updated 9/16/2005 8:25:02 AM ET 2005-09-16T12:25:02

Guests: Mitch Landrieu, Elijah Cummings, Haley Barbour, Jack Stephens, Oliver Thomas, Roy Glapion, Dave Dimmitt, David Vitter, Douglas Brinkley

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL:  Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

President Bush addresses the country tonight from the French Quarter of New Orleans.  White House aides have said he will showcase a program for economic and social investment in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  He‘ll speak of the long history of injustice exposed by the disaster.  The aides say he will not raise taxes to pay for the recovery effort.

The political urgency of tonight‘s address is contained in a new NBC/”Wall Street Journal” poll that shows the public evenly divided on the president‘s handling of Katrina, but at the same time, giving him the lowest overall job approval of his presidency, even lower support for his handling of Iraq, and less than a third of the American people now believing the country is headed in the right direction.

The stakes tonight for President Bush and the country loom large.  If his standing continues on a downward course, will the president still command the prestige necessary to prosecute an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq?  Will he have the right stuff to keep the country‘s confidence?

But let‘s check the concern of the moment.  Our poll shows that a quarter of the American people have relatives or friends directly hit by Hurricane Katrina.  What do they and the victims themselves want to hear from the president tonight?

For that we go to MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby in New Orleans—Rita.

RITA COSBY, HOST, LIVE AND DIRECT:  Hi, Chris.  And as you can see, I‘m in a very windy New Orleans.  I‘m actually in the French Quarter area, just a few blocks away from where the president is standing.  And joining me in just a few minutes will be some local citizens here, also some members of law enforcement, members of city council and also some business owners, who want to know tonight, Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?  After close to two exhausting weeks, many of them involved in search and rescue, many of them have lost their home, they want some answers tonight.  They don‘t just want rhetoric.

And Chris, they‘ll be watching the speech with me, and afterwards will respond to all of us.  Back to you, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thanks, Rita.

Well, it‘s going to be a very big night for the president, and especially for the people listening tonight from places like the Astrodome in Houston, in Dallas and in Baton Rouge and elsewhere.  President Bush is now on his way to the lectern in historic Jackson Square in New Orleans.  Let‘s listen to the president.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Good evening.  I am speaking to you from the city of New Orleans—nearly empty, still partly under water, and waiting for life and hope to return. 

Eastward from Lake Pontchartrain, across the Mississippi coast, to Alabama and into Florida, millions of lives were changed in a day by a cruel and wasteful storm. 

In the aftermath, we have seen fellow citizens left stunned and uprooted, searching for loved ones and grieving for the dead, and looking for meaning in a tragedy that seems so blind and random. 

We have also witnessed the kind of desperation no citizen of this great and generous nation should ever have to know:  fellow Americans calling out for food and water, vulnerable people left at the mercy of criminals who had no mercy, and the bodies of the dead lying uncovered and untended in the street.

These days of sorrow and outrage have also been marked by acts of courage and kindness that make all Americans proud. 

Coast Guard and other personnel rescued tens of thousands of people from flooded neighborhoods. 

Religious congregations and families have welcomed strangers as brothers and sisters and neighbors. 

In the community of Chalmette, when two men tried to break into a home, the owner invited them to stay—and took in 15 other people who had no place to go. 

At Tulane Hospital for Children, doctors and nurses did not eat for days so patients could have food, and eventually carried the patients on their backs up eight flights of stairs to helicopters. 

Many first responders were victims themselves—wounded healers, with a sense of duty greater than their own suffering. 

When I met Steve Scott of the Biloxi Fire Department, he and his colleagues were conducting a house-to-house search for survivors.  

Steve told me this:  “I lost my house and I lost my cars, but I still got my family and I still got my spirit.”

Across the Gulf Coast, among people who have lost much and suffered much and given to the limit of their power, we are seeing that same spirit:  a core of strength that survives all hurt, a faith in God no storm can take away, and a powerful American determination to clear the ruins and build better than before.

Tonight so many victims of the hurricane and the flood are far from home and friends and familiar things.  You need to know that our whole nation cares about you, and in the journey ahead you are not alone. 

To all who carry a burden of loss, I extend the deepest sympathy of our country.  To every person who has served and sacrificed in this emergency, I offer the gratitude of our country.  

And tonight I also offer this pledge of the American people: 

Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives. 

And all who question the future of the Crescent City need to know: 

There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again. 

The work of rescue is largely finished; the work of recovery is moving forward.  In nearly all of Mississippi, electric power has been restored.  Trade is starting to return to the port of New Orleans, and agricultural shipments are moving down the Mississippi River. 

All major gasoline pipelines are now in operation, preventing the supply disruptions that many feared.  The breaks in the levees have been closed, the pumps are running, and the water here in New Orleans is receding by the hour.  

Environmental officials are on the ground, taking water samples, identifying and dealing with hazardous debris, and working to get drinking water and waste water treatment systems operating again. 

And some very sad duties are being carried out by professionals who gather the dead, treat them with respect, and prepare them for their rest. 

In the task of recovery and rebuilding, some of the hardest work is still ahead.  And it will require the creative skill and generosity of a united country. 

Our first commitment is to meet the immediate needs of those who had to flee their homes and leave all their possessions behind.  For these Americans, every night brings uncertainty, every day requires new courage and, in the months to come, will bring more than their fair share of struggles. 

The Department of Homeland Security is registering evacuees who are now in shelters, churches or private homes—whether in the Gulf region or far away.  

I have signed an order providing immediate assistance to people from the disaster area.  As of today, more than 500,000 evacuee families have gotten emergency help to pay for food, clothing and other essentials.

Evacuees who have not yet registered should contact FEMA or the Red Cross.  We need to know who you are, because many of you will be eligible for broader assistance in the future. 

Many families were separated during the evacuation, and we are working to help you reunite.  Please call this number:  1-877-568- 3317.  That‘s 1-877-568-3317.  And we will work to bring your family back together and pay for your travel to reach them. 

In addition, we are taking steps to ensure that evacuees do not have to travel great distances or navigate bureaucracies to get the benefits that are there for them.  

The Department of Health and Human Services has sent more than 1,500 health professionals, along with over 50 tons of medical supplies—including vaccines, antibiotics and medicines for people with chronic conditions such as diabetes. 

The Social Security Administration is delivering checks. 

The Department of Labor is helping displaced persons apply for temporary jobs and unemployment benefits. 

And the Postal Service is registering new addresses so that people can get their mail. 

To carry out the first stages of the relief effort and begin rebuilding at once, I have asked for, and the Congress has provided, more than $60 billion.  This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented crisis, which demonstrates the compassion and resolve of our nation. 

Our second commitment is to help the citizens of the Gulf Coast to overcome this disaster, put their lives back together and rebuild their communities.  

Along this coast, for mile after mile, the wind and water swept the land clean.  In Mississippi, many thousands of houses were damaged or destroyed.  In New Orleans and surrounding parishes, more than a quarter-million houses are no longer safe to live in.  Hundreds of thousands of people from across this region will need to find longer-term housing. 

Our goal is to get people out of the shelters by the middle of October.  So we are providing direct assistance to evacuees that allows them to rent apartments, and many are already moving into places of their own. 

A number of states have taken in evacuees and shown them great compassion—admitting children to school and providing health care. So I will work with the Congress to ensure that states are reimbursed for these extra expenses. 

In the disaster area and in cities that have received huge numbers of displaced people, we are beginning to bring in mobile homes and trailers for temporary use.  

To relieve the burden on local health-care facilities in the region, we are sending extra doctors and nurses to these areas. 

We‘re also providing money that can be used to cover overtime pay for police and fire departments while the cities and towns rebuild.

Near New Orleans, Biloxi and other cities, housing is urgently needed for police and firefighters, other service providers and the many workers who are going to rebuild these cities. 

Right now, many are sleeping on ships we have brought to the Port of New Orleans, and more ships are on their way to the region. 

And we‘ll provide mobile homes and supply them with basic services, as close to construction areas as possible, so the rebuilding process can go forward as quickly as possible.

And the federal government will undertake a close partnership with the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, the city of New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities, so they can rebuild in a sensible, well- planned way.  

Federal funds will cover the great majority of the costs of repairing public infrastructure in the disaster zone, from roads and bridges to schools and water systems. 

Our goal is to get the work done quickly.  And taxpayers expect this work to be done honestly and wisely.  So we will have a team of inspectors general reviewing all expenditures. 

In the rebuilding process, there will be many important decisions and many details to resolve.  Yet we are moving forward according to some clear principles. 

The federal government will be fully engaged in the mission, but Governor Barbour, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin and other state and local leaders will have the primary role in planning for their own future.

Clearly, communities will need to move decisively to change zoning laws and building codes, in order to avoid a repeat of what we have seen.

And in the work of rebuilding, as many jobs as possible should go to the men and women who live in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  

Our third commitment is this:  When communities are rebuilt, they must be even better and stronger than before the storm. 

Within the Gulf region are some of the most beautiful and historic places in America.  As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. 

That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America.  We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action. 

So let us restore all that we have cherished from yesterday, and let us rise above the legacy of inequality. 

When the streets are rebuilt, there should be many new businesses, including minority-owned businesses, along those streets. 

When the houses are rebuilt, more families should own, not rent, those houses. 

When the regional economy revives, local people should be prepared for the jobs being created.  

Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome.

We want evacuees to come home, for the best of reasons—because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love. 

When one resident of this city who lost his home was asked by a reporter if he would relocate, he said, “No, I will rebuild, but I will build higher.” 

That is our vision for the future in this city and beyond.  We‘ll not just rebuild, we‘ll build higher and better. 

To meet this goal, I will listen to good ideas from Congress and state and local officials and the private sector. 

I believe we should start with three initiatives that the Congress should pass.

Tonight, I propose the creation of a Gulf opportunity zone, encompassing the region of the disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama.  

Within this zone, we should provide immediate incentives for job-creating investment; tax relief for small businesses; incentives to companies that create jobs; and loans and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises, to get them up and running again. 

It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity.  It is entrepreneurship that helps break the cycle of poverty.  And we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.

I propose the creation of worker recovery accounts to help those evacuees who need extra help finding work.  Under this plan, the federal government would provide accounts of up to $5,000, which these evacuees could draw upon for job training and education to help them get a good job and for child-care expenses during their job search. 

And to help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act.  

Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery.  In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity.

Homeownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region. 

In the long run, the New Orleans area has a particular challenge, because much of the city lies below sea level.  The people who call it home need to have reassurance that their lives will be safer in the years to come. 

Protecting a city that sits lower than the water around it is not easy, but it can and has been done.  City and parish officials in New Orleans and state officials in Louisiana will have a large part in the engineering decisions to come.  

And the Army Corps of Engineers will work at their side to make the flood-protection system stronger than it has ever been. 

The work that has begun in the Gulf Coast region will be one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen.  When that job is done, all Americans will have something to be very proud of. 

And all Americans are needed in this common effort. 

It is the armies of compassion—charities and houses of worship and idealistic men and women—that give our reconstruction effort its humanity.  They offer to those who hurt a friendly face, an arm around the shoulder and the reassurance that, in hard times, they can count on someone who cares. 

By land, by sea and by air, good people wanting to make a difference deployed to the Gulf Coast.  And they have been working around the clock ever since.  

The cash needed to support the armies of compassion is great, and Americans have given generously. 

For example, the private fundraising effort led by former Presidents Bush and Clinton has already received pledges of more than $100 million. 

Some of that money is going to the governors, to be used for immediate needs within their states.  A portion will also be sent to local houses of worship, to help reimburse them for the expense of helping others. 

This evening, the need is still urgent, and I ask the American people to continue donating to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, other good charities and religious congregations in the region.

It is also essential for the many organizations of our country to reach out to your fellow citizens in the Gulf area.  So I have asked USA Freedom Corps to create an information clearinghouse, available at usafreedomcorps.gov, so that families anywhere in the country can find opportunities to help families in the region or a school can support a school. 

And I challenge existing organizations—churches and Scout troops or labor union locals—to get in touch with their counterparts in Mississippi, Louisiana or Alabama and learn what they can do to help.  

In this great national enterprise, important work can be done by everyone, and everyone should find their role and do their part.

The government of this nation will do its part as well.  Our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters and disease outbreaks or a terrorist attack, for evacuating large numbers of people in an emergency, and for providing the food and water and security they would need.

In a time of terror threats and weapons of mass destruction, the danger to our citizens reaches much wider than a fault line or a flood plain.  I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority. 

And therefore, I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to undertake an immediate review, in cooperation with local counterparts, of emergency plans in every major city in America. 

I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina.  The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people.  

It was not a normal hurricane, and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it. 

Many of the men and women of the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United States military, the National Guard, Homeland Security, and state and local governments performed skillfully under the worst conditions.  Yet the system, at every level of government, was not well-coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days. 

It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment‘s notice. 

Four years after the frightening experience of September the 11th, Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. 

When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem and for the solution.  So I have ordered every Cabinet secretary to participate in a comprehensive review of the government response to the hurricane. 

This government will learn the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. We‘re going to review every action and make necessary changes so that we are better prepared for any challenge of nature or act of evil men that could threaten our people.  

The United States Congress also has an important oversight function to perform.  Congress is preparing an investigation, and I will work with members of both parties to make sure this effort is thorough. 

In the life of this nation, we have often been reminded that nature is an awesome force and that all life is fragile.  We are the heirs of men and women who lived through those first terrible winters at Jamestown and Plymouth, who rebuilt Chicago after a great fire and San Francisco after a great earthquake, who reclaimed the prairie from the dust bowl of the 1930s. 

Every time, the people of this land have come back from fire, flood and storm to build anew and to build better than what we had before. 

Americans have never left our destiny to the whims of nature, and we will not start now. 

These trials have also reminded us that we are often stronger than we know—with the help of grace and one another.  They remind us of a hope beyond all pain and death—a God who welcomes the lost to a house not made with hands.  And they remind us that we are tied together in this life, in this nation, and that the despair of any touches us all. 

I know that when you sit on the steps of a porch where a home once stood or sleep on a cot in a crowded shelter, it is hard to imagine a bright future.  

But that future will come. 

The streets of Biloxi and Gulfport will again be filled with lovely homes and the sound of children playing.  The churches of Alabama will have their broken steeples mended and their congregations whole.  And here in New Orleans, the street cars will once again rumble down St. Charles and the passionate soul of a great city will return. 

In this place, there is a custom for the funerals of jazz musicians.  The funeral procession parades slowly through the streets, followed by a band playing a mournful dirge as it moves to the cemetery.  Once the casket has been laid in place, the band breaks into a joyful “second line,” symbolizing the triumph of the spirit over death. 

Tonight the Gulf Coast is still coming through the dirge.  Yet we will live to see the second line.

Thank you, and may God bless America.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a dramatic statement by the president in Jackson Square in New Orleans, a speech which was more redolent of an address by Lyndon B. Johnson or Franklin Delano Roosevelt than a conservative president, a breath-taking program involving job training, housing, economic development, all kinds of economic relief for quarter million people with a pricetag of $60 billion.

Let‘s get reaction from the lieutenant governor of Louisiana, Mitch Landrieu.  Governor, are you satisfied with the president‘s statement tonight?

LT. GOV. MITCH LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA:  Well, on behalf of Governor Blanco and the people of Louisiana, we want to thank the president for his statement tonight—I think it was a wonderful statement—and for the unconditional support and generosity of the American people.  I thought he hit it right on the mark tonight, and we‘re very thankful that he‘s stepped up to the plate the way he has.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go right now to Rita Cosby for your reaction.

COSBY:  You know, Chris, I can tell you, the folks that I‘m standing with—a lot of these are the rescue workers, small business owners—these are a lot of the citizens who were directly affected.  You know, he talked about a quarter of a million people still displaced.  A lot of them are some of them standing here with me.

A lot of them were very skeptical.  They thought that there were some beautiful words coming out of the president‘s mouth—and again, he‘s just a few blocks away from us here—but they want to know that there will be action.  They were very skeptical that all the money and all the issues that they were talking about are going to trickle down to them.  Is it just bureaucracy that‘s going to get caught in a lot of red tape?

And they also laughed when that 877 number was put up by the president, saying, Try to call that number now.  I bet you‘ll be on hold for a long, long time.

We‘re going to talk with these folks in just a few minutes and get some more reaction directly from them—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Thank you.

Governor, let me ask you about the president‘s details tonight.  A lot of money here.  Do you think the $60 billion pricetag is in the right range, sir?

LANDRIEU:  It‘s not even close.  I think before this is done, you‘re going to top the $200 billion mark.  You know, remember, we‘re talking about building a whole region of the country.  When you look at the devastation of this metropolitan area alone, it‘s going to exceed that by a couple of times.  And I think that‘s why what we‘d like to say to the president is, Continue to lean forward, continue to stay focused, continue to remember that six months down the road, when we‘re off on another subject matter, we‘re still going to be rebuilding down here.

I still think the step was—this speech was a step in the right direction.  People have a right to be skeptical.  They have a need to be skeptical.  That‘s why it‘s going to take the full leaning (ph) ability of the American public to see this thing through.  And it‘s going to take some time and some effort.

MATTHEWS:  What portion of the pricetag of any overwhelming—overall program will the state of Louisiana pay?

LANDRIEU:  Well, as you know, the governor last night asked, because

of the dire circumstances that we‘re in—and I think Mississippi, as well

they asked the federal government and the American people to pick up 100 percent of it.  You have basically...

MATTHEWS:  A hundred percent?

LANDRIEU:  ... an economy...

MATTHEWS:  You mean the rest of the country will pay 100 percent from this?  Is that what your demand is?

LANDRIEU:  Well, no, we‘re not demanding anything.  What we‘re saying is that if the rest of the country makes this investment in the southern region of the country and rebuilds this great economic engine, we believe that it‘ll be paid back many times over in years to come.  It‘s going to be very difficult for Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana to do this on their own or to do much of it at all at this point in time.

MATTHEWS:  Let me read to you something from the president‘s speech.  I‘m sure it jumped out at you, Governor.  He said that Governor Barbour of Mississippi, Governor Blanco of your state of Louisiana, Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and other state and local leaders will have the primary role in planning for their own future.  So the president‘s giving you at the local and state level the primary role in deciding how to spend the money, and you want 100 percent of the money to come from Washington?

MATTHEWS:  Well, I think the issue here is whether or not the state, the federal and local governments can coordinate their activities.  I think what the president is trying to say there is he doesn‘t want Congress telling the local areas what to do and how to do it.  I think it should be understood that we‘re going to need international experts, national experts and local experts to actually design it, as he said, to make it better than it was before.

All of those details need to be hashed out.  There‘ll be a lot of elbows thrown.  There‘s no question about that.  A lot of details that need to be worked out.  But it seems like for the first time in three weeks, the governor, the president and the mayors of all of these states are now coming together, at least conceptually, to flesh out how this is going to work.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a question of accountability.  Should the level of government that raises the money through taxation be responsible for the purse strings of how it is spent?

LANDRIEU:  Well, I think that‘s what you eventually are going to see.  As you know, in Congress right now, there are a number of different camps forming about whether you‘re going to have something like the Tennessee Valley Authority or the Marshall plan.  Some people want a cabinet-level position.  Some people don‘t.  Some mayors think they should have control.  Some governors do.

I think that what you‘re going to see as they get into this tug-of-war is a coming together of the minds so that we can actually find something that works.  One thing the American people want is to have a system, finally, that makes sense and that works.  That‘s going to take some time.  It‘s going to take some effort.  But finally, for the first time, they‘re all talking together and working together, and we seem to be on the same page.

MATTHEWS:  You know, like everyone else watching right now, I‘m familiar with government and how it does business.  And oftentimes, in fact, almost all the time the government spends money, it finds its way into the hands of lobbyists, of local politicians demanding their piece of the action, of carpetbaggers.  You can see them pouring into your state right now.  How do the people who are going to pay...

LANDRIEU:  There are a lot of them.

MATTHEWS:  ... the taxes know that the money‘s going to be spilled (ph) on building things down there, creating things that are really going to help that region, and not falling into the hands of the sleazier element that always have their hand out in these kinds of situations?

LANDRIEU:  Well, I think you make a very excellent point.  There‘s been a lot of people pouring into this state looking for opportunities and looking to cash in on a tragedy. 

I think the president said very clearly, the governor said this last night in her address and the mayor said it today, that there will be many people on the ground watching.  Inspectors general on the state, federal and local levels.  It‘s absolutely important—we only have one chance to do this.  In the history of the country, we‘ve never had a chance to rebuild this much of the American landscape.  And it has got to be done right, it‘s got to be done carefully.  And it can not just be government,  the private sector has to be involved as well, as well as community leaders that are trusted by the nation and internationally. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Great to have you on.  It‘s a great time to have you on.  Good luck with everything down there.  Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu of the state of Louisiana.  It‘s great to have you on.

I‘m joined right now by “Newsweek‘s” Howard Fineman.  The chief political correspondent.  I thought I asked a good question, I‘m glad you agree with me, the people are willing to contribute to this.  But let me ask you about the president, first of all.  The president had a little slow start on this.  A couple of days your magazine was brutal.  You said he blew it, has he recovered tonight? 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK:  Not entirely.  I think he put a few steps forward in doing it.  I think he enunciated some bold proposals here.  But there are a lot of things he didn‘t talk about.  He didn‘t talk about what was is essentially a diaspora of people around the country.  He has some items for them.  Didn‘t talk about healthcare very much, didn‘t talk about education all that much.  Named no czar of any kind, no can do person to put in charge of this thing.

He said that this was not a normal hurricane, which begged the question of why there wasn‘t a better response when it happened and why there wasn‘t more anticipation of it.

He also said, I considered detailed emergency planing to be a national security priority, which begged the question of why if it was a priority it obviously hadn‘t been in the last four years judging by the results of Katrina. 

And I think people are going to continue to ask those questions as they listen to him tonight because they‘re going to be out there in the region and around the country saying, OK, prove to us this time it‘ll be different. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

FINEMAN:  That there‘s something special and different about this other than just the fact we‘re going to spend $200 billion instead of $5 billion. 

It‘s the questions you were asking lieutenant governor. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, I‘m struck by the thing we‘re all...

FINEMAN:  Why is it going to be different?  And it‘s not enough to say there‘s going to be a team of inspectors generals combing the state. 

Now, you don‘t want to create more bureaucracy.  Certainly this president doesn‘t.  But why is this different?  Why will this be different?  In the sense of urgency that I expected to hear from him, the sense of broad, sweeping vision that amounted to an exciting adventure that we‘re all embarking on here to reconstruct this whole region, I found missing from it. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s good.  Thank you very much Howard Fineman, chief political correspondent for “Newsweek.” 

MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough is with me now.  Joe, you‘re from the from the region.  I‘ve seen your big heart, and I mean it in addressing the concerns of those people the last two weeks.  How will this speech go over? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR:  I think if you‘re in New Orleans it goes over very well.  I think if you‘re in 48 other states outside of Louisiana or Mississippi, there are a lot of people out there saying, $200 billion?  Which is really what this is going to cost. 

You had hit the nail on the head early on when you said this was a speech that really could have been delivered by Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt.  I mean, some of the lines out of here—the largest reconstruction effort ever.  We‘re going to rebuild areas better than before.  We‘re going to confront poverty, inequality.  We‘re going to give minority ownership.  We‘re going to make sure locals are working on the projects.  $5,000 per evacuee.  A Gulf opportunity zone.

Chris, I mean, this sounds like the W.P.A. on steroids!  This will end up costing more money for taxpayers—and I‘m not saying it shouldn‘t, but this will have a higher price tag than the Iraq war. 

Now, I was complaining because they weren‘t providing water and food the first couple of days.  It seems to me we‘re all going to be paying for this for sometime to come. 

MATTHEWS:  I ask you about accountability, because you and I are schooled in government and the way it works when it‘s good and when it‘s bad.  It‘s often bad.  If the federal government is spending the money, shouldn‘t it be accountable for how its spent?  The president said tonight he‘s going to turn over all the planning to state and local officials.  Well, who is going to keep charge of the purse strings?  Will it be the House Appropriations Committee?  How can they keep charge of money if they‘re just bailing it out to the local governments? 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re exactly right.  And you know, I‘ll tell you the truth, this crisis, and the way the federal government and the state governments have responded to it has got to change the way a lot of people like me look towards federalism issues. 

You know, back in 1994, Republicans took over Congress saying, we can trust the states, we can trust the local government.  Now, you‘ve got George W. Bush telling everybody that we‘re going to spend about $200 billion, and the people who are going to be in charge of it are Governor Blanco and Ray Nagin.  These are two people I would not trust to rearrange my sock drawer and yet the president of the United States is giving them $200 billion. 

I want federal oversight!  I want them on top of this!  They got it backwards!

MATTHEWS:  I‘m feeling the hot hand.  I know that.  But I‘ve got to ask you, because here‘s a three-pointer for you.  The lieutenant governor who was nice enough just come on from Louisiana from Baton Rouge said they want every nickel to come from Washington.  They‘re not going to kick in matching funds.  One for four.  One for ten, nothing!  They want all the money to come from outside.  Do you think that‘ll sell? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, unfortunately it‘s got to.  Louisiana is one of the poorest states in the nation.  It‘s also already one of the highest taxed states in the nation.  They, of course, now they can‘t afford this moving forward, but, again, unfortunately, you‘ve got people that proved that they were enable to handle it crisis again on all levels, and I think it‘s going to be very difficult for the American people to swallow this.  But they will do it, because they think it‘s necessary. 

It‘s just going to be a very messy situation moving forward.  And I think the president still has a lot of questions to answer that he did not answer tonight. 

MATTHEWS:  10:00 tonight you‘ll be asking more of those questions and making more good points.  Joe Scarborough of “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” airs tonight at the top of that hour, 10:00, right after this. 

Let‘s get more reaction—thank you, Joe—let‘s get more reaction now from MSNBC‘s Tucker Carlson. 

I think this is the first speech Tucker, in, oh, three years, the president hasn‘t mentioned really he‘s oversees ambitions with regard to Iraq, Afghanistan, those ongoing wars.  On top of that huge amount of money, here‘s another huge commitment.  Can do you it all at once?  Can you run it all at once?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Well, add to that rising gas prices.  I don‘t—this is a lot for the base to accept.  I mean, keep in mind, you know, about 50 percent of the people aren‘t upset about Iraq.  And they‘re not upset, not because they understand why we‘re in Iraq, no one understands why we‘re in Iraq except for eight guys that work in think tanks in Washington.  They trust Bush.  They trust the president.  That‘s why they‘re working this endeavor.  The second they start to lose confidence in his ability to run a project that like that is the moment the whole thing falls apart.  And the entire country turns against Iraq. 

So, I think he‘s got everything riding on this not just for the short term midterms, but because Iraq really hangs in the balance here.  I just think if you listened carefully to this speech and...

MATTHEWS:  By the way, you‘re speaking like my deepest soul, Tucker.  That‘s the deepest thought I‘ve come up with in years now, and you‘ve just spoken it.  Listen, I agree with you which is this same exact war in Iraq were being run by Madeleine Albright or some liberal, the exact same war, the conservatives in this country would be laughing at it. 

CARLSON:  I‘m saying that as a conservative.  I mean, I‘m hardly anti-war, I‘m hardly liberal.  I‘m a right winger.  That‘s right.  It‘s just that this war is problematic.  And I think people have had their gaze averted momentarily, but it‘s going to return to that.  And it‘s going to be a problem. 

But let‘s just, quickly, the speech.  The cost: overwhelming.  I mean, he didn‘t even address one of the key questions, the president didn‘t tonight, and that‘s private housing.  You know, about 50 percent of people in New Orleans had flood insurance, but 50 percent didn‘t.  Most people in Mississippi didn‘t have flood insurance.  Someone is going to have to rebuild those houses.  Insurance companies may not do it.  There‘s going to be a lot of pressure on the federal government to do it.  And I think they may cave. 

But the most interesting line in the whole thing to me was his line that racism causes poverty and that federal spending is the result—is the solution to that.  Now, that may be right, it may be wrong.  It‘s not conservative.  Conservatives don‘t believe that.  And to hear a purportedly conservative president to say that is unreal.  And the precedent—imagine, if I‘m in the mayor of Detroit, I‘m listening to this thinking, I‘ve got a lot of poverty caused by racism, right.  If I‘m the mayor of Hartford or Bridgeport or Washington D.C. right?  I mean, this is a precedent he has set.  It‘s a remarkable thing for a Republican president to say.  And I think it‘s going to annoy the hell out of his base. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, he did by the way, couch it as historic prejudice.  He didn‘t say current prejudice.

MATTHEWS:  Right.  No.  That‘s true, but the principle that people are poor because they‘re discriminated against.  And the federal government could set that right by social spending is actually a very old idea that was tried for 30 years to really no effect at all.  But it is a liberal idea.

Again, I‘m not even attacking the idea, though I think it‘s wrong.  I‘m merely saying this is what liberals say.  It‘s not at all what conservatives say.  And the conservatives watching this speech tonight who noticed that line are sitting bolt upright right now, thinking, did I just hear him say that?  It‘s a big deal.  Trust me.

MATTHEWS:  Tucker, how do you think this happened that the president of the United States known for his minimalist views towards the roll of government in our lives, a real conservative in many ways—why he would give a speech that‘s so relevant of an L.B.J. war on poverty speech? 

TUCKER:  Because that‘s a crock in the first place.  That is a myth created by people who don‘t know much about Bush and don‘t understand him.  This is my view, the press looks at Bush as a right winger.  They always have.  So, everything Bush does must be the result of his antipathy toward government.  Not so.  Domestic spending, not military—you know this well, you talk about it all the time—is at historic highs.  This guy is a bigger spender than Bill Clinton.  That may be good, it may be bad.  It‘s not conservative. 

And people can‘t step back from their own biases long enough to see the truth, which is, he is a big spender.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s certainly the case with regard to domestic spending.  You‘re right.  It‘s growing just as fast as it would be under a Democrat, if not faster.  You‘re so right, Tucker Carlson.

Tonight, you‘ll be back at 11:00 Eastern tonight.  That‘s “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” tonight.  Watch it at 11:00, after Joe Scarborough.  

The response to Hurricane Katrina has exposed a racial divide in this country, I think most people would agree.  We‘re joined now by U.S.  Congressman Elijah Cummings.  He‘s a Democrat from Maryland.  Thank you very much, Mr. Cummings, from coming on late tonight. 

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND:  Good being with you, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘ve heard a lot of commentary here from white folk, to be blunt about it.  I want to know, how is this going—I‘ve looked at the latest numbers on the NBC poll, dramatic divide.  According to our polling, 70 percent of African-Americans believe that the slow response of this administration during the past two or so weeks now is a response in terms of racial differences, that it has been slower because the people who were most hurt, visually on television, are African-Americans.  Only 30 percent of white people see it that way. 

CUMMINGS:  Well, the fact is that that‘s how people see it.  But let‘s deal with the speech.  I mean, it‘s interesting how—I was just listening to the commentary about how folks are criticizing President Bush.  I think President Bush had an opportunity to see poverty raw.  He had an opportunity to see people who had lost everything.  And I think he‘s been greatly affected by that.  And I think what he‘s trying to do, I assume—and I never thought I‘d be defending the president—but I think what he‘s trying to put forth is a plan to resurrect a city and to resurrect the Gulf Coast and communities that have been basically destroyed and people left with nothing. 

And so—and I think he‘s talking about opportunity, opening up the doors of opportunity. 

And one thing I give him, he gave the American people the A-plus that they deserved.  The American people—this is a can-do country.  I‘m tired of people saying we can‘t do.  We can do.  That‘s what we‘ve been all about.  And I think that‘s basically what the president was saying. 

Now, the devil is in the detail.  We have got to see how this goes.  I think he‘s put forth some excellent proposals.  The fact is that that coalition of the Operation Push, the Urban League and the NAACP, the Congressional Black Caucus, got together and presented some proposals to the president.  And I think he‘s adopted some of them.  And I think he‘s going in the right direction, but now, we have got to make it happen. 

MATTHEWS:  What do you make of the elements—the big, sort of Roman numeral parts of his program?  The Gulf Opportunity Zone, with regard to tax cuts.  Something—enterprise zones I think he‘s talking about.  The worker recovery accounts, which has a lot to do with job training and opportunity.  And then of course the homesteading, where people get a chance to own their own homes. 

Do you like the sound of these categories? 

CUMMINGS:  I like the sound of them.  Let me tell you why, Chris.  I like the sound of them, because we‘ve been pushing—that is, our coalition has said we want—and the president said it—we want people to come back to their roots.  And we want them to be a part of the rebuilding process. 

I think one of the best ways to get them back is to first of all give them opportunity for jobs, give them opportunity to own homes, and I think he addressed those things.  And reuniting families. 

I mean, all of the discussions that we‘ve had so far on your show, we‘ve been talking about how expensive this is going to be. 

Let me tell you something: We‘re talking about human beings.  Human beings who‘ve lost everything.  And I think, you know, this is an opportunity for Americans to do what 60 percent of Americans have been doing for the last two or three weeks, and that is helping a part of our country which is weak right now strengthen itself.  And so we‘ve got to go forward. 

Yes, it‘s going to take some oversight.  Yes, we‘ve got to be on top of it, but we‘re a can-do nation.  And I think this is a defining moment, not so much just for the president but for our country.  And the country, as I said, has already gotten an A.  And I thank all of those people who have done so much.  And now it‘s up to our government to step up to the plate.  And if we can rebuild Baghdad, damn it, we can rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. 

Haley Barbour is of course the governor of Mississippi, which suffered extensive damage during Katrina.  Governor Barbour joins us now from the governor‘s mansion in Jackson. 

Thank you, Governor, for joining us tonight.  You‘ve watched the president speak tonight.  You‘ve got the whole historic context of the presidency and the role played by both political parties.  Were you surprised by the dramatic, almost Rooseveltian scope of the president‘s commitment tonight? 

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR ®, MISSISSIPPI:  Well, no, I really wasn‘t.  I mean, two things struck me.  The first one was his flat-out statement that the real decisions here have got to be made by the state and local governments.  Washington is not going to dictate how to build Lafayette, Louisiana or Biloxi, Mississippi.  And the second thing is the primary reliance on the private sector.  The Gulf Opportunity Zone, which sounds to be like an extremely good idea, will give tax incentives and other incentives for people to come in and create jobs in the private sector.  The Work Force Recovery Act, to allow workers where they can upgrade their skills so when these new businesses, these new industries come to our state, or to Louisiana or Alabama, that they can go to work there, that they can have the jobs.  The homeownership, again, something that I‘m very familiar with from the Reagan administration and the Bush administration, the daddy Bush administration. 

So I liked what I heard.  It was aggressive, it was active, but it‘s not the federal government take over Mississippi.  We don‘t need the federal government to take over Mississippi.  But it is for the federal government to help, and we do need for them to help. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you agree with Governor Blanco, your neighbor, that the federal government should pick up 100 percent of this? 

BARBOUR:  Well, the federal government these first 60 days for the first time in history as far as I know is picking up 100 percent of the immediate disaster relief, whether it‘s clean-up or redoing our highways.  You know, I want to see what the full package is.  Candidly, Chris, we do need help from the federal government.  And we‘ve gotten a lot of help from the federal government, a lot of help already.  But the crucial thing for success and failure on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is whether the private sector believes in us, whether they come in and say we want to be there, whether the lenders and the investors say we want to lend, we want to invest.  And that‘s why I was very, very pleased to hear him talk about this Gulf Opportunity Zone.  I can‘t wait to hear more of the details, because that will be crucial. 

You know, we‘re committed in Mississippi to rebuilding the Gulf Coast bigger and better than ever before.  The federal government is going to help, but the critical thing is the private sector. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, it‘s great having you on tonight.  Thanks for joining us on MSNBC.  Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi.

Now, let‘s go to back to New Orleans for reaction on the ground with a lot of people down there, with my colleague Rita Cosby—Rita.

COSBY:  Hi, Chris.  Well, I have a lot of individuals here.  A lot of the folks that the president was talking about, grieving families who‘ve lost loved ones and also lost so much, and also those who have displayed those acts of courage that the president was talking about. 

Let‘s get reaction, because all of you were watching the speech with me.  Sheriff, first of all, Sheriff Jack Stephens.  You‘re from St.  Bernard‘s Parish, the area probably one of the most hardest hit.  Why were you disappointed with the president‘s speech? 

SHERIFF JACK STEPHENS, ST. BERNARD PARISH:  Well, I think the president is a sincere man, and he meant what he said.  But if he can move the federal bureaucracy to respond to the urgency that this area is in, it‘ll be a miracle.  I mean, we haven‘t seen that so far.  Remember, he declared this area a disaster a day before it was a disaster, and we didn‘t get help for almost eight days down here. 

Now, once the help shows up, I mean, they respond well.  But honestly, Rita, we haven‘t seen any evidence that—that there‘s an open mind and that the feds are thinking large about this.  And frankly, they‘ve signed contracts—and we talked about local involvement—they signed contracts a day before the storm came ashore with companies that aren‘t even domiciled...

COSBY:  So you‘re saying it‘s not getting down to your area, what he‘s talking about? 

STEPHENS:  It‘s absolutely not getting down here. 

COSBY:  He also talked about electricity.  And you let out a big laugh, because he said essentially—electricity is essentially restored. 

STEPHENS:  It‘s restored by portable generators that we have to our buildings.  It‘s not restored by any public system.  And it probably won‘t be for six to eight months in our jurisdiction. 

We have 30,000 homes in St. Bernard.  About 95 percent of those are lost. 

COSBY:  And I saw a lot of them, unfortunately, a lot of damage.

Councilman Oliver Thomas, City Council president here in New Orleans, you were shaking your head a lot too.  

OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT:  Well, I think the president gave a great speech, but will Congress adopt the president‘s speech?  Will they make a long-term appropriation and funding commitment to this region?  Just like the sheriff said, how can you be serious about restoration when most of the companies are not from Louisiana?  Most of the companies are not from our region? 

The president talked about a second line.  Well, we don‘t want that second line to be a jazz funeral that says all of the money and all of the businesses and all of the opportunity is second line, and marched right out of our communities.  So we don‘t want that second line to be a jazz funeral or a burial. 

I hope that Congress commits, and our local leaders make Congress commit to major funding for this region. 

COSBY:  Let me bring in Roy Glapion, because you‘re one the businessmen that in fact he‘s talking about.  You have got a company, but you‘re worried you are not going to see any of the good things the president talked about.

ROY GLAPION, NEW ORLEANS BUSINESS OWNER:  Not only am I worried, but right now I‘d say most of New Orleans, the New Orleans businesspeople are located in Baton Rouge right now.  And we‘re really scratching our heads to find out how are we going to get any opportunities?  I mean, I believe the money is out there, but there‘s not a connection between my firm and other firms and how can we engage?  There have been five major contracts that have been let so far.  Only one has been given to a Louisiana-based company.  We need some type of mechanism in place where we can engage those contracts. 

COSBY:  What did you make also of the president essentially saying if you put money on it, it‘s going to heal racism? 

GLAPION:  This is not exactly true.  I don‘t think this is about racism.  This is about the color green.  That‘s the most important color right now.

COSBY:  Money? 

GLAPION:  Absolutely.  And there are firms right now, black firms, white firms, Hispanic firms, all of the above, who are looking for opportunities right now.  Local firms who are struggling to make ends meet.  Our businesses have been destroyed, and for the first time, we have more money than we‘ve ever seen, and we have the technology and the talent to get it done.  We just don‘t have a mechanism to connect the dots between the money and opportunities for our businesses.

COSBY:  Well, I certainly hope you get it.  And also one of the big focuses while I‘ve been here basically on the street tonight it‘s the reporters and law enforcement.  And I want to bring in Dave Dimmitt with the U.S. Marshals‘ Service.  You guys have been doing a great job.  I see you and the 82nd on the street.  What is your biggest challenge now? 

DAVE DIMMITT, CHIEF DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL:  I suppose our biggest challenge now would be to continue to organize all the elements, the state, the local, the federal, the military.  And concerting all of our resources in the right direction, so we‘re not duplicating each other.  And that‘s begun with the joint operation command where the various sheriff‘s departments, parishes, the state, the local, the federal are all combining together.

For example, in the fifth district, D.E.A., Marshall Service are patrol that.  D.E.A. does days.  Marshall Service does nights.  So, we‘re maintaining 24-hour coverage. 

COSBY:  A lot of juggling acts. 

And you‘ve done a great job on the streets.  In fact, the streets are quite calm thanks to these guys, and also all the local folks who have been doing a big part. 

Stick with us, everybody, because coming up after the break, we‘re going to have Douglas Brinkley, a historian, who also lives in this area to talk about the effects and also the president‘s speech.  And we will also have Senator David Vitter who was quite critical of the federal government‘s response.  Is he happy with what he heard from the president tonight?  Find out right after the break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And a lot of people have been watching the president‘s speech very closely ,including lots of politicians from this area.  And I think someone who has been quite vocal from the very beginning is Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana. 

You know, you came out strong at first, really swinging against the federal government saying where is FEMA?  Do you feel that you finally see FEMA trickling in after the president‘s speech? 

SEN. DAVID VITTER, ® LOUISIANA:  Well, I think we turned the corner not because of FEMA or the state bureaucracy, both of which I think fell flat the first week in particular, but because it became a full-scale military operation, real heroes and leaders like General Honore.  So, turned the corner because of that.

COSBY:  Now the president today talked about more funds coming in. 

VITTER:  Right.

COSBY:  Also talked about some of the—three step, basically, plans.  Also saying he thinks he‘s going to get folks out of shelters, the plan is, with a month.  Is that realistic?

VITTER:  I don‘t know.  We‘ll see.  Obviously folks want to get out of shelters, want to move on with their lives in some more permanent way.  I thought in general it was a strong speech, very moving in many ways.  But the tough work has yet to be done.  And so we need to really roll up our sleeves in Congress and get that done. 

I‘m particularly focused on the private sector side incentives, because government can‘t do this alone.  We need to get businesses, jobs back and that takes incentives.  I‘m also particularly focused on accountability.  Now, we‘re whipping through this money at an amazing rate.  We need to have full transparency and accountability so we have something lasting and real and long-term as the president talked about in his speech tonight. 

COSBY:  What kind of mechanism, also, can you ensure as a senator from this state to make sure that the money is—as you just heard from a lot of the folks that I just had on a minute ago—they are concerned.  They said nice words, but with all of the bureaucracy, all of the red tape, we‘re not going to see a dime.  How can you guarantee that that‘s...

VITTER:  That‘s what I‘m talking about.  And I think we need to think outside of the box, not the traditional bureaucracies but new concepts and models outside of the box to ensure that sort of accountability. 

COSBY:  Talk about, though, in terms of what kind of mechanisms can be in place.  And also to ensure that Louisianians are actually going to profit.  Because to bring in all of this federal government, you just heard four of the five businesses in this particular area are going to outside of the state.  How is that bringing in incentives? 

VITTER:  In terms of the businesses, we need to, again, pass concrete tax depreciation, other incentives to make it clearly worth their while for them to come back, rebuild, even add employees and activity. 

You know a lot of talk is fine, but that alone is not going to do the trick.  And so, we‘re putting together a major incentive package to get that done in the devastated area—Louisiana also Mississippi, Alabama. 

Terms of accountability, again, what I‘ve talked about is one of two things, either a Katrina Reconstruction Commission or at least a single point person at the federal level who has real stature and authority and credibility with the business management background to get that done, make sure the spending goes to medium, long-term projects where it‘ll have lasting impact, just isn‘t eaten up in the short-term relief effort. 

COSBY:  All right.  Senator Vitter, you‘ve got a tough job ahead of you.  And we appreciate—I know a lot of people appreciate you coming out swinging, and not just playing the political tow line, but actually speaking out.  Thank you very much, senator.

VITTER:  Appreciate it. 

COSBY:  And joining me now is Douglas Brinkley, also local guy from New Orleans, an historian to. 

You know, one thing I cannot—just shaking my head here, we‘re in the utter darkness right here.  First of all, he‘s talking about electricity.  I felt like going where?  All the guys behind me, even the local sheriff just nodded his head.

The other thing, the president speaking in a ghost town.  There‘s no one behind him.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  It was eerie and surreal.  I spent time in the French Quarter, and just to see President Bush walk out there with that blue light and nobody around.  In fact, basically all the media was kept away, you couldn‘t even get a look at him.  So, he‘s very secluded. 

I was expecting a little bit more of a substantive speech.  I think it was competent what we heard tonight.  I think President Bush had some great rhetorical moments: armies of compassion.  I thought it was important he raised the specter of the racial divide. 

COSBY:  But—the two black business owners, one of them us a city councilman as well said, wait a minute, they didn‘t buy his argument, basically put money on the fire.  And that‘s going to put it out? 

BRINKLEY:  That‘s right.  At least he addressed it.  Up until now, they‘ve been trying to stay away from that issue.  And I thought that talking about it, at least put it on the table.  I don‘t know how much got accomplished from this.  I mean, it was sort of the speech he needed to have given maybe about ten days ago. 

But right now it‘s a hemorrhaging effect.  And I think President Bush simply felt he had to do this, was compelled to do it.  But it‘s odd, we‘re in the bastion, bowl of suffering and the president doesn‘t seem to be with any of the people.  And you kind of wonder what that tells us about our modern America these days. 

COSBY:  Real critical, as someone who looks at presidential speeches.  As you have for a long, long time.  What do you make of how critical this speech was to this president with his lowest job approval ratings? 

BRINKLEY:  I think it was very critical.  I don‘t think...

COSBY:  Is it going turn the tide? 

BRINKLEY:  Not at all.  No.  It‘s going to hold the hemorrhaging. 

He‘s not going to bleed anymore from it.  It did beam him into people‘s homes.  But by and large, it was not a memorable speech.  Ten years from now, people aren‘t going to be saying we were so moved by the words of President Bush when he spoke in the French Quarter.  It‘s going to be a forgettable—in 24 hours, 48 hours, we‘ll forget this was just another visit of his. 

Bottom line is, there‘s a lot of suffering as you know going around down here.  As you said, there‘s a few towers behind us with electricity.  But this is the dark city.  And the problems are incredible.  We have got to make sure it‘s just not Houston companies coming to rebuild. 

COSBY:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Thank you very much.  There‘s a lot of work to be done in this place.  And boy do we know that all too well.  Chris, back to you. 

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Rita Cosby. 

That‘s our first take on the president‘s address to the country from New Orleans. 

However events turn out in the days and months ahead, tonight will stand as a watershed moment in early 21st Century America.  If George W.  Bush does connect with the country personally anywhere near the way he did after the events of September 11 four years ago, he‘ll have hugely revitalized his second-term presidency.  If not, there‘ll be yet another battle of New Orleans, this one over whom the people there and across the country trust to lead. 

MSNBC will carry more reaction to President Bush‘s recovery plan coming up next on “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  And later on THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”

I‘ll be back with HARDBALL tomorrow at 5:00 and 7:00 pm Eastern.  For MSNBC, I‘m Chris Matthews.  Good night.

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

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