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Give ‘em Hell, CNN

Last night CNN’s Anderson Cooper grilled Senator Mary Landrieu on 360–essentially calling ‘bullshit’ on her empty words and politico-speak:

LANDRIEU: Anderson, tonight, I don’t know if you’ve heard — maybe you all have announced it — but Congress is going to an unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA and the Red Cross up and operating.

COOPER: Excuse me, Senator, I’m sorry for interrupting. I haven’t heard that, because, for the last four days, I’ve been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated.

And when they hear politicians slap — you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there’s not enough facilities to take her up.

The full transcript is even more heated. One emailer to TVNewser hinted that Cooper’s grilling might be a new editorial direction for the network–that perhaps the staff has decided, after four days of the reporters knowing more than the officials and seeing so many people without help, they’ve decided to step back and call for more to be done.

If Cooper’s grilling was the opening salvo, this morning’s Soledad O’Brien interview with FEMA Director Michael Brown was the first offensive.

Soledad, after hearing the complaints of the New Orleans mayor, ripped into Brown, asking how it was that CNN knew more than FEMA did. The exchange ended like this:

S. O’BRIEN: Do you look at the pictures that are coming out of New Orleans? New Orleans? And do you say, I’m proud of the job that FEMA is doing on the ground there in a tough situation?

BROWN: Soledad…

S. O’BRIEN: Or do you look at these pictures and you say, this is a mess and we’ve dropped the ball; we didn’t do what we should of

BROWN: Soledad, I look at these pictures and my heart breaks. My heart breaks just like the rest of the country’s heart breaks.

Full transcript after the jump.

S. O’BRIEN: Well, just a few minutes ago, you heard an angry and
frustrated mayor, Ray Nagin criticizing the federal relief efforts in
New Orleans, pleading for more help from Washington D.C. and FEMA.

S. O’BRIEN: Mike Brown is the director of FEMA. He’s in Baton Rouge
this morning.

Mr. Brown, good morning. Nice to see you.

MIKE BROWN, FEMA DIRECTOR: Good morning, Soledad.

S. O’BRIEN: As you can tell, the situation clearly is deteriorating.
You’ve got armed bandits roving the streets. They’re heavily armed.
You’ve got people living out on the streets with absolutely no
protection, no help whatsoever, no food, no water. How many armed
National Guardsmen do you have on the ground right now?

BROWN: There are approximately, I believe, it’s 14,000. We’re ramping
that up to 30,000 by the end of the weekend. The state has come to us
and said that they need the initial National Guard troops, so we’ve
hooked up with General Honore and the First Army. We have all of the
support that I’m going to ask for from the military. We’re going to
secure the area. We’re going to make it safe so we can continue our
relief efforts.

S. O’BRIEN: You know, when you hear the interviews with some of these
families who are living on the street, completely and utterly
unprotected from these armed roving troops of men who are attacking
people and they’re raping people, what are you doing to protect these
people right now?

BROWN: Well, that’s why we’re trying to get additional boots on the
ground, because we have to protect them.

And, Soledad, I want the American people to know that we understand how
dire this situation is. And we’re going to do everything we can to get
that aid down to that individual level. You know, we’re feeding stuff
into the Superdome. When we found out about the Convention Center
yesterday. We started diverting supplies to get them fed, too. And now
we’re finding literally as we do evacuations that more and more people
are beginning to manifest and show themselves in areas that we didn’t
that they were there, and so we’re doing everything we can to get to them.

S. O’BRIEN: You were unaware of the situation at the Convention Center
until yesterday. When yesterday did you become aware?

BROWN: I think it was yesterday morning when we first found out about
it. We were just as surprised as everybody else. We didn’t know that
the city had used that as a staging area. That shows how difficult
communications are. And that is why we moved the USS Bataan, so that we
could give the mayor a place to actually be able to communicate on a
regular basis, to give us good intel about what he needs.

S. O’BRIEN: How is it possible that we’re getting better intel than
you’re getting? We had a crew in the air. We were showing live
pictures of the people outside of the Convention Center. We had a
National Guardsman who was talking to us, who was telling us he
estimated the crowd at 50,000 people. That was at 8:00 in the morning
yesterday. And also, we’ve been reporting that officials have been
telling people to go to the Convention Center if they want any hope of
relief. I don’t understand how FEMA cannot have this information.

BROWN: Well, we’re busy doing life-saving and life-rescue efforts. We
rely upon the state to give us that information. And, Soledad, I
learned about it listening to the news reports.

S. O’BRIEN: FEMA has been on the ground for four days, going into the
fifth day. Why no massive airdrop of food and water? In Banda Aceh, in
Indonesia, they got food dropped two days after the tsunami struck.

BROWN: That’s what we’re going to do here, too. And I think…

S. O’BRIEN: But, sir, forgive me…

BROWN: Soledad, just a moment, please.

We’re feeding those people in the Convention Center. We have fed over
150,000 people as of last night. That is happening.

S. O’BRIEN: But I guess the point is, as of last night — sir, forgive
me, I have to stop you here.

BROWN: What we’re hearing, is that we’re hearing people’s
frustrations. There are people that are beginning to manifest
themselves out of the community that we didn’t know that were there, and
we’re doing everything we can to find those individuals, case by case to
get them help as quickly as possible.

S. O’BRIEN: But it begs the question, why are you discovering this
now? It’s five days that FEMA has been on the ground. The head of
police says it’s been five days that FEMA has been there. The mayor,
the former mayor, putting out SOS’s on Tuesday morning, crying on
national television, saying please send in some troops. So the idea
that, yes, I understand that you’re feeding people and trying to get in
there now, but it’s Friday. It’s Friday.

BROWN: Soledad, what’s going on is in this situation, we have people
who have gone, for example, to the Superdome, and we’re feeding those
people. And as we do the evacuations, as the water recedes, people
begin to come out wherever they’ve been trying to keep themselves safe.
They go to the bridges. They go to the overpasses. We find out about
those people. We have every urban search-and-rescue team in this
country out trying to find them now. We don’t know where everybody is.
And as they come out and they show themselves, we’re rescuing them and
moving them to places. I understand their frustration. I understand
your frustration. This is a catastrophic event, and as these people
continue to show themselves, we rescue them and take care of them.

S. O’BRIEN: Do you look at the pictures that are coming out of New
Orleans? New Orleans? And do you say, I’m proud of the job that FEMA
is doing on the ground there in a tough situation?

BROWN: Soledad…

S. O’BRIEN: Or do you look at these pictures and you say, this is a
mess and we’ve dropped the ball; we didn’t do what we should of done.

BROWN: Soledad, I look at these pictures and my heart breaks. My
heart breaks just like the rest of the country’s heart breaks. And so
what we’re doing is ramping up. I’ve asked the military to come in and
help us and do — I mean, I’ve mission assigned the Army, and the Coast
Guard and the others to get those supplies in to all of those pockets.
I don’t want to see any American suffer the way some of these people are
suffering, because of the consequences of this disaster.

S. O’BRIEN: Mike Brown is the director of FEMA. Mr. Brown, nice to
see you. Thanks for talking to us.

BROWN: Thank you, Soledad.

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