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Hannity

Vice Admiral Thad Allen talks with Hannity & Colmes

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," September 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our top story again tonight, in Louisiana, where New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin suspended all reentry into the city late this afternoon because of concerns about Tropical Storm Rita.

Earlier in the day the mayor seemed to be at odds with federal authorities about letting people return to their homes. Joining us from Baton Rouge is the U.S. Coastguard Vice Admiral Thad Allen who is directing the FEMA relief efforts in the region.

Admiral, thanks for being with us, we really appreciate your time. I know you've had a long day because I saw you on ABC's "Good Morning America" with Charlie Gibson this morning, sir.

I want to start with this. It was clear that you and the administration and the administration and the government, the federal government, were clearly at odds with the mayor's plans to bring people back at this point until late this afternoon. Isn't that true, sir?

VICE ADM. THAD ALLEN, U.S. COASTGUARD: We weren't at odds with the plans. We were at odds with the timing of the plans and whether or not the conditions were set for reentry. We've never argued or had any problem with the mayor's vision on trying to repopulate the city, in fact we support that. We just didn't think that conditions were set for the safe reentry of people.

HANNITY: Now that the mayor has reversed himself, it seemed to me that you had negotiations with the mayor and his staff, and that they were reluctant to go along with what was the obvious, smart thing to do here and it took a lot of public pressure on your part to get him to do the right thing. Isn't that true?

ALLEN: I didn't get the mayor to do the right thing. The mayor did the right thing. Again, we both agree that we need to repopulate the city. It's a matter of how you're going to set the conditions and when you do that. I had a meeting with the mayor this afternoon and we're aligned and moving forward.

HANNITY: I understand that, but there was clearly some controversy. There was clearly stand-off, no?

ALLEN: Oh, I wouldn't call it a stand-off because I had met with the mayor last Friday. The main point that we discussed was how quickly this was going to happen, and the position of the federal government was, that you don't want to bring people into the city until you have water, 911 service, and most of all, an evacuation plan for the people that were going to be in the city.

HANNITY: But the president...

ALLEN: Ultimately, the city needs to be repopulated and we support that.

HANNITY: But the president himself said all of what you're saying here, but the president himself said he would intervene personally on the matter of the mayor and that he meant for his public comments to make sure that the mayor, quote, "gets the point." Andy Card also stressed that point and they also stressed that you were at head of the government's response there and you were delivering the concerns personally. So there was -- and my only point here is this. I think this mayor should resign. I think the fact that he left those buses without using them, hundreds of them, was a disgrace, the fact that he had 30 years warning about how catastrophic this could be and still didn't do anything, the fact that they had five days about how dangerous it was heading in their direction, the fact that he's been blaming and carrying on the way he is and he didn't use Amtrak trains. So, I just think this is an important point. It seems to me this mayor has not learned a lesson.

ALLEN: Well, the political status of the mayor is really not my purview. I'm here to lead the coordinated federal effort and the response and our goal is to work with the mayor and move things forward.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Admiral Allen, it's Alan Colmes, thank you for doing our show. As I understand it the mayor all along has said his plan was fluid. He was not tied in to a particular timeframe and he was fluid about continually reassessing how people and when people would get back to their homes, is that correct?

ALLEN: That's correct. And last Friday, we had agreed to reassess on Monday and this meeting was already scheduled when we met last Friday. At that time, it was his intention to start moving the general population into the east bank on Wednesday. The conditions regarding the current storm with Rita and other factors were brought into play and we've decided that that can wait a while.

COLMES: The fact that people have started to go back to Algiers, is that acceptable to people on all levels because there is there less damage there? Not as much of problem as other parts of the city, is that correct?

ALLEN: We work through a very strict process with the city and I might add, this is the same process that we had worked with the mayor's staff for a week or so leading up to the events of the weekend. We have a certain critical infrastructures -- whether it's sewer, water, telephone and that sort of thing, -- that we assess the condition of and we code them either red, unacceptable; amber, you may want to accept there may be some risk; and green, good to go. For the west bank and Algiers area that was repopulated today, all of those factors were either amber or green and we were all in concurrence that could move forward.

COLMES: Any sense of timing in terms of how long before other parts of the city can be repopulated?

ALLEN: Well, there's some a problematic issue associated with it, but the Cap Stone Issue is an evacuation plan for the number of people that are in the city, but before you get to that, I think you've got to look at drinking water, the precense of a functioning 911 system, electricity, the things that just allow people to run households. Very difficult to move a family into that type of environment. You can let the businesses in, which we did this weekend, from Saturday to Sunday, on a dawn to dusk basis to start picking up the pieces and putting those businesses back together again, but that larger population return really needs to be accompanied by the things that make a household able to operate and then the crowning issue, as I've said many times, is the ability to evacuate the population if you have a violent weather event and we're being threatened with one now.

HANNITY: Admiral thanks for the great work you're doing down there. We know you're working around the clock and very hard. Thanks for being with us tonight. We appreciate your time.

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