CNN aired this incredible interview with the outspoken mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin yesterday morning. From the CNN transcript:
S. O'BRIEN: There are people who say your evacuation plan, obviously in hindsight, was disastrous.Res ipsa loquitur...
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: Which one?
S. O'BRIEN: Your evacuation plan before -- when you put people into the Superdome. It wasn't thought out. You got 20,000 people in there. And that you bear the brunt of the blame for some of this, a large chunk of it.
NAGIN: Look, I'll take whatever responsibility that I have to take. But let me ask you this question: When you have a city of 500,000 people, and you have a category 5 storm bearing down on you, and you have the best you've ever done is evacuate 60 percent of the people out of the city, and you have never issued a mandatory evacuation in the city's history, a city that is a couple of hundred years old, I did that. I elevated the level of distress to the citizens.
And I don't know what else I could do, other than to tell them that it's a mandatory evacuation. And if they stayed, make sure you have a frigging ax in your home, where you can bust out the roof just in case the water starts flowing.
And as a last resort, once this thing is above a category 3, there are no buildings in this city to withstand a category 3, a category 4 or a category 5 storm, other than the Superdome. That's where we sent people as a shelter of last resort. When that filled up, we sent them to the Convention Center. Now, you tell me what else we could have done.
S. O'BRIEN: What has Secretary Chertoff promised you? What has Donald Rumsfeld given you and promised you?
NAGIN: Look, I've gotten promises to -- I can't stand anymore promises. I don't want to hear anymore promises. I want to see stuff done. And that's why I'm so happy that the president came down here, because I think they were feeding him a line of bull also. And they were telling him things weren't as bad as it was.
He came down and saw it, and he put a general on the field. His name is General Honore. And when he hit the field, we started to see action.
And what the state was doing, I don't frigging know. But I tell you, I am pissed. It wasn't adequate.
And then, the president and the governor sat down. We were in Air Force One. I said, 'Mr. President, Madam Governor, you two have to get in sync. If you don't get in sync, more people are going to die.'
S. O'BRIEN: What date was this? When did you say that? When did you say...
NAGIN: Whenever air Force One was here.
S. O'BRIEN: OK.
NAGIN: And this was after I called him on the telephone two days earlier. And I said, 'Mr. President, Madam Governor, you two need to get together on the same page, because of the lack of coordination, people are dying in my city.'
S. O'BRIEN: That's two days ago.
NAGIN: They both shook -- I don't know the exact date. They both shook their head and said yes. I said, 'Great.' I said, 'Everybody in this room is getting ready to leave.' There was senators and his cabinet people, you name it, they were there. Generals. I said, 'Everybody right now, we're leaving. These two people need to sit in a room together and make a doggone decision right now.'
S. O'BRIEN: And was that done?
NAGIN: The president looked at me. I think he was a little surprised. He said, "No, you guys stay here. We're going to another section of the plane, and we're going to make a decision."
He called me in that office after that. And he said, "Mr. Mayor, I offered two options to the governor." I said -- and I don't remember exactly what. There were two options. I was ready to move today. The governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision.
S. O'BRIEN: You're telling me the president told you the governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision?
S. O'BRIEN: Regarding what? Bringing troops in?
NAGIN: Whatever they had discussed. As far as what the -- I was abdicating a clear chain of command, so that we could get resources flowing in the right places.
S. O'BRIEN: And the governor said no.
NAGIN: She said that she needed 24 hours to make a decision. It would have been great if we could of left Air Force One, walked outside, and told the world that we had this all worked out. It didn't happen, and more people died.