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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/30/12

Guests: Christine Quinn, Dawn Zimmer, Cory Booker

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. Take a look at this map. This is a time lapse map put together by "The New York Times." It starts at 4:00 a.m. yesterday morning. So, 4:00 a.m. It`s more than half the entire East Coast of the U.S., from Virginia all the way up to Maine. And the yellow dots on this map represent people without power. So, you see a little yellow dot here and there. This is at 4:00 a.m. yesterday morning. This is what happened next. Over the course of 24 hours, look at that. As Sandy battered the Eastern Seaboard 6 million electrical customers up and down the East Coast were left in pitch black. That`s swath of the eastern United States essentially, totally blacked out over the course of one day. And at this hour, more than 6 million electricity customers remain without power in the East. When they say this is the largest storm to have ever hit the East Coast of the United States, the word largest in that phrase actually just means the physical area that is covered by this storm, which you can see in the fact we had power outages from Virginia all the way up to Maine. But in terms of the direct hit of this storm, part of what makes this a storm of national significance is that when it came ashore, it hit the most populated place in our country. It`s not just New York-centric media dysmorphia. This is the most densely populated region of the country. New Jersey, which has taken just a huge part of the hit in this storm, New Jersey is the most densely populated state in America. New Jersey`s population is greater than the population of Maine, New Hampshire, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming combined. All in a state that`s significantly smaller than even just New Hampshire alone. The New York metropolitan area has a population of over 22 million people. When New York City evacuated just these areas in the five boroughs for this storm, the people who were subject to just that order, just the people who live in the red area as marked on this map, just those people, just that population, was larger than half the population of more than a handful of U.S. states. Just the population in that evacuation area is the population of the whole city of New Orleans. And as you can see, that is just a fraction of this densely populated area. And a lot of people remain in this densely-populated area living now under circumstances they have never lived in before. Tonight, rescue efforts here are ongoing in northern New Jersey. Several towns along the Hackensack River were inundated with water late last night when a tidal surge from the river overflowed its banks. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FEMALE REPORTER: Normally, the water rises up through the ground. But this time, they said it came down the streets and started pouring into their basements. First like a trickle and then as one little boy you`ll hear will describe, was like a waterfall. They said there was no place to run, no place to hide. They literally had 15 to 45 minutes depending on where you lived in this 1.7 square mile town to get out and most of them could not. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Most of them could not. We`re going to be getting a live report tonight from that area a little bit later on. You`re going to want to see that. That`s just in the couple of minutes. And just off the southern shore of Long Island, on the narrow barrier island that`s called Fire Island, more than 120 people are reportedly stranded tonight after refusing initial orders to evacuate. People who tried to ride out the storm in their homes and are now trapped. First responders flew helicopters over the island to find the best way to get people off of Fire Island. But tonight, there are still people reportedly trapped there. So, the rescues are still ongoing at this hour. Just a short time ago, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo spoke with NBC`s Brian Williams about the scale of the disaster that the city and the state are now facing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Last night, I`ll tell you the truth, it was frightening. Downtown Manhattan, we had the Hudson River came over the banks and was pouring into the Ground Zero site at such a volume that it was really frightening. This was all filled with water. What we`re looking at now, this goes back about five miles to the other end of the train track, which is in New Jersey. And we have to figure out how to pump out this water. BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Think of the three governors, Malloy in Connecticut, Christie in New Jersey, Cuomo in New York, rebuilding coastlines or talking about plans today. Are we the new Amsterdam? CUOMO: You know, I said kiddingly the other day, we have a 100-year flood now every two years. There`s a frequency to this. And this is really a new problem for New York state. We have not seen a flood like this, damage like this in our generation, period. People who are working the subway system and in the construction industry in the state have said they have never seen damage like this, period. So, it`s a new reality for us. And I think it`s one we`re going to have to deal with. And we`re not going to give up. We`re going to come back and we will. And this city will rebuild and the state will rebuild and I believe we will be the better for it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You can hear in that discussion that there are really three different time frames here. There`s the storm hitting, which is now done on the coast, which created an immediate crisis. The drama of which really cannot be overstated. Created heroic and hair-raising images like these ones of critical care patients being evacuated out of one of New York City`s major hospitals. Here`s the scene at another local hospital last night. This is a human chain of people passing containers of fuel up 13 flights of stairs in order to keep that hospital`s backup generator going. This was the scene last night and early this morning in a section of Queens in New York, flames as high as the eye can see, absolutely engulfing block and blocks and blocks worth of homes. So, that`s one timeframe, right? The storm and its immediate impact. And then there is the third timeframe: the long-term timeframe -- which New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is now talking about in a way that most other politicians have been unwilling to do at this point, even commentators have been unwilling to do it, which is to say that in the long run, there is a different future for a lot of America because of severe weather caused by climate change. Severe weather that cities have never had to deal with before or only had to deal with it very, very infrequently and who may have to now deal with it much more regularly. So, that`s the final time frame. There`s the immediate storm hitting and there`s the long-term framework. But there`s something in between: the second timeframe. We are in between those two things. After the immediate impact of the storm, there are some search and rescue efforts still ongoing. We`re going to hear about those a little later on in the show. But what we are in right now, between that disaster and the long-term planning for how to deal with the new reality of a climate-changed world, what we`re in right now is essentially a whole second disaster after the initial storm. A disaster that is not about the experience right now of wind and rain, but it`s the experience of a lot of people living in a metropolis of 8 million where hundreds of thousands of people have no power, many of them have no water and nobody has any idea when it`s coming back on board. Yesterday, it was the storm. Last night was the storm. And today is the start of a new disaster. It`s about this many Americans living in extreme conditions for a really indefinite period of time. During a stop at the Red Cross today in Washington, President Obama front paged this new challenge. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, we`re now moving into the recovery phase in a lot of the most severely-affected areas -- New Jersey, New York in particular have been pounded by this storm. This is mostly a local responsibility and the private utilities are going to have to lean forward, but we are doing everything we can to provide them additional resources so that we can expedite getting power up and running in many of these communities. There are places like Newark, New Jersey, for example, where you got 80 percent, 90 percent of the people without power. We can`t have a situation where that lasts for days on end. And so, my instructions to the federal agency has been, do not figure out why we can`t do something. I want you to figure out how we do something. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The president there referencing 80 percent to 90 percent of people in Newark, New Jersey without power. He said, we cannot have a situation where that lasts for days on end. That was the president this afternoon. We are getting new reports within the past hour that some of the president`s wish there may have come true. The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is going to be joining us later this hour on that subject. Places like Newark, New Jersey, though, and Jersey City, New Jersey, and Hoboken, places that are entering into uncharted territory -- I mean, not just flooding, but widespread if not complete power outages, in some cases moving into their second day and going on for we don`t know how long. There are whole coastal communities that have been inundated. There`s a whole coastal portion of Queens, New York, called Breezy Point that has been absolutely decimated by a massive fire, huge fire there last night that took more than 100 homes. There are places for which there is devastation, but there are also a lot of people who are in places in this most densely populated part of America, places that are still standing but who are now living in circumstances that would be challenging to anybody. That there`s something that we have not done as a country for a very long time in a population center as big as this. The number of people without power in New York City alone is greater than the entire state population of Vermont. We`re talking about within the city limits. And those hundreds of thousands of people live very, very close to each other. This sort of city environment only allows people to live that close to one another because of the intensively-used infrastructure. It`s infrastructure that allows this place to support this much life. That allows us to cram this many humans into this small a space. And here`s what some of that infrastructure looks like tonight. You`re looking -- yes, what you`re looking at here is a New York City subway station, which now looks like a dirty aquarium. New York City subway system is essentially the veins underneath the city that provide life. They are the essential infrastructure that allows the city to operate -- for the rich, the poor, and everybody in between. Right now, it`s swamped. You can`t even get down on to the subway platforms because the water is everywhere. Tonight, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been called in by New York City officials to help drain these subway tunnels -- a task that the Army Corps has never had to do before. The Manhattan borough president is calling this the biggest disaster in the 108-year history of this subway system. Before this disaster, the only place the Army Corps team, this Army Corps team had ever operated before was in New Orleans. But, tonight, they are on their way to New York City. This storm rolled through the most densely-populated place in America last night. Rescue efforts are still ongoing in this region today. In the long run, the city is thinking about how it can adapt to survive more extreme weather and more frequent extreme weather if our new world is going to keep being like this. But right now, New York City has the unprecedented challenge of getting three quarters of a million Americans through an extended period with no power, many of them with no water and also the project of protecting and recovering the aging and incredible infrastructure that makes this whole type of American life possible. Joining us now is New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Speaker Quinn toured the storm and fire damage in the Rockaway Peninsula. Speaker Quinn joins us by phone. Madam Speaker, thanks for joining us. CHRISTINE QUINN (D), NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL SPEAKER (via telephone): Thank you. MADDOW: What`s your assessment of the damage in the Rockaways and the Breezy Point area today which you were able to see? QUINN: Well, the Breezy Point area, the fire was just devastating. The picture -- the images remind you of the pictures you saw of World War II. I mean, homes just burnt to the foundation. Literally just a chimney standing in the midst of what had been over 110 homes. It was heartbreaking. As I was standing there, Senator Schumer and I were there, people were coming to the area to check to see if their home had made it. They were, you know, walking from the evacuated area to Breezy and you`d see some people with a degree of happiness on their face and other people just with unbelievable sadness because they saw that their home was one of the ones that had been burnt to the ground. You know, I have to tell you, Rachel, as sad as it was and just kind of almost apocalyptic the image was, one of the first things somebody said to me was, "Hey, Quinn, make sure I get my building permit." So although this is tragic, there is no minimizing that, there was a spirit there today that was truly a New York and really a Rockaway/Breezy Point spirit which was that they were going to get right back up on their feet and rebuild this community. MADDOW: Christine, did you see any ongoing rescue efforts while you were still there today? Are there any concerns that there are people still trapped in their homes, anywhere either out in the Rockaway peninsula or anywhere in the five boroughs? QUINN: In the Breezy area, we didn`t see any ongoing rescue when we were there. And amazingly no one was killed or seriously injured in that fire. Earlier in the day, Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Schumer and I did a larger helicopter tour over Brooklyn and parts of Queens. We did see a helicopter rescue happening then. That was around 12:30 or 1:00. MADDOW: OK. In terms of Lower Manhattan right now, obviously, you know the unprecedented nature of this large a power outage for this long a time -- QUINN: Yes, absolutely. MADDOW: -- in a densely-populated area of America, let alone the city. What can you tell us about your expectations for when power might get back on and if it`s going to be spotty or if it`s going to be the whole island of Manhattan coming back at once? QUINN: So, just so folks understand, basically Manhattan south of 31st Street is without power. Some parts of Manhattan were turned off in a preventive sense by Con Edison because they are fuelled by steam. The fear was that there would be flooding when the cold water hits the hot steam, the machines would be basically ruined. So some of the systems we powered down. There was also a Con Ed facility on 14th Street yesterday on Avenue A that flooded from the East River. That created a small explosion. Some power like the area I live in Chelsea is out because of the explosion. What was powered down will come back more quickly. Con Ed is still assessing the damage at the transformer that will relate to other parts. The third type of power outage is power that`s out because of trees being down and having pulled downpour lines. That`s more in the boroughs outside of Manhattan. As of early this morning at around 9:00, we had half a million, give or take, buildings out without power. A customer in New York is a building, so it`s not the same as a person, 500,000. People have begun and buildings have begun to get power back. We could be at 400,000 now. I don`t have an updated number. We will see rolling power come back on over the next few days and Con Ed is really working to get that done. It will not be, boom, everybody in all the boroughs back on. It will roll back on. MADDOW: How big a challenge in national terms do you think it`s going to be for New York to repair the infrastructure damage that was done by this storm? Somebody watching this show right now is sitting there in Wisconsin trying to get a handle around how big a national disaster this is. When you look at that subway damage, when you look at the power damage, when you look at the other kinds of infrastructure damage, how big a bill are we talking about here? QUINN: Well, it`s hard to know how big a bill. We`ll say since we saw the storm coming and planned extensively, it`s a lot less than it would have been. The decision to stop the subway from running gave us the ability to move all of the machinery out of the tunnel to higher ground. So the vast majority of the machinery was not damaged in the storm. That is an enormous, enormous difference. Powering down the steam facilities will save the vast majority of that equipment. Big difference than if we kept things returning running and had them get flooded. So that long term thinking, knowing that a bad storm was coming is going to save us not just money, but allow us to get back up and running much more quickly. MADDOW: New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, thank you for calling in tonight. I know you have a million things to do. Thank you for being with us. I appreciate it. QUINN: Take care. Bye-bye. Hearing her talk about the importance of knowing it was coming and knowing that -- how big it was going to be and so, therefore, taking advantage of that advanced warning to be able to power things down and that may be a multibillion-dollar savings, not to mention the savings of lots of lives for New York City. And you want to know that makes me happy about? That makes me happy about weather satellites and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the next time somebody tells you we shouldn`t invest in that or we should privatize that or whether satellites cost too much money in some sort of luxury, play this broadcast for them. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: A big disaster by definition always involves a ton of bad news. But tonight, there`s some unexpectedly good news, from a place that really needed it. The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Cory Booker, is going to join us live just ahead. Plus, news from the campaign that wasn`t supposed to be a campaign today. That`s all coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We just were given a look for the first time of the portions of the Jersey Shore by state police helicopter. Houses are moved off their foundations. There are houses in the middle of Route 35. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: When Sandy hits you, expect to see damage along the coast, as we have seen along the Jersey Shore. But the New Jersey towns of Little Ferry and Moonachie and Hackensack and South Hackensack are several miles inland. But at around 10:00 last night, the waters at the Hackensack River just came pouring, pouring into those towns. Joining us now from Little Fairy, New Jersey, is NBC News correspondent Katy Tur. Katy, thank you for joining us. Tell us -- tell us what happened when the water came in there. I gather it was very sudden and very scary. KATY TUR, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: It came in within 15 minutes. It was all of a sudden, like it is right now, probably less. There was no flooding and then six to 10 feet high in most of these areas. They were saying that Little Ferry was 80 percent under water. We do have a little bit of good news to report tonight, Rachel. The power is back on in parts of this town -- MADDOW: Wow. TUR: -- which is a shocking thing for everybody to see here. The street lights are on. Some houses have power. The majority of this town is empty. So far they rescued about 500 people from all these houses. They have started at daybreak this morning. The levee broke around midnight, but they started at daybreak this morning and so far have gotten 500 people out. We should show you the video. It`s dramatic. You see people leaving in rafts, leaving in canoes, leaving in boats, leaving in military vehicles. There are elderly people, there are children clinging to rescuers, cats and dogs, the water just didn`t discriminate. They literally left in pajamas in their bare feet grabbing whatever they could, and just getting out. That`s how quickly this water came in and that`s how dangerous it got. We`re told what happened was that a levee for the Hackensack River broke around midnight last night and that`s when all this water rushed in. People around here are used to flooding. This is a part of New Jersey that floods every year when there`s rain and the water tables to rise. They are used to it here. They could not have expected this. They were not told to evacuate. They were not told that they were in a flood-prone zone. This is not like the flooding that they`re used. Usually they see the water table rising a bit. This came in like a river all of a sudden on these streets. Good news is though the federal government had search and rescue crews on the ready in this part of New Jersey before the storm even hit. They were able to get here quick. National Guard was here. FEMA was here. They were all working with local authorities and they were able to do it smoothly. They stopped search and rescue efforts for tonight. They say they have gotten all of the elderly and handicap out of this area. They will do it if there are emergency situations. They are not entirely sure how many people are still left in these houses. We did speak with some people who said they were going to stay regardless. They didn`t feel like it was much of a threat. The high tide though comes in at midnight tonight and they are concerned about getting another four feet of water. Right now, it`s receded a lot since we`ve been here for the past few hours, the entire day mostly. We can show you what it looks like here and this is certainly what it looks like. You can hear the sounds of the activity here and the generators and the sirens every once in awhile. What we have a hard time conveying is what it smells like. There`s a lot of gasoline, there`s a lot of sewage. You just don`t want to imagine, Rachel, what`s in all this water right now. MADDOW: And everybody needs to be taking that high tide seriously. As we know that`s one of the things leaders are telling us right now is not to think this is necessarily done. Well, NBC News correspondent Katy Tur, out there right in the middle of it -- Katy, thank you. And stay safe tonight. Hang in there, man. Thanks. TUR: Thanks. MADDOW: Much of the damage from Sandy came from the water pushed on to land from the storm surge. The heavily-populated region here in New York City is just the center of it. New Jersey was hit by the storm surge. On the other side, to the East Coast, sorry, to the east -- along the Long Island sound, Connecticut is also dealing with storm surge and with widespread power outages. Four people were killed in the storm in the state of Connecticut. Roughly 600,000 electricity customers in Connecticut are doing without. Homes were destroyed. The city of New Haven, just that one city, is racing to clear 195 trees that fell on to city roadways in New Haven. The governor of Connecticut has reassured the public that help is on the way. Incidentally, he`s also reassured his public that next week`s big election will happen even if they have to count the ballots by hand. Joining us now is Dannel Malloy. He`s the governor of Connecticut. Governor Malloy, we know you`re very busy. We really appreciate your time tonight. GOV. DANNEL MALLOY (D), CONNECTICUT: It`s good to be with you, Rachel. You know, a couple things I want to say real quick. The president has done a magnificent job. My fellow governors in New Jersey and New York are doing great job. I used to be a prosecutor in New York City. I lived in Manhattan. My heart goes out to those folks. It`s a tough time in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. MADDOW: This is a tightly-knit area because of the mutual commuting routes between states, and because these are small states and tightly packed localities anyway. But I want to ask you, between Connecticut and New York and New Jersey, the federal government, and all these municipalities, how smoothly are things running in terms of coordination and in terms of whether you`re getting what you need in Connecticut? MALLOY: You know, we have all been on the phone with the president a couple times in the last few days. Efforts are coming our way from all kinds of federal agencies. States are learning to work a little closer together. You know, the number one rail line in America is actually Metro North through Connecticut into New York City. We sent a lot of people there. Interestingly enough, they sent a lot of people out our way to work. We got to get that system back up and running as quickly as possible. At least get people into Grand Central Station and let them figure out where they can from there. But, you know, this is the third time my state in one year`s period of time, actually one year and six weeks, this is the third time that we have been through this. We got banged up very badly a year ago with Irene, much worse than other states. Six weeks later, we had a winter storm that wiped us out. We actually had 1.1 million in our -- customers in our little state without power. Tonight, we have over 600,000 people without power. Some of our towns were affected by all three of those events and some of those towns had 97 percent people without power each and every time in the last year. We`re getting used to this right now. I think we`re actually becoming experts at it. MADDOW: In terms of the frequency of extreme weather, we have seen Governor Cuomo talking about that in terms of maybe this needing to be planned for as the new normal. Climate change and global warning is such politicized things, but if we`re seeing really frequent instances of things that are not supposed to happen but once in a century -- what do you have to do differently in terms of governance, in terms infrastructure investment that you wouldn`t have to do if you weren`t facing these frequent and continuing events? MALLOY: Number one, I have been talking about climate change since 1997. It`s happened. It`s alive and well in Connecticut. Number two, we have to raise a lot of infrastructure. That is literally lift it up off the ground. And we have to think of our cities very differently than we thought about in the past. You know, parking lots underneath -- I mean, the first four or eight stories of buildings being parking lots may not be the prettiest thing to look at, but better you lose a parking lot than a whole of bunch of apartments or a whole bunch of business units. We`re going to have to think about making our infrastructure more protectable. I mean, this thing in New York is absolutely the example. Our problems with Metro North are absolutely the example. So, we`re going to have to harden systems and spend money on those systems, even while we`re spending money to repair those systems. Now, of course, there`s a bigger question. In a country where people don`t like to talk about infrastructure investment, at least half the people in the country don`t like to talk about infrastructure investment, how are we going to get this thing done? We`re going to need leadership in this country that actually doesn`t talk about Europe or China as investment and awe and then not expect to repeat it here in the United States. We need to rebuild our infrastructure. We need to harden our infrastructure. We need to protect that infrastructure. And we need to do that not for ourselves, but for coming generations. Not to make judgments about whether we`re going to be able to compete with the rest of the world. It`s whether our children and grandchildren are going to be able to compete with the rest of the world. That was never a question for other American generations. All of a sudden, we`re questioning whether we should make those investments. At least some of us are. I`m not. MADDOW: Governor Dan Malloy of Connecticut, we know you are in the thick of it tonight, sir, and the next few days. Thank you for your time tonight. We appreciate it. MALLOY: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. I have a modest proposal. How about this? So, sometimes power goes out because of transformer explosions or because of inundations of water. More frequently, power goes out because a tree falls down on the power line. How about we do a big stimulus project for the country? A big infrastructure stimulus project wherein all of the places where the power went out because of hurricane Sandy, because of something else in the past year where the power went out because trees fell on the lines, trees are going to fall in the lines again, how about we have a big, nationally- funded investment in infrastructure to bury the power lines. How about that? Who would think that`s a bad idea? Just throwing it out there. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you want to understand the scale of devastation on the Eastern Seaboard, you might start in a place like Hoboken, New Jersey. Hoboken is just across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan, a short train ride away from Manhattan. It`s one of many, many places in New Jersey where people live and commute to New York City, or work right there in Hoboken. The city has about 50,000 people who live along a few dozen streets covering just about one square mile. It`s a lovely, small town kind of place. And now much of it is under water. Pushed by Sandy, the Hudson River flowed into Hoboken subway station and fill Hoboken streets. The city has banned driving and issued a curfew trying to keep people away from live power lines in the water. Thousands of people are without power, including city hall, where Hoboken officials are hunkered down with a generator answering questions from the stranded and from the weary and from people who are wanting to volunteer to help. Joining us now is Dawn Zimmer. She`s the mayor of Hoboken. Mayor Zimmer, thank you for making time for us at this difficult time. I appreciate it. MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER, HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Thank you for having me on. MADDOW: Can you tell us at this hour what`s the state of things in Hoboken? If you still got deep flooding, are you still doing rescues at this point? ZIMMER: Oh, yes, we still have severe flooding in the city of Hoboken. Probably half our city is flooded. We have probably 20,000 people that are still remain in their homes. And, you know, we`re trying to put together an evacuation plan and get the equipment here, trying to, you know, ask the National Guard to come in and help us and bring equipment that we absolutely need. The payloaders just aren`t doing it and we can`t get down the city streets and really concerned about the residents who are stranded in their homes now. We`ve had emergency situations and we can`t reach people. We are using P.A. systems, but their chargers and phones have run out. And so, just very concerned. MADDOW: Is it a matter of finding people who are stranded, or is the matter of -- the fact that you know where people are, but you physically can`t get to them because the equipment either doesn`t exist or it hasn`t gotten there yet? ZIMMER: Oh, we know where they are. They are in their buildings and half of Hoboken is literally flooded and under water. And so, yes, we don`t have the -- we have two payloaders and we`re going in when we get the calls and we`re trying to go in where we can to help people, but the payloader cannot -- we have small city streets and payloaders can`t fit down all the city streets and that`s the only vehicles we have to get down in the city streets. So we`re begging and pleading and trying to get the National Guard to get us the equipment to be able to get in those high level vehicles, (INAUDIBLE) they`re called, so that we can get down and either deliver more food to people if they need it or evacuate them if they need to be evacuated. It`s going to be another couple days. MADDOW: What response have you had from the National Guard and have you been told to expect equipment that hasn`t yet arrived? ZIMMER: Yes. We`ve been -- we`re hearing that some equipment is coming. We just received word tonight. So extremely hopeful it comes tonight or first thing tomorrow morning, so that we can get moving with making sure that people are OK, extremely concerned about our residents who are stranded in their buildings right now and can`t get to them. And -- (CROSSTALK) MADDOW: I`m sorry. I didn`t mean to interrupt. Go ahead, ma`am. ZIMMER: Yes, I`m just worried that we have live wires in the waters and the waters are completely contaminated and getting more contaminated. Every minute really, because there (INAUDIBLE) sewage was completed flooded out. So, it`s rain water mixed with sewage water. It`s becoming more sewage water. MADDOW: Just to be clear nationally, it needs to be underscored this is not a situation in the past where Hoboken went through something bad and you`re reflecting on it. This is ongoing in Hoboken. Just to be clear, Mayor Zimmer, how many people do you think are still stranded in Hoboken? ZIMMER: I`d say about 20,000 to 25,000 people are still stranded in Hoboken. MADDOW: Mayor Dawn Zimmer of Hoboken, New Jersey, thank you very much for helping us get the word out about your city and we will do what we can to try to connect you to the resources you need. And we hope you will keep us apprised. ZIMMER: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. I want to show you Newark, New Jersey. This was Newark, New Jersey, a city of 270,000 people. It`s never an easy place. But this was Newark after Sandy moved through -- Newark almost entirely without power. All those people with no ideas when elevators and refrigerators and traffic signals would work again. We don`t know what happens to a place like Newark if it stays unplugged for very long. But there it was, New Jersey`s largest city in near, total darkness. But then in what feels like an October miracle, they got the lights going again in much of Newark. Not all of it, but much of it. This is as of hours ago. Hoboken is still in the thick of it, but Newark appears to have made some progress. The head of the local electric company reportedly got a congratulatory call from President Obama himself. The quote you need to know is, "Great work, Ralph." The president said. And great work, Newark, New Jersey, in terms of making this much progress this fast. Joining us now is Cory Booker, my friend, and the mayor of Newark. Cory, is it true the lights are coming back on? MAYOR CORY BOOKER (D), NEWARK, NJ (via telephone): Yes, they are. We still have over 100,000 people without power, but we`re grateful that a large section of our city is starting to come online. As you said, it`s very, very dangerous to have senior citizens in high-rise buildings in need of medication and have devices that need electricity for their health. So we still have a lot of those situations. But, you know, understanding what`s going on in all of New Jersey, the devastation in the southern parts of our state, the challenges with my colleagues like Dawn, we feel grateful we`re slowly making progress here. MADDOW: As the very hands on leader for your city, Cory, what is your chief worry for your city right now? Obviously, you`ve got to get those 100,000 customers back online as well even as the rest of the city starts to come back, to get power back. But what are your main -- how would you rank your priorities right now for your city? BOOKER: Well, that is the number one. We`re literally triaging lack of power. We`re going to be doing some food deliveries to places that have high-need populations and so that`s the challenge. We`ll still have many places that will be out through the night. That will be our focus. But there`s also a lot of dangers. And dangers from those that are made by residents reacting to the situation whether it`s people using their stoves or candles to try to heat their apartments. Whether it`s the newly- energized wires that were dormant before and people learned they weren`t dangerous now become dangerous, active in pools of water. So the hazards are still there, and we are looking for portions of our population to understand that we`re still in a state of emergency and there are a lot of dangers. We don`t -- we`re asking people not to add to that. If they need help, call the emergency line. If they need help, it`s not an emergency, we have a great group of stalwart people that work through the night manning our nonemergency line. If you allow me, 973-733- 4311 for non-emergency and transportation. I`m doing my best out here to react as well to constituent concerns. MADDOW: Newark Mayor Cory Booker -- Cory, keep us apprised. I know that this is still an ongoing disaster in your city. Keep us apprised, man. Good luck. BOOKER: Thank you so much for your attention and focus on this, Rachel. All the best. MADDOW: Absolutely, absolutely. Tomorrow, President Obama and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey are expected to be in Newark. Obviously, that report from Hoboken mayor, from Dawn Zimmer is very distressing. The idea that there might be 25,000 people who haven`t been rescued because they are physically not accessible, that the vehicles have not made it to Hoboken to get those people out of where they need to be gotten out of. That`s very distressing news. But we`re going to have leadership country going to New Jersey tomorrow, at least for a photo-op. Hopefully that results in faster action in the city of Hoboken. All right. The storm which has made things so tough in the east today has provided a window into the leadership styles of the men who are competing to be president of the United States. Some news on that. It`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) Jonathan Chait writing at "New York" magazine today put it very well. And he said, "Disasters are inherently political because government is political. And preventing and responding to disasters is a primary role of the state." Right. And while a lot of politics have suddenly become irrelevant in the context of this crisis, it does seem important now that there`s stark contrast between the presidential candidates in terms of how they think a government should respond to a disaster. We know what President Obama`s stance is on the matter because we have been watching him act on it now in real time, in this crisis and in the other crises he has faced as president. His opponent, Governor Romney, has proposed a very different way for the nation to respond to disasters. He`s argued that he essentially doesn`t want a federal government role in disaster response. He made these remarks on the subject at a debate last year, saying not only should we get rid of federal disaster response but maybe it should just be taken over by private business. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Every time you have an occasion that takes something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that`s the right direction. And if you can go further and send it back to the private sector, that`s even better. Instead of thinking in the federal budget what we should cut, we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we`re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we`re doing that we don`t have to do? And those things we have to stop doing, because we`re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we`re taking in. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Including disaster relief, though. ROMNEY: We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It`s simply immoral in my view. For us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well we`ll be dead and gone before it`s paid off. It makes no sense at all. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was how he responded to a question about FEMA. That`s what he said about how he`d respond if he were elected president. What the federal government`s role should be. Now that we`re in the midst of a massive, multi-state natural disaster that is ongoing, which there`s a huge federal component to the response, there is a really pressing question to be asked, right? I mean, would a Romney presidency not have the federal government involved in this response? Would the Romney presidency not have the federal government do what they are doing right now in terms of its response to Sandy? Would a President Romney actually get rid of FEMA like he said would be the right to do? Just let the states handle it? You take care of it on your own, New Jersey. There`s no help for you. Is that what he means? Give it to business even if you could? Reporters who follow the Romney campaign tried to get the candidate to answer that question today many, many times. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Thanks for your help this morning. REPORTER: Governor, would you eliminate FEMA if you were president? Governor, what would you do with FEMA if you were president? Governor, what should FEMA`s role be? Governor, would you eliminate FEMA if you were president? REPORTER: Governor, would you do with FEMA? REPORTER: Governor, we`ve asked you what you do as president -- REPORTER: Governor Romney, would you to eliminate FEMA? REPORTER: Governor Romney, do you still think that FEMA funding should be sent back to the states? Governor Romney, do you think that FEMA`s funding should be sent back to the states? Hey, Governor do you think FEMA`s assistance should be sent back to the states? REPORTER: Governor, you`ve been asked 14 times today what you`d do with FEMA. What`s your response? Why won`t you answer any questions about it? REPORTER: How many times? REPORTER: I said 14 times. I don`t know if it was 14. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I don`t know if it was 14, we actually counted up as you saw there. It was 11 times -- at least in that one instance that Mr. Romney was asked. But here`s another instance of it. How would getting rid of federal disaster response help this country in a situation like we`re in right now? How seriously has Mr. Romney thought this through? Did he mean that debate response? Is that what we can expect from him as president? And can we expect an answer before we are expected to vote? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey, everyone out there wanting to help, we`ve got something for you. In this case "you" includes former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Please stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: The reason we`re here is because the Red Cross knows what it`s doing when it comes to emergency response. So for people all across the country who have not been affected, now is the time to show the kind of generosity that makes America the greatest nation on Earth and a good place to express their generosity is by contributing to the Red Cross. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama today addressing the nation from Red Cross headquarters, asking people to donate if they want to help with the response to hurricane Sandy. The president canceled all campaign events today and tomorrow. His opponent, Mitt Romney, said he was canceling all campaign events. But this one did stay on the schedule, Romney/Ryan victory rally. Dayton, Ohio, October 30th. This was the traveling press pass handed out for the Romney event today. It was tweeted out by reporter Ari Shapiro. The event had previously been planned as a campaign rally. They kept it in the same place as the rally. They kept the event at the same time as the rally. Mr. Romney appeared with the same celebrity endorsers who were scheduled for rally and led with the vote for Mitt Romney biographical video from the Republican convention that they play to start their campaign rallies. Because they wanted credit for canceling their rallies out of sensitivity to the people suffering from this storm, they went ahead with this one mostly as planned but said they did not want it to be described as a rally. Instead they wanted people to call it a storm relief event. They did ask people attending the rally to bring canned goods as storm relief, and Mr. Romney did a big ornate show of being seen to be handling canned goods which the campaign made a big show of saying would be donated to the Red Cross so they got the photo op they wanted. But as a presidential candidate, Mr. Romney`s photo op today also models for the nation what Mr. Romney believes to be the appropriate pay to help if you`re concerned about this giant disaster. And that`s the problem, because however well Mr. Romney`s piles of cans work for him as a photo op, that isn`t actually what the Red Cross wants or needs people to do to actually help. Look at the Red Cross Web site. Question, I would like to donate clothes, cars or other items to charity. Does the American Red Cross accept donated goods? Answer: Unfortunately due to logistical constraints, the Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items, items such as collected food, used clothing and shoes must be sorted, cleaned, repackaged, transported which impedes the valuable resources of money, time, and personnel. Financial contributions allow the Red Cross to purchase exactly what`s needed for a disaster relief operation. People have an instinct to gather up blankets, canned goods that may be of direct help. It`s an understandable and laudable instinct. And every once in a while, there`s a direct need for a specific physical need to be donated in which case relief organizations ask for that thing. But otherwise canned goods and other random supplies, however well meaning, mostly just give these organizations a whole new extra job they don`t want to be doing right now, the job of sorting through and storing random stuff they didn`t ask for. It`s a positive instinct that makes us want to give like canned food and groceries and it`s also true that those kinds of donations are generally not much of a help. One thing we need public leadership for is to bridge the gap between what feels good for us to do, what feels like helping and what actually does help. This is one of those things you need visible, competent, calm leadership for to say actually it`s coming from the right place but what the Red Cross needs from you, from all of us is not canned goods, it`s money. And here`s why. This is not a hypothetical thing. This is one of the things you`re supposed to do as a leader at a time of crisis. Right now, if you want to help, you can send money to the American Red Cross. Here`s how to do it. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS or go to their Web site to donate online or text the words Redcross to 90999 and that will make a $10 donation, 90999. They will thank you for it and you really will have done a great and useful thing. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END