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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
State of Emergency: Interview With Thad Allen
Aired September 18, 2005 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: This is a special "LATE EDITION," state of emergency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, as president, am responsible for the problem and for the solution.
BLITZER: President Bush takes the blame and makes a pledge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But will the devastated Gulf region ever be the same? The man in charge of hurricane relief operations, Vice Admiral Thad Allen, gives us an update on the recovery efforts.
Plus, two top senators, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Jon Kyl, debate disaster relief, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, and the war in Iraq.
And a special hour of "LATE EDITION" -- are you ready for floods, earthquakes, or another 9/11? We'll talk to the mayors of Seattle and Miami and the governor of Massachusetts about their cities' emergency plans.
It's 11:00 A.M. in Washington, 10 A.M. in New Orleans, 4:00 P.M. in London, 7:00 P.M. in Baghdad.
Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for a "LATE EDITION" at a special time.
We'll get to my interview from the man in charge of the relief efforts in the Gulf, Vice Admiral Thad Allen, in just a few minutes.
First up, in a special effort to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, CNN is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help bring Gulf Coast families back together.
As you can see on the screen to your left, we're putting up the faces and names of children who are missing or displaced since Hurricane Katrina hit. If you recognize any of these children, please call the phone number you see on your screen. That's 1-800-843-5467. That's 1-800- THE-LOST.
Now let's get a quick check of what's in the news right now.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield. More civilians killed in Iraq this hour. Attackers lobbed grenades into a Shiite business district in Baquba, just north of Baghdad, killing two and wounding five others.
Hours earlier and a few miles away, 30 Iraqis were killed by a car bomb.
In Tal Afar, meanwhile, site of the coalition operation Restoring Right, six insurgents are reported dead in raids on suspected Al Qaida safe houses.
The president of Afghanistan calls this is the day of self- determination. For the first time in decades, Afghans voted for national and provincial legislatures -- in many cases risking life and limb to do so.
Turnout and vote totals won't be known for quite a while. But more than 12 million Afghans had registered to choose among some 5,800 candidates.
We'll have another news update in 30 minutes.
Now back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Fred.
There are small but welcome signs of progress and life in New Orleans today. Business owners are allowed back into parts of the city, to try to get a head start on reopening the stores -- once part of the city's special charm.
But it will be a long road to recovery for many evacuees who will have to wait weeks, months, maybe even years before their lives will get back to even a semblance of normality.
Just a short while ago I spoke with the man in charge of the relief and recovery efforts on the ground, the Vice Admiral Thad Allen.
Admiral Allen, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to "LATE EDITION."
VICE ADMIRAL THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get to what the mayor said a few days ago -- the mayor of New Orleans. Listen to what he said about people in his city returning to their homes and businesses.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: It's a good day in New Orleans. The sun is shining. We're bringing New Orleans back, and this is our first step, where we're opening up this city, and almost 200,000 residents will be able to come back and get this city going once again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that a good idea? Is New Orleans ready for 200,000 citizens to come back?
ALLEN: Well, Wolf, it's a terrific idea to repopulate New Orleans and restart this city. I think the real issue is when that happens.
I met with the mayor after he made those statements, and indicated that we had some concerns on the part of the federal government. I have a meeting scheduled with him tomorrow and intend to lay those out for him.
I don't think anybody disagrees on the vision; it's how fast we get there and whether or not we create the elements for a successful repopulation of the city.
BLITZER: Well, why do you think the city is not ready for at least the first 200,000 to come back in the coming days?
ALLEN: Well, when you talk about the East Bank of New Orleans -- and I will separate that from the West Bank, because it was not hit as severely by the storm -- there are issues of no potable water. We're still trying to reconstruct the 911 system so people can call if they've got a problem. Telephones are an issue. Power is an issue.
And, moreover, the levee system was substantially weakened by the storm, and any general repopulation of the City of New Orleans has to be accompanied by a plan that is capable of evacuating the people that come in.
And if you look at the fact that there is limited ways to contact them or for them to ask for help, that requires a considerable amount of planning. And while we don't disagree with the mayor's vision -- in fact, we fully support that -- it really is a matter of timing, to make sure these things get done first.
BLITZER: Well, let's go through some of the specifics. You mentioned the levee system. We saw those huge sandbags that sort of have been put in place. That seems like a stop-gap measure.
Is it your fear that if there were significant weather or bad wind -- even a small hurricane or a tropical storm -- that temporary fix for the levee system simply wouldn't work?
ALLEN: Well, the levee system is in such a weakened state that any extreme weather event, including a significant number of thunderstorms simultaneously, could stress that system. The Corps of Engineers is going to try very, very hard to have the levee system re-established to the pre-storm levels by June of next year and hurricane season. But, in the near term, we need to be able to get anybody that's in the city out, rather than to rely on the levee system.
BLITZER: So your fear is that if people started coming back in big numbers, and there were bad weather, they wouldn't be able to leave in a quick and expedited manner?
ALLEN: Wolf, it's much more complicated than that. They're still trying to reconstitute the 911 system. Some of these people may not have telephone service. There's not power, and there's not potable water.
So you put people into that situation, and if you have an extreme weather event, you're very, very challenged to try and get notifications and to get them out. And we think that should be the subject of some very deliberate planning, and a very thoughtful approach on how you re-enter the city.
BLITZER: And what about the health risks to people coming back? We've heard from environmentalists that there's danger just simply breathing the air.
ALLEN: Well, the air seems to be OK in the places where they're going on Saturday and Sunday today -- going back and looking at the central business district. The main threat right now for health and safety comes from the water that's standing in and around the New Orleans area, which has excessive levels of E. coli and fecal coliforms.
In fact, the DOD forces that have been supporting the New Orleans Police Department going house to house actually decontaminate themselves when they come out with their waders on.
And I have personally discussed that situation with the administrator of the EPA and the director for the Center for Disease Control. I represent a unified federal position on this.
BLITZER: So when you meet with the mayor tomorrow, Mayor Ray Nagin, you're going to basically stress: Hold back, don't encourage people to come back right now?
ALLEN: I promised the mayor on Friday, when we met, that when we met again on Monday, after we had a chance to test some of the access protocols with the central business district, that I would give him a frank, unvarnished assessment of how we should proceed -- and I intend to do that.
BLITZER: What about the death toll on the Gulf Coast? Right now, it's under 1,000. We had heard initially some fears it could go to 10,000. Last week, I interviewed General Russel Honore. He thought it was going to be a lot, a lot lower than 10,000.
What's your best estimate right now? ALLEN: Well, I think some of our worst fears are not going to be realized. I think that's very, very good news for everybody. And I concur with Russ Honore's assessment of the situation. One of the problems we have right now -- we still have dwellings that are under water and we will not be able to access them until the water has completely receded.
We are in the middle of a three-stage process to sweep the city. The first phase is called the hasty search. We went through right away and made sure we went to every single house, to make sure there wasn't anybody on a roof or in an upper story that needed to be rescued.
The second phase is a primary search door-to-door. We're 90 percent done with that -- and the secondary search will be completed after the floodwaters recede.
But experience to date has told us that the death toll is far less than we anticipated, and we hope that will continue.
BLITZER: Is it your hope that it will be under 1,000 total for all of the states affected by Katrina?
ALLEN: Wolf, I think we all hope that we don't find another body, but I think we will. I would just hazard a guess -- I wouldn't want to hazard a guess, but I would say it's going to be far less than we expected.
BLITZER: "The Washington Post" has a story this morning -- I don't know if you've seen it -- but I'll read an excerpt from it. The headline was "Lack of Cohesion Bedevils Recovery."
"With little guidance from federal and state governments and no single person or entity in charge of the overall operation, cities and counties have been left on their own to find survivors, homes, schools, jobs and health care. A patchwork of policies has resulted, causing relief agencies to sometimes work at cross purposes."
Is that accurate?
ALLEN: Well, Wolf, we're working in a very challenging environment -- if I could make a couple of comments -- and I am moving from my role as the deputy principal federal official focusing on New Orleans to the entire event response. And I now am assuming responsibility for those.
So I've been focused on those extensively the last two or three days.
One of the challenges we've had is as people were evacuated from New Orleans, they went to a lot of different places, and because of that, we've had trouble reaching out and finding all those people, to offer them individual assistance.
And it makes it difficult to use the normal disaster recovery center model -- and that's a team of about 25 people that come into a community to help enroll people and offer them support, anywhere from Small Business Administration to individual assistance -- trying to get penetration out with all of those centers has been a challenge, and in some places, we're not operating in a permissive environment.
For example, St. Bernard Parish, southeast of Orleans Parish, was not dewatered and open for entry until yesterday.
All that collectively is a significant challenge, plus the entire scope -- the number of people that you need to put against this problem, the worst one we've had to deal with before. To that end, I've been in touch with David Paulison, who's the interim director of FEMA, to ask for any additional people around the country that have those qualifications to be brought here locally.
My biggest priorities moving forward as we shift from response to recovery are individual assistance, disaster recovery center, penetration out where it's needed, debris removal and housing.
BLITZER: Listen to what the mayor of Slidell, Louisiana, the police chief in Kenner, Louisiana, listen to what they said on Friday, and I'll get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN MORRIS, MAYOR, SLIDELL, LOUISIANA: I appreciate the efforts, the long-term efforts. The problem that exists right now is I have immediate needs, and I've yet to see a substantial presence from FEMA. My people have no FEMA reps to talk to. And this has been the most frustrating thing the whole bit.
NICK CONGEMI, POLICE CHIEF, KENNER, LOUSIANA: It's been almost three weeks since the storm has passed. There's no arrangements for these people. They're telling them to wait longer, wait longer. FEMA, state government, local government, all giving excuses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you say to those officials?
ALLEN: Well, Wolf, without knowing the particular specifics of each entity, let me make a couple of general comments. The way this response is being organized in Louisiana is a partnership between the state and the parish presidents.
If there's one thing I've been told repeatedly since I got into this response by the state and local government is that the parish presidents are the entry point.
And since I've been on ground in New Orleans, when I got here a week or so ago and moved to a larger supervision of the response, we've had liaisons with every parish president.
As that stream of response moves down to mayors within the parishes, we lose some visibility of that, but we have had complete lock-up liaison with all the parish presidents. I myself have met twice with the parish presidents of the parishes surrounding New Orleans, so I know that we are coordinating down to that level.
Can we do better? Sure. Do we need more penetration for individual assistance and disaster recovery centers? Sure. And that's what I'm about.
BLITZER: One of the most heartbreaking parts of this whole story -- and there have been so many heartbreaking parts -- the children who have been separated from their parents or their guardians, their caregivers.
All weekend here on CNN, we've been showing pictures of these kids, trying to reunite them with their families. There are about 2,000 of these cases. Give us your perspective on that number.
ALLEN: Well, Wolf, I think that's another instance of what I would call collateral damage of the immediate evacuation, to get people wherever we could get them, out of the New Orleans area, to preserve life. As a result of that, some families were separated, and we know that's a significant issue. And the process of rendering individual assistance and registering the folks around the country and wherever they may be, we are mindful to take that kind of information in.
The best thing the public can do to help us is contact the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They are a very good point for reconciling children with their families, and I would propose and ask that anybody who has any information, either about a family that's lost a child or a child that doesn't have a family, to contact that center.
BLITZER: Admiral Allen, good luck to you, and all the men and women working with you. You've got a huge mission ahead of you and we're counting on you. We know you'll do well. Thanks so much for joining us.
ALLEN: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: And this note, beginning tomorrow and throughout the week here on CNN we will join Gulf residents as they go home, zip code by zip code. Tomorrow we'll focus on 70114, known as the Algiers District. CNN will be there as residents try to begin to rebuild their lives.
Just ahead, questions over how to foot the bill of the recovery and reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Assessing the cost of Katrina.
And judging Roberts -- did the chief justice nominee hit it out of the park? We'll talk with two key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And later, if disaster were to strike in your hometown, are you ready? We'll talk with the mayors of Seattle and Miami and the governor of Massachusetts about their plans to keep you safe.
Our special "LATE EDITION" continues right after this.
BLITZER: Our web question of the week asks this, "Have you made a Family Disaster Plan in case of an emergency?" Let us know. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll have the results later.
And coming up at noon eastern, a special hour of "LATE EDITION," "Are you ready?" Does your city have a plan to keep you safe.
You're watching "LATE EDITION: State of Emergency."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The (inaudible) are going to cost money, and -- but I'm confident we can handle it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush addressing the cost issues involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION."
And this note to our viewers: please remember CNN will continually show you missing children's pictures non-stop. That goes on until 11 p.m. eastern tonight. If you have any information about these missing children, please call 1-800-843-5678. That's 1-800-The- Lost.
And joining us now to discuss the relief and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and more are our two guests -- the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. He also serves on the Judiciary Committee. And Republican Judiciary Committee member, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona. He also serves on the Finance Committee.
Senators, thanks very much for joining us.
Listen to what the president said in his address to the nation this week. Listen to this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Yet the system at every level of government was not well- coordinated and was overwhelmed in the first few days. When the federal government fails to meet such an obligation, I as president am responsible for the problem and for the solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Kyl, were you surprised that four years after 9/11 the president had to make that acknowledgement that the country basically wasn't prepared for this kind of disaster?
SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: Yes, I was surprised and disappointed, Wolf. I don't think that any of us are satisfied with the response at any level of government to this disaster. And from my perspective, as chairman of the Terrorism Subcommittee with the jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security, it immediately raises in my mind a question about whether we are capable of dealing with some kind of a terrorist attack. You could easily postulate a terrorist attack that would replicate the kinds of conditions in the Gulf region.
Clearly, we have a lot of work to do at all levels of government to get better prepared.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, do you have a good explanation? Is there a good explanation as to why the country was not prepared for Katrina?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: No, I don't think there is a good explanation. I guess you could argue that we lacked leadership at a number of levels.
I agree with Senator Kyl's answer to the question. One thing I do think we should acknowledge is the president stood up; he flat said it. And I take him at his word that that means he is going to lead from this moment on in rectifying that situation.
BLITZER: Here was a question and answers in a poll -- an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll: Do you think the United States is adequately prepared for a nuclear, biological or chemical attack or not?
Adequately prepared, 19 percent. Not adequately, 75 percent.
Senator Kyl, there's not a whole lot of confidence in the aftermath of Katrina that the country is prepared for that kind of terror attack.
KYL: I suspect that's probably right. And, frankly, I would be in the category of those that don't think we're adequately prepared.
May I just digress for one second, Wolf? Looking at the pictures of those kids that you're showing on the screen -- they are just awfully sweet-looking kids. And I compliment you and CNN for showing those pictures, trying to unite them with their parents.
And we just hope that every one of them are going to be OK.
But back to this other point again -- Joe and I, everybody in the Congress, the president, and the folks at the local level and any place where there could be a disaster like this have really got to take this as a warning that we are not ready for something -- for every disaster in any event -- and that we have got to redouble our efforts to get prepared, because what happened here was not acceptable.
BLITZER: So, Senator Kyl, what's the single most important thing that the federal government must now do to get the country prepared?
KYL: I'm not sure. We're going to have a lot of hearings, and we'll probably find out. But I suspect that one of the things is to simply get the lines of communication straight here so that we understand who has what authority in certain circumstances and, specifically, when does the federal government have the authority to step in, for example, bring federal troops in? What kind of law enforcement authority are they going to have?
I think that's one of the things that's going to have to be straightened out, in any event.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, former President Bill Clinton offered this advice when he was on "Larry King Live" Friday night. Listen to what he said. Actually, I'll read it to you.
He said, "I think the important thing is that they probably should have some requirement that anybody who has the job has some prior experience in emergency management. It is a very serious, important job" -- he's referring to Michael Brown, the former FEMA director, who didn't necessarily have a whole lot of experience going into this job.
Two-part question. The first part is, obviously, reacting to President Clinton -- do you agree with him. But he second part is: Should FEMA be part of the Department of Homeland Security or a separate entity that it used to be?
BIDEN: As Jon said -- we'll have hearings. I thought it should remain a separate entity. I thought it at the time. I think it now.
But I don't claim any great expertise on that.
And I think, to follow up on what Senator Kyl said, the most important thing we have to do is say the single most important priority for the United States of America -- including taking whatever dollars it requires to get it done -- is providing for our homeland security, period.
And that means, in my view -- I've been on the other side of an issue here. I think we have short-changed what we should be doing. We're cutting the local COPS program, we're not putting enough money into first responders -- in my view. We are not focusing enough on the whole notion of dealing with terrorist attacks on rail, on our ports.
But, in fairness, that costs billions upon billions of dollars. And so we have very hard choices to make. And I think we should confront the American people straight up and say: Folks, look. These are what our needs are. This is how much it's going to cost. We're going to have to make choices. They're hard ones. We're looking for the president to make a recommendation as to what priorities he'll set. But it's going to cost more in addition to organizing better.
BLITZER: We're going to get to the cost in a second. But a quick question to you, Senator Kyl, on the lessons learned, the investigation that should be conducted. The president said all of his Cabinet secretaries will be reviewing what happened. There's going to be congressional investigations as well.
He didn't call for a sort of independent, 9/11-type presidential commission that would look at it from the outside and come up with some recommendations.
Was that a mistake? Should there be a 9/11 kind of investigation as well?
KYL: You can argue that either way. We had a vote on that in the Senate. I believe it was pretty much along partisan lines to go forward with the previously announced hearings that will be conducted jointly and in a bicameral way by the members of Congress.
Clearly, there are going to be a lot of investigations into what went wrong. But more important than all of that is, of course, how to figure out how to do it right in the future.
And I think Senator Biden is right on. We probably have not adequately faced up to the total cost, not only of the reconstruction here, but all of the things that are going to have to be done in the future.
And we've got to be more candid with the American people about what this homeland security is going to cost us.
BLITZER: It's going to cost a lot of money. The president, Senator Biden, says it's going to cost what it costs. But he is ruling out any tax increases to pay for it. He does say that there is an opportunity to eliminate some unnecessary spending.
Listen to what he said on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This is going to mean that we're going to have to make sure we cut unnecessary spending. It's going to mean we don't do -- we've got to maintain economic growth and, therefore, we should not raise taxes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you say?
BIDEN: Well, I say that everything has to be on the table. And if he says we're going to cut unnecessary spending -- he just sent us a budget, presumably with nothing but necessary spending in it.
Where is he going to find roughly half a trillion dollars over the next several years for Iraq and for Katrina? I think we're not level with the American people.
The idea that we're either going to share the cost with everyone, including the wealthiest among us by foregoing the tax cuts for the wealthiest, or we're going to put all the burden on the middle class.
I mean, these are basic, fundamental decisions we're going to have to make here, Wolf, and I don't know how the president could possibly -- any more than Franklin Roosevelt or anyone else -- could take off the table dealing with a natural catastrophe on two fronts.
We have one on the foreign agenda and we have one domestically. And they're going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
And the last thing I'll say is: The American people are tough, Wolf. They have never let their country down -- whatever the cost is to get it right for their fellow citizens and protect their soldiers.
And I think the president is -- well I think he's not stepping up to the ball here on that comment.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Kyl, the CBS News/New York Times poll asked: Would you be willing to pay more in taxes to help with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina?
56 percent said they would be willing to pay more in taxes. 37 percent said not willing. 7 percent don't know.
I guess the question to a good fiscal conservative like you: Where is the money going to come from, especially since Tom DeLay, the Republican leader in the House, says there is no fat in the current budget and there's no room to cut spending.
KYL: Well, there's a lot of fat in the current budget. I voted no on this highway bill that everybody has talked about. And if we would simply take about a fourth of that and all of the various port projects that were in the highway bill, and redirect some of that to the Gulf region, we would have billions of dollars to help rebuild that area and, by the way, not waste money that would otherwise be spent on a lot of things that don't have much to do with rebuilding highways and bridges.
There are a lot of areas of government where we're spending far too much money. And I note that in World War II, in the Korean War and so on, we cut back substantially on government spending during those two conflicts.
To the matter of taxes -- you have to be very, very careful here, because if you raise taxes, particularly in marginal income tax rates, for example, capital gains and things of that sort, you can slow down the economy.
And, clearly, economic growth is what brings revenue in to the federal Treasury. So you don't want to hurt the economy with tax increases, which is why the president said that's the wrong way to go.
We can actually continue to maintain robust economic growth by retaining the tax rates that we have right now. And that's more important than trying to raise money in the short term with a tax increase only to see us then slide into a recession. BLITZER: But if budget deficits continue to go up in the aftermath of $200 billion, let's say, for Hurricane Katrina, another $200 billion already spent on Iraq -- maybe approaching $300 billion -- our children and grandchildren are going to be stuck paying that bill down the road.
KYL: There's a good argument that can be made that state governments and local governments which bond for capital projects and repay them over a long period of time -- because those capital projects are in existence for a long period of time -- that that same concept could be applied to the federal government.
We don't need to pay for all of the cost of something in the immediate short term. If you're going to rebuild a city and have buildings that are going to last for 60 of 70 years, it's not unrealistic to spread the cost of the repayment of that over 60 or 70 years.
So at least with respect to that kind of capital reconstruction, there is an argument that can be made that the cost of that could be spread over a couple of generations.
But nonetheless, there are going to be significant pressures. And we;re going to have to be a lot more careful about the kind of spending that we engage in, especially with regard to things that are not the necessities that the war in Iraq and this reconstruction are.
BLITZER: All right.
Senator, stand by because we have to take a quick break.
Senator Biden, hold your thought for a moment because we have a lot more to go through with both of you, including where things stand in Iraq, the John Roberts confirmation hearings.
Up next, we'll get a quick check of what's in the news right now, including the latest from Germany, where voters are heading to the polls today.
Much more of our special "LATE EDITION" right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We feel one of the most important things we can do here at CNN is to try to help reunite families. As a result, we will continually show you children's pictures nonstop until 11 PM Eastern tonight. If you have any information on any child who may be missing, not united with his family or her family, please call this number: 1-800-843-5678. That' 1-800-THE-LOST.
We're continuing our conversation now with Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware and Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.
An interesting question in that NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Senator Biden: What should be done to help pay for the hurricane relief efforts?
Almost half, 45 percent of those who responded say, reduce the Iraq war expenditures and use that money to help the Katrina victims. What do you say about that?
BIDEN: Well, I think we have two national emergencies: one relates to our interest in Iraq and the other in the Gulf, and I don't think you can take from one to deal with the other.
I'd like to make three very quick points on this. Number one, we don't have to raise new taxes, but we don't have to go forward with further tax cuts for the wealthy. There's a $70 billion tax cut in this particular budget. Permanently eliminating the estate tax cut is a trillion dollars over the next 10 years. Maybe we have to forego those for the time being.
Secondly, with regard to stalling the economy: we're going to be investing this very money we're opening in the economy. We're going to be rebuilding American cities with American contractors and American workers.
And thirdly, in terms of the cuts in the government programs that are available to be cut: they are all the things that we need. Only government can take care of the health needs, the education needs, the insurance needs, and the employment needs of these people -- these millions of people in the Gulf area that are stranded now.
So, we have what we call -- you know, we've got ourselves a conundrum here. And the point is: I don't know how you do that in going forward with these additional tax cuts and without contemplating how we're going to pay for all of this .
BLITZER: You want to quickly respond to that, Senator Kyl?
KYL: Well, I had a little bit more time earlier before the break. I just want to make the point that one reason that we are collecting about $100 billion more than we thought we were going to collect this year in federal revenues from taxes is because we have a robust economy. And we don't want to do anything to slow the economy down.
Tax increases tend to slow the economy down. So there's a delicate balance there. I think we're better off not raising taxes.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get to Iraq specifically.
Senator Biden, you wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post this week.
Among other things you said this: "He," referring to the president, "must convince Americans that he is leveling with them about the situation in Iraq and that he has a coherent strategy for securing our fundamental national interests and bringing our troops home."
You raise questions about the president's credibility in dealing with Iraq. What is the specific point you're driving?
BIDEN: The specific point I'm driving at is the president says we're going to stay the course. He hasn't laid out what the plan is. He hasn't laid out what the cost would be if we lose. He hasn't even included in his budget the cost of the war in Iraq as clearly anticipated. It's costing $5 billion a month.
So my whole point here is, what is going to change in terms of strategy. This is going to change things on the ground. And we haven't heard any of that.
BLITZER: In the last few days, Senator Kyl, more than 200 Iraqis have been killed by insurgents and terror attacks, more than 600 have been wounded. The killing goes on. Today it looks awful if we just watch what's happening on the ground.
KYL: Well, that's right. Although, look at the signs of hope. We had the elections in Afghanistan today that appear to have gone well. In another month we'll have elections in Iraq.
I think the president's plan has been laid out. It is essentially to train the Iraqis so they can provide for their own security, and at such point in time as the combination of American and Iraqi troops have secured the country, then the United States can withdraw.
I agree with Senator Biden that we've got to do a much better job of explaining the alternative to the American people. What happens if we do pull out prematurely, both to the poor people in that country and also our entire foreign policy goals in that region of the country, not to mention the worldwide war on terror.
It's unthinkable we would do that, but we've not done a good enough job of explaining that alternative, and therefore, the -- why there is simply no alternative to continuing to succeed in Iraq.
BLITZER: Both of you are members of the Judiciary Committee. Let's get to the John Roberts confirmation process that we all watched unfold this week. By all accounts he did very, very well.
Listen to what Senator Orrin Hatch, one of your colleagues, Republican senator of Utah, Senator Biden, listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I've never seen anybody who has done a better job of explaining himself than you have. If people can't vote for you, then I doubt they can vote for any Republican nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you going to vote to confirm him, Senator Biden.
BIDEN: I haven't made up my mind on that.
Let me tell you what I think about whether or not he answered the questions and how he came forward. He was asked a number of questions of which gave virtually gave no answers. The same questions were asked of Ginsburg.
For example, Senator Hatch asked of Justice Ginsburg, which was -- the person against whom we are judging whether he answered questions, asked him whether or not in a case involving a grandmother not being able to live with her two grandsons in the city of East Cleveland, whether she agreed with the words of Justice Powell who said no, you got an absolute right to live with your grandkids or whether he agreed with the words of Justice Rehnquist saying, no, no, no, this doesn't rise to a fundamental level.
She said when Hatch asked her that that question, "I agree with Justice Powell's statement. People have a fundamental right to do what the grandmother is doing." He wouldn't answer that question. There's repeated examples of that.
So, for me, I don't know whether he is a Justice Kennedy, whether he is a Justice Rehnquist, or whether he's going to be a Justice Scalia. And it matters to me which on that -- where on that scale he will sit in terms of my vote.
BLITZER: What about that complaint that he refused to answer a lot of these questions? We heard a lot of that in the course of his answers, Senator Kyl.
KYL: Well, we'll just have to disagree on this one. He answered more questions than any other nominee. He answered the questions fully.
The only thing he wouldn't do is get into areas that he thought might come before the court. And I think we agree that that's not something that he can ethically do or that he should do. And he fully explained why that was the case. So there was simply a difference of opinion as to how far he could go.
And I know senators are pretty clever about trying to draw him out on issues. But if he thought it was coming before the court, that's where he drew the line and said, I just can't go that far.
BLITZER: Without, Senator Biden, telling us how you're going to vote, if you haven't made up your mind yet, do you suspect within the committee there are 10 Republicans, eight Democrats? In the end it will be a straight party line vote, 10-8 in favor of confirmation?
BIDEN: I give my word I have no idea. I've not had one single senator on the committee tell me how they're going to vote on the Democratic side. It's really a matter being discussed.
But I think a lot of us are where the American people are. If you look at the polling data you guys did after Roberts testified, well over half the American people still think they want know more about what he thinks on the major issues. Every single significant issue facing the country is likely to come before the court. Every single one he avoided giving any insight into how he would approach the question. BLITZER; We'll leave it right there. Senators, Senator Biden, Senator Kyl, thanks to both of you for joining us. We'll look forward to seeing that vote come up. It's going to be on Thursday, is that right Senator?
KYL: I believe that's correct, yes.
BLITZER: We'll make sure we watch it very, very closely. Senator Kyl, Senator Biden, thank you.
And coming up next on "LATE EDITION," "In Case You Missed It," our Sunday morning talk show roundup.
And later -- are you ready? A special hour of "LATE EDITION." And we're going to be talking with the Miami Mayor, Manny Diaz, about how he plans to keep citizens in his city safe.
Lots more coming up. Don't go away.
BLITZER: A reminder to our viewers, if you have any information on any of the children you see to the left of your screen, please call this number: 1-800-843-5678. That's 1-800-The-Lost.
And now, in case you missed it, let's check some of the highlights from the Sunday morning talk shows.
Earlier today on ABC's "This Week," George Stephanopoulos interviewed his old boss, Bill Clinton, about the Bush Administration's response to Hurricane Katrina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: You can't have an emergency plan that works if it only affects middle class people up. And when you tell people to go do something they don't have the means to do, you're going to leave the poor out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On "Fox News Sunday," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham criticized his own party's spending, and said he hoped the task of rebuilding after Katrina would force the GOP to get back to its fiscally conservative roots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I've been a Republican for 11 years, and we're failing when it comes to controlling spending. The transportation and energy bill would have been a good chance to go back and revisit for some of the spending that occurred there.
The idea that this government of $2.4 trillion is efficiently being spent, I disagree with. And across the board.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: On CBS's "Face the Nation," the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy, speculated on who would fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's shoes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): And I hope that we'll have somebody who is modest like Judge Roberts says he is and someone who will promote stability so there are no sharp turns.
U.S. SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): The president said one of his big, big campaign promises, and most campaigns, was: "I want to be a uniter and not a divider."
I would hope he would give a nominee that would unite both Democrats and Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And Bill Clinton showed up on NBC's "Meet the Press," where moderator Tim Russert asked him the question that has dogged him throughout his post-presidency career: Will his wife be the next Clinton to run for president of the United States?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: She's got to go through a big campaign. And then she'll have a decision to make like probably a dozen other Democrats will. And whatever she decides, I will be for her. But I think we've got to get to this campaign first.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Don't forget our Web question of the week: Have you made a family disaster plan in case of an emergency? Let us know. Cnn.com/LATE EDITION. That's the place to go.
And later, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney joins us to discuss his state's emergency plan. Is he ready for disaster -- manmade or natural?
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: It's been a clash of modern versus traditional family values, as the struggle for women's rights is played out in Japan's imperial court.
As part of CNN's anniversary series, "Then and Now," we take a closer look at the crowned prince and princess of Japan and where Japan's imperial the family stands today.
CNN's Anderson Cooper reports. ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: It was all smiles when Crown Prince Naruhito wed his bride in 1993. Crown Princess Masako was a modern woman by Japan's standards -- a former diplomat, educated at Harvard and Oxford.
She originally turned down the prince's proposals of marriage before being hailed Japan's Princess Di.
But, like Diana, royal life proved to be anything but storybook. In 2001, her daughter, Aiko -- officially called Princess Toshi -- was born. Two years later, Masako dropped out of public life. The official reason: adjustment disorder.
Last year, the crowned prince stunned the nation with an unprecedented explanation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWN PRINCE NARUHITO (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Princess Masako has completely exhausted herself. She's been denied her career as well as her personality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: Earlier this year, the 45-year-old crowned prince apologized to his parents for his controversial remarks. His 41-year-old wife remains out of the spotlight. Their only child, who turns 5 in December, is now in the heart of the debate over succession.
According to imperial law, only men can descend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. If Princess Toshi is permitted to assume the throne of the world's oldest monarch, it will be the first time a woman has reigned in over 200 years.
BLITZER: Let's take a closer look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States. "Newsweek" magazine calculates Bush's math, no Big Easy, Katrina plus Iraq, tax equals how much?
"Time" asks: Iraq -- is it too late to win the war?
And on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report," men's survival skills. How to avoid five killer that threaten your life.
And this important note to our viewers, beginning tomorrow and throughout the week here on CNN, we'll join Gulf residents as they go home ZIP code by ZIP code.
Tomorrow we'll focus in on 70114, known as the Algiers District. CNN will be there as residents try to begin to rebuild their lives.
There's more ahead on our special "LATE EDITION," including our special hour that's coming up. Are you ready? Do you have a plan in place for floods, earthquakes or terrorist attacks?
Among my guests, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Is the emerald city ready?
"LATE EDITION" coming right back. Don't go away.
BLITZER: This is a special "LATE EDITION" -- "Are you ready?"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters and disease outbreaks or terrorist attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: If disaster were to strike in your hometown, are you ready?
What would you do if a Category 5 hurricane hit the coast of Florida, if a terrorist detonated a dirty bomb in Boston Harbor, or if an airplane crashed into the Space Needle?
We'll ask the mayors of Miami and Seattle and the governor of Massachusetts how they plan to keep you safe.
Then, are the plans good enough? We'll get analysis from our panel of experts: former White House deputy homeland security adviser, Richard Falkenrath, former acting director of the CIA, John McLaughlin, and former Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, Clark Kent Ervin.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is a special "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer: "Are you ready?"
BLITZER: Welcome back. All over the United States, state and local governments are scrutinizing the response to Hurricane Katrina and hoping to avoid a similar catastrophe at home.
Today on "LATE EDITION", we're doing the same thing. For the next hour, we're asking this question: Are you ready? That's coming up.
First, though, we want to explain the pictures you're seeing on the left-hand side of your screen. CNN is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help to try to bring Gulf Coast families back together.
We're putting up the faces and the names of children who are missing or displaced. They've been so since Hurricane Katrina hit. If you recognize any of the children, please call the phone number you see on your screen. That's 1-800-843-5678, or 1-800-THE- LOST.
Now let's get a quick check of what's making news right now.
(NEWSBREAK) BLITZER: Is your hometown prepared for disaster? You may not know it, but there is an independent non-profit organization that has an answer, the Emergency Management Accreditation Program. That's what it's called.
It graded 39 states and territories. Only four passed. Those would be Arizona, Washington, D.C., Florida and North Dakota. Four more got conditional accreditation -- Illinois, Montana, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
This hour, we'll be examining the disaster plans of three popular American cities -- Miami, Boston and Seattle. Are they ready for a major event, be it natural, manmade, a terrorist attack -- anything along those lines?
Up first, the mayor of a city that has been devastated by natural disaster before. Hurricane Andrew crippled South Florida in 1992. What did officials learn then? What did they do to improve the situation since then? And is there still more work that has to be done?
Joining us now, the mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz. Mr. Mayor, welcome to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
MAYOR MANNY DIAZ, MIAMI: Good afternoon.
BLITZER: Let's talk about your beautiful city, Miami. It has a population of nearly 400,000. The county, Miami-Dade County, has 2.3 million.
According to the major risks by the county office of emergency, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, hazardous material incidents and terrorism. The bottom line question, Mr. Mayor, to you: Are you ready?
DIAZ: Well, we have a comprehensive emergency response plan that is a real model.
In fact, the president just selected the former county fire chief, now director, Paulison, to head FEMA. And he was a part of the creation of that plan.
So, as plans go -- and I'm glad that I saw that our state is one of the four that were ready as ready for an emergency.
And we really -- we've, in a way, we've been prepared. We go through these drills. As you saw in the news report, there are two more storms out there in the Atlantic today. So this is something that we have to go through each and every single year.
BLITZER: You watch it carefully.
The Miami Herald last year, December 13, 2004, wrote this, suggesting that the safest buildings in Miami were not necessarily all that safe: "In every hurricane that hit Florida this year, buildings that were supposed to be the strongest and safest -- emergency operation centers, police and fire stations, hospitals and hurricane shelters -- failed."
Have you done anything to fix that since then?
DIAZ: Well, absolutely. And one of the lessons that we really learned after Hurricane Andrew, which was our big Category 5 in '92, was that we had to look at our entire code.
And we've got one of the toughest, most stringent building codes right now probably anywhere.
BLITZER: But are the buildings ready? The specific -- the shelters, the structures that house the first responders -- can they withstand right now a hurricane Category 5?
DIAZ: Yes, they can.
And as a matter of fact, for example, in the case of our shelters, all of our schools are built to withstand not just wind, but flood. They're built above a certain level, and their structure is built to withstand higher, high winds.
So, we are prepared in that regard.
BLITZER: Here's what the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency wrote on June 30th of this year, Mr. Mayor.
Said, "The entire population of Miami-Dade County, some 2.3 million people, all reside within 20 miles of the coast with no hills to buffer the wind -- everybody and everything in Miami-Dade County are vulnerable to the hazard of windstorm -- Miami-Dade County," it goes on to say, "has far too few hurricane evacuation shelters."
Is that right?
DIAZ: No. I think we have enough shelters, but I certainly agree with the first part of that statement. We are all down here subject to wind.
We were lucky with Andrew, that Andrew really hit the southern- most part of the county, which is a less populated area than certainly the urban core would be.
BLITZER: There are a lot of elderly who live in Miami and Miami- Dade County, as you well know, a lot of disabled, people who have special needs.
Do you have an evacuation plan, that in case a hurricane four or five or three -- these people needed to be evacuated from their nursing homes, their high-rise apartment buildings -- do you have a plan that could get them to safety?
DIAZ: Yes, we do. And we coordinate this very closely, not just with the county, but also with other sister municipalities.
We know where they are. In fact, the county emergency center keeps a registry of frail, ill, sick individuals around the county, that they specifically identify and call as soon as, maybe, perhaps, one of these that we are seeing today in the Atlantic begins to threaten us.
So, there is an evacuation plan. There are lots of buses. And we know where these people are.
And the transit system from the county immediately gets out there and starts collecting, not just that are in seniors, but also in neighborhoods where many of our residents may not have their own transportation.
BLITZER: Well, what means of transportation would you use, assuming these people don't have cars, don't have family members who can drive them to a safer location inside the state, in a different direction?
What would you use, buses? How do you get these people out of harm's way?
DIAZ: Yes. It's primarily through our transit -- through our transit authority with buses.
BLITZER: And what about ambulances? Do you have enough ambulances, and for the needy who are hooked up to oxygen tanks or who have IVs? Can you get these people removed from hospitals to a safe location?
DIAZ: We do. And that's another good question, because actually, again, because of our years of experience, our hospitals are hardened, not just structurally, but with generators. And so that, in the event -- which is very likely -- that we lose power, these hospitals can continue to run and treat their patients.
But yes, I mean, hospitals are an integral part. Our entire medical industry, or medical group in Miami is a part of all the emergency planning that we do.
BLITZER: What about communications?
We've heard horror stories that the left hand of the government sometimes can't speak with the right hand of the government, that firefighters can't speak with police officers, that the spectrum built in for emergency is simply not working.
What have you done, if anything, to make sure that the first responders in Miami can talk to each other? DIAZ: Well, interoperability has been a big issue for us. It was a big issue after Andrew, but obviously, even a bigger issue after 9/11.
And I think that one of the benefits, if you will, of the whole anti-terror planning, that all of us in major cities have gone through over the last four years, has been to prevent the turf wars, really, that existed before. And there's a great level of communication.
DIAZ: In our case in Florida, there's a tremendous level of communication, starting with the governor's office, the county, my office, our sister municipalities and all the federal agencies.
BLITZER: Well, but let me press you on this, Mr. Mayor.
Let's say the National Guard came in, active duty troops came in. FEMA is there. Federal personnel are on the ground, state personnel and your local personnel, whether police, firefighters, medical emergency, medical personnel.
Could they all talk to each other and get the job done? Could they all get on the same radio frequency and discuss what needs to be done?
DIAZ: Yes, I believe that we can.
And in fact, part of what we have done with our funding that we have received from the Urban Area Security Initiative after 9/11, has been to connect all of our agencies.
BLITZER: The - I guess that's the - I'll take your word for it, because a lot of people have suggested that is not necessarily the case, that the troops - that if the 82nd Airborne, for example, came into Miami - they wouldn't have a way of communicating with the fire department. But you're saying they could.
DIAZ: My understanding is that they can.
BLITZER: All right, good. Well, that's good to know. Here's a final question for you, Mr. Mayor.
The National Guard - the Florida National Guard. There are about - only 71 percent would be available right now to deal with an emergency. Twenty-eight percent of the Florida National Guard are committed elsewhere, presumably in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Is that enough? If you don't have 100 percent of your National Guard forces on the scene, are you satisfied?
DIAZ: You know, obviously, I'd rather have 100 percent. After Andrew, the National Guard was very, very helpful to our recovery efforts here in Miami.
I'd rather have 100 percent, but we'll do what we have to do with what we have.
BLITZER: Mayor Diaz, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to Miami. Let's hope none of this materializes. Let's hope these tropical storms, these depressions out there get nowhere close to Miami or anyplace else in Florida.
I suspect, though, you still have some hurricane season to worry about.
BLITZER: I appreciate your joining us.
DIAZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: And this note. Beginning tomorrow and throughout the week, we'll be joining Gulf residents as they try to go back home, zip code by zip code.
Tomorrow we'll focus in on this zip code, 70114, known as the Algiers district. CNN will be there as residents begin to try to rebuild their lives.
Up next, the Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. He's standing by. We'll ask him some detailed questions about disaster plans for his state.
What's his plan for dealing with a major city like Boston, for example? It's so popular with tourists and rich, unfortunately, with terrorist targets.
And don't forget our Web question of the week. Have you made a family disaster plan in case of an emergency? Tell us. Go to cnn.com/lateedition. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION" -- "Are you ready?"
A note to our viewers first, though, please remember CNN will continually show you missing children's pictures nonstop until 11 p.m. Eastern tonight.
If you have any information, please call this number, 1-800-843- 5678. That's 1-800-THE-LOST.
We now turn to a major city in the Northeast. That would be Boston, Massachusetts.
Just last year, in preparation for the Democratic National Convention, the city practiced evacuating one million people in a giant exercise called Operation Exodus.
Is that enough? Or must the city go back and look at its overall emergency plans, now in the wake of Hurricane Katrina?
Joining us, the governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney. Governor Romney, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to "LATE EDITION."
GOV. MITT ROMNEY (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's take a look at Boston, a beautiful city. It has a population of nearly 600,000. But when the commuters come in to work every day, it brings that population up to a million.
According to Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the major risks that Boston faces include flooding, hurricanes - yes, hurricanes - blizzards, wildfires, terrorism.
Question: Are you ready?
ROMNEY: Well, I believe we've all thought we were ready until we saw what happened with Hurricane Katrina.
And I think governors in every state, and probably mayors, as well, are going to go back and look at their plans and say, what have we learned from Katrina? How can we take advantage of the lessons learned there to improve our evacuation procedures, as well as our general policies relating to the protection of our citizens?
BLITZER: Have you ordered such a reassessment in the aftermath of Katrina?
ROMNEY: Yes, I have.
I've asked MEMA, which is our emergency management agency, to work with our agencies throughout the state, and our cities and towns, and to review area-by-area - we're going to go through a monthly review - all of the plans for evacuation, as well as response to other crises that may exist within our state, and see just to what extent they need to be updated, given the lessons of Katrina.
BLITZER: Here's what the "Boston Globe" wrote on September 12th of this year, just a few days ago. I suspect you read the article.
"[State and local leaders] say they have no firm plans to house thousands of evacuees; there is spotty police radio coverage deep in the subways; there are few outreach plans to help the poor leave the city; and there are many deficient dams across the state that might fail to prevent serious flooding."
Let's go through it one by one.
No firm plans to house thousands of evacuees. Is that right?
ROMNEY: Well, what we found this week, for instance, or this month, is that with the thousands of people who were getting - be coming out of Louisiana, we were able to open our state and welcome 2,500.
I indicated that we could take twice that number. Actually, we could take four times that number, and accommodate them in military facilities. So, we do have the ability to house evacuees.
But our threat is not so much evacuating. We're not a city under water or below sea level, like New Orleans.
We, instead, have to think much more about caring for people who are in their homes in a time of crisis, like a snow emergency, or even worse, a terrorist act.
BLITZER: Well, if there were a terrorist act, a radiological or crude dirty bomb, as it's called, that was detonated in Boston Harbor, you presumably would have to evacuate a lot of people, and do so very quickly.
Are you ready for that?
ROMNEY: Well, the answer is yes, to a degree. Which is, you lay out the principles of evacuation, but you don't know what you'd have to evacuate and where you'd be evacuating to.
I mean, you say, what happens if it occurs in Boston Harbor? Of course, it could happen in the western part of the state, the central part of the state or right downtown Boston.
So, knowing what has to be evacuated and where people are going is something you'd only learn at the time of the attack.
And in that case, you have to have leadership in place that knows what the assets are, an ability to communicate, both within the state and regionally and nationally, and then the will to follow a plan to get people to safety.
BLITZER: The Boston Globe said there was only spotty police radio coverage deep in the subways. Is that right?
ROMNEY: Well, of course. Well below grade, down to the center of the earth where our subways run, you're not going to have the same kind of radio coverage that we're able to have across the commonwealth.
But the major investment we made as a state, was when the federal government gave us homeland security funds and said, you should use these for response.
We looked at our communications system and said, look, the police can't talk to the fire; the fire can't talk to EMS. None of them can speak directly to the National Guard. And of course, if the federal authorities come, we can't speak with them either.
So we got together with the folks at Raytheon that built the system that's now widely available that allows radios and frequencies of different nature to come together in one major system and communicate with one another. That's the way we're able to link our entire system.
But of course there are going to be spots deep inside a subway system where there won't be radio contact.
But overall our communication system is pretty darn good.
BLITZER: Do you think that the Big Dig -- the huge tunnel that you have, do you think that there should be cell phone use allowed in those kinds of tunnels, given the fear that a cell phone could trigger a bomb?
ROMNEY: Oh, I think you have to have cell phones, and we should have cell phones in the Big Dig and in our tunnel system. The idea that that's the only way you trigger a bomb is ridiculous.
Frankly, the right way to protect our homeland is not just through response vehicles and, if you will, protective devices, but instead, prevention efforts.
And prevention is the key. You got to be able to stop the bad guys before they attack us. That of course means intelligence work and counterterrorism. That's the heart of an effective plan, to protect a city like Boston or any other major potential terrorist target.
BLITZER: Here's what the Massachusetts state Senate concluded in a report on homeland security preparedness in Massachusetts last year. "Since the September 11 attacks, 93 percent of police departments and 87 percent of fire departments have in the commonwealth have either decreased staff or remained the same. Eighty-three percent of police departments and 92 percent of fire departments are not prepared for a homeland security attack."
That's a disturbing number.
ROMNEY: Well, as you can imagine, that comes from a public safety committee that wants us to raise taxes to send more money to local police departments.
And I understand we've had a reduction in some of our municipal employees. We've had some tough financial times. And we have the kind of sharing agreement between communities and between our state police as well that allows us to deal with our needs in the commonwealth.
Just hiring more policemen does not make a community safer.
Of course we have to have a very strong first response capability and we do, but we also have to have an effort to protect ourselves through effective intelligence. And, in my opinion, that's the heart of an effective plan.
BLITZER: You made some news in the past few days when you delivered a speech here in Washington at the Heritage Foundation. I'll play a little excerpt of what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: We have 120 colleges and universities in Massachusetts, roughly. How many individuals are coming to our state and going to those institutions who come from terror sponsored states? Do we know where they are? Are we tracking them? How about people who are in settings, mosques, for instance that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror, are we monitoring that? Are we wire tapping? Are we following what's going on? Are we seeing who's coming in, who's coming out?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The reference to the mosques -- wire tapping mosques, wire tapping students who study, as all of us know, in Boston, the greater Boston area, a lot of universities there. That's caused somewhat of a stir not only in Boston, Massachusetts but throughout the country. What do you say? ROMNEY: Well, I'm not talking about doing anything unconstitutional, and you don't wire tap unless you have probable cause and a court order to do so.
But monitoring and understanding what is happening in a setting where people are talking about attacking the United States with teachings of hate and terror, that's something we do and something we should do more of because if we're going to protect our homeland, we have to focus on where the risk is coming from and make sure we're understanding it and we're keeping up with it. And if people's visas are overdue we send them back home.
We don't want to have our nation exposed to terror activity. And if this means being serious about following those who have interest in attacking us.
BLITZER: So based on probably cause, whether it's a mosque, a church or a synagogue, if necessary you say, go ahead and wire tap to try to protect the population. Is that what you're saying?
ROMNEY: There's nothing new about wire tapping. Wire tapping is not the key here.
The key is do we spend enough resources as a society, monitoring, not with wire tap but just monitoring with attention and vigilance, those individuals who are coming from terrorist sponsored states, those individuals who are teaching doctrines of hate and terror. Are we following them, keeping up with them? And if they commit crimes or if they do something which suggests probable cause to wire tap, we'd wire tap them as well.
But that's something we should be doing seriously. And instead of just focusing on how to respond after a bomb goes off, we've got to spend a lot more resources preventing the bomb from going off in the first place.
BLITZER: Governor Romney, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Massachusetts.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, the city's famed space needle was once rumored to be the target of terrorists. But what other real challenges for Seattle? A city basically built around water?
We'll ask the mayor, Greg Nickels. He's standing by.
Plus, more of our special "LATE EDITION: Are You Ready?" when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION: Are You Ready?"
First though, a note to our viewers, please remember, CNN will continually show you missing children's pictures nonstop until 11:00 p.m. eastern tonight. If you have any information at all, please call this number, 1-800-843-5678; that's 1-800-The-Lost.
We turn now to the west and Seattle, a city with 193 miles of water front and 150 bridges. How do you protect it all from threats, both human and natural.
Joining us now, the mayor of the Emerald City, Greg Nickels.
Mayor Nickels welcome to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
MAYOR GREG NICKELS, SEATTLE: Good morning.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the Seattle population, nearly 600,000. When the commuters come in on a nearly daily basis, it goes up to 1.5 million.
According to the Seattle Emergency Preparedness Bureau, the major risks you face are hazardous material incidents, landslides, earth quakes, floods and terrorists.
Are you ready for those risks?
NICKELS: Wolf, yes, we are. Although preparedness to me is not something that you can one day say you've achieved and stop. Every day you have to learn a little bit more about what might happen and then think about those possibilities and figure out how you protect people from them.
BLITZER: What have you learned since the Katrina hurricane? What are you doing in the aftermath of the lessons learned from that disaster that might be applicable to Seattle?
NICKELS: We learned a number of things. One the emergency communications that went out in New Orleans. They had backup generators, and those generators went out because the natural gas was interrupted.
We've looked -- ours are powered by diesel, and we have reservoirs of diesel on site where our generators are.
We also saw some pretty clear pictures of people left behind, and we're looking very carefully to make sure that we are paying attention to all of our neighborhoods.
Later this morning I'll be going to a African American church here in Seattle and I'm going to be asking the members of that church to help me reach out to communities to make sure everybody has that preparedness message and that they're ready to take care of themselves and their neighborhood.
BLITZER: Well, do you have a registry -- a list of all the elderly, the nursing homes, the hospitals, the very poor who don't have cars, who may need to be evacuated in case of emergency, and the means, the transportation to get them to safer places? NICKELS: Wolf, our main threat is earthquake. And obviously, with an earthquake, you do not get advance notice. And so our approach is to have neighborhoods able to protect themselves and take care of themselves for up to 72 hours while our first responders are dealing with the hot spots. We've looked at earthquakes across the world. I went to Kobe in 2002 and talked to them about the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. And we put a levy on our ballot in 2003 to deal with the specific things that we thought we needed to harden in order to be able to have our first responders effective after an earthquake.
For instance, we found out two-thirds of our fire stations today would not survive a major earthquake. That is unacceptable and we're working to fix that.
Your Seattle Post-Intelligencer, your newspaper, recorded this yesterday. I'll put it up on the screen: "A recent scenario based on a massive quake on the Seattle Fault predicts: more than 1,600 dead and 24,000 injured; police and fire departments overwhelmed; inadequate emergency and shelter services; nearly 40,000 buildings destroyed or rendered uninhabitable, $33 billion in damages and loss; more than 130 fires; years of rebuilding and recovery."
That sounds pretty, pretty awful. Is it realistic though?
NICKELS: Well, I think it is. The Kobe earthquake of years ago -- and we know Kobe well because it's our sister city -- 190 fires broke out.
One of the things that happened was the city's water system was interrupted. We now, in fact, as we are speaking here -- we are installing hardened hydrants at all of our reservoirs and water tanks so that we have an alternative to be able to put those fires out.
We also have a system now for drawing water for domestic use so that people will have drinking water. And that system is mobile so that we can take it around to neighborhoods where it is needed.
But we have a long way to go. You saw the levees and what happened to those in New Orleans. We have a sea wall in our downtown that is very much at risk and a double deck highway next to it that was damaged in a relatively moderate quake in 2001 and we're working very hard to replace it so that we do not lose lives on that highway.
BLITZER: The Seattle Times reported in December 2003 the following and I'll read it: "The government's largest bioterrorism drill since the September 11, 2001 attacks has revealed widespread communication problems and confusion among emergency personnel...emergency crews in Seattle had trouble determining where the radiological contamination had spread, which would be key to evacuating and treating people in a real emergency."
BLITZER: Have you fixed the problem over the past nearly two years?
NICKELS: We have. We went into the TOPOFF 2 exercise, because we wanted to test those systems and see where they might be vulnerable. The radiological issue was a communications issue. As mayor in that drill, I was trying to get information: What is this radiological cloud; what does it mean to the people who are sheltering in place, and when do I declare an evacuation? We continue to drill. We drilled recently on both water and power outages, having seen what happened with the East Coast power outage. We'll be doing a drill in October based on a terrorist attack, but it also will help us prepare for earthquake which, frankly, is a more likely threat to our city.
BLITZER: How worried are you that terrorists might try to commandeer a plane and fly it into the Space Needle?
NICKELS: You know, Wolf, that's something that certainly is always possible. We're very concerned as well about our ferry system, about our mass transit systems, as we've seen attacks in other parts of the world, and so we work very closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security in trying to anticipate and prepare for those.
Frankly, the threat, though, of an earthquake is much larger in terms of amount of lives at stake.
BLITZER: Governor Nickels, good luck to you. Thanks very much for joining us.
NICKELS: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: So what does it all mean to you? We've assembled our panel of security experts to try to sort it out. That's coming up. Stay with us.
BLITZER: We have a new update on the total number of children lost in Hurricane Katrina that have been reunited with their families. Let's immediately go to Kimberly Osias. She has the latest from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children outside Washington.
What's the latest, Kimberly?
KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we got these numbers: about 2,100 children are still missing, still separated from their parents all over the country. I mean, this is the largest scattering all over America. It is not just the south -- some children as far as California -- really all over.
But as hard as that number is to here because there are still new first-time callers coming in to reporting new cases, there is that incredible, euphoric feeling when there's a success story.
Of those results cases, 855, just one just about 30 minutes ago of this little boy, eight-year-old Alex Davis.
Now this is truly a testament to the power of the public and the power of television really working in concert, working together. His father thought little Alex was missing, sent a picture into the center. We got it up on air and the mother and the child are all fine. That reunion is expected to happen soon, in the next couple days, hopefully. We'll have more good stories like that to report.
BLITZER: Hopefully, indeed. Thanks very much, Kimberly. Thank everyone working there as well.
Up next: Our panel of security experts discusses whether or not America is ready. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We've gathered an expert panel to review what you've just heard about emergency preparedness around the United States. Joining us now: Richard Falkenrath, he's a former White House deputy homeland security adviser; John McLaughlin, he's a former acting director of CIA; and Clark Kent Ervin, he's a former Department of Homeland Security inspector general -- all CNN analysts.
Thanks to all of you for joining us.
And, Richard, let's start off with you. And let's go through.
We heard the mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz, say that they said they are ready to deal with these kinds of emergencies.
When you heard him make his case, what do you think?
RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN: Well, I think it's part right. The City of Miami, Dayton County and the state of Florida are quite good at evacuation against a regular advanced-warning hazard: namely hurricanes.
In stark contrast to New Orleans, they are really pretty good at going door-to-door, getting people out, dealing with the infirm, the limited-mobility population.
But we have no illusions. A direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane on Miami, like any major city, will wipe it out. There will be massive, massive destruction.
But the good news for Miami is that the public services there are pretty good at getting people out of harm's way in advance.
BLITZER: But if there's a major hurricane -- and let me just press you on this, Richard -- getting them out, Category 5, where do they go? TI mean, that whole peninsula of Florida could be vulnerable.
FALKENRATH: Well, they'll go upstate to an Army base or a National Guard facility or something and be in temporary housing. And if their homes are destroyed, they're going to become displaced persons -- like we have from the Gulf Coast now -- for a long period of time.
So we shouldn't take too much comfort in this. We're able to get them out of immediate harm's way down in that state, but it would till be devastating.
And that's the general point, Wolf. Any catastrophe that gets big enough will overwhelm all of our governments.
BLITZER: John McLaughlin, what did you think when you listened to Mayor Manny Diaz?
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN: He struck me as being very well prepared for the kind of thing that a hurricane would represent. And after all, in many cases, hurricanes are predictable.
The tougher thing is, of course, the unpredictable. And that's in my arena: the threat of terrorism.
The one thing I didn't hear the mayor talk about, which I was gratified to hear Governor Romney talk about, is the issue of prevention.
When it comes to terrorism, I think localities can't rely entirely on the federal government for preventative measures -- and we should talk about that, because there are some things that local governments can do that are very effective at the local level in preventing and detecting and disrupting terrorist operations.
BLITZER: I know they've done that in New York City. One of your former deputies runs their intelligence operation there, David Cohen, to deal with terror threats to New York City.
MCLAUGHLIN: New York City, Wolf, really is the gold standard for this in the United States. And I would recommend that every big city mayor -- and, for that matter, governors -- send representatives to New York City to talk to Commissioner Kelly and his deputies about exactly what they do.
And I'm happy to walk you through some of that for you today.
BLITZER: All right. Well, let's bring Clark Kent Ervin in. The mayor of Miami insists that he thinks that all of them could talk to each other on radio frequencies if the 82nd Airborne came in, the National Guard was there, FEMA, local and state representatives, first responders.
Is he right?
CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN: Well, that was the very end of the segment. And it struck me that he became less confident as the segment went on. It was interesting that the word he used was it was his "understanding" that there were interoperable communications.
It seems to me that the mayor doesn't have a clear knowledge of whether that's the case. And it seems to me the lesson of Katrina is not to be overconfident. And, frankly, that's what I took away from the mayor's comment. It seems to me it's important now in the wake of Katrina to go back and take a look at exactly how well-prepared all these cities are for major catastrophes that have not been anticipated.
BLITZER: Because we know, during 9/11, at the World Trade Center, the firefighters couldn't talk to the police. And that was a disaster.
I suspect the mayor's going to go back and ask his advisers right now, his aides: Was my understand right? And we'll follow up on that.
The governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney -- he made his case saying his state is in pretty good shape.
What do you think?
FALKENRATH: Well, it is in pretty good shape as states go. It's a relatively small state and it has a reputation for quite high- quality government.
The Emergency Management Agency up there is pretty good. They work fairly well with the city of Boston, their major city -- that's not true in all states.
And so it's OK. But again, there are certain disasters which would just exceed their capacity to deal with. And this, I think, has real terrorist risk in Boston with the transportation hubs coming together, the Big Dig, which you noticed, the subway system, which is a great vulnerability.
There's also a liquid natural gas facility in the port -- an enormous vulnerability there. And there's some hazardous chemicals in Boston.
So there's a lot of vulnerability there. But, in general, you picked three public leaders who are at the upper tier in our country -- they're not perfectly prepared by any stretch of the imagination, but they're also not the ones who are really lagging behind.
BLITZER: There's still plenty of work to do.
Put your old hat on as acting director of the CIA, deputy director. When he spoke about -- openly, very candidly -- perhaps the need to wiretap mosques and to monitor foreign student coming into the United States -- a lot of them in the Boston area -- is that smart?
MCLAUGHLIN: I think some measures to do that are smart, Wolf. I know he got himself in a lot of trouble, and maybe he used the wrong words in suggesting the policy.
But I think we have to be realistic. And the way I would put it is that all big city majors need to look at their populations and, in a hard-headed and realistic way, ask themselves -- just as the London police had to ask themselves, and did not ask themselves thoroughly enough before the London bombings: Where are the potential communities where extremists could be harbored and could be encouraged? And then they have to have some window into those communities. It may not be through wiretapping. It may be through increased police presence. It may be through operatives who are there to learn. It may be through hiring into the police department itself many of the minorities who live in these cities so that they can have a cultural window into parts of their cities that have the potential for extremism.
BLITZER: Clark, you heard him say, when I pointed out that, in most of Massachusetts, fire departments, police departments -- they've been cut since 9/11. And he said, "Well, that was the state senate and they're looking at ways to cut down some of those programs, and it was a critical report."
What do you make of that?
ERVIN: Well, I think there's something to that. There's no question but that obviously police departments, fire departments want to grow; they want to have more money. That's a political issue to some degree.
On the other hand, I thought the governor was realistic in saying that we don't know really whether we're prepared for these kind of things.
So it's critical, it seems to me, that we increase markedly our overall homeland security spending. You know, one of the things I was struck by earlier was there was a bipartisan consensus earlier, Senator Biden and Senator Kyl saying -- both ends of the political spectrum -- we've really underfunded homeland security.
And I think Katrina shows the importance of greatly increasing our spending. And I say that as a conservative who understands that government spending by itself isn't always the answer.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to the West Coast. Seattle. He's clearly concerned -- as he should be, the mayor, Greg Nichols -- about an earthquake in Seattle, given the number of bridges and the water that surrounds that beautiful city.
How did he do?
FALKENRATH: Well, you're right. He is concerned with that -- and for good reason. An earthquake could be as devastating as Katrina with no notice whatsoever.
He's also concerned about terrorism, and I was impressed that he and you recalled the (inaudible) exercise that was conducted in May of two years ago. I was in government at the time.
And they did not do well, frankly. But they took advantage of that. I appreciated the way he talked about that. He acknowledged that this exercise revealed quite a number of deficiencies in their local response and also in how the federal government worked with them. And they've been working to fix that over time. They also had a problem with the WTO meeting at the end of the Clinton administration. You remember the riots and the failure of crowd control there. So this is a city that looks to me like it's trying to learn from these experiences and get better in time. And it also looks like they're learning from Katrina.
BLITZER: Here is one of the most disappointing parts and frustrating parts of New Orleans -- they had plenty of exercises in New Orleans; they had plenty of warning about those levees and the flood walls; and there were plenty of articles written in the local newspapers and in scholarly publications; and yet, you know what? In one ear and out the other.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, one of the things that I think is responsible for the break down, if I were thinking of all of the different factors, is that many people assumed that someone else was responsible for doing something.
And if there's a key in all of these situations, whether a terrorist event or a natural disaster, it's critical that everyone understand what their role is and what their specific responsibility is and understand that someone else may not be doing it.
One of the concerns I have in listening to all three of these presentations, and some of them are quite good, as you know, is that I didn't hear anyone take a strategic view of this problem.
In other words, when you think about homeland security, whether it's a national disaster or terrorism, there's a spectrum here we have to think about that begins with intelligence, detection, prevention, the handoff to policy of intelligence, action, decision, response, recovery. There's a spectrum here, and we have to be smart all along that spectrum and exercise all long that spectrum.
BLITZER; Four years after 9/11, we saw the lack of preparedness in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Bottom line question, quick answer from all three of you, starting with you, Clark -- are we ready?
CLARK: I think the answer to that, I'm afraid to say, Wolf, is no. And I think the president is to be commended for acknowledging that the answer to that question is very much up in the air, and we need to know the answer to it.
It's really telling that this happened almost exactly to the day four years after 9/11, and, ironically enough, it happened during the beginning of National Preparedness Month.
And it seems to me, frankly, that terrorists cannot but have been emboldened by our disastrous response to this disaster, which was not just foreseeable, but as you just pointed out, foreseeable for years.
BLITZER: Are we ready?
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's a mixed bag, I think, Wolf. On one hand we're much better prepared than we were at the moment of 9/11. And the reasons are multiple, Al Qaida, if I'm thinking about terrorism Al Qaida has been seriously hurt but they're still in business.
On the other hand we've devoted a lot of attention to intelligence collection and mitigation around the world, but we have an entirely new intelligence structure that we are now dealing with that is lead by highly qualified people, well-intentioned, hard working and dedicated, but not yet tested in a crisis.
BLITZER: Bottom line, are we ready?
FALKENRATH: Well, there's a contingency -- there's a continuum of scenarios. And at the higher end of that, the more damaging, the more sudden scenarios, we're not ready. That's an absolute fact.
The lower intensity, the smaller scenarios, we mostly can handle. It will vary from city to city, from state to state to a fair bit, but the general rule of thumb is bigger, more intense, more sudden disasters, we're not prepared for.
BLITZER: We'll leave it right there. Thanks to all of you for joining us.
We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: And that's our "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, September 18. Please be sure to join us next Sunday and every Sunday for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'll be back in the situation room tomorrow, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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