The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/13/10

Brian Williams, Ann Curry, Kerry Sanders, Al Roker, Raymond Joseph, Nan Buzard, Steve Clemons

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Keith.  Thank you very much.

We do begin tonight with the very latest on the catastrophic earthquake that has devastated the nation of Haiti.  At this hour, it is believed that there are still likely thousands of people trapped beneath the rubble of crumbled buildings in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The death toll from yesterday‘s magnitude 7.0 earthquake is still unknown tonight, but earlier in the day, Haiti‘s president, Rene Preval, estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 people may have been killed.

Estimates of death tolls and disasters like this, as early as this is, notoriously difficult to get right.  But that massive number, 30,000 to 50,000 people, is what the nation‘s president is suggesting.

In terms of the total number of people affected by this disaster, the International Red Cross estimates tonight that one-third of Haiti‘s 9 million people are probably in need of emergency aid.  Right now, there is a massive search and rescue operation under way, an effort that‘s being hampered by a dwindling supply of food, water, and medical supplies.  Relief supplies have, of course, been promised, and many are en route, but getting them to Haiti and getting them distributed appropriately are two different things.  And together, they are a logistical challenge of almost unimaginable proportions.

As far as the U.S. government‘s response to this tragedy, it‘s sort of “all hands on deck” right now.  Today, President Obama changed his own schedule, canceling a planned appearance in Maryland—canceling a planned appearance in Maryland.  The president pledged a quick and coordinated American response effort.

To that end, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has canceled the rest of her trip to the Pacific and she‘s returning home.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates has scrapped his planned trip to Australia in order to help deal with this crisis.

U.S. ships, helicopters, transport plane, not to mention 2,000 U.S.  Marines, are currently on their way to Haiti to assist in rescue and relief.

NBC News has a team of reporters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, tonight.

Joining us now is Brian Williams, the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News.”  Alongside Brian are: NBC news correspondent Kerry Sanders, and the “Today Show‘s” Ann Curry and Al Roker.

Thank you all so much for joining us tonight.

Brian, what is the latest on the ground there?

BRIAN WILLIAMS, “NBC NIGHTLY NEWS” ANCHOR:  Rachel, we keep coming back to the word, all four of us: what a desperate place this is.  And that‘s on a good day, not to be flipped.  You add a tragedy of this magnitude to this place where there‘s not much to everyday life and you have what we have here right now.

There are—there are glimmers of good news.  The U.S. Special Forces team that arrived today, they‘re setting up a kind of makeshift control tower so there can be air traffic control.  The relief flights that have already started—that‘s a Canadian C-130 making so much noise behind us, but that‘s perfectly all right.

But the scope of this is absolutely incredible and we‘re still getting our arms around it.  You mentioned our on-air team.  We got word of this yesterday.  We were in the newsroom.  We happened to be in Washington, D.C.

Kerry Sanders has been here so many times, covering Haiti over the year.

When you heard that there had been a natural disaster on top of what you know already about daily life in Haiti, what was your first reaction?

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I feared how high the numbers would climb.  And I‘m not sure we‘ll ever know how many people have died in this earthquake or how many may be alive right now and that nobody can get to them as they‘re buried under the rubble.

You need to understand, not only was this a 7.0 – a massive earthquake, but there are no building codes here.  People build homes over lifetimes and generations.  So they bring up the cement and they build the first floor.  And then when they have children, maybe when their children reach teenage or adults, they add another floor, and then add another floor on top of that, often without rebar, that‘s the metal that goes inside there to reinforce.

So, as I flew over the city today in a helicopter and looked down, I saw a city that was crushed.  Not just buildings that collapsed in the shake and homes that fell down, but entire hillsides that had slipped away and people who were in those homes, homes that are still standing, have all evacuated, on to soccer fields, into parks, where they set up because nobody wants to return to a structure because of the aftershocks that follow.

Brian, we‘ve had some aftershocks here—some that have been rather strong and people are running.  I mean, they‘re not going anywhere, they‘re just running from where they are.

WILLIAMS:  And, Rachel, to a New Yorker, it would feel like maybe the number four train was going by beneath your feet or a big, big truck was driving by.  And it‘s all—nothing you‘re looking—it‘s nothing anticipatable.  You‘re always surprised by it.  You look around and realize, well, that‘s the earth moving around us.

Ann, we are inside the commercial terminal tonight and you mentioned to me, these are all American kids.  They seem to be from a church group.  They had already been here.  They‘re trying to get out.  This is not to be confused with the relief agencies that will be coming in.

ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS:  That‘s right.  There are about 50 of them and they say that they‘ve been trying to reach their parents and they can‘t get a phone call out.  That‘s really the problem here.  There is really no communication out of here.  The cell towers are down.  Intermittently, they have power, sometimes they do not.  It‘s a really crisis here.

But these kids, all Americans, from all across the country, they were

with something called SJG, I think—SKG, SKG.  And basically, what they

are, a group of gospel missionaries that were here.  They‘re now—if

you‘re a parent and you know about these kids, you‘re worrying about them -

they‘re now flying to the Bahamas and will be connecting with the U.S.  embassy there and trying to get out.


There are a lot of Americans trying to get out.  We understand the U.S. embassy is very crowded and today, I think, some of these Americans have been able to get out.

WILLIAMS:  One final point—Al, I was thinking earlier this evening, we‘re standing in some of the only lights in Port-au-Prince.  If you don‘t have a generator here tonight, fuel, you‘re out of business.

AL ROKER, NBC NEWS:  Absolutely.  The one good thing, if there could be one found, silver lining, is the weather.  It‘s not that hot.  It was in the upper 80s today.  We had some cloud cover this evening.  The skies have now since cleared and tomorrow, more of the same.

I mean, what would make this miserable—even more miserable is if we were talking about rain and the next few days, it looks pretty sunny.

The good news, also, has been the relief efforts that have been coming in.  We saw Iceland Air come in here, bringing in the Iceland Air and Rescue Team.  The Fairfax County, Virginia, Search and Rescue Team are here.  Canada, as you mentioned.

So the relief is getting here, but the big challenge, as we referenced, is going to be getting that relief from the runway and the tarmac to the people who need it out there.

WILLIAMS:  Though, Rachel, as we said, glimmers of hope, but still that word, you know, “desperation,” regarding life here in Haiti.

MADDOW:  Brian, it‘s so helpful to have your take on what‘s happening there, from all of you.  In terms of understanding what‘s happening at the airport and the rest of Port-au-Prince, I was wondering if you could comment on two things.  First of all, as Al just mentioned, that challenge of getting supplies that have made it to the airport into the hands of the people who need them the most.  Getting those things distributed.

Also, are people massing at the airport, because they see lights there, because they see activity there, in the hopes that they can get some assistance by physically coming to where you are at the airport?

WILLIAMS:  Well, first of all, let Ann answer the second part.

Yes, the supplies—and this is nothing, but when we got here today, there were four aircraft on the tarmac.  By tonight, it was a mass of wings and engines.

Again, no air traffic control, no ground control.  That will change as of tonight, thanks to the U.S. Air Force Special Forces out of Florida.

And already we saw piles of relief, but small by comparison.  Wound-cleaning kits, bandages, syringes, a fetal monitor, a stand-up rolling fetal monitor you would see in a hospital that just sat out here for the longest time.

Again, that‘s nothing.  The response to this will be so impressive.  It will make every American proud.  The problem will be getting it into Port-au-Prince and around this country.

And Ann can talk about the people gathering at the airport.

You saw them.

CURRY:  That‘s right.  Earlier, we were heading out to outside of the gates of the airport, and we could see that people—there were a lot of people trying to get in, and some of these people had open wounds, they were covered in dust.  Some of them, it looked as though they had actually just emerged from some of the rubbles and has not gotten any medical care.

We also found some people who had got some medical care, but there clearly is a drive to get out of Port-au-Prince and get to help, because they‘re not getting the help they need inside Port-au-Prince.

As you well know, Rachel, most of the hospitals are down.  Some of them have collapsed.  And as a result, there is triage that‘s going on, there are clinics, open clinics, outside where people are being picked and taken care of.  And there are bodies still lying on the streets of Port-au-Prince, covered in sheets.

So, the situation is most dire.  People are going to become more and more desperate as the hours tick by.

ROKER:  Brian, just a little bit of good news.  Cell service seems to be coming back up.  Some of our crew members have cell service right now.

CURRY:  Fantastic.

ROKER:  So that will help aid in this recovery effort.

MADDOW:  One last question for you, and it‘s great news to hear that cell service may be coming back in terms of people being able to reach loved ones, but also coordinating relief efforts, obviously.  We understand that—from all disaster recovery efforts—that there‘s really a critical 48-hour window for saving lives, for rescuing people trapped under the rubble.  We‘re about more than halfway through those 48 hours.

Can you tell us anything about the rescue plan for tomorrow, in terms of saving lives that need to be saved in a very small number of hours that have happened since the earthquake itself?

WILLIAMS:  Kerry, you talked to a physician on the way here today.

SANDERS:  I did.  He‘s a trauma physician who came in from Miami with a team from the Jackson Memorial Hospital, Barth Green.  He said there is hope.  He says, in these next 48 hours, they can get to these sites.  They can dig people out, that people can hold on.

The biggest problem, of course, is that weight is on their bodies and it‘s constricting the lungs.  So the will to live is extremely strong and people will fight, but at one point or another, the weight will take over.  They won‘t have any liquids.  That‘s why the 48 hours is so important.

It‘s not just getting the experts there, the folks from Fairfax and others.  It‘s just getting people there to remove it.

But, understand, every time they remove something and then the ground shakes, people dash away and even if there are cell phones, Brian, coordinating this is, you know, sometimes neighbor to neighbor.  There‘s not, like, a real authority that can say, “Here‘s how you do it.”

WILLIAMS:  Al and I—oh, go ahead.

CURRY:  I can also add to say that earlier, Brian, I was able to see some rescue teams from the United States were heading out, actually go in and start working on—taking down the rubble.  One of the things that‘s really needed here that I haven‘t seen come in here is heavy machinery.

How do you actually move some of these concrete walls and blocks that are pinning people down?

WILLIAMS:  Some of that will come from the Marines.  I was going to say, you and I were sitting down, briefly, at the international terminal tonight.

ROKER:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  We didn‘t realize we were under an overhang.

ROKER:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  . until a man came over.

ROKER:  And a gentleman came over, he didn‘t speak English, but he gestured to the overhang and went like this and like that, meaning, if there was another aftershock—and we had been in that commercial building and you could see these massive cracks in the concrete walls.

CURRY:  Things on the ground.

ROKER:  Yes.  Had there been another aftershock, that overhang could have easily come down.

WILLIAMS:  Towers are empty, glasses blown out, standing water in the first floor of the airport, Rachel.  The cracks look almost cartoonish.  They‘re mostly in a cross-pattern on the walls.  Absolutely incredible. 

And this is nothing compared to what you‘ll find in Port-au-Prince.

MADDOW:  Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News,” along with NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders, the “Today Show‘s” Ann Curry and Al Roker—tremendous work you‘re doing for the network and all of us for tonight.  Stay safe.  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Haiti‘s ambassador to the United States is Raymond Joseph. 

And Ambassador Joseph will be joining us live on this program next.

Later on, what America can and is already doing to help.  Our coverage of the earthquake in Haiti continues.  Please stay with us.


MADDOW:  As our coverage of the earthquake in Haiti continues, from the “department of not helping,” we bring you America‘s foremost televangelist.  On his TV show, “The 700 Club,” which apparently still exists, Pat Robertson has topped blaming 9/11 on the UCLA, blaming Hurricane Katrina on the gays and abortions, blaming Ariel Sharon‘s stroke on Israeli peace policy, he‘s now, today, blamed Haiti‘s earthquake on their slave revolt in the 1700s.


PAT ROBERTSON, TELEVANGELIST:  They got together and swore a pact to the devil.  They said, “We will serve you if you‘ll get us free from the French.”  It‘s a true story.  And so, the devil said, “OK, it‘s a deal.”

And they kicked the French out.  You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free.  But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.


MADDOW:  Pat Robertson quoting the devil.  And according to him, millions of Haitians‘ lives are in peril tonight because slaves in revolt 200 years ago were really just unfortunates making a deal with the devil that turned out to be short-sighted.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold Pat Robertson, the unintended consequence of your First Amendment.



BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  What we need now is food, water, supplies for first aid, and shelter.  We have got to find out who‘s alive.  We have to care for the people who are dead and to try to preserve them so their loved ones can identify them.


MADDOW:  That was former President Bill Clinton, now the U.N.‘s special envoy to Haiti speaking at the United Nations earlier today.

And this, of course, is the need that he was addressing—these images of devastation that have come out of Haiti in the last 24 hours, in the wake of yesterday‘s 7.0 magnitude earthquake.  Right now, a massive international relief effort is under way, as governments from around the world dispatch material aid and rescue workers to the scene.

But there is so much need.  The International Red Cross is estimating that as many as 3 million people in Haiti, a third of the country‘s entire population, may need emergency help.  This afternoon, a spokesman for the American Red Cross said the agency had run out of medical supplies in country.

Supplies needed to be—supplies, of course, need to be obtained and organized.  They need to get to Haiti.  And then—perhaps the most daunting challenge—they need to get into the hands of the people who need them most.  Daunting in the best of circumstances—without electricity or passable roads or communications, it‘s almost unfathomable.

There are those, whoever, whose job it is to fathom those things. 

Among them is the Haitian ambassador to the United States, Raymond Joseph.

Ambassador Joseph, thank you very much for joining us tonight. 

Appreciate your time, sir.

AMB. RAYMOND JOSEPH, HAITIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES:  Thank you for inviting me.  And I think before I say anything, I would like to address one thing that I heard tonight.

MADDOW:  Please.

JOSEPH:  About how the pact with the devil made it possible for Haiti to suffer the way it is.  I would like you, the whole world to know, America, especially, that the independence of Haiti, when the slave rose up against the French and defeated the French army, powerful army, the U.S.  was able to gain the Louisiana territory for $15 million.  That‘s 3 cents an acre.  That‘s 13 states west of the Mississippi that the Haitian slaves revolt in Haiti provided America.

Also, the revolt of the rebels in Haiti allowed Latin America to be free.  It‘s from Haiti that Simon Bolivar left with men and boats to go and deliver Gran Colombia and the rest of South America.

So, what pact the Haitian made with the devil has helped the United States become what it is.

MADDOW:  Mr. Ambassador, I would say that I have about as much in common with Pat Robertson as I do with anybody in the world who I have not met.  And I cannot apologize for him, but if I could, I would, and I hope that you did not hear that as representative of the broad wishes of the American people.  The reason we are making fun of him on this show is because we find his views so odious.  So, I hope that—I hope that at least comes clear.

We last spoke about 24 hours ago.  What is more clear to you now about the extent of the damage in your country and about what Haiti needs?

JOSEPH:  What‘s more clear to us is that it is catastrophe of major proportions.  As I said last night, based on the first inkling of what we saw in one hour before it became dark.

But today, as day broke and as we started to see the extent of the damage, we say that is something that is out of our understanding.  And we are weeping in our hearts for what has happened to Haiti.

However, we, at the same time, want to thank the international community that has come to the rescue so quickly.  Our neighbors next door, the Dominican Republic, came very quickly this morning with the first 20 responders and relief support for Haiti, then Venezuela, the United States of America, and Iceland, all over.

I think this is showing the solidarity with our friends, with us in our time of need.  And I‘m expecting more in the future so that Haiti can really get back on its feet.

MADDOW:  When we talked last night, you mentioned, specifically, the need for experts in disaster relief and power.  You specifically mentioned offshore barges to come help with electricity, the need to treat water, hospital ships to treat the wounded.

Have you been advised that those needs are at least starting to be met?

JOSEPH:  Yes.  Today, this morning, I had a meeting with the State Department and one of the things they said to me is that the comfort is far away from Haiti, not as close as it was when we had the hurricanes.  By the 23rd of January, the comfort with the big hospital will be in Haitian waters.  However, to obviate this delay, two U.S. cutters, naval cutters, were dispatched to Haiti to fill the gap.

Also, the United States decided to help us with the communication.  You know, it has been very, very difficult for Haitian leaders to get to the people and speak to the people.  The U.S. decided to come in with a system, to help with communications.

Also, you heard that the tower of the airport had fallen, so you had no control tower.  And that‘s the reason why people said the airport was not operational.  Now, an emergency control tower came in this afternoon and by tomorrow, there‘s going to be some order in the dispatching of airplanes and the arrivals, because we‘re going to have quite a few coming in.

All these things plus the humanitarian aid coming from all over and this support that is coming from companies, American companies, like the president of Chase Bank, who called me this afternoon.  He says, “Ambassador, we are giving $1 million to the Red Cross for the relief in Haiti.”

I‘m expecting more things like that, because with the international support and with the help of fellow citizens, day-to-day people, Haiti will see another new day.

MADDOW:  Ambassador Raymond Joseph, Haiti‘s ambassador to the United States—thank you very much for your time tonight, sir.  Continued good luck to you and I imagine we‘ll be speaking with you again soon, if we can.  Thank you.

JOSEPH:  Thank you very much.

MADDOW:  For a look now at the relief efforts on the ground, we are joined by Nan Buzard.  She is senior director of international response and programs with the American Red Cross.

Ms. Buzard, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. 

Appreciate it.

NAN BUZARD, AMERICAN RED CROSS:  Thanks for having us, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Ambassador Raymond Joseph just described a list, in effect, of what Haiti needs, and expressed some confidence that the biggest priorities are either being met or on their way toward being met.

Does that bare resemblance to what you understand from the international perspective in terms of what is on its way to Haiti?

BUZARD:  Yes, it does.  There‘s an enormous relief effort worldwide underway.  The Red Cross, along with many other aid agencies and the U.N.  are dispatching people and supplies.  But I think you caught on to something that‘s very true, which is, it‘s the getting things from that airport out across a destroyed city with a lot of dazed and frantic people is going to be a staggering challenge.

MADDOW:  How do you—how do you approach that?  We understand that the roads within Port-au-Prince and between the Port-au-Prince airport and the heart of the city may be a real challenge in terms of passing them over land.  What are the logistical ways that you approach getting those things off of pallets on the tarmac to the people that need them?

BUZARD:  Well, the Red Cross actually brings in logistics units that are very experienced at unloading planes, organizing things across the tarmac, putting them in trucks, but it‘s getting all those pieces together, it‘s getting off the plane is simple enough, organizing them even on the tarmac is fairly straightforward.  It‘s getting it on to vehicles and getting those vehicles into the city, with something this large and with the population that‘s getting more desperate by the hour, and understandably so, it‘s about trying to get as much stuff out there—I think this is going to take and require a—what we would call a broad approach, which is you take a lot out and you give out as much as you can to as many people.  It‘s not going to be easy to do targeted relief in a situation like this.

MADDOW:  We understand, just from the images that we‘ve seen, but also confirmation from as much as the Haitian government that we can contact that with the national palace collapsed, the parliament building collapsed, even, as I understand, that the main prison in the nation‘s capital collapsed, it is hard to believe that the Haitian government itself is going to be capable of coordinating response efforts.  We also know that the United Nations, for all of its presence in Haiti, has its own real challenge with its headquarters collapsing and so many of its key personnel lost or—on account lost or, in fact, killed.

Who coordinates the efforts?  Who—who‘s responsible for deciding what goes where?

BUZARD:  That‘s a key question in this particular situation.  Normally, it would be the state, the government.  In the Pakistan earthquake, you saw a very strong Pakistan military who really were the backbone of the relief effort.

In this situation, the government has taken an enormous blow, which has certainly destabilized the situation.  And the U.N., which would be the normal coordinator of an operation like this is, as you said, dealing with its own very, very significant losses and challenges.

So, we‘re going to have a bit of a vacuum for a while, which is certainly not going to help a situation that‘s already at a pretty extreme position.

MADDOW:  Nan Buzard, senior director of international response and programs at the American Red Cross, before we let you go, if you could restate for our viewers, if there are people watching in the United States or anyone right now who personally wants to help, how could they do so through the Red Cross?

BUZARD:  Rachel, thanks for that opportunity.

You can go to or 1-800-RED-CROSS.  We appreciate your support and we will use it well.  That‘s a promise.  Thank you.

MADDOW:  Nan Buzard, senior director international response at the Red Cross—appreciate it.

One measure of America‘s power in the world, power broadly defined, is our capacity to respond to people in need during a crisis like the one happening in Haiti right now.  Next, Steve Clemons will join us to discuss America‘s non-military muscle at work.

Stay with us.


MADDOW:  A massive rescue and relief effort by the United States government is underway in Haiti tonight.  Ships, helicopters, transport planes and 2,000 Marines reportedly on their way to Haiti now or likely to head that way soon with another 3,500 U.S. troops on alert. 

The hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, which responded to Haiti two years ago after hurricanes hit Port-au-Prince, which you heard the Haitian ambassador mentioned by name just moments ago—that ship has been ordered to deploy to Haiti again by next week. 

The USS Carl Vinson is also set to arrive in Haiti tomorrow afternoon. 

Now the Vinson is a super carrier.  It‘s in effect an off-shore airport. 

It‘s the height of a 20-storey building.  It can accommodate 80 aircrafts.  It can produce hundreds of thousands of gallons of portable water every day. 

But the first American ship to arrive in Haiti got there early today.  It‘s a Coast Guard Cutter, which was assigned to provide air traffic control for military planes and helicopters flying into the airport. 

If you‘re wondering how and when this giant coordinated U.S.  mobilization was planned, well, here‘s a hunch.  Late last night, after this show was off the air, NBC‘s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, was on air here talking to David Shuster. 

She described U.S. government-wide conference calls that had already taken place, that were going on late into the night, and that were already further scheduled for early this morning. 

By 7:00 this morning, Eastern Time, Rajiv Shah, the administrator of USAID, President Obama‘s designated point man on the Haiti response, was listing concrete details of what exactly the American response would look like on television. 


DR. RAJIV SHAH, U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT:  We immediately activated a whole of government response.  We have stood up disaster assistance response team that will be going in today. 

We have two standing search and rescue teams with specialized technical capabilities and appropriate equipment to begin an aggressive search and rescue effort on the ground in Port-au-Prince, and we‘re working very closely with U.S. southern command to help make sure that we have the logistic support, the transport capacities, and other needed capabilities in order to put really the full force and capacity of the U.S. government to work on behalf of the Haitian people and on behalf of our U.S. citizens in Haiti right now. 


MADDOW:  That is Rajiv Shah, the brand-new administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, commonly called USAID.  His agency, USAID, is leading our government‘s relief effort for Haiti.  He‘s the go-to guy. 

Why do we care who‘s in charge of our Haiti response?  Well, because the way we as a country respond to international disasters is not just about the response itself, it‘s also about America‘s power in the world.  Not just our power over others, but our power to project what we want to get done out into the world. 

If you think about it, there are about, maybe, arguably, four major ways that America exerts power around the world.  One, leading by example.  Two, trade and economic leverage.  Three, people with guns and bombs, AKA, military force.  And four, a little shop of powers called the State Department, diplomacy, along with development and direct assistance to other countries. 

Development and direct assistance is what USAID does.  And when we‘re responding to a disaster like the one in Haiti right now, we use USAID and the military alongside one another. 

After the December 2003 earthquake in Iran, you might recall that USAID sent almost $9 million in aid.  Within days of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean region, more than 15,000 members of the U.S. military were in Southeast Asia to respond. 

After the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, the U.S. government supported 25 flights of relief supplies.  We spent six months working with U.N.  agencies and nongovernmental organizations on that recovery effort. 

But beyond the immediate ability to have an impact in Haiti now, it‘s also important to understand what USAID is up to because the idea of more diplomacy and development, more USAID-style power is a major part of the Obama administration‘s agenda, diplo-Obama-sy?  Remember? 

Putting someone as high profile and powerful and capable as Hillary Clinton in charge of the State Department, all of that, is central to what the Obama administration says it wants to do differently than what Bush and Cheney did. 

Here, for example, is what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to say, recently, about USAID. 


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  It‘s time for a new mindset, for a new century, and time to elevate development as a central pillar of all that we do in our foreign policy.  And it is past time to rebuild USAID into the world‘s premiere development agency. 


MADDOW:  That was Hillary Clinton speaking just last week.  Today, USAID in charge of our country‘s massive recovery and relief effort in Haiti. 

Not only is this us doing what we think is our obligation as a responsible partner in the community of nations, but in blunt terms, it often has good consequences for our country in terms of American power, our prestige, goodwill around the world. 

This is the kind of thing that transcends politics.  It is a way for us to directly help the citizens of another country, often in difficult parts of the world, and the interaction is not mediated by politics or by their government, really. 

I don‘t think we do it so that we will be better liked in the world, but that, fortunately, is often a side effect. 

Joining us now is Steve Clemons, director of foreign policy programs at the New America Foundation and publisher of the “Washington Note.” 

Steve, it‘s really good to have you on the show tonight.  Thank you for being here. 


MADDOW:  Is it inevitable that USAID would be the lead agency here? 

And how capable are they of doing what needs to be done? 

CLEMONS:  USAID is probably the most vital, under-resourced, and often-neglected institution in the international portfolio of the United States.  When a big natural disaster or we have foreign policy objectives that need USAID, they‘re there. 

But during times of calm, they‘re neglected and severely under-resourced, as I think they were under the Bush administration, and of course, they were a major target in the old days of Jesse Helms and Newt Gingrich and others who really didn‘t value this kind of international engagement. 

When you think back to Katrina and how badly we responded to our own domestic crises, you can see a real step up to both how we responded in the tsunami crisis in Southeast Asia a few years ago and now what we‘re seeing unfold today in Haiti, which is incredibly impressive. 

MADDOW:  Is there a connection between our domestic capacity for response, things like FEMA, things like we think about when we think about Katrina and what we‘re able to project internationally? 

Obviously, a lot of the same logistical capacities come into play, but it‘s got to be run through different parts of the government and it‘s got to be sort of a shared expertise.  It can‘t just be the same agency. 

CLEMONS:  Well, what USAID—I mean there are lots of different agencies that have different sort of roles and responsibilities.  But in the diplomatic international portfolio, USAID is an implementer, a doer, if you will, not a policy-making institution. 

But when you compare what they have as resources to what the Pentagon has, USAID is as important a coordinator, not only of what Pentagon resources, which are rather bloated and just out-resource every other operation in government, but there is relatively good coordinating between them. 

But they also coordinate with other governments around the world, as they‘re beginning to do in the Haiti case.  And I think this does translate into the kind of smart power, soft power that gets us real credits, as we saw—you know, after the tsunami, U.S. popularity in Asia skyrocketed after our very credible and competent response, helping the victims in the tsunami crisis. 

I suspect we may see the same kind of thing in Haiti, but I have to say that the systemic level of this impact on the country of Haiti may require an adoption of this problem that we—that‘s going to be pretty staggering. 

MADDOW:  In terms of the hemispheric relationship between us and Haiti, one of the things that has always been so remarkable about Haiti is that it stands alone in our half of the globe.  It stands alone in the western hemisphere in terms of its challenges with poverty and instability. 

You look at the table, the U.N. Human Development Index, and you look at that table, and there is really nobody other than East Timor and Afghanistan that is not an African country, that is ranked as low as Haiti is. 

As the dominant power in this hemisphere in the world, do we—are we seeing internationally as having a special responsibility to Haiti? 

CLEMONS:  I absolutely think we do.  I think it‘s beyond negligent, our dismissal and our distance from Haiti‘s problems.  We really need to get in and develop a serious approach to the Caribbean and Latin America as a whole. 

We saw some parts of this in Barack Obama‘s engagement in the Summit of the Americas earlier last year, but I don‘t think it‘s enough.  I think Latin America is still somewhat of an afterthought and Haiti is at the very lowest part of that list. 

The developing nation challenge around the world, whether it‘s in Africa, Southeast Asia, or right next to our border, is a national security problem that ought to be considered at a much higher level than we are considering it today. 

And I‘d only add that the numbers are—you know, somewhat staggering.  You know when you go into Afghanistan‘s region, we‘re about to spend more than $100 billion a year in security and defense and society building in Afghanistan, with a country with a GDP of $12 billion. 

Haiti is much lesser of a challenge.  It‘s not a financial jump for us to begin trying to figure out how we can move in and help animate (ph) some healthy civil society and economic reconstruction of that state.  And I believe we‘re beginning to get some of the resources in the government to do it. 

But again, we have a real imbalance between what the Pentagon gets versus these very vital institutions that we begin talking about after earthquakes or tsunamis, but not much when we don‘t have these problems. 

MADDOW:  And if the damage in Haiti is half of what we are able to see from the limited images that we have right now, there will be no debate about the need to quite literally reconstruct what it is, what Haiti is, as a nation, and as a capital in Port-au-Prince. 

Steve Clemons, director of foreign policy programs at the New America Foundation, publisher of the “Washington Note,” again, it‘s great to have you here.  Thank you, Steve. 

CLEMONS:  Thank you, Rachel. 

MADDOW:  So the power is out, the phone lines are down, and as we heard from Al Roker on this program earlier, cell phones are just barely starting to work again. 

How the tech fail in Haiti thus far is making things worse and what‘s being done to deal with it.  It‘s an interesting story, it‘s an interesting detail in this whole kerfuffle and it‘s part of the story that we‘re going to bring you next.  So please do stay with us. 


MADDOW:  The 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday destroyed lives and homes and infrastructure.  Because of that physical destruction, communication within Haiti and between Haiti and the world has been severely compromised. 

Technology now playing a key role in the rescue and recovery process.  Some Haitians, including the well-known Haitian radio and TV host, Carell Pedra, are twittering their whereabouts and theirs firsthand accounts of the disaster. 

A Facebook page called “Earthquake Haiti” has over 50,000 members, some of whom are using it to make specific requests for assistance.  A blog called “Haitifeed‘ is also hosting first-person accounts of the destruction. 

Well, all of these networking sites are helping Haitians speak to the outside world.  So far, there has been more trouble in helping Haitians communicate with each other.  And that‘s where mobile phones come in.  Those are essential because landline service in Haiti is not widespread. 

An Irish cell phone company called Digicel has pledged $5 million to earthquake relief, as well as attempts to—efforts to repair the wireless services in Haiti. 

One wireless company from Bellevue, Washington is playing a very hands-on roll in that regard.  They‘re called Trilogy International Partners.  They run a Haitian wireless phone operation.  It‘s called Voila.  Voila has over a million customers in Haiti and reports are that Voila, that network, was actually able to operate for several hours after the earthquake hit. 

The company then formed a special task force to check up on its 500 local employees in Haiti and assess damage.  According to its Web site, the company‘s buildings are in tact.  Members of the task force were on one of the first planes to touch down in Port-au-Prince this morning. 

And a more in-depth assessment will take place slowly over the next few days.  With the roads destroyed, the team, of course, can only travel by foot.  The main generator has been restarted for the company and they do expect to have the full system up and running again soon, which will be a blessing for all those who can use that network to communicate, not only with loved ones, but in terms of relief and rescue efforts. 

The State Department gave Trilogy an award for its work in Haiti earlier this year.  We‘ll keep you posted on the communications network in Haiti as we learn more.  There were some glimmers of hope even during this broadcast tonight as crew members on scene with Brian Williams and Al Roker at the Port-au-Prince airport started to get their cell service back on while we were conducting that live interview with our friends from NBC News. 

Stay with us.  Our coverage continues. 


MADDOW:  As powerful as the statistics and the scope of the disaster in Haiti are the individual stories of people in peril there.  The natural disaster in the words of the people who are experiencing it.  Coming up next. 


MADDOW:  Reports from our colleagues at NBC in Haiti tonight, that it will take a very long time, a period measured in generations perhaps to find out the human magnitude of the earthquake in Haiti.  To find out how many thousands of people have lost their lives. 

Millions more finding themselves homeless and displaced tonight, including the country‘s own president.  As the true extent of the devastation becomes clear, the stories of those that survived the earthquake and what they saw become all the more harrowing. 

Here are some of those survivors in their own words. 


FRANK THORP JR., WIFE RESCUED FROM RUBBLE:  We were walking around about 100 miles north of Port-au-Prince, and we felt the earthquake but it was just a small earthquake up there.  But we heard a rumor that it had hit Port-au-Prince really hard, so we came here as soon as we could. 

When we got here, and Jillian, my wife and also one other person were trapped.  There was staff that works here, Haitian staff, and they had already started to—they dug a hole through the concrete ceiling of this house where they were caught.  And we went in, and I pulled her out, and it took us—it took them hours and hours.  She was in there for 10 hours.  It was an extremely emotional time. 

Jillian is doing OK, she has some major bruises and she‘s having a hard time walking.  There was another person trapped with her who we think broke his leg.  And there is another staff member here who we think actually—she actually lost both of her legs. 

There are dead people.  There are people dying on the streets.  There are injured on the streets.  There are so many people here that need help, and it‘s absolutely horrible. 

SUSAN WESTWOOD, PEDIATRIC NURSE AT AN ORPHANAGE:  Because the shaking was so violent, I actually fell to my kneed, and I had one baby in my arms at that time.  And I shielded her, and I shielded the closest baby, and he was on the floor.  And just fine.  And I just had to wait out. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We need more people down here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They‘re alive.  Three alive. 


compound which are located just a couple of miles from the palace and sort of the ground zero.  The entire neighborhood has been devastated.  It is absolute chaos. 

I didn‘t sleep last night, but I walked through the neighborhood and just down the street from where we are, a massive fire broke out in one of the homes that has been pretty much destroyed by the earthquake. 

And that there were thousands of people on the streets, and the wails and moaning and the crying of people who were desperate was overwhelming to be honest.  And I don‘t know how I got out of it alive.  But frankly, I watched the buildings pancake down, one on top of another, it was absolutely the most horrific thing I‘ve ever seen. 



MADDOW:  If you want to help with the relief effort in Haiti, there‘s one big way not to do that, unless you are part of an organized relief effort, do not personally race off to Haiti.  That is highly unlikely to help the situation good as your intention would surely be. 

Let‘s look at a way that you can help Haiti.  You can give money.  You can give to UNICEF by going to, the American Red Cross is at, or you can text the word “Haiti” to 90999.  That will donate $10 to the Red Cross for Haiti. 

The International Rescue Committee at the, you can donate to them as well by texting “Haiti” to 25383.  That will send $5.  Doctors without Borders is at  Americare is online at  Haitian musician Wyclef Jean‘s Yele Hait at  If you text Yele to 501501, that kicks in a fiver. 

These are just a few of the groups trying to help.  We‘ve posted a fuller list at 

Our coverage of Haiti is not over.  Keith‘s next.  We‘ll be back live at 11:00 Eastern.  That does it for us for now.  We‘re glad you joined us.  “COUNTDOWN” starts right now.  We‘ll see you in an hour. 



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