Seriously? MSNBC Brings On Ray Nagin to Discuss Hurricane Preparedness

Update (17:48 EDT): Nagin was also interviewed on today's "Hardball," which was guest-hosted by Chris Jansing.

Teasing his Friday 3 p.m. ET hour show on MSNBC, anchor Martin Bashir proclaimed that he would have a special guest on to discuss incoming Hurricane Irene: "Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin joins us to explain what leaders must do to avoid the mistakes that were made six years ago." [Audio available here]

Bashir was "delighted" to have Nagin on the program and began by asking about the response of political leaders to the storm: "Is it your view, sir, that they are handling preparations for this hurricane in the best way possible?" Bashir followed up by wondering: "...with the benefit of your experience, what are the critical actions that you think need to be taken to ensure that Hurricane Irene, or any other act of mother nature, does not become Katrina, Part II?"

Thanks to Scott Whitlock for providing video after the jump

In response, Nagin lent his "experience" to others: "I wrote a book recently...and I lay out specifically what we did. I think the most critical things are right before the storm hits, to make sure that the public understands the severity, and they start to evacuate in an orderly fashion." During the segment, an image appeared on screen of the city school buses then-Mayor Nagin allowed to be flooded instead of being used for evacuations.

Bashir did eventually ask Nagin about criticism of his response to Katrina: "You, yourself, were accused of being too late in ordering that mandatory evacuation. In retrospect, and given, you know, you knew all about the circumstances in which people were living in New Orleans, do you accept that just as FEMA underperformed, you also had some failings?"

Nagin acknowledged: "Well, I would tell you this, Martin, it was a historic catastrophic event and clearly I could have done things better." But then added: "...the leader has one responsibility, but also the citizen has a responsibility to heed the warnings and act appropriately."


Here is a full transcript of the August 26 segment:

2:46PM ET TEASE:

MARTIN BASHIR: I'm Martin Bashir, coming up at the top of the hour, the latest on Hurricane Irene as tens of millions of Americans get ready to hunker down for a weekend of dangerous weather. Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin joins us to explain what leaders must do to avoid the mistakes that were made six years ago.

3:06PM ET SEGMENT:

BASHIR: It is almost six years since Hurricane Katrina wrought devastation on Louisiana, killing more than 1,800 people throughout the Gulf coast. It was a biblical catastrophe, punishing ordinary members of the public, but also exposing the region's poverty, long-standing corruption, and political ineptitude. And even when federal help did arrive, it was late and poorly coordinated.

President Bush was roundly criticized when the White House released this infamous photo of him surveying the damage from Air Force One. And when the President did eventually set foot on the ground, things only got worse as he told then-FEMA Director Michael Brown he was doing, quote, 'A heck of a job.' Within weeks, Mr. Brown was forced to resign. Another man at the very epicenter of those events was the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin. Mr. Nagin has just published a book about those events, entitled, 'Katrina's Secrets.' And I'm delighted to welcome him to our broadcast this afternoon. Good afternoon, sir.

RAY NAGIN: Good afternoon, Martin. How are you?

BASHIR: Very well. You've heard Janet Napolitano, you've heard the President speaking today, you've heard mayors, governors, everybody. Is it your view, sir, that they are handling preparations for this hurricane in the best way possible?

NAGIN: You know, Martin, I think they're doing an excellent job of alerting the public, which is one of the main things you need to do. One of the problems they're having in the east coast is that they haven't experienced a storm like this in so long, so there are going to be many people who may not heed the warnings or may move to late to try and evacuate and that's when the drama will unfold.

BASHIR: Mr. Nagin to look back now for a moment at Hurricane Katrina, it was not only devastating for the people there, it also proved damaging for many of our elected officials, so with the benefit of your experience, what are the critical actions that you think need to be taken to ensure that Hurricane Irene, or any other act of mother nature, does not become Katrina, Part II?

NAGIN: Well, you know, Martin, I wrote a book recently released on Create Space, a division of Amazon, and I lay out specifically what we did. I think the most critical things are right before the storm hits, to make sure that the public understands the severity, and they start to evacuate in an orderly fashion. The worst thing that could happen is everyone to hit the interstates at the same time.

The thing that I really like that's happening right now on the east coast is that they're taking care of the senior citizens, they're taking care of the special needs, the medical patients first. And I think all of that is going to help to minimize the number of people that remain in harms way, because right before the storm is one thing, but after the storm hits, that's when the real action starts.

BASHIR: In your case, sir, nobody appeared to escape without criticism and you, yourself, were accused of being too late in ordering that mandatory evacuation. In retrospect, and given, you know, you knew all about the circumstances in which people were living in New Orleans, do you accept that just as FEMA underperformed, you also had some failings?

NAGIN: Well, I would tell you this, Martin, it was a historic catastrophic event and clearly I could have done things better.

BASHIR: You really believe that, sir?

NAGIN: Oh, absolutely. When I – now that I've had a chance to really go back and take a look, there are a number of things that I think that I could have done better. But in an evacuation situation where a catastrophic storm is approaching, the leader has one responsibility, but also the citizen has a responsibility to heed the warnings and act appropriately.

BASHIR: And finally, and briefly, sir, you've been quoted in USA Today saying that the city of New Orleans is better because of Katrina. How so?

NAGIN: Well, we've gone through quite a bit of pain and struggles, but we're rebuilding everything, the school system, our infrastructure. We've got young, better-educated people moving into the city, and where we used to concentrate poverty in our public housing projects, we now have mixed income communities. So we have gone through a lot of pain, but we are getting better.

BASHIR: Former Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin. I've read your book and it's an excellent read. Thank you for joining us.

NAGIN: Thank you, Martin, I appreciate that.

BASHIR: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC