Guests: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Dr. Norman Francis, John Barry, T. Martin, Clancy DuBos, Terence Blanchard, David Culpis
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I do. I‘m actually freezing right now on a balcony over the French Quarter in New Orleans.
KEITH OLBERMANN, “COUNTDOWN” HOST: Listen to that.
MADDOW: I will think Florida thoughts, yes. Thanks, Keith.
And a big happy Friday to everybody from New Orleans. And I got to say, it feels like the center of the known universe tonight.
Mardi Gras, 10 days away. The craze has already started. There‘s a mayoral election tomorrow and there is apparently a football game on some sort on Sunday, involving, I think, one of the local teams.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints? Who dat?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re going to the Super Bowl. Who dat?
CROWD: Who dat? Go Saints!
UNIDENTIFIED KID: The Saints going to the Super Bowl and I hope they win.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ain‘t got to be in Miami, but we‘re going to have our party right here in New Orleans. Go Saints! All the way! Whoo!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The success of the New Orleans Saints have turned a city that is always simmering up to a full boil—and I mean that in a good way. And that‘s why we‘re here.
I got to tell you, I am not a partisan for the game itself. I‘m a Patriots fan, but I‘m psyched. We‘re psyched and kind of the whole country is psyched for how psyched New Orleans is for its Saints.
And you do not have to give a rat‘s tukus about football to understand why.
New Orleans is a city that has hosted the Super Bowl nine times. It‘s going to be 10. But before this year, it‘s own team had never gone to the big game. The team has played 42 seasons. It‘s only had winning seasons in nine of those 42.
The team was founded in 1967. The Saints didn‘t win a playoff game until the year 2000. The Saints were so bad for so long and their fans nevertheless so loyal, that certain standards of public suffering were set in this town.
Having seen their guys lose the first 14 games of the 1980 season, for example, fans began showing up for games with brown paper bags over their heads calling themselves not the Saints, but the “aint‘s”.
The long suffering Saints fans love their team so much that they go to the airport to welcome their team home from away games. There are not many towns that love their teams like Saints‘ fans do. And there also aren‘t many who have suffered as long. And there may have never been a town as fired up about a football game as New Orleans is right now.
Am I right?
MADDOW: I think I‘m right.
Put it this way. The Saints are going to have a parade on Tuesday whether they win or lose on Sunday. Isn‘t that the way it should always be?
If the next mass at St. Louis Cathedral here resembles anything like it did two weeks ago, the pews will be filled with parishioners wearing Saints jerseys and other team gear, their Sunday vest for this occasion.
Soon to be 97-year-old retired Archbishop Phillip Hannan of New Orleans wrote the original prayer for the Saints back in 1968, right after the team was founded. Two weeks ago, he was praying in the owner‘s box during the game that led the Saints to the Super Bowl. Archbishop Hannan will be with the Saints‘ owner and the team in Miami for the big game. He says he‘ll be saying a similar prayer from the owners‘ box there on Sunday.
You know, New Orleans is being this excited and this unified and this party in the streets, hug strangers excited about anything, is an American story. And it‘s an American story because America is lucky enough to have New Orleans in it. But also because, as much as we haven‘t behaved like it always over the last 4 ½ years since the storm, as much as we haven‘t followed through on all the times that we‘ve said it in the last 4 ½ years since the storm.
As short as we‘ve fallen in making good on it, I am here to tell you that America wants New Orleans to be back and in a run-up to this big, dumb game, listen to that.
MADDOW: It totally feels like it is. Awesome. Who would be happier to be anywhere in the world right now.
Joining us now is Dr. Norman Francis. He‘s the president of Xavier University in Louisiana. He‘s also chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority and the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian award that we give in the United States.
Dr. Francis, thank you so much for being here.
DR. NORMAN FRANCIS, PRESIDENT, XAVIER UNIVERSITY OF LOUSIANA: Thank you for having me.
MADDOW: I really appreciate it.
FRANCIS: Thank you.
MADDOW: Now, how important do you feel like it is, with all you‘ve been involved in, in New Orleans, in Louisiana, at Xavier—how important is this game for this city?
FRANCIS: This is a very important game and it‘s not just a game. It‘s important to us because it speaks to our resilience, to our faith. I believe that things can happen when we work together.
I knew the Saints before they were the Saints. And it was a tough time for us in Louisiana. The NFL has just run out of town, because they wouldn‘t play in a city that was segregated. They wouldn‘t let them walk in the bars and the like. And yet, a year later, we stood before the owners. I have a friend who was standing next to the governor, McKiffen (ph), who gave the speech to the owner of the Saints and to say, New Orleans deserves a team and we‘ll be as great a team city as there is in this country.
So, on tomorrow night, we will have an affirmation of that pledge that we made to the—I said tomorrow night, Sunday night. And so, to me, it‘s almost like religion. And I guess what‘s more important than anything else, it brought us together—it brought us together on a cause, that we have and always been together on causes. We still aren‘t to some.
But on this one, look at the stands—rich, poor, young, old, white, black, we are together. So, it‘s important for me to be here with you to celebrate this great victory.
MADDOW: I think that—I mean, that story about the founding of the Saints, that the Saints had to essentially overcome segregation, had to overcome and make promises about desegregation in terms of the team that was going to be hosted here, you really feel like the team has made good on it, that the team does bring the city together in a way that.
MADDOW: . has advanced the city‘s interest.
FRANCIS: Absolutely. And what it does, it sets the template for us to come together and doing other things, more important things—doing things about health, on education, on housing and the like. I think what you think about it, put its context—remember that public accommodations law that just been passed in 1965. And we still weren‘t ready for it in many places. So, when this team came, it showed us that we can work together. We can be together on a common cause and respect each other.
MADDOW: You have really been—as you said—part of this team from the beginning. What was your personal involvement? At that point in your career, you had—you integrated Loyola Law School, you were the first black graduate from that law school.
MADDOW: In 1965 and 1966, when the team was coming here, what was your involvement?
FRANCIS: Well, in fact, I was at the governor and the teams that—with the team, to bring the team to New Orleans and then we served on an advisory committee which I had met them, because he needed New Orleans. He was a Texan and a like, he didn‘t know the culture. And we gave him that support.
But what was more important, my involvement, I was a part of the civil rights movement. I was a young lawyer. I was a counsel to a law firm with CORE. And for me, New Orleans shouldn‘t have a team that wasn‘t going to treat everybody like it should have. And when the governor made that commitment, we wanted people at every level of the franchise. Ticket pickers, people working here and there, which might not have happened had he not insisted that it happened.
And, again, the economics of this is got to be very important. You know, the South and New Orleans and a lot of other places—they understood it was not about black and white, but it‘s about green. It was about money. It started this.
So, I was in the very beginning of it and I was proud of that and I felt an obligation. I didn‘t have to do that, but I felt as an obligation because I knew that day was going to come like Sunday, where it took a long time but.
MADDOW: A really long time.
FRANCIS: Yes. It‘s just such a long time. But it was a teachable moment for us. That, you know, quitters never win and winners never quit. And that‘s just—that‘s—I think that‘s a tribute to New Orleans.
That‘s why people have rallied around this team.
This team was a—this team is a part of New Orleans. It‘s not a job just for them. But they are New Orleanians all the way.
MADDOW: Now, there‘s a lot going on in this city all at once. The mayoral election is tomorrow. How is the—how is the game, what‘s going on in this city, the excitement about the team overshadowed the mayoral election? Do you think that‘s going to have an impact on what happens to this?
FRANCIS: I hope not. But it could. I hope not because this is a very important election. I think we are at the cusp. Just like this game on Sunday, we can go up and down in this city. But if we get the kind of response we‘re get from the—from the Saints and we pull together, get the leadership that we want, we can go anywhere we want to go. And tomorrow could be very telling point in all of this.
And I worry about whether or not that will be a stumbling block of getting people out. But interestingly enough, at least 15,000 people have already voted—which is unheard of. Not absentee voting—going to the city hall and casting their ballots. So, that‘s a good sign. And I‘m hoping that everybody comes out tomorrow and says, “Here is what I want for leadership in this city.”
MADDOW: In terms of that mayoral race, briefly, the polling says that the front-runner is Mitch Landrieu. If he were elected, he would be the first white mayor in the city since his father a generation ago. And outside of city, the rest of the country is looking at New Orleans seize that race issue with the mayoral race, as the most important thing. Is that the same prism to which you look at here with.
FRANCIS: No, I just hope that that gets faded away like, the Saints, no “aint‘s” no more. That it‘s not a question of what the color of the man or the woman is, it‘s what they bring to the leadership of this city. And I have to say to you, I think this city is ready to do what they think is best and they‘re not going to make a decision on race. I honestly believe that. They shouldn‘t make it on race.
We fought too long to make race a back picture, not forgetting it, now. Race and gender still matter in this country. But this is not the time to vote on whether someone is either black or white or Hispanic. It‘s the time to find a leader. And who is that leader? They should decide that.
MADDOW: Dr. Norman Francis is the president of Xavier University here in Louisiana, the chairman of Louisiana Recovery Authority and recipient of one of our nation‘s Presidential Medals of Freedom.
It is an honor to have you on the show and it‘s nice to be here with you in New Orleans. But thank you, sir.
FRANCIS: A pleasure. Thank you very much.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right. All sorts of ground to cover. Melissa Harris-Lacewell is standing by with the viewers guide to the Super Bowl for people who don‘t usually care about football.
We took a visit to the river today to see what‘s up with the best known levees in the world. We have special cocktail moment. Grammy winner Terrence Blanchard and other forms of tremendous excitement all coming.
Plus, I‘m going to get a coat. Don‘t change the channel. We are live in New Orleans. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?
Who dat? Who dat?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They got babies up here. It‘s unsanitized up in here. It is bad up in here!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is footage that you have probably seen before of an outraged Hurricane Katrina evacuee at the Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In that aftermath, the Superdome became a worldwide symbol of everything but football when it was damaged in Hurricane Katrina. It hosted thousands of New Orleans residents seeking shelter from the storm and from the floods and when the obscene plight of those Americans laid bare the disastrous failing of our government‘s response to this disaster.
Well, 4 ½ years later, the Superdome has come to stand for something else—the rebuilding of New Orleans and the city‘s resilience and its (INAUDIBLE) -- much of that especially this year coming courtesy of the beloved hometown football team, NFC champion, Super Bowl underdogs, the New Orleans Saints. Who dat?
Now, look. I know. Most people who watch this program do not tune in for football stories. Gridiron coverage is not our strength. I know. I‘ve seen the audience research.
But consider this, consider Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Drew Brees joined the Saints as a free agent six months after Katrina. He immediately started giving back on the field by being an unexpectedly awesome player. And off the field with his Brees Dream Foundation, which has raised money that he‘s used to rebuild a New Orleans school and fund parks and youth programs here.
Then there‘s Saints linebacker Scott Fujita. The Saints named him Man of the Year this season, not just for his performance on the field but for his community service, his charitable works, like his support for an adoption agency here in New Orleans. Fujita has also put his marketability on the line—if you listen to critics—by repeatedly and publicly speaking out in favor of issues like abortion rights and gay rights.
And don‘t forget the other team, the Indianapolis Colts. Now, don‘t boo me you, guys.
The Colts is led by quarterback Peyton Manning, who is from New Orleans. He‘s playing against his hometown team. Peyton Manning‘s dad Archie was the quarterback here the year Saints fans started wearing bags on their heads and calling themselves the “aint‘s.” The Mannings still live here and Colts quarter Peyton gives back through both of these towns through his payback foundation supporting community organizations in New Orleans and in Indianapolis, including a children‘s hospital that bears his name.
Then there‘s Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who‘s raising funds for Haitian earthquake relief through his Helping Hands Foundation. Garcon eschewed his Colts cap on Super Bowl media day in favor of a Haitian flag bandana.
I‘m telling you, the Super Bowl this year, Saints v. Colts, is a totally un-cynical American feel-good story even if you hate football. You must love it. You must.
Joining us now is Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton. She‘s now also an MSNBC contributor.
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Hey.
MADDOW: Who dat?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Who dat?
MADDOW: Am I doing it right?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Who dat.
MADDOW: Who dat?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: A little more like, who dat.
MADDOW: It‘s not who dat, it‘s who dat?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Who dat?
MADDOW: All right. I‘ll work on it. I can work on it all day. Random people hugging in the streets and yelling at each other, it‘s very exciting.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: That‘s right. And then you say, we dat.
MADDOW: We dat? Oh, man, I‘m not that advanced.
All right. Now, honestly, no one should rightfully get all progressive politics psyched about professional sports. But—I mean, professional sports—I mean, it‘s an industry like any other and it‘s as corporate as any other corporation and all of those things. That said, I feel like, right now, in this game, we‘ve got a bunch of examples of players choosing to really do right with the celebrity that this game affords them, don‘t we?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Sure. Well, the thing is—I‘m not sure that I agree with the assessment that we shouldn‘t really think about progressive politics in sports.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: In fact, there‘s a lot of reasons to think about progressive politics in sports—particularly, let‘s look at the history of racial politics in America. The question of the integration of national professional sports, whether it‘s baseball or football, mattered a great deal just on a symbolic level. If we think about the black-fisted hands of Olympic athletes.
MADDOW: 1968, yes.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: . in 1968 in Mexico City, that was certainly not a change in policy or direction, but it was a way describing on an international stage what was going on in American politics. And again, if we think about, for example, Muhammad Ali, his choice not to submit to the draft of Vietnam, then we‘ll see that at important moments, in fact, politics and sports come right together.
MADDOW: Right. Right now, I‘m just thinking about that mention of Scott Fujita we did in the introduction there and I‘m thinking about Tim Tebow, who we learned tonight is not going to be in just one but two Super Bowl ads for Focus on the Family. He‘s obviously a very outspoken conservative Christian as a college player headed into the NFL.
Is there more room on the right than on the left for professional athletes and star athletes to be outspoken now?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: I don‘t think so. Remember that professional athletes are young people. You know, it‘s easy when we see them all in their—in their gear to think, oh, those are, you know, all these sort of grown men.
But for the most part, these are young men in their 20s, which means that, ideologically, they represent a very different demographic than what we might think of when we think of the NFL sort of owners association.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: So, I actually think there may be a great deal of room for both progressive politics and, of course, for conservative politics. I have real anxieties about this Focus on the Family commercial, but, on the other hand, I‘m deeply appreciative on the left of some of our more progressive players.
Well, your sort of adopted hometown is New Orleans. And your academic field of expertise is African-American politics, African-American studies. What I was talking about earlier with the president of Xavier University in terms of the—what New Orleans means to racial politics in New Orleans, New Orleans had to make a racial promise to the NFL in order to get this team. And one of the things that people from around the country like about the Saints right now—and it‘s nothing against the Colts, but it‘s the reason there‘s national excitement about the Saints is that it means something about this city being resilient and being back and being great and about their being—being a unifying force here across racial divide.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: That‘s right. I mean, anybody who follows me on Twitter knows that this is—this is where I spend half of my life.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: They probably know my partner is a candidate for mayor. And one of the things that we know in the politics of this city is that there has been way too much racial and class divisiveness. And one of the things that the Saints symbolize is the possibility of coming together for a common goal against racial divides, class divides, you know, uptown and downtown.
I was here the night that we won the NFC Championship and I was in these—in these streets. And I can say, it was amazing. People from all walks of life here in New Orleans, thousands of people in the streets, not one act of violence, not one act of vandalism.
MADDOW: That‘s right. Yes.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: It was a wonderful thing. So.
MADDOW: Melissa Harris-Lacewell, I know you‘re going to be up all night and campaigning all day.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: I got some t-shirts for you.
MADDOW: Oh, what do we got?
HARRIS-LACEWELL: This is from Dirty Coast, one of our local t-shirt organizations.
MADDOW: Awesome, very nice.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: And this is a t-shirt of my favorite mayoral candidate. I won‘t say who it is.
MADDOW: Very good. I know who it is.
Melissa Harris-Lacewell—good luck to you. Congratulations on everything so far. It‘s great to have you here. Thanks.
HARRIS-LACEWELL: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We‘re in New Orleans, in case, you can‘t tell. And when in New Orleans, there are two things that must be done: eating and drinking, as responsibly as possible, given how good the eating and drinking are here.
A little later on, we will have a very special cocktail moment in the town that literally gave birth to the fine arts. And Kent Jones will personally illustrate the craft of gluttony. Stick around. Whoo!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED SAINTS FAN: Saints at the Super Bowl, 44 years, you know, to get there, but we‘re there. I feel like it‘s 4 ½ years after Katrina, so we‘re rolling now. And we‘re going to win this game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At the time that Katrina hit New Orleans, the speaker of the House was a Republican named Denny Hastert. While rescue efforts were still underway after the storm, Denny Hastert told a local paper, quote, “It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed.” He also told the paper that it, quote, “doesn‘t make sense to me” to rebuild New Orleans.
Former President Bill Clinton was at an event talking about New Orleans and Katrina in September 2005 when someone told him what Denny Hastert had said. President Clinton responded by saying he was glad he wasn‘t with the speaker when Hastert made those comments because, quote, “I‘m afraid I would have assaulted him.”
I sort of feel that way now just hearing it 4 ½ years later. But what gave rise to Mr. Hastert‘s dramatically offensive comments was the perceived futility of protecting New Orleans from nature. When New Orleans was founded by the French in 1718, the city was on high ground, miles inland, protected from storms and storm surges by miles and miles of wetlands and marshes and barrier islands and coasts—the things that suck up the power of hurricanes, that roar in over water and die out over land.
New Orleans isn‘t vulnerable to storms and floods because it was a bad idea to put the city here in the first place. It‘s what we did to the land once we already had a city here that made it so dangerous. Over the years, an area of coast the size of Delaware, about 2,300 square miles, has just disappeared in southern Louisiana. It‘s just eroded into the Gulf of Mexico.
A football-size—football-field-size piece of land—a piece of land the size of a football field every 50 minutes just gets dissolved into the sea here, and with it, New Orleans‘ natural protection from hurricanes. The Mighty Mississippi and all the sediment it carries used to take care of replenishing the land lost to erosion. But everything we‘ve done to try and use to control and protect ourselves from that river over the years, from here in New Orleans, all the way upstream to places as far plunge as Montana and the Dakotas, all of that has resulted in the river not being able to do that job anymore.
New Orleans—I‘m not kidding—is 20 miles closer to the Gulf of Mexico than it used to be.
Luckily, Denny Hastert did not get to decide about New Orleans rebuilding after Katrina. We‘re doing it.
To find out if we‘re doing it right, I went to the levees and the floodwalls today with John Barry, who is named chair of the bipartisan flood control working group here after Katrina. He also carries a really cool badge as a levee commissioner.
JOHN BARRY, NEW ORLEANS LEVEE COMMISSIONER: This area is sort of the point of the spear for the entire world. You know, what we do here is going to be a model, whether it‘s a model to be avoided or to be imitated remains to be seen.
But one of the things that gives this area a chance - a good chance against rising sea level, is the fact that this is a live, living, dynamic system. The marsh is alive. And if you give the marsh sediment from the river and freshwater, it will actually rise as sea level rises. So that buffer will, it can build.
MADDOW: It can come back, it lives. Yes.
MADDOW: Well, in terms of the decisions that have been made post-Katrina, are we being smarter? Are we doing—are we making better decisions than the decisions that brought us to this point?
BARRY: Well, I think, for one, we are intending the consequences now instead of suffering from unintended consequences.
BARRY: You know, we‘re certainly—you know, the thinking process in infinitely advanced from where it was. We‘re still pretty far behind the eight ball on the political process.
MADDOW: When people talk about the Dutch - they say the Dutch have protected themselves against a 10,000 year storm. And then I hear that our great ambition ...
BARRY: One hundred-year protection.
MADDOW: ... is 100 years protection.
BARRY: Yes. Yes.
MADDOW: Are we not aiming high enough? It does not sound we‘re aiming high enough.
BARRY: We‘re not aiming high enough. However, the Dutch don‘t face the kinds of storms that we face. Sure, the equivalent of the strongest storm they need to protect against really is more of a Category 1 hurricane. And here, we face Category 5. We probably could not afford to protect us all against a 1,000-year event. But a 100-year event a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for us, standard. And that‘s not just here, that‘s levies throughout the United States built to 100-year standard.
MADDOW: Was Katrina a 100-year storm?
BARRY: Well, I mean, Katrina was a great storm, but what flooded New Orleans was actually simply design failures by the corps of engineers when the levy system, the flood walls collapsed on the drainage canals. They weren‘t even overtopped. The water was two feet below the top and they just gave way. So that was a design issue.
MADDOW: Is it because of where they were built and what they were? Or is it because they were designed poorly?
BARRY: Poor design primarily. The flood walls that collapsed in Katrina were designed during the Reagan administration when, I guess, when the government can do anything right and they went out to prove it.
MADDOW: John, tell me where we are right now and what happened here after Katrina.
BARRY: We‘re standing at the industrial canal levy. The water came over the top of a wall similar to this. We didn‘t have a concrete apron then.
What you had was grass. The water pouring over the top went into the
ground, ate away at the ground. Took away -
MADDOW: The footing from the wall.
BARRY: Exactly, and the wall fell down.
MADDOW: And this area of houses and everything - this was devastated.
BARRY: Totally devastated. We‘re talking about a wall of water 20, 25 feet, moving very fast. It just completely washed through the lower ninth ward.
MADDOW: What if that was preventable? Should the storm surge never have come up the canal? Should the flood walls have been built differently so that overtopping them wouldn‘t have been catastrophic?
BARRY: Well, had there been an apron, it would not have been catastrophic, the overtopping. But the real protection for the system is being built a few miles from here to prevent the Gulf of Mexico from coming into the waterway. Once the surge barrier is built, this area should be pretty safe.
MADDOW: There is that surge barrier. Do you think it‘s state-of-the-art?
Do you think it‘s built right?
BARRY: Oh, yes. Yes. That‘s one of the wonders of the world right now.
The corps of engineers is extremely proud of that construction, I think so.
MADDOW: Are you confident in this construction? As people move back into this neighborhood, should they feel safe because of this wall?
BARRY: Well, to be honest, this construction is perfectly sound and well done. However, the parts of the system that did not breach in most of the flood walls along the industrial canal and the GIWW did not breach, very little has been done to them.
MADDOW: So the stuff that actually was destroyed is in better shape now because it‘s been rebuilt ...
MADDOW: ... to today‘s standards with oversight. The stuff that wasn‘t destroyed hasn‘t been shored up well enough.
BARRY: Well, that‘s correct. However, the surge barrier that is under construction should take care of that. It‘s pretty nervous for each hurricane season since Katrina. And this next one will be the last one, I think, when we‘re going to have to worry about it for this part of the city.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Our thanks again to John Barry. John is a levy commissioner here in New Orleans. He is chair of the bipartisan flood control working group. His bestselling book on the great Mississippi flood of 1927 which, among other things, gave us the good levies that some of which did hold. That book is called “Rising Tide,” and it‘s great. I‘ve been reading it in preparation for this trip.
While the biggest super bowl party has been cranking up here in New Orleans, a slightly smaller, somewhat more expensive tea party is going on in Nashville. The party sounds pretty good down there.
In Nashville, it‘s slightly smaller, but the things that have been coming out of the mouths of the key speakers up in Nashville - I‘m telling you they make “who dat” sound like sophisticated political discourse. The highlights of the lowlights, coming up. And just a reminder, there will be cocktails right here very soon. Please stick around.
MADDOW: It was right here in America that the cocktail was invented, thank god. And in America, it was right here in New Orleans that the inventing began. Coming up on this very show, a cocktail mixing exhibition featuring the all-time New Orleans classic.
And we something way more than honored and psyched to have the great Terence Blanchard with us tonight. Stick around for serious music from New Orleans.
But first, a couple of holy crawfish stories in today‘s political news. The much-maligned national tea party convention is underway today in Nashville. This is the one that is for profit. Tickets cost over $500.
Described as “something that smells scammy” by right-wing Web site, “Red State,” the convention lost many of its sponsors and two members of Congress due to speak at the event.
Republicans Michele Bachmann and Marcia Blackburn pulled out. Sarah Palin is still due to address the confab tomorrow. She‘s reportedly being paid a six-figure speaking fee to do so.
The opening speech last night was given by failed presidential candidate, ex-congressman and professional anti-immigrant, Tom Tancredo who started the event off with a bang, a big loud racist bang.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO): Mostly because I think we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in the country, people who could not even spell the word, “vote,” or say it in English, put a committed, socialist ideologue in the White House. The name is Barack Hussein Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just for reference here, when Tom Tancredo talks about literacy tests, that‘s what they used in the south to keep black people from voting before civil rights legislation and court rulings put a stop to that.
So the convention opened with a clarion call to bring back the literacy tests for voting. And as you could hear, the tea party convention crowd erupted in cheers at the suggestion, although, to be fair, it was sort of hard to tell exactly what the sounds coming from the crowd meant. They were sort of a little bit muffled by, you know, the white hoods.
And we have a new frontrunner in the GOP‘s unofficial obstructionist of the year pageant. The new favorite is Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. According to a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Shelby is personally holding up all of the president‘s nominees. All of them. We‘re talking more than 70 people.
Does Sen. Shelby think all 70-plus nominees are horribly unqualified, unprepared for their jobs, bad for the country in some way? Not at all. The nominees themselves are just political hostages and Sen. Shelby is looking for a deal.
His office told the “New York Times” today, quote, “Sen. Shelby has placed holds on several pending nominees due to unaddressed national security concerns.” Adding that the senator “would be willing to discuss his concerns with the Obama administration at any time.”
Of course, when that spokesperson says several pending nominees, he means all of them, more than 70 of them. And when he says national security concerns he means that the senator is actually concerned about funding for an earmark in his home state and an air force tanker contract that could go to a company that‘s given a ton of money that has interest in his home state.
In other words, it‘s Alabama pork. When asked to comment on the story, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “I guess if you needed one example of what‘s wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government work better because he didn‘t get his earmarks. I fear there won‘t be a greater example of silliness throughout the entire year of 2010.”
Oh, Robert Gibbs, just you wait. The year is still very young and so is the night. We will be right back from the French quarter and “who dat” nation right after this.
MADDOW: We‘re in New Orleans and the French quarter. It‘s the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW live. We‘re having a wonderful time. And two of the greatest things that have been ever been invented in American culture were invented in New Orleans. One of them, jazz, another one, cocktails.
And here to help us understand the history of the cocktail and the crucial role of New Orleans in that history is T. Martin. So happy to have you here. Thank you so much for being here.
T. MARTIN: I‘m crunked to be here.
MADDOW: Crunked to be here? I have so much to learn.
MARTIN: Thanks. Thanks.
MADDOW: You‘re a member of the family which is - owns restaurants all over New Orleans. You are the proprietor of the legendary Commander‘s Palace. Everybody said that if I wanted to have a Sazerac made and to have it explained, it had to be you. So tell me about the Sazerac.
MARTIN: this town invented the cocktail and who knows if we would ever have jazz if we hadn‘t had the cocktail first. So anyway, we‘re going to do it with a little absinthe, OK? You know about absinthe?
MADDOW: Absinthe? Not herb (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
MARTIN: Well, actually, I brought both.
MARTIN: We could try it later if you want to. So we‘re going to put all that and we‘re going to ice our glass. You know about that, right?
MADDOW: Right. You go to somebody who makes the cocktail (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and they got the ice, you know, in the glass. So we‘re just going to put that on the side.
MADDOW: So a little absinthe and ice in the glass on the side, OK?
MARTIN: Absolutely. Sazerac rye whisky.
MARTIN: You‘re a rye whiskey kind of a gal.
MADDOW: I know just from looking at the shape of the bottle, that‘s the six-year-old one. That‘s embarrassing.
MARTIN: So if you were making yourself one, how many ounces would you do?
MADDOW: Oh, 17 or 18.
MARTIN: So, we‘ll make two. Here we go. There‘s a little glass over there for you. It‘s got the recipe on it in case you forget.
MADDOW: Oh, there is?
MARTIN: Always have the recipe while you‘re making it.
MADDOW: Oh, my god. That is so clever.
MARTIN: The whole thing came into town was we had the port and so we had sugar here. And absinthe came into the port. You know, we had a guy named Antoine Peychaud(ph). And he was like in an apothecary, like a pharmacy.
And he was making little things to help heal you in his pharmacy and two-sided egg cup called a coquetier and the slurred words of the imbiber turned “coquetier” into cocktail, or so legend has it. Anyway, and you have to have Peychaud‘s bitters to make it. But I‘m going to put a little bit of simple syrup.
MARTIN: You know, a couple of ounces if I can actually get into the glass.
MADDOW: A little bit of syrup. All right.
MARTIN: A little bit of that -
MADDOW: So this is the rye with a little bit of simple?
MARTIN: All right. They were a little bit Peychaud.
MADDOW: Peychaud -
MARTIN: So you have to have that. So we‘re going to do a little extra because we‘ve got a couple.
MARTIN: Some people say - my friend Dale and some would say, you don‘t do Angostura in New Orleans where it was invented. We‘ve actually been doing Angostura a whole lot.
MADDOW: You do both Peychaud‘s bitters and Angostura. Be still by heart.
MARTIN: Well, there you go.
MADDOW: Oh, my god. This is a whole new (UNINTELLIGIBLE). OK.
MARTIN: So then we are just going to stir.
MADDOW: All right.
MARTIN: We are going to get a little ice in there.
MADDOW: And because this does not have like a fruit juice or an egg or anything, it‘s OK to stir and not shake.
MARTIN: Exactly. It‘s better.
MADDOW: If you want clarity, it‘s better to stir.
MARTIN: It‘s sort of classier. You know what I‘m saying?
MADDOW: You have a nice clear cocktail.
MARTIN: You know, we don‘t really need to bruise anything, you know what I‘m saying? All right. So then all we‘re going to do is strain it. But first, we‘ve got to lose this, right?
MADDOW: That‘s our absinthe and ice.
MARTIN: We want to keep a little in there.
MARTIN: And then we got a little bit going on in there. All right. So here we go. We strain in here.
MADDOW: Oh, that‘s a beautiful thing.
MARTIN: Let‘s see if we can strain a little bit. We didn‘t chill that with acid though. That‘s not good.
MADDOW: It‘s all right.
MARTIN: All right. Is that going to be good?
MADDOW: We‘re going to - OK.
MARTIN: All right. It‘s a little sip, but hang on. We‘re not ready. So then you‘ve got to take your lemon peel that you peeled and you‘ve got go over it, because you‘ve got to get that little oil going there. Then you‘ve got to get that all on the edge - over the edge.
MADDOW: And then drop it in.
MARTIN: Drop it in. You just want a little thing like that. You don‘t want those big ones.
MADDOW: So (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Martin. Sazerac. Thank you.
MARTIN: Thanks for being in New Orleans. We love you.
MADDOW: Thank you. So happy to be here. This is my friend, Kent Jones.
T. Martin -
MARTIN: Hello, hello, hello.
KENT JONES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: How are you?
MADDOW: Kent, you spent the day eating?
JONES: That‘s right. Now, cocktails are all well and good, but I have been initiated into the wonder and majesty of the po boy.
MADDOW: Oh, god. All right. Let‘s see it.
JONES: Oh, so good.
MADDOW: All right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLANCY DUBOS, “GAMBIT NEWSPAPER”: Well, in New Orleans, it‘s all about the food. And the po boy is the quintessential New Orleans sandwich. And the rest of the country, they call it a sub, but there‘s no comparison.
DUBOS: First of all, po boy is made with real French bread, which can only be made in New Orleans. Anywhere else, it doesn‘t come out right. You‘ve got to have the right amount of crunchiness on the outside, the right amount of softness on the inside. It‘s going to stand up to this kind of roast beef and gravy.
JONES: OK. You‘ve got the roast beef, cheese and the gravy?
JONES: Go for it. OK. I‘ve got a question. How do you know when you‘ve
got a great one? Because a lot of people -
DUBOS: it‘s the napkins. We rate our po boys by how many napkins it takes you to eat it, because it‘s all full of gravy and you don‘t want to be sloppy.
JONES: May I?
DUBOS: By all means.
JONES: OK, here we go. Yes, here it comes.
DUBOS: This is about 14 napkins po boy right here, which is really good.
JONES: Oh, my god. This is completely tremendous. Now, I have something here called the surf and turf, which is roast beef and fried shrimp dressed. So that means we have lettuce, tomatoes and pickles on this. Here it goes.
Oh, drippy and wonderful. I‘m in awe of this sandwich. But tell me why you brought me to this particular place.
DUBOS: There are literally hundreds of good po boy places in New Orleans.
This happens to be the one that‘s in the neighborhood where I work.
DUBOS: People are fiercely loyal to their neighborhood here in the mid-city area of New Orleans. Our newspaper‘s office is in the mid-city. When you want to get a po boy, you come to parkway.
The quintessential neighborhood restaurant in New Orleans has a bar and a po boy shop. And one is as essential to the other as can be. You can‘t really have a good po boy shop without a bar. If you have a good neighborhood bar, you‘ve got to serve food.
JONES: Bar -
DUBOS: And the food is po boy.
JONES: Bar and po boy shop, that‘s life.
DUBOS: If I ever get stranded on an island, all I need is a po boy and a beer or root beer.
JONES: Or root beer.
DUBOS: And I‘m good. I‘m good.
JONES: I‘m with you. Cheers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Kent Jones spent the day eating. That was Clancy DuBos from the “Gambit” newspaper. Obviously, we‘re having a great time. We‘ll be right back with the one and only Terence Blanchard. We‘re live in New Orleans. Oh, my god. Cheers.
MADDOW: We are back live in New Orleans. . We are back live in New Orleans on the streets of the French quarter. I‘m Rachel Maddow here at THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. And we‘re about to do something really cool.
Four-time Grammy winner Terence Blanchard - Terence Blanchard is here.
Thank you so much.
TERENCE BLANCHARD: Thank you. I‘m happy to be here.
MADDOW: And David Culpis(ph) is here as well. We are not a high-rent enough operation to deserve you guys being here, I‘ve got to tell you. And it‘s such an honor.
BLANCHARD: Same here.
MADDOW: We‘re here because of the Saints and because the city is so excited about the Super Bowl. How important is it to you as a musician?
BLANCHARD: Oh, it‘s amazing. I mean, you know, this whole ride we‘ve been on this entire season with the saints has been a godsend for us. I mean, and you look around here and see the resiliency of this the city.
It speaks volumes about our trust and our faith in our own community because like you said earlier, some people were questioning whether we should even rebuild the city.
MADDOW: That‘s right.
BLANCHARD: You see why we should rebuild the city.
MADDOW: That‘s right.
BLANCHARD: One of the things I want to just say, you know, at the end of the last game, when we had the big celebration here in the French quarter all around the city, we had no incidents. Everybody came together and had a great time together sharing and enjoying the whole situation.
MADDOW: A lot of people have talked to me since I‘ve been here today about how important the arts are to the city ...
MADDOW: Not only to the city coming back and the future economy of the city, but to the resilience of the city making it through all of this time. You‘ve done some heavy stuff about what the city has been through in the past five years. Has it been hard for you? Has it been cathartic? Has it been both?
BLANCHARD: It‘s been all of the above. It‘s been very cathartic. You know, I did an album a few years ago entitled “Tales about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)” which is about the whole incident and the aftermath of Katrina.
And I always tell people that I didn‘t really create that album. The citizens of New Orleans created that album. I felt like I was a representative, so to speak. Because to me, it was just about purging and really chronicle what happened in the aftermath of the hurricane.
MADDOW: Do you feel as musicians, and David Culpis(ph), you, too, do you feel that the city is supporting its arts community, supporting its musicians and knows that music in New Orleans is part of New Orleans coming back?
DAVID CULPIS(ph), MUSICIAN: I do. I think it‘s very important and I think the city knows it‘s important. Without us - I mean, we are the culture of the city. And if we don‘t come back to help rebuild it, there will be no city.
So I think it‘s very important that they continue to embrace us and realize that - for the uniqueness of what we bring to the city.
MADDOW: Yes. Well, gentlemen, as I said, it is truly an honor to have you both here. I had hoped that you would honor all of us right here and everybody watching at home by playing us a little something.
MADDOW: All right. Live in New Orleans, Terence Blanchard, David Culpis.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
MADDOW: Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Dave, thank you so much.
CULPIS(ph): Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: You guys so honor us with this. It‘s so great. Everybody, thank you so, so much for coming out.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
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