This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," April 18, 2006, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Imagine this: 90 million Americans sick, 2 million dead, major cities quarantined, schools closed, air traffic grounded, makeshift hospitals in parking lots. It's not a movie. It's part of a national response plan, in the event of a bird flu pandemic here in the United States.
President Bush expected to approve the plan very soon, as federal officials warn, the first case of bird flu could be here in a matter of week. It's important to point out, this is a worst-case-scenario plan, something my next guest says you have to plan for just the same.
Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, joins us now.
Michael, how real a threat is this?
MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY DIRECTOR: Well, I don't know.
And I wish that's something that the administration would talk about, is, how real a threat is it, because, until we know that, I'm afraid we are just, you know, misleading the public about what they should be concerned about or not.
I'm a real believer in just giving them the truth and giving them information. And I wish they would talk more about that right now, as opposed to the plan.
CAVUTO: It is so huge an issue, it could make Katrina seem like just a mere sidelight show.
CAVUTO: So, everyone would have to be on board with a comprehensive national policy. I can't see anyone, logistically, pulling that off.
BROWN: My fear is — and it's the same fear I had with the national response plan that Department of Homeland Security did: We have this — for whatever reason — this desire or just this attitude in Washington, D.C., that we are going to develop a plan in D.C., and then kind of give it on a silver platter to the state and locals, when, in fact, we ought to be doing just the opposite.
We ought to be going to state and locals, and saying, "OK, if this happens, what are you prepared to do, what can you do, and what can't you do?" and build it from the ground up.
CAVUTO: Do you think this is the kind of thing where, because of bureaucratic snafus, a lot of people could die?
BROWN: Well, clearly.
I mean, we saw that in Katrina, because I mean, still, that's one of the heartbreaking stories that I have to live with, is that we couldn't get rescue workers in there fast enough to save people.
And, we have worried about this since 9/11. I can remember being in conversations with Vice President Cheney after 9/11 about smallpox, and, again, fighting the battle of, let's give the American public the truth about what the threat is and what could really happen, because I believe, the more people know, the more they can be empowered to help take care of themselves.
CAVUTO: Well, a lot of people don't think it will happen, period. So, we are not taking it seriously. Is that not the problem?
BROWN: Well, that's the problem. Neil, you're preaching to the choir on this one.
That's the problem that everybody has, is nobody believes that a disaster is going to happen to them. And that's why I go back to the first point is, is, be honest about the threat, put all of those facts on the table, so that people can recognize what the threat is and how it might impact them.
CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Michael Brown, while we have you, the famous quote from the president during Katrina was, "Brownie, you are doing a heck of a job."
BROWN: I would never guess that's the one you were going to use.
CAVUTO: Right. Right.
CAVUTO: And now the president has said kind of the same thing of Donald Rumsfeld, not that, "Rummy, you are doing a heck of a job," but "I'm standing by you."
Should Donald Rumsfeld worry?
BROWN: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld called me after my Senate hearing and was congratulating me on what a great job I did.
I think what I should do is call the secretary back and say, you know, watch your back, because you never know. I mean, we laugh about this in Washington, about, "You serve at the pleasure of the president," but that's the absolute truth: here today, gone tomorrow.
CAVUTO: Any vindication since that tape came out?
BROWN: Oh, for me?
BROWN: Look, Neil, incredible vindication. And I want to thank you on air for your incredible commentary that you gave after that tape. That meant a lot to me and my family. And I think it went a long ways to show people exactly what I was doing prior to Katrina, trying to make things work.
CAVUTO: All right. Well, a nation bamboozled you there, but that did vindicate you.
CAVUTO: Michael Brown, former FEMA director, thank you very much.
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