updated 9/15/2005 11:28:17 AM ET 2005-09-15T15:28:17

Guests: Donald Harrison, Irma Thomas, Max Mayfield, Spence Broadhurst, Mark McBride, Bill Hines, Stephen Perry.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, the president takes a hit for federal failures with regard to Hurricane Katrina.  But what is the goal here?  Economic recovery?  Regional recovery?  Political damage control?  Or all three? 

Let‘s play HARDBALL from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  

Good evening and welcome to HARDBALL.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Baton Rouge, Louisiana,, the state capital and also the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency operation in this state and of all federal, state and local agencies.  They‘re all right here behind me trying to work together. 

Yesterday, the president took an unusual step and took personal responsibility for the failure of government at the federal level.  Tomorrow night, he is going to take the unusual step of addressing the nation on prime-time national television from New Orleans, his fourth trip to that area, his fourth speech from that part of the country, this part of the country. 

So, what is the message going to be?  We have to share the blame for the failures or the past, or, I‘m in charge now?  It‘s a big question.  We will know the answer tomorrow night. 

Let‘s go right now to David Shuster, who is in New Orleans, for a reality check. 

David, what does the president have to say tomorrow night on national television to get in synch with the reality on the ground? 

DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, he has to show that there‘s a plan for actually rebuilding the city, Chris. 

There‘s still a lot of water in New Orleans, approximately 20 percent.  And while that‘s a dramatic improvement, from the air, you can see entire neighborhoods where civil engineers believe that, eventually, all of these homes that you see from the air will eventually have to be torn down.  The picks are fairly dramatic.  In the neighborhoods of Lakeview and Chantilly, you still see a lot of water covering some of these streets. 

Furthermore, when you start to go to other parts of the city, such as along Canal Street, even though the water there has receded, from once being at a height of seven or eight feet, you can see the waterlines and along these homes along Canal Street, even though the waterlines have gone down, the water has essentially evaporated, there you seat the sludge that is covering some of the stuff. 

And everybody, everybody who has gone through these neighborhoods say that the neighborhoods will essentially have to be flattened and they will have to start from scratch. 

As we speak tonight, Chris, the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting some soil and water sampling from these areas to try and determine what they do once they actually bulldoze these neighborhoods and when it will be safe to return.  That is a major problem, block after block, neighborhood after neighborhood that is essentially going to have to start from scratch.  People here are wanting to know how the president and how the federal government is going to help. 

Chris, there‘s also been some good news on this day.  And that is, the city of New Orleans has decided to make a dramatic statement by trying to open the French Quarter and the downtown business district as early as next week.  The downtown business district is starting to get some sewage and water and electricity, the same with the French Quarter.  And there was another dramatic sign of recovery today when the port of New Orleans opened. 

Remember, the port of New Orleans has a lot of business that goes through this particular port, even though the barges and the ships can only sail during the daytime, because some of the navigational equipment they use at night was knocked out during the storm.  The very fact that they opened this particular port is another dramatic step, according to city officials. 

And finally, Chris, some grim pictures we received today from Saint Bernard‘s Parish.  Remember, Saint Bernard‘s Parish is the part east of New Orleans where some 80,000 people have been displaced.  Officials there say it will be until next summer at the earliest before any of these 80,000 are allowed to return to their homes, homes there completely demolished.  Some areas are going to be an environmental problem, simply because of oil slicks from nearby refineries. 

But, in particular, there are some very grim pictures from St. Rita‘s Nursing Home.  St. Rita‘s Nursing Home is the nursing home where 34 elderly patients drowned during the storm.  The owners of this nursing home face charges of criminal negligence.  NBC crews actually went into the nursing home today.  You can see the brown sludge and mud that is on the floor.  This is not a very wealthy neighborhood in any fashion, Chris. 

And, as you can see from these pictures, just imagine what this area was like with six feet of water and 34 people essentially struggling for their lives—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks a lot, David. 

It was interesting to be down there.  I was about to say it was great to be down there, only in the sense that you could smell and feel and get a wider perspective on the pictures you have just been showing us.  It‘s fresh in my mind.  Thank you for that report.

Let‘s go right now to David Gregory, chief White House correspondent for NBC News, and also Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

David Shuster (sic), it‘s a big question.  I haven‘t spoken to you

since I have been down here—David Gregory, rather.  Does the president -

does the president have a sense now, do you think—it‘s a tough call for you—of how big this is? 

DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Absolutely.  I don‘t think there‘s any question that, however late, they are now fully realizing that they have a huge human disaster on their hands and a growing political problem. 

And I think what you have seen in the last couple of days, the president taking the rare step of taking the blame for the federal response, when just like week he said he didn‘t want to get into a blame game and there would be a time for accountability later, shows you that there‘s really no arguing with the images that have come out of New Orleans and elsewhere in the hurricane zone. 

There‘s no enemy to fight here for the president.  There‘s simply accountability for what went wrong.  And I think what we‘re seeing from David Shuster‘s reporting is that there are more ugly details to come about a botched recovery effort and response effort on all levels of government.  But there‘s so much attention, of course, on this administration, the federal officials. 

MATTHEWS:  Maureen Dowd of “The New York Times”—and she can be tough—made a very tough statement today, Howard Fineman.  She said that the president keeps coming back to New Orleans to try to find that bullhorn that he had in his hand so admirably right after 9/11.  He keeps trying to find the platform and the voice to connect with the people, now almost three weeks later, the way he did three days after—after 9/11. 

Is that what is going on, the president trying to find a way to speak to his American people? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  And Maureen also said in that piece that it was too late for the president to have his bullhorn moment.  and I agree with her in the narrow sense. 

But, in the larger sense, he has to show that he is the captain of this ship.  Only the federal government has the resources and the wherewithal to make the Gulf Coast whole again.  This is going to be the biggest construction or reconstruction project arguably in American history.  It‘s going to dominate at least the next year or two of his presidency.  He has to be seen and shown leading that effort. 

It‘s too late for him to have been ahead of the curve on the original disaster.  It‘s not too late for him to be the captain of the ship in reconstruction, which is what he has got to do.  And, ironically, the Republicans in Congress and he represent a conservative philosophy that always had its doubts about the power of government and the efficacy of government. 

Now this party that has not always been the party of government has to be the party of government big time. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, David Gregory.  You know the president.  You cover him.  You have been in close terms with him.  You know, there‘s an old political method.  It‘s called spin, whereby you take two steps.  The first step is, you admit your responsibility.  And then, while people are buying your message, you quickly redefine it to your advantage. 

Yesterday, the president accepted responsibility for federal mishaps and late behavior.  What is going to be the second message, that we really are responsible now, or is it going to be an effort to try to just dismiss some of the charges against him? 

GREGORY:  I think there will still be an effort to deflect some of the accountability charges and to cast a wider net about what the state didn‘t do, about what New Orleans, as a city in its own disaster preparedness, didn‘t do. 

But I think Howard is right.  I mean, this is about eventually turning that corner and reasserting himself as the guy who can lead the way to rebuilding New Orleans, to preside over the renaissance of the city and the cutting of the ribbon, to get the right people in charge to cut through bureaucracy, and to, even if belatedly, be the champion of the people who have left—left homeless by Katrina. 

But here is the difficult part and what I think is so significant.  Three days after 9/11, when I was with the president in Lower Manhattan, he was very much at one with the people of New York.  There were people clapping on the streets as the motorcade went by, had never seen that before, because he was part of the compassion.  He was part of how we all felt victimized. 

I think, in this case, he has been detached from the compassion in this story and that sense of being victims in all this.  He was late to that.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

GREGORY:  And there really is such difficulty in recovering from that. 

MATTHEWS:  I think that is so true, Howard.  He connected with the tragedy of 9/11.  He connected with the victims, like the firefighters.

FINEMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  He stood with his arm around one of them.  And he connected with the mission.  We are going to get these guys that did this.

FINEMAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And he took us right to Afghanistan. 

Is he going to personalize this effort to rebuild this part of the country down here, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, the way he personalized his leadership of the Iraq war?

FINEMAN:  Well, he may try, but it‘s going to be difficult.  It‘s going to be very difficult. 

And one of the reasons is, it‘s such a sprawling effort.  There isn‘t one moment or place that symbolizes the whole thing.  And the economics and politics of the country have changed.  I was talking to some Republicans on the Hill today who were saying, one thing they worry about down the road is, if the recovery doesn‘t come quickly, if a mayor in some small town in Louisiana or Mississippi or Alabama who is a Republican by nature is told, you know what, pal, you‘re not getting your bridge rebuilt for a couple of years because of other constraints on the budget, that is going to cause a political problem for George Bush within his own base.

And it‘s going to be difficult for him to sell both the reconstruction of the Gulf and the continued reconstruction of Iraq at the same time.  That‘s going to be very difficult, a lot of pressure on him in that regard.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  You know what else is significant, Chris?

MATTHEWS:  David.

GREGORY:  ... is that all—already, from conservatives, there‘s no rallying around President Bush.  There are real questions about how much money is already being allocated for the hurricane zone.  There are real questions about the efficacy and the wisdom of creating the Department of Homeland Security and whether bureaucracy has really been overcome by having one central place to deal with disasters. 

So, you have got the president‘s—elements in the president‘s own party beginning to wonder about his approach, at the same time as big questions about this 9/11 president, the security president, and the government‘s ability to respond to a storm like this, let alone another major terror attack. 

FINEMAN:  Yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY:  Which they have said is going to come.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, they‘re not going to be able to do all the reconstruction immediately.  It‘s going to take years.  And the process of making and choosing priorities there is a political mine field for the president. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Howard, and then David, the president sounds like he—according to what you are saying, both of you, the president is going to take personal charge.  He is going to be the job boss, the kind of person that people talked about down here of somebody being put in charge as sort of the viceroy of the president, the man in charge or the woman in charge. 

Is President Bush, bottom line, going to be the personal man, the personal commander in chief of this effort to rebuild this part of the country? 

Howard first.

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think he can.  He is—and he is going to try to have it both ways.  And to the extent that he doesn‘t do that in the speech tomorrow, he is going to be criticized for it.  He needs to appoint someone somewhere to be an overall charge, the way Russel Honore, the American general, the Army general, was.

GREGORY:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  He needs the equivalent on the civilian side on the reconstruction side of Honore of the Army. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do they believe that?  Do they believe that, David? 

GREGORY:  Well, I do.  I think he is going to find a strong person on the ground.  I think the president is going to spend most of his time trying to connect with the spirit of this effort now as the political leader, as a kind of champion, something that he has not done yet. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thanks a lot, David Gregory, chief White House correspondent for NBC, and, of course, Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine. 

When we come back, we are going to talk to some people we haven‘t talked to yet.  And they‘re fascinating.  These are business power brokers, movers and shakers, a couple of guys who are going to make the big-bucks decisions that are going to bring back New Orleans, not the government guys.  These are the business guys, where the tire hits the road.

They will be with us in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, rebuilding New Orleans, how long will it take? 

How much will it cost?  HARDBALL back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

You know, there‘s been a lot of talk, some loose talk, about rebuilding New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.  But money is the real thing that talks.  We know that in America.

I have got now two men, movers and shakers, guys that really make the people talk in that part of the country and New Orleans.  We have got Bill Hines of the Jones Walker law firm.  He‘s managing partner.  I have also got Stephen Perry, who is head of the tourism and convention business of the whole city.  Here, these two guys are now going to tell us how they‘re going to bring back that great city, the Crescent City of New Orleans. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHEN PERRY, NEW ORLEANS CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU:  Well, the tourism industry is going to end up leading this recovery, for a couple of reasons.

Number one, we have got to get workers and recovery teams into the city.  We have got to have places for them to stay.  The great thing is, we have got one of the greatest complement of hotels in the country in the central business district and the French Quarter and downtown.  So, we‘re doing right now is working with FEMA to get those hotels powered up, get them portable generators, get them water supplies until the power grid comes back.  And we will start putting recovery worker teams in those hotels. 

We are also going to carve out 25 percent of the hotels for the hotel workers, so they have got a place to stay when they come back.  We will get that accelerated.  Chris, that‘s critical for New Orleans, because tourism is the largest economic sector in the city, $5 billion to $8 billion business, employs 81,000 people.  That‘s in a city of 450,000. 

MATTHEWS:  Where is that money going right now?  Is Vegas picking it up.  Is Chicago picking it up?  Who has got your—who has got your convention business right now? 

PERRY:  Well, our biggest competitor is Las Vegas, Chicago, Orlando, and then a number of other cities around the country. 

We‘re actually, for the first time in history, helping get our customers placed.  We have ended up canceling nearly $3.5 billion of business between now and next—for the convention side, between now and next March. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to get a payback from those cities that get the benefit of your out of action?

PERRY:  We‘re actually negotiating that right now.  We have got—our peers are actually working with us to help offset some of our losses.  And we‘re very grateful for that. 

MATTHEWS:  Great. 

Let me go back—let me go over to Bill Hines. 

Tell me how the governments are all going to work together to help business.  You have got state, federal, local.  You have got President Bush at the top, FEMA, its new director, Paulison, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin.  Where is the action going to be in helping the business community bring back the money to this city? 

BILL HINES, JONES WALKER LAW FIRM:  Well, that‘s the key, Chris, is that we are concerned in the private sector.  We left out the private sector.  And maybe that‘s the Louisiana issue. 

The private sector needs to play a role in this.  Also, when we even say Mayor Nagin, you have got surrounding parishes, Kevin Davis, St.  Tammany Parish, Aaron Broussard, Jefferson Parish, Saint Bernard, Plaquemine, go on and on.  This is to me the big question.  Steve and I have discussed this. 

I hear about a federal commission, state commission, mayors commission.  The private sector is very interested/concerned that we play a major role in this. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you going to lay down markers and say you want the Quarter open at a certain time, you want a Mardi Gras this year, you want one of the two parties, Democrat or Republican, to have their convention here?  How does the business community, which is going to make the money for this city and pay the taxes, push the politicians? 

HINES:  Two issues. 

One is, there have already been some sort of renaissance plans in place going back three or four years, when we attracted an NBA team.  We want to use that.  It was a 10-year plan, accelerate it over the next two years.  Then, some of these other markers, we need to get to our elected officials and push those issues.  But we have a plan that was assembled, a long-term plan, that we hope maybe we can get down in the next 12-24 months. 

MATTHEWS:  Was—was your city of New Orleans doing well before Katrina hit?  Would you say your city was in first-rate shape in terms of tourism, in terms of facilities, in terms of quality of a visit by a tourist, a family or a company? 

PERRY:  The tourism industry was in the best shape of any of the components in the city, but it masked some social ills that lay under the surface. 

And that‘s—that‘s what I think is critical here.  We have a chance for this tourism industry to come back stronger than ever.  But we can‘t do just that.  We can‘t do just the economic diversification that Bill and his group want to do.  Chris, we have got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a living laboratory for urban revitalization. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PERRY:  This is a small city. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

PERRY:  And this call—one of the things you guys do on this program is explode myths and get to the heart of things.  This is a time where this city and this country and the president and the governor have to think about new approaches to things. 

That means something like maybe the Tennessee Valley Authority model.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PERRY:  Works Progress Administration models. 

MATTHEWS:  How come—let me ask you this.  If you create lot of jobs, service jobs, but good jobs, in your business...

PERRY:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  How come, right at the edge of the Quarter is the ghetto, is poverty?  And when you get to the edge of the Quarter as a tourist, you know when to turn around and look the other direction.  You go, oh, my God, I can‘t walk in this neighborhood.  It might be a little dangerous.  I want to turn around and come back to the nice part. 

How can you surround a beautiful Quarter with poverty and still succeed? 

PERRY:  That‘s the challenge.  It‘s the same challenge that New York had, the same challenge that Washington, D.C. has with its pockets. 

But, right now, we‘re going to have an opportunity in partnership with the federal government to rethink, what should an urban neighborhood look like?  That means different kinds of housing.  That means different kinds of schools.  It means safe environments.  And, if you do that together, with the economic revitalization and bringing back the culture of the city, then you have created a greater New Orleans than ever existed. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  They may not have the flash of the politicians or the pizzazz, but these are the guys who are going to make the money decisions when it comes to bringing back New Orleans, the Quarter and the whole city. 

We are going to have more of these guys, because they‘re talking turkey. 

Back with more HARDBALL in just a minute.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  You want New Orleans back as a major American city?  Keep listening to these guys.  A couple more minutes with the movers and shakers of downtown New Orleans. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Bill, there‘s three things people know about New Orleans now, in addition to the flood.  They know its great music, great food, and racial division.  How do you put them together for a successful new New Orleans? 

HINES:  Well, people have said many times that what is good about New Orleans is bad about New Orleans, vice versa.  We—you say it‘s a gumbo.  It‘s a word that gets overused. 

Wynton Marsalis visited our city for the last two days and just going back to New York for a major fund-raiser this weekend.  But the issue he was using is jazz and our culture.  It‘s basically to embrace the poor African-American culture that created jazz, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong.  He is obviously more articulate on this than I am.

And meld that with the tourist community and the business community to make us different from every other American cities.  And, again, it‘s threading a needle.  But if we do that, as you say, we become an Epcot Center, then we‘re not really New Orleans anymore. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s about authenticity, Steve.  Tell us about that, because if you have a New Orleans that‘s based upon jazz, which is basically black, it comes from poverty, it comes from the blues, all that has to be real, right? 

PERRY:  Absolutely. 

The one thing that distinguishes New Orleans from virtually every other major modern corporate city is that it is an authentic place, with all the flaws that come with that.  It is the greatest preserved city.  It has the most amazing indigenous culture.  That‘s the texture that made New Orleans what it is.  The racial division that you talk about are the kinds of things, when the layers of that onion are peeled back in any major urban area, you are going to see these kind of things. 

But here, we saw it unmasked in the United States for the first time in a graphic way.  For us, though, the realization that what we know is the partnership with the business community and the working men and women and the poor is what makes New Orleans.  It‘s African.  It‘s Caribbean.  It‘s French.  It‘s Spanish.  That‘s what makes New Orleans really the soul of America, from the indigenous music to the cuisine to the architecture.  There‘s not a place like it. 

MATTHEWS:  How did you get people to invest millions of dollars in property that is under water?

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I mean, you live on—you live below sea level.  It‘s almost like a joke.  I will sell you some land.  Oh, by the way, you don‘t know it‘s under water, but it potentially is.  Can you guarantee that this city won‘t be flooded again? 

HINES:  Yes.  And this—this hits a real nerve.  I was...

MATTHEWS:  How? 

HINES:  I was flooded for a week.

There have been plans on the books for the last 20 years for a barrier along of the twin span to keep the surge out of the lake and for Category 5 levees.  The estimates are anywhere from $3 to $5 billion.  Why that wasn‘t done, I‘m sure, because, sometimes, I‘m underinsured.  No one thought it would happen.  It happened.

MATTHEWS:  Does this mean piling more dirt and gravel up on a higher mountain? 

HINES:  No, it means—it means also state-of-the-art pumps, pumps that are put above water, and Category 5 cylinders.  This has all been done in Florida. 

Frankly, have ignored, America—the Everglades are wonderful.  I love the environment.  They have spent much more on the Everglades than in protecting the city of New Orleans.  This is about people, poor people, rich people, white people, black people.  They need to fix our city and let the private sector regrow it. 

MATTHEWS:  Unique selling point for New Orleans to come back here, will it sell city the two political parties?  Will they come here like the Republicans did in ‘88, when they nominated George Bush Sr.?

PERRY:  I think they absolutely will.  And I think the Super Bowl will come back.  The biggest convention customers will come back.  They‘re already telling us they will. 

And I will tell you, Chris, there‘s something interesting.  After World War II, 30 major European cities that were destroyed to the ground were built back in six years.  The Netherlands was virtually wiped out in the early part of the 20th century with massive floods and built a dike system that has become part of the tourism industry.  This can be done.  It can be done quickly.  And cultural tourism is going to lead the way. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Steve Perry.

And thank you very much, Bill Hines. 

HINES:  Thank you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Well, coming up, we are going to talk about Ophelia, the hurricane.  It‘s now threatening, in fact, pounding already, the Carolina coast.  We are going to talk to some mayors along the Eastern Seaboard and see if they‘re up to snuff, if they are ready to do a better job than New Orleans did in facing another catastrophe, or at least another hurricane. 

Back with HARDBALL in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, we have got another hurricane on our head.  Right now, it‘s facing—in fact, it‘s already soaking the North Carolina beaches.  It‘s called Ophelia.  Remember Hamlet? 

Well, we are going right now to an expert, Brian Mooar.

How is that hurricane threatening?  What kind of damage can it do? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN MOOAR, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  This boiling water behind me is just the first sign of Ophelia hitting land. 

This storm is expected to be a prolonged assault on the Carolina coast.  The governor says that people should expect to be without power perhaps days afterwards.  This is what it looks like right now at high tide.  This pier behind he has been pounded all day long.  And this is just the beginning.  The storm‘s eye is expected to make landfall some time after midnight.  And this storm is not going away any time soon.  It‘s been moving just ever so slowly, six, seven, eight miles an hour.

And the governor of this state says that flooding really right now is the biggest concern, the water, the waves, the fury of Ophelia something that is not expected to be finishing any time soon.  People here have hunkered down by the tens of thousands, many of them saying this is a Category 1 hurricane.  But this is very much a hurricane nonetheless. 

For HARDBALL, I‘m Brian Mooar—Chris, back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go now, right now, to Mark McBride.  He‘s the mayor of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

Mayor McBride, thanks for joining us. 

Do you expect to miss this hurricane down there? 

MARK MCBRIDE, MAYOR OF MYRTLE BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA:  Yes, sir, we have been fortunate.  We have already missed it and we are just praying for the best for the Outer Banks. 

MATTHEWS:  No damage at all to your state? 

MCBRIDE:  No.

MATTHEWS:  Palmetto State?

MCBRIDE:  We have been—very minimal. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about preparations.  If you‘re lucky this time, you might be unlucky next time.  What—have you had drills down there?  Have you had evacuation plans worked out? 

MCBRIDE:  Yes, sir.  Unfortunately, this is the ninth time in the last nine years we have had storms.  Three of those years, we had no storms. 

So, we have been fortunate.  And what everybody along the coastal area has to recognize, that, you know, is, Florida sent a message to everybody.  Katrina has sent a message to everybody.  It‘s all about planning and communication.  You know, last year, we were able to go through a—this spring, go through a FEMA training program.  And that helped us. 

But, tomorrow afternoon, we are actually having a workshop to discuss our city preparedness, you know, our family shelters, indigent care.  You know, are our emergency operation centers strong enough two withstand a stronger storm?

MATTHEWS:  OK, Mayor McBride, hang in there.

Let‘s go to Mayor Spence Broadhurst, who is in a target zone here, of Wilmington, North Carolina.

Mayor Broadhurst, tell what you have got ready to deal with this?

SPENCE BROADHURST, MAYOR OF WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA:  I‘m sorry, Chris.  Say that again.

MATTHEWS:  Tell me what you have got ready to deal with this Hurricane Ophelia?

BROADHURST:  Well, we started getting ready for this two or three days ago.  You know, this isn‘t our first storm we have had down here in the last number of years.  So, we have got a clear plan.  And we started implementing it a couple days ago.

MATTHEWS:  What‘s the federal role to deal with Ophelia?

BROADHURST:  Well, there‘s 200-some FEMA people on—in North

Carolina.  Our role here locally, we stayed focused on our role here

locally.  We have got our emergency management team here together doing the

following our plan to the tee.  We stay in touch with the governor‘s office and from their standpoint, if we need help from them.

But, right now, we are focused on the safety of our folks, keeping them inside.  And now that the storm is trying to work its way through, we will get out and make sure the roads are clear.  We have got a lot of trees down and things like that.

MATTHEWS:  Do you have to get people out of harm‘s way?  Do you have

to evacuate anybody

BROADHURST:  We had voluntary evacuation of the beaches and the low-lying areas on the intercostal waterway.  And we opened some shelters inland here in Wilmington.  And we had about 200 people to come to the shelters.,  And they‘re still there now.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you your reaction. 

I want both of you, start with Mayor McBride.

When you saw that screw-up in New Orleans, where all those 25,000 people were stranded because the mayor said, I was putting them there for three or four days, hoping that the cavalry would have charged three or four days later—that‘s what he‘s been saying to cover himself on this.  Is that a reasonable response by a mayor, to put people in a room with no water, no food, no police protection, and hope that the feds will arrive in four days?

Mayor McBride, I want to know if you think that‘s smart in terms of coordination between state and local and federal.

MCBRIDE:  Now is not the time to be passing blame, but all the responsibility starts locally.  Then it goes to the state.  And then it goes to the federal government.

I want to thank the White House.  The White House has already been in contact with us.  Whatever the shortcomings were last time, I think everybody is aware and they‘re on top of this. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you have a phone relationship with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, sir? 

MCBRIDE:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  So you have a guy to call or a woman to call right now if you need help for anything? 

MCBRIDE:  Yes, sir. 

MATTHEWS:  So, it‘s no 10-hour lags, like we saw in terms of evacuation decision-making, school buses getting out of town, convention halls being evacuated?  You would be able to do that quickly? 

MCBRIDE:  I mean, there again, the best laid plans of men also—they don‘t always work.  We believe we‘re ready.  But everybody has to step back and take a breath and realize this has never happened before in the country.  And it‘s unprecedented.  So, everything is not going to work the first time we have a disaster like this. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Mayor Broadhurst. 

Is that your view, that there are some things that can‘t be prepared for? 

BROADHURST:  Well, yes, I imagine there are certain things you can‘t be prepared for. 

But I will tell you, again, we have had storms here before.  And that puts us in a position to have a clear plan.  It‘s a plan—I agree with the mayor of Myrtle Beach that it starts locally.  It‘s our responsibility.  We on the ground here.  We know what is going on. 

And we communicate up the line as we need to.  But we implemented our plan and started to take a look at issues such as evacuations a couple of days ago.  And, you know, the bad part about a storm is, it is so slow that it just stays right on top of us.  But the good part of it being so slow is, it certainly has given us time to—given us time to evaluate and prepare for it.  So, we started—as I mentioned, we started evaluating it a couple of days ago.

And if any help that we would need, whether it‘s through the state or the federal level, we would have worked it up through our county emergency management folks to that level, if we needed it. 

MATTHEWS:  How big a deal is it, Mayor Broadhurst?  Is the person who handles emergencies in your staff, is that somebody you work with every day, like a Cabinet member?  How would you—how would you explain your relationship with the person you have got to talk to in a crises? 

BROADHURST:  Oh, absolutely.

I mean, we have a coordinated regional effort here with the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County.  And the emergency management specialist with the county is the point person who can funnel up through the stay emergency management at any time.  So, we‘re in contact every day.  In this case, when we have a storm coming, certainly on a continual basis. 

But throughout the year, he is—he is plugged in and we—and, again, updating our plans all the time.  So, obviously we have a very close relationship.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BROADHURST:  And we take a look at it.  We don‘t take these things lightly.  We have had other storms through here.  And this is a Category 1, maybe pushing a 2, storm.  But we do not take it lightly.  And it‘s an important part of protecting our citizens down here.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BROADHURST:  Because, again, we have had them in the past. 

MATTHEWS:  Mayor Broadhurst, thanks for your time today.

And thank you very much, Mayor Broadhurst from Myrtle Beach. 

Both you gentlemen, thank you.

Let‘s go to Max Mayfield now from the Hurricane Center. 

Max, put these together.  Compare Ophelia with Katrina. 

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER:  No comparison at all. 

You know, the damage goes up exponentially as the wind speed increases.  And this is a strong Category 1 hurricane, nothing at all like Katrina.  There‘s no reason for anyone to lose their life in this hurricane, if they exercise some common sense.  But, having said that, I can tell you that, time and time again, we do have loss of life in even Category 1 hurricanes. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, the mayor there, Mayor Broadhurst of Wilmington, North Carolina, was saying this might be pushed up to a 2.  Do you think that is possible? 

MAYFIELD:  Well, our forecast has been—you know, right now, it‘s a very strong category 1.  The upper level environment is still very, very favorable.  And as long as much the circulation remains over that warm Gulf Stream, we have been saying in our advisories that there‘s a chance it could strengthen a little bit more. 

Usually, when you have a large diameter eye like you have this, you don‘t see any rapid changes in intensity, but it could conceivably get to a Category 2.  But I think the strongest winds, even if it does that, will be offshore here. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about something of the past, two weeks ago you.  And it‘s a question that is on a lot of people‘s minds.  And I guess it has to do with blame.  It also has to do with preparation next time.  Did the mayor of New Orleans get an adequate warning that the levees were in trouble? 

MAYFIELD:  Chris, that‘s a question for the mayor.  Now this is certainly not the time. 

If I can say anything right now, I really would like to stay focused on Ophelia here.  And there are some concerns.  You know, we have got to talk about the wind.  We have learned that the wind—you don‘t have to have hurricane-force winds to cause a lot of damage. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MAYFIELD:  Even storm-force winds can cause trees to fall down and power outages. 

We are also very concerned with the storm surge, not just on the Outer Banks here.  But, when that wind is onshore, it is going to push water up these rivers here, the Neuse and the Pamlico rivers.  And there a lot of people that stayed here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  I want them to know that, even as the hurricane, as the eye of the hurricane moves across them, when that flow comes out of the north, from the sound side, they‘re going to have some storm surge flooding from the backside of this hurricane. 

MATTHEWS:  Any northern cities going to get hit north of North Carolina? 

MAYFIELD:  Well, it is really just going to be this eastern swathe that you see right here.  The storm-force winds should be pretty much confined to the east of that blue and yellow that you‘re seeing on the graphic behind me. 

MATTHEWS:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Max, you‘re a professional.

MAYFIELD:  They will have some power outages, no doubt.

Thank you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Great to have you on.  Thank you very much, Max Mayfield. 

I appreciate your discretion, sir.  Thank you very much.

We are going to hear right now—we haven‘t heard them yet, but we are going to hear from people we like to hear from.  That‘s musicians, a couple of jazz musicians from New Orleans, big names.  They‘re going to tell us what it‘s like to be out of work and how much they want to get back to work, and that when HARDBALL returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the spirit of musicians silenced by Hurricane Katrina, we will be talking to a couple of them, big ones, when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s the voice of Irma Thomas.  By the way, I think the Rolling Stones took that away from her, legally or not, whatever.  They got it from her.  She is the one that introduced that song.

She sits here with me now, jazz singer Irma Thomas.  And we‘re joined by Donald Harrison, a sax player. 

DONALD HARRISON, MUSICIAN:  Right.

MATTHEWS:  You know, I have to ask you about that song.  Do you think that is true? 

IRMA THOMAS, SINGER:  Time is on my side, yes.

MATTHEWS:  How about New Orleans? 

THOMAS:  New Orleans is on my side as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Is time on New Orleans‘ side? 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  ... keep going in circles here.

THOMAS:  It‘s definitely on New Orleans‘ side. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think the Quarter will be working and making money and people coming in the door in the next couple of months? 

THOMAS:  Not in the next couple of months, but, within the year, yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Before Christmas? 

THOMAS:  At least by then. 

MATTHEWS:  We will have a Mardi Gras? 

THOMAS:  I am thinking we will. 

MATTHEWS:  It‘s kind of interesting, Donald.  Thank you for joining us.  I love the sax. 

HARRISON:  Thank you.  I do, too.

MATTHEWS:  I want to know why it bumped the clarinet a couple years ago.  What happened? 

HARRISON:  Well, it sounds better. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, the sax is definitely Bill Clinton‘s instrument.  We know that.  But also it‘s the sound of New York.  When you get on a subway during 9/11, I heard that mournful sax.  It‘s kind of a mournful sound.  The clarinet is sharper and clearer, but...

HARRISON:  Well, they say it‘s the closest instrument to the human voice, so maybe that has something to do with it. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes. 

THOMAS:  I‘m in agreement to that.

HARRISON:  There you go.

MATTHEWS:  Sax has got a lot of soul, doesn‘t it?  It‘s got a lot of feel. 

HARRISON:  It‘s soulful.  Yes, you can really get your emotion into the instrument. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, when I go through the Quarter again—and I have been there in better times.  I was there when I was training for the Peace Corps back in ‘68, when we were training down in Baker near here, near Baton Rouge, we are at right now.

It‘s a mixture of good music, good food, sleazy, strip joints.  You have got some of that, right?  And you have got some people that are really sort of holdouts, tough old guys.  They have been there forever.  What do you say about doing the Quarter?  What do you feel about doing it?  What is it about?  Satchmo started there.  He played for hours.

THOMAS:  Well, the Quarter was the in-place before the rest of New Orleans was built.  So, why not?  When you go to the Quarter and you get all of this, most people want to go where they can get all of that in a small area.  And it‘s all there in the Quarter. 

MATTHEWS:  What, is it about four blocks square?  How big is the Quarter?

THOMAS:  No, it‘s a little bigger than that. 

MATTHEWS:  Is it?

THOMAS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Bigger...

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS:  A little bigger than that.

MATTHEWS:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the feeling.

I always get the feeling if you go into the Quarter and you have been divorced a fourth time, there is still a bartender that is going to say, come on in.  Have some fun.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  It seems like the most forgiving place. 

What do you think, Donald? 

HARRISON:  Well, there‘s a saying for Mardi Gras, the city that care forgot.  And we are a party town.  And we are—maybe we‘re the Amsterdam of America, in that we let every...

MATTHEWS:  Oh, my God.  That‘s a little scary, though. 

HARRISON:  No, well, not as bad as Amsterdam. 

MATTHEWS:  Not as free-spirited. 

HARRISON:  Not as free-spirited.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRISON:  But we tend to let people live and enjoy themselves as they see fit.

THOMAS:  Yes.

HARRISON:  And we‘re very warm to other people. 

MATTHEWS:  How does the funeral thing fit into that, where you have the people marching along in the Preservation Hall and everybody is doing the dance and everything?  How does that fit into music?  Where did that come from, that... 

HARRISON:  Well, it‘s been said that it‘s an African tradition, that you would celebrate a person‘s life at a funeral and you would have fun, because that person, including myself and probably Irma...

THOMAS:  Right. 

HARRISON:  ... would be happy...

MATTHEWS:  I thought the Irish and the blacks had something in common. 

HARRISON:  Yes, we really—we are all...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Irish funerals, Irish wake. 

THOMAS:  There has to be some—to make light of it, there has to be some malady, and, I will be glad when you‘re dead, you rascal, you. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  ... got away with it, sort of.

THOMAS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But we don‘t know, do we?

THOMAS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  We will be right back to talk to a couple of real people. 

And, by the way, the folks sitting to my right are the attraction of New Orleans, the reason that conventions will be coming back there. 

Back with more HARDBALL in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re hearing mournful music. 

Tell me about your situation, you first, Irma Thomas.  Where‘s your house?  What happened?

THOMAS:  My house is still under water.  My travel van is under water.  My other vehicle is under water.  And my club, all the instruments that we had up there for rehearsal, all that is gone. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s all gone.  What part of town do you live in?

THOMAS:  I live in New Orleans East.  And the club was right across the street from the clerk of court‘s office uptown on Tulane and Broad.  It was right across the street.

MATTHEWS:  When do you expect the water to recede, to be able to go home?

THOMAS:  They‘re not saying.  They are really not saying, because they are saying the end of October at the earliest. 

MATTHEWS:  Donald, that was your beautiful music, by the way.  I want to credit you that. 

HARRISON:  Thank you so much.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about where you‘re living, what your situation is. 

HARRISON:  Yes.  I‘m actually here in a hotel in Baton Rouge. 

We were stuck in New Orleans for three days in the worse conditions you could ever imagine at the Hyatt Regency.  They tried, but it wasn‘t good.  My house was uptown in the Broadmoor section.  And the last I heard, it was under 10 feet of water.

MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable.

HARRISON:  And lost all my saxophones.  I kept one with me just in case.  And I was very fortunate.

MATTHEWS:  Do you think they floated away?  Are they in boxes?  Or what do you think? 

HARRISON:  Well, they...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Do you think somebody grabbed them?

HARRISON:  They are in cases.  Maybe somebody got them.  I don‘t know what‘s going to be.  But they‘re made out of copper, so they‘re going to corrode.  They‘re not going to be any good anymore. 

And some of—a lot of my guys who play in my band, I can‘t find them.  So, hopefully, everything is OK with them.  But we‘re going to—the true spirit of New Orleans...

THOMAS:  Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRISON:  We‘re going to get back there.  And we will get those guys.

MATTHEWS:  That‘s great.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Look, I want to make a pitch.  Everybody ought to come back and have some fun with you guys.  It‘s unique, because it‘s authentic, right?

HARRISON:  Right. 

THOMAS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s where jazz came from.

THOMAS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  But it wasn‘t some Disney World kind of thing. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Vegas kind of thing.

HARRISON:  We really love the music.  And...

THOMAS:  I love it. 

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS:  I grew up there.  It‘s in my fiber.

MATTHEWS:  And you like those straight-arrow business guys and conventioneers to come in and have too many drinks and get in the mood, right?

(LAUGHTER)

THOMAS:  Oh, we deal with them, too. 

(LAUGHTER)

HARRISON:  We love them.  Anyone who loves the music, we love them.

THOMAS:  That‘s it.

HARRISON:  And we are trying to bring happiness to the world.  The way we do it in New Orleans, we have our own special gumbo with the music.  So we‘re trying to bring happiness. 

MATTHEWS:  I know.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  I love that thing you told me during the break, that you were an extra in “Live and Let Die,” that movie where they had the black guy marching in the funeral procession.  And that was a—Yaphet Kotto.

HARRISON:  Yaphet Kotto. 

MATTHEWS:  Played Mr. Big.

HARRISON:  I met him, of course. 

MATTHEWS:  You met Yaphet?  He‘s great.

Anyway, thank you, Irma. 

THOMAS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Donald.

I also talked just recently to a bunch of business guys down there.  They run restaurants.  One of the them, Antoine (ph), has been in the family for five generations.  The other one is right across the street.  Interesting.  Also, there‘s a bar down we visited where they‘ve been open for 14 straight years without ever having locks on the door, because they never close at night. 

Here‘s a real taste of the business guys of the Quarter who want to stay going. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We are going to spent some time with you folks. 

And thank you for joining us. 

Do you want to do some sax for us, Donald?

HARRISON:  Oh, I‘d love to, man.  Here we go. 

MATTHEWS:  Pick your tune.

HARRISON:  Here we go.

(MUSIC)

MATTHEWS:  Well done.

Let me ask you.  Jazz—let me ask you.  Jazz, does it mean it‘s different every time?

HARRISON:  Every time.  That‘s one of the beauties of it.  You‘re always searching for your highest level and giving love to the world.  But it‘s different every time. 

MATTHEWS:  Irma, do you sing every song different every time?

THOMAS:  Most of the time, I do.

MATTHEWS:  Do you get a in groove, though?

THOMAS:  Oh, yes, all the time. 

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS:  Well, I wish you the best, you know?

THOMAS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I love professionals.  I love them.

THOMAS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I love people that make us happy.  And I love entertainment.  I‘m sort of in the business myself, sometimes, when I get in the mood. 

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much, Irma Thomas.

THOMAS:  You‘re so welcome, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Donald Harrison. 

Thank you, sir.

Thank you, ma‘am.

HARRISON:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘re going to go come back—actually, we are not going to come back.  We are going to right now to Keith? 

To Dan Abrams and “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”  Dan Abrams is coming up right now. 

Take it away, Dan.

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