Guests: Richard Wolffe, Rachel Maddow, Jack Weiss, Robert Tracinski
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: A lot happening nationwide this Monday night. We‘ll have it all live for you, including the latest from New Orleans, where President Bush was today. Washington, D.C., where John Roberts confirmation hearing just got underway, and Los Angeles, where most of the power has been restored after a pretty scary afternoon blackout today.
We have reporters on both sides of the continent. MSNBC‘s David Shuster is on the street in New Orleans, and NBC‘s Michael Okwu is standing by in Los Angeles. We start, as we usually do, with David Shuster.
President Bush got his first ground tour of devastated New Orleans.
David, what condition did the president find the city?
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tucker, it wasn‘t very good. He was in a place called Chalmette, which is in St. Bernard Parish, a little bit south and east of New Orleans.
And while the president was meeting with some of the first responders there and the mayor, the president of the parish was actually in Baton Rouge at the time, meeting with 1,000 residents who had taken refuge far north of New Orleans.
And the residents were being told at the very time the president was in the parish, the residents were being told by a state senator that it would be at least four months until they could return, that some residents who happened to live near the oil refineries that ruptured, that they would never return, and that, in fact, they would need to conduct soil samples before anybody could return.
So while it must have been a good photo op for the president, a lot of people from that parish were not focused at all on President Bush. They were focused on what their own parish leaders were telling them up in Baton Rouge today.
CARLSON: Is that, just to clarify, is that that they wouldn‘t want to return, because the conditions are so bad? They‘re not allowed to return? And if they‘re not allowed to return, who‘s preventing them?
SHUSTER: Well, they‘re not allowed to return in the sense that, in order to go back, there‘s going to be a special sort of certificate they have to obtain in order to get back. And they‘re trying to make some arrangement so people can essentially do an inventory of their homes and businesses and find out what can they salvage.
But the long term prospects, nobody is quite sure. That is an area south and east of New Orleans that suffered particularly because of the oil spills, chemical spills, of some of the industries in the area. So they‘re fearful some areas of that particular parish, you won‘t be able to return to at all.
The question is, well, is the soil going to be safe for some of the other areas of St. Bernard Parish. And again, a thousand residents of that parish were warned in Baton Rouge that they‘re not going to know for at least a couple of months, and that it‘s going to be at least four months before officials suggest it‘s safe to return.
CARLSON: Did the president come to the city of New Orleans today?
SHUSTER: He did not. He did not come to the city of New Orleans. He was here yesterday evening, meeting first responders and sort of especially meeting with people from New York, the New York firefighters and police, sort of remembrance of 9/11 and the fact that New Orleans police and fire department went to New York after 9/1s, so the president did that yesterday, but he did not. He stayed on the ship overnight, and then after being in St. Bernard‘s Parish, this morning, then he went to Mississippi.
So apart from New York firemen, National Guardsmen and you and your crew, who‘s in New Orleans right now?
SHUSTER: Not much, Tucker. There are some Red Cross. There‘s some Salvation Army. But it‘s mostly—it‘s a bizarre sort of city, because it‘s essentially a ghost town that‘s been occupied by the media, by the National Guard, by some police and fire department.
And one of the strange things, Tucker, is you know from when you were here, still, there are no lights. There are no traffic lights. There are no stop signs, essentially, that anybody pays attention to.
So one of the hazards in the city for everybody to come, there were a couple of near accidents, where people would come into an intersections, and nobody would stop because nobody is paying attention to one-way streets, traffic signs. Essentially, there are no road rules here. It‘s sort of drive at your risk.
So that‘s one of the weird aspects of the story. It‘s a ghost town. The only people here are essentially emergency personnel, fire and rescue, National Guard.
And the other thing about it, Tucker, which bothers some people is that there are a lot of people with weapons still. When police officers, as you know, go anyplace, they must carry their weapon with them, and because there are so many various police jurisdictions that are here, everybody has got their firearms with them.
So it‘s sort of a jarring sight to some people.
CARLSON: So what about the French quarter? I know last week, there was still at least one bar open. There were still people living there. Are all the residents gone?
SHUSTER: As near as we can tell, just about all of them are gone. I would say maybe a couple of dozen, and the one bar apparently is still trying to do some sort of business, although they‘ve been warned they‘re not going to be allowed to get any more supplies. Once they leave the city, they‘re not allowed back in.
One of the things that‘s happening to the sort of social life in New Orleans right now, is that the Sheraton Hotel, which has become sort of a place where firefighters and police can stay and get a hot shower. They‘ve got generators there to try to put the electricity back on.
They‘re also welcoming the media, so that every night, 6 to 10, yours truly can go over there and get a drink and make a donation to charities that will go to the hotel employees. But that‘s it.
As far as any socializing, any sort of social activity, it‘s the balcony of the Sheraton for a couple of hours each night. And I don‘t know about you, but I‘m not so keen on hanging out with some sweaty camera guys at the end of each evening, as much as I respect the guys we work with. But there you have it.
CARLSON: I have done it in cities around the world. New Orleans has got to be the weirdest city on the planet right now. David Shuster, there live. Thanks a lot for joining us, David. See you tomorrow.
SHUSTER: Thanks, Tucker. Appreciate it.
CARLSON: A major power outage left huge portions of L.A. without electricity this afternoon. NBC‘s Michael Okwu was there for the entire episode. He joins us now—Michael.
MICHAEL OKWU, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tucker, things here in Los Angeles are relatively back to normal. In fact, I‘m here at North Hollywood, at a fairly busy intersection. You can see that the traffic lights are working normally. Cars are moving at a normal space.
That was certainly not the scene earlier this afternoon. Police arrived on the scene here, cordoned off some of the arteries that you‘re looking at. In fact, put flares on the ground to be as visible as possible to the drivers here in Los Angeles.
All of this happened at about 1 Pacific Time after two power surges. There was a complete blackout in parts of Los Angeles, as well as the San Fernando Valley.
City officials today telling us that it was the result of human error, that something happened at a power receiving station that caused all of the electrical power to be put out.
This was a major problem that could have been chaotic throughout the city. We understand that people were trapped in elevators, that schools and other institutions like hospitals were working on backup generators. Some of those children being told to remain in the classroom.
There was a sense of anxiety in the city, but absolutely no panic. We do know that it was very difficult to drive on the freeways. It is always difficult in Los Angeles, with snarled traffic.
Today, after the power outage, it was close to impossible to drive on some of those freeways, and as a matter of fact, the surface streets were pretty hard, as well.
In scenes that reminded me, anyway, of what happened in New York City during a power outage there, some civilians actually taking the bull by the horn, so to speak, walking out, into the streets, directing traffic, along with some uniformed police officers.
Very much on the mind of some people. Certainly, I discuss it with some people that I was with today, the coincidence, the fact that this reported terrorist tape was unearthed this weekend, citing Los Angeles, along with Melbourne, Australia, as a possible terrorist threat, in the near future.
But we should be very clear about this at this point. Of course, there was absolutely no threat to the city according to city officials, and, in fact, it was a cause of human error—Tucker.
CARLSON: Michael Okwu in Los Angeles.
Later in the show, we‘ll have a Los Angeles city councilman on to discuss that very topic in greater depth. Finally to Washington, where confirmation hearings begin for a man who may have a hand in American law and life for generations to come.
If confirmed, John Roberts would be this country‘s 17th chief justice. He faced no questions today, but he did lay out his vision of the high court.
PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: John Roberts introduced his wife and two young children.
JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: You see she has a very tight grasp on him.
WILLIAMS: Gamely listened for three hours to judiciary committee members, then spoke just six minutes, saying a Supreme Court just should not make the law but just serve as an umpire.
ROBERTS: I will remember that it‘s my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat.
WILLIAMS: After studying his record for two months, committee Democrats today said they want to know if Roberts is committed to protecting civil rights, especially after Hurricane Katrina‘s reminder many have yet to share in prosperity.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: As one nation under God, we cannot continue to ignore the injustice, the inequality, and the gross disparities that exist in our society.
WILLIAMS: The committee‘s only woman said a key issue for her would be Roberts‘ views on the constitutionality of abortion.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: It would be very difficult, and I said this to you privately and I say it publicly, for me to confirm someone whom I knew would overturn Roe v. Wade.
WILLIAMS: But committee Republicans said Roberts should not have to say how he would decide any question.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS: If you pledged today to sit anyway, how could parties to future cases ever feel they would ever have a fair day in court?
WILLIAMS: At day‘s end, it was his turn. One of the nation‘s most gifted lawyers, with himself for a client now, spoke briefly and without notes, promising to keep an open mind if confirmed.
ROBERTS: Mr. Chairman, I come before the committee with no agenda. I have no platform. Judges are not politicians who can promise to do certain things in exchange for votes.
WILLIAMS: Roberts‘ supporters predict a straight party line vote of approval in the committee, 10-8, and unless the next few days bring a surprise, even Democrats say he‘ll be confirmed.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
CARLSON: Coming up, Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster. What happened afterwards was unnatural. So what did go wrong?
When we come back, a thorough examination from the White House to the streets of New Orleans. Stay tuned for that.
Plus, President Bush said today that Hurricane Katrina did not discriminate and neither will the recovery effort. Some are claiming it has discriminated already. We‘ll discuss the race angle next.
CARLSON: Coming up, how Bush blew it. A revealing look inside the administration‘s shocking mismanagement of the hurricane relief effort. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are doing everything we possibly can. We need to make sure that this country is knitted up as well as it can be, in order to deal with significant problems and disasters. But meantime, we got to keep moving forward. Now, I know there‘s been a lot of second-guessing. I can assure you, I am not interested in that. What I am interested in is solving problems.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: We are interested in second-guessing because you learn things. What did go wrong?
The new issue of “Newsweek” magazine goes a long way to answering that question in an extended piece on how the White House responded and didn‘t respond to Hurricane Katrina. That magazine‘s senior White House correspondent, Richard Wolffe, joins us now.
Richard, thanks a lot for coming us.
RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK”: Tucker, anytime.
CARLSON: You get the feeling, the piece comes out and says that the president really had no clue what was going on in New Orleans, wasn‘t really aware of it until Thursday and didn‘t fully become aware until Dan Bartlett, one of his senior aides, brought him a DVD of various nightly newscasts edited together to show him what was happening. Is this typical?
WOLFFE: No, I don‘t think it is, but of course, this was a moment of really serious crisis, and you know, you have got to really scratch your head and wonder how come the president of the united states didn‘t know as much as the regular TV viewer. It‘s shocking in that respect alone.
CARLSON: Can you think of other—I mean, I think people listening at home are probably thinking, ‘Gee, I wonder what else he‘s not aware of.” I mean, can you think of other examples where there this been this case?
WOLFFE: We—there‘s long been a disconnect between what people have seen, in Iraq, for instance, and what the president—the way the president talks about Iraq.
Now, we‘ve often put that down to his natural optimism and his projection of his own leadership. But there‘s something about his management style that came out in Katrina where he basically—he likes metrics. He likes to measure things. He likes numbers.
And if you look at the statistics that the bureaucracy sends out, it looks like there was a ton of stuff happening on the ground, in New Orleans and around Louisiana. But in fact, the big picture was captured best by TV, and the big picture was obviously very ugly.
CARLSON: The big picture, and in fact, the truth, I can tell you, having seen it myself.
CARLSON: Bush is a decent person, I think. He‘s a sentimental guy. He‘s not a mean guy, but I‘ve seen him snap at aides before. And you get the sense that he intimidates those around him. In your piece, you point out that there was kind of a lottery to see who was going to go break the bad news to him.
Does he have anyone around him that‘s willing to stand up and say, “You‘re doing things wrong?”
WOLFFE: Well, his aides insist that they‘re not a bunch of yes men, that he asks tough questions and there‘s debate around them. But one thing we point out in the piece is that other White Houses have had sort of devil‘s advocates around. This White House doesn‘t have that.
They‘re a very homogeneous group of people. And dissent is often treated as a form of disloyalty. So it‘s not that people can‘t say to him, “Look, things should be done differently.” But essentially, they have to share the same direction. Otherwise, they‘re out.
CARLSON: Now, your piece also really casts a pretty hard glare on Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisiana. And you point out that she didn‘t ask the White House, really, for broad military aid at first. Why not? Did you figure out why?
WOLFFE: Well, she says she thought she had. But there‘s something else perplexing about that phone call, which went between the governor and president on Monday evening, which is that, according to reports out on the web site of the “Times Picayune,” the levees had already broken.
She didn‘t know that, apparently, and she just assumed that when she said to the president, send everything you‘ve got, he would immediately mobilize active duty troops. Well, it doesn‘t work like that. Her own aides suggested that she had no clue about what the 82nd Airborne even was.
So you know, you have a real failure to communicate and to understand the situation. At both big levels of leadership: the governor and the president.
CARLSON: Well, she comes off in your piece as really unfit for really anything, as totally inept, by her own description.
I just want to read for people who haven‘t seen the piece yet. She calls the president. She asks for 40,000 troops. She tells “Newsweek,” quote, “I just pulled a number out of the sky.” She had no idea at all.
CARLSON: Now what—you get—also, you point out in the piece that the Department of Defense, really the one capable agency, or the one agency capable of handling a disaster like this, they were reluctant to go in. Why?
WOLFFE: Right. You know, it seems hard to believe that this administration, that more than anyone else has been happy to brush aside the lawyers. But they were kind of embedded in a legalistic dispute about state rights, about the role of the federal government.
And there were obviously also concerns that active duty troops, 19-year-olds with rifles, would start firing on civilians.
You know, this is also a sort of mirror, an echo of Iraq, in a sense. Had there been a presence on the ground, whether or not their weapons were locked and loaded, you know, they could have actually acted as a deterrent to some of the lawlessness that we‘ve seen, but there was this hesitance, and again, it‘s not something we associate with the Bush administration.
CARLSON: Yes, I mean, because in the end, of course, 19-year-olds with rifles were firing on civilians. They just weren‘t soldiers. They were looters doing it. And that was the problem here.
Finally, who in the White House sort of picked up on the gravity of
the situation early? Are there heroes in the administration that haven‘t -
whose roles haven‘t come to light?
WOLFFE: Inside the administration, I don‘t know. I mean, the Coast Guard clearly excelled, and they deserve every praise anyone can muster. General Honore on the ground, as well, but it took a long time for this White House to engage with this one fully.
CARLSON: All right. Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” correspondent. Thanks for joining us.
Coming up, President Bush said again today that neither Hurricane Katrina nor the government‘s response paid any attention to race at all. A lot of people disagree with that. We‘ll debate it when THE SITUATION comes back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The storm didn‘t discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort. When those Coast Guard choppers, many of whom were first on the scene, were pulling people off roofs, they didn‘t—they didn‘t check the color of a person‘s skin. They wanted to save lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Welcome back.
Some American tragedies, like 9/11, have a way of bringing Americans together. This is not one of those tragedies, Hurricane Katrina; it‘s pulled us apart in many ways.
There‘s a widespread belief that, among black Americans, that the response, or lack of response, to the hurricane was racially motivated. Seventy-six percent, in a recent poll of black Americans asked, believed that race of was a factor in the delay of getting aid to New Orleans and the surrounding areas, compared to 60 percent of whites asked the same question.
To debate what this all means, we are joined, once again, happily, after a brief hiatus, Rachel Maddow of Air America Radio. Thanks a lot, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Thanks for having me.
CARLSON: Thanks for coming on.
I have seen this movie before many, many times, having covered campaigns. One of the very first political responses to Hurricane Katrina was from Howard Dean, not a particularly well-informed person, who immediately comes out in the speech, I think to black preachers, and said, “Look, your worst fears are true. The reason that the government hasn‘t responded more quickly to the suffering in New Orleans is because 60 percent of New Orleans is black.
That has snowballed since then into a series of really grotesque conspiracy theories, some of which we saw on the ground in New Orleans. People really believe that poor parts of the city weren‘t getting aid because the federal government wants to kill black people.
The point I guess would make to you is irresponsible, unfounded rhetoric like that has real consequences in people‘s lives. Howard Dean shouldn‘t have said that.
MADDOW: Well, you may disagree with Howard Dean, and you may disagree with the way he said it, but you just gave those statistics about what most Americans believe.
MADDOW: That actually, most Americans, black and white, believe there was a racial component here. I mean, you had hundreds of thousands of Americans in utter despair, not being helped, an absolute shame and disgrace and disaster for our country.
And when you‘ve got these images on the screen, and you see who must -
the people that are affected, it‘s not crazy people that think there‘s a racial component.
CARLSON: But actually, that‘s—most people affected aren‘t people from the inner city of New Orleans. I mean, there are parishes, St. Bernard and Plaquemines, below New Orleans...
CARLSON: Parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, were much harder hit, much more destroyed. Many more deaths, in fact, than in New Orleans, and they‘re predominantly white. In fact, the television, I don‘t think gives an accurate betrayal of who was hurt.
I do agree that the federal government never would have left a bunch of affluent white people sit under a bridge for three days before evacuating them. There‘s no question.
MADDOW: Yes. Yes.
CARLSON: But at some point, someone needs to call and stop people like the head of your party.
MADDOW: Like most Americans?
CARLSON: Like the head of your party from saying irresponsible things, Dick Gregory, the quote, “comedian,” recently just the other day said that he believed the federal government was going to plow under New Orleans, expel all the black people, and drill for oil there. Now he has an audience.
I‘m just saying, this kind of paranoia drives us apart as people. It may win votes for Democrats in the short term, but it‘s wrong to repeat this.
MADDOW: It may be wrong to repeat it, but you‘re saying, the response would have been different if it was white people. And so it‘s maybe very upsetting to hear these things. It may feel inflammatory. But it also seems true to most Americans, and it actually seems true to you. You know that if this had happened in Connecticut, there wouldn‘t have been that many white people standing under a bridge for that long.
CARLSON: Can we be real for just two seconds here?
CARLSON: New Orleans, is a predominantly black city.
CARLSON: With a black mayor, a black chief of police, both of whom did a miserable job. Totally failed to serve their predominantly black city. OK?
It has a governor of the state who was elected with black votes, wouldn‘t have been elected without black votes. And she completely failed.
So the first responders in this were either black or elected with black votes, and they failed black people. So it‘s a little more complicated than to say it‘s conspiracy.
MADDOW: I‘m not saying that it is conspiracy. But I am saying you don‘t have to be conspiratorial to ignore people on the basis of their race, or to respond differently to people on the basis of their race.
It doesn‘t have to be some, you know, white supremacist Aryan Nations plot to do it. It just has to be blatant racism.
And that doesn‘t mean—it‘s uncomfortable to talk about it, but we know that it‘s true. We know that that had something to do with the way that we responded.
And specifically, if it was—if we were talking about an entire crowd of poor whites in the Superdome...
MADDOW: ... they would not have been described as animals. They wouldn‘t have been talked about...
CARLSON: I disagree with that. As someone who was there, and described some of the looters as animals, at least in my heart, I certainly felt that way.
CARLSON: I don‘t care what color they were. They behaved like animals. They raped people. They murdered people. They shot at rescue helicopters. People who behaved that way, I don‘t care if it‘s my own brother. Anybody who does that is behaving like an animal.
MADDOW: I think that, I mean, if you saw that and you felt that that was your individual response, you can defend that. I mean, I wasn‘t there. You were there.
But I honestly believe that the fear of the evacuees and the fear of the survivors, nationwide, the sense of anarchy. They‘re calling them animals, calling them thugs, saying it looks like Africa. That wouldn‘t be happening if it hadn‘t been a majority black population.
CARLSON: I saw a white guy looting Wal-mart in this amazing Marty Savidge piece that we had, and I felt as contemptuous of him as I did of anyone else. He was a pig, and I hope he goes to prison and all the rest of them goes.
MADDOW: If there were still prisons to go to.
CARLSON: There aren‘t, sadly. There should be.
What do you think the effect of all this will have on the Roberts nomination? Before you answer, I think he just—he basically gets a pass. Both because the left thinks that the next nominee is going to be easier to attack. He‘s hard to attack.
And also because beating up Bush on Hurricane Katrina is more effective than beating up Bush on Roberts.
MADDOW: Well, I think that probably the next nominee is going to be terrifying. Obviously, I‘m with you there.
CARLSON: I hope so.
MADDOW: And I think that Roberts is getting more of a pass than I thought he would be, and I blame—I actually—I think the Democrats ought to be standing up more against him.
The way that I think that Katrina should work against Roberts is that Roberts thinks the Congress should have very limited power, thinks the court should have very limited power, thinks the executive should kind of have a lot of unquestioned power. And the executive blew it, blew it, and lots of Americans are dead because of it.
And to say that he‘s a guy who thinks that, really, I‘m going to trust the executive branch to do everything without oversight, either like on civil rights issues from the courts, or on planning issues from the Congress, or anything on spending issues from the Congress.
You know what? Somebody who wants to kind of hand everything to the president right now and say, “You‘ve got untrammeled authority,” I don‘t think that looks good after Katrina.
CARLSON: I‘m not sure that‘s fair characterization of his views. I have to say, I agree with you. I think I‘d rather have the power more vested in the Congress. It‘s more democratic.
However, if I can just make one final point. If the Congress were directly in charge of responding to Hurricane Katrina, they would just now be passing a bill to send bottled water down to New Orleans.
MADDOW: If they had to respond, sure, but if they had to plan, if they‘d actually been able to plan for it and do what the local officials had asked for, we‘d be in better shape.
CARLSON: Well, they could have. They didn‘t.
MADDOW: They didn‘t—underfunded, Tucker.
CARLSON: We‘ll talk about that when you return.
MADDOW: All right.
CARLSON: We‘ll be back.
Coming up, our look at what went wrong after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. It continues. We‘ll talk to a man who says the disaster started 40 years ago and played out the only way it could. A different view of things, possibly a correct view of things, when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s discouraging that after four years of preparation the government failed, failed to protect the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: A question that looms over the entire tragedy of Hurricane Katrina how did this happen? After nearly two weeks of speculation and recrimination are we any closer to understanding what led to the government‘s handling and mishandling of this crisis?
Dateline NBC‘s Stone Phillips reports.
STONE PHILLIPS, DATELINE MSNBC (voice-over): It may take years to fully understand what went wrong and just as long to figure out how to correct the problems but some of the people involved in the tragedy of New Orleans have already begun to think about ways to protect against another Katrina, at the head of the list, Mayor Ray Nagin.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: I‘ll put it to you this way, you know this process probably has taught the nation what not to do and it‘s bigger than one agency. It‘s bigger than one person or two people or whatever.
We have a system responding to disasters that is designed way back that is not modern enough to deal with what we are dealing with and there‘s no organizational structure. There‘s no clear lines of authority.
PHILLIPS: Major James Pohlman of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff‘s Department thinks a good start would be to upgrade communication lines.
MAJ. JAMES POHLMAN, ST. BERNARD PARISH SHERIFF‘S DEPT.: You can‘t tell me that some way somehow they can deliver some type of communication system and set it up on a levee system the driest area that you could find and say, OK, we are here. What do you need? And radio that out and get the resources in. I think we could have had the bigger resources in the beginning if we had better communications.
PHILLIPS: The head of the National Hurricane Center has this advice.
MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL WEATHER CENTER: We‘ve said for years that the battle against a hurricane is won not during the hurricane season but outside the season and we‘ve always urged, you know, individuals and families and businesses and communities to develop their own hurricane plan. They need to have that plan in place before the hurricane season gets here.
PHILLIPS: And when New Orleans finally rebuilds will there be a way to ultimately protect the city if there is another storm like Katrina? Al Naomi from the Army Corps of Engineers thinks it may be tough but it‘s doable.
AL NAOMI, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: I think we can protect the city against a category five storm but it‘s going to take a lot of money and it‘s going to take some effort but it‘s certainly achievable and the money it‘s going to take is nowhere near what it‘s costing to clean up the city right now. So, a $2 billion or $3 billion system to protect the city from a category five is a small investment.
NAGIN: Look man, this is my mission now. I‘m going to make sure that this never happens again ever in the history of this country. If I have to go lobby Congress every day I‘m going to do it.
CARLSON: There is, of course, a large and growing political element to the unfolding disaster on the Gulf Coast. Here to discuss that Rachel Maddow. I beg your pardon. I was just—it‘s so nice to have you here.
MADDOW: It‘s good to be here.
CARLSON: I was caught cold there for a minute.
MADDOW: Well I wasn‘t here for a while. I‘m over here now though.
CARLSON: You are, well look you‘ve been thinking about this every day.
CARLSON: And I‘m sure you‘ve been hearing what we‘ve been hearing and that is President Bush, who actually I believe does bear a great deal of responsibility for what—the bad things that have happened here but that the Bush administration screwed up because it‘s so darn right wing and they just hate government over at the Bush administration and they‘re so right wing they couldn‘t respond appropriately. Contrast that to reality. Reality is presented by “The New York Times.”
MADDOW: Reality is presented by Tucker Carlson.
CARLSON: By “The New York Times” yesterday. Let me just read this to you.
MADDOW: Hit me.
CARLSON: Hundreds of firefighters who responded to a nationwide call for help in Katrina were held by FEMA in Atlanta for days of training on community relations and sexual harassment before being sent out to the devastated area.
MADDOW: Well it was a girl hurricane Katrina.
CARLSON: Seriously I mean would a truly conservative administration hold firemen on their way to help for sex harassment seminars? I mean this sounds like something, if Clinton did this we would just be down his throat, I would be anyway.
MADDOW: No, but you know this story proves the point that you‘re trying to disprove with it though because these 1,400 firefighters volunteer from all over the country. They make themselves available to FEMA. FEMA doesn‘t quite know what to do with them so it collects them and sends them for training of some sort. And then what was the first assignment that those firefighters got?
They took 50 of them, put them in all their firefighter gear and put them on the Bush photo op on Monday and had them walk around not saving people, not fighting fires but just following around the president to make his look like a hero.
MADDOW: That‘s what a right wing government does, PR instead of government.
CARLSON: No, no, no. This is what every sort of mushy liberal bureaucracy obsessed government does. It sort of makes people stand around and take sex harassment classes but look the fact is...
MADDOW: No, how about FEMA that doesn‘t know what to do with actual rescuers.
CARLSON: New Orleans, well what about the region itself?
CARLSON: New Orleans and the surrounding parishes received almost $400 million in aid from the federal government over the last four years, during the Bush administration, to shore up those levees and to keep something like this from happening. What happened to all that money, A? And, B, why aren‘t people wondering aloud what happened to all that money? Why isn‘t the state and the city of New Orleans taking more grief than it has been?
MADDOW: Listen, this was a total, complete failure of the government to protect and rescue its citizens absolutely.
CARLSON: But there are three governments in question here.
MADDOW: Right, there are three governments in question and we can talk about it, the mayor having problems and the governor having problems but really when you talk about the federal government‘s responsibility here it‘s to come in and coordinate the state, local and federal response. That‘s what they‘re supposed to do.
MADDOW: And the federal government fell down so catastrophically on the job that what Mayor Nagin did or didn‘t do is important but the stuff that happened at the federal level really, Tucker, is monumental (INAUDIBLE).
CARLSON: Wait a second because I agree that it‘s monumental and I agree that they screwed up; however, they screwed up in helping the people who were stranded in the city of New Orleans. Why were they stranded there in the first place?
Well, partly because Mayor Nagin, a Democrat I will point out, which is why he‘s not taking much criticism, I think, waited a day longer than the surrounding cities to evacuate, to call for an evacuation of his city. He screwed up. It was his responsibility. He‘s the mayor of the city.
MADDOW: The mayor definitely had problems. The governor definitely had problems. But, if you think that actually the levees, the protection, the response, the preparation that needed to happen, basically the National Hurricane Center did their job. The National Weather Service did their job and after that knock, knock, knock, nobody home, nothing happened. Bush was learning about what was going on, on the ground, from CNN on Thursday.
MADDOW: What the hell is going on?
CARLSON: We just did an interview on that.
MADDOW: It‘s his job to be in charge. The federal government needed to be in charge of this. When the catastrophe happened the federal government needed to be running stuff. Nobody at the federal government could tell what was happening. They had to learn it from television? This is a disaster. Yes, sure, blame Nagin but if you want—it cannot stop with Nagin.
CARLSON: Right and no one is saying this. I will say this is one time when the press, not to toot our own horn, did a pretty good job.
MADDOW: I think the press did a good job. I hope they stay on the government on this.
CARLSON: Rachel Maddow, great to see you back.
MADDOW: Thank you.
Coming up, not only has Los Angeles been waiting for a major natural disaster for generations, not only did a new al Qaeda tape threaten that city by name this weekend but a major power outage hit Los Angeles just this afternoon. The man responsible for that city‘s safety joins me next to discuss it all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have in Los Angeles at this time no clear or imminent threat that we are aware of against the city of Los Angeles. At the same time we are always on terrorism alert here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Welcome back.
There‘s probably no city in America more prime for potential disaster than the city of Los Angeles. Of course it‘s always, always prepared for an earthquake. There have been several devastating earthquakes in that city over the last 100 years.
Just the other day a new tape apparently from al Qaeda names Los Angeles by name as a place where terrorists might strike again. We‘re joined now to discuss these threats by Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss. Mr. Weiss wrote “Preparing L.A. for Terrorism: A Ten Point Plan.” He wrote that back in 2002. Mr. Weiss, thanks a lot for coming on.
JACK WEISS, L.A. CITY COUNCILMAN: Nice to be here, Tucker.
CARLSON: So, what did you think when the power went out today? Where were you? Did you think it was terrorism.
WEISS: I didn‘t think it was terrorism. I was actually having lunch downtown with senior leaders of the LAPD. Lights went out in our restaurant but I looked outside and saw that the traffic lights were still on across the street.
Then I drove cross town to a security briefing I was conducting for members of the Jewish community concerned about the latest terror threats and the power was on at the Simon Wiesenthal Center when I got there.
So, about half the city lost power, about half the city didn‘t, but it was restored over the course of a couple of hours and it turns out, as your reporter indicated, it was all a result of human error.
CARLSON: Now, tell me what you‘ve been thinking as you‘ve watched the last two weeks, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Has anyone in Los Angeles had a meeting to discuss the lessons of the mismanagement of this current disaster?
WEISS: Yes, we have. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and I, along with Chief Bradley have been very concerned about is, you know, is Los Angeles prime to have the same problems that they saw in the Gulf Coast?
You know, L.A. had a major disaster here 11 years ago, the ‘94 Northridge earthquake. President Clinton and then Mayor Riordan responded, responded well, responded quickly but you can‘t sit on your laurels from 11 years ago. We‘re all looking towards updating our plans and making a reassessment based on, you know, contemporary issues.
CARLSON: And what about evacuation? I mean I love L.A. I used to live there, no offense or anything, but it‘s pretty hard to get around the city. If millions of people needed to leave Los Angeles quickly would they be able to do it?
WEISS: Look, you can‘t evacuate L.A. anytime after 3:30 p.m. on a weekday. You can‘t evacuate L.A. during a Laker parade. Now, we haven‘t had one of those for a couple years.
CARLSON: No, you haven‘t.
WEISS: L.A. is a busy place and it‘s not clear which way is out. You know in New Orleans, at least, they could open I-10 in one direction and say everybody go in that direction. L.A. it‘s not so simple and one of the things I tell people as I do disaster preparedness discussions around the city is that if you‘re in a disaster in L.A. and you‘re not in a directly affected area, stay put. That‘s probably the best advice you can get. Stay put. Don‘t get on the freeway because you‘re not going to get anywhere.
CARLSON: So but if you are in a disaster affected area, where do you go? Do you got to San Diego, the valley, I mean where do you head?
WEISS: Well, I mean it all depends. You know L.A. is so spread out.
We‘ve got downtown. We‘ve got the west side. We‘ve got Santa Monica. We‘ve got Universal Studios. We‘ve got Disneyland. So, it depends on where you are. That‘s one reason why we‘ve all been so concerned about the recent al Qaeda videotape, not because we believe that that traitor and let‘s call him what he is.
WEISS: He‘s a traitor to this country that Adam Perlman (ph) is about to make good on it but because it underscores that L.A. is right up there I believe in the eyes of the terrorists with New York and Washington. I think those are the three top urban targets and we‘re trying to wake people in Los Angeles up to that reality so they would put more resources into preparedness frankly.
CARLSON: I‘m struck by watching in the aftermath of Katrina how authorities in New Orleans and in the state of Louisiana really looked to the federal government and are now blaming the federal government for a lack of response taking maybe less responsibility than you‘d think city and state leaders would take. Is Los Angeles prepared to handle itself in the event of some disaster like this?
WEISS: You know, obviously it depends on the size of the disaster and it will be tough but one thing that Mayor Villaraigosa and Chief Bratton are very clear on is they understand that in the first 24, 48, 72 hours, 96 hours of any emergency Uncle Sam isn‘t going to carry the day. Locals are going to carry the day.
That‘s why we‘ve been so disappointed in the actions that Congress has taken over the past four years as Congress with the tacit agreement, I believe, with the Bush administration has dramatically shortchanged cities, our major urban areas, our major threat centers when it comes to federal homeland security funding.
You know they divvy the money out as if it‘s pork barrel. It shouldn‘t be. New York, L.A., Washington and places like that ought to get the lion‘s share of the money.
WEISS: And the attention but since Washington hasn‘t done it that way they‘ve basically told us what they think of us and we know that in the next disaster we‘ll be on the front lines.
CARLSON: So you‘re saying that Montana may get more than its fair share.
WEISS: Montana will get more than its fair share and, you know, I bet you Dick Cheney can make it back to Montana faster than he can make it to L.A. along with the troops and so we know in L.A. in the first several hours and not several days of a disaster we‘re on our own and that‘s clearly been the message from Washington.
CARLSON: Dick Cheney from Wyoming, not Montana, but you know Montana is cool too. Jack Weiss, L.A. City Councilman, thanks a lot for joining us.
WEISS: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Coming up on THE SITUATION, Hurricane Katrina may have been an act of nature but the man who joins me next says the disaster that followed the storm was purely manmade and the victims he says a big part of the problem. He‘ll explain when we come back.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
One of the most widely e-mailed essays of the week comes from a publication called The Intellectual Activist. It‘s been bouncing around inboxes across the country and it‘s an essay about the hurricane in the Gulf Coast describing it as a manmade disaster.
Well the author of that essay, Robert Tracinski, joins me now from Charlottesville, Virginia, Mr. Tracinski thanks a lot for coming on.
ROBERT TRACINSKI, EDUTOR, “THE INTELLECTUAL ACTIVIST”: Thanks for having me.
CARLSON: You write in what is always euphemistically called a provocative essay. It‘s certain provocative. “What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state.” What‘s that mean?
TRACINSKI: Well, I was looking at the way in which people in the wake of a disaster, some of them that we saw on TV weren‘t reacting the way we normally expect Americans to react. We normally expect people, you know, from experience this is what typically happens that people band together. They protect each other. They work together to solve the disaster.
A lot of things we saw with the looting, with the crime, you know, some of the rapes and murders committed at the Superdome was I think some of the consequences of the same pathologies we see in the welfare state, the same pathologies that we see in the, you know, federal housing projects and things like that.
I used to live in Chicago and, you know, they just finished tearing down years ago—in this last year or so some of the big federal housing projects, like the Robert Taylor homes there, which were synonymous with, you know, they‘re notorious for this kind of thing where you had people living in squalor always complaining nobody else was doing enough to help them rather than taking their own initiative and the whole place being ruled by crime and by, you know, the young thugs who were running around.
And I think that that is the root of some of the things that are happening all of the time in major American cities that have large amounts of welfare spending is that kind of psychology, that kind of culture of welfare that is, you know, destroying lives and causing all sorts of problems on a normal level every day and gets heightened when these people are sort of thrown on federal resources and left without the control of government, you know, without the police there to sort of keep the lid on things in a disaster like this and I think that‘s the consequence of the welfare state that we had to look at trying to reverse.
CARLSON: A lot of what you say strikes me as true but isn‘t it also true that once people are dependent on government for their daily needs to live that government has a kind of obligation, particularly in times of disaster, to keep them alive?
TRACINSKI: Well, certainly I think the government, I‘m not saying that there shouldn‘t be a relief effort to help these people once the disaster has come but I also think there shouldn‘t be some of the entitlement mentality you‘ve been seeing in terms of, you know, people coming out afterwards.
I saw an interview recently with somebody saying what are they doing giving us $2,000 in these debit cards. They should be giving us $20,000. And, also I think, you know, it‘s not a matter like the same thing with the blame on how was the disaster relief effort messed up?
The question isn‘t so much, you know, what should we have done five days ago but what should we do next time going into the future? And I think that part of this is a wakeup call about, you know, why is it there were so many people who were impoverished, who were dependent on the government who didn‘t have normal resources to draw on when a disaster came. How is it that we can change that whole outlook, that whole...
CARLSON; Well, I‘ll tell you one of the reasons is because government promises to take care of people and people foolishly believe that government will make good on those promises and so, you know, isn‘t it—it‘s a little harsh to blame people for believing things their government tells them isn‘t it? I mean these are people who have been taught like all of us have been taught that if it really comes down to it, somebody with a cape and a gun is going to swoop in and rescue you, right?
TRACINSKI: Well there‘s a message that‘s been sent that you‘re not capable of an anti-individualist message, a message that you‘re not capable of controlling your own life. It‘s society that is going to take care of you. Society has control over what happens to you. And so, you know, if anything goes wrong it‘s society as a whole that‘s to blame.
And I think the answer to this is to send the opposite message to say that responsibility begins from the bottom up. It begins from what actions you take, what thinking you do to deal with the situation, to plan ahead and to make it so you‘re capable of dealing with the problems that you confront in life rather than sending the message that you are going to be taken care of and that you ought to be taken care of.
CARLSON: How likely do you think it would be that a politician, quickly, who said something like that out loud in the end you‘re on your own. Take care of yourself. Your life is your own responsibility. Do you think he‘d get reelected, any chance of that at all?
TRANCINSKI: Well, I don‘t, you know, saying it right after a disaster like this perhaps not but saying it in a normal way of dealing with life I think absolutely. American individualism is a tradition in this country.
People have the idea that you should be responsible for taking care of yourself that you should be responsible for making sure you get an education that you work hard, that you get ahead through your own effort. I think there are a lot of people who respond to that. I think that is the traditional American way of life.
CARLSON: It is. Sadly, the only people I know who really believe that seem to be the immigrants unfortunately. It‘s dying. Robert Tracinski, this is a really interesting essay and I appreciate your coming on to talk about it.
TRACINSKI: Thanks for having me.
Still ahead on THE SITUATION, Ophelia has been lingering off the Atlantic Coast for days now. It finally appears poised to make landfall. We‘ll tell you exactly when and where that storm will hit when we come back.
CARLSON: You‘re not going to mistake these scenes from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina but heavy winds and high seas are kicking up off the coast of North Carolina tonight as Ophelia churns in the Atlantic.
The storm had been a category one hurricane but it‘s currently a tropical storm. It‘s expected to remain a tropical storm for some time, according to NBC‘s Weather Plus and with the possibility it will become a category one hurricane, landfall expected Wednesday.
That‘s it for THE SITUATION for tonight. Have a terrific night. See you tomorrow.
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