Don't yell at them.

DOMINICK: You got it.

KING: Have a great weekend, my friend.

DOMINICK: You too, John.

KING: That's all for us tonight. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. Remember those who have paid the ultimate price.

Rick Sanchez standing by to take it away.