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Watching Hurricane Gustav

Aired August 31, 2008 - 19:00   ET


SEN. DAVID VITTER, (R) LOUISIANA: And because of the attention to detail, the planning, and the coordination, I think we've been successful in making sure that people who want to leave are able to do so; have the physical means to get out and get into shelters.

This is only chapter one in what's going with respect to this hurricane. We don't know what the full impact of the hurricane will be until it hits. We don't know what the damage will be.

The first stage will be search and rescue, and we will be working with the state and with other states to engage in that operation using both Coast Guard and military Department of Defense assets to supplement the National Guard.

After that, is we assess what the actual damage is, we'll have to go on and talk about the process of rebuilding and reconstruction. But the most important thing is to save lives. I'm glad that the people of Louisiana took heed to the warning that they were given.

And now we're going to let the storm pass. And come in right afterwards and begin the process of searching for those who might not have been able to get out.

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL, (R) LOUISIANA: One correction, I just want to make sure that I clarify that the three unconfirmed deaths were actually hospital patients who evacuated, not nursing home patients. So let me just clarify that.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN NEWSROOM ANCHOR: All right, let's do this now; let's bring you up to date on what's going on.

You heard the governor of Louisiana in that briefing announce the news that we're all sad to hear that three people have already died directly or indirectly as a result of this storm.

We had a conversation earlier with one of our own producers who was there on the scene in New Orleans at one of those hospitals. And you might recall if you were watching us then, that I asked him a question, what do you do with a critical care patient? How do you disconnect them and then reconnect them and then transport them? That's got to be very difficult.

And he said in New Orleans, at least in the hospital where he was there, Tulane, they weren't moving the critical care patients. It's too dangerous and now we have the governor come on the air and tell us that three patients have died while they were trying to do just that; transport them from one place to another. Three critical care patients have died in transportation. That's certainly one the headlines of what the governor's been sharing with us.

And then there's this, you heard when he said, and this is important. Let me just go back to my notes to try and make sure I quote him.

Dan, if you would, give me a map on the Telestrator of the cities at the bottom part of the coast of Louisiana. Let's go to that real quick and I'm going to bring General Russel Honore into this conversation.

Give me that here on the Telestrator, if you would, Dan. I want to be able show that. There it is, ok.

What he seemed to be saying was, at the very beginning was, that according to the folks that he has talked to, all of the experts at National Hurricane Center and the folks in FEMA and all over through Washington, is that if this storm continues in its present track, all right, like that, that when it does hit those levees that are built up here in New Orleans -- let me go back to my notes and read exactly what he said so we can have this discussion.

The levees, he said, would barely hold. Again, let me underscore that, if the hurricane goes in its present track which is just west of New Orleans, but not by much, still within that 69-mile radius which is the hurricane-forced winds that we've been talking about, again, 69 miles, folks, that's an important number. He said, the governor just announced and what you heard him say is that the levees would barely hold. Right? Barely hold.

However, if the storm goes further that way, in other words instead of going there, it goes more like there, and then it's closer to New Orleans and then it's a whole different can of worms. That's the difference, folks. And then we're talking about their levees that may not hold, obviously.

Russel Honore is going to be joining us in just a little bit. Katie, did you want me -- do you want to go to break? Or you want to bring him in?

All right, all right, you just heard that explanation. It seems to be the explanation that was given us to by the governor. Expand on that, if you would for us, General, as to what the precarious mess is at that point, and how people should take that information.

LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Yes, it appeared that the governor was talking about the levees along the Mississippi River on the western side of the city.

That, as he described could not disagree with his assessment based on what they're looking at. This is not the same threat that we have from Katrina. This is new information. This is new areas that could be opened to flooding. Remember when you think about the Katrina, the flooding happened from Lake Pontchartrain side in the north of the city and from the east of the city.

Now we're talking about that threat coming from south in New Orleans and west in New Orleans as the right front of that storm puts a shoulder just west of New Orleans. The bigger impact, though, is the eye of that storm we're looking at it in Houma. When it goes to ground there, all of the structure and the possibility of tornados spinning off the right front of that storm going into major population areas from New Orleans all the way in to Baton Rouge, up to New Roads and over towards St. Francis road.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and in fact we have it right here. And in fact, if it stayed in that area right there, we're talking about Houma, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, maybe not Lake Charles, because remember the storm -- let me just draw up. The storm is going this way, folks. Ok, so it goes this way. This is the area there. This quadrant right there is the area that you need to be concerned about, is that right?

HONORE: Yes, the big caution to people now, if you're on the path of this storm, you need to be prepared to go five to six to seven days without electricity. That is the thing you need to keep in the back of your mind. Five, six, seven days without electricity and without fresh water.

So it's important now, you start planning. If you're sheltering in place, if you're below I-10, get out of there. If you're above I-10, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time without power and with localized flooding. And as the governor said, get out of those trailer homes, Houma.

SANCHEZ: It's not the right time to be buying those supplies, though. Would you recommend -- well, I suppose if you don't have them you have to get them, though, right, general?

HONORE: If you don't you got to get them or you need to evacuate.

SANCHEZ: And find a friend or a hotel or at least that a little more.

HONORE: The other piece there, Rick, is the Red Cross is working that hard. They've spent about $20 million. They've got about 50 shelters opened in the region that are working with the state. But that being said, folks trying to figure out what they're going to do with their party money this week and donate it to the Red Cross because they're working all alone right now.

SANCHEZ: All right, General Honore, we'll keep getting back to you, sir. Wonderful input. We thank you so much for sharing that with us.

For those of you joining us now we just heard from the governor of Louisiana. He seems to be indicating that we're talking about, if it stays on its present course, something around Grand Isle, Louisiana. Grand Isle Louisiana, may seem familiar to you if you've been watching us for the last hour. So, that is where Ali Velshi has been reporting for us from. In fact, let's go to Ali Velshi is joining us live now from Grand Isle. You probably heard, I don't know if you had you're -- this little thing that we wear in our ears, little IFV thing on.

But did you hear when the governor referred to the area of where you are and at being possibly a point of impact?


SANCHEZ: What do you make --

VELSHI: We're at about the storm surge we're likely to get.

SANCHEZ: What do you make of that?

VELSHI: Well the good news and the bad news that we're hearing like, and it look --

SANCHEZ: I know that we've got -- boy, I hate when we have this thing in television but it's this delay, where you could -- you don't hear me until a second that I'm done talking so I'll get the question out and I let you go to it, Ali.

Have you talked to someone -- what is the concern for some of the folks there?

VELSHI: All right, well, look, the good news, Rick -- the bad news is that they we're going to feel a lot of it here when it comes down on shore.

The good news is that people get that this is going to be serious and unlike before Katrina, they have left. Most everybody has left Grand Isle. And many of the parishes down here, we're at the bottom tip of Jefferson Parish.

It's very unusual how this has shaped Jefferson Parish goes all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans. And we're at the bottom tip of it. And we have neighboring parishes that are not part of this parish but they've all been under mandatory evacuation since Friday night or Saturday morning.

So most people are out, now, we are hearing reports from people who have left this parish that they are still stuck in traffic. They are having a hard time getting out of here. But they are going to higher ground, like Russel Honore says, north of I-10 and points further.

We've talked to people who are going to Arkansas and Indiana; I mean they're getting out of town. But the fact is, Rick, people have left this place with the exception of very few, the oil operations around here have been shut down.

The shrimpers who operate here, they come and they sell their shrimp here; they have gone to a place north of the Inter-Coastal waterway, 90, miles, 60 miles north of here. They're protecting their boats. They'll come back fast after the storm because that's when the shrimping and the fishing is good.

But folks are out of here right now. They're anticipating that this thing will come on with some force and create some damage and flooding. I think Governor Jindal said more than seven feet of storm surge coming into where we are. So it's almost like a ghost town.

The beach is right behind me about a quarter mile, Rick. It's getting rough out there. It's starting to get pretty cloudy but their people are out of here.

SANCHEZ: All right, there you have it. We've got Ali Velshi and he's going to be standing by in Grand Isle. He's n right in the thick of things, really, as it's been described to us. It looks like that's where the storm may be going.

We've got General Honore standing by in the newsroom. And we're going to him, as needed.

Obviously there's a political angle to this story too. If you haven't heard the Republican Party is now, almost discontinuing things and kind of going day by day to decide how they're going to have their convention.

Obviously, they don't want to seem insensitive. They want to be as careful as they can, as good Americans, to what's going to the people going on in the Gulf coast.

Bob Barr is going to be joining us here as well in just a little bit. And in fact, he's here on the set now. Bob is going to be joining us in a bit to talk about some of the political events going on and some of the decisions that the political -- that the Republicans have to toil with as well.

And then of course, we've got Jacqui Jeras, who is going to be joining us to let us know exactly what is going on, numbers wise. Let's go to Jacqui right now and find out what's going to. Jacqui what's the latest?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, we're seeing signs on satellite that we might be getting the stronger-looking eye on this storm, which we have another indication that more strengthening is taking place.

We've been seeing that pressure drop. The storm is getting itself a little bit more tightly wrapped, we think. So we'll have to wait and see as we get an update here.

Right now, Cat 3 at of winds 115 miles-per-hour. So the hurricane hunters are in this storm right now. And this is some of the coolest data we've been able to bring you yet. And I want to show you this flight track. And it might sound confusing to you. But let's put it together and help you understand what's going on.

First of all, they're flying out of Homestead Air Force Base. They're usually flying out of Biloxi, Mississippi and my guess is they're doing that because they don't want to be in the direct line of this storm.

So each one of these little wind barbs, or all of these colors, corresponds to the wind seeds. And what I really want you to notice is those orange colors; that's greater than 60-mile-per-hour winds. So we're seeing that in the northeast quadrant like normally would in a hurricane.

All right, let's zoom into the center here and these silver dots that you see, those are actual drop signs. That's the instruments that they drop out of the airplane and takes measurements all the way down. So here you can see, pressure down to 956.

And we're also getting information coming in right now at its present location. That the surface winds are estimated to be about 100 miles per hour.

So we know that Gustav certainly has a lot of fury with it right now and we're going to continue to watch the hurricane hunters in this data and anything else breaks big, Rick, of course we'll bring it along to you.

SANCHEZ: All right, Jacqui Jeras thanks so much for bringing us up to date on that. And as we get more information on that, we'll be checking back with you. The information as we know it right now is that the storm is still heading into the Gulf of Mexico.

The point that a lot of people are talking about now is, are the Republicans handling this thing correctly? Certainly a lot of buzz going back and forth in political circles between the Democrats and the politicians.

And how about Bobby Jindal? Could he be handling this any better? So far he is seen, according to all indications, as someone who is ready to step up and take care of things in his state there in Louisiana.

You do wonder, at this point, some of the folks in the McCain camp are going, wow, there's a guy who would have made a real good vice presidential pick as well.

Bob Barr is going to be joining us in just a little bit. Were you thinking of the same thing yourself as you are watching this guy?

BOB BARR, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bobby is a very, very impressive man and I think would have made a tremendous choice for Senator McCain.

SANCHEZ: Let's do this, we're going to bring you back in just a little bit. We're going to talk about the convention, the effect of the storm, the Bobby Jindal case and of course, we're going to talk about the pick that the McCain camp did make in the governor of Alaska.

All of that with Bob Barr and a whole lot more and plus our hurricane coverage. And you on, Facebook and MySpace.

We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez here at the World Headquarters of CNN.

We're obviously following all of the developments associated with hurricane Gustav; Category 3 storm now, it was a 4 yesterday. Still could intensify. It's increasing in pressure, which means it's getting stronger, folks.

It's like a top, the faster the top goes, the more strong the top is. It's the same thing with hurricanes. It means it has more speed, it has more force. Essentially it means it could do a heck of a lot more damage.

One of the persons who's been handling this very well is the -- let me bring in Bob Barr into this discussion to talk politics, if we could.

You watched this fellow, Bobby Jindal, this governor of Louisiana, and you almost say to yourself, well, here's a guy who's handling this situation, doing really yeoman's work.

He seems composed. He seems organized. He seems to be a very effective communicator and you're almost wondering, and asking yourself, boy here's a guy who would have made a good vice presidential choice, wouldn't it?

BARR: Well, maybe in the years ahead he'll make a good presidential choice for the Republican Party. Very, very impressive fellow; has a tremendous grasp of figures, organization process in addition to presenting himself very well. He has a tremendous future, I think.

SANCHEZ: Obviously, I mean I can't put you in this situation, and it's not fair to ask the question, it's almost like being a backseat driver. But had the McCain campaign had another week to make this decision and they'd seen this guy's performance, do you think there's a possibility that they may have gone, boy, what's the old -- I could have had a V8, I could have had a Jindal?

BARR: Well, of course they did look at Bobby Jindal apparently very carefully. I think what may happen in the days and in the week ahead is that they may regret perhaps not having vetted their current pick quite as well as they could have.

SANCHEZ: You think so? You think Sarah Palin may have needed to be looked at a little more carefully?

BARR: Well, the problem is, apparently it was done very quickly and very secretively by Senator McCain himself without the normal -- they wanted to maintain the secrecy of it. And I think that, really, may come back to haunt them to some extent.

SANCHEZ: I know you have some -- obviously some real good connections with people who are still in both of those theaters, for lack of a better word. What are your sources telling you that was the relationship between Senator McCain and Senator Palin?

BARR: Very minimal. As I understand that they'd only met each are once or maybe twice.


BARR: So not a real track record there. And now, maybe -- you know I'm not saying he made the wrong choice. The problem is we don't know and it was done relatively -- very quickly and very much in secret apparently, that secrecy trumped really vetting the entire process the way they normally would.

SANCHEZ: You just -- it almost sounds like what you're saying to me, and you're saying to the folks who are listening to us now is, your experience tells you that if you don't vet somebody properly it comes to bite you in the behind. You're not saying it's going to bite them in the behind, you're suggesting it could.

BARR: It definitely could. We've seen that happen before, we saw it happened a generation ago with Senator Eagleton.

SANCHEZ: Should we leave at that or do you want to go further with that?

BARR: No, I think if we leave it there, and that way you could have me back again to talk about it.

SANCHEZ: All right, the decision by the Republican Party to go ahead and say, look, it would be insensitive for us to continue this convention at this point. Tomorrow, they're going to slam down the gavel. The president's apparently not going to show up and they're going to take it day by day. Smart decision, wrong decision, what's going on there?

BARR: I think it was a very smart decision on Bush and Cheney's part because there were a lot of folks at the Republican convention that really didn't want them there. And felt very uncomfortable having them there, because that would, again, draw attention to the McCain/Bush connection; which they want to get away from.

So you know, in that sense, the natural disaster provided a -- an easy out for them.

SANCHEZ: So they're killing two birds with one stone?

BARR: I think it definitely plays right into where Senator McCain wants to be and the Republican Party wants to be, which is basically as far away from Bush as they can get.

SANCHEZ: Let's take it 24 hours further then, what happens, let's say Tuesday or Wednesday, if this thing is barreling down on the United States, that's some of your best platform stuff when you're really got to get your message out there, then what do they do?

BARR: Well, look the Republican Party has no message, no vision, no leadership right now and they've had years do this. It's not going to happen or not happen based on whether or not they have a full-pledge convention for two days or three days this week.

I mean, the fact of the matter is, that they stretch these things out for five days. You have about 120 speeches that nobody remembers other than the person that gave them. One or two speeches that really have some impact and are important. So a lot of people are sitting back and saying, thank goodness we don't have to listen to five days of this stuff.

SANCHEZ: Presidential candidate Bob Barr, good enough to come in and join us today and talk about these things. And the thing about you is that you basically say what you think. Don't you?

BARR: Well, I like to. And I like you too, also. You do as well.

SANCHEZ: Bob Barr, thanks so much for being with us. We certainly appreciate it.

All right, we were told a little while ago by the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, that this storm, according to argument the experts that he have spoken to, will likely, at least cause some -- let me go back to my notes. I want to really quote him exactly on this because this is the kind of story that comes back to, as Bob Barr would say, bite you in the behind. He said the levees, the exact quote is he said, "the levees would barely hold if the storm stays on its present track."

And those are some of the levees on the middle part of Mississippi, as we learned from General Russel Honore or some of the ones on the western side of the city.

Let's go now to an expert on these levees. His name is H.J. Bosworth Jr. He's a civil engineer and activist. And ask him the $60,000 question here.

From what you know of this particular storm combined with what you know of the levees as they are right now, do you expect, if the storm is let's say some 50, 60 miles away, the eye of the storm that is, will these levees hold, sir?

H.J. BOSWORTH, JR., CIVIL ENGINEER, ACTIVIST: The levees that he is talking about are the levees to the south and along the Louisiana coast on the other side of the river from New Orleans, Bayou Lafourche, Terrebonne Parish, in/around Grand Isle, the levees there are much lower than the levees that protect New Orleans.

And water has to go up into the marsh through the pipeline canals and the oil canals and all of the canals that have been carved all through the marsh and they can readily get to populated areas. Now, certainly none of these areas are as big as New Orleans but these are vulnerable areas and the levees weren't necessarily at the top of the corps of engineer's focus list after Katrina.

SANCHEZ: Well, you know, I was just going to ask you. Obviously, if this storm continues in a little bit of a westerly track and doesn't do a beeline for New Orleans but instead, hurricane-forced winds are about 69 miles, so let's suppose it's 69 miles west of New Orleans, so it's just barely getting the outer bands of the hurricane-force winds.

At that point we're probably talking about, maybe, the levees being overflowing but what would you say, not by much?

BOSWORTH: These aren't very tall levees. There are some areas south of us that do in fact have levees that maybe you know, 16, 17 feet above sea level.

SANCHEZ: You know I've got stop you there. If we know what happened what happened to Katrina and we knew that we could get another storm like this Gustav coming along, I'm asking this because I can feel people at home asking the same questions to themselves, why in the hell haven't these levees been built up higher so that you and I don't have to be having these conversations?

BOSWORTH: Congress has to tell the corps of engineers to build levees that are as safe as they can be and at this point Congress just doesn't give the corps the direction and the funding to necessarily build the levees that we've got along coastal Louisiana that we've got you know on our eastern edge, near the Mississippi Sound, high enough to keep us dry and keep us safe and that type of storms that we're seeing these days.

SANCHEZ: All right, well, you've studied this. You tell me, how did they change them between Katrina and today?

BOSWORTH: Katrina came in to our east. It filled up the Mississippi Sound with water. Took that -- took that water from the Mississippi Sound and shoved it against the east edge of the city. At that point the east edge of the city's flood protection was tested. It failed miserably and in over 50 places.

It was a very big embarrassment to the corps of engineers and a very -- and a lot of effort was spent to make sure that area was fixed as well as it could with the funding that they had in the time that they had.

SANCHEZ: So now you're saying, we're talking about a different set of levees, because this storm's coming in from a different angle.

BOSWORTH: Correct.

SANCHEZ: Where these particular levees that you're talking about now, were they brought up? Were they strengthened? Did they do anything with these?

BOSWORTH: The corps has a program to constantly update and constantly analyze levees and bring the level up, you know, a few feet higher here and a few feet higher there and they do this constantly. But they can only do what Congress tells them to do and what Congress gives them the appropriations to do.

SANCHEZ: Back to my question, very directly, do you know if these particular levees that we're talking about now as you and the general are alluding to more on the Mississippi's side, have they been brought up? Have they been strengthened? BOSWORTH: On the Mississippi -- yes, to the east of the city New Orleans, they have indeed been brought up to higher elevations --


BOSWORTH: The repairs have been made. And they're much, much safer.

SANCHEZ: And if this storm, final question, if this storm, instead of going to that westerly track that we've been talking about that I've been showing on my telestrator, if it somehow decides to deviate and get a little closer to New Orleans -- in other words, go a little further east -- then -- and I guess it's anybody's guess, I'm not asking you to play God here, but do you think that these levees could then be suspect?

BOSWORTH: What Katrina did is it prompted the weak levees to fail. There are other levees that did not fail that may have failed if the water hadn't been allowed to go through the failed portions.

SANCHEZ: Present day, present day, right now?

BOSWORTH: Right now, we can see, I hope this storm doesn't hook to the right.

SANCHEZ: All right. H.J. Bosworth, thanks. Good information. You are obviously are an expert at this. And I was pressing you there because I think people want to know.

BOSWORTH: Please do.

SANCHEZ: I mean this is obviously a situation -- yes, you too. You're right. Thank you, we'll continue to have our conversations with you.

Brianna Keilar's going to be joining us in a little bit when we come back.

Reaction, we understand is coming in from the White House as well. And we're going to tell you what the folks at the White House are saying and about the president's trip tomorrow which as it stands right now, and we're told it could possibly change, but as it stands right now, has been postponed, possibly canceled.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Go ahead in here, Dave. Bring me that shot, if you would. And bring it around to this side. Show them this -- remember I was talking a little while ago with one of these experts on the levees and what he said? About how they were trying to fix the levees and I said so many people in this country are so frustrated about this.

There's a comment that just came on from twitter from Teriss just a little while ago. She said they can put a man on the moon but they can't fix this water flooding problem in New Orleans? Hard to believe. Make levees flood-proof.

That's interesting. You almost get the sense that, as she's saying and so many people are out there thinking, and while we were talking about that with, what was it, H.J. Bosworth, the expert on levees who was good enough to join us a little while ago and if you missed that interview.

Let's go to Don Lemon now, if we can. Don Lemon standing by. He's in New Orleans, and you know, it almost looks like part of the town is deserted. What's interesting is yesterday the mayor had some really strong words and as a result people really took heed.

Don Lemon, confirm that for us if you would.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and that was part of it. We spoke to some people today who said, you know, he really scared me, but you know, the final straw to get people really to get off of the streets is that there's a curfew that goes into effect in just a few minutes. The sun is going down. And that curfew goes into effect. And see these guys right here? We've seen the police department walk by. These guys are with the National Guard. They are patrolling the streets here. We're standing here in the middle of the French quarter and the people that you're seeing going by, mostly media, police officers, military, if you can - these two guys, by the way, we want to congratulate them because they're Iraqi vets and now he's an Iraqi vet, and he's down here in New Orleans, in the eye of the storm, which will possibly be in the eye of the storm. And he's patrolling, thanks, guys.

Working 12-hour shifts. We don't want to keep you from your work, but thank you very much for joining us here. They're going around the entire French quarter. Look at this street, Rick. I mean, this is Bourbon Street that we're standing on, and you know, Bourbon Street is usually packed with people. And you can see some camera crews, people coming through. But, yes, you're right. Mayor Ray Nagin really laid down the law yesterday and said if you stay here, you're taking your life into your own hands.

Also the same words today coming from the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. I caught up with him, as he was visiting people who were about to be transported out of the city in some of these military people who are working here as well. He was visiting them. And he said that pretty much overall, he's happy with the response. But it's still the quiet before the storm. Take a listen.


LEMON: So when you look around and you see all of these, the people here and you're seeing the response, what do you think?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I think that the fact that people are taking it seriously is a positive sign that we're getting the message out about what to expect in the face of a hurricane. And you know, I've got to say these people see the movies and the TV and they think what, I really need tie myself to the tree. It's not going to be easy.

LEMON: I've got one more question for you. Do you think that - do you think that the mandatory evacuation was called fast enough, early enough?

CHERTOFF: It seems to me, again, from what I see, and I don't like to second-guess by these decisions because they're very hard decisions, but it seems to me that it's worked. I mean so far as I can tell I'm not seeing, suggesting, that people are crowding to get out at the last minute. And again I can't tell you who hasn't left. So I'm a little bit in the dark on that.

LEMON: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Thank you very much.


LEMON: All right, that was just a short time ago at the terminal station. Just a short time ago. And just a couple of hours before that, Rick, I spent the morning with the mayor of New Orleans, talking about all of those things that you just mentioned here. About how strong his words were last night about that curfew. And about how he was feeling today. And also that people are comparing this to Hurricane Katrina. And also wondering if this is finally now a way for him, as well as as the secretary, to sort of recoup their reputation, if you will. Take a listen to this.


MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: It feels good to than we've helped so many people and that the plans that we've been practicing and implemented went well and we've got some great people that we're working with. And I don't know if anybody could have done it better.


LEMON: OK. And here's what he said. He said that anybody who shouldn't be on the street, if those military guys or those police officers see you and you look suspicious and you will go to jail. If you are caught here, he said if you right the passage, Angola which is a maximum security prison. And he said anyone caught doing that will go right into the general population right to the big house, Rick. So they're pretty serious about these streets. Pretty much everyone off of the streets.

SANCHEZ: Don Lemon reporting to us there from the French corridor, the French corridor certainly doesn't look like anything that it normally does and you noticed that Don's shot was breaking up a little bit. We should tell you. That's a special camera that we use when we go into the field to try to get instant shots from wherever we are. And from time to time with weather conditions and stuff, it'll break up. So we stayed with it because we figured that you were still understanding him. And enough, at least, to convey the message that he was trying to convey.

We told you a little while ago that the president of the United States, most likely, not going to be going to St. Paul, Minnesota, for the republican convention. However, the First Lady still is. In fact, she's there. We've got pictures now. These are coming in - are these live Katie? Or - this is tape? OK. This is the First Lady just moments ago. And in fact it was during Don's report that my producer's got in my ear and told me that we've got shots now of the First Lady there. She's at podium. Kind of getting herself comfortable with what she might be doing, I believe, she's scheduled to speak sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening. Obviously that's probably going to be canceled. But at least according to the way that we've read the plan thus far. But there again, Laura Bush, looking very comfortable with some of the folks there. Talking to her. Waving. Talking.

Brianna Keilar probably very comfortable right now as well. She's joining us, to let us know what the White House's reaction has been thus far. Brianna, what are we learning? It almost looks like this whole thing is almost influx, doesn't it?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is influx. But what we're learning is basically what the Bush administration learned from Katrina. The lessons learned from three years ago. The Bush administration really trying to show that they're getting out ahead of this. That they're not responding after the fact and playing catch-up as we saw happened during Hurricane Katrina. So what we're going to see first thing tomorrow morning, President Bush will be traveling to Texas, ahead of the expected landfall of Gustav. Heading to Texas, where Gulf coast evacuees are heading for shelter.


KEILAR (voice-over): With Hurricane Gustav threatening the Gulf coast, President Bush met with local, state, and federal emergency officials at FEMA headquarters in Washington. Trying to show his administration is ahead of the storm.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Secretary Chertoff and FEMA Administrator Paulison, report that the federal government has prepositioned teams of emergency managers, doctors, ambulances, search-and-rescue teams, aircraft and commodities throughout the region.

KEILAR: President Bush canceled plans to speak at the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. He'll, instead, spend Monday visiting evacuees and emergency preparation centers in Texas. The countdown to Gustav, much different from Hurricane Katrina. In 2003, as Katrina devastated coastal Mississippi and buried New Orleans under water, President Bush was on the west coast as part of a month-long working vacation. Two days after the storm, the President returned to Washington. Catching a glimpse of the storm damage, as Air Force one flew over the Gulf Coast. A picture that became a metaphor for the detached federal response to Katrina. Four days after the storm on the President's first trip to the region -

BUSH: And Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

KEILAR: Kudos for then FEMA chief Michael Brown, while thousands were still stranded at the New Orleans' Convention Center without food and water. With Gustav, the Bush administration insists it won't make the same mistakes.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: There's no question that we're doing much better than we did in Katrina. If you look at the evacuation, it's begun a whole 24 to 36 hours earlier than Katrina.

KEILAR: The president is in contact with the governors of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, as well as New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin. And he's speaking directly to people in Gustav's path.

BUSH: Do not put yourself in harm's way or make rescue workers take unnecessary risks. And know that the American people stand with you. And that we will face this emergency together.

KEILAR: President Bush will return to Washington from Texas tomorrow night. And the White House isn't ruling out the possibility that he will address delegates at the Republican National Convention by satellite, perhaps Tuesday. Maybe later in the week. But at this point, nothing's decided yet as the White House really waiting, as everyone else is, Rick, to see what Gustav brings.

And as you mentioned, you were talking, Tick, about First Lady Laura Bush. It does appear that the point that she's not going to be speaking tomorrow. Also, she did have an event scheduled with Cindy McCain tomorrow. That has also been canceled at this point, Rick.

SANCHEZ: All right. Thanks so much, Brianna Keilar, bringing up - bringing us up to date on all of the reaction coming in on this. The political reaction to a storm which is, you know, barreling on the Gulf coast of the United States.

By the way, when we come back, with a little bit more politics, Gloria Borger and republican consultant, as I call him, Alejandro Castellanos, is Alex Castellanos, is going to be joining us to talk about politics and these decisions, these very important decisions that are being made by folks there in St. Paul at the republican convention. As we go, Dave, let's give them a shot of the twitter if we can.

This is our twitter board up here. Our plasma, as you could see a lot of folks, still talking about this situation with the levees. You know, this is a big source of frustration for a lot of people. Why it seems that the government still hasn't been able to handle this and why there are still questions with another storm out there. And then there are people who just like what we're doing right now. They say the every man style of Rick Sanchez on air now, and I guess the style of the way that we're doing this show works well for CNN Gustav coverage. Thank you very much.

But then, we get this guy. Ross Lipter, he says Rick Sanchez just asked an expert a $60,000 question. Isn't it a $64,000 question? Ha- ha. Oh well, OK, Ross Lipter. Touche. I get it. I screwed up. I'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: A difficult situation for republicans trying to hold their convention in St. Paul. A difficult decision, but it seems that they have - in agreement now, that they need to slow down, at least as far as the events for tomorrow, and then really take it day by day. They really are gearing things depending on what Gustav does. And that's a decision that they're sticking with at this point. We've bring you all kinds of reaction and including the reaction from the White House a little while. Let's get some more now.

Let's go to Gloria Borger and our republican consultant, Alex Castellanos. You know what's interesting about this, Gloria, I want to start with you. You know, I was talking about this yesterday when we first started thinking about this possibility, doesn't it really come down to images? I mean, can you imagine a split screen on side of the screen. On one side of the screen, you see folks along the Gulf coast in any kind of suffering or in angst as a result of the storm, and then on the other side, republicans at a campaign convention almost whooping it up with the balloons falling down. It wouldn't work, would it?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. No, it wouldn't work and it would also be inappropriate. And I think there was a unanimous opinion here, not only by the McCain people, but the people who run the party. And lots of delegates who are starting to come in that would it be inappropriate to do it. The tone would be wrong. John McCain himself personally knew that, not only would the pictures be bad, but that the country really wouldn't want to be talking politics at that particular point. And so, I think they made a decision that they had no choice to make.

SANCHEZ: Senor Castellanos, are you ready for this question?


SANCHEZ: All right. I was just talking to Bob Barr a little while ago. I don't know if you heard this, many of our viewers did. You know what he said? He said that Gustav is in many senses may be perhaps helping the republicans because they really didn't want Dick Cheney or George Bush to be speaking at this convention. And that saves them from that. Your comments? Your reaction to Mr. Barr?

CASTELLANOS: You know, I'm not sure that anybody - any party wants to be identified with whether a calamity like this, potential in what is going to help or hurt them. Certainly, it's going to have an effect. And one of the effects that it may have is that we don't - the republicans don't have to answer that question now. Does George Bush help or hurt? Also, Rick, another question, you know, can the republicans put on as big a show as that 90,000 spectacle, that personal spectacle that Obama put on in Denver? Now that's another question that we don't have to ask. But also, remember, John McCain's been moving up just a teeny bit in the polls in the last couple of days. And this is in the face of Barack Obama's spectacular speech. Now that's all going to freeze. This race is really frozen for a while, until the American people can evaluate here. What's going on down there? So, so there are plusses and probably minuses. SANCHEZ: But, yes, you know, Gloria, let me come back to you. He's got a brand-new vice president that he needs to introduce to the rest the country. And this was going to be her coming-out-party, sort of speak, wasn't it?

BORGER: And it still - but it still could be. I mean who knows what's going to happen in a couple of days, Rick. We don't know maybe whether they will come in, you know, by satellite or whether they will show up here. I mean we really, you know, this is - this hasn't been done before. And I think everybody just kind of wants to wait and see how things go in the Gulf. And the folks I talked to in the McCain campaign say we are not making any plans right now. So she still could be introduced to the American public from this convention, but we just don't know.

SANCHEZ: And by the way, as we lose - as we learned from the democratic convention and other conventions that we've all seen and covered in the past, there's a lot of waste in these things, isn't there? You could probably condense, you could easily condense five days into two or three and what you'd lose is stuff that really wasn't all that significant, am I wrong?

CASTELLANOS: Well there's a lot of waste in politics, not as much in government but there's a lot of waste in politics. One of the things that I think that also he's going to change here, Rick, is that behind us, you can see country first. That was the theme of this convention. It was going to be John McCain's story, how he's put country first. But it was also going to be a call. A call to the American people to join this campaign, strengthen our national defense, strengthen our economy, put country first. Now that call to service is going to be quite different. It may be, hey, let's go help the people in the Gulf.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and it maybe more significant right? More timely.

BORGER: Well, they'll be able to you know, they're talking about raising money here. They're talking about getting together clothing, food, et cetera, sending it out from here to the Gulf. So in a sense they do have an opportunity here to show how they can help people. It will also be a test for the American public, though, Rick, about the competency of government.


BORGER: -- because we know what happened with Hurricane Katrina, incompetent. The American public is going to be looking to see whether three years later the government has self-corrected.

SANCHEZ: Yes, this is one of - this is going to be one of those where you have to take out your no. 2 pencils. I mean this is like a final exam. A very important test, no doubt. Our own Gloria Borger and republican, Alejandro Castellanos. You don't mind me saying it that way, do you?

CASTELLANOS: (speaking in Spanish) SANCHEZ: Perfecto. Mucho gracias. There you go, thanks, gang. I appreciate it. We're going to stay on top of everything that I do with the reaction to the hurricane that's barreling down on the Gulf coast as well as all the data coming in on the hurricane itself. It changes and we've got new advisories, we'll be sharing those with you in just a little bit. I'm Rick Sanchez. You're watching CNN.


SANCHEZ: Sitting here reading many of the comments that are being sent to us by you. We're going to be sharing those with you throughout the hour. It's now what, 51 minutes after the hour. That means about nine minutes from now, Anderson Cooper is going to be heading things for us. He's creating a special for you, that's going to be bringing us out of the shadows of Katrina, really. He's back in New Orleans with this storm menacing that area once again. Anderson joins us now live for a look at what he's got coming up. Anderson, what have you got?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Rick, we're coming to you from the French quarter tonight which I've never seen as deserted as it is now. All the stores, all the shops, all the restaurants and bars closed up, boarded up. The people are gone or if they're here, they're hold up inside their homes. There's a dusk to dawn curfew that is going to take place in this city. They believe they have the evacuations pretty much well in order. Hundreds of thousands of people have already left. State police say this is the largest evacuation in Louisiana history, about 90 percent of the population from southeastern Louisiana has already left. They estimate there may be as many as 10,000 people though still in the city of New Orleans. But frankly we don't have an accurate count, and nor do state or local officials. That is obviously of concern.

The message has gone out to anyone who is here, you are pretty much on your own for the next 24 hours or so. There's a heavy police presence here, a heavy National Guard presence. But when the storm winds begin to blow, folks here just have to hunker down as best they can and try ride this thing out. And as you know, Rick, there's some real concern about the levees on the west side of town, whether those west levees are going to hold. They are largely untested. That's not where the storm came from in Katrina. But that is where the winds are going to come and that is where the storm surge is going to come. We'll be watching those levees very closely indeed, Rick, over the next several hours.

SANCHEZ: Anderson Cooper coming up now in about seven minutes. And you know, Anderson is on familiar turf. The guy knows his stuff when it comes to the city of New Orleans and the effects of hurricane. Because of everything he's done with Katrina. Thanks, Anderson. I look forward to it.

Meanwhile, we had a conversation just yesterday with Senator Fred Thompson. I should let you know we had this conversation, prior to the decision that was made today by the White House to go ahead and cancel the plans for the president to fly into the convention and what's going on right now with the republicans. I want you to hear, though, what Senator Fred Thompson had to say. Here it is.


FRED THOMPSON (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, she's a breath of fresh air is what she is. She's the thing that so many of us all the time are saying that we're looking for in politics. Somebody who's an outsider, courageous, who is not a part of the old boy network. Who fights for reform, who doesn't let politics suck them in. Who stands up to bullies and all the things that people say they want. Boy, now they've got it. They're going to have it. She's a remarkable woman.

SANCHEZ: Was she really - let me ask you this, was she chosen more to appeal to women or to appeal to evangelicals?

THOMPSON: She was chosen partly because of what I just said and partly because of the other attributes that she has. I don't know, quite frankly, looking across the landscape, that there's any male politician out there who could match her in anyway in terms of fighting and winning battles for reform. I mean, that's clearly her strong suit. It has to do with courage and courage can be applied to a lot of different kinds of situation in politics. Should be applied to all of them.

SANCHEZ: But let's talk seriously here about one of John McCain's deficiencies that everyone seems to be recognizing. That is that he's not the guy that the true blue, hard core republicans really wanted. Maybe it would have been more someone like you, perhaps the evangelicals haven't yet fallen in love with him. Does she give him that which he lacks?

THOMPSON: She is the perfect complement for John. It says a lot about him, the fact that he chose her. John has been somebody who has fought the establishment his entire career, both sides of the aisle at once sometimes. He's always done courageously of the thing that the felt was the right thing to do and shown leadership and that's exactly what she is. So he has done something that doesn't surprise me at all. I had no idea he was going to choose her, but in looking at these records, it's totally - it's totally consistent. People are looking for courage, integrity and strong leadership. And that's not only been John's political career, that's been his entire life. And she is a perfect match for him with regard to that.

SANCHEZ: Fred Thompson. Thanks so much for being with us. Hey, you look good, by the way.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Appreciate it.

THOMPSON: Appreciate it. Thank you.


SANCHEZ: Let's go to the other side now. Let's talk to a democrat about these very same issues, especially the vice presidential choice. Here now from South Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Thanks so much for being with us.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: Thanks for having me, Rick.

SANCHEZ: A couple of quick questions about the vice presidential running mate on the republican side. What's interesting about this is a lot of people were saying she was chosen because there was a need there for women to have a candidate, i.e., Hillary Clinton's situation. Do you think that women, either who are in the middle or who are democrat or even some moderate republicans will now vote for her because she's a woman who hadn't planned to vote before?

SCHULTZ: Well, Rick, I have to tell you, the comparisons to Hillary Clinton that were made by Sarah Palin yesterday are insulting. I mean, honestly, I know Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton.

SANCHEZ: I can't believe you went there. That line's been used.

SCHULTZ: Well, it was a good one then and it's appropriate and applicable now. Hillary Clinton has 35 years of public service. Sarah Palin has been governor of a state that is smaller than my congressional district for less than 18 months. I just don't know how John McCain thinks that this is the person who is going to be ready to be commander in chief with her hand on the pillar of America's foreign policy in the event that god forbid, anything happen to -

SANCHEZ: Here's why, two words - evangelical vote. Don't you think that would be a smart move? Or has been a smart move in that sense?

SCHULTZ: Well, if he has to shore up the evangelical vote, then he is in worse shape than everyone thought. I mean, it is absolute pandering to assume the women of America, particularly former Hillary Clinton supporters are going to support the McCain-Palin ticket simply because his running mate is a woman. I mean, just because she has the same parts doesn't mean that she is an equal because she's wrong on all the issues that women care about.

SANCHEZ: Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Laying it on the line as she sees it. Thanks so much for joining us as usual.

SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rick. Good to be with you.

SANCHEZ: There you have it. Reaction from both sides. I should let you know, I'm going to be back here tonight at 10:00 p.m. to take you through our coverage into the wee hours of the morning, most likely as the storm continues to approach. We're going to have reaction here from all our officials, the data coming in, of course, from the National Hurricane Center and from our own officials here, Jacqui Jeras among them.

We'll continue to cover the politics of this, obviously the decisions that are being made in St. Paul and you at Facebook and myspace and at As a matter of fact, I'm reading one now as we leave you. Listen to this. This is somebody who just wrote to me while we were into that taped report it says, "Rick, it is very relieving," this comes from (Brick Aries). "Rick, it is very relieving to see the amount of preparation going on. Hats off to getting it right this time. Be safe, Nola." Speaking of Nola, let's go to my colleague, Anderson Cooper. He is standing by now. Well, we're hoping he'll be safe as he brings you through all the events going on in that city. Anderson, take it away.