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SMERCONISH

Hurricane Harvey Wreaked Havoc in Texas; Harvey's Damage Still Being Tabulated; President Donald Trump to Return to Texas. Aired 9- 10a ET

Aired September 2, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, NEWS ANCHOR IN PHILADELPHIA: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world as Harvey's devastation becomes clear, what lies ahead? Happily the storm has brought out the best in people. Setting aside all political squabbles, but of course there are always a few bad apples who have sought to exploit the situation with fraud and price gouging.

I'll talk both sides with the Texas Attorney General and after tens of billions of dollars in damage and at least 50 deaths, will Hurricane Harvey cause Houston to turn away from its laissez-faire zoning or perhaps be a turning point in the national debate over climate change? And the President visits Texas again today. How best does a Commander-in-chief play a Consoler-In-Chief? I'll ask President George W. Bush's head of advance who dealt with Hurricane Katrina.

But first, arguably the best movie of summer, Director Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk foreshadowed the events of last week in Texas, a situation that would have been far worse were it not for the human spirit. In May of 1940, it was the English citizenry who rallied to the rescue of more than 300,000 troops who were trapped on a beach in Northern France in the early days of World War II. Those soldiers could almost see home across the English Channel but the shallow waters prevented rescued of warships. But instead it was 700 civilian crafts, the little ships of Dunkirk that made their way from Ram's Gate in England to assist in the rescue and so it was in Texas this week. In Houston, on Wednesday, Civilian volunteers captained bass boats, jet skis, and aluminum dingies that comprised an impromptu flotilla ferried hundreds of residents to safety. A man named Jeremy Sparkman, a health care worker, told Reuters, "I usually just use this boat for drinking beer. But we come together when we need to. That is what Texans do." Indeed, after the Harris County Department of Homeland Security asked for volunteers last Sunday, hundreds of boat owners called and supplied quickly outstripped demand, the resulting flotilla was an American Dunkirk, minus the aerial bombardment. Nearly 50 have died and so many are still in harm's way and I don't seek to minimize the emotional nor physical damage that will take untold billions and years to repair. But just for a moment can we celebrate the human spirit that we've all watched play out over the span of the last seven days? The first responders, those who risked their lives for strangers, neighbors who opened their homes to those who required shelter from the storm. Heroics to save the lives of pets. The many who undertook fundraising tasks and the many more who are responding to those calls. Or how about these people, who formed a human chain to save an elderly man trapped in his car on the interstate. Here is the thing about that rescue and many more like it. Nobody asked him, how he was registered to vote, nobody wanted to see his immigration papers for that matter. If there is one thing missing or at diminished this past week, it is partisan rancor.

Not even a trumped up debate between the Democratic Houston Mayor and the Republican Governor of Texas over evacuation took hold, instead politics this week was secondary to saving lives and protecting property. The wind and the waters of Hurricane Harvey, they didn't discriminate. They lashed Republicans and Democrats and Independents, the young and the old and the rich and the poor, the black, the white, the Asian and the Hispanic. Here's hoping it's legacy is a reminder of all that all that unites us. Of course while we all wish the storm brought only such stories of heroics and humanity, unfortunately when catastrophe strikes, it also brings out bad actors. Like the convenience store in Houston that CNN found charging $20 for a gallon of gas, $8.50 for a bottle of water and $99 for a case of water. As of Friday afternoon, Reuters reporting almost it 2,000 complaints of price gouging and fraud. Joining me now, the person in charge of pursuing such behavior, the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Attorney General Paxton, where does free market economy end and price gouging begin? How do you know it when you see it?

[09:05:00]

KEN PAXTON, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: First of all let me thank you for your opening monologue. That is right on point and really captures the spirit of Texas and all of these volunteers.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

PAXTON: Not only risked their lives for other people. Thank you for that monologue. It was excellent. I would say we don't have a market. We haven't had a market in Houston over the last week and so the Legislature and in those certain situations when we are dealing commodities or things that are-that are necessities to people, during a crisis, you can't overcharge. And so those are things that we are looking at. Whether it is water, fuel, food, hotels, those are the things we're looking at when people start to overcharge, that is when we come in.

SMERCONISH: And have the-the reports been pronounced in any one area? I've heard of the gas-I've heard of the water, and we have images of people lined up waiting for gas. So it is an easily exploited situation. We're showing cases of water there on sale for $42 and change. Where are most of the complaints coming? PAXTON : So interesting, at first they were coming from the Houston area. It was a-it was water, it was fuel and hotels. We have many instances of hotels tripling and quadrupling their charges. Those have died down. We've gotten most complaints in Dallas about gas. I'm expecting now that people realize that there is no shortage in Texas of supply, that that is going to diminish as well. But over the last the couple of days we've gotten over a thousand complaints in Dallas. SMERCONISH : And what is the worst of the reports you've heard? How high have people been charged for a gallon of gas?

PAXTON: Well I think you hit it. It is $20 a gallon. We've seen other instances between $4 and $10 a gallon. Obviously that's price gouges, and those are perfect examples. And I want to say we are not talking about normal market fluctuations. We've seen the price of gas go up a little bit and that is normal. That happens every day in Texas and it happens every day in America. So we are not talking about normal market fluctuations we are talking about clear price gouging. That is what we're interested in.

SMERCONISH: How important is it that you prosecute someone and do it sooner rather than later so as to send a message that this isn't going to be tolerated.

PAXTON: Oh, believe me, I've already had my law enforcement guys out issuing what are called CIDs, Consumer Investigated Demands, investigating some of these. So they were out immediately. Some of them we couldn't get to because the businesses were shut down and they are inaccessible to all of us so we sent those through the mail. We already had, I mentioned this earlier, Best Western I guy that overcharged by about three or four times and they've already pulled his franchise. We've had an impact talking to major corporations where they've had individual isolated incidents where they've found it and corrected it. Best Buy and Home Depot and others have stepped up to the plate and fixed small problems that we've seen.

SMERCONISH: So this is the consumer side of it that we've been discussing. Now I worry about the fundraising size. What concerns do you have as to scammers who might be out there and trying to take advantage of the situation?

PAXTON: You know what, we have a lot of concerns. My office oversees charities in the state anyway. So we have a particular expertise in dealing with this. So we are very concerned about people donating to causes that are illegitimate or made up and charities suddenly being created. So I would really encourage people to focus on charities that they know about that are legit. That we know are on the ground, working like the Red Cross or Samaritans Purse or the Salvation Army, something like that that you are confident is a real charity.

SMERCONISH: Hey, let's go back to good news. Talk to me what about you as a Texan stands out this week that you saw in your mind that you want to salute?

PAXTON: You know what, I think a couple of things. One is just the coordination with our local officials, with Governor Abbott and what a great job they did. They were ready for this. And despite this being something that really you can't get ready for, this is a largest storm I think we've ever had in the history of Texas and lasted longer and had the most devastation and yet you saw Democrats, Republicans, no matter what level of government, they were working together along with the Federal Government so I'm grateful, because it saved a lot of lives and when you were talking about in your monologue, it is priceless, people jumping in and volunteering and risking their lives to save other people and not thinking twice about it. So it is really hard to describe my feelings toward these people that took their time and they could have left the scene and instead they were risking their lives.

[09:10:00]

SMERCONISH: Yes, I feel it from afar and I salute those whose actions you are referencing General. The question is, how do we make it last? You know how do we remember this silver lining from a catastrophic situation and put aside the partisan differences going forward? You get the final word on that.

PAXTON: You know, there's always going to be challenges and differences of opinion. But what I really do hope that people still remember is this fundamental sort of togetherness, this idea that we are all Texans and Americans and that ultimately we live in the same country and the same state and that ultimately we're a lot more alike than we are dissimilar. And so it is so easy to focus on differences but hopefully going through something so difficult, is something that will draw us together as Texans and Americans so that we could work on our differences and not criticize each other so harshly, rather know that we have our differences but we still have this basic love for each other.

SMERCONISH: Attorney General Ken Paxton, from the Lone Star State, thank you so much for being here.

PAXTON: Glad to do it and keep us in your prayers.

SMERCONISH: Thank you sir. We will.

What were your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page and I'll read some responses throughout the program. What do we have Katherine? Smerconish, what you saw in Texas is America. Not the tawdry game show that runs nonstop inside the beltway. Hey JazShaw, my role here is to react to your tweets in realtime and say something piffy (ph). I have nothing to say to that. I am 100 percent in agreement with you and let's just let it ride at that. And still to come, President Trump on the way to visiting Houston. When it comes to the timing of official visits to natural disasters, are Presidents damned when they do and damned when they don't? I'll ask the advancement for President George W. Bush what he learned from it Katrina.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00]

SMERCONISH: Hey, you are looking at a live shot of Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews awaiting the President of the United States who is headed back to Texas, Ellington Field, to survey the devastation brought by Hurricane Harvey. When he first visited on Tuesday, there were some who questioned the timing. Proving he is damned when he does and damned when he doesn't. And then beyond the timing there were others that wanted to have conversation about the First Lady's heels and the President's comments about the size of the crowd and lack of interaction with actual flood victims. Here is my question. Was that criticism fair? How do you orchestrate a visit of this kind? How do you turn a Commander-in-Chief into a Consoler-In-chief? You recall that President George W. Bush dealt with repercussions for how he handled Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Who better to ask today than Spencer Geisinger, who headed the Presidential Advance Team for President George W. Bush and was there during the whole Katrina flap. Hey, Spencer, thank you for being here. Where would you send the President of the United States today?

SPENCER GEISINGER, PRESIDENTIAL ADVANCE TEAM FOR PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Good morning Michael. It is good to be with you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

GEISINGER: The President-the President has, he's wearing two hats today. He's Commander-in-Chief and he's Comforter-In-Chief and when he lands there are three or four or five things he needs to do while in Houston. Number one, I think needs to meet with the victims. And he can do that in a number of ways. He can go to a shelter, he can go do a street walk in neighborhoods where the folks have been allowed to go back in and salvage what they can from their homes. He could walk down the street and greet them. Basically, what he needs to do today is-is he needs to give a collective hug to the city of Houston on behalf of the American people. They need-the people of Houston need to know that the Federal Government is there to help.

And that the American people are supporting them and thinking about them and praying for them. Secondly, I think he needs to-he needs to go and thank the first responders. They've been working around the clock, rescuing people, providing security and so on and so forth. So he needs to thank those folks. And I think he also needs to visit with the volunteers. I mean the volunteers that turned out to save these people and to help the citizens of Houston is phenomenal. And that needs to go-I think he needs to go and spend time with the volunteers and the NGOs that helped hand out the water and dry clothes and hand out supplies and handed out the supplies and that's what is America is all about and get an in-depth briefing at the Joint Operations Command and I mean a detailed briefing on the entire rescue and relief operation and where it stands. Not just a photo op but get down in the weeds on what FEMA is doing and what the local authorities are doing and where the log jams are and where we can improve things. So that is sort of where-

SMERCONISH: It seems-

GEISINGER: I would like to see.

SMERCONISH: It seems like the most analogous situation is Katrina. If you had it to do all over again, what did you learn from the Katrina experience with W. that you would have done differently?

GEISINGER: Well, I wasn't actually in charge of the Advanced office at that time but obviously like all Americans, I worked-I witnessed it and I watched it and was serving in the Administration. The issue of the original of the fly-over was done with all good intent. It is very difficult to, as you know, to bring the President of the United States into a situation where there is a lack of resources where road- resources or where roads are closed and they are maxed with recovery and relief efforts to get in there too early and cause the resources to be pulled off of what they are doing to assist with a Presidential visit. Those sorts of things you have to be mindful of and so the initial fly-over of New Orleans, we wanted to see the-The President wanted to see the extent of the damage. But didn't want-the decision was made not to land in order to not take those resources away from the recovery and relief effort.

[09:20:00]

And later the President went-I think at some point he was making a trip once a month throughout the whole process. So he made many, many trips to New Orleans during Katrina.

SMERCONISH: I guess, Spencer, my-my point was that-and we're showing an image now of the fly-over you are referencing. You are kind of damned when you do and damned when you don't. President Trump was subject to some criticism this past week relative to the timing and I have to say, in his defense, had he not been there, those same folks would probably be saying, where the hell is he?

GEISINGER: Exactly. And so I agree, you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. But I think the bottom line is these stories or kerfluffles that happen, if a certain audience views that came too early versus another audience that thought he should have been there sooner, those things blow over rather quickly. This is going to be a long-term venture down there in Houston. This is a-there is a hundred thousand homes that are uninhabitable which means hundreds of thousands of people have nowhere to live. This will take a long time to get people housed and back in their homes and the President will make many trips, the Vice President will make many trips to Houston over the next year. And so these little short-term stories I think will fly-will blow over. But I think today is a perfect timing. People are being allowed to go back into their neighborhoods. Some are still being evacuated, obviously. But some are being allowed to go back in. So it is a perfect time to get down there and get your feet on the ground and figure out exactly where the recovery and relief effort stands and really allows him to interact with the people who are suffering the most. And that is the most important thing. You know?

SMERCONISH: One other observation, if I may. I like the fact, obviously that he's gone and going back and agree with Spencer Guisinger, he will have to go back more in the future. But some of the criticism this past week and believe me, Spencer, if and when there is a time to criticize the President for his reaction to Hurricane Harvey, he will be at the lead of the pack and but we are not there and her heels when she walked out of the White House or him wearing Khakis to my recollection he was wearing the same uniform as President Obama, there is the image. There is President Obama greeting Chris Christie in Sandy attired in the same way as President Trump. You know, taking his first look in Texas.

GEISINGER: Yeah, and President Bush wore khakis too and wore an open collar shirt. SMERCONISH: What else are you going to wear?

GEISINGER: Yeah. That criticism is ridiculous. And that-that stuff is not helpful. That kind of criticism is not helpful in a situation like this. I mean, the President and First Lady went down there, they did the right thing. They're going to go down there many more times. They're going to visit with people. This is a long, long road to hoe. So I commend the President and the First Lady for getting down there. The President has an excellent Operations team. This trip is-it is different from a political trip or a policy trip, this is a operations trip or a reactionary trip where the President and First Lady are reacting to a national-a national disaster.

SMERCONISH: May I ask you-may I ask you a final question? Because I- I'm proud of this. I did advance for Poppa Bush, for Bush back when I had hair And I'm wondering about the Trump Advanced Team because they ran a lot of rallies in campaign season, are they up to the drill for this sort of work? Do they have an experienced team when it comes to, as you put it, presented the Consoler-In-Chief?

GEISINGER: Absolutely. The individual who is in charge, the Deputy White House Chief-Of-Staff for Operations had the same position and the same person that had it during the Bush Administration. And he was my boss in the White House. Mr. Joe Hagen. And so he's put together an excellent team, the Advanced-the Advanced guys that will be down there on the ground, worked under me in the Bush Administration, so I'm confident they know what to do. These are all seasoned pros. And they'll do the right thing. And they'll make sure that the President gets where-gets to see what he needs to see and does what he needs to do while he is down there. So I have complete confidence in that whole operations-operation at the White House.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Spencer. I remember Joe Hagen from Bush 41 days. Thank you very much.

GEISINGER: You got it, Michael. Thank you.

[09:25:00]

SMERCONISH: Let me see what you are always saying on my twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have? I'm not a Trump fan. But when people criticize Melania on her footwear I was appalled. She and Barron should be off limits. And I agree and that is what I said to Spencer. Again if the relief efforts fall down, let's have that conversation. But let's skip the footwear in between. She's could be barefoot for all I care as long as the relief supplies get where they need to go. One more Katherine, if we have time. Texas accepted needed aid from Mexico. Would that have happened if the wall was built? Paul Grimshaw, I think that is a good observation. You know, the response even from our southern neighbors in addition to that from the citizenry that I saluted at the outset of the program was terrific.

Still to come, the latest from Houston where the Mayor is urging those who stayed behind in flooded homes to now evacuate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: The statistics from Harvey's damage are still being tabulated. At least 50 people have died from the storm about 27 trillion gallons of rain fell on Texas and Louisiana over six days. And in Houston's Harris County alone, about 136,000 structures were flooded, 10 percent of all the buildings in the county.

For the latest, join me now is Vernon Loeb. He is the managing editor of the Houston Chronicle who wrote this column in the Washington Post. Harvey should be the turning point in fighting climate change.

And Vernon, I'm trying to stick with some good news and deal with the bad, so let me begin by asking you, what makes you most proud of what you've seen in Texas this past couple of days?

VERNON LOEB, MANAGING EDITOR, HOUSTON CHRONICLE: Well, it's got to be the way people have just pulled together. Houston is a, you know, is a tough very entrepreneurial city, it's unpretentious. And to see the volunteers pouring out at the shelters, neighbors helping each other, neighbors inflating rafts and literally saving each other, was just sort of an amazing moment for Houston. The city really came together in a way that I think did lift everybody's spirits during the storm.

SMERCONISH: I pay close attention to the Chronicle's coverage and one of the things that I appreciate is a posting. In fact, we've got the images of the most moving photography that's been shot by your folks in the last couple of days. You want to say anything about the pictures you've been publishing?

LOEB: You know, from these really dramatics aerial shots of entire neighborhoods, subdivisions flooded out to the scene at the George R. Brown Convention Center with just constant (ph) people as far as the eye can see, which really reminded me of Katrina to the rest rescue shots, to just the -- we have a picture on the front page this morning of an 80-year-old woman being visited by Meals on Wheels for the first time yesterday, just surrounded by stuff in her living room. They're all just incredibly moving.

SMERCONISH: You wrote a provocative piece for the Washington Post, I'm going to put some portion of it up on the screen. You say, "Not known for hyperbole, the National Weather Service tweeted after the first devastating day of rainfall, during which some parts of Houston got more than 25 inches. All impacts are unknown and beyond anything experienced. It's catastrophic, unprecedented, epic," said Patrick Blood, the National Weather Service meteorologist. "Whatever adjective you want to use."

Then you quoted Brock Long from FEMA, "This is a storm the United States has not yet seen." And what you say, they're all talking about albeit not identifying by name is climate change. Will Hurricane Harvey, when we look back, represent a turning point, relative to the way we think about that subject?

LOEB: Well, who knows? I certainly hope it will. I mean it's not something you can prove and I don't think people today in Houston are starting to rip out soggy dry wall are thinking about climate change. But something is going on here that we've never seen before.

Houston is a city that used to being flooded. I've worked in Houston for almost four years and we've had three epic, one in a hundred year flood events, and this one was by some estimates, one in 800 year flooded event, something is happening here that we haven't seen before.

I mean, you know, I take Brock Long's quote at face value, this is a storm America has never seen before. On Sunday, the --the first day of the storm, Bush Airport recorded 16 inches of rain, the prior record had been eight inches 70 years ago. Rivers are crusting above their record levels by, you know, 8, 10, 12 feet. One -- in one place in Houston it rained 13 inches in an hour, you know, the science is incontrovertible, global warming warms the planet, it warms the ocean and it creates more extreme weather events.

You know, what we're seeing here, it probably will be repeated and this is just, as Brock Long said, the most extreme storm, the most extreme hurricane, the most extreme weather event the country has ever seen.

SMERCONISH: Vernon, we're showing a live shot now of Marine One landing at Andrew's, the President of course headed back in your direction today. Assess what's known of the federal response thus far?

LOEB: Well, several hundred thousand people have already signed up for FEMA relief yesterday as we wrote about this morning on the front page.

[09:35:00] People were starting not to be able to get through to FEMA. They were calling and, you know, not getting through. I think it's too early to assess the federal response or certainly the, you know, start blaming anybody. I think the response has been pretty good so far, there's a lot of FEMA people here. The state and the city seem to be coordinating pretty well.

One thing people don't realize about Texas is, all the cities in Texas are liberal and Democratic. The state as a whole is very conservative. All of the statewide elected officials are Republicans. There's a potential here for political rancor, we haven't seen that yet, people are working together.

And I think this is a real moment for politicians of both parties in Texas to come together and say, you know, we're going to provide the relief people need and we're going to start taking climate change seriously. Climate change shouldn't be a partisan issue. Science is science, we don't debate medical science. Houston has the largest medical center in the world, the science there is accepted by all and I think climate change should be similar and I think their response to this hurricane should be similar, both parties should come together and say we're going to help out here.

SMERCONISH: Vernon Loeb, thanks so much for being here, and for the great job that the Chronicle has been doing for the last week.

LOEB: Thank you, my pleasure.

SMERCONISH: CNN will of course continue to cover the President's return to Texas throughout the course of the day. As you can see he's now landed, Marine One has landed and soon will be taking off for Texas.

What do we have Katherine, in terms of social media? Can I deal with any tweets? No social media she says. OK. And she is boss.

SMERCONISH: Up ahead, Harvey has transformed the landscape of Houston. Was that due in part of Houston's lack of zoning laws, and will this shift the debate, as I just referenced with Vernon on climate change?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:21] SMERCONISH: And you're looking at the President just moments ago going from Marine One to Air force One for his return trip to Texas to survey the flood damage from hurricane Harvey. As the water start to recede in Houston how should the city rebuild? Harvey leaves behind tens of billions of dollars damaged, 73,000 people rescued, 100,000 home either damaged or destroyed, 50 dead, half a million cars destroyed and tons of blame to go around.

So what lies ahead given the lack of zoning regulations in Houston and the ongoing battles over climate change that some say energized the storm? Well, these two articles on Bloomberg caught my eye. "Harvey wasn't just bad whether, it was bad city planning" by Peter Coy and Christopher Flavelle. And Flavelle's "Harvey could reshape how and where Americans build their homes."

Joining me now Bloomberg's climate policy reporter Christopher Flavelle, and Bloomberg's "Businessweek" economics editor Peter Coy. Peter, any city regardless of its zoning standards and regulations would have been devastated. I know we can agree on that, you said so in your piece.

PETER COY, ECONOMICS EDITOR, BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: Right.

SMERCONISH: But what's the question that you think needs to be addressed now before we move forward?

COY: The immediate action is obviously to save people who are still in stress to get the emergency aid in there, to get people's lives back together. But very soon after that there has to be a really serious conversation about how Houston rebuilds so this doesn't happen again. Now, there are two solutions basically, the one is the grey solution, that's concrete, that's sluices, culverts, drains, just trying to get the water out of there when it lands.

The others, the green solution, which is to say, you're probably just not going to be able to flush all that water away. More storms like Harvey are coming. You're going to have to have a solution that involves catching the water when it comes down and allowing it to be gradually absorbed and gradually flushed out to the Gulf of Mexico, that's the green solution, that's contained detention ponds, flood control reservoir and so on.

It's expensive because it involves setting aside land, precious land and -- that it can't be developed and can't collect property taxes on. But ultimately in the long run it's probably the better solution.

SMERCONISH: Christopher, you have written that Texas is really -- Houston in particular a microcosm for a much larger debate that pits the interests of insurers against those of home builders, explain.

CHRISTOPHER FLAVELLE, CLIMATE POLICY REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Yes. What we're seeing in Texas isn't new, this happens every time there's a big storm, you get people who are home builders or developers saying, the priority should be building as affordably as possible and as widely as possible because people needs homes, and that's true.

Insurer say, but think of future risk, if we build too cheaply now the next storm, which we know will happen will be all the more devastating. The consequences aren't usually sweeping as they are in Houston and in Texas, but I think this is an almost an old debate and hopefully this time we'll find a better answer at the end of it.

SMERCONISH: And we're having this conversation as Air Force One, which contains the commander-in-chief, also a builder and developer himself is heading back to Texas. Christopher, on to which side does he fall if we yet know, the insurer side or the builder side, in the debate as you framed it?

FLAVELLE: It's unclear and I think that's what -- one of the big questions we'll all have to try and ask, his FEMA director, Brock Long, told me just before Harvey hit that this administration wants to push local official to make better choices, to better protect them and all of us against extreme weather.

[09:45:06] This is the change to follow through on that so that we have to see whether they encourage and insists that Texas uses this tens of billions of dollars in federal money in a smarter way to rebuild more intelligently. I'd love to know if President Trump, when he sits now with Texas officials today and in the weeks ahead, if he says we'll help you but we want you to help too with better building codes, land use planning and just planning better for the next time.

SMERCONISH: Peter, in my last segment I begun a conversation about the role of climate change in Hurricane Harvey, and I want to put on the screen something that you wrote, for Houston the cruel irony is that the greenhouse gases that contribute to super storms are intimately connected to the oil and petrochemical economy on which the city built its fortune. Will this be a turning point of sorts relative to that national conversation?

COY: Yes, well, nobody can blame Houston itself for global warming --

SMERCONISH: Of course not.

COY: -- the oil and gas that Houston that Texas produces is consumed by all of us. But it's true that something has to change, I mean, nobody knew when they build Miami where it is or Houston where it is that we were going to have something called global warming, that we're going to have rising sea levels, worsening storms. But it is a reality and it's inescapable.

You know, people talk about something like Harvey being an act of God. Well, the lord helps those who help themselves. And if the society doesn't respond to the worsening damage caused by storms such as Harvey, if it tries to go on with life as usual we're going to have, you know, even worse consequences in the decades to come.

SMERCONISH: Hey Christopher, it's really not the insurance industry that's taking a hit for Harvey, at least thus far, right? I mean ultimately its tax payers through FEMA, through national flood insurance but not private insurance per say, explain the difference.

FLAVELLE: That's right. Think of it this way. You got maybe half -- roughly half the risk along the coast is insured, the other half isn't, people call the coverage gap. That coverage gap gets filled by you and me when people have to make claims. If our governor (ph) say I've lost my house I have no insurance, ultimately it's us, that's appropriate, there should be safety net. But we should also say, for the next time let's shrink that coverage gap and maybe shrink it by having more building covered by insurance, private insurance usually, but also better building.

And I just -- I want to talk on the theme you had this hour, which is good news, there's a real can do spirit that you pick up as soon as you're in Texas. And you can apply that can do spirit to protection, right, to building better the same, we're going to do the best job we can. There isn't a lot of that yet but that could be one of the -- sort of the better outcomes of this whole mess.

SMERCONISH: Christopher Flavelle and Peter Coy. I've got watch the take off because it's in progress as we speak. Don't loose my live shot yet.

President Trump headed back to Texas to survey the hurricane damage, to meet with folks in Houston and in other areas. As I say, throughout the course of the day right here on CNN, we'll keep you abreast of all the latest developments. Safe take off.

Still to come, your best and worse tweets and Facebooks comments. Hit me Katherine.

Should American taxpayers continue to pay for folks and cities that purposely live in flood prone areas?

Mary Battenburg (ph) that's exactly the conversation that I just initiated with those last two guests, and I think it's one that we frankly haven't had on a national level thus far and it's not necessarily climate change dependent. I mean Houston is built on a coastal prairie. Any city would have been ravaged. Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying by 50 inches of water falling in its locale, but you address the right issue. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:53:25] SMERCONISH: Hey, if you ever missed any of the program you can catch us anything on CNNgo online and through your connected devices and apps, remember to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Here's some of what you thought during the course of the program.

7.85 billion Harvey aid, that money should only help Democrats because Republicans hate big government, at @smerconish. Hey Chico (ph), I'm paying close attention to the debate that I thought was fascinating this week between Governor Christie and Senator Cruz and remembering what the relative positions were of the parties when it was Sandy and not Harvey, and I think people need to be consistent, right?

If you're going to take a position relative to one storm it will be interesting to see if it's the same position when now it's your own state. What's next?

Smerconish, why does the media criticize the President on every little thing like his post-Hurricane Harvey visit, just let him do his job. Hey Kevin (ph), were you paying attention? I'm the guy who said I thought that those critics were bogus, I don't give a damn what Malania was wearing when she went to Texas. I'm just thrilled that they made the trip and that he's going back. He's wearing the same khakis as President Obama and George W. Bush during Katrina. You're getting me all worked up now, and I'm the one who said so. So, take it up else where.

Next. Smerconish, not global warning, don't build homes under sea level, nor winds (ph) nor in flood plains in Houston, this is ridiculous. That maybe a valid comment but the rise of extreme weather even in our lifetimes I think is undeniable. And we do need to have the conversation, maybe, you know, a weekend is not the appropriate time but sooner rather than later.

[09:55:10] Next. It was fair criticism of Trump and Malania, six inch heels to disaster and no victim touched. What a -- come on -- come on Jeremy (ph). Today Jeremy (ph), toady he's going for that purpose, last Tuesday he couldn't get in the way of the delivery of relief, you're turning me into an apologist here for the guy just because I feel I need to throw a flag when the criticism are unfair.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, see you next week.

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