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'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for September 6

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guest: Mike Parker, John Breaux, Joe Riley, Eric Holdeman, Howard Safir, K.C. Bolton, Aaron Broussard

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST:  Tonight, the three R‘s of Hurricane Katrina:
recovery, saving the living and finding the dead in New Orleans; response, making sure who is in charge and making doubly sure this doesn‘t happen again; reconstruction.  The pumps are working and they‘re plugging the levees, but how should we rebuild New Orleans? 
Let‘s play HARDBALL.  
Good evening.  I‘m Chris Matthews. 
President Bush declared that he will lead an investigation into what went wrong with the response to Hurricane Katrina.  Today, rescuers in the storm-ravaged coast are still saving people stranded by the storm.  They‘re also facing the grim task of finding and lifting bodies out of their watery graves.  Levees are getting fixed.  Water is getting pumped out of New Orleans. 
But big issues remain.  We‘re still in the middle of hurricane season down there.  At least one tropical storm is already brewing off the coast of Florida.  Is the country prepared for another disaster or the worst-case scenario?  What happens if terrorists seize this opportunity?  What needs to be done to fix the emergency preparedness problems so tragically and visibly obvious in the government‘s response to Katrina?  And who should be the boss?  Finally, how should historic New Orleans be rebuilt? 
Let‘s begin tonight with NBC News correspondents on the ground, starting with “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in New Orleans. 
Brian, how does it look today down there, in the big city that was hit so hard? 
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR:  Well, after two days up north, Chris, we returned to this story today and en route here passed through a place I guess a lot of Americans now know, if they didn‘t before, Jefferson Parish, a lot of roads we hadn‘t been down before, for that matter, a lot of stretches of roads that people aren‘t yet allowed down. 
And, of course, you see another view of this.  Right now, the city of New Orleans is probably best described as the military district of New Orleans, the way they used to refer to Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, interestingly, because we haven‘t moved as many Americans around the United States since the time of the Civil War.  U.S. Navy ships in the harbor, it‘s a sight you have to kind of get used to, not connected with some national holiday, more of them stacked up like jet aircraft over O‘Hare. 
You see what look like almost casual gun emplacements downtown, as various regular Army and National Guard posts have sprung up on an impromptu basis.  What you don‘t see are people, commerce, happiness.  You do see some awful sights.  And, as the water recedes, I suspect it will get even worse. 
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about some of those historic sites down there.  You were able to walk down by that wonderful new D-Day museum down there.  What shape is that in? 
WILLIAMS:  Well, I was saying to a local police officer about 10 minutes ago, what I wouldn‘t do for bananas foster for dessert at Brennan‘s Restaurant or just to walk through the Quarter and hear the French Quarter the way it should be heard. 
But the museum you referenced, the brainchild, really, of the late historian and author Stephen Ambrose, our friend Tom Brokaw was there for the dedication, the repository of that great gear, the Higgins boat, everything that won the Second World War for our side in Europe, it looks like—and I haven‘t been in it yet, but it looks like the damage is, so far, superficial, some plate glass is broken.  Like everyplace, it‘s—I‘m sure has water damage. 
But let‘s hope that great gear, that great—those great hunks of
metal that helped to defeat the Nazi cause in Europe have not fallen to a
hurricane here on the East Coast.  But this time, the difference is, those
· the pieces of beach machinery, I‘m afraid the beach in effect was brought to them. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, it doesn‘t look like it‘s the beginning of the end of this tragedy, but is it, as Churchill once said, the end of the beginning yet?  Do you have a sense that the horror has been felt fully yet? 
WILLIAMS:  Well, I think this is the week.  Americans were just catching up on the day-to-day coverage last week. 
The people of this city, remember, have not yet seen the coverage, so many of them.  At the airport, a family I ran into being moved to Los Angeles to start a new job, he is a chef at a yacht club that burned to the waterline last week.  They haven‘t seen the televised pictures.  They saw their first newspaper yesterday.  Boy, will that hammer home, what has happened to their city. 
There are no jobs here.  The infrastructure is shot.  And the one thing New Orleanians don‘t want is to come back here some day to Disney World, to fake facades on buildings trying to make it the way it once was.  What makes this place go is its authenticity, is hearing French on American streets, as you know.  So, the road ahead is a tough one.  I think this is probably realization week for New Orleans.
MATTHEWS:  Elaine Chao, the secretary of labor, said this afternoon, in a very bright note—I wonder if it seems bright down there—that the reconstruction of New Orleans is going to create 25,000 new jobs.  In other words, these working folk, a lot them we saw stranded in front of the Convention Center, are being told they will have jobs to come back to. 
WILLIAMS:  Well, “The New York Times”‘ op-ed page this weekend talked about the great waiters in this town who smoke cigarettes between orders in front of their restaurants with their white aprons around the front of them. 
Where are they going to be while those 25,000 new reconstruction jobs come in town?  Yes, that‘s a silver lining, and, yes, a new job is a good job, especially when economic times are tough.  It‘s what it‘s going to build, and it‘s what happens to the standing population of New Orleans, the only thing that made the Big Easy go.
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you a tough question. 
President Bush—last question.  The president said today in his Cabinet meeting that he‘s going to conduct an investigation of what went right, as he put it, and what went wrong, in terms of the initial response last week at all levels of government and all kinds of government levels, I should say, to this disaster down there.  Do you think that is going to sit well with the victims? 
WILLIAMS:  I think—and the president‘s words were relayed to me. 
We were traveling when they were spoken. 
I think what that means is the kind of commission we have become accustomed to. 
MATTHEWS:  Right. 
WILLIAMS:  Nine-eleven, the Tower Commission. 
Now, it‘s when those reports come out, as you know better than I do, Chris, that whether they are followed or not, whether heads roll.  I‘m looking at the polling, two big polls out yesterday, as to whether the president gets the blame for this, ultimately, the Truman-esque “Buck stops here.”
And I think your question has to be put off, not trying to defer.
WILLIAMS:  It‘s just too changeable still. 
MATTHEWS:  I think people have to settle these things in their own mind over time, too.  I agree with you completely.
Brian, great report. 
MATTHEWS:  Good luck as you walk through the city.  I hope—I hope things begin to look better than they do right now.
WILLIAMS:  We hope so.  Thanks...
MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, Brian Williams, anchor of “The Nightly News.” 
Now to another hard-hit area, Mississippi, and NBC‘s Ron Blome, who is in Mississippi. 
Ron, what‘s the latest on the recovery effort down there?  I see you in front of all that rubble. 
RON BLOME, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, first, let me just say that fishing boat behind me never made it past the nine-foot clearance at the drive-thru at the Regions Bank.  But the water was above that.  That‘s not even a high watermark.  It was 12-feet deep here.
And that wave, that storm surge, was across 85 miles of the coast.  It‘s a tough comeback, but they say they‘re making progress.  Number one, the power is going to be on to every residence that can attach to it by the end of the weekend.  That‘s incredible that they can do that in less than two weeks.
The second point is, they‘re moving into just the recovery phase.  They pulled out four more bodies yesterday.  So, the official death toll is now 143.  The Salvation Army is up and running, serving 60,000 hot meals a day.  The local officials here are giving high praise to the National Guard.  They say the Army Guard units are getting food and water into the hard-to-reach areas.  And they say the Guardsmen in Gulfport are doing an incredible job.  They‘re gagging their way through the cleanup of container load after container load of rotting poultry and pork that has been spilled out along the beach there and in neighborhoods.
They almost thought they might have to evacuate Gulfport yesterday.  And the head of emergency services said, we are coming back quicker and stronger because everyone from America has come here to help us. 
MATTHEWS:  Ron, when you look around at the relief efforts, do they tend to be more private-sector efforts or government efforts? 
BLOME:  We‘re seeing a lot of private sector in here, not to diminish what is happening, because over at the Stennis Space Center, it‘s like an international airport now, with all the relief supplies coming in. 
But this is so broad.  This is 85 miles of Mississippi.  But you can‘t possibly get all of the resources in to, like, Punta Gorda, where they did, where you had a smaller, confined area, right away.  To me, after doing many of these storms, the federal response is lagging behind by four or five days or more and continues, even with all of the massive amount of aid.
It is the citizens from Florida, the sheriff‘s association from Florida, that everybody is turning to and saying, thank God they‘re here, because they‘re helping us out through this while we wait for the full force of the federal effort to kick in. 
MATTHEWS:  Well said.
Let me ask you about the comparison.  So many people in Mississippi and elsewhere who have grown up through it, in their college years in the case of the governor down there, refer to Camille all the time.  This is worse than Camille.  It‘s like people who lived after World War II.  Everything was before and after the war. 
Is this as bad as Camille in terms of the body count? 
BLOME:  It will be.  I mean, it‘s not yet, but it will be, no doubt, by the time they do it.  The Mississippi Wildlife who are people working in these airboats along the coast are predicting it will run into the hundreds.  I have heard even higher numbers. 
I hate to go there.  I think it‘s a little irresponsible yet to say, just because all these people are missing...
BLOME:  ... because 17,000 are still in shelters.  So, you don‘t want to go that far yet.  But Camille didn‘t go nearly this broad.  Camille didn‘t do this.
Somebody had spray-painted on the roof of their house over at Pass Christian, “Camille who?” 
MATTHEWS:  So, this is the big one.
BLOME:  Very big. 
This is Camille and Andrew and the Missouri River floods all rolled into one and all laid out across 85 miles of coastline. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, thanks again, once again, NBC‘s Ron Blome in Biloxi. 
Coming up, we have talked about recovery.  Now let‘s talk about response.  That‘s the big word now, response.  Is Hurricane Katrina—it was, of course, a test of America‘s preparedness systems.  Why didn‘t it work?  And can it be fixed in time for the next catastrophe?  That‘s what we have to look at.  Ahead, we will talk to the head of Jefferson Parish, who has been very critical of the slow response this time.
Plus, the latest on President Bush‘s plans.  He says that he will lead an investigation into what went wrong, what went right. 
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.  
MATTHEWS:  Still to come, saving the living and finding the dead in New Orleans.  Plus, President Bush vows to investigate what went wrong and what went right—when HARDBALL returns. 
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 
Perhaps no one personified the exasperation and unbearable sadness of the people hit by Hurricane Katrina than the president of Jefferson Parish, adjacent to New Orleans, Aaron Broussard.  Here he is on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. 
AARON BROUSSARD, JEFFERSON PARISH PRESIDENT:  Nobody is coming to get us.  Nobody is coming to get us.  The secretary is calling us.  Everybody is calling us.   They‘ve had press conferences.  I‘m sick of the press conferences.  For God‘s sakes, shut up and send us somebody.
MATTHEWS:  Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard is with me now on the phone. 
Mr. President, thank you for—for joining us right now.  You were in bad shape in terms of what was happening over there.  How is it happening today and Tuesday?  Is it any better? 
BROUSSARD:  Well, you know, you‘re now starting to see the type of relief that we expected from the beginning.
With the declaration declared in advance of a hurricane, you certainly would have expected that to mean that everything was ready to come your way.  It never came our way.  It is coming our way now.  This is the kind of relief I would have expected.  FEMA is here.  They are embedded.  I have been meeting with FEMA officials the last couple of days.  They seem to be very dedicated to helping us save the lives that we still need to save.
In my parish, I have the prospect of people starving to death in their homes.  I am trying to identify them now.  FEMA, the Red Cross is here now.  All of the elements that I thought would have been in place before, they are here now.  So, for me, it‘s about trying to save the lives that still can be saved.  And that‘s what I‘m focusing on now. 
MATTHEWS:  Tell me how you‘re getting food to the people who desperately need it. 
BROUSSARD:  Well, what I have decided to do, based on my school board experience, is, I‘m taking the elementary schools, which are typically built in the middle of neighborhoods within walking distance of large populations.
And I‘m using the elementary schools and I have created a program Called Operation Lifeline Depot.  And in these elementary schools, I‘m putting food and water with the Red Cross and FEMA.  And I‘m also putting in there medical services that have been dedicated by the state of Maryland.  I asked for MASH units forever and never got them.  But I am getting the state of Maryland and the governor there in Maryland—excuse me—I‘m brain-dead—Mr.—Governor Eckert (sic) was kind enough to send us 170 doctors, nurses, EMSes, the rescue teams. 
They‘re all down here.  And I commandeered a hospital this morning that was vacant and I put them up there.  And they are going to be embedding themselves in these elementary schools.  Now, I have got armed M.P.s along with them outside these elementary schools.  And I have got volunteer fire departments with their trucks going out through all of the streets announcing that we have food and water and medicine. 
Now, what I‘m hoping to do by this is not only draw the people in the poorest of the neighborhoods that I have initially into those elementary schools.  We have not begun to search for our dead.  We do not know who is in diabetic shock right now.  We don‘t know who is dialysis dependent that we have not been able to inventory. 
So, I‘m hoping that, when the neighbors come out for the food and water, they are also going to ask for food and water for those who have been shut in that we don‘t know about, and maybe they see a house that a tree has crushed or they see a building that has collapsed and they tell us that there‘s a dead body in there or there is a person that is crying out for help or there is a person that is suffering or in a coma.
And we will have the medical resources to go out and reach them.  It‘s an imaginative program.  We tried it out first time today.  We are opening six elementary schools today.  We are going to do an assessment tonight.  And, if it‘s working, we will probably double that to 12 by tomorrow and so on and so forth, until I have really covered a whole parish of a half-a-million people with these elementary schools and the support that we‘re getting. 
MATTHEWS:  Did your appearance on “Meet the Press,” which has been shown on so many places the last two days, do you think it triggered some of this action in the last two days? 
BROUSSARD:  Sir, I have no idea.  My TV does not work.  I have no telephone communication on my cell phone.  I mean, I went from being a “Jetson” community to a “Flintstone” community. 
I am now a yabba dabba doo guy.  I mean, everything I do, I have got to write down.  It‘s like being in a war in the 1800s.  I have to write down all my instructions, have them pony expressed to somebody and ask everybody to be scouts, go out and tell me what they see. 
What has compounded this tragedy beyond reason is, we brag about what technology we have as we began this new century.  Everybody was so excited about the fact that everybody could have cell phones and beepers and all this instant communication.  That was simply shattered here. 
From the minute the hurricane went through, we had no communication.  I haven‘t been able to call my emergency management today all day.  I had to get to a hospital to call you.  My phones just don‘t work.  It is an indictment of modern technology that Mother Nature can still conquer us all, no matter what we think we have done to advance ourselves and this civilization, Mother Nature can still humble us like this. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s two kinds of success.  One is initial and the other one is ultimate.  And I think, ultimately, we will see who wins this fight.
Anyway, thank you, Aaron Broussard.
BROUSSARD:  No, we are going to win it.
MATTHEWS:  Right. 
BROUSSARD:  We are going to win it.  But Mother Nature will always be back. 
MATTHEWS:  Right.  Well, thank you very much, sir.  Good luck with your tough situation there. 
BROUSSARD:  Hey, pray for us.
BROUSSARD:  Ask our audience to pray for us here.  We have people still fighting for their lives.  Ask them to say prayers for those that are reaching out for help that we are desperately trying to find.  Ask your audience to pray for those people.
MATTHEWS:  Well, sir, they have just heard you ask for it.  And I think they heard you well.  Thank you. 
BROUSSARD:  Thank you, sir.
MATTHEWS:  Many of the dramatic helicopter rescues we have seen are the work of Coast Guard rescuers.  What amazing people they are. 
Right now, I‘m joined on the phone by rescue swimmer K.C. Bolton. 
Mr. Bolton, thank you for joining us. 
I understand you‘re going out again tonight to rescue people. 
I‘m on the board possibly for a flight out to New Orleans. 
MATTHEWS:  And tell me what it has been like to go out there in the day in and the night saving lives.  Do you feel like you have been able to get the job done? 
BOLTON:  There‘s definitely a huge job to do, because a lot of the people, like your earlier guest was saying, are still inside their homes and they‘re not completely comfortable coming outside of their homes or unable to, because they‘re either disabled or just stuck in their homes for other reasons. 
MATTHEWS:  We were watching an operation last night, sir, that involved the copter coming down, lowering the basket.  And then one of the crew people had to come down on the cable and—and begin to get the person out. 
Is it just difficult for people to climb to their roofs from their top floors? 
BOLTON:  It depends on the structure.  I believe that particular one that I was watching was a schoolhouse.  So, those sorts are roofs are tough to get to from the people—for the people inside.  And, in that case, the swimmer may have to either (AUDIO GAP) the war and either, either go through a window or enter the building some other way. 
MATTHEWS:  How many people are there like you, sir, swimmers who work for the Coast Guard? 
BOLTON:  All (AUDIO GAP) I think there‘s just over 300, around that number. 
MATTHEWS:  How far can you swim? 
BOLTON:  Swimmers school—to become a swimmer, it takes about (AUDIO GAP) of training.  And we do swims anywhere from sprints in the pool to five-mile-long ocean swims. 
MATTHEWS:  So, you have swam five miles in the ocean? 
BOLTON:  Yes. 
MATTHEWS:  You‘re amazing.  Thank you.  Thank you for your courage and thank you for everybody you have saved.  Thank you very much, K.C. Bolton, of the Coast Guard. 
Up next, fixing the response, making sure who is in charge, that‘s a big job for everybody.  President Bush says he is launching an investigation into what went wrong and how to make sure it doesn‘t happen again.  That‘s a good thing to do.
And, later, we will meet with some hurricane survivors who have been evacuated to D.C. right here at the armory, not far from where we are right now. 
And, here at MSNBC, we‘re working to reconnect loved ones who have lost contact after the evacuation, especially children who have been split from their parents. 
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m looking for my immediate family, Labrina Mitchell (ph), Lisa Mitchell (ph), Diana Mitchell (ph), Angela Mitchell (ph), and their kids.  I don‘t know how long I can keep my sanity.  I‘m afraid for my own life.  If I‘m missing, there‘s no one to say that I‘m missing. 
MATTHEWS:  For more on how to help missing kids, you can check with the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children at missingkids— 
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS:  President Bush announced today that he would lead an investigation into the response to Hurricane Katrina.  The president also announced that Vice President Cheney would be sent to the region on Thursday. 
NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory joins us now from the north lawn. 
David, is anyone going to get fired over this mess? 
DAVID GREGORY, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I think it‘s certainly possible, top Democrats calling for FEMA Director Michael Brown to be fired. 
There‘s questions about the future role, at least in the Katrina aftermath aspect of this, for Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, questions about whether the vice president in his trip down there on Thursday plays a stepped-up role in the Katrina aftermath effort. 
The White House understands they have got both—two things, an unfolding human drama, tragedy, catastrophe that continues to build and may only get worse.  And the same is true of a political dynamic for them, a political crisis for this White House.  But the president tried today, and you can see these pictures, the president in charge, back in the seat.
MATTHEWS:  Right. 
GREGORY:  You know, the commander in charge of this effort back at the White House, on the sort of footing we haven‘t seen, Chris, since the days after 9/11, trying to reestablish himself. 
The question is, can it be done in time now for the administration‘s credibility, for its image in all of this?
MATTHEWS:  Well, there‘s been a lot of buzz around Washington, as you know, David, as to whether the president will name a big name to go down there, like a Giuliani or a Colin Powell to be the man on the spot.  Making the vice president that man on the spot, is he in fact not promoting the vice president once again to a very high executive position?
GREGORY:  He may be.  And we don‘t know.
We know that the president‘s language, I think, was important today, when he says that he is sending the vice president to really get a handle on what the recovery effort is like, what all of their efforts are like down there.  The president knows at this point that not only the people in the Gulf, but people all over the country are looking on their television screens and wondering how this could have possibly happened.  How is the that the government at all levels simply can‘t function? 
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, made that very point today.  So, getting rid of the red tape, getting the red tape out of this process and getting direct help there is why the vice president is going to go and really what the president‘s top priority has to be now going forward. 
MATTHEWS:  OK, thank you very much, David Gregory, chief White House correspondent for NBC News.
Up next, if Katrina was supposed to test America‘s emergency preparedness, we failed.  So, what needs to be done now to prevent this from happening again, perhaps in a terrorist attack?
And, later, we will talk to hurricane survivors now finding refuge right here in the nation‘s capital, Washington, D.C., not far from here. 
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC. 
MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL. 
This half-hour, we will go to the D.C. Armory here in Washington, D.C., and meet some hurricane survivors who have been evacuated to this nation‘s capital. 
But let‘s go back to New Orleans right now and our own correspondent David Shuster—David.
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Chris, one of the things that you notice when you come to New Orleans is, from the air, of course, you can see the extensive water damage and the fact that 60 percent of the city, according to the mayor, is still underwater. 
But what you don‘t see from that sort of wider view that you can clearly see up close is that the wind damage here in New Orleans was also very extensive.  Remember, last week, we talked about the storm surge and the wind damage in New Orleans, knocking essentially trees down and power lines down.  They have the same problem here in New Orleans, even though you wouldn‘t necessarily expect it. 
Of course, most of the damage has been done by simply the fact that so much of the city is underwater.  But everywhere around New Orleans, there‘s roof damage, houses that will need to be repaired.  And you have got trees down.  So, it‘s not just a matter of pumping water out of the city, which is, of course, the main task that they‘re doing today.
You have got old buildings, for example, Chris, like the one behind us.  That brick building, 100 years old, that was knocked down by the wind.  So, it‘s not just a matter of pumping the water out of the city—Chris.
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you about the response effort itself, as you have seen it develop over the week down there, lots of talk in the nation‘s capital here, including in the White House, obviously, about how to make this do—about how to make the federal government work better in these kinds of response situations.  Who do you think is in charge right now?  Is there a sense of a boss down there in terms of this recovery effort? 
SHUSTER:  Well, Chris, the people who you sense that are in charge are the National Guard, because they‘re the ones that are controlling all the intersections.  They‘re the ones who are patrolling the streets.  I have yet to run into any members of the New Orleans Police Department, although I suppose that they were front and center last week. 
But, clearly, it‘s the National Guard which has assumed responsibility as far as directing traffic, traffic flow, making sure that the trucks can get in with the water, making sure that the engineering teams can get in.  So, they‘re the ones who have the strongest presence, the most visible presence.  In addition, it seems as if these are National Guard units that are actually doing these helicopters, that are actually dipping water out of Lake Pontchartrain and dumping it on some of the fires that are burning across New Orleans. 
So, they seem to have the strongest presence.  And you keep hearing over and over, local individuals are still having tremendous communication problems.  And even if they wanted to take charge, even if they wanted to make decisions, they can‘t communicate with each other. 
MATTHEWS:  Thank you very much, David Shuster. 
When we—we are going to right now to former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir, who used to live just outside of New Orleans back in the 1970s.  His former home is now underwater.  Also with us, Charleston, South Carolina, Mayor Joe Riley, who saw his city battered by Hurricanes Hugo and Floyd.  And Eric Holdeman is the director of emergency services for King County up in Washington state. 
Gentlemen, when I grew up, I had a sense of the city of Philadelphia -
· and I knew this was true of other big cities, like New York and Chicago and L.A.—when there was a five-alarm fire, the mayor was in the streets standing next to the police and the fire commissioners.  You knew who was in charge.  You had a sense, almost like in a comic book, of who the boss was.  He was standing there in his trench coat.  He took the heat.  He gave the orders.

Do we need something like that, Mr. Safir, in situations like New Orleans? 
HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER:  Absolutely.  If this had happened in New York, Rudy Giuliani and I would have been standing side by side in the middle of the street directing recovery and rescue operations. 
But, you know, there‘s a lot of blame to go around here.  Certainly, New Orleans did not have an adequate emergency response plan.  You know, I look at all those buses that are underwater in New Orleans and I wonder, how come, with plenty of warning, they weren‘t staged in a dry area, where they could get in and get people out of that city?
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Mr. Holdeman.  The question is communications, relationships among state, federal and local.  Do you still need one person to be calling the shots on the scene? 
And it‘s called the incident commander.  It‘s specified by a new incident management system, one of the good things that has come out of the Department of Homeland Security.  But the fix is not at the local level that‘s needed.  The fix is really having FEMA be restored to its national prominence as a Cabinet agency, independent and separate from the Department of Homeland Security. 
MATTHEWS:  Why did they downgrade it to a level where someone like Michael Brown would be the head of FEMA, instead of a Cabinet-level person? 
HOLDEMAN:  Well, I will tell you, we have only had one Federal Emergency Management director for FEMA.  And that‘s James Lee Witt.  Typically, it has been relegated to a political appointee and an (INAUDIBLE) Many people have read the opinion piece that I had in “The Post” early last week.  That was written in July of this year, way before the hurricane.  So, you could predict this type of performance with a single focus on terrorism and not an all-hazards approach towards the earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, volcanic eruptions, storms, all those types of hazards that can happen anywhere in the nation and are more frequent than terrorism, although we have to pay attention to terrorism, also. 
MATTHEWS:  Eric, you said there‘s one person in charge under the bureaucratic relationships.  His name is the—it‘s called the incident director? 
HOLDEMAN:  The incident commander. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, who is that now?  Who in charge in New Orleans right now?  Because we haven‘t met him yet. 
The incident commander should be on scene at the various sites.  Then there‘s an emergency operations center for both a city.  There‘s an emergency operation center for a county, for the state, and then a federal coordinating center providing and funneling resource.  There is an emergency management system.  But, as we can see, that broke down radically.
And I think it became an issue because of inadequate preparations for what was a Cat 5 storm.  And you could see it coming. 
MATTHEWS:  Mayor Riley, how do we improve our response for next time? 
JOE RILEY, MAYOR OF CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA:  There needs to be a responsibility in the national government in a military unit—I believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers—for the immediate urgent situation. 
This isn‘t a 5-alarm fire.  It‘s a three-state, huge natural disaster.  And there should be a general in charge, sees a hurricane coming, says, get the tankers ready.  Get the planes ready.  Get the National Guard ready.  Fill up the tankers. Get the water buffaloes.  Send this equipment in.  It was predictable, what was going to happen.  And that is what is needed.  Until there is the emergency situation like that, we will not be ready for natural disasters. 
There‘s a time when the baton can be passed to the rebuilding and to the paperwork and all of that.  But when you are faced with a hurricane aiming at the coast of America, we need in the military somebody in charge where the buck stops that can send the resources, that can protect these communities for that emergency, urgent time right after the disaster hits, when the bridges are out, when the water is gone, when the sewers don‘t work, when the power line is gone. 
It‘s like you have been bombed.  And that‘s what you need, someone in charge with the capacity and with the resources.  We do not have that.  And, if we don‘t have it with a hurricane that we know is out there, heaven forbid what will happen when there‘s a terrorist attack.  Our country is not ready and we need that immediate response in a division of the military where the responsibility is and where the buck stops. 
MATTHEWS:  Let me ask you, Howard Safir, the big question.  Should the president have a person of high prestige and command ability, almost like a young Douglas MacArthur or a younger, perhaps, Colin Powell—I don‘t want to knock him—he might be the right guy—who stands ready to take charge in these tragic situations?  Or should he pick them on the spot, like right now pick somebody? 
SAFIR:  Well, he should probably pick somebody right now. 
But the mayor is absolutely right.  This requires a coordinated city, state and local response.  There was bad planning here.  But the military has thousands of assets stationed all over this country.  There should have been a military response immediately that would have got there the day of the hurricane, as soon as the winds stopped blowing, so that these people wouldn‘t spend four or five days on roofs. 
And, Chris, if I can butt in here.
MATTHEWS:  Sure.  Jump in.  Go in.
HOLDEMAN:  Yes.  I‘m a retired infantry officer, 20 years in the military, and also did military support, civil authorities planning at the Army level. 
And the military responds to civilian orders and requests.  They aren‘t going to be in charge.  The issue is, they have to be given the warning order to be ready...
HOLDEMAN:  ... so they can pre-stage and have people and systems in place in order to do what they do really well.  And now we‘re seeing them done. 
That warning order was not issued to them soon enough.  But it‘s not a military person that gives that order. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, we will need to put all this together. 
Thank you, gentlemen, for all your experience and thoughts tonight, Howard Safir, Joe Riley and Eric Holdeman.
MATTHEWS:  Coming up, that third R. of Hurricane Katrina and how we respond to it, reconstruction.  How will the government rebuild New Orleans to make sure it doesn‘t fall victim to another catastrophe?  I‘m talking about the levees.  And, later, hurricane survivors evacuated here to the nation‘s capital, we will meet some of them.
This is HARDBALL, only on MSNBC. 
MATTHEWS:  Coming up, the immense challenges of rebuilding New Orleans.  And how will the government make sure this never happens to this city and its citizens again? 
HARDBALL returns after this. 
MATTHEWS:  While President Bush has vowed to rebuild New Orleans, questions remain as to how to reconstruct the historic port city, so that it is not as vulnerable to the forces of nature as it has been. 
John Bolton, a great longtime senator from Louisiana; and former congressman Mike Parker, he served as civilian chief the Army Corps of Engineers.  He was forced to resign three years ago, after protesting against budget cuts in the Army Corps‘ flood control projects. 
Do you feel vindicated, in a nasty way, that you were right, that we need these levees repaired and they weren‘t repaired?
MATTHEWS:  I don‘t want you to brag.  Tell the truth. 
PARKER:  I honestly am sick about the whole thing.  I wish that everybody had listened.
But I think it‘s important for people to understand, the president could not have stopped the situation that we have, whether it‘s the 30-foot surge going into Mississippi or whether the flooding in New Orleans.  These projects are too big and massive.  John Breaux and I...
MATTHEWS:  Excuse me.  Stop right there.  A lot of people believe that you prepared down there for a Category 3 in New Orleans with the levees, but this was a Category 4.  Are you saying that we couldn‘t have prepared for a 4 or we didn‘t prepare adequately for a 3? 
PARKER:  No.  What I‘m saying is, we should have gone back.  We should have made choices years ago.  John Breaux and I have been working for years, trying to get people to listen. 
The decisions that were made that would have affected this flood that occurred should have been made 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago. 
MATTHEWS:  But, bottom line, we could have protected New Orleans or not? 
PARKER:  No.  We could not have made the situation...
MATTHEWS:  Why not? 
PARKER:  Because the infrastructure is not in place.  And these...
MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s what I‘m asking.  Could you have put in levees that would have protected against exactly what happened last week? 
PARKER:  Yes, if we would have had enough time.  But we do not have enough—we did not have enough time from the time the president came in.  We should have been doing this 10, 15, 20 years ago. 
MATTHEWS:  OK.  So it‘s a bipartisan problem. 
PARKER:  It‘s bipartisan.  It transcends presidency and it transcends politics. 
MATTHEWS:  Senator, you grew up there.  You know this area.  I mean, I always thought levees was some lyric from an Al Jolson song.  But levees were real to you.  Did you ever think about this kind of situation developing? 
JOHN BREAUX (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR:  Well, look, number one, Chris, the levees on the Mississippi River held.  They were built in 1927.  They didn‘t break. 
What broke were the levee systems around Lake Pontchartrain on the canals.  I am really going to be interested to find out what type of winds hit New Orleans.  I‘m not sure it was a Category 4.  I‘m not sure the winds in New Orleans were not at a Category 3 level.
MATTHEWS:  Right. 
BREAUX:  And the levees didn‘t hold even a under Category 3. 
The short answer is, of course, you could build levees strong enough.  If you have the willpower and the monetary resources to do it, you can build levees that are strong enough to withstand a hurricane at a level 5. 
MATTHEWS:  Cost-benefit, does it make sense to build levees that thick and that high? 
BREAUX:  Let me tell you, after we get through paying for this disaster, you are going to find out that those levees that Mike argued for and that we argued for would have been a wise investment and a lot cheaper than now. 
MATTHEWS:  A lot of cities in this country die of economic reasons. 
You can drive across the middle of this country and you will find cities—
I won‘t name them—they were once railroad junctions.  They were once—they built a lot of steel and or they built a lot of whatever, and car production.  They just died of natural causes.  People just—economically, people moved out, moved to New York or whatever. 
Is this a city that is going to find that happening in a very dramatic way, New Orleans?
MATTHEWS:  Have people just left?  A lot of these people are saying they‘re not going home.
PARKER:  Well, emotions are running high right now.  I do not believe that will be the case later. 
You have to understand, the whole coast of Louisiana area is vital to the future of this country.  And we‘re going to see that more and more when the—as far as its effect on the economy. 
MATTHEWS:  What about the erosion down there, the problem of the whole Delta, the whole bottom of the Mississippi just wasting away, football fields every day practically? 
BREAUX:  Well, we lose about 25 square miles every year.  And we have been working in Congress trying to say that, look, the coastal states ought to get some small percentage of the offshore revenues dedicated to rebuilding the coastal area, dedicated to rebuilding the wetlands of Louisiana. 
MATTHEWS:  Can you save the land that is wasting away down there in that part—your part of the country?
BREAUX:  You can slow the loss.  You can slow the loss down until it‘s almost negligible. 
MATTHEWS:  Will New Orleans rise again? 
PARKER:  It will rise again. 
BREAUX:  Absolutely.  There will be a new New Orleans. 
MATTHEWS:  Well, I can‘t wait to visit. 
Thank you, Mike Parker, former congressman, and former Senator John Breaux. 
When we return, we will meet some of the survivors of this hurricane.  They have come up to this city, in Washington D.C.  They have been evacuated here to the D.C. Armory, where the circus usually comes and a lot of other big events.  Now it‘s a tough place of refuge. 
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS:  Thousands of hurricane survivors are taking refuge across the country right now, including here in Washington. 
We want to go live right now to MSNBC‘s chief Washington correspondent, Norah O‘Donnell.  She‘s at the D.C. Armory, where survivors arrived late today—Norah.
Two planes today carrying hundreds of people from New Orleans arrived today to be here at the D.C. Armory behind me, where they are getting medical treatment.  They are also getting food.  And they are also learning what it is like to be away from home. 
And we are joined by three survivors here, Chuck—Chuck, David and Gary. 
Thank you all very much. 
How do you feel? 
O‘DONNELL:  Really? 
O‘DONNELL:  How are you feeling?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Feeling all right. 
O‘DONNELL:  You feeling all right. 
And how about you? 
O‘DONNELL:  Now, let me ask you, because in talking to all of you early, this the one of the—the biggest surprise.  You got on an airplane today.  Did you have any idea where you were going? 
O‘DONNELL:  Where did you think you were going? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Baton Rouge.  They told us we were going to Baton Rouge and Texas. 
O‘DONNELL:  You got on a plane and you guys had no idea where you were going? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  I thought they were going to stay at the airport. 
O‘DONNELL:  You thought you were going to stay at the airport? 
O‘DONNELL:  Let me ask you, how has been the reception since you have gotten here? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The reception has been fantastic. 
You had two guys, Darrell (ph) and Cecil (ph), from the Children‘s Health Hospital, they have been great. 
O‘DONNELL:  So, they‘re giving—did they give you a medical checkup? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  They asked us, did we want a medical checkup?  And everybody greet us with a lot of respect. 
O‘DONNELL:  How did you get out of New Orleans?  How did they evacuate you? 
O‘DONNELL:  In a boat? 
O‘DONNELL:  And was it tough to leave home? 
O‘DONNELL:  Did you want to leave? 
O‘DONNELL:  You said something interesting to me earlier about coming here, about the people with guns.  And you said you felt a little bit trapped inside. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do.  It‘s like you‘re in prison. 
O‘DONNELL:  Why do you say that; you feel like you‘re in a prison?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can‘t walk.  You got too many people with guns and all that.  I know they‘re doing their job.  We have got to walk around sometime, get some fresh air. 
O‘DONNELL:  Let me ask you about that. 
Is it unusual, being—you have been taken out.  The government is trying to help you and yet you‘re kind of staying in a place where you have got to check in and check out, and it‘s almost like you‘re stuck somewhere. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I think it was because of the military presence, you know, military, a lot of armor and stuff like that, and I guess trying to contain the people. 
But, yes, you do get a sense that you‘re trapped in a prison, because every time you look around, there‘s—you just see people with all these guns.  And you just—you are just trying to survive, just trying get out. 
O‘DONNELL:  Let me ask you now, what will you do now?  You‘re here in Washington, D.C.  Have you ever been here before?  How are you going to restart your life? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m going to try to hurry up and go back home. 
O‘DONNELL:  You want to go back home? 
O‘DONNELL:  How about you? 
O‘DONNELL:  You want to go back home? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  I got some things I got to do. 
O‘DONNELL:  Do you have money?  Do you have a job, any way you can get back home? 
O‘DONNELL:  You don‘t.
Do you? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  I got a job.  Yes. 
O‘DONNELL:  And what do you say when they—when three months they‘re talking about?  You can‘t go back for at least three months. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will try to make it away. 
O‘DONNELL:  You are going to try back—and go back anyway? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right. 
O‘DONNELL:  It‘s a long drive from D.C., just so you know. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will try make it away some way. 
O‘DONNELL:  You will try to make it. 
You are going to go with him, right? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s my partner. 
O‘DONNELL:  Let me tell you, because the question has been brought up about why didn‘t people leave New Orleans.  You know, either they didn‘t want to or they were not told by their government. 
You‘re a pharmacist.  So, you were told that you who to leave because you‘re medical personnel? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, actually, I was supposed to stay.  But some people did leave. 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Some people did leave.  Don‘t be mistaken.  Some people did leave. 
But the majority of us, after the storm, definitely, we had to go. 
There was no staying.  We had to go. 
O‘DONNELL:  Let me ask you.  This is tough.  Your family, are they—do you know where they are?  Are they still with you? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, just before the interview, my wife called my friend of mine on her cell phone over there.  So, she—she is—like I said, she is OK.  She was crying, but...
O‘DONNELL:  Where is she? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know where she is at, but she is OK.  She is in Louisiana somewhere, but she is OK. 
O‘DONNELL:  All right.  Thank you to all of you. 
I want to bring in now one of the people who is in charge of helping all of you, who is helping all of you get better.  And that is Dr. Payne (ph) to come in right here. 
Dr. Payne, you‘re with the D.C. Department of Health.  Generally speaking, how is the health of everyone that has come here? 
UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know, people were better than I expected, for what they had been through. 
We had a lot of older people.  Most were able to come in under their own power.  And some were on stretchers.  But we have seen about 90 of the people of the 250 or so that are here.  Eleven went to the hospital and the others were treated.  Generally, they‘re doing pretty well for what they have been through.
O‘DONNELL:  And they will continue to receive good medical care.  I saw a lot of the vans all set up. 
Dr. Payne, thank you very much.
Chris, there, you have heard it, some of the amazing stories from the survivors that have gotten here.  They don‘t want to be here.  They want to be home.  They‘re getting good food.  They‘re getting good medical treatment, but they want to head home—Chris.
MATTHEWS:  Thank you, Norah O‘Donnell at the D.C. Armory.
Well, it has been a week since the levees broke, a week that has afflicted a beloved American city with Third World misery, an act of God made worse by the inaction of man.  But we can see today some streaks of light, the courage of the Coast Guard, the corporate citizenship of Wal-Mart and others, the manning of the pumps along the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain, lots of giving by average Americans, a spirit of charity from people of all ages, and, yes, a healthy shame at how people with the least, as we just saw, were left behind. 
Join us again tomorrow night at 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern for more
Our coverage of Hurricane Katrina continues now on “COUNTDOWN WITH
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