MSNBC Hardball - Transcript
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Welcome back to "Hardball." That's President Bush in California today after he surveyed the damage from the wildfires we've all been watching out there. Is the government's response better than it was during Hurricane Katrina? Well, that's an easy one.
U.S. Congressman Bobby Jindal is the Republican -- he's a Republican from Louisiana. And more importantly, he's the next governor of Louisiana.
Mr. Jindal, we've never met. It's an honor, sir. You're a path- finder, a pioneer of greatness, a change agent, and the governor of an interesting state. Is the state of Louisiana now serious about politics?
REP. JINDAL: Chris, first of all, thank you for having me on the show. And I agree with you. Certainly the response couldn't have been any worse than what happened down here in Katrina's aftermath, absolutely. Louisiana voted this past weekend for a massive change.
I think we're showing the country we're ready to declare war on corruption. You know, all these rankings have us on the bottom of the list. I campaigned saying my first special session would stop legislators from doing business with the state, lobbying the state. It would require them to disclose their income. We said literally that we're not going to do anything else till we get that done so we stop being 50th when it comes to having the nation's weakest ethics laws.
I think our state is ready for change. The storms didn't cause all of our problems. Rita and Katrina revealed our problems. They've given us a chance now to address those problems because of the nation's attention, because of the billions of dollars being spent on recovery, and because a lot of the failed institutions -- charity hospitals, public schools, public housing -- now need to be rebuilt, in some cases from scratch.
MR. MATTHEWS: Was it a big thing just for the president to get out there this week? He didn't get to Louisiana for a while. Is it important that he show up?
REP. JINDAL: Absolutely. Not only is it symbolically important, but the federal government has to be more proactive. I do hope the country has learned lessons from the failures after the 2005 storms. It's important to plan before the disasters. It's important to be there on the ground personally. But now, after the attention, after they put out these fires, I hope California has a better response from the federal government in terms of the ongoing recovery.
We're two years out from the storms. We're very grateful for the nation's help. We live in a very generous country. But we're still dealing with FEMA red tape and bureaucracy. We still have billions of dollars of needs that haven't been met. And again, I do hope that California's experience reflects some of the changes that have been made in FEMA since 2005.
MR. MATTHEWS: Let's talk turkey here and a little tough, because I know it's early to do this. And I don't want to be insensitive, but insurance coverage -- insurance; it covers a calamity like fires, and floods in many cases. But when you ask for tax dollars to solve a problem, some people wonder -- I'm one of them -- why do we build housing so close to, you know, very dangerous park lands, forest lands, where there's dryness and there's danger from wood that can catch fire quickly and the homes are right up next to them?
Why do we build homes below sea level in Louisiana if we know that when the cycle of nature turns, we're going to have to pay a lot of money to pay for relief? Is that smart?
REP. JINDAL: Well, I think it's a very reasonable question. In Louisiana's case, let's be clear now, a big cause of flooding was the failure of federally built and designed levees. If they'd worked the way they were supposed to, Katrina would have been a bad storm, but Chris, it wouldn't have been this awful catastrophe. Yeah, there would have been loss of life. There would have been significant damage. But it wouldn't be the over $200 billion of damage that we saw after Katrina.
So let's remember, it wasn't just because people built in low areas. It wasn't because people took undue risk. It was because the levees didn't do what they were supposed to do.
I'm glad you mentioned insurance. We've got an insurance crisis on the Gulf coast. Premiums have gone up. Companies are dropping coverage. You saw it even before the wildfires. Allstate said they didn't want to cover fire damage in California. I've co-sponsored some bipartisan bills with Democratic colleagues to have national reinsurance the way that we helped New York City after their terrorist attack on 9/11.
We as a country have got to make sure that insurance is widely available and affordable. If insurance companies don't want to cover risk -- you know, it's getting harder to buy wind coverage on the Atlantic coast, on the Gulf coast. I suspect it'll be harder to buy fire coverage on the West coast now.
The whole point of insurance is to protect us against unlikely events. The country, I think, has to step in to make sure we're actually getting what we pay for when we send those insurance companies our premiums. They're making record profits. Let's make sure they're actually providing real coverage.
MR. MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about Louisiana. It's been somewhat comical over the years, tragic as well. You've had Huey Long. You've had Earl Long, a man who was insane, I believe. Huey Long was questionable, to put it lightly. You have Edwin Edwards, who I think is still in prison.
REP. JINDAL: He is.
MR. MATTHEWS: You've had a history of electing people that aren't good public officials down there. And everybody enjoys the joke. Is that gone? David Duke was your predecessor as the Republican nominee for governor. I think that states a lot about how far the state's come, you know, that a guy from the Klan has been replaced by a fellow like yourself with your background.
Is that a sign that Louisiana is waking up from its years of thinking politics is a joke and that public service is somehow something to be used for sport?
REP. JINDAL: Absolutely. Look, the jokes aren't funny. Our local university did a study. LSU surveyed 945 business leaders. They said the number one thing we can do to grow our economy is to crack down on corruption. For the first time in our state's history, we have term limits on our legislature. We should have dozens of new legislators this session. My victory in the primary was the first time that's ever happened in the primary.
I think the voters spoke very loudly. They're tired of seeing their young people leave. We lose 30,000 people a year. We're not a poor state. We've had poor leadership. The jokes aren't funny. Our politics aren't meant to be entertainment.
The signal, the message we want to send the country is it's a new day in Louisiana. We're going to have the nation's toughest ethics code. We're going to get rid of those new-job taxes. We're a wealthy state in ports, in our people, in our rivers, our oil and gas, our fisheries. This is a great place. It's a new day.
We want people to take a second look at Louisiana. I hope my election causes them to do that. But Chris, you're right; for too long election has been sport. It's been entertainment. Our people are tired of that. They're tired of their young children going to Dallas and Houston and Austin and Atlanta to pursue their dreams. They want their kids to stay right here in Louisiana.
MR. MATTHEWS: Well, you've got a great state. I have to tell you, I've always loved New Orleans. I loved going to training down there. I trained in Baker, Louisiana for the Peace Corps, believe it or not, at the old Leland College down there. I love the place. I hope you make it back.
Good luck, and congratulations on making history, sir. I hope you do it as governor, not just in getting elected. Thank you, sir, for coming on.
REP. JINDAL: Thank you.
MR. MATTHEWS: Bobby Jindal, the next governor of Louisiana.