Guests: Chuck D, Rachel Maddow, John Berlau, Michael Newdow
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: Tucker, what‘s THE SITUATION tonight?
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST: Good to see you again, Joe.
Well, President Bush of course addressed the country from New Orleans tonight. We have reaction and analysis from Louisiana congressman, lieutenant governor of that state, and rap artist and radio talk show host Chuck D., of course.
Plus, we‘ll update you on the current position of Hurricane Ophelia, where it is and what it‘s going to do.
But first, President Bush walked across New Orleans‘ Jackson Square tonight in the French Quarter to address the nation with his program to rebuild the Gulf Coast. It‘s a plan that includes housing, medical care, and job training, among many other things. To the victims of Hurricane Katrina, he promised thorough review of the federal government‘s response to that disaster. He vowed to be better prepared next time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I also want to know all the facts about the government response to Hurricane Katrina. The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane. And the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it.
The system, at every level of government, was not well coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days. It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces, the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment‘s notice.
Four years after the frightening experience of September 11, Americans have every right to expect a more effective response in a time of emergency. When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem and for the solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Well, one of the most remarkable, and historically significant, for that matter, passages of President Bush‘s speech tonight regarded race and persistent poverty along the Gulf Coast. Here‘s exactly what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: There‘s also some deep persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has rots in the history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Racism causes poverty. That‘s something I‘ve never heard a Republican say, much less in public. Amazing.
We‘ll cover the fallout on that in the weeks to come, but first, with more from the site of President Bush‘s speech, we turn now to MSNBC‘s David Shuster. He is, as he always is, live in New Orleans.
David, it looked from the picture like it was surreal. I mean, there was nobody there. Were there people watching on the ground when the president spoke?
DAVID SHUSTER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: No, Tucker, that part of the French Quarter was really quiet, and you could see some of the Secret Service and some of the police and whatnot.
But just to give you an indication of some of the precautions and some of the preparations for tonight, you can see behind the president, Jackson Square, very well lit up, lots of lighting and whatnot that was put on there. Yesterday, we couldn‘t quite tell whether they were going to use generator power or not, and I still don‘t know the answer to that.
But we do know that before the president arrived tonight, all the lights, the traffic lights in this area, a lot of the lights in the buildings around this area went on, as if they were trying to activate the power grid. Now, of course, you can see that they are all off.
One might subscribe to the theory that perhaps they were putting the grid up to maybe help the president. If you light the area that helps, of course, with the Secret Service and security precautions. We don‘t know for sure, but we know that the timing was really interesting.
But Tucker, one other point that this underscores, and that is they have the ability now to run power to the French Quarter, run power through areas of downtown. And that‘s one of the reasons why the mayor of New Orleans, suggesting that the businesses should come back, that people who live in the French Quarter should be welcome to come back early next week, that we would like to see the redevelopment, the sort of rebirth of the French Quarter, if you will, as early as next week.
CARLSON: Now apparently, I keep reading that there are still some people living in the French Quarter. If I were one of them, and I saw the power flicker on for a moment for the president‘s sake and then go off again, I‘d be pretty annoyed. How many people were there, would you estimate?
SHUSTER: Well, Tucker, to be honest, I wasn‘t there, and I couldn‘t get anywhere near it. So I have no idea. But I can tell you that there was a very sort of tight pool that was there. There weren‘t a lot of people that were allowed to that part of the French Quarter by Jackson Square.
As for the other people who are sort of at these bars and restaurants that have tried to stay open, many of them—and here‘s like another good anecdote that may help you, Tucker. There was an alarm that went off. And one of my colleagues, Mark Mullen, was describing how all of a sudden at this liquor store, an alarm goes off. And it was a sign that the power had suddenly come back on. And for whatever reason, the trip wire had been triggered, and the alarm went off, and it was very startling to a lot of people.
Those are the sort of things that are now happening in the French Quarter, whether it‘s the power coming on, the lights coming on, the stoplights, or the alarms from some of these restaurants or bars that have been off for some time. So it‘s a pretty weird environment now.
CARLSON: It sounds deeply weird. Now when—we‘re getting conflicting reports, as usual, about when city—or parts of it are going to be open for business again? What‘s the latest on that?
SHUSTER: Well, it‘s a tough question tonight, because the big problem is when they want to open the hotels and some of the restaurants, the service employees, there‘s still not a place for them to live, if they‘re not going to live in the hotels.
One of the neighborhoods that they talk about reopening is uptown by Tulane University, but that‘s the sort of housing that service employees might not be able to afford.
And some of the more lower income housing areas that are sort of near downtown, they have tremendous damage. Along Canal Street towards the lake, of course, they had five or six feet of water. And those homes there simply you can‘t live in them just because of the decay and the mold.
So there are questions that have to be resolved about where the people who are going to work down here, where are they going to live at night. But having said that, the mayor at least wants some of the businesses starting this weekend to come back in and survey what damage was done, what can be replaced, what the general situation is.
And then the mayor is suggesting that as early as Monday, that he would then allow people to start moving back into the French Quarter, assuming that they can prove that they live in the French Quarter.
The one caveat on all this, and that is, there are still some environmental tests that are out there. So far, the environmental tests say that there‘s not a permanent level of toxicity in the residue, that the air quality is fine. But there‘s still some other tests that could come back. And those could throw a wrench into the mayor‘s plans.
CARLSON: David Shuster in New Orleans. Every night, I look forward to talking to you. I hope you‘re not there forever, but as long as you‘re there, we‘re going to keep coming to you. Thanks a lot.
SHUSTER: Tucker, as long as you‘re there and I have an opportunity to talk to you, I‘ll stay as long as I can.
CARLSON: Amen. Keep bringing us those reports from liquor stores.
We appreciate it, David. Thank you.
I‘m joined now by two congressmen from Louisiana, both from districts in the northern part of the state, both Republicans. Congressman Rodney Alexander and Jim McCrery. Thanks very much for joining us.
Mr. Alexander, what did you think of the president‘s speech? Were you satisfied by it?
REP. RODNEY ALEXANDER ®, LOUISIANA: I was, Tucker, I thought he gave an excellent speech. He spelled out a clear plan of what we need to do at the federal level, working with state and local officials to get this job done.
CARLSON: Mr. McCrery, Earlier tonight, there was some conversation on MSNBC about statements that your governor, Governor Blanco had made yesterday, to the effect that the federal government ought to pick up 100 percent of the tab for rebuilding Louisiana.
Do you agree with that? Do you think the feds should pick up the entire bill? And do you worry about resentment from the rest of the country toward New Orleans and the state?
REP. JIM MCCRERY ®, LOUISIANA: I don‘t worry about resentment, Tucker. I think the cost sharing arrangement is yet to be worked out. Clearly, the federal government will provide the lion‘s share of the money required for recovery and rebuilding.
I mean, the state of Louisiana, after all, has lost 30 percent to 40 percent of its tax base. And it‘s not realistic, I think, to expect the state to carry on normal cost-sharing arrangements with the federal government. So the lion‘s share will be the burden of the federal government.
CARLSON: I‘d be interested in getting both of your takes on how your governor performed. From up here, the consensus is growing, I think, that she was not prepared for this, and wasn‘t competent in executing a response to it.
“Newsweek” magazine, I am sure you both saw it, had this report in which where she is quoted as saying she had no idea, really, what to ask the president for when she talked to him on the phone. Do you think she did a good job, starting with you, Congressman Alexander?
ALEXANDER: Well, it was obvious that the storm overwhelmed everyone. I can‘t point a finger at anyone. We weren‘t prepared in north Louisiana for the flow of evacuees that moved into central and north Louisiana. So it was obvious that this is a lesson that we all learned, and will grow from, because we were not prepared.
CARLSON: Mr. McCrery, what do you think? I know it‘s probably awkward to pass judgment on your governor at a time like this, but the rest of the country is. What do you say?
MCCRERY: Well, the governor last night in a speech to the state legislature took responsibility for the shortcomings in the recovery, relief, rescue efforts immediately following the storm.
The president has done that for shortcomings at the federal level.
There were also clearly shortcomings at the local level.
But now is not the time to point fingers or assess blame. Now is the time to get on with the job of making sure that the evacuees are comfortable, that they are taken care of. The president spoke about that tonight. That‘s our first obligation. Then to get those folks into more permanent housing, back closer to home, so that they can participate in the rebuilding of their communities. Those are the things we ought to be focusing on, Tucker.
MCCRERY: Appropriate time. We passed a resolution in the House today calling for a bicameral committee to investigate the systemic problems in our emergency preparedness and any mistakes that were made by individuals.
At the appropriate time, that will be done, and I am going to be right there testifying, because I was on the ground. I saw some of the problems. I can sum them up in the three c‘s: communications, command, and control. Those are the things we have to look at, but not now. At the appropriate time, we‘ll do that.
CARLSON: I hope you do. This is so reminiscent of 9/11, where the monster was don‘t point fingers. And no fingers were ever pointed. And as a result, we‘re still not sure what exactly went wrong.
MR. Alexander, Are you comfortable with the oversight that is going to be in place to see that this money is well spent, and where is it going to come from, you all at the federal level or the state?
ALEXANDER: Well, it‘s obvious that most of it will come from the federal level, and I am extremely excited that the president did tonight point out the fact that there will be oversight. It‘s an absolute must. And my colleagues are going to demand it. So will.
And Mr. McCrery, are you comfortable, and do you think that the state is prepared to administer the spending of this money?
MCCLERY: The president spoke tonight of having well-planned, sensible rebuilding. He talked of having teams of inspector generals on the ground reviewing al expenditures. I think that‘s the proper attitude.
I want to work with the administration, and with state and local government on constructing some sort of oversight authority that will make sure that the money we appropriate from Congress is spent wisely, is spent well, and is spent honestly and transparently?
CARLSON: And finally a political question, I was talking to a friend of mine who‘s involved in politics in New Orleans, and he was saying, the demographic mix is likely to change a lot in Southern Louisiana, and that it will affect politics, from the local, maybe the congressional level. Do you think that‘s true?
MCCLERY: I hope not. I hope all the people who left their homes in the New Orleans area will return. It‘s a great city. It was a great city. It could be an even greater city now.
So I‘m hopeful that all of the incentives that the president outlined this evening, plus some that we will probably come up with in Congress, will attract the businesses back to the New Orleans area, and the individuals there.
CARLSON: Congressman Alexander, are you worried people are going to
stay in Houston and not come back to your state? Congressman
MCCLERY: Well, we have gotten indication some plan to stay, but we know for a fact that there will be many that will return. There are many in Louisiana today that will return to New Orleans when the time is appropriate, and especially if they feel like they can get a good job, housing conditions are satisfactory. Yes.
All right. Thanks for joining us. I know it‘s late. Appreciate it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: You bet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Still to come, bold new plans very bold plans, to resurrect the Crescent City. Talk to Louisiana‘s lieutenant governor about who is going to pay for all this stuff. Plus, Hurricane Ophelia lingers off the coast of North Carolina. See what‘s left of homes and businesses in the worst-hit towns. That‘s right, it caused some damage. Let‘s go when we come back.
CARLSON: Hurricane Ophelia has now been down graded to a tropical storm with maximum sustained wind speeds of 70 miles an hour. At this hour, the storm is wobbling its way through the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And even though the islands have been spared the worst of the deluge that dumped 17 inches of rain in other parts of the state, the storm could linger off the coast until midday tomorrow.
Ophelia certainly not the monster storm that Katrina was, of course. The hurricane did leave its mark on homes and businesses in coastal communities. NBC‘s Brian Moore is in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, with a look at the damage—Brian.
BRIAN HOOAR, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tucker, Ophelia blew in here, as a Category 1 minimal hurricane, but those who decided to hunker down and ride out this storm found out firsthand that minimal is a relative term.
HOOAR (VOICE-OVER): In the wake of Ophelia, it was a day to assess the damage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something about it.
BRAD FLY, ATLANTIC EACH RESIDENT: It‘s at high tide, and full moon, you know, the northeast wind, there‘s nothing you can do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a mess.
HOOAR: And in the coastal community of Salter Path, there was plenty.
Willis Seafoods was washed out.
VESTA WILLIS, STORE OWNER: I never seen so much mud in my life. I can see, I don‘t know if we will get back this year or not.
HOOAR: The Crab Shack was a mere shell.
LORIE GUTHRIE, SALTER PATH RESIDENT: We lost the whole back dining room. It got flooded. And the whole thing is gone.
HOOAR: The stray cats that lived outside survived, but these kittens in this box are all that remain from a litter of 12.
A couple of nearby homes were demolished, but most escaped with just water damage. All up and down the coast, there was flooding. There were downed power lines. But the damage was much less than officials had feared.
GOV. MIKE EASLEY (D), NORTH CAROLINA: So far, the information we have is people are OK. And that‘s the good news.
HOOAR: Even amid the mess of Salter Path, some found good fortune.
MIKE FIORINI, SALTER PATH RESIDENT: I feel like we‘re all in the same boat, so just—I don‘t know, norm around here, I guess you might say.
HOOAR: Ophelia, a minimal hurricane that packed a powerful punch.
HOOAR: Ophelia was not nearly as bad as some had feared, yet much worse than most expected. In Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, I‘m Brian Hooar—Tucker.
CARLSON: Thanks, Brian.
President Bush made huge financial promises to New Orleans in the devastated Gulf Coast region. Two questions: is it wise policy? And if so, did he promise enough? Lieutenant governor of Louisiana responds when we come back in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The federal government will be fully engaged in the mission. But Governor Barbour, Governor Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and other state and local leaders will have the primary role in planning for their own future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Well, at this stage, the federal government is essentially occupying the state of Louisiana, in a good way, we hope. Joining me now to talk about that, Louisiana‘s lieutenant governor, Mitchell Landrieu.
Mitchell Landrieu, thanks a lot for coming on.
MITCHELL LANDRIEU, LOUISIANA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Thanks for having me, Tucker. I appreciate it.
CARLSON: Could you just give me a quick recap of what you thought of the speech. What didn‘t you like about it? Let‘s start with that. I‘m sure you liked the promises of aid, but what didn‘t go over well with you?
LANDRIEU: Well, actually, I thought the whole speech went over well, and on behalf of Governor Blanco and the people of Louisiana I want to thank the president for making a full-throated commitment to rebuild the metropolitan area of New Orleans. I thought that was taken very well.
And it seems like the governor and the mayor and the president now are really coalescing around what has to be done. That was very encouraging.
CARLSON: It definitely was full-throated. And I for one, as someone who loves the city—I know you‘re from New Orleans. Obviously, you love it too. I‘ll be glad to see it rebuilt.
But as a philosophical question, why should the rest of the country pay to rebuild your city? I mean, if my house gets hit by lightning and burns down, I have no expectation that someone else is going to pay for it.
LANDRIEU: Well, I think that‘s a fair question, although we‘re talking about the largest devastation that the country has seen. I think that this particular region of the country is an economic engine for the rest of the country, especially emanating from the port of New Orleans.
There have been other disasters in the country that the American people have paid for. In 1976, we actually bailed out the city of New York when they went bankrupt. San Francisco has had some troubles over time with fires and the sort.
And you know, so I think this is part of the American landscape. I think the president said it very well, that you really can‘t imagine the United States of America without the metropolitan area of New Orleans. So you know, this is an investment on behalf of the American people that I think, if made wisely and well, will be repaid many, many, many times over by the southern part of the country.
CARLSON: As I said, I think it‘s probably the greatest city, certainly one of them, maybe the greatest city in the country, and I can‘t wait to see it rebuilt.
But aren‘t you worried that, especially on the heels of your governor‘s announcement last night that she thinks that the rest of the country, the federal government ought to pay 100 percent of the clean-up costs, that people are going to say, “Gee, we‘re paying for this war in Iraq. Gas is almost $4 a gallon. Kind of annoying that we‘re picking up the whole bill.”
LANDRIEU: Well, I am concerned about that. I would remind the American public, though, a large percent of this nation‘s oil and gas comes from off of our shores. We‘ve been sending billions and billions of dollars to the federal fist (ph) and really have not been getting our fair share back over the years.
I think that the American public understands that this was an American tragedy that requires an American response, and to date, America‘s response has been very generous and wonderful.
However, I do think that six months from now, when we‘re on the next big story, which I‘m sure is going to happen sometime soon, that it‘s going to be very difficult, it‘s going to be very hard, it‘s going to require tremendous sacrifice. And there will be fundamental debates that take place about who, how much, when, how, what it‘s going to look like, who‘s going to do it and what it is that we‘re trying to rebuild.
CARLSON: Yes I have to say, you‘re persuasive. You ought to be the governor, but you‘re not. The governor, Governor Blanco has taken all this grief. Tonight Joe Scarborough said he wouldn‘t ask her to reorganize his sock drawer. Kind of mean, but it sort of sums up a lot of what people are saying about her. Do you think the criticism is at all fair of her handling the aftermath of Katrina?
LANDRIEU: No. I‘ll tell you, actually, I don‘t really. This is not about who‘s the most telegenic. But I‘ve been with the governor many times. I think she has been deliberate. I think she‘s used common sense. I think she‘s worked very, very hard.
I think that as soon as was possible, we had boots on the ground and people in the water, our wildlife and fisheries agents, our National Guard, local enforcement officials were in the water, pulling people off of houses. They took 15,000 people off the top of houses that were about to drown. They did a tremendous job.
As the president has said and as the governor has said and mayor have said, there have been mistakes all around. And of course, Congress is going to do investigations. That‘s what they do better than anything else. And I‘m sure we‘re going to revisit those issues later.
But I‘m very hopeful now after the president‘s speech tonight and the governor‘s speech and the mayor‘s speech that, that they seem to be focused on the what, and the what seems to be getting more consistent, what we have to do. Now we need to work on how to get it done and the best way to accomplish that task.
CARLSON: Now you heard the president say tonight that he believes one of the reasons there‘s so many poor people in New Orleans is because of discrimination, racism. Do you buy that? Do you think that‘s true?
LANDRIEU: Well, I don‘t know that he said it exactly like that. I think the point he was trying to make, although he didn‘t make it as articulately as we would like to, when you talk about a lot of folks left behind they were left behind, they were left behind because of lack of education, lack of access to transportation, lack of understanding how technology works.
That‘s a problem that the country has to consider itself over the past 25 or 30 years. Louisiana has also been up to Washington, D.C., many times over the past 25 years talking about flood protection and wetlands loss as well.
And so while everybody focuses on the narrow, what happened on the ground today, there‘s a whole story to be told. And the country as a whole needs to reexamine our priorities and how we deal with these issues, and it‘s going to be very sobering conversation that we have to have with ourselves...
CARLSON: I think you spent at least part of your youth in New Orleans, right, the city of?
LANDRIEU: First of all, I was born and raised in New Orleans. I had eight brothers and sisters. Three of them lost their homes. My home has a tree to it. My parents‘ house is six feet under water. And we have a camper that has disappeared.
And all of us still live there. I commute back and forth to Baton Rouge, so it‘s been a very personal loss for all of us. Tonight most of the places that you show on TV were in the neighborhood that I live in, and it‘s been a very difficult time. As you see, most of the first responders were hit by this as well. And it‘s been very complicated and difficult and trying for all of us.
CARLSON: Well, had you worried—how long had you worried about the lake, the levee keeping the water from the lake breaking and the water coming into the town? Had you worried about this happening?
LANDRIEU: Well, everybody has always said that if the wrong storm hit us at the wrong time in the wrong place, that it was going to be very, very difficult. And unfortunately, everybody‘s worst nightmares came to pass.
And by the way, this wasn‘t just one catastrophe. It was the hurricane, then it was the floodwater. Then it was the breach of the levee, all happening in the span of four days, and so this is about as it could ever get.
You can see the devastation from Ophelia. That‘s only a Category 1. This was a Category 5. And I don‘t think too many people have seen that, and still people are having a very hard time getting their brain around the complete devastation that has played itself upon this particular area of the country. It‘s really truly astounding and hard to understand.
CARLSON: Lieutenant Governor Landrieu, a great public face for your state, thanks a lot for coming on. We appreciate it.
LANDRIEU: Thank you, Tucker.
CARLSON: Up next, a racially charged rap tune that accuses president of botching the Katrina recovery. Rapper Chuck Dean joins us next to explain why he wrote it and what it means.
Plus, Justice Department gears up for a fight over reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. Yes, that story has not yet died. And we‘ll talk to the man behind it. Atheistic Michael Newdow once again brought that issue before a California court. This time, he won.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The storm didn‘t discriminate and neither will the recovery effort.
JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW-PUSH COALITION: These are American citizens who have been abandoned essentially by our government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What really happened is that Mother Nature decided that we were going to get the most devastating storm that could ever hit America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have pushed us around from one place to the other. I feel like it‘s not right and I feel like something needs to be done about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got National Guard, state troopers, (INAUDIBLE). We‘ve been out here all night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Chuck D is the leader and the founder of the legendary rap group Public Enemy. He now hosts a show on Air America radio every Sunday night. He‘s written and recorded a new song called “Hell no, we ain‘t all right.” It‘s critical of the Bush administration in its response to Hurricane Katrina. He joins us now from New York, Chuck D thanks a lot for coming on.
CHUCK D, FOUNDER, PUBLIC ENEMY: What‘s up, Tucker, how are you?
CARLSON: I‘m doing good. I just read your song, I read the lyrics, haven‘t heard it yet and I, you know, I agree with a lot of it. You make the point that the federal government was slow in coming to the aid of the gulf coast and that a lot of people are suffering. But you have all these references to race in here and racism that I don‘t think makes sense.
Let me just read one of them. “Racism in the news still one sided news saying whites find food, prey for the National Guard ready to shoot, cause them blacks loot.” The National Guard didn‘t shoot anybody. Maybe they should have shot people but they didn‘t, black or white, and I guess I just don‘t see the race angle in this. What do you mean by that?
CHUCK D: Well, when I write a song that‘s what songwriters do. I cover a whole history of the United States, so this negligence is just a reflection of what‘s been going on for the what hundreds of years. So, when I write a song I have to write as a songwriter to kind of like touch on historical perspective and see what we see today and say uh huh, see, there you go. The pictures don‘t lie.
CARLSON: But part—I guess why it kind of bothered me was you once described rap as the black CNN, meaning it‘s a source of news for black people and presumably people, black and white, who listen to your music and take it seriously, take the words seriously.
CHUCK D: Right.
CARLSON: And I think this just misrepresents what‘s happened. There were a lot of white victims of Hurricane Katrina, a lot of black, a lot of Indian victims. I just don‘t think there‘s an intrinsic race angle and it seems wrong for you to suggest there is.
CHUCK D: Let me tell you man when I look at New Orleans and one day I was looking at one news station, it could have been CNN, it could have been MSNBC, I forgot, it showed back how it used to be, remembering New Orleans and it showed like just a whole lot of white folks touring through New Orleans and, you know, that was admirable but the reflection on New Orleans is the fact that it‘s a black city. The majority is black, black mayor for the last two or three terms.
CHUCK D: And for the first time you had a lot of Americans that didn‘t even know the makeup, the racial makeup of New Orleans when I know when I visited New Orleans it was just a disproportionate amount of poor people who just didn‘t get service by either the city, the state, or the country when it came down to figuring out what its needs were. Come on, the levee system going back to what, when was the levee system built?
CARLSON: Well, it was built hundreds of years ago and it‘s received...
CHUCK D: Hundreds of years ago.
CARLSON: It‘s received hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government in the past five years and it‘s still broke, which tells you something about the leadership in New Orleans.
CHUCK D: No, Tucker, listen.
CARLSON: But here‘s the point. Wait, but you make a great point. Hold on. You just said something really interesting. You said it‘s a black run city. It‘s had a black mayor for a long time and it has a heavily black city council. It‘s got a black chief of police. It‘s got a black Congressman. So, why is it necessarily the result of white racism when the people of that city aren‘t served by their leaders who are black?
CHUCK D: Because when they yell loud enough they‘re not heard. I mean, look, if Hoover Dam could stop the raging Colorado River, I‘m pretty sure that they could have came along with a strong enough levee system to stop Lake Pontchartrain.
But now, you know, here‘s the fears. The fears where racism really turns its ugly head on what‘s going to happen to New Orleans, (INAUDIBLE), probably the black people that have moved out probably won‘t be able to afford to get back in and New Orleans, the new New Orleans is fears that it will probably be one of the most magnificent cities and probably will be protected against a hurricane ten.
CARLSON; Well, but hold on. I just don‘t—I‘m sorry to get hung up on one thing but you keep accusing Bush of racism or applying that Bush is a racist and...
CHUCK D: No, I will have to echo Kanye West‘s statement.
CARLSON: OK that Bush hates black people or whatever.
CHUCK D: No, no.
CARLSON: But wait a second.
CHUCK D: Kanye West didn‘t say hate.
CARLSON: What about the—what about the...
CHUCK D: Wait, wait, wait, Tucker.
CARLSON: Doesn‘t like black people.
CHUCK D: No, he didn‘t say doesn‘t like.
CARLSON: What did he say?
CHUCK D: He said doesn‘t care, does not care for black people.
CARLSON: If you don‘t care about—if you don‘t care about people who are dying...
CHUCK D: If the media makes the mistake...
CARLSON: ...you hate them. I mean it‘s the same thing. You don‘t care about people who are suffering in New Orleans you‘re a hater in my view.
CHUCK D: No, you can‘t say it‘s the same thing. It would be like, you know, you just don‘t acknowledge them and you kind of feel like they are not even there and often black people in this country feel that, you know, unless our back is up against the wall that we‘re not acknowledged at all.
CARLSON: Well I...
CHUCK D: As a matter of fact, there‘s another...
CARLSON: I know people feel that way but it‘s such a terrible way to feel that I‘m sorry that you‘re perpetuating that feeling by spreading stuff that isn‘t true like what you just said.
CHUCK D: Tucker, Tucker, listen here. There‘s a tenth anniversary of the Million Man March coming up called the Millions More Movement March October 16th to deal with a lot of issues. There‘s still not enough acknowledgement on the advances made on the Million Man March of ten years ago by Mr. Farrakhan.
CARLSON: OK, well speaking of minister, I‘m glad you brought up Minister Farrakhan because he, of course, needless to say weighed in on Hurricane Katrina. He said this, “I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25-foot deep crater under the levee breach. It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry.”
Now that‘s a lunatic thing to say. That‘s a hateful thing to say. That‘s going to make people more paranoid and unhappy. Will you just say to people who listen to what you say that that‘s wrong and even to traffic in a conspiracy theory like that hurts this country?
CHUCK D: You cannot blame people for coming up with conspiracy theories when they look on television and see that the government is four days late in saving people that are supposed its citizens.
CARLSON: But you‘re a smart guy. You know that white people didn‘t blow up a levee to kill black people. Now come on. You know that that didn‘t happen.
CHUCK D: I try to be smart. I try to be smart. I try to be smart and I can‘t say unless I know for sure what‘s actual fact and what‘s actually false. All I‘m saying is that the pictures don‘t lie. When we saw people out there saying “I‘m locked up in the city, I‘m trying to get up out of it and I need the government to help me,” you know, the pictures don‘t lie.
CARLSON: Well the pictures—look, I can say for certain that it was not a white conspiracy. White people did not blow up a levee to kill black people. I think we can say that for sure.
CHUCK D: I don‘t think it‘s a person at fault but I think the system needs some revamping.
CARLSON: All right, Chuck D, formerly of Public Enemy, thanks a lot for coming on.
CHUCK D: All right, Tucker.
CARLSON: Well, if there‘s anyone who knows how to fight the power it‘s Chuck D‘s Air America colleague Rachel Maddow, who joins me now. Rachel, you can go ahead and admit that the levees weren‘t blown up on purpose to hurt black people can‘t you?
RACHEL MADDOW, AIR AMERICA RADIO: Did you go down there and investigate (INAUDIBLE)?
CARLSON: I did. I was—actually we were there. I didn‘t see any saboteurs but, you know, I didn‘t even need an investigation to know that that‘s demented.
MADDOW: Well, you should have had Minister Farrakhan on to defend himself and not have Chuck defend him.
CARLSON: The problems is that people, you know, people believe that stuff and it makes them—it makes them feel even more hated than they already feel and it actually is bad for the country, conspiracy theories like that. That‘s the kind of stuff you see in Pakistan where the Jews are behind everything or whatever. It‘s bad to traffic in stuff like that.
MADDOW: Conspiracy theories don‘t necessarily help but you have to understand where they come from. They come from people feeling like this disaster had a real racial component. I mean it was a majority black city that was absolutely abandoned by the country where people went through stuff they never should have gone through.
You, yourself, have said this probably would not have happened if these people were stranded under an interstate in Connecticut. I mean people feel like it‘s a poor city. It‘s a black city. It was abandoned and you feel when you see that many black people suffering on TV, not being rescued, it feels like there‘s a racial component. That‘s where it comes from.
CARLSON: Well, I felt terrible. I felt terrible for those people regardless of their color. I will say the leadership of that city bad, bad leadership, but look...
MADDOW: Well, bad leadership of the city, sure, but come on the disaster was not at the city level. The disaster was a national (INAUDIBLE).
CARLSON: It was. I agree which gets us to Bush.
CARLSON: Who gave a very national speech tonight standing alone in Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Even you will have to admit this was the most left wing speech given by a president since Bill Clinton seriously. Actually, I‘m not even sure Bill Clinton gave a speech that liberal.
MADDOW: I don‘t—you think it was liberal because he talked about spending money?
CARLSON: He didn‘t talk about spending money. He promised to make New Orleans and the gulf coast into this kind of utopia, right, where everybody has subsidized child care and the rest of the country is going to spend more than we spend in Afghanistan, a lot more and more than we spend in Iraq to make it this incredible place. I mean I don‘t know. I‘m not even attacking the notion behind it. I‘m merely saying these are not the words of fiscal restraint.
MADDOW: Well, certainly not. I mean I‘m a liberal. There was nothing in the speech that made me happy. This speech...
CARLSON: That made you happy?
MADDOW: No, there was nothing in the speech. This speech scared me.
CARLSON: You‘re hard to please.
MADDOW: Well, no. I mean what makes a liberal happy is not the idea of spending money if you spend it as badly as this government has spent it. I mean you, yourself, have said Bush is no conservative. Bush has overseen the largest growth in the federal government since World War II and what did we get for that? We got Michael Chertoff. We got FEMA. We got the Department of Homeland Security, which doesn‘t work.
CARLSON: Well, hold on a minute.
MADDOW: They spend a lot of money and they spend it badly.
CARLSON: You‘ve baffled me. Give me your three sentence answer to this question.
CARLSON: What could Bush have said tonight to make you happy?
MADDOW: Bush could have said “I resign.” That would have made me happy.
CARLSON: OK, OK, but apart from that, apart from committing suicide at the podium what could he have said that would have pleased you?
MADDOW: Bush tonight should have talked about why the disaster happened, what actually went wrong. He gave an explanation where he said what went wrong was this was a really big storm and that‘s why the speech scared me.
I felt like, you know what, this was a big storm. It was a category five hurricane, the kind of thing we ought to prepare for in this country. When he said, “I‘m going to task the Department of Homeland Security with looking into our big city emergency plans,” we haven‘t done that yet? We haven‘t done that since 9/11? I feel like I don‘t know what these guys have done and what convinced us that they were going to keep us safe. They haven‘t done enough.
CARLSON: So but basically you‘re conceding there‘s nothing more he could do for the victims of the storm than he‘s already done. I mean what else could he do apart from I don‘t know bringing them on a shopping tour of Saks or something. I mean seriously this is generosity. It may be good. It may be bad. But it is generosity embodied what Bush said tonight.
MADDOW: Well, in terms—if he‘s going to make sure that people have childcare fine. I mean there are things that he is doing right now that don‘t make sense that he‘s saying we need to support the workers.
We need to make sure the people who are going to rebuild the gulf coast are from New Orleans or from Louisiana or from Mississippi but then he wants to make sure they don‘t get paid prevailing wages at the same time because that‘s what Grover Norquist told him to say. He‘s making bad decisions and just spending a lot of money doesn‘t make me feel like he‘s a better steward of the country.
CARLSON: See this is why Bush is making a terrible political choice because he will never please you.
CARLSON: I think it‘s fair to say and he‘s turning off people like me, people who are sort of instinctively sympathetic to Bush because he seems kind of conservative but who are repelled by his free spending ways, his liberal ways.
MADDOW: What you—well liberal, I mean liberals want good government. He has brought us a big government that‘s a bad government. You get an intrusive, judgmental, corporatist, bad government. It serves nobody in the country except the business interests that put him in power. That‘s it, zip.
CARLSON: You just don‘t like him, Rachel Maddow.
MADDOW: I could have liked him if he resigned. That would have been the honorable thing to do.
CARLSON: Thanks for joining us tonight.
CARLSON: We‘ll see you tomorrow.
CARLSON: Still to come, conservative groups are blaming New Orleans‘ poor flood protection on environmentalists. We‘ll talk to one man who says groups like the Sierra Club opposed building levees in the first place. That‘s next on THE SITUATION.
CARLSON: Here‘s something scary. The Army Corps of Engineers says given the current weak condition of New Orleans‘ levees they would have “a tough time dealing with a category three hurricane right now.”
Well, some conservatives say the sorry state of the levees can be laid at the feet of groups like the Sierra Club. John Berlau is one of them. He‘s from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He joins us live tonight from Washington, John thanks for coming on.
JOHN BERLAU, COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Thank you for having me, Tucker.
CARLSON: Now, nobody is more annoyed by the self righteous yuppie control freaks who run these environmental groups than I am. They really bug me. But why are they responsible for the devastation in New Orleans?
BERLAU: Because, Tucker, and I‘m not saying they‘re totally responsible but in 1996, the Army Corps of Engineers said we need to upgrade 303 miles of levees in the Mississippi River including in Louisiana and Mississippi because not doing so would have “catastrophic consequences,” which the states would be decades in overcoming.
Those words sound haunting now and the groups like the Sierra Club and American Rivers, some of the state wildlife federations were aware of this yet they still filed suit in 1996 in federal court in New Orleans to block this because this affected (INAUDIBLE) hardwood wetlands which were home to the Louisiana black bear and all birds. That was their words, all birds.
CARLSON: Well, I have no trouble believing, I mean look I want to believe that the Sierra Club caused Hurricane Katrina, trust me. I desperately want to believe that but the problem with this theory, as you‘ve just described it is the Mississippi River wasn‘t the problem.
It was Lake Pontchartrain, so it wasn‘t the breach. I mean there wasn‘t, as far as I know, a breach of the Mississippi River levee. It was the lake that flooded the city, right?
BERLAU: Tucker, you‘re asking some good questions and these are definitely things that a Katrina investigative commission should look at and the main point is there was a campaign in the ‘90s against many, pretty much all levees and dams. The mantra was let the natural rivers flow.
The group American Rivers actually called their campaign Rivers Unplugged and certainly when you tie up the Corps of Engineers with lawsuits, with delays, it delays their other work as well.
They talked about lack of funding and funding was certainly an issue but part of the issue is that they were spending their funding defending themselves from lawsuits filed by groups like the Sierra Club.
CARLSON: Well that is actually—that‘s a smart point and I hope you do some more research and come back on and tell us how much of that money was wasted on lawsuits.
But, finally, coastal wetlands that‘s what the Sierra Club wanted to preserve and these environmental groups wanted the coastal wetlands. Those are sort of important in dealing with hurricanes aren‘t they in addition to helping duck hunters, which is a real interest of mine? But you want those wetlands to absorb some of the force of the storm, no?
BERLAU: They can be and the Corps of Engineers had a no net loss of
wetland policy that had been instituted under the first George Bush but
this wasn‘t—an they had also done an environmental impact study on these
on fortifying these levees but that wasn‘t good enough for groups like the Sierra Club.
They said, no, these particular wetlands are important. The Louisiana black bear and again all birds there, a lot of these species weren‘t even in danger. They forgot about the human species and we‘re seeing the tragic consequences for the environment as well.
CARLSON: All right, John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington thanks for coming on.
BERLAU: Thank you for having me Tucker.
CARLSON: Still ahead on THE SITUATION, while the eyes of the world have been rightfully focused on the gulf coast for the last couple of weeks there have been some other important news.
Up next, I‘ll speak to the man whose case just got the Pledge of Allegiance banned from classrooms. Stay with us.
CARLSON: Welcome back.
The scale of Katrina and its aftermath have knocked every other story out of the headlines but here‘s one we just could not ignore, a federal judge‘s ruling yesterday that the Pledge of Allegiance is illegal in public schools, the objection two words, “under God.”
I‘m joined by the man who was the driving force behind that suit, Michael Newdow joins us tonight from California, thanks a lot, Mr. Newdow for coming on.
MICHAEL NEWDOW: Thanks for having me.
CARLSON: This has been going on so long I think a lot of people may have lost track of your motivation in all this. Why do you have a problem with the Pledge of Allegiance?
NEWDOW: I have a problem when government violates the equality that it‘s required to adhere to under the Constitution.
CARLSON: Explain how a child saying “one nation under God” hurts anyone. Who‘s hurt by that?
NEWDOW: Anybody who doesn‘t believe in God. What‘s the purpose of the establishment clause? It‘s an equal protection clause. It‘s supposed to keep the government from choosing one religious view over another and turning those who are outsiders into second class citizens.
CARLSON: Right, I mean you‘re responding with legal phrases but explain specifically how that phrase turns a child into a second class citizen, like what does that mean? How does that happen?
NEWDOW: It turns all—it turns all of us into second class citizens. You can get on my phone messages and listen to the people who spew forth their vitriol against me telling me all the time that we are a nation under God. This is a God-fearing nation, in God we trust. That‘s not what we are. We are a nation of individuals and a diverse nation where everyone‘s view is supposed to respected equally.
CARLSON: Well if that‘s so then why is one man‘s view, your view, about to become the law for everybody? I mean if you‘re really interested in protecting the rights of individuals then why wouldn‘t you put it up to a vote? Why not for instance put a referendum on the ballot in the state of California and ask people if they want to keep that phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance in their schools?
NEWDOW: Because we‘re talking about a fundamental right to be free of governmental interference in terms of religion and, as Justice Jackson said quite eloquently, fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote. They depend on the outcome of no election. It doesn‘t matter how many people want blacks and whites to be separated. It doesn‘t matter how many people want women to remain at home. We have fundamental rights and we uphold those rights.
CARLSON: Wait a second, as defined by you. I mean that‘s one man‘s opinion. I mean you are...
CARLSON: Hold on a second. I‘ve seen the polls in this. You‘re like the one percent, the one disgruntled percent of the population who believes this and you‘re imposing your eccentric minority view on everybody else. You‘re essentially saying whether you agree with me or not, tough, I‘m going to use the courts to force this down your throat and make you accept it whether you like it or not. How is that fair?
NEWDOW: To force what? To force what down anybody‘s throat, equality and freedom?
CARLSON: You‘re forcing—no, no, no. Right, OK, everybody—I mean, look, you know, (INAUDIBLE) face of equality and freedom.
NEWDOW: I‘m not asking you to—I‘m not asking you to—wait. I‘m not asking you to deny God‘s existence. I‘m asking you to simply say that you can‘t use the machinery of the state to advocate your religious view. I‘m not asking for my religious view to be upheld. I‘m not asking for a pledge that says one nation that denies God‘s existence. I‘m saying one nation indivisible where we‘re all treated equally. Why is that harmful to you?
CARLSON: But you‘re not—in fact, you‘re not asking anything. You‘re using the power of the courts, of the judiciary of the federal government...
NEWDOW: I‘m using the power of the Constitution.
CARLSON: ...backed by guns to force everyone else to do what you want. You are one man making all of us obey your will. You think that‘s democratic? You don‘t‘ think that‘s wrong?
NEWDOW: I don‘t think it‘s democratic. I think it‘s constitutional that we have a constitutional democracy. We can go back to Justice Jackson‘s quote. It didn‘t matter how many people wanted blacks not to attend their white schools in Alabama. It didn‘t matter.
CARLSON: That‘s ridiculous. That is an absolute...
NEWDOW: What do you mean that‘s ridiculous?
CARLSON: That‘s an absolutely ridiculous analogy in that separate...
NEWDOW: Why is—wait, your argument you just made was it should be submitted to a vote. The vote in Alabama was that blacks shouldn‘t be attending the white schools, right? Wasn‘t that the vote?
CARLSON: No, no, I am—I am saying the existence of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance does not compare and indeed it‘s offensive of you to compare that to the pain caused by segregation over 100 years ago. But answer this question.
NEWDOW: I don‘t think, wait, I don‘t think it‘s quite that far. An atheist can‘t get elected to public office why? Because the government keeps telling everybody in America “in God we trust,” we are a nation under God.
CARLSON: Well, first of all...
NEWDOW: God save the United States and the honorable court.
CARLSON: I think atheists could get elected but atheists who want to impose their will...
NEWDOW: They can‘t.
CARLSON: ...to the federal courts probably couldn‘t. But this is my final question you must be driven crazy when you see American currency which is just littered with references to the Almighty. Do you use American currency and when you do does it make you sick?
NEWDOW: I do and I‘m about to—I‘m about to challenge that. Within the next month there will be a challenge to that and I‘m going to win that one.
CARLSON: Well, I hope to God you fail but that you come on our show and tell us about it.
NEWDOW: And you can do that as an individual. You can‘t get the government to do it.
CARLSON: All right, Michael Newdow, God bless you.
CARLSON: When THE SITUATION continues, President Bush pledged his commitment to the rebuilding of the gulf coast tonight but is it too much too late? We‘ll tell you when we come back.
CARLSON: It‘s been a couple of weeks since we last checked THE SITUATION voice mail box. We‘re going to get caught up on your calls beginning tomorrow night. Leave me a message at 1-877-TCARLSON. That is, of course, 1-877-822-7576. We probably will respond to your call on the air if you can believe it.
We spent a lot of time on the show, in fact this whole night assailing the president‘s speech, providing all that aid to New Orleans, should point out no matter what happens in the end, if New Orleans is rebuilt that will be a good thing. It‘s one of the few cities in America not crowded with Applebee‘s and chain restaurants. It‘s a wonderful city and when it‘s rebuilt we‘ll do a show from there. I can‘t wait.
That‘s THE SITUATION for tonight. Thanks for watching. See you back here tomorrow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.