Guests: Tom Tancredo, George Haddow, Michael Canders, Rocco Pergola, Al
Sharpton, Lawrence Cohen
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: We‘re going to have live coverage all weekend. But right now the situation with Tucker Carlson starts next—Tucker.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: New details tonight on how the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina became one of the worst bureaucratic disasters of modern American history. We‘ll talk to a former FEMA official, a Republican congressman who says the corruption in Louisiana and New Orleans (AUDIO GAP). And the Reverend Al Sharpton joins us live from Louisiana with his reaction to what he‘s seen today.
But first, the latest news (AUDIO GAP) the Mike Brown (AUDIO GAP) but his lieutenant (AUDIO GAP)
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: What‘s going on? Yes. I‘m sorry, Tucker. We just had a little bit of an audio (ph) problem.
Tucker, the crews that have been here, volunteering from out of state have seen a lot of incredible things, of course, the last couples of days. There‘s all of the destruction, things that they just have never seen before.
Well, they‘re also seeing a lot of interesting things as far as the people who are coming out of the woodwork now after 11 days. Remember that they‘ve urged all New Orleans residents to leave the city and some of them are finally doing that.
And today we caught up with a crew from Passaic, New Jersey, some police officers who were helping to assist one man who, after 11 days, had had enough. They were loading his things into a truck. So when you see the video, you‘ll see some cartons and things being loaded.
Well, what‘s in these cartons? Ninety-six weapons. The gun owner had 96 weapons, including rifles, revolvers and a 50 caliber machine gun.
The police said they‘d never seen anything like it, not only just the hurricane but just the circumstances under which somebody would load his weapons into the back of a truck.
The gun owner, Eugene Ferbos, we talked to him, and he said the reason he stayed was not because of the guns but rather because he simply wanted to help some of his neighbors get out. He said he spent the last 11 days helping them get out of the water, flagging down police so that people could get hooked up and leave.
And then he said that by today, the 11th day, he said there was simply nothing left for him to do. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EUGENE FERBOS, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: There wasn‘t anybody back there left to help now.
SHUSTER: Nobody back there.
FERBOS: Bodies started popping up Wednesday—I want to say two popped up Thursday and one popped up Friday.
SHUSTER: People you know?
FERBOS: I don‘t know. I don‘t know them. They were face down.
(END VIDEO CLIP0
SHUSTER: They were face down.
When we asked Mr. Ferbos about his gun collection, he said that he‘s simply a hunter and he likes to take target practice.
But guns were not the only thing, Tucker, that he loaded up today. You see, Mr. Ferbos is also the owner of a gigantic python snake. There it is. That is not a load of bananas. It is a snake.
The police who had been assisting him with the guns said he could essentially handle it himself. And there he told them to move it to a flat part of the truck so the snake would not get splinters.
For the police, you know, they thought it was a sort of intriguing and perhaps even a little bit amusing and for them a welcome break from some of the tragic stuff that they have seen over the last couple of days—
SHUSTER: New Orleans is just such a wonderfully weird city. One of the great reasons I just can‘t wait until it‘s rebuilt.
CARLSON: We are hearing, David, still conflicting reports about the nature of the evacuation. It seems like, from our vantage anyway, the city of New Orleans has not decided whether this is a forcible evacuation or still a voluntary evacuation. Do you have any clarity on that?
SHUSTER: Well, Tucker, one of the things that they‘re doing is that we still haven‘t heard any cases where they‘re actually forcibly removing people. But they are seeming to have a lot of success as far as convincing people to leave. And again it‘s for some of the same reasons that we‘ve talked about before.
Every one of these sort of convoys that goes out onto the water, out there on the boats or sort of the rolling convoys for the five or six feet of water, in addition to whether they‘re highway or police out of state, they are always officers that are essentially armed to the teeth.
And when you combine that with, usually, in each one of these conveys, there‘s perhaps one New Orleans firefighter, one New Orleans police officer so that the person that they talk to can see that, hey, this is one of their—essentially their city neighbors who‘s asking them to leave.
And it‘s being pointed out to people, “Look, it‘s just not safe for you any longer to be here. It‘s time for you to go.” And most people are doing that.
There are still some pockets of the city, some apartment complexes that are currently in some really tough neighborhoods that were apparently fairly dry throughout all of this, where they still have had, apparently, some problems. And they‘re trying to decide exactly how they‘re going to get those people out of the city.
But for the most part, the police we‘ve been talking with, the firefighters who are going out, even some of the people from out of state that were joining them, they all seemed pretty pleased with the idea that most people now, after 11 days, have heard the order to get out and they‘re doing so.
But again, I suppose it will be a couple of days before they figure out what to do about those final few hundred or maybe a thousand, just for whatever reason do not want to leave under any circumstances.
CARLSON: Finally, David, the news up here today, as I‘m sure you know, has been dominated by the story about Mr. Brown being removed from command of the hurricane, the head of FEMA. Has that percolated down there, had any effect on the relief efforts in New Orleans?
SHUSTER: Not really. I mean, I think it‘s provided a chuckle or two from some of the people that we‘ve spoken with. And predictably, I suppose, some of the New Orleans police did not want to come on camera and say some of the vulgar things about Michael Brown that they were willing to say off camera.
But there‘s a lot of anger in New Orleans, a lot of people who feel that some of the problems that this city is facing right now is a direct result of the federal government being slow to act, and a lot of people personally blame Michael Brown for that.
But putting that aside, a lot of people suggested there‘s just not enough time, at least here on the ground in New Orleans, for people to try to figure out who ultimately was responsible for the mess.
They‘re so busy trying to figure out where can they send some of these teams? Who can collect information? Can they now get some of the firefighters from out of state who came here, who were initially turned down for fuel?
For example there was a crew from California. They brought their fire trucks in from California. FEMA could not give them fuel, because they had not gotten the proper authority to come down here in the first place.
They‘re trying to go back to some of these teams and say, “Look, we realize that mistakes were made. How can we help the situation now?” They‘re trying to streamline things. And I think people are so focused on that, that nobody is paying a lot of attention to who‘s essentially in charge at the top.
CARLSON: Well, they can start by groveling. Groveling apologies might help. David Shuster, a man who does not need to apologize. It‘s been terrific having you all week. You have a restful weekend. We‘ll see you Monday.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Tucker. Thank you. You, too. Take care.
The news, of course, today dominated by the Michael Brown move, the head of FEMA no longer in charge of the disaster of the decade, the hurricane that has ravaged the Gulf Coast.
Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Republican, has been harshly critical of Michael Brown from the very beginning, as well as of local and state officials in Louisiana. He joins us now live from Colorado.
Congressman, thanks a lot for coming on. What do you make of Michael Brown‘s removal today?
REP. TOM TANCREDO ®, COLORADO: Well, before I get into that, can I just say that the segment you just ran about this guy with this 96 guns and the snake, I mean, that‘s America. You got to just love it, do you not?
CARLSON: I do. I love it.
TANCREDO: It is terrific.
CARLSON: It‘s an American defending himself. When the government doesn‘t step up to defend him, he‘s defending himself...
CARLSON: ... which is his right, in fact, his duty. Good for him.
TANCREDO: And not only that but helping his neighbors. I mean, this is—that‘s just a great story. It really is.
At any rate, Brown, Mr. Brown—well, I‘m, of course, glad that the president has taken the step of having him removed. I hope within the next few hours, maybe before the weekend is over, that he will remove himself entirely, and I can‘t imagine that he will stay very long. And that‘s a good thing.
Now we have to clear the deck. And that is to say, we have to ask the governor of the state of Louisiana and the mayor of the city of New Orleans to do the same thing, to remove themselves, because they are part of the problem.
CARLSON: That is—I think you‘re absolutely right. Let‘s go first before we get back to that, get back to the story taking—unfolding on the federal level. How badly does this hurt President Bush?
TANCREDO: You know, I don‘t know how to quantify it, but I would suggest that on top of a lot of other things that are happening, the president is going to have a very difficult time not only dealing with this issue but, of course, with his agenda in the Congress.
Because, you know, he keeps talking about the—the political capital that he gained during the campaign and the election. But I‘m afraid, Tucker, it‘s all gone.
So I‘m hoping—you know what I‘m hoping? I‘m hoping to God that it does not affect the nominations to the Supreme Court, because to me, that‘s the whole ballgame. That‘s it, buddy.
TANCREDO: You know, we‘ve got one. This next one coming, it better be a good one or else we‘ve lost everything.
CARLSON: I think it could affect it. Now you have been quoted...
TANCREDO: I do, too.
CARLSON: ... as saying that the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans are so corrupt and inept that they shouldn‘t get federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and that the money just ought to go to do feds, and the feds ought to do it all.
TANCREDO: Well—well, with the feds but with oversight, which we do not now have, with some accountability, which we do not now have. Just pushing now $62 billion into FEMA does not make me feel all that much better.
But New Orleans—I mean Louisiana—you know, my observations, of course, have been harshly criticized. But the reality is this. The head of the FBI, the head of that section of the country, the southeast section of the country, here‘s his quote. I think this is pretty close to it. It is, “The corruption in Louisiana is endemic, epidemic and permeates every single level of government.” That‘s the FBI‘s opinion.
I certainly don‘t disagree with it, when you consider what have we got now, a governor, several cabinet members, three of the—three successive insurance commissioners, a federal judge, a bunch of state legislators and county commissioners, all in jail, and probably others that are going to be following them.
And look back at the history, I mean, going back to Huey Long. It‘s a colorful state, but it is not a place I would place a great deal of trust to make sure that the money we are shoving at them gets spent effectively, efficiently and legally.
CARLSON: It‘s almost unbelievably inept. The state of Louisiana prevented the Red Cross from bringing aid to the Superdome in the convention center as people were dying in both of those buildings. I couldn‘t agree with you more.
But let‘s assign blame more precisely here. So you‘ve got Mike Brown, still the head of FEMA; George Bush, the president; Kathleen Blanco, the inept but still government—governor, rather, of the state of Louisiana; and then Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans. Who‘s most at fault? Rank them for me.
TANCREDO: I would say 60 percent state, governor; 30 percent, the city; and 10 percent the federal government. I mean, that‘s the way I would put it. And it‘s a pretty—I guarantee a subjective analysis.
But the reality is that we have enormous problems now because what the federal government has to do is rely upon local government. People don‘t understand that.
But Tucker, you know, if something happens in my state, in Colorado, the first line of defense, the first people that have to take control are state and local authorities. And then you ask the federal government to come in, and the federal government does what it can do.
But the reality is, if you do not have a functioning and legitimate and lawful state and local set of authorities, you are in big trouble trying to get this thing actually done.
Without spending—you know, of the $60 billion we‘ve already appropriated, probably—well, who knows what percentage of that could end up in the wrong hands and never getting to the people it needs to get to in order to provide the service? It‘s very, very frightening, my friend.
And, you know, just the magnitude of it. The amount of money. Tucker, you know, remember we appropriated $10.5 billion last week. $51.1 billion yesterday.
TANCREDO: And that amounts to more money than is used to fund every single department of the federal government, except for—except for the Department of Defense and veterans affairs. Everything else pales in comparison. That just puts this in perspective here. This is very, very scary, because there‘s a lot at risk, Tucker.
CARLSON: Yes, there is. Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado, one of the few members of Congress who says what he thinks and doesn‘t care what you think. And for that I respect you. Congressman Tancredo, thanks for coming on.
TANCREDO: Thank you. It‘s a pleasure, sir.
Still to come on THE SITUATION, it seems like so long ago that Hurricane Katrina punished the Gulf Coast. Have officials learned anything in the last 11 days to help them prepare for the next hurricane on the horizon, Ophelia?
Plus, the Bush administration pulled FEMA director Mike Brown off the job today. Was Vice President Dick Cheney the man with the axe? The anatomy of a firing when THE SITUATION continuous.
CARLSON: Still ahead, yet another high profile name is criticizing the federal government‘s response to Hurricane Katrina. We‘ll tell you who it is.
Plus, which states are now within striking distance of Hurricane Ophelia? Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BROWN, DIRECTOR OF FEMA: I‘ve got to tell you, we are moving heaven and earth to get pallets of food and water to these people.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Brownie, you‘re doing a heck of a job. The FEMA director is working 24 hours...
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Overall, it was a good response.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the progress we‘re making is significant. I think the performance in general, at least in terms of the information I have received from locals, is definitely very impressive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Not everyone agrees, of course.
Add former secretary of state, Colin Powell, to the long list of those criticizing the Bush administration over its slow response to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In an interview that aired tonight with ABC‘s Barbara Walters, Colin Powell said, quote, “A lot of failures occurred at all levels of government.” But Powell also added he does not believe that race was a factor in the slow delivery of relief.
Michael Brown was not directly mentioned during the interview, although his removal today was the talk of Capitol Hill.
MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O‘Donnell has more—
NORAH O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Tucker.
Tonight I‘m told it‘s no surprise that FEMA director Michael Brown was relieved of his on-site command just one day after Vice President Dick Cheney visited the region.
Cheney visited Mississippi and Louisiana and then this morning reported back to the president about what needed to be done to better coordinate relief efforts.
Now, there has been praise on the Republican side for the president‘s decision to bring Brown back to Washington. Mississippi Republican Senator Trent Lott said clearly something had to be done, and he said that Brown had been acting more like a private than a general.
Now the Senate Democratic leadership today said what the president has done and Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff is not enough. They want Brown fired altogether. And they have written a letter to the president, saying Brown, quote, “simply doesn‘t have the ability or the experience to coordinate a federal response effort of this magnitude.”
Now, whatever the president‘s final decision is, this is clearly a vote of no confidence for Brown. He returns to Washington now amid questions about his qualifications and whether he tried to pad his resume.
Also we‘ve learned, as “The Washington Post” first reported, that five of the top jobs at FEMA are filled by political appointees who have little or no experience handling disasters.
Now, Brown was asked today when he feels like he‘s being used as a scapegoat by this administration and he said, “By the press, yes. By the president, no.”
He said he‘s looking forward to returning to Washington to walk his dog, to hug his wife. And he said maybe get a good Mexican meal and a stiff margarita—Tucker.
CARLSON: Probably needs one about now. Thanks, Norah.
George Haddow worked for FEMA during the Clinton administration. He was deputy chief of staff for former FEMA director James Lee Witt. He joins us now live from Washington to help explain what is going on at FEMA.
Mt. Haddow, thanks a lot for joining us.
GEORGE HADDOW, FORMER FEMA DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Good evening, Tucker.
CARLSON: I was struck the other day when Michael Brown admitted on television to someone who asked him that he had no idea there were thousands of refugees waiting at the New Orleans Convention Center. At the time that, of course, was kind of the epicenter of human suffering in the city, and he didn‘t know what was going on there. How could that be?
HADDOW: Well, I think it‘s endemic of the collapse of the national emergency management system in the country that was accelerated by the Bush administration‘s decision early in 2001 to deconstruct FEMA and its capabilities and its lead role in this emergency management system.
And a critical element of that system was the partnership between the state, local and federal government in collecting information on the ground that could be analyzed, disseminated and used by decision makers in terms of applying resources to the places that needed them.
HADDOW: In fact, he probably didn‘t have anyone watching television and that kept him informed.
CARLSON: Well, yes. I mean, well, you‘d think he wouldn‘t have to watch television. He‘d have someone on the ground calling him on a satellite phone and updating him on what was happening. He‘s the head of FEMA, after all.
But why would—I mean, I want to stop and rewind a second. You just said that this is the Bush administration‘s fault it‘s made FEMA less effective than it used to be. What would be the motive for doing that?
HADDOW: I think you need to ask President Bush and his first FEMA director, Joe Allbaugh. What I think he said at his confirmation hearing in 2001 was that he believed FEMA had become an oversized entitlement program and that it was serving as a disincentive for state and locals to manage their risk.
And he believed that the emergency management function was better served at the state and local level with a limited amount of involvement by the federal government.
But the reality is, there is not a state nor a locality in this country that could survive and function and manage an effective response and recovery to a storm this size nor a size of the storm in the Midwest floods in 1993 or the Northridge earthquake or the Oklahoma City bombing.
There‘s a critical role for the federal government. And this administration deconstructed that role and deconstructed that capability. And the results have been on our television set for the last two weeks.
CARLSON: Yes. Though I think it‘s beyond dispute there‘s a whole lot of state of Louisiana could have done that it didn‘t do, like ordering large numbers of National Guard into New Orleans to keep it from burning down. They didn‘t do that.
But what did Mike Brown do, specifically, that was wrong, do you think? Or is it jut the system is screwed up? Did he do something that caused him to be removed today?
HADDOW: No, the system is broken. And he tried to implement a system that doesn‘t function any more, and he‘s the person who‘s taken the fall for it.
I mean, this is a good appointment with Admiral Allen. But if the president does not invest authority and trust in Admiral Allen to make the kind of multibillion dollar decisions he‘s going to have to make in the coming weeks and months if he‘s in charge of the recovery, he‘s going to fail, as well.
And the other issue that hasn‘t been addressed at all by Mike Brown, moving back here to Washington, is how are they going to fix the system? How are they going to repair FEMA? How are they going to repair the relationship between state and local emergency managers in this country before the next hurricane, earthquake, terrorist event strikes?
CARLSON: Is it worth having FEMA? I mean, or should we just create something new, do you think? Is it too broken to fix?
HADDOW: No, it‘s not too broken to fix. We‘re in the exact same place we were in 1992. FEMA was broken then after Hurricane Andrew.
And what you had was a new president who cared about people and cared about the federal government playing a critical role in helping them in their time of need. And he demonstrated that care by hiring an experienced emergency manager, James Lee Witt, to manage this agency, to reorganize it. And he made it clear to his White House staff, to other cabinet members, that this was a top priority in his administration.
And I believe if President Clinton—or President Bush, rather, is going to make comprehensive emergency management a top priority in his administration, it has to be up there on the level of preventing terrorism.
CARLSON: All right.
HADDOW: And to do that, he‘s going to have to pull FEMA out of the Department of Homeland Security, elevate the FEMA director, a new FEMA that I believe we‘ll have in the next few months, to cabinet level status and invest the resources that that new FEMA director is going to need and people and funding in order to rebuild the system that will...
CARLSON: Build a bigger bureaucracy and it will work. OK. All right. Well, something is definitely broken. Maybe that will. George Haddow, thanks a lot for joining us. Appreciate it.
HADDOW: Thank you.
CARLSON: Coming up, the last 11 days have seen the most prolific air rescue mission in U.S. history, and every rescue has been daring, some heroic. The Air National Guard‘s finest join us next to talk about how they did it and what they‘re still doing.
CARLSON: The last week and a half have seen the most prolific air rescue mission in the history of the United States.
Colonel Michael Canders is an Air National Guard commander who just returned from the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. He‘s also joined by Senior Airman Rocco Pergola. Both participated in that mission.
Thanks, both, for joining us.
COL. MICHAEL CANDERS, AIR NATIONAL GUARD: Thanks a lot for having us.
CARLSON: Colonel, it looks dangerous. How dangerous is it to rescue people in New Orleans?
CANDERS: Well, it is pretty dangerous, Tucker. Not only were there hazards like power lines, trees in that urban area but there were also a lot of other helicopters out there.
So fortunately, a lot of professional helicopter crews and we all stayed out of each other‘s way. We were working a common frequency, but we needed to be very, very careful out there.
CARLSON: Were there any accidents or injuries? Have there been?
CANDERS: Amazingly enough, I don‘t think—certainly in the Air Force there were none. I think I saw a civilian helicopter that had a problem. But as far as I know, there were no other serious accidents or injuries.
CARLSON: Is it over now? Are the rescues pretty much done?
CANDERS: No, we still have a substantial force. Our unit, the 106 Rescue Wing, part of the Air National Guard, joined the total force, the reserves and the active duty. And there‘s still a substantial U.S. Air Force rescue force down there, working out of Jackson, Mississippi.
CARLSON: Now, when we‘re down on the Gulf Coast last week in Louisiana, we talked to couple of pilots who said they found this more stressful than flying in Iraq. What do you think of that? Is that an overstatement? Do you feel that way?
CANDERS: Well, it‘s a different environment. It‘s something that was really unexpected, I think, by anyone that flew down there, because of the scale and the conditions. It was warm, and there was a lot of challenges for all of the crews.
But because of our training, because of what we learned from past experiences, although they didn‘t translate exactly to this, we were able to do the mission very efficiently, very effectively and very safely.
CARLSON: Airman Pergola, what was your hardest day on the job?
SR. AIRMAN ROCCO PERGOLA, AIR NATIONAL GUARD: Well, sir, I was one of a thousand hands helping out down there, and I was just happy to give aid to the city of New Orleans. And we had some long days, but the Air Force trained me well. And we were willing to work as much as they needed us and then some.
CARLSON: Did you see anything that you didn‘t expect to see?
PERGOLA: Well, I wasn‘t quite sure what to expect, you know, when I headed down there, and I saw just a broad spectrum of things. And I was just amazed at what I was seeing.
But I was just happy to help out and use the training and the knowledge that I had gained becoming a pararescueman and helping the people down there.
CARLSON: Now, we interviewed a lot of people who expressed frustration off camera about the disorganization of the relief effort, a lot of really good people doing their best but unclear who was in charge, at least last week. I know we‘re on television. But have either of you—are you willing to talk about experiencing that? Did you experience that? Did it seem well organized?
CANDERS: Well, I thought it was very well organized. There was a big air effort under way, and we would check in with an air traffic control frequency that was airborne.
But with the amount of air traffic down there and the amount of activity down there, I have to give kudos to the New Orleans air traffic control tower. Outstanding. So as far as we were concerned, our part of the mission was very well organized.
CARLSON: How many people, finally, do you think are left? Do you have any idea?
CANDERS: Hard to say. As you fly over the homes, you will occasionally be signaled by some of the people that remain. So it‘s very, very difficult to see or very, very difficult to figure out. The scale and the flooding is so broad, so broad-based, I think it‘s going to be very difficult to estimate how many people stayed behind.
CARLSON: That‘s depressing, thinking that people could be stuck still in their attics.
Colonel Michael Canders, Airman First Class Rocco Pergola, thanks a lot, both, for joining us.
PERGOLA: Thank you.
CANDERS: Thank you, sir.
PAGOLA: Thank you.
CARLSON: Still ahead, the criticism of the Bush administration‘s handling of the hurricane‘s aftermath intensifies day by day. Reverend Al Sharpton spent time with Louisiana officials today, then ripped the president. He joins me next. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes you feel very thankful for everything that you have. We have a house to come home to. We have each other. Our family is all still alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘ll never finish if you don‘t start. I start a little bit at a time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m ready. I‘m ready for her to be home, at least in my arms. I can‘t say this is home just yet but I‘m ready for her to be back with me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m already making plans to rebuild.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It won‘t be long. We‘ll be back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Welcome back.
The Reverend Al Sharpton was in Louisiana today and all along the Gulf coast meeting with a number of people down there, including Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. The Reverend Al Sharpton joins me on the phone right now.
Reverend Sharpton, you met with Governor Blanco. Did you ask her about her failure to bring the National Guard into New Orleans, ask her why she didn‘t mobilize the Guard in a way that could have protected the city?
REVEREND AL SHARPTON (by telephone): Well, I met with Governor Blanco last night and we discussed several things. One of the things that I‘m very concerned about and she as well is the continued presence of people that are still in New Orleans and how you deal with the question of forced evacuation.
At one level it is understandable that people do not want to give up family homes and traditions. At another level, there‘s a very serious health crisis and potential health problems.
So, we talked about that. We talked about the need to try and give some dignity to those that have died with some kind of memorial services and all. It was a meeting more on where we are now and going forward.
CARLSON: Let me ask you about that because I‘m a little confused about the forced evacuation question. These are people who have been alone in that city with almost no help at all for going almost on two weeks now. The government has done virtually nothing for them.
They want to stay. They‘re not hurting anyone. And now the government finally arrives and tells them they have to leave at the point of a gun. I don‘t understand at all where the fairness is in that.
SHARPTON: Well, again, I think the mayor has taken that position. Governor Blanco at the point of our meeting last night had taken not a firm position either way and I think that the last position was that there are health problems and that you have a city that has been flooded with water. Obviously diseases are there and whether or not for the interest of the health of the very people that we‘re talking about they should be moved.
Now, of course, their views I have not taken a position either way, their view is that people must have the right to maintain themselves. You are right, Tucker, that they‘ve been there two weeks without government interference.
But you do have a responsibility if you‘re in charge of government to
protect the people from a health crisis. There‘s no way a city covered
with water does not raise serious health conditions
CARLSON: Yes, that‘s absolutely right. I just think people ought to be at this point allowed to make their own decisions. They‘re adults. Now, Governor Blanco and her Department of Homeland Security in Louisiana prevented the Red Cross from bringing relief to the Superdome and the convention center at first for reasons that are still not clear to me or I think anyone in America.
That‘s pretty hard to explain. Give us a sense of what her explanation to the country and Louisiana voters is going to be for her behavior over the last eleven days?
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I don‘t know what Governor Blanco did in terms of the Red Cross. That was not part of our discussion. I think that again you can‘t pick up a story mid story.
The real story starts with the failure to have this city and this area and I‘m halfway between now Baton Rouge and Shreveport but we‘re talking further down the road in New Orleans protecting when there was a simulation of a storm the federal government knew that they could not handle a storm of four or five and nothing was done.
So, it‘s very easy to pick up halfway through the story and jump on the governor and excuse the fact the federal government and FEMA did not do what was necessary to secure the people of New Orleans. Some fault may lie on the state and the city but let‘s start at the beginning. The beginning is there‘s no reason that we should have been in a (INAUDIBLE) position in the first place to even need the Red Cross or the Superdome.
CARLSON: I couldn‘t agree with you more; however, once it did happen and the people of New Orleans were basically at the mercy of looters, people who were shooting at rescue helicopters, there was no way the feds could bring in troops without the permission of the governor of Louisiana and she didn‘t give that permission. She resisted it. She resisted federalizing from the beginning and I don‘t understand why.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that—I think what we need here, Tucker, is a commission to study what happened here like the 9/11 Commission and let the axe fall where it may starting with the president and going on to FEMA and Homeland Security and on down to the governor and the mayor.
But what I think takes a lot of credibility away from the critics of the governor and the mayor is that they will not deal with the fact that the federal government failed these people, talking about the people at the mercy of looters, yes. They were first at the mercy of a flood that should not have happened in the first place.
Let‘s talk about the fact that people paid for taxes for infrastructure that did not hold up. They knew it wasn‘t going to hold up. They kept collecting their taxes and did not provide them with the infrastructure so let‘s start at the beginning of the story.
CARLSON: I agree with you.
SHARPTON: The taxpayers of New Orleans were looted for the last several years.
CARLSON: Yes, I wish I guess someone in the state or the city has stood up say a week before the hurricane and said, you know, these levees could break but nobody did and I wonder why that is but we‘re going to find out I hope.
SHARPTON: That‘s right. When I was campaigning for president last year and I was in this state I heard from Ray Nagin and Blanco talk about the levees. In fact, I raised that at the Louisiana Democratic State Convention, so that is not true.
The levees have been an issue which is why they had the simulated storm. Now whether there should have been more aggressive challenging maybe but I can‘t say that that issue hadn‘t been made and I can‘t say it wasn‘t ignored. I would say, Tucker, and I know you will probably disagree, if they stood up a week ahead of time, as you said, I don‘t know if they would have been heeded to.
We had the storm crashing through people‘s houses and George Bush stayed home for two days and then went to San Diego and got a guitar, so what would have made you think he would have heard them a week ahead of time when he didn‘t hear them when the storm was crashing through people‘s living rooms?
CARLSON: The Reverend Al Sharpton, as you continue on your journey I hope you‘ll check in with us next week. Thanks for joining us tonight.
SHARPTON: Thank you, Tucker.
Coming up, there are water rescues and then there are rescues from toxic, disease-ridden water. The hero of a daring kayak rescue tells his tale when THE SITUATION continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to leave him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don‘t want to leave.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Hurricane Katrina will go down as the largest natural disaster in American history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The primary mission is to save lives, to provide food and water, to provide shelter.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this time of struggle, the American people need to know we‘re not struggling alone. I want to thank the world community for its prayers and for the offers of assistance that have come from all around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Hundreds of thousands of people have left New Orleans over the past couple of weeks by car, by bus, on foot and even, as in the case of our next guest, by kayak.
Lawrence Cohen is an attorney who evacuated from New Orleans in his kayak with his dog. He joins us now from Chicago. Mr. Cohen, thanks a lot for coming on.
LAWRENCE COHEN, EVACUATED FROM NEW ORLEANS IN KAYAK: You‘re welcome.
CARLSON: Tell me how you got out.
COHEN: I got out—well, I got out eventually in my kayak with my dog Coco. We paddled from my house, which was under water. There was about four feet of water in my house and I realized I had to evacuate the city because I had seen the break in the levee at the 17th Street Canal and I knew the city was going to flood and flood badly.
So, I paddled back to my house, got my dog, put her in the kayak and we paddled six miles down Canal Boulevard and Canal Street all the way downtown. I threw my kayak in a parking lot, took my dog and hitchhiked to Baton Rouge.
CARLSON: That is amazing. Did you go out with other people?
COHEN: Well, I slept in a vacant house the night before. The storm came through. I thought we were safe and then the floodwaters came in from the levee break and I met some people who also stayed in the neighborhood and we realized that we were going to have to spend the night there.
We stayed in a vacant house and then another guy, Jeff Wilson and I started paddling that Tuesday morning out through Canal Boulevard to see what was out there to be seen.
And, as we started paddling down Canal Boulevard, we started to hear people screaming for help and we wound up rescuing about eleven people and a Weimaraner.
CARLSON: How did you—and the dog, good for you, you know. I like your story for a lot of reason but one you also rescued your dog and somebody else‘s, good for you. Now how did you get people out on your kayak? Were you still in the kayak at this point?
COHEN: No, Jeff and I when we—the first people we encountered there were five people on a balcony and we knew we couldn‘t get them in the kayak, so we paddled around the neighborhood and found a vacant, like a boat that somebody had left in their yard but it had floated.
The water was about 15 feet deep and so we cut the boat from a trailer that it was on and Jeff and I towed the boat with out kayak over to this house and assisted the people from the house. They stepped on my kayak and Jeff helped them into the power boat. Of course there was no power in the boat because the key wasn‘t there and we took five people in that boat.
I paddled around over house roofs and found a woman and her 80-year-old mother who had slept all night on their roof. She had cut with a little saw through her roof and her and her mother slept on the roof and we put them in a small sailboat. I towed them out to the other five people that were in the other boat and we sent them down Canal Boulevard to safety on I-610.
CARLSON: That‘s amazing in a flotilla in downtown New Orleans. Where did you take them and do you know what happened to them?
COHEN: We—I don‘t know what happened to them. We sent them—we pointed them down Canal Boulevard. We found some debris in the water, pieces of wood, handed the people on the boat the debris and let them paddle the boat themselves because we realized there might be other people in the neighborhood and, in fact, there were a bunch of other people that needed to be saved.
CARLSON: Lawrence Cohen, amazing. For every story you hear of people going crazy and hurting other people and looting stores it‘s so nice to see them counterbalanced by people like you who helped strangers. Thanks. Thanks for coming on.
COHEN: That‘s a very kind thing. You‘re very welcome.
Still ahead on THE SITUATION, New Orleans truly is one of the great cities in the world but what will it take to revive the feel good spirit for which the city if famous? We‘ll tell you when we come back.
CARLSON: “The New York Times” reports in its Saturday editions that a group of New Orleans business leaders have huddled in Baton Rouge and hatched a plan to reopen the French Quarter within 90 days and then a stage of scaled down Mardi Gras there in February. Will their plan occur on the road to recovery rife with uncertainty? It will and for some residents that cost may be too high.
NBC News‘ Carl Quintanilla reports.
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Next February these Mardi Gras parade floats would have rolled as they do every year down Elysian Fields Avenue but the street and the parade have changed.
Entire neighborhoods destroyed possibly beyond replacement, these homes just a handful of the quarter million damaged by Katrina will soak up toxic water for weeks.
ELIZABETH ENGLISH: I think there‘s a lot of damage inside that we can‘t see from the outside.
QUINTANILLA: Elizabeth English is a structural engineer who specializes in hurricane damage and says even if residents can afford to come back the businesses that offered them paychecks before may not.
ENGLISH: I can‘t imagine that any of these commercial buildings would be left standing.
QUINTANILLA: This McDonald‘s will be gone?
ENGLISH: Oh, absolutely. It‘s not even worth thinking about cleaning it up.
QUINTANILLA: The loss of a whole community is hard to imagine, especially among those still here like Linda Bowen, a tour guide.
LINDA BOWEN, TOUR GUIDE: It‘s going to get back on her feet again.
She‘ll be fine and beautiful, a southern belle that she is.
QUINTANILLA: But as we wind our way through neighborhoods with our architect a reality check.
ENGLISH: One of the things I‘m looking at is how fast the waters are receding. It doesn‘t look like it‘s pumping out very fast.
QUINTANILLA: Is this neighborhood back in 20 years?
ENGLISH: Oh, sooner than that.
QUINTANILLA: Fifteen, ten, five?
ENGLISH: Maybe, maybe in five years, maybe ten years.
QUINTANILLA: That‘s a long time.
ENGLISH: That‘s a long time, yes it is.
QUINTANILLA: Especially to people like Coretta Quinn.
CORETTA QUINN, EVACUEE: We don‘t have nothing to look back to.
QUINTANILLA: Evacuated to Houston she says she‘s had a good welcome and may stay but only with regret.
QUINN: So every now and then my mind drifts to home because there‘s no place like New Orleans.
QUINTANILLA: There isn‘t, there wasn‘t and now questions about whether there ever will be.
Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, New Orleans.
CARLSON: Boy that‘s sad.
Still ahead on THE SITUATION, as the gulf states continue the long process of digging out from the storm, the East Coast is bracing for a hurricane of its own. We‘ll have the very latest on the path and growing strength of Ophelia when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is (INAUDIBLE) and I‘m in Pine Brook, Arkansas, Jefferson County and I‘m looking for my mother (INADUIBLE). I‘m concerned about her. For many days I‘ve been looking for her. I‘ve been to the Red Cross and different places here and I‘m really worried about my mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: MSNBC wants to help hurricane victims reconnect with their loved ones. Log onto msnbc.com and visit the Reconnect page to look for a family member or friend or register yourself as safe.
As victims of Hurricane Katrina continue to search for their loved ones, we‘re keeping an eye on a major storm brewing in the Atlantic at this hour. For the very latest on Hurricane Ophelia we turn to Elise Finch at the NBC Weather Center Plus—Elise.
ELISE FINCH, NBC WEATHER CENTER PLUS: Good evening.
We continue to keep an eye on Hurricane Ophelia. This is what it looks like on enhanced satellite. This is it on radar. This is the rain that we‘re seeing right now. But definitely the latest observations about Ophelia let us know. We really need to keep an eye on this system.
Maximum sustained winds still at 75 miles an hour so Ophelia is still a category one hurricane. We now see the system, the center of the system about 255 miles east/northeast of Daytona Beach, Florida and roughly 240 miles southeast of Charleston, South Carolina and it is, in fact, Charleston, South Carolina in that area where we are expecting Ophelia to make landfall early Tuesday.
Now, the latest system does show it perhaps strengthening slowly, perhaps becoming a category two hurricane but making landfall as a category one early Tuesday and then weakening and moving north up the East Coast.
So, again, we will really have to keep an eye on Ophelia. We are expecting that slow strengthening and already we‘ve seen some serious fluctuations in intensity.
Now, Ophelia was a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds between 39 and 73 miles an hour. At a category one hurricane it‘s barely a category one with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles an hour. But just to point out that‘s still only half of what Katrina was when that system made landfall as a category four just to give you an idea.
Nevertheless, Ophelia still can be a pretty serious storm capable of producing large swells, massive beach erosion and dangerous rip currents. In fact, we‘re expecting all of the above along the southeast coast from Ophelia so, as I mentioned, we will continue to keep an eye on this hurricane throughout the weekend and, of course, early into next week as we expect Ophelia to make landfall. With that I‘ll send it back to you.
CARLSON: Thanks, Elise, and that‘s right we will continue to keep an eye on Ophelia and if it becomes threatening to this country we will be there to cover it.
Well, two bits of good news tonight. First, of course, Michael Brown removed from overseeing the reconstruction effort. That‘s fitting for a man who was not even aware of the human suffering going on in the convention center. That‘s the least the administration could do move him on.
And the second piece of good news is the early estimate that 10,000 had died in New Orleans are looking now like a profound overstatement and that‘s great news. But the bad news on the horizon this storm could cost $125 billion to clean up.
Tens of billions are going to come from tax dollars and a lot of that money could be misspent or even stolen as it goes down to the state of Louisiana.
There needs to be federal oversight and we‘re going to be keeping up with that story as the days go on.
That‘s THE SITUATION for tonight. Thanks for watching. I‘ll see you back here Monday night, 11:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 Pacific. In the meantime, have a great weekend.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.