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“It could have been worse.”—That’s the general refrain after Hurricane Irene bared down on the east coast over the weekend. And today, on the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is back in the spotlight. Tonight on “Hardball,” we’re asking the tough questions: Did FEMA and the federal government do their jobs? And amid Republican criticism of government intervention, and 2012 candidates’ stump speeches to make Washington as “inconsequential” as possible, will Republican governors accept federal emergency funds? We asked them, and we’ll have the answers for you with Fmr. RNC Chair and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-MD) and Fmr. Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA).

 

“I gotta have faith…,” as the George Michael song goes –But does faith have any place in a presidential election? Or is it especially important to question prospective leaders on any authority they might hold higher than the Constitution? In last week’s New York Times magazine, Editor Bill Keller argues that we must ask the 2012 candidates tougher questions about their faiths. New York magazine’s John Heilemann and msnbc’s Richard Wolffe, who both will be questioning the candidates in the run-up to the election, are here to weigh in.

 

The next big storm to hit Washington arrives tomorrow—and it comes in the form of Fmr. Vice President Dick Cheney’s book. By Cheney’s own account, there will be “heads exploding all over Washington,” and we’ve got the juiciest tidbits for you tonight, from 9/11 to Iraq, and President Bush and Fmr. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Jonathan Martin, who chronicled the best of the book in Politico, will join us with Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn.

 

Move over, Madoff—Gov. Rick Perry has a new definition for “Ponzi scheme,” and it’s the U.S. government’s Social Security Program! “It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people,” Perry said Sunday, “The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie.” Them be fightin’ words! We’ll tackle this issue, and Perry’s states’ rights record, tonight with Politico’s Maggie Haberman and the Dallas Morning News’ Wayne Slater. Don’t miss this show!

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