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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Officials say New Orleans is Completely Destroyed. President Bush and Governor Blanco Take Steps in Easing Friction. Legislation Pending to Combat Soaring Energy Costs.
Aired September 5, 2005 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody.
Tonight, authorities in New Orleans have ordered everyone still in that beleaguered city to leave. Officials say New Orleans is now completely destroyed. We'll have a live report for you from the city.
And hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from the disaster area, but thousands upon thousands of survivors, many of them African-Americans, are still stranded in the city. Some are charging racism. I'll be talking with Reverend Jesse Jackson.
And President Bush makes the second trip to Louisiana and Mississippi as his administration faces new and mounting criticism over its response to this terrible disaster. We'll have a special report tonight on the man in charge of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Tonight, huge areas of Louisiana and Mississippi are still under water one week after the hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast. Officials have confirmed the deaths of 234 people in Louisiana and Mississippi. But the death toll is expected to rise, and to rise sharply.
The mayor of New Orleans today, in fact, declared as many as 10,000 people may have been killed in his city alone. Two hundred and thirty thousand people, just about half the population of New Orleans, have been evacuated to shelters around the country. But thousands of others tonight are still unwilling or unable to leave New Orleans and other badly-flooded areas.
The U.S. military has now deployed 51,000 troops and 300 helicopters to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. And the Pentagon has sent 8.5 million meals to feed survivors of Katrina.
We begin our coverage tonight with Jeff Koinanage in New Orleans -- Jeff.
JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lou. When you're talking about people not wanting to leave town, the answer is very simple. They don't want to leave their homes. They don't know who is going to tend to them while they are gone. They don't know whether their homes will be secure.
And we are standing right now on Canal Street. Canal Street would be the busiest thoroughfare in all of New Orleans on any given day.
This divides the CBD from the French Quarter. On any given day it would be chock of block full of traffic behind me, Lou, human and vehicular traffic.
You can see it is totally empty. Half the streets are flooded. Water two to three feet deep in some parts.
We can tell you, Lou, yes, water is starting to be pumped out of some of the levees. It's going to take months, Lou, if not years, to rebuild the city, restore the city, get people back. But what's most important is that people should completely leave the city because, A, the authorities, the emergency services, have to kick in, start cleaning up the huge, huge mess. And, B, what is even more importantly, to avoid diseases.
Those waters behind me are stagnant waters. They are smelling waters. They're dark, dirty waters. It's a recipe, Lou, for diseases, because the water-born diseases will attract mosquitoes, and those can cause more damage, long-term damage to people who stay in the city -- Lou.
DOBBS: Jeff, you have been there for days chronicling this disaster for us. Is there a sense that chaos has moved now to any better order? We are seeing water being pumped, the levees being shored up again. What is your sense of the progress that has been made to date?
KOINANGE: You know what, Lou? This is day eight. In any given disaster, at least the ones I've covered across the world, day eight would still be in the initial stages.
We are seeing people working on the power, the electricity, telephone services. One of the huge hotels here actually has power right now. People are being allowed to come back in, those who had evacuated, to just take a look at their homes, take a quick look, see if everything is OK, lock up again and go. That is progress.
And on top of all that, water being pumped out. That's a great, great, sign, Lou, because if the water wasn't being pumped out it would accumulate in these stagnant waters. A recipe for diseases, and that could be a disaster.
So, yes, to answer your question, simply put, there is progress. It is slow, but it's going to be even slower if people don't leave town. Slow but painful, but it started -- Lou.
DOBBS: Jeff Koinange. Thank you very much.
President Bush today visited the disaster area for a second time and acknowledged there is still a lot of work to be done, in his words. President Bush's visit comes amid new friction between the White House and the Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco over the handling of this crisis.
Deborah Feyerick reports now from Baton Rouge, the command center for the relief operations in the state of Louisiana -- Deborah.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the president and the governor may have made some steps towards easing that friction somewhat. We began the day with the governor not being invited to meet with the president or even knowing that he was on his way to town. As a matter of fact, her office had to call his office to find out in fact whether he was going to be in Louisiana.
He was coming to Louisiana. She met him at the airport. They traveled together.
Then there was a meeting here at the command center between the president, the governor, and also the congressional delegates. And we are told that it was a very positive meeting. They made a lot of progress in that meeting. The White House had said that they did try to call the governor, but then when I spoke to somebody in the governor's camp, they categorically denied that any messages had been left and they didn't return the call.
But we did speak afterwards to Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff. He said there is a unity in the operations. That he made it clear that everybody is getting along, everybody is acting like a professional, and they're all in agreement as to how to move forward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have a very good working relationship, I think, speaking in general. But everybody around the table here (INAUDIBLE) unified headquarters. We will all be next to each other. The execution will be, I think, as somebody said, seamless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: OK. Now as far as what the big issue was, it all had to do with the National Guard. The White House wanted to federalize the National Guard so that they could organize them, but the governor said no. She wanted to keep control because she wanted to use them effectively as a law enforcement tool to restore order, to restore what was a very bad situation, especially in New Orleans Parish, with chaos in the streets, with reports of gangs riding around in trucks with AK-47s and rifles.
She wanted the National Guard to be able to shoot if they needed to. And I remember the night she came out and she said, "They are on their way, they're armed, they're locked and loaded, they know how to kill, and I expect they will." So she was very serious about what their role was.
She did not want to see control over to the federal government because then the National Guard would only have been able to be in place, but fire in self-defense. And thereby effectively lose their power as any sort of law enforcement agency. But right now we are told the meeting was successful. It lasted about an hour and a half. And it seems that at least for now everyone is getting along -- Lou. DOBBS: Getting along, as you say, obviously a conflict between Governor Blanco and the Bush White House. Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security, Deborah, saying things will be seamless. There is no sign of seamless, although the relief effort is building dramatically here over the last several days.
What is your sense tonight there in Baton Rouge?
FEYERICK: Well, there's no question that this relief effort has simply magnified by leaps and bounds. We were here on Tuesday, and there were barely anybody -- any people here. But now we have -- or there are agents from so many different federal agencies, state agencies, local agencies.
We are seeing firefighters from California. We are seeing troopers from Kentucky. The Air Force is here, the Marines, the Navy, Coast Guard.
DOBBS: Deborah, let me interrupt you just a moment...
FEYERICK: Anybody you can think of, they are no in place there on the ground.
Yes, go ahead, Lou.
DOBBS: Let me interrupt you because we are needing to explain to our viewers what may be obvious, and that is that what we're watching in the video there are levees that are being shored up with these giant sandbags that are being pushed into place. They're being delivered by both barge, trying to fill up the breaches in these levees, or by helicopter, coming in. And literally dozens of helicopters involved in this operation as they are beginning the first process in the cleanup, which is to shore up the levees and simultaneously begin pumping the water from the flooded areas of New Orleans.
Deborah, returning to that, the seamlessness that Michael Chertoff was talking about, obviously they are putting a good public face on this at this point. But there's great criticism of Michael Chertoff and his department, Homeland Security, under which the Federal Emergency Management Agency rests of Governor Blanco's entire handling of this matter. And, of course, the mayor of New Orleans and his conduct in planning and his agencies within the city government.
What is the -- what is the sense there tonight?
FEYERICK: Well, there's no question that when all is said and done, when everybody is rescued, when all the bodies are collected, and when New Orleans begins to pulse back to life, that there is going to be some sort of accountability issue. Who was doing what? When were they doing it?
But again, you do have to keep in mind this was a huge storm. It took a turn at the very last minute and descended upon the city.
The question is, did the mayor do enough to evacuate people who didn't have the means? Or, in fact, who just simply didn't want to get out? Who is responsible? Is it the people themselves?
Did the mayor do enough? Did the police chief do enough? When were people mobilized? That's another question.
They knew about the hurricane. They had no idea they were going to get a one-two punch with the levee break. So that was another issue.
You couldn't get certain troops into the city because they themselves would have been compromised. You can't have dead soldiers on the ground either. That doesn't help anyone.
And then again, there's the national response. Did they mobilize all the people in time?
We can tell you we have seen a buildup over the last seven days here. The buildup now is extraordinary with the number of federal agencies, local and state agencies. But again, it took a good seven days to do it.
How do you coordinate all those people, Lou? Well, they've got the commanders on the ground here, some from the state, some from the federal government, and they're going to have to work together so that everybody knows what to do and there's no overlap, and the rescue, recovery and rebuilding goes on efficiently.
DOBBS: And hopefully very efficiently and soon for those who remain stranded in New Orleans without power, without food, without water. Deborah Feyerick, thank you very much, reporting from Baton Rouge.
As Deborah alluded to in her report, there are no strong estimates of the number of people, although thought to be in the thousands, that remain stranded in the city of New Orleans tonight. There are no firm numbers at all in the number of people in New Orleans who lost their lives.
New details tonight, though, are emerging of a deadly shootout between New Orleans police and heavily-armed men.
Police say officer confronted a gang of six armed men on the Danziger Bridge over the Industrial Canal yesterday. Those men fired on the officers, who then returned fire. Two of the men were killed, two wounded in the initial exchange of fire. Another man was wounded, another captured after a chase. There was no injuries to the police officers.
The New Orleans Police Department today admitted hundreds of its officers remain unaccounted for and presumably have simply walked off the job. The city's deputy police chief, Warren Riley, said as many as 500 of the 1,600-man police force are missing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEP. CHIEF WARREN RILEY, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPT.: Some of those officers left for various reasons. Some we understand. Some of those officers lost their homes. They don't know where their families are, where their spouses are. And they are out looking for them. Some left because they simply could not deal with this catastrophe.
Those who didn't stay, that's a subject for another day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: And two police officers have committed suicide.
Still ahead here, we'll have much more on the deadly aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and who should be held accountable for the slow response to this disaster.
Also, hundreds of U.S. Marines have landed in Mississippi, there to help survivors. We'll have a live report for you from Biloxi.
And President Bush has nominated Judge John Roberts to be chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court two days after the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. We will be analyzing the political and legal impact of a confirmation of Judge John Roberts next.
A great deal more ahead.
DOBBS: President Bush has just returned to Andrews Air Force Base, returning to Washington, D.C., after for a second time visiting the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi and Louisiana. These live pictures, obviously, of President -- of Air Force One, with the president and first lady aboard.
The president today made stops in Mississippi and Louisiana amid criticism of the federal emergency response. The president today said there is a lot of work to be done in those disaster areas, but President Bush vowed that this nation will work to save lives. And he visited Poplarville, Mississippi, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Navy and Marine personnel began landing on the beaches of Biloxi, Mississippi, today, bringing with them heavy equipment for the massive cleanup effort that awaits them.
Ted Rowland is in Biloxi tonight and has the latest for us -- Ted.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have called this Camp Restore, Lou. And you can see there's heavy machinery lined up here ready to be deployed along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And there are Marines, 500-plus Marines, and Navy shepmen here as well to the tune of 4,000.
They are along the beaches here in Biloxi, waiting for deployment. They say they will be here for as long as it takes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The job here is enormous. You know, the guys on television, you look at it and it's a view through a soda straw. You stand in the middle of it's just overwhelming the amount of devastation that took place here. And we're more than willing to do what we can.
I have no problem motivating the sailors. It's unbelievable. They took one look at the devastation and they've been jumping the whole time. My concern now is they -- you know, it's going to be a marathon, I think, not a sprint.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Also helping with this, not just the military, but other organizations. The United Way and faith-based organizations have set up shelters all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This is some video from Gulfport, Mississippi, where they are doling out much needed supplies to people that need them and thousands of meals each day.
It's not just one or two days. It could be weeks and weeks that people need daily sustenance.
Meanwhile, the search for bodies continues as well. The gruesome task of going through huge debris piles is being done on a daily basis. They continue to pull bodies out.
And once they believe they have done as much as they can on that, the big question, what do you do with all of this debris? That is being mulled over, how to get all of this debris out of here so that they can start the rebuilding process. They now have a lot of help here in the military -- Lou.
DOBBS: Ted, the officer talking about the sailors that he's motivating, obviously the Navy there with the Marine Corps. The CVs, the Corps of Engineers, obviously are going to play a huge critically important role because they are the world's greatest experts in dealing not only with disaster, but with building the massive projects that are awaiting in this reconstruction of the area.
Is there a -- is there a sense that we're going to see more of the CVs and a greater presence on the part of the Corps of Engineers?
ROWLANDS: Clearly. And they're coming aboard. They're already on shore.
They say the first job is to get the sanitation system up and running. The sewage system has been down now for a week. It's creating potential problems all across the Gulf Coast. And once they get that shored up, it's on to the electrical system, and then only then do they start the infrastructure, rebuilding.
How that will be done, how it will all play out will be determined in large part by the military force, because, as you mentioned, they sure are the experts in rebuilding cities in short order, which is what this area is hoping will happen. DOBBS: Ted Rowlands. Thank you very much.
As thousands of our troops are arriving in the disaster area, there is rising and increasingly bitter criticism tonight about the federal government's slow response to Hurricane Katrina. Critics say federal government agencies simply failed to fulfill their duty, a charge those agencies and their leaders strongly deny.
Kitty Pilgrim reports.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Today, the heads of FEMA and Homeland Security made an effort to explain the organizational structure of the rescue and relief efforts.
CHERTOFF: We have different chains of command and authorities. Frankly, you know, it reflects the constitutional system, federal government's takeover.
PILGRIM: But in the early days of the disaster, the breakdown of communication between local, state and federal level was illustrated by Mayor Nagin of New Orleans, literally screaming for federal help in an interview with Garland Robinette of WWL Radio.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: I don't want to see anybody do any more (EXPLETIVE DELETED) press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences.
PILGRIM: Experts say there is plenty of blame on all levels.
PROF. PAUL LIGHT, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: We don't have a seamless integrated system now. We've got plans upon plans upon plans --I mean, to a level of detail that really boggles the imagination. But in terms of finding the one person who can make things happen, that doesn't exist in the federal system today. You have to have many moving parts.
PILGRIM: On the local level, there is a problem prioritizing spending. Cities, instead of spending taxpayer money on upgrading fire equipment, could allocate to big-picture purchases, such as satellite phones.
On the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security is under criticism for putting too much emphasis on terrorism planning, not enough on natural disaster. And some say FEMA, charged with disaster response, has been of late underfunded, unfocused and riddled with staff vacancies.
Over the past three or four months, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff planned to cut red tape, what he called de-layering the agency, flattening the organizational structure in his second- stage review plan submitted mid-July. But that plan put off by Congress until September. Plans blindsided by delay and Hurricane Katrina.
PILGRIM: There is a call now to take FEMA back out from under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and restore its status as an independent agency. But some experts say that it's just reshuffling the bureaucratic deck once again. Part of the failure was because the Department of Homeland Security was in a bureaucratic transition and some preparedness plans were still under review -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well, let's be straightforward. The Department of Homeland Security is a bureaucracy. It's not a bureaucratic transition.
It's a bureaucracy. It is massive. And whether this is a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, response management is the same in precisely each case. And the fact is that this is another example of the fact that four years after September 11, this government is still not ready to deal with that response management, unfortunately for thousands of our fellow citizens in New Orleans.
Hopefully we'll all learn something from this. Kitty Pilgrim. Thank you.
We'd like to know what your thoughts are on the slow response to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Do you believe that local, state and federal officials should be held accountable for the failure to adequately respond to this disaster, yes or no? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have the results coming up here later.
Coming up next, President Bush nominates Judge John Roberts to be chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, will join me with a preview of the upcoming Roberts confirmation hearings in the Senate.
And is he fit to lead? New questions tonight about FEMA's director, Michael Brown, and his ability to lead in times of crisis, particularly this crisis.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: FEMA director Mike Brown today forcefully defended himself against charges he's unfit to lead the agency in this time of crisis. Brown said at a press conference that he's well qualified for the task of heading up the government relief effort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: I started out as general counsel at FEMA, ran operations at headquarters through 9/11. And since then, 164 presidential disaster declarations, including the California wildfires, the historic outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest a couple of years ago, and last year's historic four hurricanes that struck Florida. So, yes, I've been through a few disasters in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: The critics say Brown had no experience in disaster relief before joining FEMA in 2001. And they point out his last private sector job was managing a horse show circuit.
Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): FEMA director Mike Brown toured the devastation with President Bush in Mobile, Alabama. But this interview shows he may be in over his head.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Sir, you're not telling me you just learned that the folks at the convention center didn't have food and water until today, are you? You had no idea they were completely cut off?
BROWN: Paula, the federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today.
SYLVESTER: Not comforting words from the man who is supposed to be in charge. Mike Brown is a lawyer by trade. He's been at the Federal Emergency Management Agency for less than five years as general counsel and deputy director.
Before that, for a decade he was the commissioner of the Arabian Horse Association, in charge of supervising judges. He left after the board of directors was unsatisfied with the way he was handling a series of lawsuits.
FEMA's bungling of the recovery efforts has put Brown's emergency management credentials, or lack thereof, in the spotlight.
REP. BERNIE THOMPSON (D), MISSISSIPPI: I think Mike Brown has demonstrated that he can't handle the job. By demonstrating that, if the secretary or the president do what they need to do, they will ask him to step down.
SYLVESTER: Mike Brown is a long-time friend from Oklahoma with Joe Albaugh, the former FEMA director. Albaugh was President Bush's 2000 campaign manager. The former inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, Clark Kent Ervin, says there is a problem using FEMA as a political honey pot.
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: It's absolutely critical that every key position in every department, but especially the Department of Homeland Security, whose whole (INAUDIBLE), obviously, is to protect us against catastrophic disasters, whether they're manmade or natural, and does not appear as though there was the background here on Mr. Brown's part to deal with a disaster of this kind of magnitude and gravity.
SYLVESTER: A spokeswoman for FEMA said Mike Brown is not available to do a one-on-one interview because of the ongoing crisis, but added that he has responded to more than 164 federal emergencies. And se pointed out that he has experience as an assistant city manager and the head of the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.
But Mike Brown doesn't seem to have the confidence of the rank and file. A FEMA worker told me that is seen more of a figure head of a department symbol and not as a decision maker -- Lou.
DOBBS: It's an extraordinary level of criticism. This is obviously a time in which accountability is going to be much on the minds of all who have had to deal with this. But when a government at the local, state and federal level is embarrassed by its failure to respond to help its citizens, we can bet that accountability may be asserted, perhaps rarely as it is in government, but certainly asserted this time.
Lisa Sylvester. Thank you very much.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson has been in Houston, Texas, and Baton Rouge, today. He's had some harsh word for the federal response to the hurricane disaster.
Jackson has said, in fact, racism is in part to blame for the slow response. He's questioned why President Bush hasn't named African-Americans to top positions at FEMA and said some of the media's coverage of this crisis has been outright racist.
Reverend Jesse Jackson joins me tonight from Baton Rouge.
Good to have you with us. Let's start with the...
REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Let me be quick to say...
DOBBS: Let me say welcome, and then you can do whatever you want.
JACKSON: Thank you. I want to be quick to say, though not referring to American citizens as refugees, they are American citizens. I do not know whether the slow response was a combination of racial insensitivity or incompetence or indifference. I'm not sure what the percentage was.
Suffice it to say America was not in readiness for a storm that was anticipated. So there's been slowness in rescue, we've lost lives, more in dehydration and starvation maybe than even the flood itself.
America was not in readiness for a storm that was anticipated. So there's been slowness in rescue. We've lost lives. And dehydration and starvation maybe even than the flood itself. Slow in relief and slow in relocation.
We are sending people to Utah and to Minnesota when we in fact could use military bases that are not used in Louisiana. DOBBS: Jesse? Right, I understand. But let me -- before we get to that issue, let's deal with the charges that you have made. You have said that President Bush's response has been incompetent. But why have you not focused on the mayor's response, the city council's response, the state's response as well in its preparation for this crisis?
JACKSON: Well, let me say to you that the responsibility to have a levee that can take a storm is a corps of engineers responsibility. When the alert went out to evacuate people from the city, the most able were -- got out. The least able could not get out.
120,000 people make less than $8,000 a year. The oldest, the sickest person, the youngest could not get out. That was a federal emergency that was not addressed by the federal government. That's not something a local mayor can handle.
DOBBS: Good grief. Reverend Jackson, let me just say to you. If you're the mayor of the city of New Orleans, you're the chief of police, you're the city council, you're responsible for the lives of your people. I mean, good grief.
I think -- by the way, I want to share with you one thing. You and I are in total agreement that the federal government has not responded adequately to this. And it is absolutely - it's embarrassing. It's shameful that this country, a superpower, does not take care of its people in this instance better and faster.
But to give a pass to the governor of the state and to the city power structure of that -- of New Orleans, is to me -- that's just mind boggling.
JACKSON: Let me give you two points. When I got here last Wednesday, there was a Louisiana plan, a Mississippi plan, and an Alabama plan, as opposed to a federal plan for the areas. So that was a part of the crisis.
But the other part is they was told to go to the Superdome. If the level five hurricane had hit New Orleans frontal as it did Mississippi, the Superdome would have been a massive tomb for the dead. Even that was a miscalculation. The planning to protect our coast and our borders is at least a federal mission that involves preparedness...
JACKSON: ...and a plan. And that's not just what a mayor in my judgment can do.
DOBBS: Well, the mayor is actually taking credit for the fact that he - that as he put it, evacuation plan A was to move those people into the Superdome because there really was very - there were very few choices. He also included the convention center.
But as we get bogged down in this, my real question to you is, Jesse, what purpose does it serve to inject racism into the discussion when we've got thousands of our fellow citizens hurting? They need our help. There's going to be a -- you and I both know there's going to be a complete broad and deep investigation into the failures of governance at the local, state and federal level after this. I think you and I both agree on that, right?
JACKSON: I did not inject race. When the media saw these long lines of African-American people, referring to them as refugees. In fact, they are citizens. And the media began to ask the question, what are the class race implications?
I did not raise those questions. My concern is that we did not have lack of preparedness to save Americans, who in fact, were facing a storm that was predictable unlike 9/11, unlike the tsunami.
So I think the bigger issue here is in light of the global warming, in light of our coastal vulnerability, how should we address the issue of national security and alertness from this day forward?
DOBBS: Yes, I couldn't agree with you more.
JACKSON: Some of it was fairly self evident.
DOBBS: I couldn't agree with you. I think worrying about whether we refer to the unfortunate victims of this storm as refugees because they are certainly refugees from Katrina.
But I think focusing on the fact that a quarter of a million people are in the hearts and homes. And the relief shelters provided by their fellow Americans in 12 states is something we need to focus on.
I don't think there's anyone...
JACKSON: Well, Lou...
DOBBS: ...let me finish my sentence and I'll let you finish.
JACKSON: Yes. All right.
DOBBS: I don't think there's anybody in this country -- you know, Mel Watson, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus said, you know, Katrina didn't pick out New Orleans because there were black people in it. His exact quote was "Katrina went after New Orleans, not black people."
The fact is there isn't anybody that calls himself or herself an American who cares one way or the other where somebody who needs help is black or whatever race in this country. They're American citizens. And I think that it would really be helpful for you to give everybody some credit.
JACKSON: Lou, I do not want to deal with how many people are turned away on the race class question. My real concern was that we had a five-day warning, a level five hurricane was coming. We did not have capacity for mass rescue, mass relief...
DOBBS: Oh, Jesse...
JACKSON: ...mass relocation.
DOBBS: Again, you and I agree 100 percent.
JACKSON: Or mass family reunification.
DOBBS: But this is part of the -- this is part of the political sham in this country right now that you and I should be addressing every night.
DOBBS: The fact is four years after September 11th, we still don't have a homeland security department that cares about border security. We don't have a homeland security department that can manage a response to a disaster whether natural or terrorist. And that has to be changed.
JACKSON: So the issue of race and class did not come from me. This issue of raised by other media outlets who saw these long lines of old and sick and young African-Americans in these lines, who are less able to get out because in fact they were poorer. And there were not provisions made for them, in fact, to get out.
And what pained me, frankly, was to see young soldiers in Iraq, parents being referred to as refugees back home. That was utterly distasteful and not right.
DOBBS: Well, I would tell you, I don't - I hope, I can't swear, but I hope I could almost swear that nobody meant disrespect to anybody. But the fact is that these folks who have been forced from their homes because of this disaster, whether some media savant or not wants to go forth quibbling over refugee or not. I think the really important thing is it took too long.
But this country now is opening up its heart and pouring its resources into an area that desperately needs it. And some...
JACKSON: And that would be really a great - and I say less on this note close, because these -- I went to the (INAUDIBLE) Airforce Base Saturday night. 3,000 acres with an infrastructure. (INAUDIBLE) in their own state (INAUDIBLE) in Montana are in Utah, for example.
Better the people be close to home so when the rebuilding begins. Halliburton got the contract for clean up. They should be there helping to clean up and rebuild what they have left. What a great chance to reconstruct the areas that have been devastated. It's their home, after all.
DOBBS: Right. By the way, I think that is a very smart recommendation and one that makes great sense. And hopefully, some people will be listening to you. Good to have you with us.
JACKSON: Lou, I'm going to finally get you there. I'm going to finally get you there, Lou. DOBBS: You always get me some way or another. Thank you, Jesse, appreciate it. Jesse Jackson.
Coming up next, a new poll suggests that President Bush may not yet be suffering major political damage from the hurricane disaster. But it is clear that those surveyed have strong views about who should be held accountable. The federal government only one among many. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider will be here to analyze that situation.
And Judge John Roberts poised to become the most important jurist in the land pending Senate confirmation. We'll have the latest on the president's nomination of Judge Roberts as chief justice, next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: The president today nominated Judge John Roberts to replace William Rehnquist as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Joining me now to assess the Roberts' nomination for chief justice, our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff, good to have you here.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello.
DOBBS: William Rehnquist, he was remarkable, if we may begin there. "The Washington Post" ran a -- what I thought a carefully considered editorial, a liberal paper, framing the importance of the Rehnquist influence on the Supreme Court. The contributions the man made are immense, irrespective of ideology here.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, we have to remember when William Rehnquist joined the Supreme Court in 1972, it was an engine of liberalism in America. You know, you had a court that...
DOBBS: And activism.
TOOBIN: ...and activism. You know, the -- Miranda versus Arizona, Brown v. Board of Education, I mean, those were the hallmarks of the court.
And Rehnquist really stopped that almost single-handedly. You know, it took a long time. He didn't roll back the clock. He didn't go back, but it was no longer an engine of liberalism under his watch.
DOBBS: There are other left liberal groups are just screaming through the airwaves with their advertising and everywhere else, saying you got to stop Judge John Roberts. He's a conservative arch fiend. What do you take?
TOOBIN: My take is there is not one senator at the moment on the record against John Roberts. John Roberts is cruising. He is doing absolutely fine. He will get, I suspect, over 70 votes. I don't think his nomination is in the slightest danger. You know, sure constituency groups are upset, but they're making no progress with the Senate.
DOBBS: This leaves the issue of Sandra Day O'Connor and her seat to the court. Who should, who in your judgment, will be likely to fill that seat?
TOOBIN: I think two women remain near the top of the list, Edith Jones and Edith Clement, both on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Michael Luttig, very conservative judge on the 4th Circuit. And don't forget Alberto Gonzalez, close friend to the president, now the attorney general. Would be the first Hispanic. Not a favorite of conservatives, but a favorite of the president's.
DOBBS: And in the eyes of many conservatives, an arch moderate fiend, I guess.
TOOBIN: Yes, that's -- and that may be the kiss of death for his nomination but he's still on the list.
DOBBS: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much.
Just ahead here, I'll be joined by our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. We'll take a look at how the American people are rating the president and the state and local governments and their response to Hurricane Katrina.
And later, finding shelter. Thousands of people displaced by the hurricane are forced to find new homes in new cities and states. We'll have a special report. Stay with us.
RANDI KAYE: 300 military helicopters are taking part in the massive relief operation in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Randi Kaye today joined the Florida Air Guard on a mission to drop food and water to hurricane survivors in Mississippi. And Randi joins us now from Biloxi, Mississippi - Randi?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And Lou, I have to tell you there is still a major crisis here with people not getting the help that they need, not getting the food, not getting the water. And they are unable to get anywhere to get the supplies that they so desperately need.
We're talking about the more remote areas. The area that's about 40 miles west of where I am now in Biloxi. We actually jumped aboard a Blackhawk helicopter with the Florida Air Guard, as you mentioned. And we took a tour of those areas.
And these are people who are at ground zero or at the black hole as the Guard calls it. We brought supplies to them. We loaded up our chopper with MREs, meals ready to eat, and ice and water, and even some ham sandwiches.
We headed for the areas known as Diamondhead or Pass Christian and Long Beach. These areas are flattened. The destruction, having been here now a week, Lou, still is absolutely shocking to me. And when the helicopter lands, what they do is they circle. They look for people who are waving their arms in the air, who might need help. And when they land, Lou, these people come running toward the helicopter.
It is very emotional for the people on the ground and very emotional as well for the Guard.
And you hear stories on the ground. People tell you how they cut themselves out of their own home and it took them two days. Or they talk about the supplies that they need. They may need medical supplies or specifically food, water, ice, baby formula, whatever it is.
These guys go up and down, up and down all day. We did four missions with them. They spend about eight hours in that chopper every day. Much more time in the air than even spending on the ground at this point.
And our pilot, who's this guy who's 270 plus pounds, he wears sunglasses so people don't see the tears in his eyes he said. It is that emotional for him.
And we'll have much more on this story coming up tonight on Paula Zahn's show at 8:00 - Lou?
DOBBS: Thank you very much, Randi. As you say, it is emotional for all of us. And much of the criticism, I'm certain, that is emanating with such heat right now is the frustration at seeing our fellow citizens having to suffer through this deprivation and this pain and this misery.
Randi, thank you.
The American public has been extremely critical of the federal response to this crisis. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins me now.
Bill, a new poll released over the weekend suggests many of those surveyed aren't ready to blame the president alone for this crisis.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. It's a bit of a surprise. But when asked do you approve of the president's handling of this crisis, this was taken on Friday night by ABC News and "The Washington Post," 46 percent said they approve of the way the president's handled things. 47 percent disapprove.
That may come as a surprise because in the same poll, Americans were overwhelmingly critical of the federal government's response and even more critical of the response of state and local government officials. That indicates that people are shocked and horrified by what they're seeing, but they're not ready to play the political blame game yet.
DOBBS: That political blame game as you put it, the ideological tinge that is attached here is unfortunate. Because they're - I - you know, people forget just how smart the public in this country is. Our fellow Americans understand that this is a massive failure on the part of local government, the state government, and the federal government. And they're not willing to put up with it.
It's also interesting that the partisanship shows up in who is most critical and who is most forgiving at the federal level.
SCHNEIDER: Well, right. Well, of course, the Republicans are most forgiving, Democrats most critical. This didn't reshape the political landscape at least not yet the way 9/11 did. People see it almost as a biblical catastrophe.
If the president is blamed for anything, if he's held accountable, that would be the issue of gas prices. Gas prices are not biblical. Gas prices are profane. And they were going up before the hurricane struck.
DOBBS: Absolutely. Although when you're paying $3.50 a gallon, you begin to think it might reach biblical proportions. Bill Schneider, thank you very much.
DOBBS: A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe local, state and federal officials should be held accountable for the failure to adequately respond to this disaster? Yes or no? Cast your vote at loudobbs.com. We'll have the results in just a few minutes.
Still ahead, more than half a million hurricane victims are being relocated all across the country. We'll have a special report on where they're going and how they're surviving once they arrive.
And most Americans tonight are paying more than $3 for a gallon of gas. We'll have that special report for you on an energy crisis in this country next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Tonight more than 20 states across the country are either caring for Gulf Coast evacuees or making plans to take them in. It is a massive coast to coast effort stretching west to California, east to Massachusetts, as far north as Minnesota.
Casey Wian reports.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dozens of refugees from Hurricane Katrina arrived in Los Angeles early Monday morning. They're taking shelter at a faith-based rehabilitation center for gang members, drug addicts and prostitutes. Darren Fountain was a waiter in his New Orleans. His young family fled to the Louisiana Superdome, ran out of money and gas trying to get to Baton Rouge, then wound up at a local shelter where he reluctantly accepted the Dream Center's offer of a trip to L.A. DARREN FOUNTAIN, HURRICANE EVACUEE: It was real hard, because I didn't know what I was facing when I was coming out here. I have no one I know out here and no money, no food. I have two kids. I'm like how are we going to eat? Are we going to a shelter where it's going to be worse than out there? So I didn't know what to expect.
WIAN: Do you think you made the right decision?
FOUNTAIN: I think I made the best decision I ever made in my life.
WIAN: This week, his 6-year-old daughter will start school in Los Angeles. And the Dream Center promises help finding a job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last week was horrible.
WIAN: From California to Michigan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give us all a big hug.
WIAN: To North Carolina, more than half a million refugees are scattering throughout the country.
About two dozen states have set up shelters to help take the load off Texas, which is already housing about 250,000 hurricane victims. It's still not clear who will pay for the mass exodus, but donations of money, transportation and other services are pouring in from private parties. And many of the victims say they're gone for good.
FOUNTAIN: I don't want to go back to New Orleans. I don't think it's -- not that I don't want to go back, but I feel like our city let us down.
WIAN: But other far flung evacuees, including electrician Benny Baxter, say they've left too much behind.
BENNY BAXTER, HURRICANE EVACUEE: I want to go back home. That's my home. I don't want to -- that's where I was born and raised at. That's where everything I know is at. I don't want to...
WIAN: Though the Dream Center says it will find him work, Baxter breaks down because he doesn't know what happened to his mother, his two sisters, and several nieces. The last he heard was a desperate disconnected phone call during Hurricane Katrina.
WIAN: The Dream Center says it's prepared to house 250 hurricane victims for up to a year. And anyone who has information about Benny Baxter's family can contact him through the Dream Center at dreamcenter.org. Lou?
DOBBS: Casey, thank you very much. It is indeed heart warming and inspiring the number of organizations throughout the country that are opening their hearts and their organizations and shelters to the people in New Orleans who so desperately need the help. Casey, thank you.
WIAN: Absolutely. OK.
DOBBS: The results of our poll tonight, 93 percent of you say local, state and federal officials should be held accountable for the failure to adequately respond to this disaster.
And still ahead -- why gasoline prices across the country are still soaring. The national average up 35 cents just over the weekend. This ain't right, as they say. We'll have a special report.
DOBBS: Gasoline prices all across the country still soaring after Hurricane Katrina. According to AAA, the national average of gasoline is nearly $3.06, up 35 cents over the weekend. That is obviously the national average. More than half of all states are well above that average, of course.
Bill Tucker has our report.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eighteen and a half cents of the price of a gallon of gasoline is federal tax. New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce is proposing that that tax be rolled back for six months.
REP. STEVE PEARCE (R), NEW MEXICO: And it will put money back in the pockets of consumers. I think that we have to be very concerned about the economy as the third leg of significant problem that the nation's facing right now.
TUCKER: The action by Congressman Pearce comes only days after Georgia's governor announced a moratorium on its state gasoline tax.
GOV. SONNY PERDUE, GEORGIAI am also determined to deliver short- term relief for Georgia motorists at the pumps to help Georgia families get through this temporary fuel shortage.
TUCKER: It's a move the governor estimates will save Georgians some $75 million. Damage from Katrina to the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico is profound. Only one in eight of the refineries damaged by the hurricane have come back on line. Others, like Chevron's Pascagoula Refinery, not expected to return to production for months.
According to damage assessments by rigzone.com, 30 offshore platforms have been damaged. 18 so badly they may be total losses. Assessments are still pending for Shell's Mars platform, which handled 147,000 barrels of oil and 157 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
While everyone agrees that the industry's been hard hit, critics are noting that gasoline prices were rising prior to Katrina.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's about time the FTC look at this from start to finish from where the oil is pumped, to where it's refined, to the pipeline that ships it up, to the individual gas stations.
TUCKER: Now this topic is expected to be taken up tomorrow by the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is going to hold hearings about the sharply higher gasoline prices. And Congressman Pearce also plans to introduce his legislation tomorrow in the house.
DOBBS: This is certainly -- there is nothing funny about the volatility we've seen in retail gasoline prices. The fact that we've seen refineries shut down in this country for so-called routine maintenance, what - is there any explanation for all of these factors conspiring at the same time?
TUCKER: There's not a good rational explanation. You've got one that's really cute. And that's it's the perfect storm, but that doesn't fit.
DOBBS: Perfect storm, you know...
TUCKER: I agree.
DOBBS: ...you get so tired of the cute, glib answers to just about everything. It's time to - for people to start paying a lot of attention to what's going on with energy costs in this country, because there are too many instances, which is outright gouging. Those that'll be documented across the country. It'll be interesting to see what comes from those hearings. Bill Tucker, thank you, sir.
That's our broadcast for this evening. Stay with CNN throughout the evening for our continuing coverage of Hurricane Katrina. A Special Edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360 starts right now.
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