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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 10/31/12

Guests: Frank Pallone, Ric Burns

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thanks, my friend. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. And happy Halloween. As you can tell, my Halloween costume this year is once again middle- aged lesbian pundit in cheap jacket. Boo. Because it is October 31st, in much of the country, kids are dressing up in costume and they`re trick or treating. For our producer Will Femia, tonight means indulging the frog prince who lives in his house who used to be his son, Elias. It is Halloween. It is Halloween wherever it can be Halloween. But this year, it is not Halloween because it cannot be Halloween ever. Governor Chris Christie today postponed Halloween by executive order for the whole state of New Jersey, the state hardest hit by superstorm Sandy. The governor announced that New Jersey this year will be moving Halloween to Monday, Monday, November 5th, in order to protect New Jersey`s young trick-or-treaters from floodwaters and live wires and downed trees. These crews were fixing fallen power lines in Toms River, New Jersey, today. Nearly 2 million households in New Jersey are still without electricity today, day three. For reference in terms of how much of the country that means, even if there were only one person in each of the New Jersey households without power, which isn`t true, there`s two, three, or four people in each of those households, even if it was just one, the number of households without power in New Jersey would mean that there are more people in day three now of no power in just New Jersey than the population of each of these states that is marked on the map. This is a huge number of Americans we are talking about here, and this is not over. This is not something that is done. It is not past tense. Widespread flooding is still present. And the National Guard today bringing food and supplies to Hoboken, New Jersey. He talked about Hoboken on last night`s show, the dire situation there. Hoboken is a little town that is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan. It is small, but it`s got 50,000 people in it. You can see Hoboken clearly from the west side of New York City. And as of last night, the mayor told us, there were as many as 20,000 people, of the population 50,000 people in the city, there were as many as 20,000 people still stranded in deep, impassable, and increasingly polluted floodwaters. The National Guard did get to some of those people, starting late last night and into today. We`re going to have more about that very dramatic situation in just a moment. The National Guard also arrived this morning in Moonachie, New Jersey, where the storm surge swamped the town very, very quickly. People in all sorts of housing in Moonachie were caught unaware and trapped, but particularly folks in mobile homes had a very difficult time there. Members of the National Guard also rushed to the assistance today of New York city` Bellevue hospital, which has been running on generators ever since the lower half of Manhattan lost power Monday night, when Sandy came ashore. Seventeen million gallons of water flooded Bellevue Hospital`s basement. After that shot we showed you last night of hospital employees making a human chain up the stairwell, a human chain to cover fuel to the backup generator up on the roof, 13 floors up. Well, today the National Guard used helicopters to fly fuel to the roof of the building. They also had individual soldiers today lugging fuel one canister at a time up those 13 flights of stairs. But it turned out even with those heroic and exhausting efforts, the damage was much worse than expected at Bellevue. And by lunchtime today, critical care patients, including kids, were being evacuated, one by one, to other hospitals. That effort, that evacuation at this hour is still ongoing. Today also afforded a clear and harrowing look at the aftermath of Monday night`s inferno in the New York City community of Breezy Point, Queens. That fire burned down 111 homes -- 111 houses -- as floodwaters kept firefighters out. A lot of firefighters live in Breezy Point. It is a community that lost a lot of first responders on 9/11, and now this. A series of natural gas fires also broke out early this morning in the New Jersey shore town of Mantoloking. Those gas lines burning there were from homes that were destroyed by the storm. Firefighters unable to reach the flames in this case because of debris from the storm blocking their path. This is what it looked like today across New Jersey and in a lot of towns that in some cases even did have electricity, long lines and gridlock extending from any gas stations that had both power and gas. Today, the U.S. Navy ordered three helicopter carrier ships to the New Jersey and New York coast. The USS Wasp, the USS Carter Hall, and the USS Mesa Verde will provide landing platforms to any Coast Guard or National Guard or civilian agency helicopters that are assisting in the relief efforts if need be. The New York Police Department today released this rather amazing video of helicopter search and rescue teams airlifting people to safety off of rooftops in the New York City borough of Staten Island. Staten Island`s death toll stands at 12, out of a growing national death toll of at least 64 Americans. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today was with President Obama at the site of today`s landfall in Atlantic City. They were on Marine One together, the president`s helicopter, touring some of the cities in ruin along the New Jersey shorelines. Both politicians, both leaders today going out of their way to emphasize that day three of this massive, multi-state, ongoing natural disaster is still no time for partisan politics. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I want to thank the president. We spent significant afternoon together, surveying the damage up and down the New Jersey coastline. We were on Marine One together, to be able to show the president that personally. We had an opportunity to discuss it at length. And then going over to the shelter here, be table to meet with folks and have them see the president and his concern and the concern all of us have for making sure that things get back to normal as quickly as possible. We have lots of challenges. Our challenge now is to get back to normalcy. So the things we need to do is to make sure we get power restored as quickly as possible, to make sure people have clean drinking waters and waste water treatment plants are working, hospitals are taken care of the way we need to and that we get kids back to school. And so I discussed all those issues today with the president, and I`m pleased to report that he has sprung into action immediately, to help get us those things, while we were in the car, riding together. So I want to thank him for that. He has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit. I think this is our sixth conversation since the weekend, and it`s been a great working relationship to make sure that we`re doing the jobs that people elected us to do. And I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state. And I heard it on the phone conversations with him, and I was able to witness it today personally. And so we`re going to continue to work. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are here for you. And we will not forget, we will follow up to make sure that you get all the help that you need, until you`ve rebuilt. At this point, our main focus is on the states of New Jersey, which got hit harder than anybody, the state of New York, particularly, Lower Manhattan and Long Island. We are very concerned about some situations in Connecticut, as well. And we`re still monitoring West Virginia, where there are heavy snows in some inaccessible areas. But for the most part, those four states are really bearing the brunt of this incredible storm. What we`ve been able to do is to preposition and stage commodities, water, power generators, ambulances in some cases, food, medical supplies, emergency supplies, and we have over 2,000 FEMA personnel that are on the ground right now. Their job, now that we`re moving out of the search and rescue phase, is to make sure that they are going out and talking to individual communities, so that people know exactly how they can get the help that they need. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone was with Governor Christie today before the governor then spent the rest of the day doing storm response with President Obama. Congressman Pallone is with us now. He represents New Jersey`s sixth congressional district, which, as you can see is a shoreline district, fronting both New York harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. Sir, thanks very much for your time. I know this is a difficult time. REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you. MADDOW: I know you`ve been all over your district in the past couple of days. What kind of damage are you seeing along the coast and in the cities of your district? PALLONE: It`s all kinds of damage. I mentioned Union Beach to you before. That`s a place where maybe three or four blocks from the bay, from the Raritan Bay, the storm surge came in and the waves were pounding on top of the houses. So, some house just washed away completely. Others were pounded to rubble. I had never seen anything like that before. There are other places like Highlands, New Jersey, where almost the entire town was underwater, maybe almost up to the second floor of the homes. And those homes really don`t seem to be habitable anymore. So you have towns that were wiped out. You have incredible -- I just came, I kind of apologize for being dressed this way, but I just came from Carteret, and I saw the natural gas explosion. We had a natural gas or a gas station explosion that wiped out five homes adjacent to each other. And I was talking to the people there, because as the storm surge came in, I guess it knocked off the boiler or the tank, and the gas exploded and the house went up in flames and four others houses adjacent there too went up in flames. So there are all kinds of things like that, Rachel. MADDOW: I don`t want to draw a comparison with hurricane Katrina. I want to use it as an analogy. But the analogy here that might be helpful is that when we think back to Katrina and what big impact that was on our country and that meant for us as a nation, we very rarely think about the wind and the rain that was the initial storm. We think about the aftermath. Right now, we are in the aftermath period of this superstorm Sandy. How do you feel in terms of dealing with the aftermath -- describing those explosions, these ongoing worries, before we get to rebuilding, rescuing people, taking care of continuing damage right now -- how would you assess the response and the coordination between the federal government, the state government, municipalities? How are we doing? PALLONE: I think we`re doing very well. I mean, you heard the president, and I have to say that I think his response has been terrific, really. And it`s been coordinated, unlike some of what happened in Katrina. MADDOW: Yes. PALLONE: And you heard, you know, Governor Christie, who`s a Republican, with President Obama, working together. And that`s how it`s been, from the president to the governor, all the way down to the county and the towns. So one of the things that I did today, in fact, I was just on the phone before I came in here, was talk to FEMA about trying to get an office and a staff person in various parts of the district that I viewed today, and they`re working on it. I also asked, with the money that comes to towns for recovery, like to rebuild their boardwalks or their municipal buildings if they`ve lost it or their streets, I think there`s a 25 percent state and local match. So we`ve asked and I believe the governor asked today that that be waived, because a lot of these towns are very small and they can`t afford that 25 percent match. So there`s just a lot of cooperation going on. It doesn`t seem like that was the case with Katrina. MADDOW: And when you`re making those calls, just to be clear, somebody`s answering your calls and you`re getting responses, you`re getting -- PALLONE: I literally called FEMA, when I walked into your -- into the NBC building here today, and within 10 minutes, they called me back. MADDOW: Congressman Frank Pallone represents New Jersey`s sixth congressional district. I know that you, sir, were personally evacuated and you`re back without power now. I know that your staff is dealing with that too. It doesn`t make this any easier. Good luck to you and stay in touch with us. PALLONE: Thank you very much. MADDOW: Thanks. All right. Again, for reference, this is Congressman Pallone`s congressional district. That includes -- do we have that map? There we go. This whole coastal region, you can see, his district is marked in red there, where we have seen some of the worst devastation from this crisis. Last night, live during this show, we had kind of a shocking moment in a live conversation with the mayor of one very, very hard-hit town. This is what happened on our air last night. This is Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer, on this show last night, at about 9:30 p.m. Eastern. Note the time. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAWN ZIMMER, MAYOR OF HOBOKEN, NJ (via telephone): Probably half our city is flooded. We have just probably about 20,000 people that are -- still remain in their homes. And, you know, we`re trying to put together an evacuation plan, get the equipment here, trying to ask the National Guard to come in and help us and bring the equipment that we absolutely need. And we`re begging and pleading and trying to get the National Guard to give us the equipment to be able to get in. MADDOW: Just to be clear, in terms of getting the word out nationally, and I think it needs to be underscored, that this is not a situation that`s in the past, where Hoboken went through something bad and you`re now 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. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So that was live on this show last night -- obviously, really alarming news. That directly across the Hudson River from New York City, 20,000 people were in need of rescue that night, right then. People in danger without the needed equipment or rescuers on scene to get to them. You could hear the upset and the determination in the mayor`s voice, that this needed a response. Now, not theoretically, but now, nearly half the population of that city stranded on the upper floors of their homes, many of them unable to get to safety through several feet of water that the mayor explained was mixed with sewage, increasingly, a sewage treatment plant on the edge of town not working and sewage backing up into that water, water that could also be in contact with exposed live power lines, that was at 9:30 p.m. on this show, the mayor sounding that alarm here. About an hour and a half later, at 11:01 p.m. last night, the city of Hoboken sent out this tweet. "The National Guard has arrived!" Specifically, the second battalion of the 13th Infantry, with 12 vehicles, able to make it through Hoboken`s narrow streets in deep flood waters to begin assessing the city`s needs. Their first priority was getting the most vulnerable people who were still strapped on to dry ground, and then figuring out who to help next. With daylight, another look at the devastation from the air revealed just how much there was to do, roughly half of that city still underwater. One stranded resident showing what that looked like from his doorstep. The National Guard spent today driving these high water vehicles through the flooded streets, rescuing stranded people. Yes, some people rescued with their pets, their very large pets, getting folks to friends or to emergency shelters that were set up in a couple of churches. Other stranded residents were able today to hitch rides out on boats. On the dry side of the city, neighbors were banding together. People who still had electricity created makeshift cell phone charging stations were their neighbors to use, while everyone still waits for the floodwaters to recede. This is ongoing. The mayor warns with only one working pump station and a few pumping trucks to drain an estimated 500 million gallons of water out of the streets of the city, the process is going to take a couple of days. Little Hoboken, on the bank of the Hudson River is still in bad shape, even now with the National Guard and FEMA on the scene, Mayor Dawn Zimmer is still calling for more help. Amazingly, no fatalities have been reported there so far. But this town shows that the storm was one crisis. The aftermath of the storm is another in the most densely populated area of the United States of America. We will keep you updated as we learn more. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It is six days to the election, with the biggest population center in the United States engulfed in the aftermath of an unprecedented natural disaster. What the two candidates for president did on this sixth day before the election is an important study in contrast. That`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Governor Christie, throughout this process, has been responsive. He`s been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm, and I think the people of New Jersey recognized that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people in New Jersey bounce back, even stronger than before. So I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama spent part of the day today in coastal New Jersey, along with New Jersey`s Republican Governor Chris Christie. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: He has worked incredibly closely with me, since before the storm hit. I think this is our sixth conversation, since the weekend. And it`s been a great working relationship, to make sure that we`re doing the jobs that people elected us to do. And I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know, you would expect in a disaster this big that a president would be standing alongside and directing storm response with the governor from the state most affected by the disaster. I mean, generically speaking, this sort of appearance is not a remarkable concept. This thing becomes remarkable, though, to see President Obama and Chris Christie standing together and praising one another and talking about the ways they are working together, and to see their coordinated state and federal efforts to respond to this disaster as governor and president. This sort of thing becomes remarkable today, only because President Obama is a Democrat and Chris Christie is a Republican, and Chris Christie specifically is a Republican who has been a very caustic partisan critic of President Obama, in his role as a campaign surrogate for Mitt Romney, who President Obama is running against, in a presidential election that ends in six days. Mitt Romney and that campaign today, that campaign that Chris Christie has been supporting, they made a somewhat remarkable decision to go ahead and keep campaigning, today, to get back on the campaign trail and start doing partisan campaign rallies again, even while the president was still suspending his own schedule, so he could respond to the storm. So what we saw today, in split screen, was President Obama departing the White House en route to storm-ravaged New Jersey, after he stopped in at FEMA headquarters, and at the same time, Mitt Romney in full-on campaign mode in Tampa, Florida. And then it was President Obama touring coastal New Jersey and comforting victims of hurricane Sandy, while Mitt Romney was holding what he called a big victory rally outside Miami. And while the Romney campaign made sure to have their most telegenic staffers say on camera today that they were going to avoid any partisan commentary today out of respect for the storm victims, they said they were going to avoid any partisan attacks on President Obama on this very serious day, they said they would do that, but they apparently really did not mean it, because at a rally in Wisconsin today, they had the Republican Party chairman talking about how America needs to fire Barack Obama, and saying that the battle to defeat President Obama is a battle for this country`s freedom. At a rally with Mitt Romney in Florida today, they had that state`s former Republican governor, Jeb Bush, talking about President Obama as a failure, his failure to bring this country together. At the same event, they had a Republican state congressman tell parents that they should threaten to take Halloween candy away from any children of Obama supporters that they know tonight. He suggested it. I think the idea was he said that Obama is a redistributionist, and so you can scare kids and their Obama-supporting parents about redistribution if you steal the kids` candy. That was the tenor of the Romney campaign today. Even as they told the press corps that they were going to be very respectful and nonpartisan and refrain from attacking the president today. It was just a remarkable, remarkable day -- a remarkable decision. I mean, President Obama is expected to restart his campaign schedule tomorrow. But Mr. Romney did not want to wait for that. He started his campaign events today. I`m sorry, are you stuck doing something else? I`ll take advantage of that? I`ll get back on the campaign trail, I`m heading to Florida. Apparently, you`re otherwise occupied. Well, I`m not. It`s remarkable. It is a remarkable decision to restart his campaign today. But honestly, it is also remarkable that Mr. Romney never really stopped campaigning in the first place. We reported yesterday on this event that Mr. Romney held in Dayton, Ohio, yesterday afternoon. It was the event that had previously been billed as a victory rally in Dayton. With the entire country riveted to this natural disaster in the east and president off the campaign trail entirely to deal with the crisis, the Romney campaign realized it would be coarse to keep campaigning. The campaign`s communications director put out a statement on Monday saying that the Romney campaign was going to be canceling all campaign events, quote, "out of sensitivity to the millions of Americans in the path of hurricane Sandy." See, they realized like they had to seem like they were being sensitive to the crisis. But they really, really wanted to hold that rally in Dayton. So what do you do? How do you promise to cancel your political rallies in order to seem sensitive, but then hold your rallies anyway? Well, in the case of Dayton yesterday, and Mitt Romney, they held the same event, at the same time, in the same venue, with the same celebrities, and they showed the same vote for Mitt Romney campaign video from the Republican convention, but they just changed the name of the event. They called it a storm relief event, instead of calling it a victory rally. The one thing they changed materially about the campaign rally in order to make people call it a storm relief event is that they asked people to bring canned goods and groceries as donations to the Red Cross. One of the problems with this, as we talked about on last night`s show, is that that`s not actually the right way to donate to the Red Cross. I mean, the desire to give groceries and canned goods at the time of a natural disaster comes from the right place, it is a nice impulse, but unless you`re specifically requested by relief agencies or public officials to do that, donating canned goods and groceries is just not logistically helpful, especially on a large scale and from across country, especially if you are a presidential candidate getting national press, implicitly telling the whole country that this is the way to help, this is what everybody ought to be doing. I`m not just giving you my opinion on this. This is explicitly what the Red Cross says about donations on their Web site. They make clear, under their frequently asked questions on their Web site, that while they are grateful for any kind of thing people want to help, they don`t actually accept in-kind donations like that. It just gives a ton of extra work to do, sorting through all your old cans and groceries and stuff, when they really want to be helping people. The way that you actually can help them is to donate blood or donate money. Of course, having Mitt Romney do a photo op where people handed him money, people handed him checks probably would not make as good a photo op as people handing him bags of cans. So the Romney campaign set up a photo op where people could hand him bags of cans. "BuzzFeed" reporter McKay Coppins was at that event and added some important detail today to how it all went down. Amazing story. Apparently, the campaign was worried that people would not bring enough canned and stuff to donate, and that would mss up their planned photo op of Mitt Romney carrying canned goods. So, quoting "BuzzFeed, "The night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Walmart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned foods, and diapers. As supporters lined up to greet the candidate, a young volunteer in the Romney/Ryan t-shirt stood, his hands cupped around his mouth shouting, `You need a donation to get in line.` Empty-handed supporters pled for entrance, with one woman asking, `What if we dropped our donations off up front?` The volunteer gestured toward a pile of groceries conveniently stacked near the candidate and said, `Just grab something.` Two teenage boys retrieved a jar of peanut butter each, and got in line, when it was their turn, they handed their, quote, `donations,` to Mr. Romney. He took them, smiled, and offered an earnest, `Thank you.`" Just to be clear, the Romney campaign held their campaign rally, they called it a storm relief event, they bought donations for the Red Cross, and then they handed those donations to their own supporters in order to photograph them handing them back to Mitt Romney, so it would look like he inspired generous donations from those people that he actually did not inspire. And if they had bothered to check with the Red Cross, the Red Cross actually don`t want. And they certainly don`t want it modeled as national behavior as for what the Red Cross wants. Again, the Red Cross, for the record, does not want your cans, they want your money and your blood donation, if you do actually want to help. I don`t know what it looks like in a photo op, but you can text the word "Red Cross" to 90999. That will give a $10 to the Red Cross that you will see appear on your phone bill. You can do that right now as you are watching this show. Text "90999", the word "Red Cross," and it will be $10 donation. That actually will help. You can also go to and donate through their Web site. And you can donate blood at a blood drive in your local hometown. You can check out with your local Red Cross office about donating blood. This is a real disaster. This is not a plot in a sitcom about how to run for president. This is a real disaster, an ongoing one, affecting millions of Americans. And real help really is needed. And that is not the same thing as using the suffering of millions of Americans as an occasion to accrue political capital for yourself by trying to create the appearance that you are helping when you are not bothering to actually try to really help. That is something very different. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is quite a time for the country, as you know. We`re going through trauma in a major part of the country. The kind of trauma you`ve experienced here in Florida more than once. And it`s interesting to see how people come together, in a circumstance like this. Now, people coming together, is also what`s going to happen, I believe, on November 7th. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Pretty much equivalent. Helping people who are suffering with their lives in danger because our fellow Americans have been affected by a gigantic, national disaster in our biggest population center is pretty much the same thing as helping Mitt Romney get elected! Pretty much the same thing, right? We all come together. Right? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Forgive my jeans. All of us who work in the show, including me, are living out of a suitcase. Sorry, I forgot. Anyway. All right. These are some of the largest cities in America, by population. Some of the largest metropolitan areas in America. There`s the New York metro area, of course, with a combined population of 19 million people, larger than the population of all but four states in our country. Then there`s the Los Angeles metro, with almost 13 million people. There is Miami, Florida. There`s Boston, Massachusetts. There`s the San Francisco Bay Area. There is Seattle, up in Washington state. There`s San Diego. There`s Tampa, Florida, in the St. Petersburg area. There`s Baltimore, Maryland. There`s the Virginia Beach area, that metro area including Norfolk. There is Jacksonville, Florida. And, of course, there is New Orleans. So pop quiz. What do all of these large American cities have in common? You can cheat by looking at this map. What do all of these large American population centers have in common? The answer is that all of these major American cities are right on the edge of America, right on the coastal edge, up next to the sea. Now, you could also add even some more major cities to this list if you wanted to. Places like Philadelphia or Washington, D.C. or Houston or Providence, Rhode Island. Those are all sort of coastal cities, too, in the sense that they are near the coast and they`re on waterways. Just for the sake of argument, let`s not even include those. Let`s just be narrowly focused here, talking narrowly about big populous metropolitan areas that are right up against the sea. If you add up the population of these cities on America`s coastal edges, the population of just this America is more than 63 million people. That means more than one in five Americans, that means roughly one in five Americans, one out of every five people who can call themselves Americans, lives in a metropolitan area that is right, directly on the coast -- a population roughly equivalent to all the people who voted either for John McCain or Barack Obama in 2008. One entire side of the voting population in this upcoming election is the portion of our country that lives on the edge. As we continue to cope with and rescue people from and now recover bodies from, the impact of this one storm on the most populated part of America`s coastline today, the governor of New York state has been again and again trying to draw people`s attention to this not being just one event, but a challenge for the whole country that events like this might now be happening with increased frequency. Not just in New York, but in all of these heavily populated places, that before now had a fairly predictable relationship with the body of water, with the ocean, that they abut. What is that predictability? That balanced and expectation, developed over the past couple of centuries, and these cities on the water is now over. Mostly this gets talked about in terms of the people denying that climate change is a real thing, and big talk about whether we should try to stop climate change and global warming. But whether or not that political debate ever gets resolved in the political arena, it maybe getting resolved otherwise, as officials responsible for the 60 million Americans who live on the edge of our country are just starting a practical discussion about there being a change in the frequency of extreme weather. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: Climate change is, climate change is a controversial subject, right? People will debate whether or not there is climate change, whether or not it`s a cycle, whether it`s global warming. That`s a whole political debate that I don`t want to get into. I want to talk about the frequency of extreme weather situations, which is not political. The frequency of extreme weather situations is way up, right? We just went through hurricane Irene, just over a year ago. And there`s only so long you can say, well, this is once in a lifetime, and it will never happen again. And then it happens again. And then we say, this is once in a lifetime, now, really for sure, it`s not going to happen again, then it happens again. I joke that we, every two years, we have a 100-year flood. I believe it is going to happen again. I pray that it`s not, I believe that it is. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Because of this storm, we are experiencing a particularly nonpartisan moment in American politics. You`ve got the president touring the disaster site today with the Republican governor, who previously had nothing nice to say about the president. But today they are obviously working together and working together well. There is answer expectation that people will put political fights aside for practical problem solving at times like this in our country. What that means, in nuts and bolts, in specifics, is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN, NY SENATOR 1977-2001: New York is the finest harbor in the Atlantic Ocean. Just start there. It`s just not harbor, but it`s so much more. It`s an entrance into North America. KENNETH T. JACKSON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY HISTORIAN: New York cannot be understood aside from this geography. Indeed, no city could, be New York more so that almost any city in the world, because here you have what`s really a natural location for a great city. It`s probably one of the three greatest harbors in the world. And what`s key is that at the very heart of New York is an island, Manhattan, so that the Indians, who were not in most places in the United States, in the early 17th century, were on the island of Manhattan, because it was a natural location for a great city. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s a clip from the beginning of the definitive documentary about New York City, Ric Burns` "New York: A Documentary Film". As a natural location for a city, New York was sociologically and politically shaped by countless waves of new immigrants. But fundamentally, New York has always been a city shaped by water. The long, skinny island of Manhattan at its heart, Brooklyn and Queens to the east, on Long Island, the borough Staten Island five miles south of Manhattan. And the Bronx, which is the only part of New York City on the American mainland, itself surrounded by water on three sides. If this week`s megastorm is not just a once in a lifetime event, but a once every few years event, as New York`s Governor Andrew Cuomo is now arguing, then the whole country is faced with the question of how our largest American city, our biggest population center, our economic capital as a nation will defend itself. It`s a city built on water. What happens when our relationship with that water changes fundamentally? Joining us now is documentary filmmaker, Ric Burns. Mr. Burns, thank you very much for being here. So happy you could come. RIC BURNS, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Pleased to be here, Rachel. MADDOW: New York City became an industrial center and became what it is, in large part because of its natural geography. Do you think New York City is prepared to face a changing environment? BURNS: You know, I think, arguably, it`s a hard question to answer, but I think arguably more than any other place in the country, I mean, New York geography has been destiny for New York, but I think indeed more so for here. I think we`re moving now into a new phase of its history. We have been for some time, but I think that Sandy underscores it really, really dramatically. With San Francisco and Hong Kong, one of the three greatest deepwater ports in the world, that`s why New York became New York, a thousand ships. The Dutch could see it in the 17th century, could ride and anchor in New York harbor. New Yorkers had an extraordinary ability to leverage from the start, that geography. So I`m not content with the geography which nature had given them in the early 19th century under DeWitt Clinton. They went out and built the Erie Canal, a 363-mile ditch that connected New York harbor via the Hudson River and the Great Lakes, the hinterlands of America. So not only do they have the greatest natural port in the western hemisphere, everything grown, mined, harvested, now had to come down right by the battery that was flooded three days ago. I think the first age of New York was the New York that the harbor provided and the second age of New York was the New York that the Erie Canal created and really created the city you and I are speaking in this evening. I think we`re right now in the cusp in the third age of New York. Geography is twice worked fantastically to New York`s advantage. Now this is kind of a blowback taking place. But I think that New York has always been pioneering, because of these extraordinary geographical advantages and the surge of population and commerce has taken place here, it`s been on the forefront of new things, new people, new ideas, new products, new markets. But it`s also been on the forefront since the beginning of new problems. It has sort of pioneered new urban problems, new ways of crowding people together in tenements, new ways of not having water for people, not being able to provide them with jobs. So what`s that meant is from the start, New York has always been pioneering new solutions, not because New Yorkers are better, but because, quite often, they just got there first. We`re the Petri dish. MADDOW: This is most of why I wanted to talk to you, because I felt like what`s happening here, and this came up with New Orleans in a different way, in terms of talking about Katrina. But what`s happening here is that, as a country, we are realizing that we have a problem that our politics is not up to at the national level. But so much of what is right about public policy, especially that affects geographic areas, that affects big swaths of our country in terms of the land is innovated by people who are forced there, despite politics. BURNS: That`s absolutely right. It`s not a Democrat, it`s not a Republican thing. MADDOW: Right. BURNS: It`s circumstances, partly sort of by dent of geography, and partly human made. I mean, we caused these problems. You know, in the case of New York, it has constantly trying to find out new ways to connect itself to itself. So it builds a subway system, it finds new ways to shelter its infrastructure from storms. Blizzard of 1988 comes -- all of New York`s telegraph and brand-new telephone are aboveground and you see those photographs in late 1880s. Where do they go? Underground. And at the very same time, New Yorkers became aware that you couldn`t have public transportation all aboveground. It was too in jeopardy by the weather. What do they build? A subway system. Well, as of 1904, here we are, a little more than a century later, dealing with a new set of problems, caused very much by the culture that New York`s in the vanguard of. A fantastically successful commercial culture, which now has the ability to reach out and not just build an Erie Canal, it can reach out and change the climate of the entire globe? So, what are you going to do in that situation? You`re going to have to find new, non-ideological, nonpolitical ways to find new mechanisms, structural, infrastructural, to deal with the consequences of your collective behavior. Here`s the thing. Those kind of solutions cannot be privatized. That`s what we know. They are, by definition, public and collected problems, and the solutions need to come publicly and collectively. And New York has, again, not because New Yorkers are better, but just because the problems have come so fast and thick here, has more experience with dealing with those kind of large, macro problems, when they`re generated by human beings. And therefore, I feel, at the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, I feel that the great silver lining of this immense storm system is going to be that it happened here, and New Yorkers are used to thinking outside their own box, to creating not just a Manhattan, but a greater New York, that`s five boroughs wide, and then creating the first kind of like, you know, megalopolis, stretching up and down the East Coast. Now they`re having to think, we`re going to have to think, collectively, as a city, as a state, as a nation, of how we invent infrastructure to deal with the consequences of our own prosperity. MADDOW: Rooting this challenge and what we`re going through right now in the historical, can-do public capacity of New York is for me, very grounding and very helpful, and it`s why I wanted to talk to you tonight. Ric Burns, currently working on an update to "New York: A Documentary Film." Episode nine is going to air in early 2014. BURNS: Yes, that`s exactly right. MADDOW: Ric Burns, it`s great to have you here. Thank you so much. BURNS: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, campaign news ahead. Ohio, that thing that just whizzed by your ear, that was any sense of restraint flying by you and out the window. That story`s ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. We do have one other important news story tonight from the world of politics to report in just a moment but I do want to show you something first. So there`s this blackout zone covering a huge portion of America`s largest city right now. Almost all of lower Manhattan in New York City without power for two full days now and counting. If you have ever looked at the Manhattan skyline at night, it`s always studded with light. Right? Like the Empire State Building in all her glory earlier tonight. But if you pan from north to south, suddenly it seems as if the video has gone black. Look at this. Oh. This was shot this evening by an NBC cameraman standing on a rooftop on the demarcation line between the half of the island that has power and the half of it that does not. Here`s what the Manhattan Bridge connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn looks like right now. Most if not all of Brooklyn did not lose power. So the Brooklyn half of the bridge is illuminated. And then slam, the Manhattan side is not. Frank Sinatra never sang any songs about a New York City that looks like this. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You want to see new storm footage? Look at this. You can see the water rushing in, the streets are flooding. If I asked you where this footage was taken, where would you say? The Jersey shore? Connecticut? No, actually, this is Cleveland, Ohio, 500 miles from the Atlantic coast. This was shot yesterday. Sandy knocked out power for a quarter million people in and around Cleveland for three days at least. Sandy`s having a real local impact on Ohio residents` lives. But Sandy`s march through Ohio also has a national impact because Ohio, of course, is the most crucial of all the swing states. Ohio, for example, is big on early voting. They camp out for it there. As Sandy approached, Ohio counties reported even heavier than usual early voting, with people rushing to cast their ballots ahead of the storm. Lots of things are amazing about Ohio`s politics, but frankly, what I find most amazing in Ohio this year is the way the Romney campaign is choosing to close out their campaign there. Remember when Mr. Romney campaigned on that flat out lie that President Obama`s getting rid of a work requirement for welfare, even though President Obama did no such thing? Well, now Mr. Romney is back with a new ad in Ohio with that same old lie about welfare. They brought it back for the end of the campaign. Romney campaign sent Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota to Ohio to tell voters there that Mitt Romney had no intention of overturning Roe versus Wade, even though Mitt Romney himself says he would do everything he could to overturn Roe versus Wade. He said if that happened be he would be delighted to sign a bill banning all abortion at the federal level. Last week in Ohio, Mr. Romney made a mistake, an out and out gaffe. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep -- now owned by the Italians -- is thinking of moving all production to China. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not true. Totally false. Jeep is not doing that. The day Mitt Romney told that made-up horror story to Ohio voters, Chrysler had already announced that actually they were expanding in Ohio and in Michigan. They weren`t pulling out. Mitt Romney responded to the instant fact checking not by taking it back but by turning that lie into a new ad for Ohio. And then he bought extra air time for it in Toledo, where Ohio workers make Jeeps and where being told falsely that your job`s being shipped to China might be personally terrifying news. Chrysler tried again to set Mr. Romney straight on this saying, quote, "Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China." Did Mr. Romney take it back? No. He turned it into another ad, a radio ad, again for Ohio. And he expanded it to say the entire auto bailout has been a huge failure. That drew another company into the fact check, G.M., which had been saved of course by the auto bailout. A G.M. spokesman telling the press, "We`ve clearly entered some parallel universe." Also from G.M., "At this stage we`re looking at Hubble telescope-like distances between campaign ads and reality." But here`s the thing. It is one thing to lie about your record or even your opponent`s record. But what Mr. Romney has done here is to lie about a third party, in that third party`s backyard. And you can tell that Mr. Romney`s Ohio lie about Jeep is not going to work in Ohio in part because Ohio voters follow the car industry like it`s the local football team. The Romney campaign`s running these ads in Youngstown, for example. Take a look at the "Youngstown Vindicator." The kind of reporting they were doing back in July on a local plant. "I think part of this relates to our focus on quality and making sure parts are right so we don`t pass problems further up the line," said somebody`s cousin. Here`s the Youngstown paper in August on a plant expanding. Quote, "Good news would be welcomed at the plant where recent months have seen rumors of production cuts and whether plant`s third shift was in peril." Call Aunt Nelly and tell her we`re going to be fine. I mean, when G.M. workers get transferred or welcome back, it`s hometown news in Ohio. It`s your sister-in-law, it`s your dad, this is you, right? Look at this in the "Toledo Blade". The most read story today in "The Blade". In this town where Mitt Romney is running his made-up story about Chrysler and Jeep. Number one, "Marchionne refutes Romney`s statement." Would you know who this unidentified Marchionne is enough to make this the most popular story in your paper? "The Toledo Blade" audience knows who this is. When Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne again says they`re not moving jobs to China, that is big town hometown paper news. And when you as a candidate lie to the hometown crowd about the hometown news, you cannot expect that lie to float. And it is not floating. The "Columbus Dispatch" fact check says, "Oh, boy." Cleveland Plain Dealer`s editorial says, quote, "Flailing in Ohio, Romney rolls out Jeep ploy." Say what you want about Mr. Romney`s overall relationship with the truth throughout this campaign, say he`s prone to gaffes or misstatements, call them fibs, call them lies. Now that he is finishing his campaign in Ohio with a lie about Ohio that Ohio knows is a lie, you can just call this one a mistake. 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