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State of the Union

Interview With Secretaries Salazar, Napolitano; Interview With Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen; Interview With Senatorial Candidate Marco Rubio

Aired May 02, 2010 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: The simple truth about the oil threatening the Gulf Coast is no one knows for sure where we are headed, and no one has from the start. The first day was all about search and rescue. Eleven workers died in the explosion on the oil rig 40 miles offshore. By day three, there were reassuring words about what was not happening beneath the water.


REAR ADM. MARY LANDRY, U.S. COAST GUARD: I am saying that. There is no crude oil at this time leaking from the well head. There is no crude oil leaking from the riser.


CROWLEY: Day four.


LANDRY: What we now know we are dealing with, in addition to that, is oil emanating from the well. That is a big change from yesterday.


CROWLEY: Day eight.


LANDRY: NOAA experts believe the output can be as much as 5,000 barrels.


CROWLEY: And yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported: "Industry experts examining satellite data say they believe oil may be leaking at a rate of 25,000 barrels a day. That's five times the Coast Guard estimate.

What is going on here?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CROWLEY (voice-over): To sort out the story on the Gulf Coast, we are joined by two cabinet secretaries sent to the scene. The secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano.

NAPOLITANO: We will work to make sure that British Petroleum meets its financial obligations.

CROWLEY: And secretary of the interior, Ken Salazar.

SALAZAR: British Petroleum has a massive spill for which they are responsible. CROWLEY: And the commandant of the Coast Guard, Thad Allen.

And then, the outsider who seized Florida's Republican mantle from Governor Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio.

I'm Candy Crowley, and this is STATE OF THE UNION.


CROWLEY: I'm joined here in Washington by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. And joining us from New Orleans is the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen, whom President Obama named yesterday to lead the clean-up effort.

But before we go to the problems in the Gulf, we want to get an update on the story that everyone woke up to today, what seemed to be an attempt at a car-bombing in New York Times Square.


RAY KELLY, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: NYPD bomb technicians have removed and dismantled three propane tanks, consumer grade fireworks, two five-gallon gasoline containers filled, and a -- two clocks, along with batteries in each of the clocks, electrical wire, and other components stored in the rear of the vehicle.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: It was made up of consumer grade fireworks that you can buy in Pennsylvania and drive into New York. And the wiring was nothing that -- it looked amateurish, I think, is a nice way to phrase it.

RALLIS GIALABOUKIS, WITNESS: I just happened to be looking right at the car when it just went up, when it just exploded. And I saw the fire and -- inside the car, I mean, I didn't know what to think, I -- there is no window shattered, I mean, nothing like that.

It was just what you could feel. You could hear it and you could feel it, you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it was a loud explosion, but not powerful enough to do any serious damage to the vehicle?

GIALABOUKIS: Not that one, no. I mean, you don't know if there is another one coming after that. You don't know what to think after that. And that's where all the panic set in and everybody just started scattering.


CROWLEY: So certainly they found a lot of explosive material in this car. Do you have any reason to believe at this point, Secretary Napolitano, that there are international terrorist ties to this?

NAPOLITANO: Well, we're taking this very seriously with the New York City Police Department, with the FBI, the Joint Terrorist Task Force. We are treating it as if it could be a potential terrorist attack. The derivation of that we do not know. And that's what the investigation will tell us.

CROWLEY: And what have you found so far in the investigation that they've told you about? Are you honing in on suspects or is it still you have a lot nothing at this point?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I would say it's more than a lot of nothing but less than particular suspects. There is a lot of forensic information due in part to the placement of the vehicle, where it was. There are a lot of cameras, a lot of other things in that area that you don't have in some other places. So the forensics are all being worked intensely, and have been being worked intensely overnight.

CROWLEY: And by forensic, do we mean, are there fingerprints in the car, that kind of thing that could be really palpable information?

NAPOLITANO: There is all that. There is forensics about the vehicle, about the tanks, the propane inside. There is forensics in terms of video or possible video that might exist. So there is a lot of evidence being tracked down by a lot of people right now.

CROWLEY: And any sense of how big this might have been had this exploded? Do you know anything about what was in that car?

NAPOLITANO: Yes. I don't have a picture of that right now. Suffice it to say, however, that given that area, there is a lot of people back and forth. It's a very crowded area. So we view this very, very seriously.

CROWLEY: In a moment, we're going to go on to the crisis in the Gulf.

CROWLEY: The oil spreading through the Gulf is like nothing else this country has seen. It's often measured against the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989, the worst in American history. But what is happening now is totally different.

The Valdez spilled heavy crude into a cold environment that devastated wildlife and took four years and $2 billion to clean up. All of that happened in a sparsely-populated area. The Exxon Valdez, with a known cargo capacity, spilled 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound for three months.

What is pouring out now could reach 11 million gallons in a little less than two months. There is no way to know how long it could continue. The open Gulf of Mexico, a completely different setting from that of the Exxon Valdez. That occurred in the closed environment of Alaska's Prince William Sound. It covered about 1,000 miles of shoreline.

This threatens a far larger area subject to all of the vagaries of the weather, which, for the moment, isn't cooperating. The geographic scale is different, the population is different, the economic impact is different. We'll sort that out with our guests in just a moment.


CROWLEY: We are back with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen.

Admiral, let me start with you and just ask you for the situation on the ground. Is it any better than it was yesterday?

ALLEN: Well, we seem to have a holding action with the weather, Candy. The slick in southeast Louisiana is about nine miles offshore. We have pre-stage booming in Plaquemines Parish, and working with Saint Bernard Parish and the other local leaders in Louisiana.

We've been hampered quite a bit by the local weather, which has really kicked up offshore, six- to 10-foot seas, and has made deploying booms somewhat problematic. We have a lot of booms staged down there. And British Petroleum, with the incident commanders, are working very hard with the local community, including involving the fisherman and local personnel down there. And we're standing by at this point.

CROWLEY: How happy are you with the performance of BP at this point?

ALLEN: Well, as I told everybody, BP is the responsible party, and they need to be responsible. The Coast Guard are the people that are accountable for oversight, and we need to be accountable. I spent a lot of time last night with the senior executives talking about the things we need to do.

Trying to protect the wetlands and the resources of the United States when the oil is coming ashore is the last place we want to do this. We have to stop this oil where it's emanating on the sea floor. And they need to move at best speed to do that. And we're looking at all available options to do that.

CROWLEY: Secretary Salazar, let me ask you, because this leads me into one of the questions I have. And that is, you know, one of the reasons we have these deep water wells is people don't want to look at them on the shore. And so they move them out. Have you gone to other places? Have you asked other rigs to look at their mechanisms -- their shut-off mechanisms given that the one that -- on the rig that BP had did not work?

SALAZAR: Candy, there have been about 30,000 wells that have been drilled in the Gulf Coast. We have not only British Petroleum, with their best global experts talking a look at this, but also all of the global oil industry coming to the attention of this crisis and seeing what they can do.

There is no doubt at all here that what has happened is a blowout preventer -- prevention mechanism at the bottom of the well has been -- is defective. And that's what we're trying to do is to control the problem at the source.

CROWLEY: The blowout preventer -- just to interrupt this, is what should have stopped the oil from coming up and leaking all over the ocean, which it is doing right now.

SALAZAR: Absolutely. And while there have been blowouts in the past, we have never seen anything that has been quite at this magnitude. So our job is basically to keep the boot on the neck of British Petroleum to carry out the responsibilities that they have, both under the law and contractually to move forward and to stop this spill.

CROWLEY: But given the performance of the blowout preventer, there are others out there who have blowout preventers, have you asked those under U.S. jurisdiction to take a look at theirs?

SALAZAR: We have indeed. President Obama ordered an immediate inspection and so we are conducting an immediate inspection of all of these blowout preventers. And we have a flotilla of people out in the Gulf making sure that these are safe.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, I want to play you something real quickly, because it leads to the question that I want to ask you about this.


REAR ADM. SALLY BRUCE-O'HARA, U.S. COAST GUARD: We are certainly not at that point now. And I don't imagine, given the professionalism of our partner, BP, and maybe partner with -- let me back up...


(UNKNOWN): They are not our partner. They are not our partner.

BRUCE-O'HARA: In terms of -- bad choice of words.


CROWLEY: So just an objection to BP being a partner with the federal government on this, who is in charge of this?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think the commandant stated it very accurately. BP is the responsible party. They are--

CROWLEY: That means they pay for it.

NAPOLITANO: They are going to pay for it. But they are also responsible for getting this well and getting it shut off with oversight by the Coast Guard and by other federal agencies, but primarily the Coast Guard.

As this situation has developed, however, and as we've seen the oil spread and move towards shore, the plain fact of the matter is, is that the United States government, in the face of the Coast Guard, has taken on a lot of the operational actual doing of the -- getting the preparations done.

And in fact, the plain fact of the matter is, is that from day one the Coast Guard has been treating this as an incident, a spill that could ultimately reach shore. And that's why you had 70 vessels already pre-deployed. That's why you had a million feet of boom, et cetera, ready to go.

CROWLEY: Did you rely too much on BP's assessment early on? We first heard, well, everything is fine. And then we're told, well, there's a little leak. Next thing we know it's 1,000 or 5,000 gallons. Do you feel as though the government took too much -- put too much credence in what BP was saying? Did you all try to check somehow how much of a leak was going on?

NAPOLITANO: Oh, yes. That's not the way it happened. What happened first is that there was an explosion. There was immediate deployment of the Coast Guard for search and rescue. And that was really the focus for the first several days.

The rig itself did not sink for two days. And so there wasn't a spill. And even when there was--

CROWLEY: But didn't someone think, wow, there might be a spill too? I mean, I understand they were looking for men and that's the tragedy of this, is that 11 men died in this. But somebody somewhere should have been saying--

NAPOLITANO: Indeed, indeed. And if I might add, that's exactly why from day one they were already pre-deploying vessels and booms and getting ready in case the scenario continued to worsen. That's why you're not waiting for vessels to arrive. They were already there, pre-positioned. That's why you weren't waiting for boom to be sent in from other coasts, you had a million feet ready to go.

That thinking was already under way. But in terms of over- reliance on estimates by BP, no. There was independent modeling being done by NOAA and the Coast Guard, based on what they were seeing coming to the surface of the ocean.

That kept changing, of course, as you know, during the week. And as that changed, of course, preparations began to change to match the situation. But everything was pre-positioned and ready to go.

CROWLEY: Secretary Salazar, do you want to add something there?

SALAZAR: From day one, there has been the assumption here on the worst-case scenario. And so the--

CROWLEY: What is the worst-case scenario, while we're on that?

SALAZAR: The worst-case scenario is we could have 100,000 barrels or more of oil flowing out. And the requirements BP has is to have the capability to respond to that kind of a spill. And it means doing everything that's going on, including containing the well down at the bottom, mitigating the impacts on the sea, mitigating impacts as things happen on shore.

You're talking about a multi-billion dollar company here who is, I believe, the fourth-largest company in the world. And we will not spare any effort on the part of the United States of America to make sure that all of their resources are brought effectively to address the problem.

CROWLEY: Admiral Allen, just while we have that 100,000 figure, that being sort of disaster, is that something you fear the most? Do you think that could happen?

ALLEN: Well, if we lost the total wellhead, it could be 100,000 barrels or more a day. I think -- just to follow up on what Secretary Napolitano said, this whole thing has been kind of a process of discovery. It wasn't until they remotely-operated vehicles down, were able to survey the entire length of the 5,000-foot pipe-riser that was crumpled on the ocean floor, that we finally found three sequential leaks over a period of about 72 hours.

And as I told some folks, you know, the difference between 1,000 and 5,000 barrels a day, when you look at the potential discharge of 100,000, leads me to believe that there are a lot of inaccuracies associated with trying to estimate flow from a broken pipe at 5,000 feet. That's the reason it's so very, very important we focus on stopping this leak right away.

CROWLEY: Something else that Secretary Salazar brought up, saying, look, BP is a very wealthy company, we expect them to bring everything to the barricades on this. And I want to read you a quote, Admiral. This is from BP's chief operating officer in The New York Times. And he said, quote: "There are not much additional available resources in the world to fight this thing offshore. We've basically thrown everything we have at it."

Given that, it seems to me that right now you're sort of dependent on somebody trying to figure out how to stop this leak. And otherwise you're just going to be standing on the shore, trying to keep this from coming in.

ALLEN: Well, the term "fighting this thing offshore" can mean a lot of things, Candy. I break this down into four discrete segments. The first one is stopping the leak at the source. Absent that, then fighting this thing as far offshore as we can in terms of mechanical removal, in situ (ph) burn, in dispersants to remove the -- to disperse the oil in the water column.

The third thing, when you fall back, is to protect the shoreline. The fourth thing, once it's impacted, you have to recover and to mitigate. And these are things we need to be doing all at once. And when we say fight this thing offshore, the first place we have to fight it is 5,000 feet down.

CROWLEY: And real quickly, has BP thrown everything they've got at this?

ALLEN: They've got remotely-operated vehicles. I think one thing that's not well-understood when you're operating in that environment, which I would actually term "inner space," that's no place where human beings can operate. So everything has been done remotely with ROVs, including the inspection of the pipeline, the survey, and the repair of the hydraulic systems associated with the blowout preventer.

And this is all being done remotely. And that's where ultimately this is going to have to be fixed, or at least held in abeyance until a relief well can be drilled. That's the reason it's so very important to throw all of those assets at it. And the highest technology in the world is being applied at the point discharge.

CROWLEY: Much more with secretaries Napolitano, Salazar, and Admiral Allen when we come back.


CROWLEY: We are back with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen.

Secretary Salazar, at this point, does anything say to you, we ought to stop deep-water drilling?

SALAZAR: Thirty percent of our oil comes from the Gulf, that we produce here domestically. And right now our economy is very dependent on having that oil come to our country. I do think that one of the things that this does is it sends out the clarion call that we need to diversify our energy resources. That's why the president has been pushing so hard for renewable energy.

But at the same time we need to go through a transition period. Our economy is very dependent on oil and gas resources, and deep-water oil and gas really has been done safely in the past many thousands of wells that have been drilled without incident.

And so our intention is to move forward thoughtfully, looking at how we can protect the resources of the United States and making thoughtful decisions.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, can the Navy be of use in this?


CROWLEY: Is there something the Navy could do?

NAPOLITANO: Indeed. Well, the Navy has been on-site since day one. There is kind of a myth out there that somehow the Department of Defense is now coming in. They actually have been there since day one. CROWLEY: In what form? NAPOLITANO: They've been there in the form of ship -- and I think perhaps of air. Thad could probably answer that more completely than I right now.

But as we move forward, the Department of Defense, Secretary Gates and I have spoken, has put any resource that could be useful at the behest of the commandant.

CROWLEY: Admiral, let me ask you this. You were there on the ground and -- I imagine that you run over a lot of nightmare scenarios while you are trying to figure out what you will need to do in the future and what you need to do now.

On a scale of 1 to 10, if 9 were the Exxon Valdez, what are we looking at here?

ALLEN: Well, Candy, I think it's important to compare and contrast. The Exxon Valdez spill was 11 million gallons. The difference between the Exxon Valdez and this event is that we had a vessel and once the oil was spilled, we could measure what was left on the vessel and the volume that was left. We knew exactly what we were dealing with in terms of the quantity of the spill.

This spill at this point, in my view, is indeterminate. That makes it asymmetrical, anomalous, and one of the most complex things we've ever dealt with. On a level of complexity, I'd certainly give it a 9.

CROWLEY: And it does make it worse.

Secretary Salazar, I want to ask you in our closing minutes, I mean, when you look at this, is this catastrophic?

SALAZAR: It potentially is very catastrophic. And I think we have to prepare for the worst, as we have from day one. I think Commandant Allen said it correctly, which is if this thing continues to spew out, the ultimate relief here is going to be a relief well that may be 90 days out. And so we have to be prepared to make sure that we're protecting the American public, the American environment, our treasured coastlines on the Gulf Coast. So we are ready to do everything humanly possible to get that done.

CROWLEY: And catastrophic, you are talking wetlands, you're talking wildlife, you're talking shrimp and oysters and fish, all of that. We can see that being disastrous, not to mention birds which are migrating at this point.

SALAZAR: Yes. It is, indeed, a massive oil spill. And our job is to make sure that we do everything we can to try to protect both human life, but also very precious and fragile environment of the Gulf Coast.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, I want to turn your attention, because you were from Arizona, you were governor of Arizona. And I have to tell you that over the weekend in Los Angeles, a crowd estimated at 50,000, including Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony and singer Gloria Estefan protesting the new law in Arizona. In Washington, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, a leading advocate of reform, was one of about three dozen who were arrested. He had a t-shirt on that said, "Arrest me, not my friends."

Governor Brewer, who signed the new Arizona law dealing with undocumented workers, last week had this to say about you. "She obviously is turning a blind eye to Arizona. She understands what the situation is. She wrote numerous letters when she was governor to the administration looking for help and some relief."

Do you understand why in Arizona there was so much support for this law and it was signed into law?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I'll tell you a couple of things. First of all, in terms of the actual numbers, there have been more resources deployed in Arizona in the last 15 months than ever in history, more boots on the ground, more technology, there has been more seizures of drugs.

CROWLEY: It hasn't worked, has it? They are still overrun?

NAPOLITANO: It is working. It is working, that the numbers of apprehensions are down significantly, which means the number of people trying to immigrate illegally is down. The border has been under more control than ever before. And I have worked that border for a number of years. I have ridden it, I have walked it. I know that border intimately.

What has happened now is that she has signed a law of a type that I used to veto when I was governor, because it's bad for law enforcement, among other things. It takes law enforcement off of the streets and really looking at the crimes they need to prioritize in their own communities and puts everybody at risk.

And so, there was no surprise to me that experienced individuals like the Pima County sheriff, who is the longest standing sheriff in Arizona, he is in Tucson, 100 miles from the border, has said he doesn't want this new law, he doesn't need it, and he is not going to enforce it. It's a shame.

CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, Secretary Salazar, and down there in Louisiana, Admiral Allen, good luck down there. It sounds like you've got a real job ahead of you, but I thank all three of you very much.

Coming up, an interview with Republican Florida Senate candidate, Marco Rubio. But first, we hear from two of his two biggest opponents in the race, Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek and Republican now turned independent Governor Charlie Crist.


CROWLEY: Until this week, the Republicans thought they were a lock to keep control of the Florida Senate seat. After all, the two frontrunners, Marco Rubio and Governor Charlie Crist, were Republicans -- the key word here, "were." When Governor Crist declared his run as a independent, the race became a three-way jump ball. After his announcement, the governor dismissed charges of sour grapes by his former party members.


GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, R-FLA.: I want limited government, you know. I want them to make their decisions about their own lives. And I want America to have a brighter future. And if we don't get away from this arguing, it's going to be hard to get there. But I know we can.

CROWLEY: What about your fund-raisers? Are any of them leaving you? Have you talked to them?

CRIST: None of them are leaving. They're all right there. You know, they didn't sign up for me...

CROWLEY: Nobody's told you they're going to pull out?

CRIST: ... because I had a certain letter behind my name. Not one.


CROWLEY: The biggest benefactor of Crist's change of heart may be Congressman Kendrick Meek, the Democrat who's been running for more than a year. And he's never felt better about his chances.


REP. KENDRICK B. MEEK, D-FLA.: We feel that we are going to continue to gain strength with Florida voters, especially when you -- when I find myself in a situation running against two Republicans.


CROWLEY: Marco Rubio sees his path to Washington as pretty much unchanged. My interview with him after this.


CROWLEY: Before we got to our interview, we want to remind you that CNN is following that breaking news story of the car bomb found in Times Square late last night. There are several developments that we are following, and of course we'll continue to update you over the course of the day.

Now, on to our interviews. We had requested them from both Governor Crist and Marco Rubio. After initially agreeing to a sit- down interview, Crist backed out. Rubio agreed to meet up with us Friday in Clearwater, Florida.


CROWLEY: I really appreciate your being here.

RUBIO: Thank you.

CROWLEY: I wanted to start out with something that really is a threat to Florida, as well as Mississippi and Louisiana, and that's the oil spill that we're seeing now, as it moves its way toward shore.

Are you convinced that the administration has been into this quickly enough? And has it done enough?

RUBIO: Well, I want to be fair to the administration. I think a lot of the early news about the spill was coming from the company, from B.P. And I think they were either inaccurate or shortcoming in some of the things they were saying early on.

Since that time, of course, over the last few days, we've seen the administration move aggressively, and I hope aggressively enough. Now, they have information I don't have. They know things perhaps we don't know.

And so, during an emergency, you're always cautious not to be critical because you don't want to appear to be unfair.

This is an ecological disaster. It's a crisis. It looks like it may eclipse the Exxon Valdez situation. And I hope it is dealt with quickly, rapidly, effectively, not just for Louisiana but also for Florida. I know a state of emergency has been declared here.

CROWLEY: Now, do you see B.P. being responsible for anything, particularly the late alert that, in fact, there was oil leaking under the water?

RUBIO: Well, again, I always want to be fair. I'm deeply concerned. Early on, it appeared that they were saying it was 1,000 barrels, and now, later on, we got word it was as much as 5,000 barrels.

There's some -- obviously, something went terribly wrong. I mean, this is not a commonplace occurrence. And so something happened there.

CROWLEY: And you have been for more offshore drilling. Does this make you rethink that?

RUBIO: I think it makes us rethink the technologies of offshore drilling. Certainly, this thing...

CROWLEY: Because wasn't that the deal? Oh, technology is so much better now; the chances of a spill aren't as great. This was a relatively new rig. It just seems that it's really not that safe.

RUBIO: Well, we don't know what it was using and not using. There's been some initial reports that perhaps it did not have all the up-to-date technology that you would have.

But, again, we're -- I don't want to jump to any conclusions and then later on find out I was wrong. Let me say that we do want to find out what happened. And, certainly, there is a lot of offshore drilling going on all over the world right now, and this isn't happening every day. Something went terribly wrong here. And hopefully, it's not something that's commonplace.

CROWLEY: And would you stop any idea of leasing areas, now, for offshore drilling or any building until we find out?

RUBIO: Well, I think it's premature to make statements like that. I will say, however, that I hope the inquiry will be taken seriously. I'm sure that it will. We're going to wait for all that to happen before we, you know, make hard-edged pronouncements on what the future should be with regards to this.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a little bit about immigration. Because Arizona and a new law there has really brought this to the forefront.

I was interested that Congressman Connie Mack put out a statement, and he compared this law to the Gestapo stopping people on the street and demanding their papers. He said, "It should not be against the law not to have your papers."

Would you agree with that?

RUBIO: I thought it was inevitable something like this would happen, not just in Arizona but perhaps in Texas and California and in other border states that are now dealing with the consequences of an uncontrolled border and the violence that's happening in Mexico.

That being said, I don't think this law is the best way to do this. I think the best way to deal with this is for the federal government, once and for all, to do its job in sealing the border, not even from an immigration perspective -- I think there's been a lot of attention given to this from immigration perspective. It's actually become a national security, law enforcement issue for the people of Arizona and in many of the other border states.

So, no, this law is not the best way to solve this. The best way to solve this is for the federal government, once and for all, to instill the level of border security, particularly on the Mexican border, to make those border states finally feel secure.

CROWLEY: Specifically, what don't you like about the Arizona law?

RUBIO: Well, I think we all had concerns, early on, about the idea that folks could get pulled over because they would fit a certain profile.

Since that time, we've seen the Arizona legislature has taken even further steps to clarify the law. And let me be clear. I don't believe that was their intent. I believe the intent of this law was clearly to deal with what they view as a law enforcement emergency. I don't view this as a law that was intended to profile anybody.

But I do think there sometimes there are unintended consequences in laws. And I'm glad to see that the Arizona legislature has moved to further clarify language as the week went on. CROWLEY: OK, Marco Rubio, we want to come back and talk a little state politics and some national politics, right after this.


CROWLEY: We're back with Marco Rubio, a Republican candidate for Senate here in Florida.

Governor Crist bowed out of the race this week. He said he is going to run as an independent. You are now running as a Republican all by yourself. So you're going to be the Republican nominee, it seems like, for the U.S. Senate seat.

Michael Steele, who you know well, runs the RNC, and he said there is, quote, "a real possibility" that Crist could win in a three- way. There is, isn't there?

RUBIO: Florida is a competitive state, and I have to earn people's votes, I have to not just earn Republican votes, but Democrat votes, independent votes. No doubt about it. I think many of the policies being pursued today in Washington, D.C., threaten the things that make America exceptional. And I ran because I just don't see any other candidate in this race that will say these things, much less do anything about them.

I feel like I'm the only one that will. That is my message. That was my message last May when the only people that thought I could win lived in my house and most of them are under the age of 10 or now that I mean this three-way race. And my campaign is about this message. And hopefully enough people will agree with me and they will elect me to the U.S. Senate.

CROWLEY: But you agree that certainly at this point, it is a three-person race. You all look pretty even. That Governor Crist could pull this off?

RUBIO: Oh, this is going to be a competitive race. Florida is a competitive state. I always anticipated it was. But just remember, when I got in this race, I was 30 points down. So I am not too concerned about polls. I think we will be OK at end of the day.

CROWLEY: Why do you think the governor got out?

RUBIO: I don't know. That's a question he will have to answer. I can tell you that for 12 months, I tried to engage Governor Crist in an ideas-based campaign. He spent over $1 million over the last month personally attacking me on the air waves here in Florida. And when ultimately that didn't after those didn't work, then he switched and decided to run this way. CROWLEY: The governor is going to go right after the middle. I didn't think it was probably a coincidence that he started in St. Petersburg, even though he is from there, because that's where the independents are, along that corridor.

What is it about Marco Rubio that you can sell to independents or to moderate Democrats? Because you are seen as a very conservative candidate. What are you moderate about? RUBIO: Well, first of all, let me say this, I'm not -- ever run away from that title. I think that limited government conservatism is where most Americans are. I think that's mainstream American thought.

CROWLEY: But where are you moderate? Like if you had to, say, sit down with an independent and it's, oh, this is this very conservative guy, I could never go for him, on what position do you take that's moderate on what issue?

RUBIO: Well, for example, I don't even know what that means anymore, to say that's moderate. I believe, for example, that the tax code should allow people to make enough money so that encourages to reinvest their money to create more jobs for others.

I think that's a very reasonable position. I think what's unreasonable is to expect people to invest in the American economy when our message is, be careful, like the president said the other day, some people make too much money and we are going to even it out.

The president the other day stood on a stage and talked about how the fact that at some point, you have made enough money. Well, who is he who decide that? I think that's where you get away from moderation. I think that's the kind of language that discourages people from investing in America's future.

CROWLEY: Interpret for me, as it concerns the Republican Party, what the departure of Governor Crist means for Republicans?

RUBIO: I don't think it means anything for Republicans in Florida. A year ago at this time, there were some who believed that the way the Republican Party would become more successful was to be more like the Democrats. Charlie Crist believed that. I always felt that this country already had a Democrat party. It didn't need two Democrat parties. The Republican Party needs to be not just be the opposition.

I don't want to go to Washington and be the opposition. I want to be part of the alternative. And ultimately, why I think we have had success in the Republican primary so far is because we have offered not just the opportunity to be in opposition to the Obama administration, but an alternative on some very important issues.

CROWLEY: Something more personal. The IRS has launched an investigation dealing with about a hundreds thousand dollars worth of spending while you were in the state legislature. What are they going to find insofar as concerns you? RUBIO: Well, let me set the record straight on that. First of all, I have never been contacted by anything -- anyone about that. The only thing I've ever heard about any IRS is an anonymous source that spoke to one of the newspapers here. We have never been contacted by anybody.

But I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight. It is pretty straightforward. I had an American Express card that I opened under my personal credit through the Republican Party for political expenditures. And we would use it for political expenditures. On some occasions, there were some personal expenses. And every month I would go through the state and I would pay those personal expenses directly to American Express, like countless other people across this country do as well.

And that's what anyone who looks at this will find. And like I said, I am open to any process that would help me set the record straight once and for all. But I'm not aware of any such process.

CROWLEY: Do you consider yourself a tea party candidate?

RUBIO: I am proud to be associated with many of the folks -- all of the folks in the tea party across the state of Florida are largely everyday people from all walks of life who have never participated in politics.

Now, are there exceptions? Is there the one guy with the weird sign? Of course. You see that everywhere. You see that at sporting events, by the way. That doesn't make stop being a fan of the Florida Gators or the Miami Dolphins.

What it does tell you is that the vast and enormous majority of the people you will find at a tea party are Republicans, Democrats, independents who have been largely uninvolved in politics up until now, who believe their country is headed in the wrong direction and they can no longer can stand by and watch while that happens and not be heard. And I congratulate them for their activism.

CROWLEY: Jim DeMint, who you have said is the Republican that you admire the most, said at one point that he would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in limited government, free market, free people, than 60 Republicans who don't have that set of beliefs. Would you agree with that?

RUBIO: Well, I would put it differently. I think I know what he's trying to say, and I would agree with this much. And that is I would rather be a principled party than a majority with no principles. Because at one point the Republican Party seemed to have lost its way and the result was disastrous for the party and for its future.

I think we can accomplish both, by the way. And that's my goal is that -- and not only do I hope the Republican Party will be a movement organized around a very clear set of principles and ideas, the home of the limited government, constitutional republic, and free enterprise belief system, but that it will also be a majority that will be able to implement those things.

The temptation in Washington seems to be, however, that once you win, many people forget everything they ran on and just try to figure out how can they stay there as long as possible? How can they stay in the majority as long as possible?

I have very little interest in the game of politics. I want to serve for a period of time. And then I want to come home and help live under the laws that I help pass or repeal. CROWLEY: You lead me to my last question, and that is, I don't know if you have heard the conversation, but you talked to some Republicans dreaming, looking ahead, trying to find the new face of the Republican Party.

And they say, you know, if Marco Rubio could win and get into the Senate and spend two years there, he could be our presidential candidate a la Barack Obama. Have you heard that?

RUBIO: Well, that's both embarrassing and flattering. And -- but that's not going to happen. I would like there to be the commissioner of the National Football League. That would be a better job, I think.

CROWLEY: Why is it everybody wants that job?


RUBIO: It's a great job.

CROWLEY: I'm sure it is. But you would like to rule yourself out as a presidential candidate in 2012?

RUBIO: Yes. I am not running for president.

CROWLEY: OK. Thank you so much, Marco Rubio.

RUBIO: Thank you.

CROWLEY: I really appreciate it.

RUBIO: Thank you.


CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley, and this is "State of the Union." Let's check some of the stories developing this Sunday.

Breaking news this morning. We're learning more about the Connecticut license plate found on the Nissan Pathfinder at the center of the Times Square bomb scare. The license plates came from an automobile junkyard near Bridgeport, a law enforcement official tells CNN.

Under Connecticut law, plates must be returned to a local Department of the Motor Vehicle or to a Connecticut state trooper if a car is to be junked for scrap metal.

New York City police describe the bomb as amateurish but potentially powerful. Streets were cleared of thousands of tourists from the theater district so authorities could dismantle the device.

A t-shirt vendor had spotted a smoking Nissan Pathfinder and alerted police. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told me a short time ago that investigators are treating this as a potential terrorist attack. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NAPOLITANO: I would say it's in the -- it's more than a lot of nothing, but less than particular suspects. There's a lot of forensic information, due in part to the placement of the vehicle, where it was. There's a lot of cameras, a lot of other things in that area that you don't have in some other places. So the forensics are all being worked intensely and have been worked intensely overnight.


CROWLEY: There are no suspects in custody at this time.

Our Susan Candiotti is in Times Square covering the story.

Susan, what are the latest developments?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they include trying to get things back to normal here. As you can see, here in Times Square, you have tourists and residents alike mixing it up, as they would on any normal Sunday.

One of the other things I'd like to pick up on, of course, that Secretary Napolitano mentioned, is the notion of the security cameras. There are, as everyone knows, thousands of them around New York City, so one of the things they want to look at are whatever various cameras might have captured around this area last night.

I'm going to swing up for a second because -- just to show you what some of these look like around the city. Some of them are labeled "NYPD." Some of these cameras are maintained by private office buildings around the city. Some are marked and some aren't marked. Some are hidden within light bulbs and light fixtures around the city.

So you can imagine all the work that has to be done in that regard. Also at this hour, we've been seeing a contingent of police officers who are fanning out to work the neighborhood, to look for witnesses, to talk to buildings, no doubt to retrieve some of the videos from some of these cameras to see what they can find as well.

Candy, another thing that's happening at this hour, forensics. That means that, at two different locations here in New York, one team is looking at the bomb components, looking for hair fibers, fingerprints, anything that can help isolate information about who might have put this bomb together. And in another location, there is another forensics team that is looking over the car itself, that SUV.

Now, this is a team made up of the joint terrorism task force. You have NYPD. You've got the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. That agency has also brought in an outside -- one of its own experts from outside the city to help out with this.

And, of course, you have the FBI, which is also embedded, working on the JTTF, looking at that aspect of the case as well. Candy, a long way to go in this investigation.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. Thanks for keeping us on top of the details. We'll talk to you later.

You are now looking at live pictures from Tennessee, where forecasters are warning more severe weather is expected today. The flooding has already claimed five lives. Rescue crews are working to evacuate hundreds of residents from hard-to-reach areas and water- saturated highways and homes. The storms also set off reported tornadoes and hail along the Mississippi River Valley in Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky and northward.

Up next, we'll take a look at a Republican Alabama candidate for governor who may jeopardize his state's federal funding.


CROWLEY: In our "American Dispatch" this week, Arizona isn't the only state where anti-immigration legislation is raising hackles. Tim James, who is running in the Republican primary for Alabama governor, released this ad, and it certainly got a lot of attention.


GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE TIM JAMES, R-ALA.: I'm Tim James. Why do our politicians make us give driver's license exams in 12 languages? This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it. We're only giving that test in English if I'm governor.


CROWLEY: The video caught on like wildfire, now with over half a million views on YouTube since it was posted. But it's also drawing criticism, with a New York times editorial calling him "the candidate from Xenophobia," and writing that James is "transparently intent on tapping into the anti-immigrant, anti-government mood of malcontent voters. Alabama voters should be insulted."

Opponents also say that, if the proposal were adopted, Alabama would lose some of its federal transportation money for violating Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that prohibits programs that receive federal assistance from discriminating. According to U.S. English, a group advocating for English as the official language for the United States, at least nine states offer English-only driver's license tests. Georgia is also debating a bill in their state legislature that would make their driver's tests English-only. So far, the U.S. government has not moved to cut the funding of any states with English-only tests.

The Alabama primary is June 1st.

Thank you for watching "State of the Union." I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.