updated 9/27/2005 12:25:53 PM ET 2005-09-27T16:25:53

Guests: Mike Theiss, Jack Weiss, Henry Rodriguez, Marc Siegel

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Thanks for being with us.  Tonight‘s top headline:  Four weeks after Katrina, the New Orleans mayor says, come back.  But the feds are saying, not so fast, no water, no power, no hospitals, no food.  But parts of New Orleans are opening up, according to the mayor?  The big question is, is it too soon? 

Plus, charges that feds fixed levees that protected white neighborhoods, but left the rest of the city vulnerable to more flooding, and they saw it this weekend. 

Then, a highway to hell.  Rita showed again just how vulnerable major cities are to attack and how, friends, what it all comes down to is, they are not going to be able to evacuate all of us when they need to.  We are talking about that and a lot more in this special edition of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, “Crisis and Recovery.”

Thanks so much for being with us tonight.  Greatly appreciate it. 

We are going to be going live to New Orleans in just a minute. 

And, later, we are going to talk to a man who rode out Rita in Galveston and shot this incredible video.  We are going to talk to him about coming face to face with a deadly storm and what it was like on the inside of the eye. 

But, first, we begin in the battered Big Easy, where much of the city is still under filthy water.  There‘s little to no power.  Hospitals can‘t provide the critical care their patients need.  And understaffed police and fire departments are struggling to enforce a curfew.  It‘s a chaotic scene in some parts of the city. 

Let‘s go to New Orleans right now and bring in NBC‘s Donna Gregory. 

Donna, great to see you down there. 

You know, I—I—stop me if you have heard this before.  The mayor of New Orleans says, come back to our city.  And then you have got the guy running the Coast Guard saying, not quite so fast. 

Can you help clarify for us?  What is the latest in the Big Easy? 

DONNA GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, Joe, it‘s basically a difference of philosophy, if you will. 

I think the mayor here wants people to have a little closure and then to help begin to rebuild.  And the admiral is just saying, we need to keep public safety first and foremost in our minds.  So, there‘s a little conflict of opinion there.  I should tell you that the streets here in the central business district and IN the French Quarter are remarkably clear.  Most of the streets are passable.  We do see a lot of debris that‘s come down from all these office buildings, where people were allowed to come in and inspect the damage.

But the Big story is, of course, in the flooded areas, that have flooded twice in four weeks.  Of course, the big breach of the levee, the Industrial Canal levee, which left much of St. Bernard Parish and all of the beleaguered Ninth Ward under water twice, that has been repaired.  The Army Corps of Engineers finally shored up the Industrial Canal levee, and they said it will take about a week to pump all of the water out of that area.

Now, we understand that there‘s probably 20 to 30 percent of that parish still under water.  People were allowed back today, though, and they were told to bring gloves, masks, and wear boots, because the last time people were trying to survey the damage in the homes, 10 people suffered lacerations. 

It‘s still a messy, ugly clean-up job there.  The other interesting part of the story is in the central business district, where people were allowed to come back.  And we talked to some small business owners who are very concerned about the potential for a completely different business outlook in this city.  They say the big hotels, the big restaurant chains will obviously have enough corporate money to back them, so they can rebuild. 

They are very concerned about the lack of the infrastructure for the small businesses.  They say most of their clients, most of their customers are local.  They‘re from New Orleans.  And they are gone.  They are in other, different parts of the country.  They are worried that they will have to move their businesses out of this city.

So, it‘s a very serious situation and still unfolding, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It still is.  It‘s still very fluid.  And we are going to talk about that in a minute.

But, first, I want to show a little exchange between the mayor and also, again, the head of the Coast Guard.  Four weeks and two hurricanes later, and the mayor of New Orleans is still not on the same page as the federal government when it comes to reopening the city.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS:  My intentions, if everything goes well today and tomorrow, to reenergize the reentry plan that we had in place, starting as early as Monday, maybe as late as Tuesday, with just Algiers and the business community. 

VICE ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD:  Where the mayor needs some thoughtful approach to is the areas that have been reflooded and the areas that remain uninhabitable for safety, health, and other reasons.  And I think a timetable associated with that still needs to be worked out. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Donna, we are talking about timetables, but we are still in the middle of hurricane season.  Anybody on the Gulf Coast knows we still have a month or so.  Hurricanes are still possibly out there coming in.  Do they have the infrastructure, do they have the electricity, do they have the hospital care, do they have the street lights, do they have the basic necessities to take care of, let‘s say, a flood of 200,000 people coming back into the city? 

GREGORY:  Joe, I can tell you what we have seen personally, even in this area, the central business district, which has a lot of power, still a lot of traffic lights out, people going the wrong way on one-way streets.  It‘s very difficult to enforce the 6:00 p.m.-to-8:00 a.m. curfew. 

And the people who were allowed back in were told, do not bring frail people or elderly people or children.  We simply do not have any critical care in the hospitals yet.  They say there‘s very limited police and fire service.  These are words coming from the mayor‘s office.  Keep in mind, though, that he is on the hot seat.  He is the one that is getting calls from people who have been out of their homes for four weeks.  And they are just dying to come in and see what is left of their homes, very tenuous position.

Would you want to be the mayor of New Orleans tonight? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Absolutely not.  NBC‘s Donna Gregory, thank you so much. 

Greatly appreciate it.

But I will tell you what.  If I were the mayor of New Orleans, friends, you know what I would tell these people?  I know you want to get back home.  I know you want to see your home. I know you want to see the neighborhood to see what‘s left, but it‘s not safe to do it right now.  We still have another month, and the hurricane season—this is one of the most vicious hurricane seasons on record.  We don‘t have means to evacuate you in a timely manner.  A lot of the streets are still under water.  The police aren‘t up to date. 

I mean, half the police escaped.  The only way they got some of them back was by promising them a vacation in Las Vegas.  You don‘t have a working fire department.  You don‘t have street lights.  I heard this morning Julia Reed talking about how they don‘t have electricity in a lot of parts of the place.  When she leaves, everybody is begging her to bring ice back in. 

I told you before, I have got a son who is a diabetic.  There are a lot of medical conditions that require refrigeration.  There are a lot of things going on in New Orleans right now that just won‘t allow for 200,000 people to reinhabit the city.  So, would I like to be mayor of New Orleans?  No.  But if I were mayor of New Orleans, you know how I would like?  Like a grownup. 

I know it‘s natural for people to want to get back in their homes. 

But I also know it is a very dangerous place there. 

But with me now, I want to bring in a couple of people that will be able to give us some insight.  We have got Dr. Marc Siegel.  He‘s the author of “False Alarm.”  And also Doug Brinkley, he‘s a presidential historian.  But, more importantly for our sake, he is a New Orleans resident. 

Doug, I read some of your comments this weekend in “The New York Times.”  You have got family.  Do you feel safe about bringing them back into New Orleans right now? 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, NBC ANALYST:  No, absolutely not. 

As you just stated very eloquently, it‘s not the time to come back, unless there‘s some absolute necessity to come back in New Orleans, meaning some imperative, some human life or something that you need to get out of there or address.  It is just way too dangerous.  And I think particularly if you are anywhere from the country, you have evacuated, stay for a few more weeks. 

There are three basics.  It‘s the ABCs here.  You have got to make sure you have got water, electricity, and proper sewage.  And until those come back into New Orleans, it‘s not right to come back into the city. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Doug, please help us out.  You obviously know New Orleans.  You know politics.  You are writing a book about the history of Katrina.  When you write a chapter about the mayor, before Rita hit and after Rita hit, crossing Thad Allen and the feds, where are you going to come down?  How are you going to explain this guy?  He just seems so erratic to those of us who aren‘t from New Orleans. 

BRINKLEY:  Well, he is erratic. 

He was a mediocre to poor mayor before Katrina, and he is showing his worst side now.  I personally think he‘s cracked about a week or maybe 10 days ago.  His comments are erratic.  He is getting a lot of pressure from the business community.  Let‘s say you have a coffee warehouse, and you want to see what your stock is like and you want to get people back in there to, you know, get your business running.  And, as you said, that‘s all—we all understand that.  And we all want the same thing, but it‘s irrational and childlike and, in fact, borderline, I would even say, criminal to be behaving the way he is, which is constantly mistelling people what to do. 

As we recall, just one week ago, we were having the same conversation with Katrina...

SCARBOROUGH:  The same. 

BRINKLEY:  With Rita coming.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

BRINKLEY:  And he is telling people to come back in.  It‘s going to  -

he is going to go down in American history  as one of these—not just a bad mayor, but I think as almost a villainous character due to his chronic ineptness. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Doug, a lot of people out there right now would say almost criminal, think that maybe you are being too harsh.  But for anybody that lives on the Gulf Coast, we all know that the strongest storms usually come end of September, October. 

I remember, one October, we got hit by two, three storms in northwest Florida.  You bring these people back in—we saw Houston unable to evacuate all the people out when they had a working system.  New Orleans, I would guess the road system is in shambles, right?  And if you have to evacuate 200,000 people, there are people that are going to be caught in there, and they are going to die.  Isn‘t that right? 

BRINKLEY:  Absolutely. 

And not only are the roads in shambles.  We don‘t know what has been weakened.  Part of 10, I-10, was knocked out before.  Parts of the road may be seemingly fine now, but you put a crush of bringing 200,000 back and then re-evacuating them, it is not engineering—from an engineer‘s point of view, it‘s not sound to be there, and not just that. 

There‘s still the smell of gas, chemicals.  The hospitals aren‘t running properly.  There is no 911 service.  It‘s a blacked-out city, by and large.  So, you know, I think, at this point, we have got to start really looking at Ray Nagin as being somebody who has cracked.  It‘s like a combat syndrome.  He is no longer rational.

And just people can‘t listen to what he is saying and kind of shove him to the side.  I feel sorry for Thad Allen having to deal with the mayor, who seems to want to pass the buck on everybody and simply pretend like this storm didn‘t really happen and New Orleans isn‘t crippled. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And what a terrible, terrible example of leadership, not only the local.  We have seen it on the state and the federal level also.  It‘s got to be so distressing for so many Americans out there, wondering when somebody is going to step up and really take control of this situation. 

I want to ask you, Doctor, about the public health crisis here.  We had a city that was drying out and spent the past three weeks trying to dry out, to get out from underneath that toxic brew.  And yet the levees broke again.  What type of health care crisis faces the city now? 

DR. MARC SIEGEL, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE:  Oh, it‘s really going to be very bad, Joe. 

And I want to echo what Doug said.  It‘s a very unsafe place for people to be going back to right now, not only that.  The people themselves are going to be stressed, anxious, suffering from post-traumatic stress.  They are not going to be thinking clearly.  We have seen throughout history that, after catastrophes, debris is the biggest problem.  There‘s a lot of debris in this city. 

And, as they start to pump the water out again, more debris is going to surface.  When you get hit with some of that debris, you develop wounds.  If you don‘t have clean, potable water and antibiotics and solutions, you can‘t clean it out.  So, you get serious wound infections.  We don‘t have regular medications there.  There aren‘t proper medical care.  There isn‘t hospitals.  It‘s supposed to be 92 degrees tomorrow in New Orleans.  People are going to be hot if they go back there.  They are going to get dehydrated. 

They also at night don‘t have electricity.  They are going to be stumbling around.  Chronic diseases are going to get worse, a very, very, very bad place to be. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, Doctor, is it too harsh to say that the mayor, by encouraging people to come back to a city in the current wrecked state that it‘s in, could be endangering their lives? 

SIEGEL:  I think he is endangering their lives. 

And I want to echo again, I think maybe he is suffering from some post-traumatic stress himself.  Again, this is understandable.  You know, emotionally, people want to go back to their homes and see what‘s there.  It makes sense.  But their homes are not safe.  The EPA is busy studying the water there.  It‘s going to take at least three weeks.  They have already removed, Joe, 30,000 canisters of waste from these homes.  It is not a safe place. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is not a safe place. 

Doug Brinkley, final question in this block.  I want to ask you what has happened to this country.  Why have we seen such a colossal lack of leadership, just colossal failure, again, on all levels?  And it just continues.  It continues on the local level with this mayor.  What is wrong with this country and the people we elect to lead us? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, I think we put too much emphasis on the personal. 

People are always looking for skeletons in somebody‘s closet, so sometimes people don‘t enter—don‘t want to go into governing.  They want to stay on the side, so you get a lot of mediocre people with mediocre vision.  Mayor Nagin was never a particularly good mayor, even on a sunny day.

But what happened in this case is, you see the same with ,I think, Governor Blanco and many in Louisiana.  They just had a sense of indifference.  It wasn‘t leadership.  It was about personal power.  It was about...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

BRINKLEY:  ... making deals.  And I think it‘s a—that, hopefully, this whole crisis will kind of alert us to the fact that we need to pay more attention on who we elect to office. 

You know, we pick our doctors carefully.  We have got to pick our leaders carefully also. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Doug Brinkley, you‘re exactly right. 

Dr. Marc Siegel, thanks for being with us. 

Doug, stick around, because, coming up next, we are going to talk about, when the levees broke, did race have something to do with what neighborhoods they were breached? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are going to be talking to somebody who was inside the beast when Rita crashed on shore this weekend.  That‘s coming up when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  As levees in New Orleans overflowed for the second time in a month, many are asking if local, state, and federal officials ignored the poor, the elderly, and the African-Americans in the most vulnerable parts of the city. 

The president of hard-hit St. Bernard Parish says, yes.  And he is with us now.  Also with us on the phone is Doug Brinkley, New Orleans resident and presidential historian. 

Doug, I want to ask you, first, you talk about criminal negligence.  Will you extend that to the failure to secure these levees in some of the poorer neighborhoods, or do you think that people are just using race as a political issue? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, I think there‘s going to have to be a careful investigation of why they broke.  Already, there have been some indications, some reports that they were poorly constructed, that there was a ripoff factor involved in the building of the levees around the Ninth Ward and other places. 

If that proves to be true, you are going to have a lot of lawsuits, and you are going to have a lot of people that might find themselves in prison for ripping off the people of New Orleans and leading to deaths.  But I think it‘s more an issue of poverty than race.  I think the fact of the matter is, if you had means and education, you knew to get out or you got out or you figured out a way out.  And, if you had nothing, you were kind of brought to the Superdome, which was, as you know, terribly ill-equipped to accommodate you.  So...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Doug—you know, Doug, also, though, on the question of representation—and you are exactly right.  I have always said that this is less about race than it is about wealth, the haves vs.  the have-nots. 

If you are in a wealthy part of New Orleans, it doesn‘t matter whether you are white or black.  Chances are good, as you know, you probably know somebody in Congress or in the Senate or somebody in the statehouse, or whatever, and you have got more representation.  You have got people that are—that, again, you have their ear and they are more concerned about hearing from you, unfortunately, than they are somebody that lives in a poorer part of town.

And, so again, I mean, unfortunately, that‘s been the case throughout American history, hasn‘t it? 

BRINKLEY:  Well, that‘s right. 

And, you know, take New Orleans.  You have an African-American mayor, African-American city council people.  I mean, it can‘t be made into simply just an issue of, well, white vs. black here.  What it is about is, as a nation, we have left our urban centers and rural areas in utter poverty.  The media hasn‘t focused on it much.  And this whole incident has kind of seemingly just shocked people. 

These New Orleanians or people that are the—in the Diaspora out of the Gulf region or New Orleans, many of these people have been there, and we just haven‘t really noticed them before.  And this is kind of bringing it to a head, that we have got to do something about our schools and urban centers, or dealing with crime.  New Orleans was a murder capital. 

I mean, I would always be amazed.  There used to be a bar in New Orleans that they used to tally the dead.  At the end of the year, they would say, 360 murdered that year, or 410.  New Orleans is number one in the country. 

There was a reason for that.  The police force was terribly underpaid. 

You had rampant corruption, that the haves were just stealing from the

have-nots all the time, and nobody seemed to want to look in on what was

going on in Louisiana.  And, hopefully, that will change.  It‘s going to be

take a lot, but this culture of crime and decadence, which developed in New Orleans, has—is—is—has wrecked a terrible cost on real people‘s lives.  And...

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it. 

Let me bring in Henry Rodriguez.  He‘s president of St. Bernard Parish. 

I will ask you, Mr. Rodriguez, what is your take on the levees breaking again in your area?  Does it have to do with race?  Does it have to do with poverty, or does it have to do with bad luck? 

HENRY RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT, ST. BERNARD PARISH:  Well, if you want my honest opinion, I think it has to do with both. 

It‘s a race issue, black and white.  It‘s also an issue of rich and poor.  This is not the first time we have had this happen to us.  I could understand if it just happened one time during Rita.  This happened—these levees broke in the Industrial Canal area during Hurricane Betsy.  They broke in Katrina, and they broke again after they so-called repaired them in Rita. 

Now, you know, I know as well as anybody else knows that the Corps knew they didn‘t do a good job of repairing those particular levees.  There was—there was actually what was described in the newspaper as a waterfall spout coming out of the levee, and they just left it.  They went to the 17th Street Canal. 

Why?  The 17th Street Canal was repaired correctly.  What was wrong with the parish?  What was wrong with the Ninth Ward?  Why weren‘t they taken into consideration and why weren‘t they protected...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And for those of us—for those of us that don‘t know the neighborhoods in New Orleans that well, the 17th Street Canal, that you say was taken care of, does that protect a wealthier part of New Orleans? 

RODRIGUEZ:  Well, certainly it does.  It certainly does. 

And I think the break at—and the breach and the repairing of the breach in the Industrial Canal, it‘s always done to take care of the problems associated with the city.  It‘s a scapegoat.  It‘s a safety valve.  Flood New Orleans.  Flood the Ninth Ward.  Flood St. Bernard.  It‘s a lot easier to repair St. Bernard than it would be—New Orleans is more important. 

We have been through that before.  If you look at it, it happened to us during the hurricane.  You know, Katrina, five days, they couldn‘t get in touch with us.  Five days, they didn‘t try to get in touch with us.  Five days, we supported ourselves without any outside help from any local, state—and we were local.  We took care of ourselves.  The state or the federal government, we didn‘t see them for five days.  We had a contingent of...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I will tell you what, Mr. Rodriguez.  Not only did you not see them for five days.  I was over in Mississippi.  We didn‘t see anybody over in Mississippi for five days either.  It was one of the slowest and most pathetic responses in the history of the United States, and, unfortunately, the breakdown appears to be on all levels.

And, Doug Brinkley, I want to bring you in and ask you about that, because Mike Brown is going to be testifying before Congress tomorrow.  He is admitting now that there‘s more that he wishes he would have done.  But what Brown is claiming tonight is that there was chaos on all levels, that the feds were fighting with the state officials, that the state officials were fighting with the local officials, that it was just an absolute chaotic situation. 

Talk about that, if you will. 

BRINKLEY:  Well, as you know, that is, of course, correct. 

There was—the blame is plenty to go to the federal government and local and state officials.  Nobody seemed to be in charge.  The lack of communication is—was astounding.  It will be interesting to hear from Mr. Brown on just why they couldn‘t be prepared.  The doomsday scenario in New Orleans has been talked about now for years. 

Clearly, FEMA understood that, and that even the National Hurricane Center was talking about what could happen to New Orleans days before.  But they seemed slow out of the box, lackadaisical, and this inability to—you know, to communicate.  That is the big thing that shocked me, is how little communication exists between all of these different agencies. 

I guess, somehow, we think we are a high-tech world and a computerized America, and we have got this sort of sophistication at our fingertips.  The fact of the matter is, it‘s—the policies we had could have been 50 years, 70 years ago.  The response would have been about the same.  Nothing, short of the helicopter rescues, which were quite dramatic, but beyond the Coast Guard and some of those rescues, everything was very, very slow and was in a—tied up in bureaucratic knots. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it, Doug.  I think we have talked about this before.  I saw a documentary on PBS about the 1927 floods, when the Mississippi River flooded.  And the similarities between what happened in 1927 and what happened in 2005 were shocking. 

I want to thank you for being with us tonight, Doug.  As always, you provide us great insight.

And , Henry Rodriguez, thank you also for being here. 

And, friends, let me just say this, because it just keeps continuing.  We have been here, again, now, for three, four weeks talking about the mistakes that happened after Katrina.  And, yet, if you look at what happened this past weekend, when you saw the problems with the evacuations, when you saw people were tied up on the interstates, we are going to talk about this in a minute, but you saw all of these people tied up on the interstates going one way, the lanes completely open on the other way.  Why weren‘t they ready?  Why weren‘t they ready three-and-a-half weeks after Katrina?

And what happens if there‘s a nuclear attack on a city, a dirty bomb, let‘s say, is placed in Los Angeles?  Will L.A. be able to evacuate their people?  If you live in L.A. tonight, will you survive a chemical or biological attack?  Well, according to an L.A. councilman, the answer to that is no.  We expect more from our leaders. 

The mayor of New Orleans, again, four weeks later, once again, bringing people back into his city, the city that he has responsibility over, and yet bringing them back into a toxic hell in some parts of that area. 

We need leadership.  We don‘t have it on the local, the state, or the national level in Congress.  We need people to step up to the plate now and do what‘s required.  We need the administration to step forward.  And you know what?  If the mayor of New Orleans isn‘t going to take care of his people, then somebody else needs to step in and do the job for this man, because, as Doug Brinkley said, the mistakes that he has made have bordered on the criminal. 

We will be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A hurricane tracker takes us inside the brutal storm Rita who actually went inside the beast and lived to tell about it and brought out some amazing photos and images.  We will have that for you and much more.

But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We are going to be taking you now to Biloxi, Mississippi, exactly four weeks after Katrina wiped that beautiful city out.  We are going to take you back to Mississippi for an update on the conditions there in just a minute. 

Plus, he rode out the storm and got incredible images of Rita as she crashed into Galveston.  And he is going to be here to talk about his dramatic new video that we are going to show you here first. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—those stories in just minutes.

But, first, three million people fled southern Texas and Louisiana for Hurricane Rita, the biggest evacuation in U.S. history.  But there were cars running out of gas, 14-hour traffic lines, and 28 killed in the evacuation itself.  Now, four years after 9/11, the question that I have tonight is, can an American city empty itself safely and quickly? 

Let me bring in Roger Cressey.  He‘s NBC News analyst and former White House counterterrorism official.  And also Jack Weiss.  He‘s Los Angeles city councilman and chairman of the Council‘s Public Safety Committee. 

Let me start with you first, Roger Cressey.  We talked about 9/11 and the after-effects of it.  We talked about the 9/11 Commission last year.  And, yet, the more I see, the more concerned I am.  What‘s going on in Washington, D.C.?  Why can‘t they evacuate cities in a timely manner? 

ROGER CRESSEY, NBC COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST:  Joe, every time there‘s a national event, the bureaucracy swings from one end of the spectrum to the other.

So, there‘s a terrorist event, everybody swings to one end.  Now that there‘s a natural disaster, we are going to swing to the other end.  What we miss and what we don‘t have is a medium here, a balance between disaster planning, counterterrorism preparation, so that we are looking at all scenarios, putting the right resources against it, and exercising with federal, state, and local officials.  We haven‘t had that type of planning.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Jack, I understand—Roger, I understand all of that.  I really do, that we do have to have a balance.  But it just seems like we have just got idiots running this country. 

You look at the image that we have got up on the TV screen.  It doesn‘t take a 9/11 Commission to tell you open up all the lanes of traffic going northward.  What‘s—I mean, there seems to be a staggering lack of leadership on all levels, again, post-9/11, that‘s particularly disturbing.  Am I being too harsh here? 

CRESSEY:  No, I don‘t think you are.  It‘s what we would call when I was at the Pentagon a BFO, a blinding flash of the obvious.  You open up those lanes. 

(LAUGHTER)

CRESSEY:  You know, I think we have seen here is, we have seen the same type of failure of imagination that we have seen in previous events.

And, Joe, the bottom line is that the nation‘s infrastructure is not structured in a way that will allow for the rapid flow of people from major metropolitan areas, even if you have 48-, 72-hours notice.  We have seen what has happened in cities like Galveston and Houston. 

Now imagine if we have a dirty bomb attack or, God forbid, a nuclear detonation.  It‘s going to be much, much worse than anything we have experienced so far. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And that‘s the question.

Let me bring in Jack Weiss.

Jack, I know you saw images of that bus, I mean, a tragedy, that bus on fire.  In fact, if we have that tape, let‘s show it.  There it is.  I mean, just, again, this is chaos.  It reminds me of—really, it reminds me of when the helicopters crashed in the desert in 1980 in the ill-fated rescue attempt of the hostages in Iran.

But, Jack, got a question for you.  If I am living, let‘s say, in Orange County, and I find out in the morning that there‘s a dirty bomb in L.A. and I try to evacuate, are you able to tell me tonight that Los Angeles can lead an orderly evacuation of its residents? 

JACK WEISS, LOS ANGELES CITY COUNCIL:  Oh, absolutely not. 

There is no question that, today, L.A. is not prepared to do an orderly evacuation, in fact, Joe if you live in Orange County, and L.A.  Gets evacuated, you are lucky because you are 30 miles ahead of the hordes of people who are going to be rushing out of town. 

Joe, last week, L.A. had its first rain of the season.  Rain is a pretty unusual event, but it‘s pretty benign.  L.A. couldn‘t handle its first rain.  I have no idea how L.A. would handle a dirty bomb attack.  Joe, it is amazing.  Four years after 9/11...

SCARBOROUGH:  Jack, why—why is it?  I mean,  Jack, you are in charge of this stuff, and I appreciate you coming here telling us this. 

What has happened?  As you have gone in to investigate your city‘s ability to respond to this type of crisis, what‘s happened through the years that has put Los Angeles and just about every other major city in a position where it can‘t even get its people out safely in the event of, like you said, a dirty bomb going off? 

WEISS:  Well, I appreciate your saying I am in charge of it.  I haven‘t been in charge of it for all that long.

And when I asked the folks in the emergency preparedness department, where is the evacuation plan, they couldn‘t point me to one.  I mean, it‘s shocking.  And it‘s something that Mayor Villaraigosa and Police Chief William Bratton and I are demanding be changed right away, because L.A., on a good day—I mean, you can‘t evacuate downtown L.A. After 3:00 p.m. on an afternoon rush hour anyway. 

We do need to come up with better plans in L.A., and Roger is absolutely right.  We need those blinding flashes of the obvious, because, right now, the bureaucrats are not pointing the way out of L.A.

SCARBOROUGH:  Roger, what have we been doing for four years since 9/11? 

CRESSEY:  Preparing to deal with the last attack, Joe.  I think, when you see the type of money that‘s been thrown to state and local officials, it‘s been given to them with no real overarching plan.  There‘s no standards or best breed, best practices they should—they should follow. 

So, when you throw the money to them and say, well, you know best, we at the federal level, we really don‘t want to tell you how to spend that money, you end up with the type of mistakes we have seen, number one.  Number two, there‘s never been a real rigorous assessment in Washington of each state and each major metropolitan area of, what do they do well, what don‘t they do well, and where can the federal government fix those vulnerabilities and those deficiencies? 

This isn‘t to say that, if you get it right, you are going to get it 100 percent right.  You never will in these type of catastrophic events.  But I think we all agree we can do better.

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Roger, Roger, what was the—what was the circus we saw last year on Capitol Hill in the 9/11 Commission hearings?  Did they do any good at all?  Did anything get adopted that is going to save a single American life? 

CRESSEY:  Oh, I think so.  I think they did a lot that‘s good.

But that failure of imagination, Joe, that the 9/11 Commission talked about repeatedly, that is what at issue here today, isn‘t it not?  I mean, you look at what happens in New Orleans and with Hurricane Rita.  There was a failure of imagination.  And so, you need to have everyone at the federal, state, and local level be proactive and a little more creative.  And that‘s what‘s been missing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Jack, I want to show you this, again, the image of the traffic here.  It‘s trapped.  How does that happen?  How do you have it where you have got people that are stuck in traffic for 15, 20 hours?  They have got the other lanes going into the city opened up.  And nobody is smart enough to get on the phone and say, why don‘t we open up all of the traffic going north, because we are not allowing anybody to come back south into the city anyway?

WEISS:  Oh, it‘s—it‘s insane.

And you have to understand that, when you want to understand sort of the ultimate evolution of the bureaucrat in America, look at a local transportation engineer.  That is a highly evolved and oftentimes poorly functioning creature.  You need to have a mayor, a leader cut through the B.S., cut through the red tape and demand that that other lane be opened. 

That‘s what you need. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

WEISS:  In L.A., the problem is, frankly, that, unlike a city like Houston or New Orleans, we don‘t really have a city center, right?  We have got several city centers.  People are always coming and going in every which direction.

SCARBOROUGH:  It is—boy, Jack, I will tell you what.  You are right.  It is so spread out there that I am glad you are—I am glad you are on this task. I am glad you are speaking out about it, because you have got one of the toughest jobs in America when it comes to evacuation. 

I want to thank you for being with us, NBC terror analyst Roger Cressey and, of course, Los Angeles councilman Jack Weiss.  I want to ask both of you to come back in a little bit and talk about this more in the future. 

I want to bring in right now Tucker Carlson.  He is host of “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON,” of course. 

Tucker, over the past four years, we have been spending billions of dollars to evacuate Americans, to come up with these constructs, these analytical constructs, that would save us when a crisis came.  And, yet, nothing is happening.  And they want us to spend, what, $200 billion now to move forward?

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION”:  At least, at least. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell us about it.

CARLSON:  We will be looking into that all week, where that money is going.

And I can tell you, Joe, the closer you look, the more upset you get.  I will save the rest for the show and leave you with one statistic, though, that might whet your appetite.  Over the last 50 years, Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for dealing with flooding, spent $123 billion on flood control.  Over the same period of time, the annual cost of flood response in real dollars has more than doubled.  It‘s not working.  It‘s wasted.  It‘s an outrage.  People are dying as a result of it. 

We are going to get into that in some detail tonight.  It is going to be interesting. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, as always, I will be watching, Tucker. 

Thanks a lot.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Make sure—make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION,” coming up next at 11:00, and get the story behind the story.  It‘s not pretty. 

Coming up next, the Mississippi coast, you know, I have been calling it the land that America forgot.  Well, we are going to check in with that devastated region to see if FEMA is finally following through to get help to our Mississippi friends. 

And driving into the heart of danger with a camera.  We are going to talk to a man who shot some incredible—of both Katrina and was inside of Rita—extreme hurricane chasers coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You are looking live tonight at NBC‘s Humanity Plaza in New York City, where volunteers are working around the clock.  They‘re building homes.  And those homes are going to be shipped down to the devastated areas across the Gulf Coast, which, of course, includes parts of Mississippi, where I have spent an awful lot of time lately, which still lays in ruins almost one month after Katrina struck. 

NBC‘s Campbell Brown is in Mississippi, a state that is slowly trying to pick up the pieces—Campbell. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Joe. 

Well, you will remember this neighborhood in east Biloxi called Point Cadet.  It was completely wiped out, and it‘s like a lot of Biloxi.  Officials here estimate as many as 65,000 homes in this area were totally destroyed.  And many of the people we went back and revisited today say the recovery here has been slow going. 

(voice-over):  This was Curtis Downs (ph) a month ago, who suddenly found himself taking care of nearly two dozen relatives.  Back then, he was desperately trying to keep himself together. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I try got to be strong, man, because, you know, you break down, then everybody around you starts to break down. 

BROWN:  Today, his family members have all moved out.  Inside his gutted house, he and his wife flip through scrapbooks to see what pictures they can save, while, outside, these bulldozers showed up for the first time to clear their streets. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I didn‘t realize how depressed I was until they started cleaning up.  You started to see progress, it will make you feel a whole lot better. 

BROWN:  After Katrina hit, ophthalmologist Joel Knight‘s (ph) eye clinic was a mess.  Oddly, only his fish tank was left intact.  Today, Knight says he can‘t believe the outpouring of aid and support that has made its way to his community. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  From the Northeast, California, Midwest, to the Plains, it‘s just startling. 

BROWN:  For Biloxi to make a complete comeback, it‘s dependent on its casino industry, but with the destruction of 13 barge casinos went 14,000 jobs.  Danny Scremetto (ph) was a blackjack dealer. 

(on camera):  Financially, how do you pay your bills?  How do you pay your mortgage? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t know. 

BROWN (voice-over):  We found Danny today working on his house and still trying to figure out his next move. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A lot of my friends from the casinos, their family have already moved to Las Vegas or out of state for work.  But I got so much roots here in Biloxi, you know, I am just going to try to hang out here and try to make something work here. 

BROWN (on camera):  The casino industry is where we saw the most visible rebuilding.  Those casinos are anxious to reopen.  And one is vowing to be back in business by Christmas  -- Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Campbell. 

Again, I—you know, I went down there with quite a few people, but Mississippi, I mean, they just took the brunt of the actual storm itself, no flooding there, like we saw in New Orleans.  But as far as wind damage and, also, of course, when you look at the waves that came crashing on shore, it just absolutely devastated that city. 

Unfortunately, too many people have forgotten about Mississippi.  That‘s why we continue to drive supplies over there every day.  We take them up to Jackson.  Also, Leisha Pickering and Chip Pickering and several others have really started to help us out, distribute it throughout the entire region, because, again, unfortunately, the federal government, the state government, the local government did not respond as quickly as they needed to. 

You need to keep these people in Mississippi in your thoughts and also in your prayers tonight. 

Coming up next, we are going to be talking to a man who drove into the heart of Hurricane Rita with a camera.  And it‘s ugly, friends.  Tonight, the extreme hurricane chaser who shot this video is going to be in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to show us what he saw. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, three million people evacuated in advance of Hurricane Rita, but you are looking right now at video shot by people who stay through storms like this. 

I am joined now by extreme weather photographer Mike Theiss, whose book, “Hurricane Katrina: Through the Eyes of Storm Chasers,” is available now, and also whose video can be seen at UltimateChase.com. 

So, Mike, tell me about these two storms that you followed, Katrina and also Rita.  Obviously, Rita slowed down a bit.  But even in a Category 2 or Category 3, riding through those things can be pretty ugly, can‘t they? 

MIKE THEISS, EXTREME WEATHER PHOTOGRAPHER:  Oh, yes. 

From my perspective, I actually documented both hurricanes in two locations.  Both of them either made landfall or just brushed by Florida.  And I document the effects there.  Then I had to hurry on up to the Gulf Coast and document them there, so they were both very, very tiring storms. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, talk about what it‘s like to be in the middle of a hurricane for somebody in middle America that can‘t even begin to imagine the intensity of it. 

THEISS:  Well, they are intense.  They are scary, dramatic, frightful. 

Many words come to mind. 

All you hear around you is glass breaking, boards breaking, trees snapping, the wind and the power lines.  Depending on where you are, you hear different noises.  If you are near the storm surge, you hear waves crashing on shore or through the building.  It is so loud.  I mean, it‘s—you can‘t imagine it unless you have been there to experience it, and it is just frightful. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, anybody that‘s gone through—you talked about what it‘s like when the waves start coming up, the storm surge.  It happens to quickly that a lot of people get overtaken by it. 

Can you talk about what it‘s like to deal with a storm surge like these people had to deal with during Katrina? 

THEISS:  Oh, I can‘t imagine being in the storm surge that we were in,

being in just like a normal house or a wooden structure.  You know, we had

luckily, we had scoped out an area.  And we were in a solid concrete building, so we felt safe.  But if I wouldn‘t have been in that building, I would have been terrified. 

You know, the surge came up real fast, really high.  There was waves on top of that, plus, the wind.  I mean, the wind was in the 125, 130 range.  And all that combined, you know, if I would have been a resident in any wooden structure, I would have been terrified. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It is a terrifying situation. 

I remember riding through—riding out Hurricane Frederic back in the late 1970s.  We were in a very well-built house, and yet we looked up all night after the electricity went off, looked up at the ceilings all night, expected them to blow off, because, again, the intensity of the wind.  And, of course, when the tornadoes start coming in, I mean, it can get ugly out there very quickly. 

Why did you decide to chase hurricanes?  What made you do it? 

THEISS:  It‘s something I was born with.  Ever since a little kid growing up in the tropics, I have always read books on it.  They have occasionally made landfall.  They used to come to me.  And now I go to them. 

And it—it was—I was kind of molded with this passion.  And, actually, one of my mentors, Jim Leonard, taught me everything I know about hurricanes.  And he helped mold my passion even more and tell me that, hey, you can actually go out and document these things.

And, you know, I feel that I am doing something to—for society to help people learn...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

THEISS:  ... what it is like to be in these things, without actually having to experience it themselves. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Mike Theiss, thanks so much.  And be safe out there.  We appreciate it. 

THEISS:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘ll be right back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, to get the latest on the recovery from Katrina and Rita, check out my blog.  You can click on Joe.MSNBC.com. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, that‘s all the time we have for tonight. 

I want to thank you for being with us.  And, once again, we really are.  We are walking through a process where we are looking at the government response, not just how it relates to Louisiana or Mississippi, but, most importantly, how it‘s going to relate to you and your community when you need help. 

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight? 

CARLSON:  Thank you, Joe.  It can be an ugly process. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Well, hurricanes—yes, it can. 

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