updated 9/16/2005 8:33:26 AM ET 2005-09-16T12:33:26

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

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, HARDBALL:  President Bush gets bad poll numbers on the eve of his national television address.  I‘m Chris Matthews in Baton Rouge.  Let‘s play HARDBALL.


I‘m Chris Matthews in Baton Rouge, of course, with a special edition of HARDBALL.  We‘re right here in front of the state‘s Emergency Preparedness Operation at the state and federal level.  They‘re all working out of Baton Rouge right behind me in an effort to clean up—to begin the clean up, I should say—and the rebuilding of New Orleans.

As I said, a big set of poll numbers came out tonight. They‘re from the “Wall Street Journal” NBC Poll and they contained bad news for President Bush, but also, some surprising news. On the bad side, What percentage of the American people believ that this country, the United States, is moving in the right direction?  A very telling poll—only 32 percent now, the lowest number recorded during the Bush presidency. What percentage of the American people believe that President Bush is doing a good job, who approve of his job performance overall—domestic and foreign?  Forty percent—again, the lowest number of his presidency.

What percentage of the American people believe that the president is doing a good job in foreign policy?  And of course the focus there is on Iraq.  Thirty-six percent, an even lower number—again, the lowest number of his presidency—for his handling of foreign policy.

But here‘s a surprise: the president‘s handling of Hurricane Katrina, which has gotten such a bad press—the country is evenly, dead evenly divided on the president‘s job performance in the aftermath and in the preparation for Hurricane Katrina.

Let‘s go now to MSNBC‘s David Shuster, who is in New Orleans.

David, what do you make of this?  The president is doing mezzo-mezzo (ph) on the problem we all thought he had.  And yet overall, he is definitely dropping everywhere.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well I think it‘s perhaps, Chris, a sign of Mother Nature.  I mena, here you see it everywhere, every time we show the pictures of the parts of New Orleans that are still underwater.  I think there are enough people out there who say, wait a second, this isn‘t the president‘s fault that New Orleans is underwater or that certain homes were devastated or that debris is—it can be seen everywhere.  I think the issue that maybe starting to fade from people‘s minds a little bit is, was the government prepared for this?

Those pictures—two weeks ago tomorrow, Chris—the pictures from the convention center when 15,000 people had gone without food and water for four days.  Again, that was two weeks ago. And since then they have been set up in places in Houston and surrounding areas.  So at least that situation has been taken care of.  So the immediate frustration of seeing fellow Americans literally dying on the streets, that has now receded somewhat.  And now the idea, of course, is the building up of cities like New Orleans and all along the Gulf Coast.  And that may what the reflection is.  Chris?

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Jim Vandehei of the “Washington Post.”

Thank you for joing us tonight to try to look at these numbers.  We‘re all familiar with the NBC number, right direction, wrong direction.  It has always been a telling number about the sort of political mood of the country.  It is at a pits level -- 32 percent—less than a third of the people think we‘re going in the right direction.  Is this a mood thing, a holistic thing, that people just aren‘t happy right now?

JIN VANDEHEI, THE WASHINGTON POST:  I think that‘s certainly part of this.  I mean, you have gas prices that are so high, you have a war that‘s not going as well as people would like, then you have this massive disaster.  These numbers are real bad news for the president, and they really square with all the other polls that we‘ve seen come out in the last couple of days.

So the president might say, Hey I don‘t look at polls and I‘m not guided by polls, but I think there‘s something we‘re learning.  The American people are losing faith on him on the national security stuff, and especially terrorism.  If you think about it, that‘s really been one of the pillars of strength for this presidency.

MATTHEWS:  He‘s also recorded the lowest number on terrorism, but what struck me is, look at this number -- 40 percent approval for overall job performance.  We‘ve seen that number sort of get to there in the last couple weeks.  But 36 percent for foreign policy—in other words, on balance, he‘s worse off when it comes to handling foreign policy.  That surprised me.

VANDEHEI:  It is really amazing.  You never want to be, as a president, in that 40 percent realm, especially when you‘re looking at working with Congress on your agenda. It really weakens the president‘s hand. I think you really see the president in a position he‘s not been in in the last five years—or at least since 9/11 -- where he really is on the defense, right now. He hasn‘t been able to, sort of, lead.  This is a presidency that‘s great attribute has sort of been the supreme self-confidence of the president, able to sort of bring Republicans around him, even when intellectually they might disagree with him.

MATTHEWS:  Well, Jim Vandehei, let me ask you about that, because

we‘ve seen this guy hit home runs.  We saw probably his greatest home run,

politically, when he came out to the rubble of -- 9 the 14th, three days

after the attack of 9/11, and stood there in the rubble with the bullhorn

and captured, it seemed to me three things. He connected with the tragedy -

he was there.  He connected with us—he was there with his arm around a firefighter.  And he connected most poignantly with a mission—I‘m going to Afghanistan and I‘m going to catch these guys who attacked us. How is he doing on those three scales now with regard to Hurricane Katrina?

VASNDEHEI:  Right.  I would add another moment as sort of the great political moments for him, and that was that speech before the House of Representatives after 9/11, where he really rallied the country behind him.  I think that‘s what he wants to do with tomorrow night‘s speech. I don‘t think people saw him as a strong leader in those initial days, and you saw that in the polling.

I do think if you look at your poll—you know, half the people were happy with this performance with Katrina; the other half weren‘t—he probably has an opportunity tomorrow to really go on the offensive and show he has a vision for rebuilding New Orleans, but also, helping to relocate the flood victims.  And if he can do that, it will really help him regain his footing as president.

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about—let me go back to David Shuster, in terms of, let‘s get out of the partisan thing.  I think we all think about this, that President Bush is popular among Democrats—or, unpopular among Democrats, popular among Republicans, David.  That‘s the usual way these polls shake out.  In fact, I think it explains the 48-48 tie on how he‘s doing with Katrina.  But what you read about is—and hear about in the voices of the people is, some Republicans, certainly African American Republicans—the few there are—have been raising a lot of noise lately about just efficiency, just competence—not ideology, or philosophy, conservative or liberal—just the way he‘s handled it.

SHUSTER:  That‘s right, Chris.  There‘s a huge opportunity, a huge choice facing the president, just if you look at the situation on the ground in greater New Orleans.  If the president, say, were to choose tomorrow night to have his speech in a part of New Orleans, say, down on Canal Street or the downtown business district, where the mayor is already talking about sort of a revival, where power, water, electricity could be restored next week and they could open it if in fact the EPA tests come back positive for them. The president could say, Look, I‘m aligning myself with the growth, the rebirth of New Orleans, the downtown area where the tourists are going to come, and the financial area.

If, on the other hand, the president wants to address the situation as far as the total and utter devastation, the areas where people are still waiting to get FEMA on the ground and to deliver those manufactured homes, he could simply go, say, a half an hour to the east, to the area of Slidell or St. Bernard‘s Parish, where 80,000 people in St. Bernard‘s Parish have been told you will not be able to return to your homes until next summer at the earliest.  If the president wants to align himself with those people, those people who have lost hope right now, who have no idea what their immediate future is, the opportunity is there.  And I think the big question, perhaps, on the ground here, is which vision of rebuilding does the president want to align himself with?

MATTHEWS:  Let me go to Jim Vandehei.

Jim, I think the question is, if we could have any preview of tomorrow night‘s speech, to me the big question is will the president say we have a lot of blame to share, which could be very magnanimous, or could he say, I‘m in charge now.  I am just like I was in the war against terrorism and have been.  I‘m the personal leader of the people who is going to clean this up.  Which is he more likely to do—share responsibility or take the leadership of this whole operation?

VANDEHEI:  I think it‘s going to be a shared responsibility. I think once again, he‘ll take some responsibility for failures at the federal level.  But he‘s going to say that, in the end of the day, it is New Orleans that‘s going to dictate how New Orleans is going to be rebuilt, but that the federal government stands ready to do whatever it can.  And you‘re talking about a massive expenditure that a lot of people think, at the end of the day, could be as big as the budget we‘ve had for Iraq and Afghanistan combined—over $200 billion.

MATTHEWS:  Okay, the tough question. What is hurting the president now: the failure or the sense that he was a little slow off the mark in getting the response in operation to what happened in New Orleans—you know, the couple days there when things weren‘t really happening?  He wasn‘t watching television, as people reported, wasn‘t connecting with the people?  That was the first week.  Or is it gas prices?  Are we looking at the smaller thing—is the bigger thing, the fact that people everywhere in this country, in North America and Alaska and Hawaii—everywhere—are angry about gas prices.  Jim?

VANDEHEI:  I think it‘s three things:  I think it‘s his response to Katrina; I think it is the death tolls that we continue to see out of Iraq, and I think it‘s people paying $3 or $3.25 a gallon for gas.  That hits everybody—I mean, everybody who is driving a car is paying $50 or $60 to fill up that SUV and people realize that.  And they feel like that really hits home, that the economic situation isn‘t what they want.  Then they see this money being spent over in Iraq and they feel like the experiment might not be working. And now we have a slow response, so I think people start to lose faith a little bit in the federal government.

MATTHEWS:  Let me go back to David Shuster.

David, you don‘t have much power down there yet in New Orleans, where you‘re at right now—I was with you earlier today.  Do you think the people will be able to get the message?  Will they listen on radio or how will they get message—the people hurt most, hurt most?  Will they get to hear the president?

SHUSTER:  They may, in the fact that the president‘s speech will be carried live on this sort of united broadcast network—all the radio stations here have banded together.  They tape things like presidential news conferences or speeches, whatnot, the governor‘s speech tonight they‘re taking live.  So they‘ll hear it that way. but again, so many people, Chris, who are the ones affected by this are in areas of either Mississippi or Louisiana where they‘re still at the day-to-day struggle just to get water, to get ice.  A lot of these people, sure, they may have their generators on, but some of them don‘t have televisions.  They may not be listening to the radio.

So again, most people, Chris, as you know, that you talk to, they‘re not really that concerned about what the president says about the future.  They‘re concerned about where are they going to get their water, their ice, their generator power tomorrow.  That‘s their primary concern.  What the politicians do—whether it‘s the president, the governor of Louisiana, the mayor of New Orleans—all of that, as you know, is secondary to these people.

MATTHEWS:  I know that from being down there.  Thank you very much for that report—David Shuster in New Orleans.  Thank you very much, Jim Vandehei, of the “Washington Post” for joing us tonight.

We‘re going to go right now for a little update, maybe a big update, on Ophelia, which is the hurricane now pounding North Carolina, with Max Mayfield at headquarters, Hurricane Center.

Let‘s go to Max.

MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Chris, there‘s no really big change here.  The center is moving ever-so-slowly toward the northeast. It is about 35 miles southwest of Cape Lookout.  We just had a report of hurricane-force gusts at Cape Lookout.  The core of the hurricane is going to go right over the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  It‘s going to take all night and most of the day tomorrow before it gets out of there.

MATTHEWS:  Okay. Thank you very much.  Max Mayfield, giving us an update on Ophelia.

We go right now to two gentleman.  They‘re going to be on right after this break.  We‘re going to get a lot of information in the next few minutes from these fellas after this break.  These are two downtown business people from New Orleans.  They don‘t just talk; they‘ve got the money and the power to rebuild the city.  They speak for the people with power.  These are movers and shakers, and it‘s going to be great to hear from them—two big-timers from New Orleans, coming back with HARDBALL.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MATTHEWS:  Great. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

HINES:  Two issues. 

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

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

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

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

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PERRY:  This is a small city. 


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

That means something like maybe the Tennessee Valley Authority model.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

PERRY:  Works Progress Administration models. 

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

PERRY:  Right. 

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

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

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

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


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

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

Back with more HARDBALL in just a minute.  


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


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

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

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

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

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

PERRY:  Absolutely. 

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

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

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


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

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


HINES:  I was flooded for a week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And thank you very much, Bill Hines. 

HINES:  Thank you. 


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

Back with HARDBALL in just a minute. 



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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Mayor McBride, thanks for joining us. 

Do you expect to miss this hurricane down there? 

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

MATTHEWS:  No damage at all to your state? 


MATTHEWS:  Palmetto State?

MCBRIDE:  We have been—very minimal. 

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

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

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

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

MATTHEWS:  OK, Mayor McBride, hang in there.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

to evacuate anybody

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

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you your reaction. 

I want both of you, start with Mayor McBride.

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

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

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

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

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


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

MCBRIDE:  Yes, sir. 

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

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

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me go to Mayor Broadhurst. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

BROADHURST:  Oh, absolutely.

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

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

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

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

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

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

MATTHEWS:  Mayor Broadhurst, thanks for your time today.

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

Both you gentlemen, thank you.

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

Max, put these together.  Compare Ophelia with Katrina. 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

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

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

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

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



MATTHEWS:  Max, you‘re a professional.

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

Thank you, Chris. 

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

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

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


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



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

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


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

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

MATTHEWS:  How about New Orleans? 

THOMAS:  New Orleans is on my side as well. 

MATTHEWS:  Is time on New Orleans‘ side? 


MATTHEWS:  ... keep going in circles here.

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


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

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

MATTHEWS:  Before Christmas? 

THOMAS:  At least by then. 

MATTHEWS:  We will have a Mardi Gras? 

THOMAS:  I am thinking we will. 

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

HARRISON:  Thank you.  I do, too.

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

HARRISON:  Well, it sounds better. 


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

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


THOMAS:  I‘m in agreement to that.

HARRISON:  There you go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THOMAS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Bigger...


THOMAS:  A little bigger than that.



MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the feeling.

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


MATTHEWS:  It seems like the most forgiving place. 

What do you think, Donald? 

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

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

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

MATTHEWS:  Not as free-spirited. 

HARRISON:  Not as free-spirited.


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


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

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

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

THOMAS:  Right. 

HARRISON:  ... would be happy...

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

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


MATTHEWS:  Irish funerals, Irish wake. 

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


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

THOMAS:  Sure.

MATTHEWS:  But we don‘t know, do we?

THOMAS:  Sure.

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

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

Back with more HARDBALL in a minute. 



MATTHEWS:  Well, we‘re hearing mournful music. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARRISON:  Thank you so much.

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

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

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

MATTHEWS:  Unbelievable.

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

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

HARRISON:  Well, they...


MATTHEWS:  Do you think somebody grabbed them?

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

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

THOMAS:  Oh, yes.


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

MATTHEWS:  That‘s great.


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

HARRISON:  Right. 

THOMAS:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s where jazz came from.

THOMAS:  Yes. 

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


MATTHEWS:  Vegas kind of thing.

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

THOMAS:  I love it. 


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

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


THOMAS:  Oh, we deal with them, too. 


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

THOMAS:  That‘s it.

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

MATTHEWS:  I know.


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

HARRISON:  Yaphet Kotto. 

MATTHEWS:  Played Mr. Big.

HARRISON:  I met him, of course. 

MATTHEWS:  You met Yaphet?  He‘s great.

Anyway, thank you, Irma. 

THOMAS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Donald.

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

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




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

And thank you for joining us. 

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

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

MATTHEWS:  Pick your tune.

HARRISON:  Here we go.


MATTHEWS:  Well done.

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

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

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

THOMAS:  Most of the time, I do.

MATTHEWS:  Do you get a in groove, though?

THOMAS:  Oh, yes, all the time. 


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

THOMAS:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  I love professionals.  I love them.

THOMAS:  Thank you. 

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


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

THOMAS:  You‘re so welcome, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  And thank you, Donald Harrison. 

Thank you, sir.

Thank you, ma‘am.

HARRISON:  Thank you. 

I also talked just recently to a bunch of business guys down there.  They run restaurants.  One of them is Antoine‘s, been in the family for five generations, the other one‘s right across the street.  Interesting—also there‘s a bar down there we visited where they‘ve been open for 14 straight years without ever having locks on the door because they never close at night.  Here‘s a real taste of the business guys of the quarter who want to stay going.

We‘re here at Antoine‘s, one of the most historic spots in the French Quarter, in New Orleans.

Michael, it‘s your place.


MATTHEW:  Tell me about this, the history of the place.

GUSTE:  It is 165 years old.  When we were founded, California was not yet admitted to the Union.  That was back in 1840.

MATTHEWS:  But let me give you the big “but.”  Does the money-making part of the city, the Quarter, have to come back first?

GUSTE:  I think it‘s going to come back together.  We care for all of our employees deeply.  And we can‘t wait for all of our employees to get back to work, and for to us all do what is necessary to get this city moving.

FINIS SHELNUTT, RESTAURANT OWNER:  Well, you know, a lot of the interviews and people been saying that, you know, why rebuild it?  As far as economically, I think it‘s going to be the greatest thing that could ever happen to the city.  It‘s going to be a blessing for this city to turn it into a really good vacation and entertainment Mecca.

LARRY HIRST, BARTENDER, JOHNNY WHITE‘S BAR:  This is a place where people can come and forget about their daily things.  The best food in the world, good music—great music—good drinks, good talking people, fun.  There‘s a lot of things to see in New Orleans.  This city is older than the United States.  There is a sense of that history, and that sense will not die.

MATTHEWS:  Do you figure a mardi gras here coming up?

HIRST:  I haven‘t thought that far. but I think they will.


HIRST:  We miss—


HIRST:  We miss decadence.  The hurricane—so Mardi Gras will come.  Maybe it won‘t be 40,000 floats and all, but it will happen in one way or another.

GUSTE:  The Mardi Gras will happen, and it needs to happen to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

MATTHEWS:  What is that French phrase about let the good time roll?

GUSTE:  Laissez les bonnes temps roulez.

HIRST:  Les bonnes temps roulez.

MATHEWS:  Will they?

GUSTE:  I think they will.  I think they will.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s all from me here in Baton Rouge.  Coming up next, the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith



Watch Hardball with Chris Matthews each weeknight at 5 & 7 p.m. ET


Discussion comments