updated 9/9/2005 10:26:28 AM ET 2005-09-09T14:26:28

Guest: Jesse Jackson, Shirley Franklin, David Cicilline, Dennis Jones,

Chris Sisko

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  The horror sinks in.  As the (AUDIO GAP) from their homes, the vice president visits the Katrina relief effort.  But what about Ophelia and her sister hurricanes and what happens when they hit your town?  Will you be calling your nearest sports stadium home?  And what about the fans?  Do you know what the folks who dealt with Katrina have planned for you? 

Let's play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I'm Chris Matthews. 

There are big questions out there.  Does the team on the relief field now have the right stuff to answer them?  Are the problems of FEMA gone now?  Can it respond fast to the next hurricane?  Can it get choppers in the air to get food and water to the stranded?  Can we, a superpower, turn our strength into real-time action?  Can we get governments at all levels working together, not blaming each other?  Can Dick Cheney, down there today, get a handle on the task?  Or does the president need to have a heavyweight based right there 24/7 in the disaster zone? 

Tonight on HARDBALL, saving the holdouts.  Will Dick Cheney take charge?  Does your city have a good plan? 

Later in the show, we will ask leaders of three cities whether they have changed their emergency plans based on what has happened during Hurricane Katrina, especially now that Tropical Storm Ophelia is now Hurricane Ophelia and is churning off the coast of Florida. 

Right now, we begin with our NBC reporters in the region, starting with Michelle Hofland in New Orleans. 

Michelle, how's it going today? 

MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, when the vice president flies over, he's going to see that the water here is dropping.  It's dropping about four to six inches a day, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. 

And the area that I went in today, the Garden District, it looks like it has dropped about three feet in that area.  It really smells.  This water, it smells of human waste, dead fish, algae.  And then occasionally, you can smell the dead body. 

And, as we have been saying, this is a toxic brew, full of chemicals and bacteria and also the decomposing bodies.  The soldiers are not touching the bodies.  First of all, they're not trained to do so and they're not physically equipped to do so.  They don't have the protective gear.  And—but what they're doing right now is, they're covering the bodies and marking them. 

Also, they say that the water is just simply too deep and the bodies too heavy to move them out right now.  We have been hearing, Chris, about some forced evacuations, but we haven't seen any, with the exception of the looters or people who break the laws.  Those people are being forced out, but no one else. 

I just returned a few minutes ago with spending the whole day with the National Guard.  I was watching them as they were trying to convince the people to leave their homes.  And so, what they're doing is, instead of using weapons, they're using their words to get people to leave.  This one man, he was a 60-year-old man, Andrew Dunbar (ph).  He looks like he's and he says he feels like he's 90. 

We found his place because there was a white flag and a sign out in front that said, needed water.  When we went in, we spoke with this man, who was so grateful to see the National Guard, because the man himself is a vet.  And he says that he really doesn't remember eating anything, except for a can of soup over the past 10 days.  We saw two cans of orange pop, but that's about it.

The National Guard helped pack him up and helped escort him out to their Humvee and we took him to safety.  And when I asked him, why didn't you leave sooner, he just said, have no place to go.  Have nowhere to go.  He said he is arthritic and he couldn't walk all the way down to the Convention Center.  And he said, this just isn't supposed to happen there.  He's lived there for 58 years.  He has no place to go, doesn't know what's going to happen. 

But he said, as a little bit of comfort, he has the $2,000 debit card that he will get from FEMA.  Another equally confused gentleman that we saw that the National Guard convinced to leave, he—when I asked him why he didn't leave, he said, well, because I was waiting for day 11.  And I said, well, why is that?  Well, because of lucky 11. 

(LAUGHTER)

HOFLAND:  I'm not sure what that means.  But—and then this other woman, her name is Sarah Beth Wildflower (ph).  She's a street singer down here in New Orleans.  And she obviously has no longer—has a street to sing on. 

But she said she stayed behind to help feed the cats of the people in her neighborhood.  Well, while we were there, when the National Guard was checking up on them, what happened was, a doctor drove by, a friend of her neighbors, and was giving her a lift and along with her cats.  And she's on her way out of town.  But, before she left, she sang a song for the National Guard, “Good Night Irene.”  And one of the parts of that song is, you have to leave your home. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

HOFLAND:  So, quite a day out there today visiting the people who are trying to leave—Chris.  

MATTHEWS:  Michelle, are they going to escalate the force level?  Are they going to push people out of those homes, drag them out, in the days ahead, the ones who refuse to leave even now? 

HOFLAND:  The National Guard says that, under no circumstances, do they plan on forcing people out of their homes. 

In fact, one captain that we spoke with said that he will not force anyone out of their homes until he sees a—until he sees an order written in blood and signed by the governor.  He said, just going into people's homes, they just can't do that.  And so they're waiting for an order.  If that happens, though, they have the names and addresses of all the people they've seen in these neighborhoods, so that they do know where to go. 

But, Chris, there's one thing that we have seen now that the waters are dropping, the looters.  Now that the water has dropped and the looters can go from one neighborhood to another, this is fresh territory for them.  So, when we were with the National Guard, they were going around searching for looters and making sure that they don't go into these homes that have been surrounded by water and take even more things that they—from homes that haven't been touched yet. 

MATTHEWS:  Give us a sense, if you can, the pace of the pumping operation.  You said it's been receding, the water, three feet in the Garden District.  Based upon that, can you project how many weeks we will have to wait for the city to be dry again? 

HOFLAND:  Officially, it's a long time. 

From what I understand, 28 out of the 148 pumps are working right now.  The number we're hearing, Chris, is between one and three months.  It's an awfully long time.  As you know, also, it's going to leave behind a toxic goo covering everything in this town. 

MATTHEWS:  And we are watching it go going into Lake Pontchartrain.  Is there a fear that that lake is going to look like that when they're done dumping all that stuff in there? 

HOFLAND:  You know, I don't know.  I do know that a lot of people use that lake for sailing and boating and they fish in that lake.  And I don't know.  That—that stuff just looks horrible going from the canals and with all the chemicals and everything that's going into Lake Pontchartrain. 

They're going to have to have some experts go in there and test it and just see how safe that is going to be. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, nobody is going to be going wind-surfing on that lake for a while.  Anyway, great report.  Thank you, NBC's Michelle Hofland in New Orleans. 

Let's go now to Biloxi, Mississippi, and MSNBC's Ron Blome. 

Tell us, the vice president didn't come—he came to Gulfport. 

What's the impact of that visit down there today? 

RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the impact is to keep up the steady stream of administration officials who are down here personally showing concern. 

You know, the president flew over the way back from the ranch to Washington.  He's been down here twice, both to Mississippi and to Louisiana.  The secretary of veterans affairs was down here in Biloxi yesterday.  It's been just a continuing troop of administration officials trying to make it plain and clear that they're concerned and they're here for a firsthand look. 

Now, the vice president flew over this morning in his airplane.  Then he took a ground tour, walked through a neighborhood, met with EOC officials.  He said that, like everyone else, he's been glued to the TV watching this.  And he said he wanted to say a word on behalf of those people who are getting it right.  We never heard the words FEMA or federal government attached to that, but he was praising specifically the National Guardsmen from 28 different states who have been doing yeoman service up and down the coast.

He wanted to praise not only the local officials here, but the local people who have traveled from all over the country, from Michigan, from California, huge caravans from Florida that have adopted and taken over towns and have been helping with relief. 

The vice president said he was sent by the president to put focus on this effort and to try to cut through any bureaucracy.  But when pressed by reporters doing a brief press avail, he was hard-pressed to say exactly what bureaucracy he would cut through.  He said most of the concerns discussed with him were about insurance.  Does a storm surge count as a hurricane damage or does it count as flooding?

A lot of these people live 20, 25 feet above sea level and they didn't have flood insurance.  But yet it was a storm surge in waves that destroyed their homes and in some cases their lives.  Now, the vice president did say that FEMA, the one time he mentioned it, was getting a lot of trailers, travel trailers, and permanent mobile homes into Mississippi.  They were going to try to provide some housing. 

Remember, there's 18,000 people still in shelters in the state.  And the official death toll here has now topped 200, still fears that it could go higher as they continue to sift through the wreckage. 

And one other note, Chris.  Just help from overseas has arrived.  Great Britain and France has sent in some large Airbus freight planes loaded with blankets and cots and clothing for people here on the Gulf Coast. 

MATTHEWS:  Ron, we have been trying to figure out here from Washington

·         maybe this is a better place to figure it out—whether the vice president's trip is—well, where would we place it, somewhere between a goodwill trip to sort of sure up the effort, put a nice picture on it, and get a sense of some of the screw-ups and maybe some information to take back to the president, or is he really going to be the take-charge guy that we have been talking about, the need—everybody here is talking about the need, not just in the Senate today, with Rick Santorum and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, about the need for some one person to take all the heat and be responsible for coordinating everything down there.

Any sense the vice president is going to step up to that plate or is he basically on a one-day tour? 

BLOME:  Well, it could be a combination of all that. 

I don't know think he found any bureaucracy to cut.  And I don't know if anybody suggested it to him.  Now, Colonel Joe Spraggins, this retired colonel, has been in charge of civil defense here for the EOC for the past just five months, has been a very plainspoken fellow when it comes to the news conferences.  And if he had some issues or some problems, I'm sure he spoke that bluntly to the vice president, who will carry it back to the president. 

But the vice president here was touring with Alberto Gonzales, who was at his side, but also with Michael Chertoff, who is head of the Homeland Security Agency.  And so, you just get the sense that he's not here to be cutting off any heads.  He was here with the person—and to me, it was more of an AT&T trip, just to come down and pat the National Guard people on the back.

He met with General Russel Honore, who heading up this whole relief operation.  So, I think the vice president's trip was a combination of the fact-finding, perhaps looking for some bureaucrat bottlenecks, but also to fly the flag of the White House and to give those people that attaboy, the pat on the back, for the progress that they have made so far. 

MATTHEWS:  Fair enough, because an old Washington hand once said to me

·         he was a longtime civil servant at a pretty high level—he said, people don't do their best work when they're being dumped on.  And I think a lot of these FEMA employees probably figure that they're taking the heat for decisions that weren't made at the top in a timely fashion, when they're doing their level best. 

And I include in that certainly the FEMA workers, but also the Coast Guard and certainly the National Guard.  These people are civilians most of the time.  And they have been brought into service for their country now.  And I think, in these political arguments, which are sure to come and have already begun, we shouldn't get these people caught in the crossfire. 

Anyway, thank you very much, Ron Blome. 

BLOME:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Officials in New Orleans are right now trying to evacuate the few thousand residents who have not already left. 

When we come back, HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster is going to show us the challenge these people face, getting these older folk in many cases to make a big move they have not wanted to make now for weeks.  David went along with a military convoy that has been trying to get these holdouts—what tough customers these old guys are—to leave the city. 

And later, how prepared are you?  We have been watching other people's tragedies.  Have cities rethought their disaster preparedness plans after what has happened with Hurricane Katrina?  Think about it.  Do you want to go to a stadium?  Are you happy with the prospect your own mayor may have in mind for you or the feds may have in mind for you based upon what we have seen?

And, by the way, Hurricane Ophelia is now official.  She was a storm.  As a few moments ago, she is not a tropical storm, but an actual Category 1 hurricane and moving up the coast of Florida.  Tonight, we focus on three cities in the way of that hurricane, Atlanta, Daytona Beach and Providence, Rhode Island. 

You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Still ahead, the Army National Guard is knocking on doors in New Orleans to convince survivors to leave town.  But some don't want to evacuate even now.

HARDBALL returns after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Well, this is a live picture from New Orleans.  Vice President Dick Cheney has landed and will tour the devastation and visit that 17th Street canal levee, repairs.  And that, of course, was the canal levee that broke and caused the devastation in New Orleans. 

Despite orders to evacuate, some New Orleans residents refuse to leave even now, as Vice President Cheney arrives. 

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joined an Army National Guard light armored military unit today, as they went door to door trying to convince New Orleans' people to leave. 

David, what was that like? 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, it was fascinating. 

This was a unit that is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.  And they actually got the order to come out here five days after the hurricane hit.  Nonetheless, as part of their preparations, Chris, each day starts with Black Hawk helicopters taking to the skies over New Orleans and then essentially taking pictures that are then brought down and shown to various commanders, such as the lieutenant colonel that we spoke with. 

This morning, for example, he would brief his crew.  Then he would brief the firefighters that would go along and the New Orleans Police, because the New Orleans Police know the streets better than these guys from Lincoln, Nebraska.  So, in any case, they go through the preparations.  And here's what the lieutenant colonel said about the mission today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Our goal is to sweep through this whole area and clear it today.  And we are the only—the only show in town to go do this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Now, where we went is, the sweep went through an area of east New Orleans that—where they haven't had many rescue vehicles go so far.  There was an initial sweep-through last week, but the idea today was that they would go into an area that was covered with water where they thought there might be some elderly and disabled folks who might be hanging out or haven't been able to reach people. 

As you can see, there are some other Guard units that are taking a break.  They're off to the side.  The water gets increasingly deep.  The reason this particular unit is useful is because their light armored vehicle can take water up to six or seven feet.  Anything beyond that, it is not an amphibious vehicles.  And, in fact, one of the obstacles that these guys face is that, when there are cars or when there are signs or things underneath, that's when they have a problem as far as trying to maneuver. 

But, in any case, after going through this particular neighborhood for a couple of hours, they did not find anybody who was either alive.  They didn't find anybody who wanted to be rescued or that was even visible.  So, on the way back, they essentially picked up some people on the highway. 

But, as you can see, there's Vice President Cheney walking, Chris. 

And so, I will pitch it back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let's take a look at the vice president, David.  He's walking along there.  God, it looks like MacArthur landing on the beach, very dramatic pictures, obviously, of everyone crowding around the vice president, this of course the second highest official to visit this devastation area, after the president.

He's in short sleeves, as you can see.  And he's been, apparently, trying to buck up the troops, more or less, out there today.  And I think that may be the first goal of his trip, is to get those federal employees and National Guards people who are working very hard to feel—to get them to feel like they're serving their country well and, in the midst of all the crossfire over the political performance at the top, to make sure they don't slack in their duties because they feel like there's been so much criticism. 

It's one of those pictures that we're going to have to discern over the next couple of days how much this means.  Does it mean that he come down for this picture-taking?  Did he come down to look and see, as a shrewd politician, who is not working together, where the snags really are, who blew it, who are the lightweights. 

And he's with General Honore right now, the man who is head of Northern Command, who is the top military man clearly in this—at this theater.  But to think about this political man here, Dick Cheney, he's been a member of the House.  He was chief of staff to President Ford.  He was secretary of defense.  He's been vice president now since 2001. 

Here's a tough politician trying to figure out how he gets his president out the jam he's been in the last week and give him some positive P.R., to put it bluntly, for this handling of this manner.  And he is not going to get it until the president is able to say, here's how we get this ship in shape here.  This is how we get our emergency management operation going full-guns here in a way that we haven't in the last week or so. 

So, I would expect he'll come back tonight, visit with the president.  He'll probably be on the phone with him on his way back and say, here's what I think.  I think this guy Brown is OK or not OK, whether Chertoff is up to the job, the head of Homeland Security, whether the governor is worth her salt, the Democratic governor of Louisiana.  He'll probably have a comment about the military as well, the C.B.s, the Coast Guard. 

He'll probably have a lot of opinion when he goes back to the president and says, this head to roll.  This head we will look at for a while and decide upon.  But there's certainly a lot of power in that phalanx we are watching right now.  This is not just a photo-op, I would bet, because now his reputation also is at stake here.  Dick Cheney is a smart guy, a tough warrior. 

And he can't just go back and say, oh, yes, I took a look at things down there.  He's going to now be part of the solution or else part of the problem.  And I think he's now aware that, having put his boots on the ground, that he has a stake in this thing and in his legacy as well. 

Now, there he is visiting a military fellow.  You can see that, the man in camo there.  He's obviously making the rounds and, as I said, bucking up the troops, literally making them feel like the people of the United States are behind them. 

David, any sense from your end as to how big a foot he's going to land on this devastation area? 

SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, one of the issues that they have is, clearly, there are command issues on the ground in New Orleans. 

And I will give you an example.  The crew that we went out with, they had their sort of amphibious-type vehicles, their light armored vehicles that could go out.  But they also had trucks that essentially could form a convoy to take literally hundreds of people, if in fact they found them.  But that was under a different command.

And the lieutenant colonel that we spoke with, he couldn't find that particular commander to get the permission to have these six or seven other trucks to go with them.  So, as a result, you have these lightly armor vehicles that went out and were able to go through the water.  But the trucks that might actually be able to take dozens of people back, if in fact they were found, those were stuck back down here in downtown New Orleans, simply because they couldn't figure out who was in charge. 

And it's like that time after time after time.  In addition, Chris, the military commanders say that the equipment that they have is not really appropriate.  In other words, the vehicle that we had, it can only go in water six or seven feet.  There's a Marine-type of vehicle that can go amphibious, that can go in water that is 20 feet deep.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

SHUSTER:  And, sometimes, that is necessary, because of the canals in the area.  So, there's a lot of confusion about where the equipment should go, who was in charge, how do you get permission to take a particular unit out into the field.

MATTHEWS:  I have a pretty good look here at the vice president on the monitor here.  And it looks to me like he's checking out the levee situation.  You can of course see the cement bags there piled up, obviously very sloppily.  They were done so in an emergency situation right there in his background right there as he's looking at it, probably getting a sense, like all of us would like to get, I hope to get next week, a real sense of the levee situation and how, you know—is it repairable? 

Is it a smart infrastructural challenge to try to secure once again the city of New Orleans from all matter of weather?  Can you protect against a Category 4, as well as a Category 3, or even a Category 5, which was headed toward the coast of New Orleans?  Is that project behind him, that repair project, something that's worth billions of dollars in taxpayers' money or not? 

And I think that's the kind of decision that people are making right now.  How big a job is it?  Can you simply repair it or do you have to do it over again or rethink where you settle people in parts of that city of New Orleans? 

But there is the vice president, probably for the first time in his life, getting a good look at a repaired levee and getting, of course, the company there.  Perhaps we are getting a photo-op here coming up here of him with the troops, the men in camo there, including the head of Northern Command, General Honore, who has been the man on the ground there.

He's obviously now yucking it up a bit with the troops, making them feel good. 

Right now, we're going to get some breaking news about another hurricane which now has become something big, Tropical Storm Ophelia is now Hurricane Ophelia. 

Meteorologist Chris Sisko of the National Hurricane Center joins us now by phone. 

Chris, tell us, how big could this hurricane get now that it's a Category 1?

CHRIS SISKO, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER:  Well, at this time, we are still expecting it to stay a Category 1 hurricane, just off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Right now, Ophelia is the seventh hurricane of the season.  And we're pretty much just seeing that it will just be a Category 1 system for a good chunk over the next few days. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, I'm thinking of the alphabet, K, L, M, O.

How do you get from Katrina to Ophelia?  What was the—were there other hurricanes in between? 

SISKO:  There certainly was.  We did—we did have Tropical Storm Lee, which had a very short time.  And right now, we have Maria and Nate out there in the western Atlantic that are still churning out in the open waters. 

MATTHEWS:  Are they a danger to the mainland? 

(CROSSTALK)

SISKO:  Not right now.  Those don't pose any threat, other than to shipping interests. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Chris—and I know this is a big question

·         how many weeks do we have of the hurricane season in 2005? 

SISKO:  Oh, we still have a ways to go.  Right now, we're just right at the peak of the season.  And we have still got to go into portions of October.  So, we have got a long ways to fight through the rest of this season.  And, you know, it's still very active. 

MATTHEWS:  It said that snakes come in pairs.  Do big hurricanes? 

SISKO:  Well, hopefully, we don't see anything of that nature like Katrina. 

MATTHEWS:  Of Katrina size.

SISKO:  But it certainly is—it's certainly a good size. 

MATTHEWS:  No, but do you see another Katrina coming around the corner? 

SISKO:  Not—not at this time.  You know, we are monitoring Ophelia, as we speak. 

And right now, it's kind of a slow drifter.  It's not really moving from where it's located.  And, over the course of the next few days, it is just going to do a slow crawl toward the Northeast. 

MATTHEWS:  Will it decline in strength as it makes landfall? 

SISKO:  Well, we don't anticipate landfall at this time. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SISKO:  And right now, we expect it just to stay a Category 1 over the next several days, nothing of a huge significance of a Katrina, but certainly a wet weather maker and certainly strong, gusty winds along the Florida coastline. 

MATTHEWS:  We are going to be talking to the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Cicilline.

What are the odds of a hurricane coming that far north? 

SISKO:  At this time, what we're monitoring, we don't see any hurricanes on the horizon that will come that far north. 

Certainly, in the past, we have had tracks that have tracked up there, and certainly are concerned.  But the most frequent hurricanes come down in the southern portion of the U.S.

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

SISKO:  And certainly along the Gulf Coast area. 

So, you know, most of our coastline, we're always concerned, especially when there's a pending hurricane. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Chris Sisko of the National Hurricane Center. 

We're continue to watch the tour—this is live now—of the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, visiting the—the—you can see now there are the sandbags behind him, the cement bags, I should say, at the levee there, one of the levees that broke and caused this big disaster after the passing of Katrina last week. 

That is, of course, going to be one of the big infrastructural challenges, one of the big expenses this country is going to have to face at the federal level, is rebuilding.  This is the 17th Street levee, the one that we have seen so much about.  The canal there is apparently a vulnerable point in the engineering.

And, of course, they're going to have to keep an eye on that.  It's not a simply—a simple problem of landing more sandbags on that pile.  But, of course, he's going to have to report back to the president on what he's learned.  He has got the military command with him there now.  I think it's going to be interesting thing, what he—I wish I was on the phone tonight when he was calling President Bush. 

Up next, how ready are other American cities, other cities, for

catastrophic events?  Tonight, we are going to find out what several cities

on the Eastern Seaboard, some of them you may be watching—it's your city

·         how they're going to make sure their residents stay safe in the event of this kind of disaster.

And tomorrow night on HARDBALL, NBC's Tom Brokaw is going to join us from Louisiana. 

You're watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The images we saw following Hurricane Katrina were most startling to many Americans because we would look at them and think, this doesn't look like America.  More than one reporter there said the conditions in New Orleans looked like something you would see in a Third World country. 

You have heard so much about emergency preparedness post-9/11.  So, we wanted to check in with some local leaders in various regions of the country to find out if their cities are prepared for disaster and if their citizens would be safe, especially now that there is another hurricane looming by the name of Ophelia off the coast of Florida. 

On HARDBALL this evening, we're focusing on three cities along the East Coast.

I'm joined by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. 

Thank you, Madam Mayor. 

Providence Mayor David Cicilline.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  And by phone, Daytona Beach Mayor—or Police Chief, rather, Dennis Jones. 

Let me go to—first of all, to Mayor Cicilline. 

Mayor Cicilline, have you done anything to change your preparedness based upon what you've seen on television in the last two weeks in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast?

DAVID CICILLINE, MAYOR OF PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND:  Well, we have done a lot of work in the city of Providence. 

We have developed an emergency operations plan.  We have an emergency operations center.  We have a detailed evacuation plan for the city of Providence.  We have 15 shelters that have been identified for such an emergency.  We have a mobile command center.  We have a very strong working relationship with our state partners.  We have a protocol about who's in command when we have this kind of disaster. 

We have conducted three separate drills, one a port drill, one at the Newport Naval War College, one that's scheduled for next week.  We're in the midst of implementing a reverse 911 system, which will allow us to notify residents of our city with information about an evacuation.  It will also allow them to hit a number if they are disabled or if they need special assistance to evacuate.  We have done volunteer training and continue to do that.

So, we have done a lot of preparation.  And we're always updating our plan.  We're always practicing.  But we continue to do that.  We will continue to do it here in the city. 

MATTHEWS:  When was your last full-scale drill? 

CICILLINE:  About six months ago.  We have one scheduled for next week. 

And, again, we do them often.  We—you always want to do them as often as you can.  One was at the port.  One was at the Naval War College.  This next one will be in a mall.  And so, we're constantly doing preparations and trainings to respond to a disaster. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Mayor Franklin. 

Madam Mayor, thank you for joining us from Atlanta.

You know, everybody saw people trooped over to the Superdome and the Convention Center in New Orleans.  Is this a plan that every city has, to troop people during an emergency, like a chemical gas attack or something, to the nearest sports stadium? 

SHIRLEY FRANKLIN, MAYOR OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA:  Well, we certainly consider those shelters and those places as shelters, because they have the bathroom facilities.  They have the entrance and exit facilities, and they can be secured. 

But to answer your question, it's very hard to imagine metropolitan Atlanta of four million people being able to evacuate very systematically.  We do have drills, but it's hard to imagine how we would do that effectively without the leadership of the federal government coming in right away. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the mayor of New Orleans had a problem.  He didn't have enough police, obviously, if he had any in that state.  And the bathrooms lasted about—and we could have figured this out.  You and I would have know that.  The bathrooms might last 24 hours in those kind of situations before everything—because they didn't have any drainage system.  They had no sewage system to make those toilets work.  That went to hell. 

Do you think people will obediently troop in line now, having seen the humiliation of those people, the insult of those people in New Orleans by the government?  They'll troop in lines?  Oh, sure, I will go do it.  Just, where do I go?  Oh, I will go to the stadium. 

FRANKLIN:  No, I believe that people will start thinking about emergency preparedness in their homes and in their offices. 

But all of that has to be coordinated. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FRANKLIN:  Usually through a state emergency management system and ultimately through the federal government, if it is of the magnitude that we have seen in the last week.

MATTHEWS:  How often do you deal with FEMA? 

FRANKLIN:  We deal with FEMA very regularly. 

And we have had—just like David said, we have had drills.  We work

·         operate a very large airport.

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

FRANKLIN:  So, we routinely have drills at the airport.  And our last drill was around mass transit.  And it was two or three months ago. 

And within the last six months, I actually participated in the drill, which lasted for a full day. 

MATTHEWS:  Let's go to the police chief down at Daytona. 

Sir, you are much closer to the hurricane area down there.  What are you hearing about Ophelia, first of all? 

DENNIS JONES, DAYTONA BEACH POLICE CHIEF:  Well, it was just recently upgraded, obviously, at 5:00, to a Category 1 hurricane, and we're definitely keeping our eye on the movement of that storm. 

MATTHEWS:  I love Daytona Beach.  I used to go down there a lot as a kid. 

But I want to ask you.  You have got a big beach.  You're on the beach, obviously.  What special challenges does that present you with?  Do you have any bridges or anything down there that are vulnerable to the kind of loss we saw with the levees down there in New Orleans? 

JONES:  Well, we have several high-rise bridges that we're particularly concerned with.  Whenever the winds start reaching above 45 miles per hour, we limit or actually restrict any travel to emergency vehicles.  And anything higher than that, we shut the bridges down. 

MATTHEWS:  What can they take? 

(CROSSTALK)

JONES:  What can they take?  They could probably take a Category 3 storm, up to about 120, 130, but anything more than that would be questionable. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that's pretty good.  So, if you had been hit by Katrina, you would have been in trouble? 

JONES:  I think any area that would have been hit by a Category 5 is going to have some major problems. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, just Biloxi.  Biloxi took it on the chin right on that right-hand side. 

Let me ask you, do you drill often? 

JONES:  Yes, we do. 

We work in conjunction with our county and state emergency response teams.  And we had a drill back in May involving an airline crash and simulation with an airliner going down over by our beach, as a matter of fact. 

MATTHEWS:  Would you put 25,000 people into a stadium, a sports stadium, without police protection? 

JONES:  No.  I would have to be assured.  And that's one of the things we do, is we make sure we have ample security at any of our shelters that we—what we have. 

MATTHEWS:  In other words, enough police to handle a crowd of 25,000, which includes people—you know, you don't know who is in the crowd. 

JONES:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  It's a grab bag of everybody.

JONES:  Absolutely.  That would be of major concern. 

MATTHEWS:  And somehow, by the way, these guys got guns.  I always wondered if they were frisking.  We were watching the frisking going on, Chief, as people entered the Superdome.  And, somehow, people got rifles and everything in there.  I don't know.  How does that happen? 

JONES:  Well, I don't know, without having the benefit of seeing how they had that set up originally. 

But I would have to think that would be one of the major concerns, is you have to check what people are bringing in to a shelter.  That's one of our concerns.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I'm sorry to interrupt you. 

Let me go to Mayor Cicilline up in Providence, Rhode Island.  I'm pretty familiar.  My son went to school up there.

Let me ask you this. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Is hurricane season a challenge for the Southeast, for the Gulfport area, the Gulf Coast, or is it something that you have got to worry about up in New England? 

CICILLINE:  No, we worry about it.  It's an issue that we have to deal with occasionally.  Obviously, we don't have it with the same frequency. 

But one of the things that we always have to concerned about—Mayor Franklin made this point—we do a lot of preparation.  We do a lot of planning.  But we have got to be able to rely on a forceful and strong response from the federal government. 

And, you know, so we do all the drills.  We have the plans.  We have the evacuations.  But almost—in a kind of disaster that they faced in that region, there needed to be a strong federal response.  And we have to be able to rely on that as mayors all across this country.  So, we do our work.  We have a hurricane barrier.  We have planning.  We do drills.

But we need to be able to rely on state emergency management agencies and on the federal government for support. 

MATTHEWS:  Can you imagine that river that runs so beautifully through Providence right now, where you have the river fire ceremony every year?  Do you think there's any chance that would ever overflow its banks and you would have to be running an evacuation program up in Providence, Rhode Island? 

CICILLINE:  No, I certainly would hope that would never happen. 

But we have in place an evacuation plan if in fact that were to happen.  We have a plan to do it.  But you never, as a mayor, ever expect or hope that that is going to happen to a city you love, so, no. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Mayor Franklin. 

You have the biggest city and the biggest challenge.  It's a major city, Atlanta—Atlanta, Georgia.  You have a lot of poor people.  You have all kinds of people in that city.  It's a very diverse city.  When I was watching New Orleans the last two weeks, the heartbreaking picture of New Orleans, the scale of the challenge of a big city compared to smaller towns like Biloxi, it's a different challenge, isn't it? 

FRANKLIN:  Well, it's a huge challenge because people are dispersed and separated from their family just in the course of every day and may be 20 or 30 miles away from each other. 

So, you have children in school in one area, a husband and a wife working in totally different areas.  And, in Atlanta, as you know, I mean, we have traffic congestion on a normal day.  Imagine when you're trying to evacuate. 

Every now and then, we have predictions of snowstorms, which, in this part of the country, means one or two inches.  And traffic gets backed up then.  So, clearly, trying to evacuate a city and manage a disaster of this scale requires a level of coordination with the federal government and the state government that has to be strengthened.  We can't do it by ourselves as mayors. 

MATTHEWS:  As a mayor who has been elected and has to deal all the time with constituencies, poor, rich business guys, regular people, what was your reaction watching these pictures?  We are looking at these pictures you have seen a million times of the poor folk, African-Americans overwhelmingly, out in front of that Convention Center, asking the TV cameras, basically, pleading with us, technologically, to send a message to the big shots to bring them water.

What was your reaction to that situation in America? 

FRANKLIN:  Well, by Tuesday, I had called on all of the city to open up its hearts, so that people could help in whatever way we could.  I was first disappointed.  I was outraged.  I was angry.  I was completely disappointed in what I viewed as the lack of federal response. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Well, I hope you all do well.  I know everybody is re-planning again.  I am glad we could check in with you and see how your drills are going, Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor—

Mayor—I want to thank Chief Jones of Daytona.  And I want to thank Mayor David Cicilline, who I have gotten to know, up in Providence, Rhode Island. 

When we return, the Reverend Jesse Jackson on the relief effort and what the Katrina hurricane is teaching America about race relations.  Interesting combination of weather and race, we saw the last two weeks.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, many Americans are asking whether their towns are ready to deal with a catastrophic emergency.  We are getting answers from three mayors when HARDBALL returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

The Reverend Jesse Jackson has been involved in evacuating people from New Orleans and has called the federal response unacceptable.  He believes race is partly to blame.  Today, he took an aerial tour of New Orleans and joins us now from the relief command center in Baton Rouge. 

Reverend Jackson, what story is this going to be?  Ten years from now, what are we going to be saying about what happened in New Orleans the last two weeks? 

REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION:  You know, I think, while there is a story to be made about race, poverty, class, the biggest story is, we had days of preparation, and no mass rescue, no mass relief, no mass relocation and no mass reconstructions for Americans. 

We have been left vulnerable as Americans, with no plan of mass rescue.  We had emergency planning, but no planning for the emergency. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the fact that all those people were told to go to that Superdome in New Orleans, rather than being bused out of town? 

JACKSON:  Well, more mass bad planning, because if they gone to the Superdome in big numbers, if the hurricane 5 had hit New Orleans, they would all have drowned in the Superdome, for example. 

And the fact is, in this state, without sending people all over America, you could use the military bases, England Air Force Base up in Alexandria, 3,000 acres, with houses and barracks and swimming pools and schools and hospitals, the Belle Chasse base in New Orleans.  Between those military bases, state and federal parks in this state, you can house people right here in this state. 

And they should be closer to home, because when the reconstruction starts, they should have the first option on jobs and contracts in their own home state. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you think that they will have a better shot at—opportunity for those union jobs, those construction jobs if they are within commuting distance? 

JACKSON:  Well, they ought to.

But, you know, today—yesterday—today, the president put forth a deal of $50 billion Marshall Plan idea.  But they tried to exempt enforcement for small businesses and those who had been disadvantaged.  And so, the bill must be challenged until those who have been most displaced, they have first priority on jobs, contract, reconstruction and family reunification. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think of George Bush, George W. Bush, the president's performance in this effort? 

JACKSON:  Well, he never came to New Orleans.  His Cabinet member never came to New Orleans.  The Red Cross never came to New Orleans.  They were told by Homeland Security, don't come.     

He went to—they say it's dangerous.  He went to Iraq.  In two days, he was at 9/11 holding up the arms of fireman and police, which he should have done.  But the firemen of New Orleans deserve their arms held up as well.  It seems to me that his leadership was vital and missed in a time when it should—I think it really should have been present. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We will have you back on again, Reverend Jackson.  We are coming down there next week.  We will bump into you, I'm sure, in Baton Rouge.

When we return, should president name a hurricane czar, a man in charge to take control on the ground of the devastated region?  That's a big question.  One person takes all the decisions.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  As I have said before, all of us here at MSNBC and MSNBC.com are looking to help the many victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Our initiative is called Reconnect.  It helps folks bridge the widespread communications breakdowns caused by Katrina.  Our crews in the field are helping people get messages out to their loved ones to say they're safe. 

Here now are some of those messages. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We're looking for Charles Bradford (ph).  This is Charmayne Bradford (ph).  Please, if anybody have any information, please give us a call.  We're also signed on nola.com. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Beverly (ph), if you see me or hear this, call Julius (ph), because he is waiting on you to call.  Call him on his phone or Trinka's (ph) phone. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Dana Peters (ph).  And we're here in Memphis.  And I'm looking for my uncle, Pete Peters (ph), Kevin Silvan (ph), to let him know that his mom is looking for him.  And Gary Noor (ph), which is my brother-in-law. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

MATTHEWS:  We're devoting a special section of our Web site to this effort, trying to reconnect people with their loved ones.  You can find a link on the front page of MSNBC.com. 

I'm joined right now by David Gregory, NBC News chief White House correspondent.

As we look at pictures—we have been looking at them for a while now, David—of Vice President Cheney, have you ascertained what his mission is down there? 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I think, primarily, Chris, it's to give the president a very clear picture of how the relief and recovery effort is going thus far. 

I think what you are seeing is that the White House is dividing this into two projects, immediate response, recovery, relief, cash payments, helping the homeless, the evacuees get the federal benefits that they're entitled to, in addition, the president said today, $2,000 per evacuee in cash money, even as the federal government grinds, the system grinds on, as Congress passes $50 billion plus in emergency relief. 

I think the president wanted the vice president to get his own eyes on this process, to see how FEMA is operating, to see how the local and the state governments are working together and working with the federal government, to see if they have righted what went wrong initially.  And then there's the second stage, which I know you are interested in, which has to do with the rebuilding and what comes next. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me interrupt you just for a second, David.

We are watching the vice president and his party right now, this very dramatic picture.  We are watching the pumping coming—the water coming out of the pumps, of course, out of New Orleans itself into Lake Pontchartrain.  And we are watching the 17th Street canal, which of course where there was the big break...

GREGORY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  ... in the levee.  What a sight.  This is a dramatic picture.  This will be on the front pages of the paper tomorrow, this shot here. 

Now, who is going to handle that bigger job, the $150 billion job of rebuilding the Gulf? 

GREGORY:  It's an important question. 

And today, we got an indication from Republicans.  The Republican leadership of Congress was down today, Congressman Hastert and Leader Frist in the Senate, Senator Hutchison, Senator Santorum, all meeting with the president.  And they said, Mr. President, look, you have got to think about some kind of disaster czar, somebody who is responsible for the rebuilding effort. 

They pressed him on that point.  And they reported to reporters afterwards that he was receptive, that he was open to it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

GREGORY:  The White House is not making any commitment.  But I think they recognize they have got to do that.  They pointed out—Senator Santorum and Hutchison said later, look, we're not passing judgment on Michael Brown or Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, but this is separate.

This is going to be a big job when the cranes go up, as you have said in the last couple of days.  And somebody who has got command-and-control experience, that's what we heard time and time again today. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  To do that.

MATTHEWS:  Well, it also needs to be a person who can stand on the street corner, like the vice president could do today—I don't know if he's going to do it—and answer questions from the country.  What are we doing?  Who is in charge?  How is it working?  How long is it going to take? 

I think the people really want an authority figure.  Do you think the president might actually appoint someone of some grandeur, someone who is visible and public in America? 

GREGORY:  I think there is certainly going to be a lot of pressure to do that. 

You talk about a Rudy Giuliani or somebody else who got has the kind of disaster experience, somebody who can make things happen, somebody who can cut through all the red tape.  Let's remember, even as the president stands at the White House and says that cash payments are going to be made available, call FEMA, get online, you know, so many evacuees don't have any access to computers, let alone phones...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  ... or let alone seeing a television to see his response. 

So, I think you are right.  I think that person on the ground is critical.  But I think it may get to a stage where it's actually the rebuilding effort that they want somebody on the front lines.  For now—and I think this is important.  I and others in the press corps have been asking Scott McClellan whether or not the president retains confidence in his FEMA director and secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff.

They refuse to answer the question around here.  Well, the vice president was down there and said on the record for the cameras that he still has a lot of confidence in Secretary Chertoff and in—and others—he didn't mention Michael Brown by name—and others who are leading the effort, and so does the president. 

So, I think that the vice president was down there to answer some tough questions and to—really, I mean, I think this is a part of a wider kind of damage control effort by this White House...

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  ... to say, look, we get it.  We're on the job now.  Let's not talk about what happened in the first few days.  Let's talk about it now.

MATTHEWS:  No, I think that's not the topic.  The topic du jour that everybody is talking about here in Washington—and maybe we're pushing it here—but I think it is the appropriate question to ask.  Is it going to be somebody like Norman Schwarzkopf?

GREGORY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Jack Welch, the former GE chairman, somebody really big to come out there and take the heat and give orders and get things done, so that, two years from now, we won't have the situation like we have up in New York with the World Trade Center that never seems to get rebuilt. 

Anyway, thank you.

GREGORY:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  NBC's David Gregory at the White House. 

And tomorrow night on HARDBALL, Tom Brokaw is reporting from the streets of New Orleans.  And he will be our special guest here on HARDBALL. 

Right now, our coverage of Hurricane Katrina continues on “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”  And, tonight, Dan reports from New Orleans.

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

END   

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