updated 9/28/2005 11:08:44 AM ET 2005-09-28T15:08:44

Guests: Mike Allen, Dana Milbank, Cindy Sheehan, Bobby Jindal, George

Allen, Richard Durbin

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Dumped disaster boss blames everybody but himself for the Katrina catastrophe.  Florida senator hosts five-hour welcome for 200 lobbyists seeking hurricane billions.  And John McCain, that trusty maverick, gives private meeting to anti-war mother Cindy Sheehan, something President Bush refused to give her.

Let‘s play HARDBALL.

Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 

Michael Brown, whom President Bush sacked as FEMA director, blamed every, Louisiana, media, hysteria, whatever, for the screw-ups in hurricane relief, while saying his notorious admission he knew nothing about the desperate tens of thousands at the New Orleans Convention Center shown on television for days was a case of misunderstanding. 

In other HARDBALL news, Arizona Senator John McCain gives a private meeting to anti-war mother Cindy Sheehan, something President Bush refused to give her.  We will talk to Sheehan later in the program. 

But we begin with MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell, who covered Michael Brown‘s testimony today. 

Norah, hot day over there. 


Good evening, Chris. 

The blame game has begun in Washington and the former director of FEMA acknowledged a couple of mistakes were made, but he pointed the finger at nearly everyone but himself for the failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  He defended his own actions.  He testified that he had rung the alarm bells, even telling the White House days before the storm that—quote—“This is going to be a bad one.”

But Brown blamed the chaos on Louisiana‘s governor and the mayor of New Orleans.  He said they were slow to call for a mandatory evacuation.  And Brown also blamed the Department of Homeland Security for shortchanging FEMA in the agency‘s request for more money, for better communications. 


O‘DONNELL (voice-over):  In testy hearings on Capitol Hill today, Brown was called to account for the failures of Hurricane Katrina, but gave little ground. 


It‘s my belief that FEMA did a good job. 

O‘DONNELL:  Brown was asked to resign two weeks ago, but today refused to play the role of sacrificial lamb.  He laid most of the blame on Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. 

BROWN:  My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional. 

O‘DONNELL:  Brown testified that all levels of the government knew by Friday that Katrina would be a catastrophic storm.  But, on Saturday, while Mississippi had called for a mandatory evacuation, Brown says Louisiana was dragging its feet. 

REP. MIKE ROGERS ®, MICHIGAN:  Who has the authority to order the evacuation of a city or a state or an area?

BROWN:  Well, I can tell you, the federal government does not and the state and locals do. 

ROGERS:  So, they had a plan in place and didn‘t pull the trigger?

BROWN:  No, sir. 

O‘DONNELL:  Brown claimed that, while Louisiana got it all wrong, Mississippi and Alabama got it right.  But Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor strongly disagreed. 

REP. GENE TAYLOR (D), MISSISSIPPI:  You folks fell on your face.  You get an F-minus in my book. 

O‘DONNELL:  Taylor said FEMA left first-responders in Hancock County without supplies. 

TAYLOR:  What part of the FEMA plan envisioned that the first-responders in Hancock County and in much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast would have to loot the local grocery store and loot the local Wal-Mart? 

O‘DONNELL:  One of the biggest problems after Katrina was the breakdown in communications between federal and state officials. 

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS ®, CONNECTICUT:  Did you ask OMB for the money?  Did you ask Mr. Chertoff for the money?  Who did you ask for the money, so that you would have the ability to implement Hurricane Pam, so we could have saved lots of lives? 

BROWN:  We put that money in our budget request following Hurricane Pam, and it was removed by the Department of Homeland Security. 

SHAYS:  I can‘t help but wonder how different the answers would be if someone like Rudy Giuliani had been in your position, instead of you.

BROWN:  I‘m not going to sit here and be berated because I‘m not Rudy Giuliani. 


O‘DONNELL:  Well, Brown today also blamed the media for what he called spinning lies about his resume.  Republican Congressman Shays quickly shot back: “You were fired because you were clueless.  You were fired for doing a bad job.”

Now, also today, the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, was asked to respond to Brown‘s comments.  And Chertoff said—quote—

“He speaks for himself”—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was a strong backup. 

Let me ask you, Norah, there was a response late this afternoon by Governor Blanco of Louisiana.  She denied the charge by Michael Brown that she did not call for the evacuation until Sunday.  She said in a statement I‘m reading right now which is coming out—it came out late this afternoon that she in fact called for the evacuation on Saturday, a direct contradiction in fact to what Michael Brown said today. 

O‘DONNELL:  That‘s exactly right. 

The core of Brown‘s argument today was that FEMA was not responsible for the evacuation and it was the evacuation or the lack thereof of an evacuation that led to those scenes that we saw at the Superdome and the Convention Center. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

O‘DONNELL:  Well, he says Kathleen Blanco, the governor of Louisiana, she didn‘t evacuate in time.  Today, Blanco has put out a statement that says that Brown is in fact distorting the truth and offering falsehoods and misleading statements. 

So, of course, the blame game will continue.  We are going to hear more from the Louisiana governor, because she is up on Capitol Hill tomorrow—Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, Norah O‘Donnell, our chief correspondent at MSNBC. 

We want to go—take you right now to Michael Brown‘s testimony point by point, beginning with his comments blaming—quote—“an hysterical media” for compounding the crisis at the Convention Center.  Here he is.


BROWN:  We had no real-time information and intelligence about what was really going on in the Convention Center.  You had a hysteric media reporting rapes and murders and everything else, which I think even the reports today begin to say probably weren‘t true, which compounded the problem either further.  And you had an isolated area that no one had planned for that you couldn‘t get the people out of there fast enough. 


MATTHEWS:  NBC‘s Michelle Hofland witnessed the desperation in New Orleans in those days after Hurricane Katrina.  We have seen the pictures here.

Michelle, I want to ask you, what do you think of this charge that it was an hysteric media that built up these pictures beyond their reality? 

MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  All I can tell you, Chris, is what I saw out there. 

What I saw at the Convention Center, outside the Convention Center, were thousands of people who had been rescued, just dropped off on the side of the road there on the interstate.  It was 100 degrees and the humidity.  There‘s no water, no food.  They were—they were in horrible conditions.  These were children and elderly people, who—and I spoke with people who said that they saw people dying because they were not getting the medical care, they weren‘t getting the things that they needed. 

I saw one body that was on the other side of the interstate, right

there in front of Convention Center—in front of the Superdome that had -

someone had pushed over the side and he laid there for a week after this whole thing happened.  I spoke with people who were inside the Superdome.  And what they told me was going on inside of there, there was gunfire. 

There were fights going on. 

This elderly woman had been exposed—was exposed to by men repeated

times.  There was very little food for them.  The latrines were

overflowing.  And outside the Convention—or the Superdome—excuse me -

there were no latrines for the people.  And it was—when the food did arrive, because there was no—no organization at all, people would run up and grab things out of the helicopter.

And it would only go to a certain number of families, the people who were strong enough to get it, leading the leaving the elderly and the children and things to fend for themselves.  This is what I saw.  And it‘s not that I‘m not blowing it out of proportion.  It‘s just what we saw when we were out there, Chris.

MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much for joining us tonight, Michelle Hofland, to give your eyewitness account of what you saw down there.

We‘re joined now by two members of the United States Senate, Republican George Allen of Virginia and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. 

Senator Allen is right with me.  Senator Durbin is up on the Hill.

Thank you, gentlemen. 

I want to ask you—we are going to talk about the whole question of spending here and how we‘re going to keep control of it, you senators are going to keep control of it. 

But let me ask you about the charges right off the bat.  It‘s the big story tonight, Michael Brown.  He said that it was media hysteria that focused all the attention on what happened down there at the Convention Center in New Orleans.  Do you believe there was an accurate picture presented on regular television by the regular news reporting, not commentary, of what happened down there, or was there some distortion in that? 

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN ®, VIRGINIA:  I watched it, like all Americans, on especially the cable news and had live people discussing and in fact desperate. 

Michelle‘s stories are similar to other ones heard.  I was governor of Virginia.  And we never had a disaster like Katrina.  But what one needs to do, especially with hurricanes, because you know they‘re coming—it‘s not unexpected—is, you have to position your assets ahead of time.  And, as soon as the disaster hits and leaves, you go and mitigate the damage, help people.

And then, as governor, I found it very helpful right now away to get your boots in the mud, to let people know you know what is going on.  It lifts their spirits.  The prime photograph of the ineptitude—an ineptitude of mistakes were made by the federal government, the state government and the local.  But the picture I always remember, as far as evacuation, is all those school buses, hundreds of school buses, stuck in water. 


G. ALLEN:  And they said they were not able to evacuate people.

MATTHEWS:  And that‘s the mayor‘s fault, primarily, Mayor Nagin? 

G. ALLEN:  I don‘t care whose fault it is. 


G. ALLEN:  That‘s showing that you had these assets.  You could get people out.  It was capable.

But then having people at the Convention Center without food and water, not even allowing them to go over the bridge to Gretna, is ineptitude as well.  So, there‘s enough blame to go around.

But the point of the matter is, is, what they—they needed was a plan of attack and action and decisions being made right away to help people out who were in dire need. 

MATTHEWS:  I want Senator Durbin to respond to this.  Here is what Michael Brown, the defrocked head of FEMA, had to say, what he said was his biggest mistake in handling, or mishandling, Katrina.   


BROWN:  My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional. 


MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a pretty strong charge.  What do you make of that, Senator Durbin?  This is a mistake, a failure by the people in Louisiana, not the federal government? 

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  Well, let me say just a couple of things.  First, keep in mind, the reports are that Michael Brown is still on the payroll of FEMA.  He‘s on a contractual relationship.  This man ought to get on his Arabian horse and get out of town. 

Second, let me tell you this.  The Mississippi mud-wrestling bout we just saw over in the House is proof-positive that we need an independent, nonpartisan commission to get to the bottom of this.  We are going to have people like Michael Brown blaming everybody else in sight except for himself. 

And the bottom line, as I recall, is that Governor Blanco asked for special federal assistance on Saturday and on Sunday in writing and didn‘t receive it. 

BROWN:  OK.  Here is what Michael Brown said today when he was asked about a TV interview during which he said he had not heard, had not heard, about the desperation at the New Orleans Convention Center. 


BROWN:  I was just tired and misspoke.  I learned about the Convention Center on Wednesday at approximately noon via e-mail from our folks on the ground, who told us that the hotels had begun to kick people out of the hotels. 

I misspoke on Thursday, when I said that, you know, we were just learning about it.  What I meant was, we were just learning about it 24 hours earlier—or, actually, 36 hours earlier. 


MATTHEWS:  What do you make of that, Senator? 

DURBIN:  Well, you know, from my point of view..

MATTHEWS:  Well, anyway, Senator Durbin, everybody in the country knows, for 48 hours, that those people were desperate down there.  They were—they‘re dehydrating.  There are babies dying.  There‘s lots of faces down there, black faces, I must say, because that‘s part of this story.  And there was no reaction. 

In fact, the FEMA director said after two days of that television exposure to everybody, I didn‘t know what was going on down there.  Apparently, the president had to get a DVD put together for him by Dan Bartlett, the president‘s top—one of his top aides, his communications guy, to bring him up to date on what was happening down there. 

Is this something that is going to just be talked about for years or is this going to get over—are we going to get over this argument about whether the president was asleep at the switch and whether the FEMA guy wasn‘t watching television? 

DURBIN:  You know, what is most the important part of this, Chris, as far as I‘m concerned, is not just what mistakes were made, but the fact that they‘re not repeated. 

That‘s why we need this nonpartisan independent commission to point to how we should handle these disasters.  Underfunding FEMA, putting political cronies in with no resume to back up what they‘re supposed to be doing, whatever the agency must be, is not making America safer. 

MATTHEWS:  Senator, Senator Allen, most Americans overwhelmingly want to see a nonpartisan, bipartisan, whatever, group study this thing and find out what went wrong.  Do you agree with that? 

G. ALLEN:  Yes.  I think it ought to be nonpartisan.  It ought to be nonpartisan.  We‘re trying to help out fellow Americans in Louisiana. 


MATTHEWS:  Both sides with the subpoena power?

G. ALLEN:  That‘s fine.  That‘s fine. 



MATTHEWS:  The president‘s people oppose that.


G. ALLEN:  Well, if you look at the committees that we‘re trying to—we also want to get it bicameral, so you can have the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats.  We can argue process all we want. 

What we ought to determine is what went wrong, why it went wrong, why decisions were not made when they should have been.  Granted, this was the largest natural disaster that has hit this country.  But there are certain principles that one applies.  And, as I said in the beginning, you position your assets.  You know this is coming. 

The National Guard is very, very important.  I always found them very important as governor.  Then, when it hits, you get in there right away.  You don‘t dawdle.  You don‘t wait.  If you actually get your boots in the mud, you will see what is going on.  There will decisions that need to be made quickly.  Lives are saved.  Damages are mitigated.  And, in this case, too many decisions were not made. 


G. ALLEN:  And you can blame it on all sorts of process, but the key

thing is personnel with the determination to get things done and act and

don‘t worry about bureaucracy 

MATTHEWS:  What do you think, Senator Durbin, about one of your

colleagues from Florida, Senator Martinez, hosting 200 lobbyists the other

day, people who want some of those billions of dollars in federal money for

contracting relief services?  Do you think that‘s healthy for the United

States Senate, for one of the senators to have a five-hour fest on Capitol

Hill to welcome all the lobbyists, 200 lobbyists, to come up there and seek

inside influence or whatever—I don‘t know why they‘re coming to the Hill

to try to find ways to get money for their clients out of this deal, out of this disaster?


MATTHEWS:  Is that healthy? 

DURBIN:  Well, Senator Martinez is my friend. 

And I don‘t want to rush to judgment until I hear his explanation.  But I will tell you, it is clear.  All of these no-bid contracts that we‘re giving to these companies will result in wasted taxpayers‘ dollars and not help the victims that need it.  And, unfortunately, some of the same names that received these no-bid contracts in Iraq are receiving them again when it comes to Hurricane Katrina. 


DURBIN:  We don‘t need to make this a feeding fest for those companies, at the expense of victims.  It‘s not fair to taxpayers. 


MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Senator.


MATTHEWS:  You have got a plan here—and we only got a couple minutes, a minute-and-a-half.


MATTHEWS:  Tell us why you think a line-item veto, a constitutional change in our government, to allow the president to strike out certain items in a spending bill, will help solve the problem of this cost for this relief effort. 

G. ALLEN:  Well, for this and any other spending.

Everyone is concerned about the spending out of control on a lot of projects that don‘t seem to be essential, whether it‘s a bridge to help out 100 people who take a ferry to an island or rain forests being created in Iowa.

I was governor of Virginia.  We used the line-item veto to curtail wasteful spending; 43 governors have that power.  I think the president of the United States ought to have that power as well.  Ronald Reagan, who is the one who motivated me to get into politics...


G. ALLEN:  ... always would talk about wishing he had the line-item veto power.  I think it‘s time for it to be revived.  The people of the country would approve this constitutional amendment.  It will have the president also responsible for wasteful spending. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why do you think the speaker of the House has shut up one of his members, one of his Republicans who has been trying to talk about cutting other expenditures to make up—to pay for this cost in the relief effort?


MATTHEWS:  Why is he telling him to shut up? 

G. ALLEN:  I don‘t think he ought to, because I think we ought to look at places where we can offset some of this added spending. 

MATTHEWS:  Name a program you would cut.

G. ALLEN:  Well, there‘s a variety of things we have put on the table, everything from delaying the prescription drug benefit.  But that has been knocked off the table.  There are different things, global AIDS initiative, where the funding is more than even the president responded.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

G. ALLEN:  I would get rid of the whole surgeon‘s general office. 


MATTHEWS:  They‘re not a surgeon.  They‘re not a general.  They‘re just a nanny.

MATTHEWS:  Would you put off the prescription drug bill, Senator Durbin? 

DURBIN:  Chris, isn‘t this perfect, that, when it comes to rebuilding Iraq, we didn‘t hear a word from Republican leaders about offsets and cutting spending in other areas, but when it comes to rebuilding America, they suggest we cut spending for health care for the poor?  Doesn‘t that tell you the story of what went wrong in Hurricane Katrina? 


MATTHEWS:  But the prescription bill—the prescription bill was a Bush bill, though, Senator.  Why wouldn‘t you consider that appropriate, if you‘re a Democrat, to cut a Republican measure to try to save money for the relief effort?

DURBIN:  I didn‘t vote for that. 

And I will tell you this.  We can change that to make it better.  I don‘t want to cut off prescription drugs for the poorest elderly in America to pay for this, when there was no setoff when it came to rebuilding Iraq.  What is the priority of the Republican Party, that they think helping Americans is something we can‘t afford to do, but spending billions in Iraq, there‘s no limit to how much we can spend?

MATTHEWS:  Did any of the Democratic leadership called for cuts elsewhere to pay for Iraq when they all supported the war? 

DURBIN:  I can tell you this.  When it comes to providing the funds for our troops, we have been for every single dollar...

MATTHEWS:  No, but I mean offsets.

DURBIN:  No, no, let me finish, if I might. 

MATTHEWS:  Where are the offsets?

DURBIN:  Let me finish it.

Senator Dorgan led the leadership—or led the effort in the Senate to say that the oil revenues for Iraq, which were promised for this purpose, should be used for this purpose.  And that was rejected by the White House.  We think the Iraqis ought to be paying for their own reconstruction with their own oil revenues. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that was one of the promises, Senator, wasn‘t it?

Anyway, thank you very...

G. ALLEN:  Well, know, but that‘s not an example of reductions.


MATTHEWS:  It‘s not a case of—I haven‘t heard any Democrats even—

I don‘t even hear from the Democratic Party where they stand on the war.  Anyway, at least your party is for the war.  At least you know where you stand.

Thank you. 

G. ALLEN:  We stand strong for freedom and we stand on the side of Iraqis trying to have a free and just society.


MATTHEWS:  You‘re with the war.  And I don‘t yet hear a message from the Democrats.

I don‘t want to make—Senator Durbin, do you want to correct me on that?  Where does your party stand on the war in Iraq?  Are you for it or against it?

DURBIN:  Well, at this point, we‘re behind our men and women in uniform.  Those of us who might have disagreed with going into this war are not going to shortchange the men and women in uniform the equipment that they need.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DURBIN:  The armor for their Humvees.  We are going to stand behind them. 


MATTHEWS:  Was it a mistake to go to war in Iraq or not?

DURBIN:  Well, I voted against it, because...


MATTHEWS:  You think it was a mistake?

DURBIN:  We didn‘t have the allies behind us. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

DURBIN:  We didn‘t have a plan for what to do after Saddam Hussein fell.  And we have lost over 1,900 of the bravest young men and women in this country already.  And there‘s no plan from this administration to bring our troops home, no plan to put the responsibility for leadership on the Iraqis themselves. 

G. ALLEN:  That‘s absolutely incorrect. 

What we‘re trying to do is help out the Iraqis as they‘re trying to construct a constitution.  We‘re on the side of those who are trying to build a country. 


G. ALLEN:  We‘re not on the side of the terrorists who are blowing up police stations, shopping centers and... 

DURBIN:  Neither am I. 

G. ALLEN:  ... even terrorizing...


DURBIN:  Neither am I. 

G. ALLEN:  So, what side are you going to be on?


MATTHEWS:  We are going to continue this debate on this program.

DURBIN:  No, that is...

MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Senator Durbin, very much. 

Thank you, Senator Allen.

Coming up, former FEMA Director Michael Brown called Louisiana dysfunctional as a state.  We will get reaction from Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, dumped FEMA Director Michael Brown says that the state of Louisiana was dysfunctional.  We will get reaction from Louisiana Congressman Bobby Jindal when HARDBALL returns.


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

In his grilling on the Hill today, former FEMA head Michael Brown, who kicked out, blamed state and local officials.  He blamed them for the lax response to Hurricane Katrina‘s destruction.  Let‘s listen up. 


BROWN:  I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together. 


MATTHEWS:  So, he was the umpire and your guys down there, Nagin—

Nagin and the—Congressman Jindal, thanks for coming in.  It‘s Bobby Jindal, Republican of Louisiana.

REP. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA:  Thank you for having me.

MATTHEWS:  Jindal and Governor Blanco, who you ran against a couple years ago, are the bad guys? 

JINDAL:  You know, I think the entire effort was dysfunctional. 

I heard him say the state was dysfunctional.  The reality is, anybody watching that could see the state and federal agencies, nobody distinguished themselves in this response.  The only heroes were the local responders, the military, the Coast Guard, wildlife and fisheries agents.  Those are the guys that said, forget the paperwork.  Forget the bureaucracy.  Let‘s get people off of roofs.  Let‘s get people out of the water. 

So, I mean, was the state response dysfunctional?  Sure.  Was the federal response dysfunctional?  Absolutely.   

MATTHEWS:  OK, big point-of-fact difference tonight.  The governor of your state, Blanco, who you ran against, put out a statement late this afternoon and said, I, the governor, did issue an order to evacuate that city on Saturday.  The head of FEMA, Michael Brown, who was in the—testimony in the box today, said it was Sunday. 

Who is right?  You know the facts.  Was it Saturday or Sunday that the evacuation order was issued? 

JINDAL:  My recollection—and I don‘t know the legalities of a mandatory vs. a voluntary evacuation.

MATTHEWS:  Well, when was the order issued, whatever form it took?

JINDAL:  My recollection was, the governor came on TV on Saturday, came on TV with the mayor on Sunday. 

But, you know, there are a lot of questions.  It‘s not just about when they ordered the evacuation.  It‘s, why weren‘t there buses?  Why wasn‘t there food at the Superdome?  It‘s, why did it take so long for the state and federal bureaucracies to work together?

And I‘m glad—look, there‘s a Senate panel.  There‘s a House panel. 

There are two state panels.  The president has got a panel.


JINDAL:  I‘m hoping, with all these panels, somebody figures out what didn‘t work, not so they can point fingers, not so, is it Michael or is it Governor Blanco or it one of the two of them.  It‘s rather so that, next time, if there‘s another hurricane, if there‘s a manmade attack, we do a better job. 

MATTHEWS:  Right.  

JINDAL:  Four years after 9/11, it‘s disgraceful that we still didn‘t have radios that didn‘t talk to each other. 


JINDAL:  It was still disgraceful that, in the immediate aftermath...

MATTHEWS:  You know how this can hurt, Congressman?

The American people out of there watching tonight, a lot of them, 50/50, say Republicans, Democrats, but most of the people who pay attention to serious public affairs, arguments like this one, know about their money and they are thinking about it; $200 billion, we‘re going to borrow from overseas, basically, to pay for this rebuilding down there.  They‘re going to give it to the same people that screwed up.  They‘re going to give it to a dysfunctional state.  Doesn‘t that scare you, that reputation?

JINDAL:  Absolutely. I have said, let‘s not put it in the same bureaucracies that didn‘t work.  Let‘s do at least two things.  One, yes, we need to rebuild peoples lives that have immediate needs. 

MATTHEWS:  Who do you trust most in your state personally?  Who is the politician you trust, Bobby Jindal? 

JINDAL:  Well, I don‘t trust politicians.  But I think that...

MATTHEWS:  No, no, who do you trust?  You have got to tell me now.  Who do you trust in your state?  Do you trust Nagin?  Do you trust the governor?  Do you trust the senators, Vitter?  Do you trust Landrieu, the other senator?  Do you trust—do you trust Michael Chertoff?  Do you trust President Bush? 

JINDAL:  Well, look, politically, I‘m certainly closer to David Vitter than a lot of the other people you mentioned.

But, in terms of trusting, I don‘t want any of the politicians running this money.  I don‘t want the bureaucracy running this money.  I want more of this money spent on tax incentives to create jobs, put people back to work and...


MATTHEWS:  Well, $200 billion is going to be taxed—or taken from the American treasury and given to your part of the country.  Who should get it?

JINDAL:  I think there should be a private-sector-led effort.  I have said Colin Powell, Jack Welch, with local, locals making the final decisions.

MATTHEWS:  Have you told Cheney this idea yet?

JINDAL:  I have told...

MATTHEWS:  Cheney has been putting the kibosh on this from day one.  He doesn‘t want any bigfoot in there, whether it‘s Colin Powell or it‘s Jack Welch or it‘s Rudy Giuliani.  He wants to be the boss in this administration, doesn‘t he? 

JINDAL:  Well...

MATTHEWS:  Come on, be honest.  Do you really think Dick Cheney is going to let somebody else come in there and muscle in and become the star of this thing? 

JINDAL:  I have told the president this.  I have told the congressional leadership this.  I have said...

MATTHEWS:  Have you told Cheney?

JINDAL:  I haven‘t talked to...


MATTHEWS:  Good luck.  Good luck. 


MATTHEWS:  Because he has got a—he has official put out the word he doesn‘t want it. 

JINDAL:  But I have told his boss.  I have told the president.  I haven‘t been told no.  I have told everybody that will listen...

MATTHEWS:  So, your opinion, Congressman Jindal—and you are—you‘re right on the site down there.  You are a representative from that area of New Orleans.  You believe, in the best interests of your people, who are now in this Diaspora across the Southwest, right—Southeast...

JINDAL:  They‘re across the country.

MATTHEWS:  You believe it‘s better for them to have a big boss down there, a bigfoot to come down and organize this thing? 

JINDAL:  I think the locals needs to be in charge, but somebody needs to be firmly in control.  I think, at least from the federal perspective, get somebody from the private sector.

MATTHEWS:  Who‘s your star?  Who do you want it to be? 

JINDAL:  I think Jack Welsh or Colin Powell would be great. 

MATTHEWS:  Yes, interesting idea.  It‘s not getting any lift, though.

Anyway, thank you.


JINDAL:  Well, help me push it.  You have got maybe a bigger voice than I have got.

MATTHEWS:  It sounds good to me.  And you‘re the elected official. 

You have the right to talk. 

Thank you, Congressman Bobby Jindal, Republican of Louisiana.  He represents New Orleans.

JINDAL:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Up next, President Bush makes his seventh trip to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.  Is he touring the disaster zone to compensate for that early response?  We will see.  I think it‘s fair to say he is trying to make up for lost time and doing a big job of it.  Look at him.

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  President Bush made his seventh trip to the hurricane-damaged Gulf Coast today, stopping in Beaumont, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, very hard-hit places.

HARDBALL correspondent David Shuster joins us now from Beaumont—


DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Chris, it was a day of informal discussions and photo-ops for President Bush.  He aligned himself with relief operations that, while smaller than the last one, certainly seemed to be running a little bit smoother. 


SHUSTER (voice-over):  In Beaumont today, President Bush met with Texas officials and expressed his solidarity. 

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I appreciate the planning that the governor has put into this.  The state of Texas has—took precautions before the storm hit and now responding.  And our job is to work with the state. 

SHUSTER:  The work is much easier now than it was four weeks ago in the aftermath of Katrina.  Hurricane Rita hit the hardest in mostly rural areas, and the needs from the federal government are less. 

Still, the memories of the slow, inefficient response to Katrina are still fresh, memories the Bush administration is now trying to replace. 

A few miles from the president‘s first stop:

JOE MESSINA, RESIDENT OF BEAUMONT, TEXAS:  Somebody trying to sell—trying to cut me some trees.

SHUSTER:  Joe Messina returned home to find that his problem was not flooding, but wind, strong winds that knocked trees deep into his house. 

MESSINA:  And it was a big tree.  It goes all the way to the back of my patio, knocked all my patio down. 

SHUSTER:  Messina said it‘s great to hear talk about generators and electricity, but he said the president should help lobby against the law enforcement checkpoints keeping almost everybody out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You said about 250,000 people have shut down.  We don‘t need any more trips.  He has been down here two or three times.  Let‘s get the stuff here now.  We can‘t wait two to three weeks.  People can‘t survive that long.  We need it now.  We don‘t need any Washington bureaucracy. 

SHUSTER:  That bureaucracy is also trying to tackle the energy squeeze.  The president, aboard his helicopter, took an aerial tour today over some of the oil platforms and plants damaged by Katrina.  Officials say 13 oil refineries remain offline. 

On Monday, the president urged Americans to conserve gasoline and said government officials would cut back on travel. 

BUSH:  We can all pitch in by using—by being better conservers of energy. 

SHUSTER:  But the politics of that speech or of the president‘s speech today were largely lost on local residents, most of whom are still focused on their own problems. 


SHUSTER:  And without any power or electricity, most people here have no television, underscoring that the photo-ops today were aimed at mostly a national audience, not the local ones hit hardest by Hurricane Rita—


MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, David Shuster. 

Up next, anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan was arrested outside the White House.  And, today, she met with Senator John McCain.  She is coming here to talk about that meeting with McCain.  By the way, that‘s an interesting thing.  McCain gave her a private meeting, something the president particularly did not want to give her.  She got the publicity of meeting with McCain today. 

You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 



MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

Cindy Sheehan became an outspoken critic of the Iraq war after her son Casey was killed in action.  He was killed in Afghanistan—no, in Iraq.  This summer, she held a 26-day vigil outside the president‘s Crawford ranch.  She taking meetings, taking names and holding elected officials‘ feet to the fire, insisting American troops come home from Iraq. 

Cindy Sheehan just had a meeting with Republican Senator John McCain. 

And she is here to tell us about it. 

The reason I got that confused is, the last time we had talked, I asked you—if your son had been killed in Afghanistan, you said you have the same reaction.  You don‘t think that war is justified either.

CINDY SHEEHAN, MOTHER OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER:  I don‘t think the Afghan people did anything to America.  You know, they weren‘t responsible for flying the planes into the buildings.  It was al Qaeda and we should have gone after al Qaeda and not the people of Afghanistan. 

MATTHEWS:  Where should we have pursued them?

SHEEHAN:  In Afghanistan, but not against the people of Afghanistan. 

A lot of innocent Afghani people were killed. 


MATTHEWS:  How would we have dealt with the problem that the government of Afghanistan was in bed—it was the Taliban government and they were supporting al Qaeda?  How could we have gotten to al Qaeda if the government was standing in our way?

SHEEHAN:  Well, the government was, but not the people. 

And that‘s just what I—that‘s what happened in Iraq.  Innocent Iraqis are being killed every day.  And I think that the 9/11 was a crime, not an act of war.  And I‘m not a policy person, but I just don‘t want any innocent people to be killed. 

MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about your meeting with John McCain.  When was it this afternoon? 

SHEEHAN:  It was at 4:00 this afternoon, just right before I came over here. 

MATTHEWS:  How long was it?

SHEEHAN:  It was about 20 minutes. 

MATTHEWS:  Alone with him? 

SHEEHAN:  I was with, yes, him and his staff.  And my sister and a constituent went with us. 

MATTHEWS:  Did you allow cameras in the room?  Did he? 

SHEEHAN:  He—no. 

MATTHEWS:  OK, let me ask you, what did he say to you?

SHEEHAN:  Well, I have a campaign going.  It‘s called Meet with the Moms.  And we have a few questions we‘re asking each senator and each Congress person. 

And he was ready with the letter.  He was ready with the answers.  What‘s the noble cause?  And he said just, you know, for freedom and democracy.  And then, how many more of our nation‘s children are you willing to risk, their lives are you willing to sacrifice, because it is a war based on lies?

MATTHEWS:  Good question.  What did he say? 

SHEEHAN:  He said that—he said, that‘s a hard question, because he hopes and prays every day that our children won‘t be killed.  But they are being killed every day.  We have had 40 killed in September so far.

And then another question is, what are you doing to bring our troops home from the nightmare of Iraq?  And he says that, you know, we‘re trying to train troops, which is really hard, you know, when they get blown to pieces just standing in line to—for the applications, you know?


SHEEHAN:  And I believe that the only people who support this war right now are—or this occupation—are the ones who are ill-informed or ones who have some kind of vested interest in keeping the occupation going.  And I don‘t think...

MATTHEWS:  What do you think is John McCain‘s vested interest?

SHEEHAN:  And I don‘t even know.  I don‘t even know. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, you said only people supporting the war have vested interests.

SHEEHAN:  Well, a vested interest in maybe if he is going to run for president, he thinks he has to look strong and looks like he‘s capable of...


MATTHEWS:  Are you a Democrat or Republican?  I have never gotten straight on...

SHEEHAN:  I have been a registered Democrat. 

MATTHEWS:  Why do you think Hillary Clinton doesn‘t oppose the war with any kind of passion?

SHEEHAN:  You know, I have gone after Democrats as strongly as Republicans. 


MATTHEWS:  I will go down the list, OK?


MATTHEWS:  You say the only people that support the war have a vested interest in supporting the war.

SHEEHAN:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, everybody who might conceivably run for the Democratic nomination in 2008 is backing this war. 


MATTHEWS:  In effect.  In effect. 


MATTHEWS:  Why are they doing it? 

SHEEHAN:  Because I believe that they feel like, if they don‘t, they will—the nation will perceive them as weak. 

But I believe that 62 percent of Americans know this war is wrong and they want our troops to start coming home.  It went over the halfway mark of people wanting them to come home now.  And I believe that that is the mood of America.  And I believe a strong leader will lead the way America wants them to.  And a strong—a good Democratic candidate has to stand up and say, it‘s a war based on lies.  We should never have gone there.  We shouldn‘t be there.  And let‘s lead our troops out. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Bill Clinton would, given the same circumstances of 9/11 and the situation with Iraq, refusing to really open its door to full inspections, do you believe that he would have gone to war in Iraq, Bill Clinton? 


SHEEHAN:  I believe—I believe Iraq was allowing the inspectors in. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Bill Clinton would have gone to war with Iraq? 

SHEEHAN:  I can‘t answer that.  I don‘t know. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you think Hillary Clinton would have done it? 

SHEEHAN:  From what she is saying, maybe. 


SHEEHAN:  Yes.  You know, saying that we need more troops...


MATTHEWS:  So, if you ran for office, how could you run on a Democratic ticket, a Democratic party label, when the leaders have failed to support your point of view?

SHEEHAN:  I think that that‘s why I‘m here, Chris. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, are you going to run for office on the Democratic line anywhere? 

SHEEHAN:  No, no, I‘m not going to, because I think I can do more good, like you said, holding their feet to the fire. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that you have succeeded in any way in making the war less—less supported by the American people? 

SHEEHAN:  Yes.  I believe our Camp Casey movement really called attention to it.  And I think that people were there.

MATTHEWS:  OK, last question. 

Do you believe that John Kerry—John McCain is any less hawkish now because he met with you today? 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Thank you very much, Cindy Sheehan.


MATTHEWS:  Thanks for coming over to HARDBALL. 

When we return, former FEMA Director Michael Brown blames local leaders and everybody for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina.  It‘s like Groucho Marx.  I will fight any man in the house for $1.  Much more on his testimony. 

Plus, how many other officials like Brown are there in the Bush administration?  They used to call them arses on golden horses, people that don‘t deserve what they got. 

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  Coming up, so how many other Michael Browns are there in the Bush administration?  And is the administration putting connections ahead of experience? 

HARDBALL returns after this. 


MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 

As we reported earlier in the show, things were fairly heated during the testimony of the former FEMA Director Michael Brown on Capitol Hill today.  Here is more from the hearing. 


BROWN:  I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences and work together.  I just couldn‘t pull that off.

REP. GENE TAYLOR (D), MISSISSIPPI:  You can try to throw as much as you can on the backs of Louisianians, but I‘m a witness as to what happened in Mississippi.  You folks fell on your face.  You get an F-minus in my book. 

SHAYS:  I want to know how you coordinated the evacuation. 

BROWN:  By urging the governor and the mayor to order the mandatory evacuation. 

SHAYS:  And that‘s coordinating? 

BROWN:  What would you like for me to do, Congressman? 

SHAYS:  And that‘s why I‘m happy you left, because that kind of, you know, look in the lights like a deer tells me that you weren‘t capable to do the job. 


MATTHEWS:  I hope those two guys don‘t meet in a dark alley.

Mike Allen of “TIME” magazine and Dana Milbank of “The Washington Post” are here.  Of course, who else did I fail to mention?  Howard Fineman is right here.

They were at the hearings this morning.

Let‘s talk about them.

Howard is, of course, NBC News analyst right now.

Let me ask you gentlemen, I had never seen anything quite that personal in a hearing lately, where—let me go with Mike Allen.  You‘re with “TIME” now. 

To slap it to the guy, saying, you look like a deer in the headlights.  They used to say that about Dan Quayle.  But here is a guy saying it to the guy‘s face.  And the way you look now is the reason you shouldn‘t have had that job. 

MIKE ALLEN, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  This was partly a show trial.


M. ALLEN:  Anybody who thought Michael Brown was going to pull a Houdini act and come off looking sympathetic was very surprised.

From the very beginning, he was combative.  I think a lot of people expected a mea culpa. 

MATTHEWS:  That would have worked.

M. ALLEN:  People have said on your show, you can get away with a lot if you show some humility or sorry—he came out from the beginning blaming others.  I think a photo you will see a lot in the papers tomorrow, him jabbing his fingers.  You heard the shutters go crazy. 

MATTHEWS:  Mike—Dana, I have got to say that, in Washington, have been here 30-some years—and we—Howard and I are buddies—I have to tell you, everybody in Washington—everybody agrees on this—nobody is ever late for a hanging in this town.  It‘s too good entertainment.  It‘s schadenfreude, joy through other‘s tragedy. 

Is this guy not being offered up, like when the Chinese in the ‘50s and the ‘60s would find some former bourgeois or whatever bad guy and haul him out and humiliate him in public?  Is this what is going on here, a show trial, as Mike put it? 


Yes, it is to an extent.  And, of course, you saw the chairman, Tom Davis, just enjoying it.  He was giving no time limits to the people who just heaped abuse on him. 

Now, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader, was boycotting this.  After you saw this horrendous piling on, you have to wonder exactly what she was thinking, because they came at him from all directions. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, let me ask you, Howard, this guy is not somebody who

happened upon this job.  There‘s a question here of how he became head of -

of disaster relief.  He is, of course, formerly known as head of the Arab racehorse association, or whatever it was, the Arabian Horse Association.  And that‘s not exactly perfect for the job. 

But he claimed that he had been successful in dealing with numerous hurricanes before.  He did have a defense to that.

HOWARD FINEMAN, NBC CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Well, there was an odd tone to what he said.  On the one hand, he said he had some successes. 

On the other hand, he sort of threw up his arms and said, hey, we were overwhelmed. 


FINEMAN:  I mean, at one point, he said, I will tell you up front, sir, we have a logistics problem at FEMA.  I knew the stuff I had.  I knew where I wanted to send the stuff.  But I never knew whether it got there or not. 

Do you remember that, Mike? 


FINEMAN:  That was an astonishing admission on the guy‘s part.  So, he was arrogant and defensive, while, at the same time, sort of pleading nolo contendere the rest of the time. 


MATTHEWS:  The question is, can the guy get a job anywhere else after that performance today? 

M. ALLEN:  Well, Chris Shays right after that said, you should have sounded the alarm if you knew that FEMA was this far gone.  And he made some reasonable points.  He talked about how FEMA doesn‘t have fire trucks.  But it was lost in blaming the media, blaming Democrats.


MATTHEWS:  Dana, I have complete trust in you and Howard, but I am going to go with you on this. 

Dana, is this a case where, behind the scenes, the deep history here is the administration, people like the vice president, the smart people downtown, Karl Rove, of course, who is always one of the smart people, had decided to offer this guy up?

MILBANK:  Well, if that‘s what...


MATTHEWS:  And let him be roasted in public, so that the president can get down there and do this stations of the cross he has been doing the last couple weeks, of going down there over and over and over again to make amends for not getting there faster?  Is this a plan to focus our attention on this little guy, this guy, this loser, basically, so he will take all the heat? 

MILBANK:  No.  I mean, if that was the plan, it didn‘t work. 

He started out, yes, blaming the Democratic officials in Louisiana and blaming the media.  But the more they scratched away at him, he said some very damning things about the administration.  He said, I was pleading for more money, but Tom Ridge was shifting it all away to other programs in Homeland Security.

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

MILBANK:  The OMB wasn‘t giving us the money we asked for.  He shifted it on to the White House. 


MATTHEWS:  Howard, is this the show that is being put on?  While the media and the Democrats—Republicans, rather, in this case—roast this guy over a spit, the president makes innumerable trips?  We had a guy on the show a minute ago who said, stop making trips.  Send the money. 

FINEMAN:  Chris, but the point is, this didn‘t work.  If they were roasting him on a spit, the guy didn‘t want to stay on the spit. 


FINEMAN:  And he was nasty and he was accusatory and he was damning...


MATTHEWS:  One guy he didn‘t blame.

FINEMAN:  Damning the administration.  He didn‘t blame the president directly by name. 

But I don‘t think it was helpful.  I think it...

MATTHEWS:  he blamed Chertoff, didn‘t he?

FINEMAN:  I think it was one of the worst—a bad political move by the White House to send that guy over there. 

M. ALLEN:  And to Howard‘s list, add sarcastic.  He said, oh, I‘m sorry I wasn‘t a superhero. 


MATTHEWS:  And, I‘m sorry.  Stop trying to confuse me and compare me to Giuliani. 

More with Mike—that was a tribute to Giuliani.

Howard Fineman, Dana Milbank, thank you,.

We will be back with all three guys.

This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 


MATTHEWS:  We‘re back with Mike Allen of “TIME” magazine, Howard Fineman of NEWSNIGHT, and Dana Milbank. 

Howard, what were we just talking about? 



MATTHEWS:  Yes, why did McCain agree to see Cindy Sheehan, and the president refused her a single interview? 


FINEMAN:  Well, as you pointed out, any time he can irritate the president, he is going to do it. 

What he is saying silently with that is, I am a bigger man; I can meet with anybody; I‘m a man of all of the people.  And, by the way, I appeal to independents. 


FINEMAN:  He‘s always keeping that in the back of his mind.

MATTHEWS:  In a way, he is more hawkish than this president on the war in Iraq. 

FINEMAN:  Yes.  That‘s right. 


MATTHEWS:  And yet he comes across as moderate.

FINEMAN:  It‘s brilliant.  He says, I want more troops and I will meet with Cindy Sheehan.  Perfect. 

MATTHEWS:  God.  That‘s powerful stuff. 

Let me ask you, Dana—what was I going to ask you about?  Something big. 

FINEMAN:  The Supreme Court.


MATTHEWS:  The Supreme Court.

Is the president going to—you had lunch today with Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general of the United States, and some other people.  Is he going to be picked for the next justice, associate justice? 

M. ALLEN:  We asked him if he knew who was, which, of course, he wouldn‘t answer.  He said that he has been prepping the president, helping choose his own person.  People were wondering if he is going to choose a Cheney.  I think we agreed among ourselves....


MATTHEWS:  ... pull a Cheney and pick himself.

M. ALLEN:  Exactly. 

I think we agreed among ourselves, a conservative woman.  The president indicated there was some diversity.  Conservative because the president is somewhat back on his heels right now.


M. ALLEN:  If you think like the White House...

MATTHEWS:  He‘s going to play to the base.

M. ALLEN:  And...

MATTHEWS:  Priscilla Owen, what do you think, a good bet? 


M. ALLEN:  And you want to look strong.  You punch back.

MATTHEWS:  Priscilla Owen.

And a woman can be a little further more conservative than a man and get by, right?

M. ALLEN:  You‘re right.

MATTHEWS:  Because she could play the Anita Hill here.  She could play that part.

Let me ask you—let me go right now to Dana.  Thank you very much, Dana.

You had a great piece in “The Post” today, if you enjoy the spectacle of 200 lobbyists showing up on Capitol Hill being hosted by Mel Martinez, the senator from Florida, so that they can sort of—it was like a tupperware sale, but, yet, the tupperware was all those billions of dollars they are going to get in relief money.

MILBANK:  And KBR, the Halliburton unit, was listed as a proud sponsor on the program there.  But...

MATTHEWS:  Why would Halliburton be so generous as to offer a platform for its competitors to come in and have a fest with the members Senate? 

MILBANK:  Well, Chris, they can‘t have no-bid contracts.  Halliburton needs to recruit more bidders for these things. 


MILBANK:  No, but there were plenty of corporations there and other associations. 

The bad news, they were told earlier on by Bill Frist, man, that there may only be $100 billion for the cleanup.  But one of the law firms there said, don‘t worry.  It will be even more than $200 billion. 

MATTHEWS:  Is the mood in Washington sort of a Cherokee Strip or a land rush kind of situation, where everybody wants to get their big handful of this money? 


I mean, it was little dispiriting to hear them talking about the hotel industry, talking about Mardi Gras in New Orleans again.  Everybody wants a little piece of the action.  A fellow standing at the back while they were all sipping on their china cups and eating their Danish was saying, it all looks a little crass, doesn‘t it?

MATTHEWS:  Who was the guy you quoted saying it‘s going to be a lot of money moving out of here?

MILBANK:  That was on of the—from the law firm that was also with the Halliburton unit, one of the sponsors.

MATTHEWS:  Well, let‘s be honest.  Don‘t you want Mardi Gras to come back?  I do. 

MILBANK:  I absolutely do.  I‘m not sure that is the top priority of the federal government right at the moment. 

M. ALLEN:  You should see Dana in beads. 


MATTHEWS:  No, I think it‘s great.  On one thing, I think that city should come back.  I love New Orleans.  I love it dearly and I hope that everybody gets to see it in their lifetime.  It‘s uniquely American.  It‘s part Third World.  It‘s part American.  It‘s different.  It‘s just different.

Anyway, thank you, Mike Allen.

And I mean that in a positive sense, part Third World. 

Anyway, Howard, always.

Thank you, Dana. 

And thank you, Mike.

Good luck on your new job at “TIME.” 


MATTHEWS:  Join us again tomorrow..


MATTHEWS:  Macy‘s talks to Gimbels here -- 5:00 and 7:00 tomorrow night, more HARDBALL.. 

Right now, it‘s time for “THE ABRAMS REPORT” with Dan. 


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

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


Discussion comments