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Hannity

Did New Orleans Reject Evacuation Aid?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 14, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: "The Washington Post" reports that Amtrak offered the city of New Orleans hundreds of seats on a train leaving the city on the Saturday night before Katrina struck that Monday morning. Amtrak told the paper that the city declined the offer.

But New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that he never received such an offer from the rail line.

Joining us now to discuss the latest development, former New York City police commissioner Howard Safir. Welcome back. Good to see you.

HOWARD SAFIR, FORMER NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: Good to see you, Sean.

HANNITY: This is outrageous. We have the pictures of these buses, hundreds and hundreds of buses, sitting there, and we didn't use them.

SAFIR: Right.

HANNITY: We have the most vulnerable population. We hear about these 34 people that died in this nursing home. The mayor had the buses. The train offered, didn't use them.

SAFIR: It is symptomatic of the lack of command and leadership and of planning that took place at the city level and at the state level and the sluggish response of the federal government.

I mean, the fact is the resources were there; the plan was there. I lived in New Orleans in the '70s a block from Lake Pontchartrain. We were talking about the big one in 1975. So there was plenty of time to plan. Plenty of time.

But what there was, was not leadership. There was nobody out there. Somebody should have been in hip boots out there leading the troops.

HANNITY: You know, I actually had a chance to ask the congressman from New Orleans why they didn't use the buses. I asked Jesse Jackson the same thing. Why didn't they use the buss? And the answer is where were they going to go? How about away from the hurricane?

SAFIR: There was bureaucracy here. Rudy Giuliani and I would not have worried about posse comitatus. We would not have worried about bureaucracy.

HANNITY: No, you wouldn't.

SAFIR: We would have saved lives.

HANNITY: You would have, and that's the point. These lives could have been saved. And this was a very vulnerable population. These were poor people. These were sick people. These were elderly people. And there's so much we could have done.

We also discovered that the Red Cross had already positioned food, water, hygiene kits, supplies outside the Superdome and the convention center, and the state of Louisiana wouldn't let them in because, quote, "they didn't want to attract any more people to that point." And they wanted to get them out of there as soon as possible, so they basically wanted to starve them out of there.

SAFIR: What's amazing is that last year they did a drill called Hurricane Tim, a fictitious hurricane. And in that drill they said there would be 100,000 people that needed transportation out of the city. And for some reason, it was just ignored.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Commissioner, thank you for doing the show. The major said he didn't have drivers for buses.

The governor, as I understand it, declared an emergency on August 26 and August 27 begged the president to come in and say this is a federal problem. They were then sluggish. Could have had a quicker federal response when it was beyond the capability of the city and state to deal with it.

SAFIR: We should have had the 82nd Airborne in there as quickly as possible. There are federal resources all over the South.

COLMES: Why didn't they get in there?

SAFIR: Because you did not have operators in FEMA. You did not have operators in DHS, people who have done this all their lives.

COLMES: Why is it, do you think, that they didn't have people running the Department of Homeland Security, 4-5 top officials apparently had no emergency management experience. Why was that, do you think?

SAFIR: Well, the Department of Homeland Security, you take 172,000 people, 22 agencies and you try and make them an efficient operating machine when many of them were dysfunctional to begin with. It's very difficult.

COLMES: And FEMA, nobody — at least at the top — with emergency management experience. Is it because of cronyism on the part of the administration?

SAFIR: Well, I don't know what the cause of it is, but it's not the right thing. You should have people with experience running these shows.

COLMES: Also, in terms of Amtrak, I mean, at least Mary Landrieu has said it was FEMA that wouldn't let Amtrak come in. They wouldn't let a ship come in, for example.

And so, it seems a lot of finger-pointing. And I know the American people want to understand what happened here. Is it mostly with FEMA? Is it because the city wouldn't let them in? Because the state wouldn't let them in? Where do we look to make sure this never happens again?

SAFIR: We have to have an incident command system that works at the federal, state, and local level. There has to be somebody immediately in charge.

And it really worries me because in a terrorist attack, what are we going to do then?

COLMES: Are terrorists looking at this and saying we now see how vulnerable the United States is?

SAFIR: Well, they would make a big mistake if they thought that, but the fact is, we need to fix this. We need to fix it quickly.

COLMES: Are you re convinced it will be fixed?

SAFIR: I believe the president will fix itself, because I think this was a great wake-up call to this country and to this administration.

HANNITY: All right, Commissioner, good to see you. Thanks for joining us again.

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