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Take a look at the list of scenarios in front of you. First, you will select which one you want to tackle. You'll get a briefing, your expert policy advice and vote on what to do. The experts will not agree among themselves. But your job is to make a decision. You'll have to work.
You're listening to audio taken at the Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas. It's from Decision Points Theater, an interactive exhibit at the museum. More like a video game, really. In it, you can choose one of four crises that Bush experienced in his time as President Saddam Hussein, the Iraq war, troop surge, the financial crisis, the majority of the theater chose Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Katrina.
That levee broke yesterday. Another levee broke. Today is right now. There is no food, no water, no light.
In this scenario.
The main decision the audience is supposed to make is whether to send in federal troops, that law enforcement power, basically to militarize the city and to declare it in the state of insurrection. And there are actors on screen playing your advisers.
This is an emergency and we need to send federal troops in right away. I mean, here, the city's resources are overwhelmed. The police cannot cope with the crisis and Americans are facing lawlessness and chaos. News alerts break in as a fake advisers talk, hyping up the tension.
It's getting increasingly frantic in New Orleans. The city's homeland security chief says there are gangs of armed men roaming around the city.
Gangs, snipers, lawlessness. Sitting in the simulation, you might be forgiven if you thought the flood wasn't the main problem.
There are snipers taking shots at medevac helicopter, as they say. It's dangerous to go out to.
The whole thing is designed to put you in a pressure cooker. You're bombarded with information, images of chaos. Fill the screen. You have to make a decision. Do you federalize the response? Do you send armed troops in the U.S. food to the convention center?
Time's up. It's time to make a decision.
And then regardless of what you picked, the president comes on to tell you what he decides.
When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, I chose to send in federal troops without law enforcement authority. It became clear during the crisis that local and state officials were overwhelmed and that the governor of the state was not going to relinquish authority to the federal government. So I sent 7000 federal troops into New Orleans, but did not give them the ability to act as law enforcement officers. I decided to send in federal troops with diminished authority was better than sending in no federal troops at all.
It was what the crisis required and the troops helped restore order in the city.
And that's pretty much it. It's a strange exhibit, but mostly for what it doesn't say.
It doesn't talk about the fallout from Katrina, how his inaction became part of his legacy in his book Decision Points, the president does go a bit further than the exhibit does.
He has a whole chapter on Katrina. In it, he says that the fallout from the storm haunted his second term. That accusations of racism during Katrina with a low point of his presidency. He also writes, quote, The problem was not that I made the wrong decisions, it was that I took too long to decide.
I wanted to ask him about all this, about what taking accountability for the disaster should look like and whether he'd felt he'd done it. The note I got back read, quote, President Bush is enjoying retirement and is not currently participating in interviews.
We made multiple requests to his chief of staff, Andy Card, and to a secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, neither of them responded. Many of the other officials who might be able to give some explanation of what went wrong aren't available to talk. Governor Blanco died a few days before the 14th anniversary of the storm in 2019. I wrote letters to former Mayor Ray Nagin. He's in federal prison in Texas on corruption charges.
He never wrote back, but there is one government official who wanted to talk. Who are you? I'm all right. How are you? Good. Michael Brown. Michael Brown, better known as Brownie.
Again, I want to thank you all for. And Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job, Brownie.
You're doing a heck of a job or whatever and slaps me in the gut. And I think that Michael was head of FEMA when Katrina hit. He was eager to talk, but he had one condition. He didn't want to do this interview over the phone. He wanted to talk in person. I like the challenge, the challenge, I think I'm going to rush, you know, I'm here I'm here for the challenge.
And to be brutally honest to you, I'm here because you can never correct the record enough because the narrative is out there. You've done your homework. You've Googled my name. You know, the stories that are out there. You're not going to do this face to face. The wake. Michael Brown has an interesting resume. I'll give you the highlights. He grew up in small town Oklahoma, Tornado Alley. He served on the city council, went to law school, had an unsuccessful run for Congress.
Then he got another gig, commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. He says they wanted an outsider to come in and deal with corruption. And if you're wondering what corruption looks like in the Arabian horse breeding world, I was wondering the same thing. Are you ready for this? Let's go. They perform cosmetic surgery on the horse, like liposuction, liposuction.
You change the color and the shape of the eyeballs. You make it the most perfect horse you can imagine. Wow.
So it's like an Instagram horse. Bingo.
So anyway, Michael joined the horse association. He had no experience with horses, but Michael Brown likes a challenge.
I'll tell you what my wife says. And I think she's absolutely this is hard for me to admit, but I think she's right.
I like to push the envelope I like and sometimes I push it too far. He spent about a decade at the horse association, but eventually he chose leave. He says the breeders didn't like him challenging them. The next bullet point on the resume is FEMA after George W. Bush became president. He named his former campaign manager and chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, as director of FEMA. Joe's in Oklahoma got to know Michael since college, when Joe needed a right hand man.
He gave Michael a call. Joe said, I need somebody I can trust. So Michael became FEMA's general counsel. But after 9/11, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security and put FEMA under it. That meant that FEMA had not reported to DHS, not the president. After that, Joe Allbaugh left and Michael Brown became director in charge of the whole thing.
So I got this bird in my saddle that we're going to do freakin catastrophic disaster planning.
The first disaster they plan for was the big one in New Orleans. A year before Katrina, FEMA ran a role playing exercise to try to figure out what would happen if a Category three hurricane hit the city. They came up with some useful plans, but Michael thought overall the whole thing was a failure. Coordination between different layers of local, state and national actors just didn't exist. He was also worried about FEMA being under DHS. He thought too much bureaucracy was going to slow down FEMA's ability to respond to disasters, and he thought DHS is focused on terrorism was overshadowing FEMA's mission.
He says he tried to bring this concern to the president. One day he was riding with Bush in his limo. He gave it a shot. Mr. President, I'm really concerned about DHS, kind of the culture and stuff we need to change. And before I could finish, he looked at me and said, I've already fixed that. And he said it in such a way that I knew, OK, now that I'm not going to push this, that you're a you're a guy who pushes the envelope, you listen and challenge, why not listen and challenge the president on this?
Have you ever sat in the limo with the most powerful man in the world, can't say I have and he turns to you and he sternly tells you I have fixed that. Yeah, I don't know what it's like to be in a limo with the president and Michael Brown does, that's why I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to know what it was like that week, what the people in charge were thinking and doing. Kanye West and plenty other people had figured that officials just didn't care about black people.
Was that true? Even if it wasn't, why didn't they do more to help people? How could they have seen people suffering at the convention center and not even acknowledge they were there? So I asked Michael Brown to walk me through the week decision by decision, starting with the moment Katrina crossed over southern Florida and started heading toward New Orleans. That's when I start to panic. You start panicking, I start to panic. It's going to be my worst fear.
I'm worried because I know if it goes up the mouth of the Mississippi and hits New Orleans. I know that people are going to die or likely to die, and I know the response is going to be. Not the best it can be. Yes, I'm worried about that. But I'm also worried that if this is truly the worst that it can be. I know it's a disaster for me personally. Who's going to get. Who's going to get the blame?
Feces rolls downhill. Michael was desperate. As the storm approached, he sent emails with jokes about wanting to resign. He wanted everyone to evacuate the city, but he couldn't make the call. Mayor Ray Nagin had to and he was dragging his feet. So in conference calls with officials and through the media, Michael tried to scare everyone in action with the worst case scenarios in your mind.
What was the worst thing? The levees would break, my press secretary was instructed, you find every freakin outlet that I can talk to so that I can tell them that I think this is going to be really bad and that you need to get the hell out of Dodge. You told them the levees are going to breach? No, I don't know. There's a fine line between. I'm never going to say to somebody. I think the levees are going to breach.
I'm not going to say that. I'm not going to I'm not going to panic, people would panic, not have been a little bit a little bit of panic, been useful in this case?
In the hindsight, yeah. In hindsight, you know, now you're asking me to look backward.
Well, that's the whole show, but. Looking backward, I might have I might have said I fear the levees could break. By Saturday morning, the mayor and the governor still hadn't called for mandatory evacuation, so Michael called the president. He asked Bush to put pressure on local officials. Bush made the call and Nagin and Blanco did eventually call that evacuation on Sunday. Most of the city left and at least some of that's due to Michael Brown. But the people left behind, we're going to need somewhere to go.
Mayor Nagin wanted that place to be the Superdome, and Michael hated that plan.
I threw a fit on the conference call because I'm holding this engineering report that says the dome can't withstand a Category three, let alone a Category five, that, you know, the roof is going to be blown off it. Don't do this, don't do it. But then when he announced that he was going to do it, then I ordered supplies in.
Well, that's for the. If you have any new report that says this building can't withstand the storm is coming and people are going there, should you have stopped them from going there? What's what's the role? Because I guess the worst case didn't happen, right?
The worst case did happen. Think about the shock of a. Single mother with a baby who, for whatever reason, not judgment, for whatever reason, didn't evacuate. But here's that she can go to the Superdome and be safe. Because that's what the mayor told them, if she takes her baby and she goes there. There's power for a little bit and then it goes dark and then the roof blows off. And now the storms blowing in. And I'm not going to accept responsibility for that because I told I told that governor and I told that mayor, this engineering report says, do not do this point.
Take your equipment. Your question I'm asking, why didn't I do something when inhabiting that woman's mind? Right. Right. She let me hold this thing. I'm curious. What would you have had me do? Well, guess you have access to the most powerful person in the world. Point taken. I've never been asked this question. And I've never thought about this. I could have called Bush back. And said, I need you to go on TV and tell people, don't go to the Super Bowl.
The problem with that is I think through it, what do I tell them to do, what I tell the president to tell them to do because it's too late to evacuate? Do you see the conundrum? I do see the conundrum where else, where people going to go still even acknowledging that and how difficult all the decisions were after Katrina, I kept wondering, why couldn't we just get stuff done? Why couldn't the people leading the response cut through the red tape?
Why couldn't they use the most powerful bully pulpit in the world to move people and supplies? Those all became even more pressing concerns when people started going to the convention center three days after the storm. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff went on NPR. He said he wasn't even aware of the thousands of people who had gathered there in three different interviews that same day, Michael Brown said he just learned about his story, telling the folks at the convention center didn't have food and water until today.
Are you? You had no idea they were completely cut off. Paula, the federal government did not even know about the convention center people until today. How could so many people have missed that? People were thousands of people who were at the biggest building outside the Superdome in the city. We didn't. We knew they were there. When was it so I'm trying to long, you know, after the eye, new storm, you know, I knew immediately, immediately I knew that night that people had broken into the convention center.
The thing about the convention that drives me nuts. Is the Ted Koppel. Who else I did like three interviews in a row. Where I said we just learned about the convention center. Well, in my head, we had just learned about the convention center. But having just learned about the convention, there was actually like 36 hours ago, it wasn't just them. And and I'm not criticizing. In my head, having not slept, yes, we just learned about it.
So explain to me as if I'm a person in the convention center if I get there Tuesday. Explain to me why there's no real federal presence until Thursday, Friday.
There is no explanation for it other than. I think by that point. The system is overwhelmed. I just think we have this unrealistic expectation that this massive federal bureaucracy can just instantaneously do stuff and it just cannot. Where the rubber meets the road for me is what is unreasonable here is is it I mean, maybe it is unreasonable to get a truck full of memories in there, but is it unreasonable to for somebody to come and say, we see you're here?
But we're going to come get you. You can walk from the Superdome to the convention center. Nobody walked her. Tried to make it in the 36 hours like that, it seems like we're acting like this is it's inexcusable. I know, but but when it comes to food and supplies, it is kind of an ocean. Well, I'm not not I'm not saying that acknowledgement Piecyk that we're going to come. I think I think the acknowledgement piece.
I think you're right. I think you're right on that one. I think you're absolutely right. And I think that's a great lesson to be learned, is we always talk about in the corporate world, in government, what is communication, communication, communication. Right. Number one thing you're supposed to do, I don't think we did a very good job of. I think we were so in our own heads about the response then when it came to things like press relations, media relations acknowledgements, as you call them, I think we completely dropped the ball.
How much of a part of your job is that? People are being informed and having the information needed to make decisions. Is that not a major part of, say, the female directors job? Yes. If they didn't get it, was that a failure on your part? Absolutely. I think the failure to. Use the media. And to do the kinds of things that you're talking about, I like your word acknowledgement. I've ever apologized. What do you want me to apologize for?
Well, you said you made mistakes. Yeah, isn't it isn't that an apology? I mean, you went I'm sorry you made these mistakes. I don't know. I'm just asking if you feel like this. No, no, no, I just I find that fascinating because.
Clearly by admitting your mistakes. You're telling the world I mean, you're you're opening the kimono up to the world and saying, you know what, I messed up this, this, this and this. I did this, this and this, right? Your conclusion then is OK at the end of that? Line of good and bad. Make an apology. I think the part of an apology from me is I did X, Y and Z bad. I see how it contributed to the suffering in your life, and I acknowledge that we did that.
At least from my perspective, I thought we did that. You don't seem convinced. The difficulty I'm having is when we talk about the convention center. Especially. We have a reason. We talked to a girl who was 14 then who thought she was going to die, right? Right.
And you think you're going to die, and there was somebody there who could have prevented at least that feeling, which is a terrible thing for a teenager to feel. Right. The apology for me would be we made mistakes. We understand that it made you feel abandoned. Here's how we plan. To make sure it doesn't happen again. I'm with you all the way up to here's how we plan to make sure it doesn't happen again. Which I have no control.
Now, if she needs if she needs somebody to say, I'm sorry. I'll say that to her, I'm sorry that you felt that way, and I'm sorry that we didn't do what we could have done to take away that fear.
I would also go talk to her about. I don't think we could take your fear away. You may have found it comforting for a moment, but considering how disaster response works.
I don't want to give her a false hope that somewhere in the future, maybe not her in particular. This is ahead. This is going to happen again. It's the nature of the beast. The woman I'm referring to, her name is Liane. Hi, Liane. Before before we leave that. If I can get Americans. To think about risk and tell them honestly that when that proverbial feces hits the fan, you may be fearful for your life.
And there's nothing that anybody can do about that. The government is not going to be there the minute it happens and it may not be there for a day depending on how bad it is. So you tell the man, I'm sorry, but you tell Liane. That her responsibility is to understand the nature of the risk, where she lives and to be prepared for it knowing. That somebody like I come the shining knight in armor is not going to come and rescue her when that fear sets in.
You know, we've interviewed quite a few people, and it seems that the experience of being. Of a delay of not having help come when you think it's going to come, of having that manifest is betrayal. Right, right. And I think what we saw was a lot of people saw that betrayal along the lines of the way they've been portrayed before. And so you got a black city. Yeah. And the experience of betrayal is racism. Right.
But how do you process that? I know what's in my heart. And in my heart, I did not I don't, I did not, I do not. I was raised by two incredible parents to see people. As humans. And while I. Understand to the best that I can as a Caucasian, while I understand the plight of people in the Lower Ninth Ward or people that. That were predominantly black. Mm hmm. It angers me.
When when people keep bringing up racism. There was there was there was not one decision. Not one movement, not there was nothing, not a scintilla of of anything of racism in what me, my staff or the people that are the career civil servants of FEMA did that was based on race. And I find it offensive, not saying I find it offensive that you bring it up. I find it offensive that there are people out there who want to think that.
Because it's just not true, I think if we're continuing this exercise of inhabiting these people, you've talked to the stories of folks who went through this. Just wondering if you might understand why somebody who has those pieces, of course I know, trust me, I understand. OK, do I think that. Systemic racism exists in this country. You'd be naive not to think so. You and I both you're a black man, I'm a white man.
We both know Bickett. Well, none of her friends. But we both know bigoted people, we both know racist people. One of the ways that we have seen people talk about how they saw racism or bias manifest was in the descriptions of crime or looting and all that stuff happening during Katrina.
In your book, you said it was a situation that sometimes seemed akin to going to a zoo, opening all the cages and telling the predators they were on the honor system. Now, you know.
It seems in your book you were lamenting that Louisiana didn't have a shoot to kill order or that they weren't issuing some of the hard line denunciations of looters. How do you reconcile that with. Essentially, we know a lot of the reports were racially biased or they weren't really we didn't have confirmation.
We heard all sorts of rumors, rapes, murders, muggings, everything. And I could never get. Good ground based knowledge of what was going on because the New Orleans Police Department had utterly disintegrated, just disintegrated. But yes. I do believe. If you're looting in a disaster area to feed your family, I don't care. I do the same thing you and I both work. We're going to do whatever it takes. If you're looting in a disaster.
Or in a riot or whatever to grab a TV. I don't think necessarily you should lose your life. There will be consequences. What kind of consequences, grab them, throw their ass in jail. Just backing up, though, if if if what I see as as a. Black guy who has, you know, had a couple of run ins with the law will say, what I see here is and I can't help but see it as a confirmation of things that I have suspected to be true.
Right. Which is. Which is, you see. The moment the lights go out somewhere and yet you have crime that is real, but you also have people using. This is an opportunity to paint a whole set of black people as being violent and being uniquely criminal in Fox News, saying that based on these reports, these folks are sort of deserving of being shot on sight. And that I mean, I think that's what in your book, you're kind of you're saying they were soft.
Yeah, they they were soft. But I think, you know, I don't think you can extrapolate but shoot on sight.
But that was that Haley Barbour said we're going to shoot him on sight.
Haley Barbour said they're going to shoot on sight. Michael Brown didn't say we're going to shoot on sight. You praised Haley Barbour in the book. Haley Barbour did a fantastic job of responding to the disaster. Yes. Responding by saying they were going to shoot people on sight. My general response to Haley Barbour and to Bob Riley is they did a fantastic job. I'm not going to justify Haley Barbour shoot to kill. I'm not going to justify that. I spent six hours with Michael Brown.
He was generous and he answered every question. The show's producers, Alvin and Katherine, kept asking if we wanted to take a break, get some coffee. He wouldn't let us know because we can.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, I, I it's always Vann's willing to keep going. I'm willing to keep going.
He admitted to getting some stuff wrong, but it seemed like it was harder for him to talk about responsibility beyond that. You in 2015, you wrote the Politico article about stop blaming you. Yeah. It seems like you've admitted to a lot of things we should blame me for today.
Yeah, but stop blaming me.
Did I make mistakes? Absolutely. Is everything that went wrong in Katrina my fault, not in the least. He wasn't going to take all the blame for Katrina. And if he sounds overly defined about it, I think it's because he has a case to make. He really was made a scapegoat.
Two weeks after the storm, after the heck of a job brownie comment and lots of negative media coverage, he resigned even after he was gone. FEMA struggled to manage the response. There were racial disparities in aid money and who got help at all. Poor folks got stuck with trailers full of formaldehyde, some didn't get trailers at all, those things were out of Michael Brown's control. But they still contributed to how he was painted and competent at best, an avatar of racist indifference at worst.
It's a perception he hasn't really shaken. He is still the face of the failure of Katrina, and it's not like he gets a presidential library to wash away a scent.
I joke with my kids. You know, your dad was his obituary was never going to be in The New York Times.
Oh, but it will be now and it will.
And in the New York Times headline will be A Heck of a job. Brownie dies at the age of 92. We had a long day talking. Our producers gave the signal to wrap everything up. But Michael tried to explain himself one more time, and I know these microphones are still on. Yeah. I think the thing that. Has thrown me the greatest loop in this curveball. Is the whole apology thing. I mean, I understand it from.
Another person's perspective, I totally get that. I struggle with and I know you're not going to answer the question, but it's like. What do people want me to apologize for? The paradox of Michael Brown seems to be this. All of his efforts to defend himself, to not be made a scapegoat, they seem to make it impossible for him to perform empathy. To understand why an apology from him might mean something, and maybe that's a blind spot of mine.
Very well could be. Either a blind spot or an unwillingness, maybe we should have known that we weren't going to get that from Michael Brown. There wasn't going to be an easy answer, no matter how long we talked. We were just asking the same question in different ways. I think what I'm asking is I'm wondering if your experience is how much you think about the experience of people who went through it. It sounds like. Of course you do.
You were there.
But do you relate to or understand that experience? Do you feel a kind of empathy with it or indignance on their behalf? I get real emotional about this and I get emotional about it because. When you're when you're portrayed, if you. I had dinner with a friend last night telling me about this interview. And I told him that, you know, I'm not nervous about it, but I'm really curious about the line of questioning and the tone of the questioning and everything.
And his comment to me was, this is one of ages. Just be the caring person that you are. The thing that drives me. They think the thing that bothers me, the thing that bothers me the most. Are that people think I don't care. Thank you so much. It was a good. Hi, listeners, we're taking a quick break to tell you about a show from another network on the fourth season of Slow Burn Out. Now Slate is telling the story of white supremacist David Duke's rise to power and prominence.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, he became an American political phenomenon, his election to the Louisiana legislature by the voters of a virtually all white New Orleans suburb. And then his campaigns for the U.S. Senate and the governorship created an existential crisis for the state and the nation. Here, how a Nazi sympathizer and former Klansman fashioned himself into a mainstream figure and why some voters came to embrace his message. Host and native Louisianan Josh Levine examines how activists, journalists and ordinary citizens confronted Duke's candidacy and what it took to stop him.
Stick around after this episode for a preview of the show or subscribe to Slow Burn from Slate wherever you listen.
I said, hey. Liane still out in New Orleans East now she lives by the levee on the lake with her boyfriend and her daughter, Alvin and I went out to visit her. She works so many double shifts that we had trouble fitting in our schedule, but we managed so well.
Yeah, we are back. Yes. Yeah. You'd probably sick of us all in a minute.
We sat and talked about the city, how you can still see Katrina in some places. What life would be like if it hadn't happened? Oh, my God, I think about that all the time.
All the time, I think it would be better out of graduate gear, but again, at the top of my class, I know I thought add audio to help me with college applications and day.
I don't know if I have the. I just had this drive like before Katrina, like I just had my whole I want to do this. I will be the first person I've got to graduate from college.
Like, I just had this drive, this this just bright light. It is just like it's just after Katrina.
Just there that there. Has anybody ever apologized to you? No, no, no. What would you do if somebody did if somebody. I don't know, from like the top came down, said, I'm sorry for what happened. HMT. Server white like. The time to say I'm sorry for what happened to you, Katrina is amazing that after 40 years. I would really care to hear. Do you know Michael Brown, Brownie, the chief of FEMA, Brownie, heck of a job, Brownie is the one with the glasses.
Yeah, he heard about her. What do you think about her?
It's like a lot of people know what they were doing, like there was confused. How do you get a job like that? You know, to do the same with President Bush, you he didn't even know what to do. How is about a president who can even handle a natural disaster? But you are obviously our country was that we asked about the convention center and about why they couldn't get there and we think we talked about some of it and we kind of wanted to let you listen to it and see what you made of it.
Oh, my God. Let me hear this. Let me. Right.
We gave her some headphones and sat there while she listened.
Oh, he said, OK, it's he starts. She thought, oh, my God, are you shooting? So what do you think?
Oh, my God, when he said, my name is just like, oh, I like him, like talking directly to me, like saying I'm sorry, it's just like somebody saying we like what I hear.
Like he talking to me.
No, I don't know either that we didn't know what to make of it. I feel like it's crazy, like I'm like I don't I don't care about the apology, but just to see how I can say yes, you know, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Like you right here telling me I'm sorry.
I'm just like the day when he was saying my name and talking to me made me feel like I matter.
LeAnn has had to wonder in these last 15 years why all this happened, if the reason she got screwed was because someone was racist or mean or incompetent or just didn't care about people like her, she's had to wonder if the people in power ever saw her at all. Michael Brown feels like he's a scapegoat. When he dies, he'll be the Katrina guy. And maybe that's not fair. But even being a scapegoat means that people know who you are, that you matter.
It's crazy, we don't know. He's a whole lot of dealing with men with no national disasters. He started talking. I was like, oh, my God, just shut up. Why are you talking? Because he was just when he first came on, like, what am I saying? I'm sorry for like, rain. Make me understand what I'm saying. I'm sorry for then. I mean, I'm admitting that I did something wrong.
So you don't feel like you did nothing wrong. But get the you know, next time is not going to be her knight in shining armor coming in, coming, rescuing.
Well, I always felt like why would you say, yeah, instead of having them up, treat us like those with guns, they should have been down there trying to help us to go get they trained for all that stuff to go try to go get food and stuff like that while they were doing it, but they weren't by putting guns on us.
Was that part of the. They really had to play. You know what I'm really after Katrina is when I really started to notice that I'm black in America.
Yeah, I think actually for me I was always from North Carolina and Katrina was the first time I saw him or somewhere else. Right? Yeah, that was crazy.
I just saw. Race matter in like a way that was yeah, yeah, I've seen I knew people who are racist, like my whole life I've seen I grew up with mostly black folks, but I knew a couple of white people who had the Confederate flag or whatever.
But like Katrina, the first time I saw something happen to a whole group of people who look like me. And it was because they looked like.
Yeah, yeah. That was crazy. I'm like, they go kill us because we don't make sense. We refugees.
Nobunaga, you look around, you just see black people, babies, everybody just cry, they won't help this man, Bush. He told us that the cover. Oh, my God, I just don't understand. Yeah, it's been a long time since Katrina, lots of people don't really like talking about the day the levees broke, and I get that. They want to move on. They don't want some out of town journalists asking them over and over again about a bad time in their lives.
There are good things now. There are great things. And we should talk about them. After the Danziger Bridge shootings, the family sued the department and revealed their cover up. Their fight helped advance department wide criminal justice reforms in twenty. The city had a record low of four shootings by police officers. There's new businesses, shiny new airport, a cool scene for young people and tourists. Every day, life in New Orleans defies all the people who said it shouldn't come back or couldn't come back, but I don't know if I would call that recovery.
Recovery means that things are back to normal, but things are back to normal. They're just different.
I'm just working paycheck to paycheck. And it's crazy because.
I'm doing it, but I still, you know, have enough to help my mom out, you know, and I just I don't know what I make away. And the. After we were done talking, LeAnn took us out to the levee by her place, it's right across the street from her apartment, she comes out here with her friends and a daughter to let loose with my girl up and run up and down. And we get some seafood in there and we see the field.
You walk up a hill and up to a fence and you can look out over the lake.
And when you look at this levee, what do you see? Our enemy. We're surrounded by water, we live in a bowl, is beautiful, but also daily. This is what can destroy my city. This is what destroyed my city. I don't think they want us to be here for years to come. I'm just enjoying it. Why are we still here? But my daughter's kids and their kids are not going to be able to enjoy the same thing.
Eventually it's going to be. And when I just look at it, it makes me really think about that. We're not going to be here alone.
It's crazy. There's no way in the world I'd rather be there. I love it is my home. It's my home. I love New Orleans.
I didn't get to Arizona, Texas, Mississippi after Katrina. Nothing like New Orleans. Nothing like New Orleans. Toni Morrison once said all water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was, she was talking about the Mississippi River. People might try to forget the past. But maybe the water remembers as it laps away at the wetlands, maybe it remembers as it rises a little higher and swallows more and more communities on the coast.
Maybe it remembers as the levees sink a little more, maybe the water is waiting to betray us again, because to betray also means to expose the truth in and around Houston, a massive amount of energy that's being deflated from California's deadliest industries.
Number one, destruction as far as the eye. One hundred percent of Puerto Rico now without the mayor of San Juan now saying people are starting to dump. Brings me back to the 1927 flood. When the flood came, it was folks, black folks. In 1856, last island, Louisiana, was destroyed, it was cleaved by the hurricane, broken into pieces and then slowly reclaimed by the salt in the waves. You wouldn't know now that it was a vacation spot that the sons and daughters of the American Slavocracy had tempted fate there, or that a man named Richard had tried to warn them about what was coming.
I think I figured out why I keep thinking about Richard, it's because he didn't have the luxury of denial. He saw clearly what the slave owners tried to ignore. We are all vulnerable and the past will always find its way back to us, CORFO being another Katrina coming Madore, I have to go through what I went through again, took it from her friends living here, living there so I would be in the same position my mom and dad was in.
So, you know, still to this day, I don't know how they felt as parents. Blowtorches. Oh, I'm telling you, we just kind of sweep it under the rug before, thing is, we never really talk back to each other like, well, how do you feel about Mom? How you feel? Katrina, are you doing fine?
Managing to feel like after this baby? After we leave, I will call my mom. Because we never asked each other. I don't want to go home, Barbara on phone call I love. And I'm just exhausted. Yeah. We walked back across the street in the end, went home. Line by line. Bloodlines is the production of The Atlantic. The show was reported and produced by me and now the mother, our executive producer is Katherine Wells.
Katie Recall's our editorial adviser, archival production and research by Kevin Townsing, editing by Scott Stossel, production assistance from Emily Goshawk, Marcone, Miles Poydras and Kayla, fellow fact checking by William Brennan. Music by Christians got a tune that Julia and Anthony Braxton Sound Design Mix in Additional Music by David Herman Art Direction by Paul Speller. We are very much indebted to a group of first listeners who made this project better with their notes and guidance, thanks to Adrienne LaFrance, Jeffrey Goldberg, David Dennis Jr.
, Hanna Georges Kleinsmith and Shann Wang. Special thanks to Eve Abrams, Brett Anderson, Tina Antolini, Roy Arrigo, Earl Barthe Jr.. Julie Bogeying Rachel Brummer. Douglas Brinkley. Sara Broom. Amy Casano. Robert Green. Ronnie Green. Leslie Harris Jackett. Andy Borowitz. Mary Howell. Pam Jenkins. Pablo Johnson. Ashley Jones. Natalie Jeudy. Ronald Lewis. Yvonne Loiselle. Travis Luks. John McQuaig. Richard M. Mozelle Jr.. Diane Newman. Garrett Pittman.
Jonathan Rennolds. Robert Ricks. Bruce Shapiro. Leona Tate. Eve Troeh. Eric Watters Colombia, Salam W-w Ino WWL and the Louisiana Division City Archives. The New Orleans Public Library. If you want to support journalism like this, the best way to do it is with a subscription to the Atlantic. Visit the Atlantic Dotcoms support us. That's Asou POTUS. Thanks for listening. In the 1970s, David Duke was America's best known white supremacist for the American white people are searching and are reaching out for a movement and a complex clandestine movement.
In the 80s and 90s, Duke became a political phenomenon. There's something very scary about the election of David Duke, the former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, ex Klansman David Duke. David David Duke, we're no big political endorsements. Even the president of the United States came out against us. But we were. I'm Josh Levine, Slate's national editor. I grew up in Louisiana, and as a kid, I watched David Duke win elected office and come close to taking control of the entire state.
Back then, I had no idea how the David Duke story was going to end on the new season of Slow Burn. I'm going to look back at the Duke movement and how he nearly became Louisiana's governor. You really believe that inside every white person was a racist trying to get out?
We could feel the fish hooks of his propaganda, like hooking into part of our brains and just reeling us off to the side.
How did David Duke take off? Duke was a master scapegoat.
He was saying things about taxes and welfare that people wanted to hear.
And why did people support a Nazi sympathizer and former Klan leader? You warned about Duke. And then when you don't turn out to be dismasted, you give him more credit for not being a monster than you would give somebody who's never been a monster. There's a lot I didn't know about Duke and about all the strange and dangerous stuff swirling around him. You know, I finally won I one marlina a day that he said, yeah, Baathism, are you out of your mind?
Who was David Duke?
I'm still standing up for the white race. I don't I don't deny that. I do. We know the definition of hypocrisy.
And what did it take to stop him? I hope I'm wrong. I hope he fades away. I hope all this was incredibly useless and ridiculous and none of this comes to pass.
But I'm a great believer in history and learning from history and not repeating mistakes of history. Slow burn season for David Duke, coming soon wherever you get your podcasts.