updated 8/29/2006 11:49:56 AM ET 2006-08-29T15:49:56

Guests: Wendy Murphy, Jeralyn Merritt, Trent Lott, Charles Pickering, Al Sharpton, Pat Buchanan, Michael Brown

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Tonight, Katrina one year later, as families and communities struggle to survive on their long road back.  We‘re in Gulfport, Mississippi, ground zero of Hurricane Katrina, the state where we broadcast from one year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  When we talked to relief agencies, driving over from Pensacola, that were on the ground here, they basically told us, Don‘t bother, we‘ve got the situation under control.  They don‘t, and people are dying because of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  But today, the president tours a Mississippi Gulf Coast that still looks like a war zone but is recovering.  And we ask what needs to make—be done to make sure that the horrors of Katrina never happen again on this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

ANNOUNCER:  Live from Gulfport, Mississippi, here‘s Joe Scarborough.

SCARBOROUGH:  I am Joe Scarborough, and I‘m coming to you live tonight from Gulfport, Mississippi.  This is obviously an area that was so devastated a year ago starting tomorrow morning.  A year later, though—the Mississippi people, I think, are just some of the most incredible in America.  A year later, nobody‘s cursing God, they‘re praising him.  Nobody is yelling at the government anymore, they‘re are thanking not only the government, but mainly, they‘re thanking the kindness of the American people.  This, of course, the front page of a newspaper, “The Sun-Herald,” that won a Pulitzer Prize for their remarkable work after Hurricane Katrina last year.

But we had people stop us on the road and said, You know what?  We‘re still living in a small FEMA trailer one year later, but we‘re thankful, we‘re thankful that God didn‘t forget it and we‘re thankful that the American people didn‘t forget us.  That‘s just what makes, again, Mississippi such a special place, a place that I lived in for a while but that I really fell in love with this time last year.

We‘re going to be talking about Hurricane Katrina one year later.  We‘re going to be talking about what the government did wrong and but what the American people did right and what they‘re still doing right and what we need to do to make sure it never happens again.  And we‘re going to be talking about that important story for most of this hour.

But first, there were major developments today out in Colorado in the JonBenet Ramsey case.  Tonight, John Mark Karr is a free man, at least as far as Colorado authorities are concerned.  That creepy former school teacher‘s DNA didn‘t match the DNA that was found at the murder scene of JonBenet Ramsey‘s 10 years ago, which means the Boulder DA, after putting everybody through all of this—this stuff, is not going to even file charges against Karr, after they had him arrested in Thailand, returned to the United States, extradited to Colorado amidst great fanfare and wall-to-wall media coverage—this, of course, after Karr allegedly confessed to being with JonBenet on the night that she died and reportedly having knowledge of some details that only the killer could have known.  Of course, his ex-wife says he was in Atlanta at the time of the murder, and that apparently is the case.

So what was the Boulder DA thinking?  Did she really bring Karr back to the United States just because a disturbed man said that he killed JonBenet?  Let‘s go right now live to Boulder, Colorado, and MSNBC‘s Rita Crosby.  Rita, get us up to date with the latest developments.  And tell me, please, what was that DA thinking?

RITA COSBY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it all came down to, Joe, no evidence, no case.  I was told that she thought he had information that only the killer would know.  And one of my law enforcement sources was telling me that after she got him into their custody, then she learned that some of that information was on sort of a pedophile Web site, a known Web site that pedophiles visit.  In other words, that information was already out there.  That may have been one nugget.  She was surely hoping that the DNA would match.

And as you pointed out, just a few hours before he was supposed to have an advisement here, right at the Boulder County court—you can see right behind me, the district court here—he was supposed to have it this afternoon—things looked like it was going full steam ahead.  And then suddenly, we got the word that John Karr‘s DNA did not match the DNA that was found in JonBenet Ramsey‘s home.  Particularly, there were two drops that were found on her underwear that did not match.  And in other words, the DA had no solid case at that point.  Just a few moments afterwards, we heard that the charges were going be dropped, and then John Mark Karr was shipped back to the jail.

But, as you point out, he is not a free man.  The word is—of course, in California, Sonoma County in northern California, he did not show up for court.  He did spend six months behind jail (SIC) for child porn charges.  But he was scheduled to come back to court.  He jumped that, in fact, left the country.  They want him.  They‘ve an arrest warrant out for him since 2001.

So now, as soon as literally within minutes, I‘m told, that the word came down that he was, quote, “free” and basically no charges here in Boulder, Sonoma said, We want him.  So tomorrow, there will be an extradition hearing tomorrow afternoon.  And if he doesn‘t fight it, he could be in California as early as Wednesday.

So Joe, this whole twisted tale just continues.  And of course, now everyone‘s wondering who killed JonBenet Ramsey.

SCARBOROUGH:  It is a question that‘s been asked for 10 years, and Rita, obviously, will continue to be asked.  Thank you so much for being with us.  We greatly appreciate you coming out and telling us the very latest.

Let‘s bring in right now former prosecutor Wendy Murphy.  We have Jeralyn Merritt, a criminal defense attorney, and former FBI hostage negotiator and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt, author of “Facing Down Evil.”

Clint, is this one of the strangest moves by a DA‘s office in the modern media era?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR, MSNBC ANALYST:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  This guy—apparently, they now have evidence this guy was in Atlanta the night JonBenet Ramsey was killed.

VAN ZANDT:  You know, Joe, this is winding up to be bad information that resulted in bad advice that culminated in a bad decision.  I mean, you know, this is second only to the decision by Janet Reno to take Waco from David Koresh.  It balances right there.

And you know, there‘s going be enough blame to go all the way around.  And I‘ve been in this DA‘s corner, saying, Hey, you know, this is a guy you needed to get off the street.  But you know, Joe, you and I, we sit down and you talk about this and you say, Clint, isn‘t there any other way?  And I‘d say, Joe, we could have put this guy under surveillance 23/7, surreptitiously got his DNA, ruled him in or ruled him out by DNA, and then made a decision if we needed to go forward or just to have left him in Thailand.

SCARBOROUGH:  And at the very least, Clint, you talk to the family, you talk to the ex-wife and say, Was your husband, your ex-husband, in Colorado instead of Alabama or Atlanta the night JonBenet Ramsey died?  I mean, it‘s pretty easy to remember the night—you know, Christmas night.

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, and...

SCARBOROUGH:  They didn‘t even bother doing that.  They‘re the Keystone Kops.

VAN ZANDT:  Well, it would have been real easy to do.  I think the DA is going tell us they were afraid the guy would rabbit, that he hadn‘t been back in the United States for five years, that they thought the family would call him up and say, Hey, the police are asking questions, what are you up to, and that the guy would have taken off.

But that‘s where that surveillance—if they would have been watching him, had their ducks in order with the Thais, the Thais could have said, Hey, it looks like he‘s going to go—we‘re going to charge him with something locally.  Then we‘re just going to put him out of this country as an undesirable.  He‘ll have to take the next plane to LAX, and lo and behold, he‘d be in our custody anyway.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, and Wendy Murphy, this guy‘s obviously a menace to society.  He‘s got serious problems.  Isn‘t a confession enough to hold this guy, who confessed to murdering her?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  I don‘t think so.  And actually, you know, Joe, I‘ve said from day one I don‘t think this guy did it.  I never bought it for one split second!  And I‘ll tell you, Mary Lacy said something interesting today that I think suggests that there‘s another shoe yet to drop in this whole case, that I don‘t think we‘re quite done hearing what this guy‘s role was in all of this because she said, We couldn‘t get a DNA sample from him while he was in Thailand because he didn‘t want to, you know, give him the buckle (ph) swab, which is basically put a Q-tip in the guy‘s mouth, because then he might have known we were onto him.

This is a guy who was confessing all over the place~!  I think he already knew he might be in some hot water on the case.  And couldn‘t you have said simply, Hey, can you take a break from your confession and open your mouth so I can stick a Q-tip in?  He probably would have willingly given a buckle swab test.

So I don‘t quite buy Mary Lacy‘s explanation, Oh, we were worried he might take off.  And frankly, I don‘t buy that the end of this story has come.  I am beginning to think this guy actually arrived in Colorado because after five years in the underworld, hopping from one country to the other, one kiddie porn capital to another, with no apparent source of income, by the way, he has produced some important evidence because, you know, everyone jumped on the “John Karr did it” bandwagon.  Now they‘re on the “We hate Mary Lacy, she‘s an idiot” bandwagon.  I‘m not ready to believe everybody involved in this case is such an idiot.  Not yet.

SCARBOROUGH:  So maybe another shoe will drop.  Let me ask you,

Jeralyn, do you think that Boulder DA officials were idiots, using the word

using the words that Wendy just used, to cause this kind of stir, to bring this guy back to the United States of America without any hard evidence at all?

JERALYN MERRITT, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I‘m not going use the word “idiots,” and I don‘t think they‘re idiots, but I think they were wrong.  When you get an arrest warrant for someone, you get—you are swearing to a judge that there is probable cause to believe they committed the crime that‘s the subject of the arrest warrant—in this case, the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

Now it turns out that Mary Lacy only learned the guy‘s name five days before she asked for the arrest warrant.  She did no independent investigation.  The only thing she had were these e-mails.

VAN ZANDT:  That‘s unbelievable.

MERRITT:  So what she said at her press conference, which is that she thought he was a flight risk and a danger to children in Thailand, seems to be the reason that she went forward so early with the arrest warrant, and I don‘t think that‘s legally proper.

The only thing that‘s legally proper for an arrest warrant is you have probable cause to believe that this guy murdered JonBenet Ramsey, and she didn‘t have it.  She caused this media circus for the last two weeks that has driven, essentially, the Israeli-Lebanon conflict and Katrina now off of the air waves.  It was all unnecessary.  She should have waited.  But is she an idiot?  No, she was just wrong.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  She was wrong.  Jeralyn, thank you.  Thank you so much, Wendy Murphy, and thank you, Clint Van Zandt.  We will get back to Katrina coverage now.  Stay with MSNBC tonight for all the very latest on the developments in the case.  Next hour, Rita Cosby is going host a one-hour special, “JonBenet Ramsey; Case Dropped.”

But when we come back, our special look at “Katrina: The Long Road Back.”  We‘re going to take you along for a firsthand look at all the areas that are still struggling to rebuild along the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans and right here in the area that too much of America forgot about for too long, Mississippi‘s Gulf Coast.  But they remember now.

And up next, why the damage to the president‘s popularity may take longer to repair than the entire Gulf Coast.  Senator Trent Lott joins us next to talk about Mississippi fighting its way back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I just got to ask you, can you believe this is happening in our country?  Can you believe this is happening in the wealthiest country not only around the earth today, but the wealthiest country that‘s ever been?  What—I mean, we are a nation of immeasurable riches, and we have people dying in the shadows of giant skyscrapers and we can‘t do anything about it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to Gulfport, Mississippi, where the people of Mississippi have proven over the past year that they have the spirit and the character to begin again.  Today, as I traveled around the Gulf Coast, I did find a community that thanked God and their country for the blessings they received since Hurricane Katrina struck a year ago tomorrow morning.  There are signs of recovery, but there‘s also so much work ahead of them. 

For that part of the story, here‘s NBC‘s Carl Quintanilla—Carl.

CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Joe.  One year ago, many people stood on these streets wondering if this city would ever recover.  Tonight, it appears to be doing just that, but it‘s taking longer and involving harder work than just about anybody imagined.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  Drive through New Orleans today, and you may wonder which is the real city, the deserted lots and crippled traffic lights or the mailmen like Wayne Trudeau (ph), delivering letters in the 9th Ward to a new generation of early settlers.

WAYNE TRUDEAU, NEW ORLEANS MAIL CARRIER:  You‘re home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

TRUDEAU:  Praise God.  Bless your heart.

QUINTANILLA:  One example of a city being reassembled in pieces.

TRUDEAU:  See another sign of life.

QUINTANILLA:  A school here, a new Home Depot there.  A year after Katrina, construction supplies are selling so well, New Orleans sales tax revenue is stronger than expected.  New phone service means Gene Taglavore (ph) can open his butcher shop...

GENE TAGLAVORE, BUTCHER SHOP OWNER:  It had almost a foot of mud.

QUINTANILLA:  ... after a year of clean-up he did practically by himself.

TAGLAVORE:  You just (INAUDIBLE) get working, and you work until you can‘t do no more.

QUINTANILLA:  It‘s a sharp contrast from last summer, when choppers swarmed above us, pets we encountered were dazed, and airboats rescued residents on Napoleon Avenue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUINTANILLA:  The water is getting too deep, and it‘s getting deeper.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUINTANILLA (on camera):  Today, the neighborhood doesn‘t seem to have lost any of its charm.  We‘ve already seen neighbors walking dogs, flags on porches, the airboats replaced by a steady stream of cars.

(voice-over):  But if you didn‘t own your house, there‘s a good chance you can‘t afford to move back.  Fewer homes mean skyrocketing rents.  Long stretches are uninhabited and uninhabitable, the population now thin enough that the White and Yellow Pages are one book—d2istributed by workers like Maria Williams (ph), who‘s 85.

MARIA WILLIAMS, TELEPHONE BOOK DISTRIBUTOR:  I think I‘m still in a nightmare.  I don‘t think it‘s real.  I wish somebody would just pinch me hard.

QUINTANILLA:  Even in Mississippi, which took a direct hit from Katrina, the poor may be gaining traction.  Those who lost their jobs, like this school teacher in Biloxi, are learning skills still in demand.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Gambling has really brought us through so far.

QUINTANILLA:  Tonight, there a million questions about the future, the levees.  But this much is certain.  The region‘s recovery still rides on individuals taking risks, working for something, someplace that‘s bigger than themselves.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

QUINTANILLA:  Some 50,000 permits have been issued for New Orleans residents to work on their homes, and experts say applications for those permits are coming in at an even faster rate—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right now, let‘s bring in Mississippi senator Trent Lott.  Senator, obviously, you went through all this with.  We‘ve got a hurricane.  As two people that live on the Gulf Coast, I‘m sort of interested in the answer to this.  From everybody you‘ve talked to, are we better prepared now than we were a year ago, when FEMA, you know, federal government, the state governments, the Red Cross and so many other people let us down?

SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI:  First, I want to thank you, Joe, for being here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  And last year, when a lot of the focus was in other areas, you didn‘t forget us and you helped us recover, and I want to thank you on a personal basis and on behalf of what you did for the media, too.

The answer to your question is, yes, I think we‘re better prepared.  Are we prepared enough?  Absolutely not.  I think that we learned a lot of lessons from the most cataclysmic disaster ever to hit this country.  That was the thing we still underestimated, the impact on this region.  A whole 90-mile swathe was hammered and—but I do think we‘ve made some progress on communications.  Our National Guard is better prepared.  I think FEMA has learned some lessons.  I think Mr. Paulison...

SCARBOROUGH:  But what happened...

LOTT:  ... is a better director...

SCARBOROUGH:  What happened, though?  Because FEMA, which did such a great job in Florida in 2004, in my hometown after Ivan hit, was horrible last year, and it‘s the same Michael Brown that ran the Florida operations, four of them that year, that ran it over here.  I don‘t—I just—that‘s what I still haven‘t figured out.

LOTT:  I—I...

SCARBOROUGH:  FEMA seems to be still standing in the way of people that are doing the right things in Mississippi now!

LOTT:  Yes, we‘re still having problems with them.  But number one, this was a devastating event.  It was proportions that they had never seen before, they really weren‘t prepared for.  But also, I think between when you really got hammered in Florida and Katrina, we set up this huge, mammoth Department of Homeland Security.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

LOTT:  And we stuck FEMA in it, and it kind of became a back 40.  They weren‘t properly staffed.  They weren‘t adequately funded.  And by the way, hey, Congress has to take some of the blame for that.  We‘re the ones that set up that department.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I remember hearing Michael Brown say—he was in Baton Rouge...

LOTT:  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... he wanted to get down to New Orleans.  Chertoff, who was in Atlanta at a conference in his polo shirt when it hit...

LOTT:  Well, of course...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... wouldn‘t let him go down there.

LOTT:  ... I made the point about Mr. Brown, for instance, wanting to be in New Orleans.  That was one of the problems.  He was acting like a private, and he was supposed to have been a general.  The general is supposed to be back at headquarters, making sure that everything is moving, the different agencies are coordinating, and he wanted to be out in some remote parish, handing out bottled water.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me...

LOTT:  That was a mistake.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you another question about Mississippi.

LOTT:  All right.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why was Mississippi forgotten?

LOTT:  Well...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... after it hit.

LOTT:  We weren‘t forgotten.  We didn‘t get the attention...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, because—you say that because you were watching my TV show.

LOTT:  Well, I was.

SCARBOROUGH:  Other than us...

LOTT:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... nobody was talking about Mississippi.

LOTT:  Not as much as they should have.  But I mean, it‘s—it‘s understandable.  What was the biggest city that was impacted?  New Orleans.  Now, remember, New Orleans had a different disaster than us.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

LOTT:  We had a hurricane, they had a flood...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.

LOTT:  ... after the fact.  But it was so easy to fly into New Orleans and just report what was going on in New Orleans, and it was a disaster.  But also, we weren‘t hollering.  We weren‘t whining.  We were working.

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  We were helping each other.  You know, we had leadership locally.  Our mayors, like the mayor here in Gulfport, Mississippi, Brent War (ph), our congressional delegation was working together, our other senator and congressmen...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... you‘d rather have Brent working for you than Ray Nagin?

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

LOTT:  He‘d only been mayor, like, 70 days.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

LOTT:  But he has—all of our—our elected officials locally did a good job.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, he did—no, they—they did.  And there was—again, nobody whined.  Nobody was complaining.  But I‘m going to point a finger now and say President Bush seemed disengaged at the beginning.  He was here today.  Do you think the president‘s going to be more engaged the next time a hurricane comes to your hometown or my hometown?

LOTT:  I think he will be.  I think—the image was he was not as engaged as he should have been, but you know, if the president popped down the day after a hurricane, he couldn‘t even have gone anywhere.  I mean, our airports were closed.  We had debris all over the place.  So—but you know, he learned lessons and we learned lessons in the process.  But he has not quit coming.

SCARBOROUGH:  No, he‘s...

LOTT:  He was today the 11th time...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

LOTT:  ... and he brought Laura, which we are even more appreciative of.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.

LOTT:  And she‘s helped our libraries and our schools.  It—I—there‘s no question that the way the aftermath was handled by the federal government I think did cause a problem for the administration for a while.  I can explain why, but—of course, part of my job as a senator is to make sure that FEMA and HUD and Homeland Security and the Coast Guard and everybody else knows—or Education department—what‘s going on down here and what we need.

SCARBOROUGH:  But...

LOTT:  And I do that.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, no doubt about it.  Well, Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

LOTT:  We do appreciate your attention and your consideration and your help, Joe.  You put your effort where your mouth was, and we appreciate it.

SCARBOROUGH:  And we‘re going to keep doing that.  And I got to tell you also, I—again, I just love—love Mississippi people.

LOTT:  Yes.  We appreciate...

SCARBOROUGH:  Not whining, thanking the American people.  And that‘s what it‘s all about.

LOTT:  Well, here we stand.  We will not give up.  We‘ve got you.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you, Senator, again.

LOTT:  OK.  Thank you very much.

SCARBOROUGH:  A great honor to have you here.

Coming up next, we‘re going to take you along, our tour of Biloxi, a firsthand look at how a city‘s trying to get back on its feet.  Plus, we‘re going to be joined live by former FEMA director Michael Brown and ask him what the government should have done differently last year and why the recovery is still taking so long this year and what we need to do differently in the 2006 hurricane season.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  Live from Gulfport, Mississippi, once again, Joe Scarborough.

SCARBOROUGH:  One year after Hurricane Katrina battered the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Louisiana Gulf Coast, the recovery is still taking center stage.  Tonight, tens of thousands of families displaced by Katrina still are living in trailers and mobile homes across this area. 

And while President Bush admitted today that a complete recovery was still a long way off, a lot of residents are calling the administration‘s response too little, too late. 

With me now, former FEMA director Michael Brown.  We‘ve got the Reverend Al Sharpton, Mississippi Congressman Charles Pickering, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, who‘s also the author of the new book—I think number-one book with a bullet—“State of Emergency.” 

Michael Brown, talking about state of emergencies, let‘s start with you.  Your popularity has sort of gone in waves.  Everybody in Florida absolutely loved you in 2004.  It seems like everybody on the planet hated you in 2005.  And now there‘s some revisionism in 20006. 

Tell us, a year later, now that the shooting has stopped at your head, what went wrong last year?  Why was there such a pathetic response? 

MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR:  Joe, I think the most telling point was—over the weekend, I heard Secretary Chertoff say that homeland security has got to start doing catastrophic disaster planning, and that takes years.  Well, if they had listened to me in 2003 and done that catastrophic disaster planning, we wouldn‘t have had that response in 2005. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael Brown, in 2004, in my home state, we had four catastrophic hurricanes, one tropical storm.  The recovery was fantastic.  In 2005, the Hurricane Katrina was as bad as it could be.  Was it really that simple, that homeland security doesn‘t know how to help Americans recover from disasters? 

BROWN:  Joe, it really is.  And I sat in the Oval Office and told the president, after visiting the tsunami in January of 2005, that the United States was not ready for a catastrophic disaster, that we needed to do catastrophic disaster planning.  How do you handle 100,000 people who are displaced?  How do you handle, not just 1,500 bodies like we had in New Orleans, but let‘s say we had 10,000 bodies from a bio-event or something?  How do we do that?  We have not done the planning for that, and Chertoff has just now announced over the weekend that we‘re going to start doing it.  It is that simple.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, we got to start doing it.  And like you said, we‘re still years away from it, so what the heck happens three weeks from now when a hurricane slams into the Gulf Coast again?  Now, some Katrina victims, though, that have been highlighted in Spike Lee‘s new documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” talk about race.  And they believe the levees were intentionally bombed in order to flood the downscale Ninth Ward and save more expensive properties.  Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  If they wanted us in New Orleans, they wouldn‘t have tried to drown us and kill us.  So I‘m not going back so they can finish it off. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Al Sharpton, do you think that African-Americans were intentional targets of people that were bombing the levees a year ago? 

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  I think that African-Americans were victims of intentional neglect.  You must remember that it was known for years that these levees needed repair.  There had even been some exercises done to establish it.  There was nothing was done to repair those levees, so we can go back and forth whether...

(CROSSTALK)  

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about that.  No doubt about that.  But you don‘t think people bombed the levees, though, right? 

SHARPTON:  Well, I mean, I think that the effect is the same.  If you allow something to continue, Joe, that you know will have the impact that it did, one would know from just any surface understanding that that would not have been permitted in an area that was not mostly poor and not mostly black. 

And I think that—I certainly have been very noticeable—it‘s been noticeable to me what Michael Brown is saying now, and that‘s good.  But Michael Brown was not saying that a year ago.  He was saying, “Everything‘s fine.  We‘re doing the best we can.”  George Bush came in on the middle of people on roof tops with “Help us” signs, saying, “Brownie, you‘re doing a great job.”  It looks like that that script has changed. 

BROWN:  And, Al, that‘s exactly what I was saying, that was my biggest mistake was sticking to those talking points and not leveling with the American people.  But I‘d ask you to do the same, too.  Look, I think Spike has done a disservice by putting that issue on the table.  No one bombed the levees.  I agree they were neglected, but nobody bombed them, Al.

SHARPTON:  Well, Brownie, I think Spike did a great service to America by showing people around this country, the pain and suffering that people went through while the president sat and did nothing, while you were sitting around telling people that everything was coming along, that FEMA‘s right on top of it, and nothing was happening. 

And I think what Spike showed the American people is American people saying things.  Spike didn‘t make any accusations.  He let the people of New Orleans speak, and he let you speak, and the president speak.  And what you were saying had nothing to do with the reality of what was going on. 

BROWN:  Al, let me tell you something.  It may come as a shock to you.  Spike called us and wanted to interview me and then suddenly said he was out of money and couldn‘t interview me, which I found a little incredulous.  But, look, I think he was hoping that I would say no, like Condi Rice said no, and Michael Chertoff said no, and the president said no.  I was willing to talk to Spike, but he wasn‘t willing to talk to me. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Al Sharpton...

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON:  Well, I wish you were willing to talk when you were still the head of FEMA.  Unemployed people willing to talk doesn‘t have the same kind of impact when people are suffering. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, of course, Al Sharpton, we‘ve all said things—and myself included—that I wish I hadn‘t have said in the past. 

SHARPTON:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  And let me say this also, Al.  You‘re not going to get any complaint from me that the people who are usually taken care of last, for whatever reason, are poor, African-American people.  There is a sliding scale in America.  And whether people want to admit that or not, that‘s just the way it‘s been, unfortunately.  But I do want to hear you say tonight, if you will, that you don‘t believe the levees were bombed in New Orleans last year. 

SHARPTON:  First of all, I don‘t know what happened with the levees.  I‘ve not seen evidence of bombings.  I‘ve not seen, though, evidence of exactly what happened and it would be avoided again.  If you want me to get up and condemn people that are trying to figure out why they lost everything...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m not asking you to do that. 

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON:  I‘ve not seen evidence of a bombing, but I certainly think what Spike Lee brought forward the American people needed to hear and see.  I think he should be saluted for that.  And I think that Mr. Brown and others should understand the passion that people had about and still have about the circumstances that they‘re in. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and I...

BROWN:  And I agree with that, Al.  I agree. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think, from what I‘ve heard Michael Brown say—and I certainly have not defended him, because I kicked him around harder than just about anybody else a year ago—but I think Michael Brown has said time and time again that there were some terrible mistakes made by this administration, and there are mistakes that can‘t happen again. 

I want to ask everybody to stay where we are.  We‘re going to be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, talking about what happened a year ago and where exactly we are right now.  That and much more, when this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY continues. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Back now with us, former FEMA Director Michael Brown.  We also have the Reverend Al Sharpton, Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering, and MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, who‘s also the author of the new book, “State of Emergency.”

Pat Buchanan, what happened to the president a year ago in Katrina? 

Has he recovered from it?  Will he ever recover from it, politically?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  No, that‘s going to be part of his legacy, Joe.  But let me say this:  I really think it is the worst kind of slander and demagoguery to suggest that the government of the United States in any way, in the utter absence of evidence, somehow dynamited the levees in order to damage, or injure, or kill African-Americans. 

I think it is a slander and a libel to suggest that this president was indifferent to what was going on either in New Orleans or in Mississippi.  Now, I‘ve got a lot of criticisms of George W. Bush, but this president has a good heart.  He was badly served by his staff.  They were asleep at the switch.  They should have told him the whole country is focused here, sir, and you can‘t go out and play a guitar in California. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you this, though, Pat.  And, again, I certainly think it‘s slander to say anybody put dynamite in the levees and blew them up.  But do you really think, if the people that were on the street in Mississippi looked like Natalee Holloway instead of how they look, the president would have taken 72 hours to engage in this crisis?  I find it hard to believe that, if they were wealthy, white people on the streets of New Orleans, it would have taken 72 hours. 

BUCHANAN:  I disagree, Joe.  I think the president was asleep at the switch in this sense.  He‘s on vacation.  His top staffers aren‘t there.  He wasn‘t alerted to the fact that every journalist in the country was down there focusing on this.  He‘s got usually good political instincts.  They either were not touched here or they weren‘t working.  But the idea that he wouldn‘t move because there were black folks, I just don‘t believe that about this president, or the first lady, or anybody. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I don‘t believe that either.  I don‘t believe that.  And I believe the president has a good heart.  I really do.  And I do believe that he believes—he is what he calls a compassionate conservative.  I just think, though, there wasn‘t the urgency of the administration because...

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN:  We were all there.  Look, some of us are very conservative, much more than Al Sharpton, but we were all watching that thing.  I was saying, yelling at the screen, “Get the damn 82nd Airborne in there, if nobody else can get down there, and get those people out!”  I think the president...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Pat, you were born and raised in Chevy Chase, Maryland. 

BUCHANAN:  D.C.

SCARBOROUGH:  You could transport that—OK, you were raised in D.C., and probably a pretty affluent part.  Do you think it would have taken 72 hours if this had happened let‘s say in Mountain Brook, Alabama, where a lot of rich people live?

BUCHANAN:  Well, you know, yes, look, I think the president was not alert.  I think if he had been alert, whether they were black folks, or white folks, or Asian-Americans or whatever, as president I think he would have responded.  He‘s that kind of guy. 

You saw him up there in that pile in New York.  That was the president reacting.  It had nothing to do with race or anything else.  It was Americans.  And I think he would have reacted to those Americans.

He just—his guys were asleep at the switch.  And maybe he was, too, but again, I just don‘t see any malice in this man or any cold indifference to certain Americans. 

BROWN:  Joe, let me say it, too, that I really agree with what Pat is saying, because I was right there and I watched him.  The problem was, was that, as we were engaging the president—I‘ll never forget, on Tuesday morning, we had this secure conference call where I told the president that I thought at least 80 percent of New Orleanians had been displaced.  And he was surprised by that. 

And I think the problem was—you know, Andy Card was in Massachusetts.  Hagen and the president was down at Crawford.  And everybody was kind of scattered, and I just couldn‘t get people‘s attention, no matter how desperate I told them there were. 

And, Pat, you‘re right.  I was screaming for the 82nd Airborne on Tuesday, and even on Friday I was still screaming for the 82nd Airborne. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and let me bring in Chip Pickering here.  Chip, you know, the thing that amazed me was the story that I heard that, 72 hours into it, the president still didn‘t know what was going on.  White House aides said to draw straws to figure out who was going to take a DVD of news coverage down to Crawford, Texas, and let him know how bad it was.

And your people explain—and I‘m not knocking the president a year later.  I was a year ago.  But explain how that impacted your constituents and caused suffering and death, not only here, but over in New Orleans.

REP. CHARLES PICKERING ®, MISSISSIPPI:  The reality is, this is not an issue of race.  This is a failure of bureaucracy.  And federal government and rapid response just don‘t go together. 

And the reality is Florida, your state, is successful in responding to disasters because they‘ve really said to FEMA, “Stay out.  We‘re going to do this ourselves.  We can plan, we can stockpile our supplies.  We have our evacuation plans.  We can clean up ourselves.” 

And they are independent and very successful.  And they created a mission culture with small, flexible agencies at state and local levels.

SCARBOROUGH:  That move a lot faster.

PICKERING:  It moves a lot faster.  And for us to expect, whether in New Orleans or in Mississippi, for FEMA, which is a broken bureaucratic model, that whether it‘s in an education or disaster, the federal government is going to fail. 

Even when you have good leadership, the structure, the organization is incapable and incompetent to meet disasters in a rapid, responsive way.  And so I think it really calls for the reform, but also the change of how we expect our federal government to respond.

SCARBOROUGH:  Chip...

PICKERING:  And as local, state and behind us we see the church. 

SCARBOROUGH:  The church.  And I want to talk about that when we come back. 

But, Reverend Sharpton, I want to give you the final chance to respond to what you‘ve been hearing in this segment.  You think...

SHARPTON:  Let me say this.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... Ray Nagin said this past weekend that it was more about money and more about poor people than African-Americans and race. 

SHARPTON:  I think that, when this president came into this situation, having not done anything, not using the bully pulpit of the White House, acting as if he didn‘t know for 72 hours, all of the response things that these gentlemen have said may be true, but no one could explain why the president didn‘t stand up and call this country to attention when every network works in his house in Crawford, Texas.  He should have known.

And with his background on sending lawyers to the Supreme Court against affirmative action and other things, it doesn‘t take a big leap for a lot of black Americans to say, “Every time we needed this president, he was missing in action.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  We‘re going to have to leave it there.  Michael Brown, Al Sharpton, and Pat Buchanan, thanks so much for being with us. 

Chip Pickering, stay with us.  Coming up next, we‘ve got more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, live from Gulfport, Mississippi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  This was a scene from the sky a year ago, New Orleans, a

city underwater.  Now, a year later, NBC‘s Donna Gregory took to the sky

with the Louisiana National Guard to see how far the cleanup has come and

how much work there‘s still left to do.  And joins me now from New Orleans

Donna?

DONNA GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Joe.  You know, a year ago, the rains from Hurricane Katrina were pounding on the Saint Louis Cathedral that‘s so beautiful behind me.  Now, a year later, the cathedral will be hosting an ecumenical prayer service tomorrow.  President Bush is a guest of honor.

We actually had a chance, a rare chance to go aboard a National Guard helicopter to get a bird‘s eye view of how far this city has come one year later.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREGORY:  Now, Colonel, as you heard, one of criticisms was that the Guard wasn‘t here soon enough.  How do you respond to that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I can tell you that that‘s one of the areas that‘s a misnomer.  We had activated 4,000 soldiers two days in advance of the storm.  It was the largest Louisiana National Guard call-up in the history of this (INAUDIBLE) so we were on the ground pre-positioned, 4,000 soldiers. 

What we did not do a good job of is we did not do a good job of broadcasting that to the media, to be quite frank with you.  So people did not realize that we were here well in advance of the storm and we had prepared just like we always do for storms. 

As you‘re looking right here on the left-hand side, this is the 17th Street Canal breach.  I want you to take a look at how big that breach is and think about 10 feet of water rushing through that breach.  You can see the houses are no longer there that were right up against that area on that left-hand side.  That area flooded the central city. 

GREGORY:  And (INAUDIBLE) so many blue tarps, and we still see so much debris.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a major event.  The recovery is something that is a commitment.  We‘re committed to this.  And it‘s not going to be something that‘s going to happen overnight. 

As you see, we‘re hovering over the dome right now.  The dome, a lot of people may see it as an area that is not a positive point.  But for those people that were evacuated, when they were on the top of their houses for two or three days, the dome is seen as a lifeline.  It‘s something that you‘re very happy to get to. 

And if you look over here, right here at the Superdome on your left-hand side, that‘s where the helicopter landing pad was.  Think about 20 helicopters stacked up just hovering in line waiting to drop people off.  As you look down here below us right now, the Convention Center, that‘s where you had about 19,000 people on the road right there.

We came in at 30 minutes.  We started providing food and water in three hours.  And thirty hours after we had occupied the Convention Center, we had evacuated 19,000 people. 

GREGORY:  So everybody was gone in 30 hours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everybody was gone 30 hours later.  It was probably the best military mission I‘ve ever been a part of, and couldn‘t have come at a more opportune time. 

As we fly around the Industrial Canal, he‘s going to come up on it a little bit here, I want you to look and see how many houses are gone from where the breach is.  Take a look at it.  It‘s going to come up on our left right here.  It‘s three football fields.  If we get right here, look at the open area, the grass right there.  That‘s seven blocks of city houses that are gone. 

GREGORY:  Had you ever seen anything like that in your experience? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I never have, and I‘ve never seen something of that magnitude.  And it really hits you.  It hits you hard, because (INAUDIBLE) we‘re the home team.  We‘re part of this community.  And this is our families. 

You know, some of our soldiers lost everything.  And, you know, emotionally, it‘s a tremendous event for you.  And all you want to do when you‘re in the middle of this is just save as many lives as you can.  Every life we saved, we were that much more determined to save the next one.  And it‘s a very personal event for all of the Louisiana soldiers. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREGORY:  And, Joe, such an emotional time, as you remember, a year ago.  Keep in mind, they did say 69,000 people by boat and by air, 4,000 by air.  And we interviewed pilots, Joe, who told us that at one time there were close to 150 helicopters in the air at once.  Very dangerous operation, and the pilots basically adlibbed their way to rescue all those people.  We hear story after story of heroism, as this cleanup continues.  There‘s a lot of hope here in this city tonight—Joe?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, that‘s great news, Donna.  Thank you so much. 

And, obviously, friends, we‘ve heard so many negative stories, but as Donna reminds us, there are so many heroes in this fight.  I want to bring back in Mississippi Congressman Chip Pickering. 

Chip, I think the good news from last year was that men and women of faith, in faith-based organizations from all over America, came down here.  Waveland, Mississippi, a guy from Alaska came down and rebuilt a school and a church.  Isn‘t that the story?

PICKERING:  Yes, the story is one of progress and promise to come.  And faith is at the center of it.  And we had so many faith-based organizations and churches that sheltered thousands, fed thousands, clothed thousands, and really lived the gospel...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re going to talk about that tomorrow night, Chip. 

We‘ve got to go.  But thanks for being with us.

PICKERING:  Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night.

PICKERING:  Yes, always.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks a lot, and we‘ll see you tomorrow night.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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