Guests: Denny Kelso, Bob Cavnar
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
This scenario is doomsday. More reports from Senator Bill Nelson of Florida of oil seeping up, the possible piercing of the well casing under the seabed. If true, says Bob Cavnar, an underground blowout. Plumes prove it. Great underwater clouds of oil deep in the Gulf confirmed and test a decade ago confirmed BP knew that is what could happen.
But BP‘s Tony Hayward says his campaign will donate net revenues from the oil they do not spill into the Gulf to restore wildlife habitats around the Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, THE TODAY SHOW: He doesn‘t work for you, but if he did, would you want him out?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He wouldn‘t be working for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Congress returns and it is open season on BP with Richard Wolffe; the plumes with former Alaska commissioner of environmental conservation, Denny Kelso; and the doomsday scenario with Bob Cavnar.
Semi Super Tuesday. Arkansas: Halter tops Lincoln?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GOV. BILL HALTER (D), ARKANSAS: She voted for every—virtually every major piece of legislation that caused us to have $7 trillion of accumulated debt over the last 10 years.
SEN. BLANCHE LINCOLN (D), ARKANSAS: The reason that I‘m having all this money spent against me is because I stood up to special interest groups.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And not just GOP on GOP rhetoric in Nevada, but the Tea Party snake is eating its own tail again, from a would-be New Jersey congressman, “Michele Bachmann has sold out the Tea Party Movement.”
And Rand Paul does it again. He‘s defending BP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: I saw the full-page ad in the newspaper. And they promised to pay for the cleanup. Do we have to have a villain?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: He is defending BP.
All the news commentary and primary results—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
As a report based on secret internal BP documents and whistleblowers came out today, it reinforced the message emerging from a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that BP has, for years, rewarded dangerous cost-cutting in a regulatory environment that posed little danger to big oil because of limits on their legal liability. That‘s right.
In our fifth story tonight: In addition to greed and lax regulation, add tort reform to the list of how we got here.
Senator Dick Durbin pushing back against an oil industry employee who argued unlimited liability for spill damages may make it economically impossible for some companies to drill.
Senator Durbin seems to be OK with that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I happen to believe that if you were engaged in drilling and can create this level of damage, it carries with it a responsibility that you accept liability for the damage. If you cannot accept that liability, stay the hell out of the business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: At a briefing today, government officials confirmed what independent scientists have reported for weeks, water samples show diluted, almost invisible plumes of oil underwater, robbing the water of oxygen as far as 45 miles from the spill. This is a scenario the government and BP should have prepared for and responded to because they knew it could happen.
COUNTDOWN having obtained video from a field experiment called, yes, Project Deep Spill. A controlled release of oil in the North Sea showing that even in water shallower than the current spill, plumes do form, predicting how such plumes move through the water, and demonstrating that even clear plume cans be tracked by sonar.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service and BP are both aware of these results because they did the tests 10 years ago.
BP‘s prior knowledge is also at the heart of a new investigation from ProPublica, dove-tailing with Senate testimony about how liability caps encourage short cuts. ProPublica unearthing internal BP reports, chronicling a corporate culture in which neglecting equipment, faking inspections and punishing those who raise safe concerns, got you promoted.
BP having had numerous warnings about pipeline neglect before its Alaska spill and continuing to violate safety agreements even after 15 people died in a Texas refinery blast.
In an interview taped yesterday, the president was asked whether he would have fired BP‘s CEO Tony Hayward after Hayward‘s series of tone-deaf remarks about the crisis, including for one for which he apologized, in which he said he wanted his life back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: He wouldn‘t be working for me after any of those statements. First of all, we‘re going to have to find out why this thing went in the first place. And the fact of the matter is, is that there‘s going to be a thorough review and I don‘t want to prejudge it. But the initial reports indicate that there may be situations in which not only human error was involved, but you also saw some corner-cutting in terms of safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Meantime, Christopher Jones is a lawyer who testified today at that hearing about some of the laws that let companies cut corners without having to worry about liability, specifically maritime laws that limit liability for events on the high seas. Mr. Jones however was not testifying in his capacity as a lawyer expert in that field. He was speaking, as he spoke on this news hour of two weeks ago, as the brother, the only brother, of Gordon Jones, one of the 11 men who died on April 20th in the Deepwater Horizon blast, talking about losses companies might prevent if they could not calculate the downside of cutting corners, and about losses that can never be compensated for.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER JONES, BROTHER OF DEAD RIG WORKER: Gordon is my only brother. Gordon is survived by his wife Michelle, and two sons, Stafford and Max. Stafford is 2 and Max was born three weeks ago.
This is a picture of the backyard fort Gordon built with Stafford‘s help for Stafford and Max. Although you may not be able to tell, it‘s not finished. Gordon planned to finish it when he returned home. He will never get that chance.
Lastly, I show you possibly the last picture taken of Gordon before his death. It is taken just after—just after Gordon gave Stafford his first golf lesson, an experience Gordon thoroughly enjoyed. You can see the joy on their faces.
I‘m saddened that neither will experience the same joy again.
I want to take this opportunity to address recent remarks made by Tony Hayward, CEO of BP. In particular, he publicly stated he wants his life back.
Mr. Hayward, I want my brother‘s life back. And I know the families of the other 10 men want their lives back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: BP announced today it will create a Gulf Coast wildlife fund from the revenues from the recovered oil estimated currently at 2 million so far. The moral equivalent pledging after tax profits from a string of armed robberies will be used to compensate the victims of those robberies.
But there‘s more. Earlier tonight, the company‘s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, told the “Associated Press” that BP expects to be capturing virtually all the oil leaking from the Gulf floor by early next week, leaving what he calls a “relative trickle.” Key word there perhaps, “relative.”
To the mechanics of this in a moment, let‘s first bring in MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also, of course, author of “Renegade:
The Making of the President.”
Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Having heard Christopher Jones today and earlier on this program, obviously, he underscores the humanity of this nightmare in a way that no politician can, the way no one who‘s not directly affected can.
Is the White House satisfied though that the president has made a connection with the people of this country in a parallel if not in a similar way? I mean, have they considered having him address the nation? Surely, as a disaster, this merits some formalized comment from the president.
WOLFFE: Well, the simple answer is they‘re not really satisfied. No. I think they are fairly open about saying that this communications piece of this has not gone according to what they hoped would be their plan and specifically about an address to the nation there was a report out by my good friend Jon Alter to that end.
I‘m told tonight by White House officials that actually that idea is not under active consideration. And you can kind of understand why in one sense because it really does smack of President Bush‘s response to Hurricane Katrina.
And it‘s not a very personal or emotional way to make a connection, when you have the president perhaps lit up by clean lights behind a podium.
So, an address to the nation may not be the way he needs to fill the gap that he‘s had so far. We saw a bit of an attempt at that with the interview with Matt Lauer today where he is expressing more emotion. But that‘s not really their purpose here. Their purpose at the moment is to express activity and show that they‘re in charge, which if you wind back the tape a few weeks, was the question. Who was in charge here?
They have worked overtime to correct the impression that, well, nobody was really in charge. But still, as you point out with the question, there is this question mark itself about the emotional piece of the president‘s engagement.
OLBERMANN: Well, that begs a further question, which is—why is the president then going to the Gulf again next week, Monday and Tuesday?
WOLFFE: Well, look, this is something that the White House says that they disdain. It‘s a patent we have seen over and again. This is something the president spoke about again on “The Today Show”—this idea that he‘s having to perform for the cameras.
Well, actually that is part of the job. This is a photo-op type of situation where he is going to demonstrate by his physical presence all the various things they are doing and how on top of it he is.
But, really, whenever presidents, not just this president, when they travel down there, I was with President Bush in New Orleans several times, they‘re not really doing anything different on the ground that they couldn‘t do in the White House. So, it‘s demonstration. It‘s a chance to explain things again for people who want to see the president get his hands dirty.
OLBERMANN: Richard, what does—on the other side of this equation, what does the first day back for Congress tell us about how the parties relative to each other are going to approach this? Is it Democrats blame BP and the big oil and deregulation, or Republicans blame the president and nothing else?
WOLFFE: Well, pretty much and they blame a lack of regulation. It‘s a weird situation that Republicans are arguing that there was a regulatory failure that allowed BP to drill in the first place. But at the same time, they want—yes, less regulation.
I mean, this is a party that has been very consistent in its ideology. Two decades now, it has pursued less regulation as a way to free up business freedom and risk-taking and there is a direct connection. No matter who approved the actual drilling on this particular well at this moment, there is a real connection between the deregulatory philosophy and ideology that we‘ve seen pursued by Republicans and taken on my some centrist Democrats and where we are right now.
Now, of course, the Democrats want to go after BP. It is by far a better subject for them to talk about. There is politics there, when, in fact, there is collective failure here of both recklessness and incompetence.
OLBERMANN: MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also the author of “Renegade”—as always, Richard, great thanks for you time tonight.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: How about the plume. Let‘s turn to Denny Kelso, executive vice president of the Ocean Conservancy advocacy group, who was on board the Exxon Valdez, during that spill, in his capacity as Alaska‘s commissioner of environmental conservation.
Thank you for your time, sir.
DENNY KELSO, OCEAN CONSERVANCY: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: The administration took pains to differentiate this. They
said this is not a plume of oil. This is an underwater cloud. Does that -
does that matter and why might it matter?
KELSO: I think the idea is that a cloud may have less concentration of oil. But, frankly, that doesn‘t make much difference to me. During the Exxon Valdez spill, a great deal of damage was done. And after the spill, the science showed that concentrations as low as one part per billion were sufficient to kill fish eggs and, of course, that harms the whole population of fish that people depend upon.
So, whether we call it a cloud or something else, it‘s still a toxic cloud. And the concentration, the duration of exposure, the kinds of organisms that are caught in that plume or in that cloud are all going to suffer. And all those pieces of that—of that exposure are what make the difference, not whether we call it a cloud or something else. A toxic cloud still has adverse effects.
And we still, even at the lowest estimates, between 23 million and 50 million of gallons of oil that‘s been spilled. We should hold BP to their promise to go after every drop. But let‘s wait and see what they do.
OLBERMANN: I used a somewhat cumbersome analogy before, BP using—announcing today that it was going to use the spill oil proceeds, that what had been reclaimed in any event for wildlife fund, that this was akin to a robber compensating his victims with the proceeds of the robberies. But in a way, is it—the analogy cumbersome because it doesn‘t it doesn‘t go far enough? Meaning, is the spill the robbery or is the real robbery the years of cost cutting and why aren‘t we looking at having BP take the proceeds from that and restore the ecosystems that are being destroyed at this—at this hour?
KELSON: Keith, you‘re right. BP makes $62 million a day. And some portion of that, maybe a significant portion of that, is profit that comes from cutting corners. And when those corners are cut, the people of the Gulf who depend upon fishing and tourism and other uses of the coast and the ocean bear the cost. They pick up the tab.
And frankly, it‘s like picking the pocket of the fishermen and giving them back some change.
So, this should not be acceptable. We should not be distracted. BP has an obligation to do everything possible to bring this area back to its former productivity.
OLBERMANN: The Supreme Court when it ruled on the Exxon Valdez relied on existing liability laws, slashed the verdict from $5 billion to half a billion. Does having that kind of cap, in fact, let big oil, like BP, weigh the profits of cost-cutting against what are now very definable and very finite risks?
KELSO: Those cost cans be rolled into a business plan. I think the cap—the liability cap that we should look at right now is the liability cap that was enacted as part of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 after the Exxon Valdez spill. It is way too low. It just needs to be removed. Otherwise, what you simply have is the ability to plan for spills as occurrences, though they are rare, are extremely hurtful to communities as well as to the environment. And we simply shouldn‘t tolerate a cap like that.
Right now, it‘s $75 million for the kind of spill that this was, this kind of facility. That‘s wrong. And Congress needs to fix it. They need to fix it now.
OLBERMANN: Denny Kelso, the executive vice president of Ocean Conservancy—great thanks for your time.
KELSO: You‘re welcome.
OLBERMANN: Of course, it can still get worse, much worse, doomsday kind of worse. It was forecast on this news hour two weeks ago by our analyst Bob Cavnar and was raised again today by Senator Nelson of Florida, reports he said of oil seeping up from the seabed which would indicate, if that‘s true, that the well casing is actually pierced underneath the seabed. What is one gusher today could be a dozen gushers tomorrow. Bob Cavnar returns on that.
And also, this late claim by BP that it would be able to cut the flow to a “relative trickle” by early next week.
First, the latest on this primary night when COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: Primary night. The Arkansas senator and her challenger fight to the end over who closed 38 of the 40 polling places in one Arkansas County.
What this Florida senator has heard about holes in the casing that has led one expert to suggest we maybe on the verge of a doomsday scenario in which the crisis of the moment might remembered fondly, even nostalgically.
Who leaps on FOX News to depend BP? Who else, Dr. Kill Patient over there.
And the next secretary of state in California? Well, they let her in to a Beverly Hills fundraiser along with Rove and Fiorina and Norm Coleman. Maybe they all just wanted to feel less crazy.
Ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: In the state of Nevada today, chicken costumes were banned at all polling places. But in the wake of Sue Lowden‘s chicken for checkups gaffe, the feathered fowl still factoring heavily into that state‘s Republican Senate primary as is apparently in our fourth story:
Mrs. Lowden‘s ability to get out the vote.
Meanwhile, in Arkansas, keeping voters from the polls. Seemingly behind the Democratic establishment‘s effort to save Senator Blanche Lincoln‘s job for her.
We begin in South Carolina where the race to replace the “Love Gov,” Mark Sanford, lately resembling his scandal-plagued tenure. Polls there having closed at 7:00 Eastern, a little more than an hour ago.
Republican primary frontrunner, Nikki Haley, facing her own accusations of adultery, plural, still unproven, but her lead with about 1/6 of the vote in is significant over second place at the moment, Gresham Barrett. Lieutenant Governor Bower, who is Governor Sanford‘s lieutenant governor, placing a distant fourth at this point behind Henry McMaster.
We‘ll keep you updated if those numbers change significantly.
Turning to Arkansas—lots of turmoil in Garland County to discuss specifically the City of Hot Springs, a stronghold for Bill Halter during last month‘s primary. The lieutenant governor having gotten more votes there than anyplace else when 40 polling places were available to voters.
Today, in that entire county, there were two polling places, two polling places expected to handle more than 500 voters an hour every hour. Some voters were supposed to drive more than 20 miles to cast a ballot.
In Miller County, which also voted strong for Halter three weeks ago, polling places are reduced by 50 percent.
Garland County election commissioner, Charles Tapp, telling Lieutenant
Governor Halter on Friday that he would make up for his decision to slash
38 polling places by opening one polling site on Saturday for early voting
what sounded like a solution, but since state law prohibits voting on Saturday in a runoff, something you would expect the election commissioner might know.
When voters, they were met with signs like this one, telling them the polls were closed.
Voting in Garland County predicted to be chaotic, with full parking lots, two wrecks that we know of, long lines, and many, many more angry voters.
Despite the shenanigans, top Democrat sources telling “Politico” they still expect Senator Lincoln to lose the nomination tonight. Polls there are closing at 8:30 Eastern.
And lastly, to Nevada, the Sue Lowden campaign is telling Jon Ralston of our NBC affiliate in Las Vegas that she believes her “get out the vote” effort can save her from the chickens coming home to roost. The ones that threaten to sink her.
The tea party favorite in that race, former State Representative Sharon Angle, is leading the field without much of a “get out of the vote” structure, despite lots of out-of-state money.
Polls there are closing at 10:00 Eastern.
Joining us now from Little Rock, Arkansas, our own Ed Schultz, the host of “THE ED SHOW.”
Ed, good evening.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: Good evening, Keith. Good to be with you. It‘s been a very hot political climate down here today, no doubt.
OLBERMANN: No matter who wins there, speaking of one thing that might have made it as hot as the weather—does it seem the election officials in Garland County in Arkansas created the grounds for the primary to be challenged no matter who comes out on top?
SCHULTZ: Well, you know, it‘s interesting. The Halter people don‘t want to talk about that, but they are quietly suggesting that this might not be over tonight. They‘re focusing on a strong phone bank, a strong boots on the ground effort all the way up until the polls are closed.
We just spoke with someone at the polling place there in Garland County. And there was an hour wait and 90-degree heat to vote. And within the last half hour, it‘s been down to 15 minutes. So, it has been a point of frustration for a lot of people.
The Halter people are very confident. They feel like they‘re going to close this out tonight with a victory. In Garland County, they‘ll get past it.
OLBERMANN: There‘s one woman who voted for Senator Lincoln told the “Associated Press” reporter there afterwards that she did so with fear and trembling. Is that any sign of—any indication that that‘s anecdotally where Senator Lincoln stands in Little Rock at least tonight?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think that she‘s got somewhat of an identity crisis right now with Arkansas voters. She has been really ripping on the unions which are middle class families. And she‘s made this late case in her P.R. campaign that Bill Halter can‘t be trusted. Bill Halter doesn‘t know where he stands. He won‘t come out in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act. And so, she has taken that angle to go after him.
In the meantime, she has staunchly been against the Employee Free Choice Act. She has staunchly been against the unions. And people are reading that down here from what I can gather on the ground as not really an advocate for the middle class.
And in the midst of that narrative, it‘s been Bill Halter who has taken up the torch saying, hey, I‘m the guy for the middle class. I‘m the guy that‘s going to be there for your issues. I also think that the health care issue has come back to bite the Lincoln campaign quite a bit. She was against the public option.
The public option, Keith, has always polled pretty well, over 50 percent in this state. And if you look at Arkansas, it‘s a low-wage state. It doesn‘t have, ironically, much union membership. So, a lot of the low-wage families would have benefited from the public option. And all along, Blanche Lincoln was against it. It‘s very interesting how it‘s all unfolding.
OLBERMANN: Let me take you to South Carolina metaphorically speaking. Nikki Haley said something extraordinary today. She said if she gets elected governor, she will resign if anyone can prove that she‘s had an affair. She‘ll do after she has been elected.
Are we going to get that in writing or is it just going to be Gary Hart-like open season on Nikki Haley in the even she gets the nomination, let alone the statehouse?
SCHULTZ: Well, she could put it all to rest by putting it in writing. That‘s a very good suggestion. And the political climate in this country right now is I think Americans would like to see some things in writing. We‘re at the point now where we kind of need some guarantees.
There‘s been a lot of politicians who are really let us down. In South Carolina, of course, been well-irrigated farmland for whacked out politicians who say a lot of crazy stuff. It is amazing what‘s unfolding down there.
But if she‘s going to say anybody that can prove it—it is interesting though that the two allegations that came up. They have not been substantiated. And if they really were true and they wanted to circumvent her campaign, this would have been the perfect time to do it and it didn‘t happen.
OLBERMANN: Ed Schultz, host of “THE ED SHOW” here on MSNBC, joining us from Little Rock—thanks for doing so in all that heat, friend.
SCHULTZ: All right. Thank you, Keith. I‘m going to go jump in the water right now.
OLBERMANN: A nice swim.
Our prospects of having a prediction for you by 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 p.m. in Arkansas is pretty good. So, stay with us for live updates edition of COUNTDOWN at that hour., and, of course, with Rachel at 9:00 and again at 11:00 Eastern.
Back to the Gulf. Of the millions of words used in the first 50 days, one has been thrown around like it was a manhole cover—doomsday. Unfortunately, with new reports of oil seeping up through, not the ruptured well, but through the ocean floor. It may be time that we have to pick up that manhole cover.
OLBERMANN: What if there has been or there is about to be another blowout far below the spot in which all efforts are being made to stop the BP disaster. Bob Cavnar next. First, the Tweet of the day, not brand new, but still funny from our friend Dave Weigel. “Breaking,” he Tweets, “White House offered more than 400,000 jobs to potential Senate candidates in shadowy census scheme. Developing.”
When you satirize Drudge, you don‘t really have to change anything from reality to make it funny. Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin with yesterday‘s commencement address from President Obama to Kalamazoo Central High School in Michigan, which turned into an unwitting reprisal—reprise, rather, of the old Letterman bit, George W. Bush, invigorating America‘s youth. You may recall a few years back when “The Late Show” compiled a montage of President Bush speaking as a yawning youngster fought the urge to snooze, unsuccessfully.
Yesterday, President Obama had his own sleeper agent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This is a contest to highlight schools that promote academic excellence.
Life won‘t be determined just by what‘s—
You have an alum who plays for the Yankees. Derek Jeter wasn‘t born playing shortstop for the Yankees.
You come from an age in—it is the easiest thing in the world to start looking around for someone else to blame. You could spend years pointing fingers, blaming parents, because that is how you‘ll end up learning what it‘s like to walk in somebody else‘s shoes. That‘s how—
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Or sleep in somebody else‘s chair.
Sidney, Australia, good day. Another entrant in the Oddball Hall of Fame, obscenely large food division. Behold, it‘s the world‘s biggest burger, 178 pounds, 12 hours to cook, four men to flip, 150 slices of cheese. If you want to eat it, it will cost you 1,200 dollars. Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, gluttony does not upset us.
The good news, there has been some success capping BP‘s rupture oil well, to the point where it‘s people think they can stop it to a trickle by next week. The bad news, the pressure in that well may have been forced back in on itself, causing well ruptures under ground and leading to the prospect of additional blowouts. Or to dumb it down, doomsday, next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: When it comes to describing the disaster unfolding still in the Gulf of Mexico, the 11 people killed, the untold damage to the environment and people‘s livelihoods, the term doomsday scenario is not far off. Our third story, what then is the next step worse than doomsday? As forecast here two weeks ago, evidence now of the possibility that something called an underground blowout might be happening, oil seeping outside BP‘s damaged well through the ocean floor. That new information coming from Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, referencing fears he addressed in a letter he addressed to BP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Andrea, we are looking into something new right now, that there‘s reports of oil seeping up from the seabed, which would indicate, if that‘s true, that the well casing itself is actually pierced underneath the seabed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That said to Andrea Mitchell on this network. Last week, the “Washington Post” reported sources at companies involved with the well said that BP discovered damage inside the well below the sea floor during the initial top kill procedure, the failed measure to plug the leak with mud. A BP official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had told the newspaper that, quote, “we discovered things that were broken in the sub-surface, and that the mud being pushed into the well to prevent oil from coming out was making it out to the side, into the formation.”
The formation is their term for the rock surrounding the well. The fear is that now oil is making out to the side into the rock formation, and that any further attempts to contain the spill will pressurize the already damaged well, well below the sea floor, causing an underground blowout. If that were to happen, sub-sea containment of the spill would get exponentially more difficult.
To try and translate that, we‘ll once again turn to oil and gas industry expert and Bob Cavnar, contributor to “Huffington Post,” as well as founder and editor of the Daily Hurricane Blog. Bob, thanks again for your time tonight.
BOB CAVNAR, “THE DAILY HURRICANE”: You bet, Keith.
OLBERMANN: You have had your own fears of underground blowouts. Do you think BP and the federal government are as fully afraid of it as you are?
CAVNAR: I certainly hope they are. These stories that are coming out now, the one in the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post,” that you talked about, square with what I heard last week from those who were closer to the operation, that they experienced some kind of a failure during the Top Kill operation, and that‘s one of the reasons they shut down so quickly.
You‘ll recall, Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, they said it would be 48 hours more before they heard it was successful. They suddenly announced that afternoon that they were shutting down the operation.
OLBERMANN: This would make Mr. Suttles‘ remark tonight to the Associate Press particularly strange. The chief operating officer said today that they would have the leak‘s flow down to a relative trickle by Monday or Tuesday. Is that possible? And how does that jibe with this prospect that there are already other leaks further underground that would perhaps make or certainly end the exclusivity—the monopoly this one leak has on our attention.
CAVNAR: Right. That certainly was a surprise that he said that today. We do know their biggest problem here right now is keeping the well flowing, since I believe they probably can‘t shut it in, for the fear of an underground blowout. So they have to keep oil coming to the surface. And they over-ran the capacity of the enterprise yesterday. So the idea of bringing another ship in that can take the rest of the flow and put a new cap on by Tuesday sounds pretty ambitious to me.
OLBERMANN: Is it possible there‘s already been underground blowout or blowouts and BP doesn‘t know it or isn‘t telling us? And is there anything you‘ve seen in terms of what they are doing that makes you think that is a possibility or not a possibility?
CAVNAR: I think they certainly probably—they likely had a casing failure during the Top Kill procedure. Remember, they had 30,000 horsepower pumping mud at about as much as 80 barrels a minute. That kind of casing was probably already damaged, could have certainly failed.
What tells me that they have a down hole problem is that they are working to fit a cap that latches on to the top of the blowout preventer, rather than just setting a new blowout preventer. That means they can‘t shut the well in, because there‘s a pressure buildup. So they have to keep the well flowing to minimize oil and gas going out into the formation on the side.
OLBERMANN: Senator Nelson talked about reports of oil seeping through the seabed. And there have been rumors about that on the Internet for at least two weeks. And you saw what you saw when they try the Top Kill and the mud came back out the way it did.
OLBERMANN: Do we know if this is true? Or is this still at the rumor stage?
CAVNAR: I certainly would like BP to come out and say what they think. This sub-surface failure that has been talked about several times, I would believe they need to address, to either calm those fears and show that it‘s not an underground blowout, or disclose that they had that problem and help us understand more of what is going on.
OLBERMANN: A sub-surface blowout changes the relief wells idea how?
Or does it not change it at all?
CAVNAR: It just emphasizes how important the relief wells are. The relief wells are the only way to control the blowout, because it will kill the well at the source, which they have to do to kill either a surface blowout or a sub-surface blowout.
OLBERMANN: If there are other sub-surface blowouts and there are other leaks through the floor of the ocean at that point, how much worse would this be? Do we know?
CAVNAR: Well, the real doomsday scenario here, Keith, is if that casing gives up, and it does come through the other strings of pipe. Remember, it is concentric pipe that holds this well together. If it comes into the formation, basically, you‘ve got uncontrolled flow to the sea floor. And that is the doomsday scenario. There is nothing they can do except the relief well, and it could likely flow for some time before they get it killed.
OLBERMANN: Bob Cavnar, oil and gas industry expert. Again, thanks for helping us understand this tonight.
CAVNAR: Happy to be with you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: If it is doomsday, we have the right woman to help. Have Republicans actually nominated Orly Taitz as their candidate to become secretary of state in California? Did they nominate a guy who used to play in the XFL football league? Well, they nominated Rand Paul, who makes it back on camera just in time to make Worsts, because he has taken sides in the Gulf disaster. Want to guess who he is defending?
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest on the Tarkanian, Angle, Lowden race in Nevada, reporter John Ralston, also known as the Wall that the chicken lady keeps running head first into.
OLBERMANN: Orly Taitz secretary of state for California? To quote Judy Tenuda (ph), it could happen. That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Dr. Rand Paul. Slapping the training wheels back on and getting interviewed in the news again. Sorry, my mistake, he was interviewed by Neil Cavuto. On BP‘s Gulf disaster, he said the president sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. “It bothers me. I saw the full page ad in the newspaper. They promised to pay for the clean up. Do we have a to have a villain? That‘s my whole point. Do we want a presidential administration that says outlandish things like we are going to put our boot heal on BP? I want BP to pay. Everybody wants them to pay for cleaning up the oil mess. The thing is that sometimes people are well intentioned and bad things happen.”
So let‘s just take their word for it, like we took their word for it that they had a plan in case the damn thing blew up. Dr. Paul, what are you like six? By all means, keep defending BP in the Gulf. Racist extremism could still get you elected in some backward corners of this nation. Defending the oil company during seven weeks of an uncontrolled oil-gasm will not.
Speaking of which, our runner-up, Matt Kibby (ph), president of Dick Armey‘s Astroturf lobbying group Freedom Works. Based on this quote, another victim of misspent education. Mr. Kibby revealed to an ABC interviewer something that only he knows about the Gulf disaster. Quote, “if you look at what has happened down there, it is a sad story of government incompetence, as well as negligence on the part of BP. I think what you have took at is, when there is a natural disaster like this, we do expect our government to do some things and to do them well.”
A natural disaster. Unregulated, untested deep water mining, without a backup plan, and then everything goes kablewey (ph), and 11 men are killed, and the eco-system is on life support until further notice. That is about as much of a natural disaster as is the Republican party.
But our winner, Rupert Murdoch. His “New York Post” has been beating the drum of race hatred here in New York. A columnist inspired a protest of a Muslim county center in Lower Manhattan which the newspaper has incorrectly described as the Ground Zero Mosque. Rupert got what he wanted; 500 protesters showed up on our most hallowed ground, and they hated Muslims as hard as they could hate them.
That‘s when they spotted the two dark skinned men who were speaking Arabic to each other. Part of the group surrounded the pair and witnesses report shouts of get out and go home. Then, as it bordered on true ugliness, New York‘s finest stepped in, and pulled the men out for their safety, even as one of them, with an Egyptian shouted, half fearful, half startled, I‘m a Christian. Both of them were. Joseph Nasrallah (ph) and Karim al Masri (ph), emigrants from Egypt to California, where they work for a Christian satellite TV station. They are Egyptian Coptic Christians. “I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here,” Nasrallah said, “to protest the community center.” He repeated, “I‘m a Christian.”
The problem, sir, is not what you are, but what the rest of them are. They were brought there by Rupert Murdoch, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: This is still considered less than one percent of the vote in. The early numbers out of the Arkansas Democratic Senate primary are, as you see, with only 13,000, almost 14,000 votes cast. It is Senator Blanche Lincoln, but just barely. The latest polling suggested the lieutenant governor, Mr. Halter, would pull an upset of the incumbent senator tonight, at least relieving her of her nomination.
Meanwhile, looking at South Carolina‘s race for the Republican nomination for governor there, the controversial race; Nikki Haley comfortably ahead of the field of three other candidates. But 50.1 percent of that vote is required for her to avoid a runoff and win the nomination outright. She promised today that if there were anything to these sex scandals and she were to be elected governor of South Carolina, and they were proved, which she has denied, she would resign after being elected; 46 percent of the vote.
Now to California and a down ballot race that would normally not merit much attention, except the outcome could mean, according to one state GOP operative, quote, “disaster for the Republican party.” Our number one story, Birther queen Orly Taitz is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state there. Worse yet, many Golden State Republican are worried she might actually win.
You may know Orly Taitz, the Israeli emigre dentist turned correspondent school lawyer. You may know her from her previous accomplishment, spending the last two years filing bogus lawsuits and scoring 20,000 dollars in court fines trying to prove President Obama is ineligible for office because not one but two different bogus documents she produced said he was born in Kenya, or somewhere else.
Ms. Taitz now trying to unseat current Democratic Secretary of State Debra Bowen. Working in Ms. Taitz‘s favor, her Republican opponent for the nomination, former Jacksonville Jaguars Player and former XFL player Damon Dunn has done little campaigning, choosing instead to run on his biography and endorsements. Ms. Taitz tried to get Mr. Dunn, who has a degree in public policy from Stanford, thrown off the ballot because she believes he was—see if this sound familiar—ineligible to run. She cited his previous affiliation as a registered Democrat in Florida.
Taitz has also scored endorsements from several Tea Party and anti-immigration groups and some wig manufactures, and was invited as a special guest at a recent Jewish Republican coalition event, also attended by Karl Rove and California senatorial candidates Carly Fiorina and Chuck Devore. One GOP operative blanching at what would happen to the top of the California Republican ticket. “Can you imagine if Meg Whitman and Able Maldonado, both whom might have a chance to win in November, had to run with Orly Taitz as secretary of state, who would make her cockamamie issues about Obama‘s birth certificate problems at the forefront of her activities?”
Joining me now from Los Angeles, MSNBC political analyst, California resident, Lawrence O‘Donnell. Lawrence, good evening.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is this actually possible? Can Orly Taitz win this nomination tonight?
O‘DONNELL: Only in California, Keith. Yes, it is absolutely possible. The most I have seen of Damon Dunn is the clip you just ran. He has been invisible in California media, as candidates for secretary of state always are. If you want to pick a spot on the ballot where no one is going to notice you are running, secretary of state is the place to be, especially this year in California, with these very, very high profile candidacies for governor, for senator, that have completely overwhelmed the media.
What Orly Taitz is really running for is the honor of losing to the very popular, safe incumbent, who is secretary of state now, the democrat. So this is one of those ridiculous outcomes for the Republicans, where they might be carrying this incredible liability on to the ticket in November, just to lose to Debra Bowen, who is obviously going to be re-elected in November.
OLBERMANN: But a lot can happen between now and November if this comes to pass. This Orange County GOP spokesman told “Politico,” “there is no Republican candidate for statewide office that would be willing to have her campaign with them.”
How would the GOP in California deal with Taitz on the ballot here?
How angry are state Republicans at Damon Dunn‘s campaign, the XFL player? Are they upset with him? Or they just mailed this in and expected things would turn all right, because Orly Taitz was sort of visibly crazy?
O‘DONNELL: The people I talk to in the Republican party out here—you don‘t really find them criticizing Damon Dunn, because there has never been any real campaign for secretary of state out here that someone can point to and say, look, that is how you do it on the Republican side. So it is one of these offices that you just make sure you have a name on the ballot, just in case something happens on the other side of the ballot to the other candidate.
It is really all about—the Republican angst is all about Orly Taitz. It has come down to prayer at this point, Keith. They are just praying that she does not pull this thing out tonight.
OLBERMANN: Then that begs another issue here. She was a special guest at an event hosted by Republican Jewish Coalition. Where were—the mainstream conservatives who showed up there, where were they in terms of protesting her attendance? Isn‘t there some sort of tacit sign of acceptance in that thing in Beverly Hills the other night?
O‘DONNELL: Well, I don‘t think they are alert to this enough right
now. It is something that has snuck on them literally within the last week
or so, of this possibility. So they have distanced themselves through
spokesmen. But to actually physically take action when she is in the room
what do we do when she is in the room? Do we get out of here? Do we get her ejected? What do we do? They haven‘t figured that out yet. If she wins tonight, they are going to have plenty of opportunities to try to figure out exactly how they handle that through the rest of this campaign season.
There are enough difficulties running statewide as a Republican in a general election in California; to have someone this nutty on the ballot with you is an unprecedented level of difficulty that other Republican candidates would have to deal with.
OLBERMANN: Thus might ring out the cry, get that 1958 Cher impersonator out of here. Lawrence O‘Donnell, I don‘t mean you, of course. Great thanks. We‘ll see you again for the live late edition of COUNTDOWN.
Which is a good time to remind you that we will be back at 10:00 p.m. Eastern with all the latest vote totals around the country in the races of note. I will also be joined here by Chris Matthews. For now, that is COUNTDOWN for this the 50th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
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