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THE SITUATION ROOM

New Forecast For Relentless Storm; Coverage and Analysis of the Republican National Convention

Aired August 29, 2012 - 16:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Isaac is punishing the gulf coast with brutal winds, torrential rain and there may be a new threat. We'll have the latest forecast that just came in.

Also, in one Louisiana parish people say the storm is far worse than expected overtopping a levee creating major flooding and triggering dozens of 911 calls for rooftop rescues.

And we're only hours away. A major event here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Paul Ryan has been nominated as Mitt Romney's running mate. He's about to take the spotlight as the primetime speaker tonight with a message that Republicans can bring change.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

This just coming into the SITUATION ROOM right now. Tropical storm Isaac is sitting over the Gulf coast giving the area a relentless pounding. In one Louisiana parish, Isaac is causing the kind of flooding that residents say they did not see even from hurricane Katrina, which struck eerily exactly seven years ago today.

Now, we're getting our hands on a new forecast for Isaac. Let's immediately go to our severe weather expert, Chad Myers. Chad, what does the new forecast say?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is still a 70-mile-per-hour storm, not losing that much intensity, because the eye is getting smaller. Again, remember those skaters as they pull their arms in, they go faster. You get a smaller eye, you get faster winds. Even though the storm is dying, you kind of have one thing equaling the other.

Storm dying but yet getting smaller, one part going slower, one part going faster. So, they're keeping the intensity at exactly the same speed. Seventy miles per hour moving northwest at six miles per hour. That is some good news, Wolf, at least, it is finally moving. Finally maybe by later tonight, we'll start to get some relief in New Orleans.

BLITZER: Let's take a closer look, Chad, at the flooding in Plaquemines Parish. People there say it's worse than Katrina. How did this happen?

MYERS: This happened because of a levee, one that was not improved with the $11 billion yet. Money was approved, it just hasn't been spent yet. And let me show you in Plaquemines Parish. Here's New Orleans, and all of this red is all protected. All of that levee, all of that very fortified now.

But there's an area down here south of New Orleans along the east bank of the Mississippi River that was not fortified. Still had very old levees or two levees, in fact. One that was keeping the water out from coming this way, because that's where the storm surge was and another that's keeping the Mississippi River from flowing in. Let's go ahead and zoom this in, and we'll show you what's going on with this on the right side.

Here is the levee keeping the water out from the bayou. Here's the levee keeping the water out of the Mississippi River. Somewhere along here, the levee failed and water poured in. And now, the water is being held in because there are levees here along the river not allowing the water out.

Even Governor Bobby Jindal said, at some point, we'll have to blow a hole in this levee to let that water out, because right now, water is still pouring in. All those pictures you're seeing right there from Braithwaite, all those people were rescued. But there are more people all the way down river, because Wolf, the water is still pouring in because the winds haven't really changed much direction.

This is a big deal. When you have a levee breech, another levee holding that water in, now you literally have an eight-foot deep swimming pool all the way to the Gulf of Mexico where people's homes are. They were told to evacuate, but many did not -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Sadly, indeed. All right. Thanks, Chad, for that new forecast as well.

Members of the New Orleans Police Department tells CNN the city is officially under a dusk-to-dawn curfew right now. There are plenty of downed trees in the streets, but the situation is far better than it is in nearby Plaquemines Parish. Our Brian Todd is in New Orleans for us. Brian, first, what can you tell us about the Plaquemines flooding that's been going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, getting information from local officials all day about Plaquemines Parish, you get a sense this was really the first desperate situation of the day. It broke early this morning that that levee has been overtopped Eight miles worth of that levee had been overtopped creating severe flooding conditions.

Just talk to a Plaquemines parish official, said the conditions are still very severe. We're getting reports dozens of people up to at least 75 had to be rescued from their homes, some of them from rooftops. As Chad mentioned, they were under a mandatory evacuation order before the storm got there. They did not get out, for various reasons, obviously. People choose to stay in, sometimes. You can't force them out. But that meant that rescue teams had to brave what were then hurricane strength conditions to go and rescue them. And, they pulled several people out of there. Now, what they're going to try to do now is offer some relief for Plaquemines Parish and this flooding.

And who's going to do that? The army corps of engineers plus local flooding officials who we've spoken with all day today about that situation. They're going to do something they call a diversion. There's a channel in that area which normally is used to pump water -- to channel water from the Mississippi River when it gets too high into the marshland there near Plaquemines Parish where that levee was overtopped.

Well, now, because that marshland is higher than the Mississippi River because of the surge in the flooding, they're going to try to reverse that process and channel it back into the Mississippi River. I spoke with Chris Gilmore, an engineer with the army corps of engineers today about that. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS GILMORE, ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: There's a freshwater diversion channel structure near that community. Typically what it does is it diverts fresh water from the Mississippi River into the marshland. What's been requested from the corps and from state is to actually use that in reverse and use that structure backwards to flow the floodwater from Braithwaite community in Plaquemines to the Mississippi River.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: And that is just a gravity based process. Normally, the Mississippi River is lower -- excuse me -- is higher than that marshland, and it goes into that area. Now, it's lower than that marshland, the water levels. So, they're bringing the water back out to the Mississippi. They hope to give some relief to Plaquemines Parish, wolf.

BLITZER: What about where you are in New Orleans right now? It looks like it stopped raining. At least, it looks a little windy. What's going on in New Orleans?

TODD: Still raining, Wolf. Still being pelted with tropical storm force rains and a little bit of wind. We're down here in the French Quarter at Jackson Square. Here's a huge danger. I just talked to a city official here in New Orleans. Downed trees, down power lines all over the place. At least 70 intersections where there are downed trees.

Our photo journalist, Jose Armino (ph), and I are going to kind of take you on a stroll down here. This has been a huge problem. Downed limbs and debris flying all over the place creating danger for everyone involved. Also, you know, these intersections here, there's been a huge problem with intersections in the New Orleans area being flooded. We got at least 55 intersections in New Orleans flooded. This one had some flood waters earlier. Now, it's receded a little bit. French Quarter getting some natural relief here. But, what we're told tonight is because of downed trees in at least four cases, Wolf, downed trees hit homes and everyone inside those homes had to be evacuated, had to be rescued. So, rescue operations going on here in New Orleans as well.

All right. Brian, we'll stay in close touch with you in New Orleans. Thank you.

The storm quickly washed out a major coastal highway in Mississippi, and the rain kist keeps on coming there. CNN's John Zarrella is joining us now from Gulfport. What's going on there, John?

Unfortunately, we just lost our connection with John Zarrella. We're going to try to reconnect with him. As soon as we do, we'll bring him to our viewers. He's in gulfport, Mississippi, for us as well. Maybe, we've re-established connection with John. John, can you hear me?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I hear you, Wolf. I was saying that it's been a lot more of a difficult situation than anyone expected this hurricane would be. We're going on now 18 hours of relentless rain and tropical storm force winds. It's dropped off just a little bit right now.

(INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: I think we've lost our connection with John Zarrella. We're going to once again try -- it's understandable given what's going on over there. You can see the pictures. We'll try to reconnect with John and update you on what's going on in Gulfport, Mississippi, as well.

As the Gulf Coast copes with another natural disaster by the way, relief organizations are already very hard at work. They're trying to provide shelter, food, and comfort. Find out how you can help. Make a difference by going to CNN.com/Impact.

People are stuck in attics. They're stuck on roofs as water rises around them. I'm going to be speaking with a woman who escaped the flooding, but her husband and parents are still in the house with nine feet of water.

And we're also following another huge story. What's going on here in Tampa at the Republican National Convention? Last night, she delivered a dramatic speech. We're talking about Mrs. Ann Romney. You're about to hear some parts of her interview with our own, Gloria Borger, that you've never heard before.

We're dealing -- she's dealing with the relationship she has with her husband, the Republican presidential nominee.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Tropical storm Isaac keeps lashing the Gulf Coast in Louisiana's hard-hit Plaquemines Parish, for example. The flooding is worst, at least, in some parts than it was during Katrina. The National Guard is now in full rescue mode reporting the operation in Isaac's fury poses its own challenges. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By some of these rescue workers that have been trying to go into the break away neighbor. There have been some spots under up as much as five to 10 feet of water. But you see these rescue operations are obviously underway.

By some of these rescue workers that have been trying to go into the break away neighbor. There have been some spots under up as much as five to 10 feet of water. But you see these rescue operations are obviously underway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. You can see residents, by the way, have been told to evacuate. This story obviously continuing.

Let's bring in Jack Cafferty. He's got the "Cafferty File." It's so eerie, Jack, that this is happening exactly seven years to the day, seven years to the day after Katrina.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Eerie indeed. And it's a quandary of sorts. On the one hand, we have tropical storm Isaac, tropical storm now, not a hurricane anymore. Slowly laying wasted parts of the Gulf Coast. Granted it's not Katrina take-two, but there are hundreds of thousands of people without power.

One 18-mile stretch of a levee outside New Orleans has been overtopped, and many people are losing their homes to the floodwaters being triggered by heavy rains and the massive storm surge. On the other hand, Washington, D.C. and the federal government are laying waste to the entire country.

And we're fast approaching an election where some far reaching decisions are going to have to be made by the voters. The Republican convention's in full swing in Tampa having been spared the brunt of Isaac. And President Obama's hot on the campaign trail trying to convince the country he deserves a second term.

The republicans did shorten their convention by a day out of concern for the storm. And next week when the cleanup will be in full swing, the Democrats will convene their dog and pony show in Charlotte, North Carolina. The political business of the country is moving forward in spite of a rather large natural disaster impacting millions of our citizens.

The temptation, perhaps, is to jump to the conclusion that the politicians are being insensitive. Perhaps, all campaigning should cease out of consideration of the hurricane victims, but the fact is Isaac ain't Katrina, not by a long shot. And the problems of this country probably deserve our undivided attention, Isaac or not.

We got big trouble here. That's the question. Should politics be put on hold for Isaac? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog or go to the -- post on the the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thanks very, very much.

Ann Romney, she was the star of the Republican convention last night with a powerful primetime speech. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here watching all of this unfold. First of all, did she do, last night, in her half-hour speech, which was pretty well- received, what she needed to do?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think she did. I think she needed to appeal to women. I thought her appeal to women was blatant, if you will, at the top. But that's clearly a group they're talking to because the gender gap for Mitt Romney as opposed to the president is somewhere between 10 and 12 points. So, they need to win over those suburban women.

She also made the case for her husband as a person trying to humanize him and trying to let women, in particular, know that he can be trusted. I also think -- and what was most interesting to me, Wolf, was that she went on the attack. It was kind of like a little bit of a knife wrapped in velvet.

And she went on the attack not directly at President Obama, but on the state of the economy and how that affects working families. So, I think she did these three things. She did them pretty well. And on to the next night.

BLITZER: I think she's got a natural instinct. I was surprised at how well she delivered that speech. Now, you spent some quality time with her and Mitt Romney getting your documentary ready.

BORGER: Right. Uh-huh.

BLITZER: And you also had a chance to interview her at length. I want to play a clip, Gloria. This is some part of the interview that was not included in your documentary. We'll play it for the first time right now.

BORGER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BORGER: People describe him as the energizer bunny and say that you're kind of the balance for him.

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: I feel like I'm his -- the calming influence in his life. I feel like I'm the balance (ph) that really gives him -- just his anchor. I'm just there for him always. He's there for me always. We just trust each other completely implicitly We are each other's best friend in addition to being, you know, loving relationship. We are each other's best friends as well. And you know, it's just a real partnership. My kids joke and say that I'm the Mitt stabilizer.

BORGER: Right.

ROMNEY: And that's the word that they give to me, because, you know, whenever Mitt might start, you know, winding up and getting really highly energetic, they know that I have a very calming influence on him.

BORGER: Well, what do you do?

ROMNEY: Nothing. It's just who I am.

BORGER: And do you give him advice? Does he come to you?

ROMNEY: Oh, yes, of course. I mean, we share everything. There's nothing we do not know about, you know, any struggle that either one of us is going through. We share everything. Of course, I give him advice, and of course, he gives me advice. And I think we listen to each other more than we listen to anyone else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You know, it's an interesting -- you got to know her. I met her a few times. What you see behind the scenes is what you see out front with her. I don't see two different personas.

BORGER: No. It is. It is the same person. And what's interesting to me about that clip that we just showed is that she gives him advice, and they listen to each other. Now, you know, sometimes political spouses can be a problem in a campaign. And everybody in this campaign that I talk to says that is not the case with Ann Romney.

But, that the candidate himself is more relaxed and more at ease when she's around. So, when things get kind of stressful, they like to bring her on the plane to campaign with him, because they know that they'll have that calming influence that she just spoke about. But I also have to believe that she was involved in sort of figuring out who the vice presidential pick ought to be.

Wives are generally involved with their husband's campaign schedules. And I bet she's in on strategic conversations. It would not surprise me at all. I don't know that for a fact, but she said in this that she weighs in on just about everything.

BLITZER: Yes. They have a unique relationship. And it goes back to when they were young kids in high school.

BORGER: She was like 15 years old when they met.

BLITZER: Where'd she met him?

BORGER: At that party, she talked about last night. Yes. Long time.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria. Thanks very much. I think it's fair to say she did a pretty good job last night.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: President Obama, by the way, he hits the campaign trail during this Republican National Convention as well. He was out there today. Is there a chance he'll steal some of Mitt Romney's spotlight? Standby. We'll update you on what he had to say.

And hundreds of thousands of people in five states have no power, gas prices have been soaring, Isaac is not done yet. With all that, there may be a silver lining to the massive storm.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, power companies report more than 750,000 customers are blacked out in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas from tropical storm Isaac. Of these energy corporations says more than half a million of its customers in the region have lost power.

It says 10,000 company and contract workers from 24 states are responding to help with restoration efforts.

And with Isaac cutting output from refineries, gas prices shot up by a nationwide average of almost five cents per gallon today with much bigger jumps in some places. AAA says the average price of a gallon of regular now tops $3.80. But industry experts say the spike should be short-lived, that's the good news, with refineries apparently escaping lasting damage.

One analyst says prices at the pump could start easing just in time for Labor Day. And wholesale prices are already dropping sharply.

And after pounding the Gulf Coast, Isaac will move inland. And while the storm has brought certainly plenty of misery, it will likely bring badly needed relief to drought-ravaged states like Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. Isaac won't end the devastating drought, and some crops are already lost.

Plus, heavy rains could do more harm than good in some places. But the bottom line, Wolf, is that Isaac's clouds may have a few silver linings -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Maybe it will. A little bit of water useful certainly in some of those drought-stricken areas. Lisa, thanks very much.

She's in New Orleans, but her family is hunkered downright now and the water is rising. Up next, I'll speak to a former Katrina victim whose home was swamped seven years ago, and this time, to a certain degree, it's even worse, the house is practically under water.

Also, she calls New Orleans home and is watching a powerful storm rake her hometown. Once again, our own contributor, Donna Brazile. She's standing by. She'll share her thoughts about Isaac's onslaught and what President Obama should be doing about that and more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: As we've been telling you, Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana is bearing the brunt of tropical storm Isaac right now. It was a hurricane just been downgraded to a tropical storm. It's experiencing some massive flooding. Hurricane Katrina swamped Kim Duplantier's house in that area with three feet of water.

This time, she says the three-storey home is practically under water. Kim is joining us on the phone right now. You shared with us a picture, Kim. We'll put it up and show our viewers. Tell us what's going on.

KIM DUPLANTIER, RESIDENT OF LAKEWOOD, LOUISIANA (on the phone): OK. Basically, my children and I evacuated for this storm just because we were a little nervous, but my parents and my husband stayed. So, this is pictures from my mother's phone. And what that is right there, that is the front of my house. I have columns on the bottom floor and on the top floor.

That first picture will -- that's the second floor of my home. So, if you can imagine, those columns go all the way down to the bottom floor. But they're up. They're elevated probably about 12 feet. This is the back of my house. My roof is over to the right where there's -- no, this is the front of the house. I'm sorry.

The front of the house that faces where the levees were topped or where they were breached. That's the water coming over. So, what people are looking at is approximately 10 feet of water, perhaps 12 right there. You cannot even see the bottom of the porch there, but that is the front of my home. The other picture that you're showing --

BLITZER: What about your --

DUPLANTIER: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead. Finish your thought. I want to ask you about your husband and your parents.

DUPLANTIER: OK. That's the back of my home. Immediately to the right, that is the roof of my bedroom, which kind of jets off the back of the house. But that other thing back there is my mother's home. She has -- we have 12 acres of property. She has a double wide trailer that she has back there. It's elevated about three and a half feet off the ground.

So, you can imagine that's the water on her roof in her back of her modular. That is the backyard that's facing the Mississippi River levee. And, yes, my husband is still there. We have quite a few animals. He's a veterinarian -- a local veterinarian, and he stayed to help maintain all of our animals.

Most of our animals ended up on the Mississippi River levee, which is about 2,000 feet from those columns that are in the foreground of our home.

That next picture is the third picture of my home. That is actually my bedroom. That is a chimney stack for a fireplace that's in my bedroom. Again, you can see my mother's house in the rear.

Right at the beginning of the picture that is a bench. We have a swimming pool right there. There is a built-in swimming pool right there. And that is a bench that's just kind of is floating around and hitting on to the roof of the house. That picture's taken from my second floor balcony from my daughter's bedroom.

BLITZER: So it seems to me this is a lot worse than the experience you had exactly seven years ago during Hurricane Katrina.

DUPLANTIER: Seven years ago today, yes. We had three feet of water in our home at that point. My mother was not living in the back. So I can't give you that reference. They lived in a different area in a different parish. And we don't have counties, we have parishes. And she moved in after.

But we had three feet with Katrina, which kind of -- Katrina was projected a hurricane 5 -- Category 5. Came in what we think ended up being maybe a 3. And then we had three feet -- 36 inches of water. This being a tropical storm and barely making landfall as a Category 1 put 10 feet of water in my home.

BLITZER: Kim, good luck to you. Good luck to your husband, your parents, everyone in the area --

(CROSSTALK)

DUPLANTIER: My parents have been rescued. I'm sorry, Wolf. My parents have been rescued. They are here with me. We're actually in Lakeview, a part of New Orleans, Lakeview, it's called. And they're OK now. My husband is still down there because we have those animals to tend to.

BLITZER: All right. Well, wish him the best. And be safe over there. And we'll stay in touch with you as well, Kim. Thanks very much.

DUPLANTIER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Heartbreaking pictures indeed going on in that Louisiana area.

Meanwhile, much more on that story coming up later. But we're also watching the Republican Convention. It's now in full swing here in Tampa. That's not stopping though President Obama. We're going to have more on what he is up to today. Tropical Storm Isaac not stopping the president either. He's campaigning in Virginia. Should he be focusing on disaster relief instead? We'll discuss that and a lot more. Our "Strategy Session" is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're here at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. A truly shocking development occurred, one that hits home to all of us here at CNN. Two people were removed from this Republican National Convention yesterday after they threw nuts, peanuts, at an African-American CNN camera operator and said, and I'm quoting them now, "this is how we feed animals." That was the quote they shouted at this female camera operator who works here at CNN.

Multiple witnesses observed this very ugly exchange. Republican National Committee security and police immediately removed the two people from The Tampa Bay Times Forum, which is where we are right now.

In fact, the convention statement says, and I'm quoting now: "Two attendees tonight exhibited deplorable behavior. Their conduct was inexcusable and unacceptable. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated."

CNN issued a statement as well, saying: "CNN can in fact confirm there was an incident directed at an employee inside The Tampa Bay Times Forum earlier this afternoon. CNN worked with convention officials to address this matter and will have no further comment for now."

I want to talk about it though with Donna Brazile, our Democratic strategist, Ana Navarro, our Republican strategist. They're both here.

You know, it's an isolated incident. Two people who are horrible people did this. You can't blame the thousands of others who are behaving beautifully here. But it's just an ugly reminder that there is an element of hatred that still exists in our country.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It is. And you know unfortunately, Wolf, as many of us have known over the years is that this is what we've all worked toward, to allow people to come to these conventions, to enjoy the process.

But to put someone, and I know this individual, in a position where she is insulted by these individuals, it was deplorable. It was wrong. And I hope they revoke their credentials so that they're not able to attend any of the events, any of the events.

There's no place, no place in our society for that level of intolerance. And we should condemn them. But they should have their credentials revoked.

BLITZER: And I'm glad the convention officials immediately took steps to get over with this and were friendly with this camera operator. She's a lovely religious woman, and just a horrible -- .

BRAZILE: Yes, she is.

BLITZER: -- situation.

But let's move on right now. Let's talk about the president of the United States. I want to play a clip. He's out there campaigning right now. Ana, he's doing his job. He wants to get himself re- elected. I'll play this clip and let's talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just yesterday my opponent called my position on fuel efficiency standards extreme. I mean, I don't know, it doesn't seem extreme to me to want to have more fuel efficient cars. Maybe the steam engine is more his speed. Maybe --

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: But I think that we set goals and we meet them. That's what we do as Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, what's interesting, he's out there campaigning during the Republican Convention. He didn't go on vacation or anything along those lines. I assume Romney will be campaigning next week during the Democratic Convention. It's part of the process that's under way.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, but the difference is that we're in the middle of a hurricane situation. We're in the middle of a situation where there's so many states that have declared a state of emergency.

BLITZER: He's on top of that though. He's been meeting with all of his top advisers on that as well.

NAVARRO: But, you know, Wolf, perceptions matter.

BLITZER: But should he stop campaigning?

NAVARRO: Yes, he should.

BLITZER: And should the Republican National Committee recess because of it?

NAVARRO: No. But we're not president. We're not -- the Republican National Committee is not the one in charge of FEMA. The Republican National Committee is not the one sitting in the Situation Room. Right now he is president. His priority job right now is to take care of the American people, not to campaign.

Would it kill him to suspend campaigning for two days? I mean, Isaac is sitting on top of New Orleans right now. It's been there for 24 hours. It's going to continue to be there. We're talking about 24 hours, 48 hours of suspending campaigning. We're not asking him to suspend it for a week. Of course it's the appropriate thing to do. And I will point something out, that a lot of the people that are getting affected by Isaac are very poor people living in the Gulf state. Many of them African-American. God forbid, God forbid a Republican would be doing the same thing that Barack Obama's doing right now.

BLITZER: All right, Donna, because you're from Louisiana. This is a story that hits directly home to you.

BRAZILE: You know, seven years ago I didn't politicize it, Wolf. When I came on air it was almost a week later, 10 days later when my own sister was unable to get rescued, and thanks to you and CNN, Sheila's alive. And just a few hours ago I had to take extreme measures to make sure that they had a place to go.

Look, the president of the United States, who I know very, very well, he's on top of this. Bobby Jindal, I know very well, he's on top of it. Mitch Landrieu, Mitch and I were texting until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Why? Because I spent four years making sure that those levees -- worried about the levees, worried about the school, worried about the hospital.

President Obama has deployed resources using FEMA, using all of the federal resources at his disposal. The Coast Guard is there. The Army Corps of Engineers are there. The Red Cross, they are on location. He has been on the phone with these officials. He's been on phone with all the governors.

If there's one thing I will not politicize in this country, and I never politicized it seven years ago, (INAUDIBLE) very closely, it is a hurricane. This is serious.

BLITZER: But, Ana, you know, all the Republican governors -- of Louisiana, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, Mississippi, Alabama, they're praising the federal government, FEMA, the administration for all the help they're getting right now.

NAVARRO: And they should be. They should be. I think you can see that the response has been very good. I'm not arguing with that. What I'm saying is that, look, Donna's from New Orleans, I'm from Miami. We know what hurricanes are like. And we know what hurricane politics are like. It can be very treacherous.

When you're in the middle of such a crisis and you're actually on the ground experiencing these conditions, you want to know that your president is there. Part of his job, Wolf, is to be the "comforter- in-chief." That comes with the job. It would not be too much to ask him to suspend campaigning.

BLITZER: So should the president have suspended his campaigning?

BRAZILE: Should the Republicans have closed down their convention before they came to Tampa?

BLITZER: But she makes the point that the president is in charge. BRAZILE: You know, honestly, I think the show should go on here. And I think the president can spend at least two hours a day getting out of the White House. He has the phone. He has the command center with him. He's in touch with these officials. He's talking to these officials.

I'm not playing politics with this. Let me just tell you something, if the water wasn't there, if the federal resources weren't there, and the state resources, I would give them all hell. But it's there, let's hope for the best.

Let's hope that Isaac can just move on because it is bearing a lot of rain on these people. They're innocent. They're black, they're white, they're poor, they're rich, they're Americans. We care about all of them.

BLITZER: I don't know if you heard my interview earlier with the former Florida governor, Jeb Bush. But he is saying these Republicans, they are acting stupid as far as the Latino vote out there is concerned because of the immigration issue.

He wasn't very happy with that "self-deportation" comment that Mitt Romney made during the debates, as you well remember, Ana.

NAVARRO: As you know, Wolf, Jeb Bush and I are friends. And he hasn't been very happy for a while on this. He has been talking about this, saying to Republicans now for years, we need to change our tone, we need to change our policy, we need to change our outreach. We just need to do so much more.

And I think you're seeing it reflected in the polls. Every poll we've seen lately has Mitt Romney at 28 percent. I think that's going to begin to change because as of yesterday he's got access to general funds. And I suspect a lot of that's going to go into the media markets that are Hispanic media markets because he needs to change those numbers or he can wave adios to the White House.

But, you know, there is more than media. There needs to be outreach. There needs to be a sustained effort. And Jeb Bush is absolutely right and he's got the numbers and results to show it.

BLITZER: One final question, Donna, to you. You're a well-known Democrat. You were Al Gore's campaign manager in 2000. You're here at this Republican Convention. You're walking around, people know who you are. How are you being received?

BRAZILE: You know, this is my third Republican Convention. And, Ana, my Republican friends, I wore red for the first two days. I have fun at all the conventions. I enjoy people. I enjoy the process. I picked up a few buttons for my Republican neighbors back in Washington, D.C.

You know, I respect the process. I'm staying with the Maryland delegation. I've been eating their crab cakes, drinking some of their cold beverages. I have fun. I'm going to have fun next week. I hope Ana will have fun at my Democratic Convention.

But let me just once again say this is an opportunity to nominate Mitt Romney, to have a little fun, and to go out there and campaign really hard for our team.

BLITZER: What did you think of Mrs. Romney's speech last night?

BRAZILE: Oh, you know what, compared to the second speech, she should have been a closer. She was a good closer last night. Unfortunately the second speech was a disconnect. But I thought she opened up --

BLITZER: Chris Christie's speech?

BRAZILE: Oh, yes. I just -- Chris Christie is a very talented guy --

BLITZER: You know my theory why she spoke first --

BRAZILE: Why?

BLITZER: -- at 10 and he spoke at 10:30, because more viewers are watching at 10 than at 10:30. And they wanted her to get her message out there. It's important to the crowd here, the 10,000, 20,000 people who are here, but there are tens of millions watching at home, and especially older people.

They go to sleep a little bit earlier than younger people. They vote in bigger numbers, bigger percentages. So it was smart to put her at 10:00 rather than at 10:30.

BRAZILE: But I respect the message that she gave. Look, she wanted to open up her family book, the family album. She gave us a glimpse into their lives. The tuna fish sandwich, I listened to everything she said last night.

BLITZER: And pasta.

BRAZILE: And pasta. I need to send her my casserole. But I just want to say once again to CNN and all the viewers out there, the people along the Gulf Coast, pray for them. This storm will pass. And help us rebuild once again.

BLITZER: Good words. Thanks very much.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Ana, thanks very much.

NAVARRO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Donna, as usual, thank you.

A view of Isaac's damage from the ground, that's coming up. CNN's own Anderson Cooper, he is in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, right now. He's going to be joining us in our next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots," from the storm-damaged Gulf Coast. Take a look at these in Louisiana. A National Guard patrol passes through a flooded street.

At Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, a tree nearly snaps in half from the forceful winds.

Also in New Orleans, a stoplight that was blown over sits in the middle of the street.

And on Bourbon Street, Isaac unleashes its heavy rain. These are some "Hot Shots," pictures coming in from the storm-ravaged area.

Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Question this hour, should politics have been put on hold because of Isaac?

Ben writes from Boston. "If we put politics on hold, how exactly will that help people affected by Isaac? If there isn't much effect, then probably not."

Paul in North Carolina writes: "Not politics overall, but most definitely the conventions. These have become nothing more than poorly themed reality shows. The ill winds blowing in Tampa last night will cause far more destruction across this country than Isaac brought ashore, and the Democratic wing-ding will be nothing more than affirmation of the obvious."

Bob in Pennsylvania writes: "Politics ought to be put on hold permanently, Jack, and replaced with some form of governance and leadership."

Nancy in Tennessee writes: "We need to get it right this time. We failed the people of the Gulf miserably after Katrina. We need action by a team of workers to help the affected people put things back together. We are a nation that's better than the response seven years ago."

Mark in Topeka writes: "It is a judgment call, but I think the RNC has done a pretty good job with this. Some of the Gulf Coast politicians have stayed on the job, that's great. It seems too early for President Obama to visit the area, but he is undoubtedly monitoring the situation closely as well."

Ann in South Carolina writes: "What would be the point? Actually, there seems to be some kind of poetic justice that Isaac arrived just in time for the Republican National Convention."

And B. writes: "Of course it should, that way the politicians could pretend to care and at the same time enjoy an evening at the local strip club, which would benefit the local economy." If you want to read more about this, some of it more serious than that last email, you go to the blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile, or through our posts on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Isaac is hovering over the Gulf Coast, still it's pounding away with fierce winds and driving rain. And it may get worse before it gets much better. We will have the latest on the storm, that's coming up in our next hour.

And it's Paul Ryan's big night here at the Republican National Convention. He will officially become Mitt Romney's running mate, present a conservative vision for turning around the economy. Much more on the convention coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Isaac is weaker, but is slow and it is destructive. New Orleans is under a curfew. Hundreds of thousands of people in five states have no power and it is not over yet. The latest on Isaac and where it is going, that is coming up in our next hour.

A speech, and a smooch, and strains from a hit from the '60s, they were elements in Ann Romney's appearance last night at the Republican National Convention. The question is, could they add up to another artist demand that cease and desist?

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was too tempting to resist.

ANN ROMNEY, WIFE OF MITT ROMNEY: This man will not fail.

MOOS: The temptation to follow up Ann Romney's speech with The Temptations, first a kiss, then a hug, then another kiss. To Mitt Romney, Ann is "My Girl."

But how does this make The Temptations feel? After all, performers always seem to be telling Republicans --

(MUSIC PLAYING, "WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT")

MOOS: -- not to use their music. Twisted Sister's front man told VP hopeful Paul Ryan to stop playing their song because "there's almost nothing he stands with that I agree with."

So will The Temptations mind sharing their 1964 hit?

(MUSIC PLAYING, "MY GIRL")

OTIS WILLIAMS, ORIGINAL TEMPTATION: Well, "My Girl" is our evergreen song, that's The Temptations's national anthem. MOOS: Otis Williams is the only original member of The Temptations still with the group.

WILLIAMS: You know, it is like when we perform live and they first hear that boom-boom-boom, boom-boom-boom.

MOOS: Uh-oh, Williams is an Obama supporter. He is not going to like the Romneys using his "Girl."

It was kind of their music to smooch to.

WILLIAMS: It's a great song to smooch to.

MOOS: Actually, Williams says he appreciates the Republicans using their music.

WILLIAMS: It's great when our song, "My Girl," can just transcend all kind of borders, you know?

MOOS: And the day after Mitt Romney led his "Girl" off-stage, on that same stage, this guy asked his girl to marry him.

Bradley Thompson, the convention's production manager, used the big screen to pop the question to Laura Bowman, the production coordinator.

BRADLEY THOMPSON, RNC PRODUCTION MANAGER: I love you.

LAURA BOWMAN, RNC PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: I love you, too.

THOMPSON: I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

MOOS: An unconventional proposal at the convention. But there is one "temptation" maybe some Republicans should resist, when it comes to dancing, they're no Temptations.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)