June 2nd, 2010
07:57 PM ET

A day with Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen and the oil spill


Adm. Thad Allen has been called many things: Sir, commandant, TA, fearless leader and now, the latest headline in print calls him a “rock star.”

He laughs, but when it comes time for “down time,” it’s music that calms his mind.

“I am very careful who rents space in my head,” he tells me as I ask whether all the criticism over this oil disaster in the Gulf  gets to him.

Something else that doesn’t seem to bother him that much is his insane schedule. Believe me, it’s nothing like a real rock star - this man who is leading the response to the biggest oil disaster in history is a machine.

He wakes up at 4:30 a.m., and we caught up with him at 6:30. First line of business? Starbucks. His security detail knows where to find every coffee house in every state he’s traveling through. On Wednesday, it’s a café latte because he tells me he doesn’t get enough calcium.

Spike Lee enters the Starbucks and can’t wait to tell Allen about his latest movie on the oil spill. Allen turns to me and says, “only in NOLA.”

So that’s a little flavor, but listen to what happens in the next 32 minutes with Allen: He’s on his Blackberry, cell phone, wireless computer, reading report after report on the booming and oil flow.

He checks his iGoogle page, which has a leadership quote of the day, every Google news story with the key words, “oil spill” and “Thad Allen.”

He’s got sports scores, weather and even a Spanish word of the day. Tomar, “to take,” was on the screen today.

The admiral has been taking a lot this morning: calls from Cabinet secretaries, pleas for more resources from governors and many, many questions from the White House.

He’s already talked with energy and global warming czar  Carol Browner three times and the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Gen. Van Antwerp, about building barrier islands to protect the marshlands.

The admiral is constantly negotiating deals, and this is one he really wants - those barrier islands, which he says will protect the shrimp, oysters and other seafood that all of us enjoy.

The White House wants to know how his dinner last night with BP CEO Tony Hayward went, and he’s told he’ll be seeing Lisa Jackson, the head of the EPA, in just a few hours.

Can I remind you? This happens all within 32 minutes. And, the rest of the day is just as vigorous.

We head to Houma, Louisiana, where one of the major arteries of the response is located. The Incident Command Post is where everyone from BP, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, Fish and Wildlife, National Guard, EPA and OSHA sit side by side, battling oil when it hits the surface. All operations are carried out through this center, and people are exhausted.

The admiral gets on a conference call with his Cabinet secretaries and holds a news conference with dozens of reporters. Then, we board a Coast Guard search and rescue plane and fly over the marshlands, Chandeleur Islands and the spot where the oil rig exploded. The skimming efforts around that gushing well are enormous.

Once we touch down, the calls start coming in again - this time, the attorney general, congressmen, senators and, of course, the White House. The admiral has to not only work with BP to cap the gushing oil, but he has to also protect a possible crime scene. AG Eric Holder  is not wavering  for a moment on his investigation.

Next stop is a staging area in Cocodrie, Louisiana. Huge USCG cargo pallets of booms line the road leading to the water. There’s dozens of trailers to house the contractors working 12 hours on, 12 hours off. All of a sudden, EPA chief Lisa Jackson comes into the room and it’s a walk-and-talk about toxic dispersants, which the EPA wants BP to use less.

Bottom line: This day is about full transparency, and I have seen it.

In fact, President Obama just granted Allen that "deal" he's been working on all day: building barrier islands to protect the marshlands. One more victory for the man whose trying to please everyone.

Allen has taken on the biggest challenge of his career. A strange request for a man who actually retired just less than two weeks ago.

soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. J(X)

    SPRAYING DISPERSMENT CHEMICALS IS CRAZY at the well leak is the worst thing you could do for the ocean. SPRAYING DISPERSMENT CHEMICALS just hides the damage and makes the oil imposible to isolate and collect the oil at the serface.

    STOP THE SPRAYING DISPERSMENT CHEMICALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!@#$%^$#@!#$%^&$#@$%^&$#@$%^&$#

    June 4, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • john2010

      i agree...this is just to make it appear there is less oil when the dispersant is more toxic than the oil itself...

      June 5, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Agreed. The only thing it does is limit the potential liability for spill damages for BP.
      End result, either way: BP wins, US loses a boatload of boatloads of coastline...
      As for the good admiral's schedule, rather a LOT like mine while I was in the middle east...

      June 5, 2010 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  2. Peg

    Please, will someone go to the live stream video at BP? The well site is burning. The amount of oil spewing into the water is incredible. The robot arm was withdrawn slightly from the site, but it can still be seen with oil covering the top of the arm, and the oil is bubbling. A link does not work, so please go to Google and ask for "live stream video of BP oil leak." About the second offering should be for the ROV BP site. Click on it and see this disaster for yourselves. I do not believe that there is noone monitoring this site, nor can I believe that the news is not reporting it.,

    June 4, 2010 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. Peg

    There has just been a massive explosion at the BP oil well. I have no idea where else to report this. CNN, ARE YOU OUT THERE? WE HAVE A MAJOR DISASTER GOING ON!

    June 4, 2010 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Randy Johnson

      Yah – looks like CNN is the ONLY ones out there

      June 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. raoul duke

    thad allen is a joke, cnn is a joke, kyra phillips is a joke and barack "no spine" husainn is the biggest joke of them all. this is the USA and we now see the so called leaders have no clue! we are F#@ked our leaders CANT LEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 4, 2010 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cray

      Well said. Kyra's reports on CNN sound more like she's being an apologist for Thad Allen, than covering the story objectively.

      June 4, 2010 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marlene

      I agree with you Raoul. We used to have leadership in this country, not anymore. When the almost fatal disaster of Apollo 13 happened, Gene Krantz said, "Failure is NOT an option!" What has happened to all those great people?? So sad. If Gene Krantz had been overseeing this, it probably would have been done right and taken care of quickly. Where are all those geniuses now?? They're out there trying to help, but Washington and BP don't want their help!! Washington and the big oil companies are all in cahoots!! Bottom line. I have nothing positive to say about any of them right now.

      June 4, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy Johnson

      So 'raoul'? Whats your SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM ??????????????? Or do you just spew out cr**p

      June 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kathryn Richardson

      What's your problem??? Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed or do you need a laxative???

      June 5, 2010 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. PlaquemiesGuy

    Why dont Kyra Phillips just suck the man off and get it over with!

    June 4, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      Amen what a fluff piece

      June 5, 2010 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. PlaquemiesGuy

    The CNN female reporters have been the worse reporters since Day 1.

    June 4, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy Johnson

      So big mouth whats wrong with them – obviously you 'watch' them (creepy) why don't you tune in to Glenn Beck or some other NEWS CHANNEL ???????????????? NO answer????

      June 4, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kathryn Richardson

      Wrong!!! Kyra Phillips is one of the best!

      June 5, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  7. Randy Johnson

    Well at least someone is making progress in finding out what is really going on. Good job CNN – thats why we watch you on TV and are my home page on my computer.

    June 4, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Randy Johnson

    By the way – anybody see Greg Gutfeld, Glen Beck or anyone from Fu*x news embedded on the drilling rig? Anybody ever wonder why Obama – and all the other Presidents in the past have chosen Larry KIng to get their message across? Any of you wonder why you are on the CNN web site commenting if you don't like them? Maybe get your remote out or google NBC, FOX, or Tehran News hahahahahaha

    June 4, 2010 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Diaa

    It is NOT too late to SAVE the Gulf but you have to let us break through all the NOISE of your very busy day!

    WE CAN STOP THE OIL FROM COMING ASHORE ON THE BEACHES AND MARSHES BUT YOU'VE GOT TO GIVE US A CHANCE!

    http://spillcontainment.com/products/spill_response/combo.htm

    Dont' wait too long. There is a point where it will be too late. Hurry!

    June 4, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kathryn Richardson

    I was glad to see Kyra Phillips with the Admiral today seeing what is really going on. There are people working hard to solve this problem. The afternoon and evening media seem to spin a lot and act as if no one is doing anything. Some of these people...Carville, Matlin, Anderson are so busy complaining and blabbing about no one cleaning up the mess.. I don't see any oil on their clothes. There are people who are like baby birds....all mouth and full of ......! I usually like what Anderson does, but, now, I'm not so sure.

    June 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jim

    In the "A Day with Adml Thad Allen" segment, I thought it was interesting that one of the employees being interviewed seemed to personify the well and blame the well for all that's happened which makes me curious. Just what is it about this batch of oil that makes it so dangerous?

    June 5, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. john2010

    I just wish he could stop the oil from leaking and quit downplaying the severity of this disaster or trying to make it sound like BP is doing a great job.

    June 5, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tom

    I'm sorry, but "the word of the day Tomar" means to drink. Tokar is to take.

    June 5, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jeremy

    At this point I say we have to go with what Russia has told us they have done when faced with the same oil leaks off their coasts. They nuked them. 5 times is what I have heard. And yes that will hurt the ecosystem. It sucks. I know. But its better then more and more oil floating throughout the Gulf and up the east coast. The sooner we do it the better.

    June 5, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Robert

    Lots of armchair quarterbacks, spouting off about matters on which they are wholly ignorant. The undeniable fact is that most of us have no idea about the number of meetings that have been held at the highest levels about this, the forces marshalled to deal with it. See, we're not there, we're not anywhere near there, we're on the West Coast, in the Midwest, in the Southwest, whereever. That doesn't stop people not only from reaching into the corridors of power where they have never been to pontificate about what's going on there but magically into the hearts of people working to bring this to an end and seeing in those hearts only malice and stupidity: "I see stupid people... they don't know they're stupid."

    June 5, 2010 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
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