updated 9/15/2005 12:21:45 PM ET 2005-09-15T16:21:45

Guests: Tom Coburn, John Dickerson, Rachel Maddow, Philip Boire, Michael Chapman

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”:  That‘s all the time we have tonight from Biloxi.  Tucker Carlson is next.  Tucker, what is THE SITUATION?

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST:  Thank you, Joe.  It‘s a very busy news day.  We‘re live with the latest, including an update on Hurricane Ophelia, now rocking the Carolina coast. 

A U.S. congressman involved in a Hurricane Katrina scandal, and details from the amazing performance of John Roberts at his confirmation hearings today. 

But first, more fallout from Hurricane Katrina.  It‘s going to be expensive.  $62 billion, from the federal government, and that‘s just so far.  Those are your tax dollars, and many are sent to a state that is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt in the nation. 

That worries our next guest.  He‘s cosponsored legislation in the Senate to make sure federal aid in the Gulf does not become a pork laden pinata party.  Joining me now, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

Senator Coburn, thanks for coming on. 

SEN. TOM COBURN ®, OKLAHOMA:  Glad to be with you, Tucker.  It‘s been a long day. 

CARLSON:  I bet it has been.  You‘ve been in the Roberts hearing all day long.  I think you‘re doing—this legislation is a great idea.  Somebody needs to oversee how this money is spent.  But why should the federal government rebuild the battered area in the first place, philosophically?  Why is it the federal government‘s responsibility?

COBURN:  I don‘t think that that‘s what we are talking about right now, rebuilding.  What we are talking about is meeting the needs of those people who have just been tremendously overwhelmed by the greatest natural tragedy that this country has ever seen, so I don‘t think that the decision to rebuild by your tax dollars yet has been made. 

CARLSON:  But $62 billion, I mean, that‘s not just food and water. 

That‘s going to be going to infrastructure. 

COBURN:  Well, I think it raises the whole question, is nobody knows.  And nobody knows where it‘s going.  Nobody knows where we got this estimate.  And the idea is that we need to know, and we need to know how the money is going out.  And it needs to be watched as it goes out rather than looked at after the fact. 

And so myself and Senator Obama put together a bill that both the majority leader and the minority leader of the Senate support, and hopefully will come through, and it creates a chief financial officer and overseer for all this money, working for the president.  The president nominates him.  They have to be confirmed by the Senate.  We‘ll do that quickly if we can get this legislation through, and we‘ll watch this money. 

It‘s not to say that there hadn‘t started to be some transparency and accountability in the federal government.  But there certainly hasn‘t with FEMA, based on the last hurricane expenditures they made. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

COBURN:  And we want to make sure that that money is watched as it goes out and it‘s there to help the people who have a need, not to help the people who are helping the people that have a need. 

CARLSON:  Amen.  But it‘s not even clear where the figure $62 billion came from. 

COBURN:  No. 

CARLSON:  I mean, that‘s a little scary. 

COBURN:  It is scary, and it‘s exactly the wrong response, to throw money at something before you know where the money is going.  So if we‘re going to throw the money, No. 1, we got to know where it‘s going ahead of time.  No. 2, is we ought not to be throwing the money without making cuts somewhere else in the budget. 

CARLSON:  Well, that‘s—well, the people of Bozeman, Montana, I got a wire story right in front of me. 

COBURN:  I saw that. 

CARLSON:  You saw that.  That‘s right.  They petitioned the city council to give back $4 million that was earmarked for a parking garage from this enormous highway bill, embarrassingly large highway bill, and give that money to the people of the Gulf Coast.  What do you think of that?

COBURN:  I think it‘s right.  And as a matter of fact, I think all the earmarks of all of the members of Congress this year out to be rescinded, and those monies ought to be given back. 

It‘s not to say that the earmarks aren‘t for some very good projects, but the problem we have in Washington is politicians are now using earmarks to benefit themselves politically, and it takes that money out of the order of what is in the most important priority in the country. 

And we shouldn‘t be spending a dollar at a time we‘re at war, at a time we have record deficits, now with Katrina, the time we have this national—this tragedy that has struck the Gulf Coast.  We shouldn‘t be spending a penny on anything that isn‘t absolutely necessary. 

CARLSON:  Well, yes, because some of these—I mean, just for edification of our viewers want to put up a short list on the screen.  We could have made it pages and pages long.  Two hundred and twenty-three million dollars for an Alaska bridge linking 50 island residents to the mainland; $231 million for a Don Young bridge in Anchorage; $5.9 million for a Vermont snowmobile trail.  Why can‘t people of Vermont pay for their own snowmobile trail?

COBURN:  Well, who pays for it is important, but more importantly, those aren‘t priority projects compared to the things that we‘re facing today. 

And we need leadership in Washington that says—and what we really need, Tucker, more than anything, is we need the American people to start demanding of their elected representatives to start making the hard choices we were sent up here to make. 

It‘s easy to spend $62 billion of your grandkids‘ money.  And that goes totally contrary to the heritage of our country, of making sacrifices now for the next generation.  We‘re asking our grandchildren to sacrifice to take care of this, because the politicians in this country don‘t want to make the hard choices of making spending priorities. 

CARLSON:  Good for you for saying that.  I wish more people in the Senate felt that way. 

Now, you have spent all day in the Roberts hearings.  What did you make of his comments yesterday that he thought that Griswold vs.  Connecticut decision in 1965 that created the right to privacy, really, out of nothing, paved the way for Roe vs. Wade eight years later, that he thought that was a good decision?  What do you think of that?

COBURN:  Well, I don‘t think he said it was a good decision.  I think he said it was settled. 

CARLSON:  Well, he said—no.  He said he believed in the right of privacy and said nice things.  Unfortunately, I don‘t have it right in front of me, but about Griswold vs. Connecticut.  What do you think of his statement, that he believes in the right to privacy in the Constitution?

COBURN:  Well, I think what he said is what he said.  I can‘t recall exactly what he said.  But more importantly is how he will adjudicate cases...

CARLSON:  Yes.

COBURN:  ... which is he outlined for us a very methodical way in which he will look at them.  He defends stare decisis at times, but he also recognizes that 176 times, the Supreme Court affecting 226 cases has totally reversed precedent.  So...

CARLSON:  I guess the reason I‘m asking is there are so many Republican appointees to high court, starting with David Souter—we can go back and have quite a long list—who have been confirmed as conservatives, supposedly, and become quite liberal, in some cases very liberal.  Aren‘t you worried Judge Roberts could become one of those?

COBURN:  No, I‘m not, and the reason I‘m not is because his position is to—I have had long discussions with him in my office.  His position is that they‘re not to make law, but they‘re to interpret law. 

And when you look at things like Griswold type cases, cases that really what happens in our country should be decided in legislatures, not the courts.  I think he finds that that deference to the legislature will trump any of that.  And so he understands their job is not to make policy. 

And so I think we wait and see, but—and I wouldn‘t take that as one indicator that he is not a conservative.  I believe him to be a conservative, but again, I would make the point for all Americans we don‘t want a conservative or a liberal.  What we want is judges that try to separate from their ideological basis to make clear and concise decisions according to our Constitution and our laws recognizing that they should have some limitation in terms of how far they go, and that the only thing they reference is our law and our Constitution and policy is not their job. 

CARLSON:  I hope you‘re right.  I hope—I very much hope you‘re right.  Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, thanks a lot for joining us. 

COBURN:  Glad to do it.  Tucker, God bless you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Well, it was another day of frustration for Democrats as John Roberts‘ confirmation hearings in Washington today.  Some even complained that the mild mannered judge was more tight lipped than any of his predecessors have been. 

NBC justice correspondent Pete Williams was there for today‘s testimony and files this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over:  Frustration among Democrats boiled over when Roberts declined to be pinned down on end of life issues like removing a feeding tube. 

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  Without any knowledge of your understanding of the law, because you will not share it with us, we are rolling the dice with you, Judge. 

There‘s no more possibility that any of us would be here elected to the United States Senate without expressing broadly and sometimes specifically to our public, what it is we believe. 

JUDGE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE NOMINEE:  I am not standing for election.  And it is contrary to the role of judges in our society.  Judges go on the bench, and they apply and decide cases according to the judicial process, not on the basis of promises made earlier to get elected or promises made earlier to get confirmed. 

JEFFERSON:  Republicans said Roberts is as responsive as nominees ever are, and that some questions are really intended to influence his thinking. 

SEN. JOHN KYL ®, ARIZONA:  It is the only time that before you take your position on the court, you will have the opportunity to be directly lobbied in the political context in an appropriate way. 

JEFFERSON:  But some Democrats like New York‘s Charles Schumer still demanded answers. 

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  It‘s as if I asked you what kind of movies you like, and then I ask you if you like “Casa Blanca,” and you respond by saying lots of people like “Casa Blanca.” 

JEFFERSON:  Schumer was out of time, but Roberts wanted to reply. 

ROBERTS:  First, “Doctor Zhivago,” and “North by Northwest.” 

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Roberts also said today he believes in consulting legislative history when it‘s necessary to decide cases, something that the court‘s most conservative justices, Scalia and Thomas, wouldn‘t dream of. 

Tucker, back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARLSON:  Thanks, Pete. 

Well, it‘s the last thing anyone wanted to see, another dangerous hurricane strike.  The governor of North Carolina is warning residents of his coast to evacuate now.  Ophelia could dump 15 inches of Rain, producing serious flooding. 

Jeff Raneri is at NBC Weather Plus. 

Jeff, what is the latest?

JEFF RANERI, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST:  Right now, we‘ve already seen over 10 inches of rainfall for some spots of the coastlines.  Because this system is moving so slowly, and there‘s so much rain associated with it. 

Right now, just miles, the center of the storm off the Cape Lookout area, also Atlantic Beach, where we‘ve had NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski all night.  She‘s getting blown around by winds in excess of 60-miles-per-hour.  And that‘s the thing with this storm system. 

It‘s going to sit basically in this area, right around Cape Hatteras, and these inland regions, for possibly six to 12 hours, so it just compound the problems you see with rainfall. 

That‘s why we have a huge flooding threat for a lot of these coastal areas and also compounding the wind on top of it, because when you get a wind gust at 70 miles per hour, at first, it may not do too much damage, but hour after hour of winds in the 60 to 70-mile-per-hour range could do category two damage to a lot of the beach front range could do Category 2 damage to the beachfront properties, rather than what we would see, typically, typically from a category one. 

Wind gust, 67, Cape Lookout.  Areas from Wilmington southward are starting to become in the clear of the system.  It‘s mainly from cape Lookout to Cape Hatteras that we‘re going to see some of the strongest winds and the heaviest rain as we head through the next possible 12 to 15 hours. 

Right now, the latest 11 p.m. update, winds at 85 miles per hour, gusting to 104, and there‘s that very slow and sluggish, east-northeast, that‘s seven miles per hour.  Typically you will see a hurricane move between 10 to 20 miles per hour.  Helps it to clip along a little bit faster, but this system has stayed pretty much stationary for a lot of its time, helping to continue it dump out that rain—Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Where it going from here, from North Carolina?

RANERI:  Well, once it exits North Carolina on Thursday, it‘s going to head out into the Atlantic.  And then by Friday, we do expect this system to be out here well into the Atlantic and not really affecting anyone at that point. 

Now, places like New York City and Boston, into Saturday and Sunday, could get some cloud cover, possibly a shower or two from some of those outer rain bands, but after we‘re done with that North Carolina, it looks like a lot of the nation should be in the clear from this really pesky system that just hasn‘t wanted to go anywhere. 

CARLSON:  Good news. 

RANERI:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Jeff. 

Coming up, among the evacuees from New Orleans was a Louisiana lawmaker whose behavior in that city has prompted serious allegations.  He joins me next to explain his side of the controversial story. 

Plus, the floodwaters continue to drain out of New Orleans amid suggestions that the levee system there is still in miserable shape.  The man in charge of the repairs answers the question when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Still to come, a Louisiana congressman reportedly used the

National Guard to remove belongings from his house while emergency workers

raced to save thousands of victims in New Orleans.  William Jefferson joins

us to present his side of the story when THE SITUATION returns—next

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.  Congressman William Jefferson is resident of the city of New Orleans. 

On September 2, he received a National Guard escort to the uptown neighborhood to see the condition of his house and retrieve personal items.  The mission ultimately included two five ton trucks, a helicopter, and many military policemen. 

It‘s a story that‘s been reported nationally with cries of indignation.  Here to tell his side of the side is Congressman William Jefferson. 

Mr. Jefferson, thanks for joining us.

REP. WILLIAM JOHNSON, LOUISIANA:  I saw the story last night...

CARLSON:  And my first thought was how at a time when people were literally dying of exposure on roof tops could you tie up the time of National Guardsmen retrieving stuff from your house?  How could you do that?

The story needs to be told, the National Guards people were with me because my city was in a lawless state.  There were snipers around.  I was told that I had to have an escort, though I didn‘t want one to go to the Superdome, then the convention center, then our time the Wal-mart looting sites, and then uptown to my neighborhood. 

So it was a matter of touring around the city.  It wasn‘t a matter of simply going to my house.  But in any event, Tucker, I did not want to have anyone with me.  I wanted to go myself.  But it was so dangerous, in this city the president could not come in.  They advised him not to come in.  But I wanted to look around. 

CARLSON:  I was in the city that night, driving around uptown neighborhood, unaccompanied in a Ford suburban—Chevy suburban, and did just fine.  But that doesn‘t change the nature of the question. 

You had the National Guardsmen wait at your home for an hour as you went inside and got your stuff.  That‘s an hour they could have spent helping people. 

JEFFERSON:  That‘s not correct.  First of all, it was nighttime.  We got there.  It was dark.  And they were not at my house to help me do anything.  We came into the house, I was in that—I said, “Thank you, Jesus.  It hasn‘t been is fine, isn‘t blown down, nobody has looted.  A neighbor came along, they tried to get him to leave. 

He wouldn‘t.  They asked me to get water for him, because he was out of everything but water.  We got that.  They shouted down the street trying to find the guy. 

We then decide we would knock on the door, left there, who have been Terrapin the storm, to se if he was OK.  He didn‘t answer.  We assumed he was OK after searching, and gave up on that. 

I had told my wife that if I ever got into the house, if we had a house, that our kids who are going away to school, I‘ll get their computers, because they all thought they‘d be back in three days.  I would get the suitcase at the front door and bring it back with me. 

The house was dry.  I did do that.  We were ready to go fairly soon. 

The truck was stuck, which is why I ended up being delayed there. 

CARLSON:  And then getting another truck, at one point, a helicopter showed up. 

JEFFERSON:  Now, the helicopter was around circling to try to get folks off roof tops. 

CARLSON:  Well, according to the National Guard, the helicopter was there 45 minutes and it had to return to base not that long after because it was running out of fuel because it spent 45 minutes hovering over you. 

JEFFERSON:  That‘s not true.  That‘s not...

CARLSON:  The National Guard is not telling the truth?

JEFFERSON:  The helicopter came to see what the service was.  They thought it was someone that needed rescue.  It didn‘t take 45 minutes for us to ascertain that wasn‘t true. 

CARLSON:  Congressman, I don‘t think you went in intending to do anything.  I would want to see what was in my city, my.  I feel for you.  Everyone‘s house is wrecked.  I completely understand. 

But here‘s what people watching this at saying.  They‘re saying, “G, I would like to get my stuff too.”  It‘d to get a half a dozen National Guardsmen to accompany me to go get my stuff.  I‘d love to have a helicopter hovering over me. 

According to the National Guard the enlisted men in that detail took your stuff and moved it onto the truck like your servants.  And I think the average person is looking at that and saying, “Wait a second, that‘s imperial behavior.  That‘s outrageous.  You‘re basically behaving like a king.  And that‘s wrong. 

JEFFERSON:  Well, let me tell you this, I regret having taken the advice of people that wanted me to take guards around with me.  I told my staff I would rather not have anybody with me.  And the police told me I was out of my mind.  I should make sure I have.

They offered to go around with me that day, so it wasn‘t—however you may have traveled that day, they were very concerned about any official person who was down there, about his safety.  That‘s how it went.  I did not determine how many people would be with me. 

I think the idea was if somebody sniped at the truck, at the National Guard people, they wanted to have enough people there to make sure they took care of the situation, so they made that determination.  I am not telling you that it doesn‘t—our people don‘t have a reason to have concerns about this, because I myself would have preferred to have gone by myself. 

And if I could do it over again, believe me, I would go by myself and do the whole matter without anybody around, because I would simply take my chances on the security.  I wouldn‘t take advice of anyone. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  Because as you know, you‘ve taken some heat from Ray Nagin, the mayor of your city, who said that he hasn‘t even been to his own house. 

But what it tells you to start?

JEFFERSON:  I talked to ray.  I don‘t think we have disagreement.  He didn‘t know what was going on when the questions came up. 

CARLSON:  Well, he did, but He said say, quote, it‘s unfortunate you went to your house to get your stuff.  He has not yet, even as of last night, went to his own house. 

JEFFERSON:  His house is completely under water.  But In any event, Ray didn‘t know what was going on.  He didn‘t know I had gone to the convention center.  I had gone to the Superdome with the truck, uptown to a Wal-mart site, he didn‘t know I toured anything. 

He was has with the cold question, if I was the guy with soldiers to my house, which didn‘t happen. 

HANNITY:  So what do you think?  You are a U.S. Congressman.  It‘s your city.  And you feel like you have to have a half a dozen men with machine guns just to go to your house. 

What does that tell you about how the city of New Orleans failed to protect its residents?  The people without armed guards had to take their chances?

JEFFERSON:  I think it‘s terrible.  I think the fact that there was lawlessness in our city was awful.  I think—it‘s a huge problem at the time.  And I did not, as I told you, I did not fear for myself.

But others decided—they didn‘t want to have the responsibility of having an official person there going around town who might get in trouble on their watch. 

But frankly for me, I can tell you the Lord‘s truth, I was not afraid, it did not matter one bit, I could have gone by myself.  I simply took the advice of people who thought I needed these people around me.  I did not decide on the number of people.

They didn‘t on that because they did not want their people in trouble if some firefight broke out.  So looking back on it, Tucker, will tell you, as I‘ve said before.  Doing it all over again, I would simply take my chances on security and go my own way. 

CARLSON:  All right. 

JEFFERSON:  And that would be that. 

CARLSON:  Congressman William Jefferson.  I don‘t agree with what you did, but I admire you for coming on.  You‘re brave to do it.  It was a tough story.  Thanks for coming on to explain. 

JEFFERSON:  Thank you, Tucker.  I understand. 

CARLSON:  Thanks. 

JEFFERSON:  Bye-bye. 

Still ahead, those whose homes survived levee breach from Hurricane Katrina may not be so lucky the next time.  A member of the Army Corps of Engineers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO (D), LOUISIANA:  To anyone who even suggests that this great city should not be rebuilt, hear this, and hear it well.  We will rebuild.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  Boy, if only she‘d showed that determination when the hurricane hit. 

Welcome back.  Is the flood danger over in New Orleans?  My next guest says some 90 percent of the levee system protecting that city, its eastern flank particularly has been knocked out, that with weeks of hurricane season to go. 

Joining on the phone is Richard Wagenaugh, for the Army corps head engineer for the city of New Orleans. 

Colonel, thanks a lot for coming us. 

RICHARD WAGEBAAR:  Good evening. 

CARLSON:  What sort of shape are the levees in?

WAGEBAAR:  Generally, the main levees on the river are fine.  The hurricane protection levee on the east side of St. Bernard Parish has been severely damaged. 

CARLSON:  Is this—now, I know you‘re a military man, and an engineer, and your job is not politics. 

But I saw something really remarkable in the “Washington Post.”  I just want to read this one statistic to you, that the state of Louisiana, its core civil works projects, have received more money over the past five years than any other state, about $1.9 billion.  That‘s more than the state of California, of course, much bigger than Louisiana. 

Is that amount of investment obvious to you when you see the levees?  Does it look like a lot of money has been put into them the past five years?

WAGEBAAR:  Well, I am not sure of the statistic.  I don‘t know if all of that money goes to the levee systems.  It is—it‘s got the largest port by volume in the United States.

CARLSON:  Yes.

WAGEBAAR:  So I mean, that also goes towards managing the navigation on the Mississippi river. 

CARLSON:  Yes, but some of that money, at least according to this piece, does go to the levees.  Do they look like they‘ve been loved and cared for and repaired recently?

WAGEBAAR:  They were in very good condition before the storm.  It was a Category 4 plus hurricane, so unprecedented stormed. 

BLITZER:  So what happens if a hurricane hits, God forbid, soon in the next two months, month?

WAGEBAAR:  Well, right now, we‘re trying to fix immediate repairs on areas that we can influence.  We are not sure if we can influence that one levee on the east side of St. Bernard.  It could be very problematic with another storm coming in. 

CARLSON:  So do you think people live in the path of the water that might still over should not move back until hurricane season ends?

WAGEBAAR:  I believe that‘is up to St. Bernard parish president, and other local officials. 

CARLSON:  Well, knowing what you do about the levee, would you live there?

WAGEBAAR:   I would not live there right now, until we get further protection. 

CARLSON:  How long until the levees are strong enough to withstand another hurricane the size of Katrina, or will they ever be?

WAGEBAAR:  I think they will be.  We are going to start work on them right away, and then we will see what Congress and the administration provide regarding protection and funding. 

CARLSON:  But how long is it going to take, if you had the money?

WAGEBAAR:  Well, we are going to start right away.  Thanks for joining us.  Thanks a lot for doing what you‘re doing. 

You‘re welcome.  Thanks. 

Still to come, New Orleans is not the only city left vulnerable in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  President Bush doing his level best to hold back a flood gate of discontent over the federal response to the hurricane, and war gone south in Iraq.  Could this be the moment Democrats have been waiting for, and can they do anything about it?  That‘s next on THE SITUATION.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This administration is not going to rest until every life can be saved, until families are reconnected, until this recovery is complete.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Washington rolled the dice and Louisiana lost.

SEN. BILL FRIST ®, TENNESSEE:  People have been critical of the president.  I think that does go over the line.

BUSH:  The Senate is well along in the process of considering Judge Roberts‘ qualifications.  They know his record and his fidelity to the law.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS:  I think the president for some reason probably did not understand the full magnitude of this catastrophe on the front end.

BUSH:  (INAUDIBLE) you‘re doing a heck of a job.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  I have directed Mike Brown to return to administering FEMA nationally.

BUSH:  To the extent that the federal government didn‘t full do its job right I take responsibility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The president‘s numbers were already sliding due to Iraq and gasoline and this just is another big hit.

BUSH:  It is preposterous to claim that the engagement in Iraq meant there wasn‘t enough troops here.

We have witnessed the awesome power of nature and the greater power of human compassion.  Your response has shown once again that the world is more compassionate and hopeful when we act together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  As you just say, President Bush took some responsibility yesterday for failures in the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.  Will that be enough to deflect the feeling of discontent over Iraq and the hurricane?

Joining us now, long time White House correspondent, one of the best in Washington, John Dickerson, now the chief political correspondent for Slate.com, John, you saw the president essentially answer your famous question.  He said, you know, a mistake he had made in responding to Hurricane Katrina.  Does the White House have any sense how damaging this is?  Is it damaging?

JOHN DICKERSON, SLATE.COM:  They do.  They have a large sense of how damaging it is and the fact that the president took a kind of responsibility and admitted or kind of admitted mistakes shows you just how bad they think things are going.

And, as people probably said, the idea was to kind of get the mistake admitting out of the way so he can give this prime time speech tomorrow night, talk about what‘s going to happen going forward and try to, as they say in Washington, turn the page to something a little bit better than talks of recriminations and all that went bad in the first stages of this cleanup.

CARLSON:  It seems to me this is a better page than the option, which is Iraq, where all these people, 150 people killed in the last 24 hours.  We‘ve barely mentioned it on our show.  You haven‘t seen it at all on television pretty much all day long.  It‘s better to talk about the shared responsibility for the snafus, it seems to me, in Louisiana than talk about Iraq which is entirely Bush‘s doing.

DICKERSON:  Well, that‘s right.  I mean it was ghastly day in Iraq today and put together the president is in a horrible political place.  I mean he‘s at his lowest approval ratings and what both Iraq and Katrina have done is they‘ve completely decimated in the public‘s mind the notion that the president and his team are kind of—are on the ball and that when bad things happen they‘re on the case.

The White House has always said and during the campaign they would say this all the time when we‘d look at those very important right track/wrong track numbers.  They would say, well yes those wrong track numbers are bad.  People think the country is on the wrong track but they know the president is in the office and they know he can fix it.

Well, what happened with Katrina and what happened all during the summer with Iraq an is happening now is that people are losing faith that the White House can—or have lost faith that the White House can handle these bad times ahead.

CARLSON:  Yes, that they‘re incompetent.  “The New York Times” for tomorrow morning, which we just pulled off the web, says that less than 50 percent of the public approve of the way Bush is handling terrorism, which is just terrible and amazing. 

Can Democrats though do anything about it?  I mean can they produce leverage from this?  Is there any Democrat who can step up and get something out of this or are they too disorganized and lame to benefit?

DICKERSON:  Well, they have a challenge that Republicans used to have with Clinton.  You remember during, well during impeachment how Republicans would just get palsied when Clinton would do something because they thought he was getting away with it and they would—they would sort of shoot themselves in the foot when the president was giving them an opening.

Well, the Democrats have done that a number of different times and they have an opening here.  We have a situation in which the competency of the Republican administration is in big doubt where the issues on the table about the underclass and the poor are issues that voters tend to trust Democrats about more than Republicans.

And what has to happen is the Democrats have to not let their more radical liberal part of their base control the message.  Well, the problem when you‘re a minority party is everybody gets a chance at the microphones and there are some national figures, Harry Reid and Senator Clinton, but they are competing with, among other people, the party‘s chairman Howard Dean.

CARLSON:  How has Mrs. Clinton handled the Katrina story, well do you think?

DICKERSON:  I think, well I think smartly.  She‘s gone out and talked about preparedness and she‘s talked about homeland security and she‘s talked about a multi-stage plan, along with some other Democrats, a multi-stage plan for redeveloping the gulf region, all of the sort of sober, thoughtful, long looking and this is very political but sober, thoughtful, long term solutions to these problems.

She‘ll be able to come back and talk at length about the poor and the problems that were laid bare by this catastrophe and the idea, of course, is to talk about those other issues I talked about, talk about them first because those are issues on which Democrats have traditionally had some trouble with voters.

CARLSON:  Yes, the national security stuff.

DICKERSON:  Yes.

CARLSON:  All the while keeping the Moveon.org people at bay.  John Dickerson, one of the great political reporters ever, knows everyone, been everywhere, thanks a lot for joining us.

DICKERSON:  Thanks, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Well, joining us now Air America Radio host Rachel Maddow, a perennial favorite.

RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO:  Thanks.

CARLSON:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  One of the liberal wackos Moveon.org (INAUDIBLE) from the Democratic Party.

CARLSON: That‘s exactly.

MADDOW:  Here to defend my people.

CARLSON: Stunting progress.

MADDOW:  Yes (INAUDIBLE).

CARLSON:  The party.  I think that Bush‘s—the heat Bush has taken for his response to Katrina is actually kind of the equivalent of stubbing your toe and kicking the dog.  People are upset on some deep, unspoken level about Iraq.

MADDOW:  Yes.

CARLSON:  I think Bush‘s missteps in Iraq have been much more profound than his relatively minor missteps with Katrina.  I mean he screwed up with Katrina.

MADDOW:  Yes.

CARLSON:  But compared to what‘s going on in Iraq...

MADDOW:  I think he really screwed up.

CARLSON: ...it‘s pretty small but I think people are unwilling to say that out loud because they don‘t want to concede that it was a mistake from the beginning because it‘s just too painful, so they‘re getting mad at him about Katrina.

MADDOW:  Well, seeing him take responsibility in this limited way without apologizing for Katrina saying “To the extent that the federal government did things wrong I take responsibility” makes you want him to take responsibility for the whole weapons of mass destruction thing, makes you want him to take responsibility for the catastrophe, the ongoing catastrophe that is Iraq.

And so, it kind of—you realize, OK, he is physically capable of saying “I take responsibility” for something and it does make you want that.

CARLSON: The problem is once you start apologizing then you got to do it again.

MADDOW:  Well, and also it means that you‘re admitting that something has gone wrong and they‘ve never admitted that anything has gone wrong again—gone wrong before.  I disagree with you though that this is an issue of their incompetence being exposed. 

I don‘t actually think this is an issue of competence.  I think what‘s happening is that something happened after 9/11 and the Republicans told the country that Bush could keep us safe and that their policies could keep us safe and Americans kind of believed it to the extent that he was reelected.

And, what‘s happened is we‘ve realize that the whole Iraq adventure is not keeping us safe and that the Republican Party and this conservative government isn‘t keeping us safe either and we‘ve started to realize that their real ideas behind the illusion of keeping us safe are bad ideas.

CARLSON:  On the other hand, I think some of them are bad ideas, some of them I think are smart ideas but the bottom line is we haven‘t been attacked.  You hate even almost to say that out loud passing as we just did the fourth anniversary of 9/11 but it‘s true.  We haven‘t and that is the ultimate measure.  But here‘s my question.  Bush is as weak as he‘s ever been.

MADDOW:  Yes.

CARLSON:  I think he was weak going into the last election and John Kerry, who was—you know had a lot going for him lost pretty miserably.  How lame are the Democrats that they can‘t make use of this marvelous opportunity?

MADDOW:  Well, I think that the Democrats will make use of this opportunity and I think...

CARLSON:  When?

MADDOW:  Well, I think now.

CARLSON:  Mid-terms?

MADDOW:  I think it‘s starting to happen.  I mean look at what‘s happening right now in terms of what‘s being proposed for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the gulf coast. 

The Republicans are talking about let‘s have less environmental regulations in Louisiana, when there‘s a super fund site in the middle of that flood.  They‘re talking about let‘s have tax cuts for the evacuees.  Let‘s cut Medicaid.  Let‘s cut food stamps.  Let‘s make sure we get the estate tax repealed and make sure we get the inheritance tax taken care of.

CARLSON:  Ah.

MADDOW:  Their agenda...

CARLSON:  Rachel, see the first thing you mention...

MADDOW:  What?

CARLSON: ...is, you know, these people are displaced and homeless and they died but what about the snail (INAUDIBLE) and the red-headed warbler and all the other animals you never heard of who might be hurt by the reconstruction?  I mean that‘s the problem right there with the party.

MADDOW:  No.  The problem here is that people are coming out, the conservative groups are coming out right now and saying the Sierra Club is the reason that all those people are homeless.  We need to get to rid of environmental regulations.

CARLSON:  I will say a shameless plug for the show there may be some truth in that.  We have not fully investigated it yet on THE SITUATION.  We‘re having on someone tomorrow night to talk on that very subject.  We‘ll find out.

MADDOW:  I hope so but the Republican agenda right now looks really bad and even Alfred E. Newman as a Democrat right now will gain from this.  Americans will vote for Democrats.

CARLSON:  So, you think Congress is going to switch hands?

MADDOW:  Absolutely.  I‘ll bet you.

CARLSON:  You heard it here first, really?

MADDOW:  Yes, I really do.

CARLSON:  If it doesn‘t, the Democrats ought to just disband and all become greens or Republicans or whatever because if they can‘t win in the mid-terms they‘re just totally (INAUDIBLE).

MADDOW:  They‘ll rally (INAUDIBLE).

CARLSON: More pathetic than I thought.  I‘m sure they will.  Rachel Maddow thanks for joining us.

MADDOW:  Sure.

CARLSON:  Coming up, for every outrageous story of government failure, and we brought you all of them, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina there is one that shows people in the best light, when we come back, the story of a selfless man who gave the country a good name.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ELOISE JONES:  I‘m moving into an apartment that they gave me for four months free rent and I‘m going to stay there a little while until they get New Orleans back together but I do plan to return home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  The crushing despair and the helplessness felt by the victims of Hurricane Katrina has been met with equal amounts of hope and selflessness from Americans across this country.

Philip Bouire lives in Boston.  He was so moved by the story of a displaced New Orleans couple that he offered the man a construction job and a free car.  Mr. Boire joins me now from Boston, Mr. Boire thanks a lot for coming on.

PHILIP BOIRE:  My pleasure, Tucker.

CARLSON:  So, tell me how did—did you read about these people in the paper and you just decided to give the man a job and a car?  How did it happen?

BOIRE:  Well, I‘m reading the paper, Tucker, in the morning and I see this fellow he‘s looking for work.  How many people need work?  So, I said what to do?  Let‘s get the man a job.  So, I contacted him and I said “Are you ready to work?  We happen to be renovating a house at the moment and the type of work that he does” so I said let‘s put the man to work.

CARLSON: That‘s amazing, totally on your own.  I mean you didn‘t call any government agency.  You didn‘t go through any official group.  You just decided to do it yourself?

BOIRE:  Absolutely.  It‘s the situation where we have to get this job done now so I called the man and I said, “Do you want to work?”  He said, “Absolutely.”  He‘s looking forward to it but there was one dilemma how to get to work and he lost all his tools in the flood.

CARLSON:  So, what did you say?

BOIRE:  I said, “Well, let me get you the car.”  I own a car dealership, Skyline Motors in Walpole, Mass.  I said “Let me get you to the car dealership and then we‘ll work out the logistics of how to get you to work.”  And then the story evolved from there.

CARLSON:  He must have just about died when he heard that a stranger giving him a job and a car.  So, he came up from New Orleans and you hadn‘t even met him at this point?  What did you think when you met him?

BOIRE:  Well, I hadn‘t met him yet, so what I did is I arranged for a limousine to pick him and his wife Tamara up with their six boys.  The limousine arrived today at Skyline Motors and prior to that the staff, our sales manager Jim Peluso (ph) had contacted a local area vendors, the hardware store, the supermarket, the Cingular wireless store.  Everybody donated gifts. 

We had the limousine pull up.  We showered him with gifts and then I said, “How are we going to get him back and forth to work?”  There was a minivan on the car lot.  We gave him the minivan.

CARLSON:  That‘s just unbelievable.  So, when does he start work?

BOIRE:  Actually, he wanted to start work today and I had a very tiring day with everything that was going on, so he‘s going to start tomorrow morning at Skyline Motors at eight o‘clock tomorrow morning he‘ll be there with his new car and ready to go.  The hardware store, Grossman‘s Bargain Outlet, donated him all the tools.

In the article that I read in the Globe that was the most moving part that this man wanted to work but he had no tools, so I said what to do, let‘s get the man some tools.

CARLSON:  What did his kids say to your generosity?  They must have been amazed.

BOIRE:  I saw them and their faces this morning.  I saw the—they saw some light.  They saw that their father was happy.  They saw their mother was happy.  Everybody showered them with gifts.  They gave them money.  They gave them a cell phone. 

The restaurants, Applebee‘s restaurant, the Big Y (ph) restaurant gave them groceries, so everybody was—they knew that there was hope now.  They took a bus ride from New Orleans for 45 hours with no snacks on the way.

Carlson—Tucker, we have one issue here though.  We have no home.  They‘re in a temporary shelter.  They‘re at the Sheridan Hotel in Framingham which is close by his new job.  We need to find him shelter.

CARLSON:  Well, knowing this country I have no doubt someone will come through on that.  I mean, you know, I don‘t want to say Americans are more decent than other people but in my heart I think they are more decent than other people and you‘re definitely among the most decent, Mr. Boire.  Thanks a lot for coming on.

God bless you for what you‘re doing.

BOIRE:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  Thanks.

BOIRE:  My pleasure, thank you Tucker.

CARLSON:  Coming up, a lesson in generosity yet another from one university which has opened its doors to students whose semester was cut short by the hurricane.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON:  Welcome back.

Among the many displaced by Hurricane Katrina were thousands of students.  New Orleans is home to at least five colleges.  Where to go to school that‘s the question?  Many schools have opened their doors to displaced students but one, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, has really opened its doors, a full year free tuition to people who apply.  They‘ve accepted 90 so far.

Michael Chapman is the vice president of public affairs at the university. 

He joins us now from Providence.  Thanks a lot for coming on, Mr. Chapman.

MICHAEL CHAPMAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, BROWN UNIVERSITY:  My pleasure.

CARLSON:  The students are enrolled now already for free for a year is that, do we have that right?

CHAPMAN:  It‘s only one semester actually.

CARLSON:  One semester.

CHAPMAN:  Yes, the fall semester this year.

CARLSON:  That must be enormously expensive.  Who‘s paying for that?

CHAPMAN:  Well, the university has—when we first heard about the hurricane we decided—the entire Brown community, all of our faculty, staff, students and alumni really wanted to try to find a way to help out as much as we could and we wanted to do it in the way that we thought made the most sense as an academic institution.

So, our initial plan was to try to accept as many as 100 students from across the gulf region who were from these affected institutions.  And so far we have about 90 students who have arrived on our campus, almost 90 students, and we‘ve welcomed them to our campus and they‘re here for the semester and Brown has offered to waive the tuition for these students while they‘re here on our campus.

CARLSON:  And are you taking a—I mean Brown is a very expensive place to go to school are you just eating the cost?  That‘s pretty nice.

CHAPMAN:  We‘re absorbing the cost of that tuition, yes we are.  And, in addition to that, we were very fortunate that last week one of our alumni donated $5 million towards the relief efforts that we‘ve put together, so really what that did is expand our ability to help more students.  The funds from this gift will go to help pay the cost of housing, meals, books, computers and other things that students need when they arrive at a college campus.

Many of the students from these affected institutions, a number of them came here with very few possessions, so we‘re going to use these funds from this donation to help cover some of those costs as well.

CARLSON:  Now, Brown is a pretty nice place.  I‘ve spent a lot of time there in a great city, really one of the great cities, Providence.  What happens if after a semester they don‘t want to leave, as I assume most of them won‘t want to leave?

CHAPMAN:  Well, I think we‘re going to have to deal with that issue when it arises but right now our commitment to the students is to welcome them to our campus for one semester.

CARLSON:  How are they handling it so far?  I mean it‘s a pretty dramatic change.  I mean some of them, you know, probably their homes were destroyed and now they‘re at Brown.  I mean how are they handling it?

CHAPMAN:  It‘s been—for some of them it‘s been a bit of a culture shock but we‘ve set up a strong system, an orientation system for all of them as they arrive on our campus.  We welcome them to the campus.  We give them orientation.  We set them up with housing. 

We show them, you know, where the classrooms are and how to get books, how to get computers and we really are making a real strong effort to try to make them an integral part of our community while they‘re on our campus.

CARLSON:  How did you choose the students?

CHAPMAN:  Originally, we started out focusing on students that were from Rhode Island who attended these universities in the gulf coast but over the course of a couple of days under the leadership of our president Ruth Simmons (ph), we expanded the ability of people to really just sort of apply and we were trying to accept as many people as we could from the five institutions that were most affected in the gulf region.

CARLSON:  And so were there criteria you used or did you accept everyone who applied?

CHAPMAN:  We accepted everyone who applied but we‘ve only been able to really admit and bring onto campus about 90 so far.

CARLSON:  All right.  I wish you‘d have accepted me in 1987 but you didn‘t. 

I don‘t hold it against you.  Michael Chapman thanks a lot for joining us.

CHAPMAN:  NO problem, my pleasure.

CALRSON:  Still ahead on THE SITUATION, it‘s been 16 days since Katrina struck the gulf coast and many people still have not heard from their loved ones.  We‘ll try to do our small part to reconnect them when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SMALL:  My name is Diane Small and I‘m looking for my sister.  Her name is Pinky Borrell (ph).  If anybody knows where she is, I can be contacted at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON:  MSNBC is still helping hurricane victims reconnect with their loved ones.  Log onto msnbc.com and visit the Reconnect page to look for a family member or a friend or register yourself as safe.

A man who just reads in the paper about a family suffering and gives a job and a car; a college accepts everyone who applies for free; uh, it‘s a shame that it takes a tragedy to bring out stories like that but it‘s nice to be reminded what a good country this is and it is.

That‘s THE SITUATION for tonight.  Thanks for watching.

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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