MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Martin O'Malley
Date: Oct. 29, 2012
Location: Unknown

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Joining me now by phone is Maryland governor Martin O`Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association across the country.

Governor O`Malley, thanks so much for joining us. You`re a major figure in the country, and here we are confronted with a major weather story eight days before a national election, affecting governors, senators, the president of the United States, the leadership of this country.How does it all come together? Put it -- separate it for us or join it together, the weather and the politics.

GOV. MARTIN O`MALLEY (D), MARYLAND (via telephone): Oh, golly, I don`t know. I guess you could put together a metaphor with the -- with the -- with the winds and the two fronts all converging on the nation`s capital.

But I don`t know, Chris. I mean, when these emergencies hit, one of the things that really come forward is an executive`s ability to pull people together and to be able to protect life in the path of this very violent storm.

We`ve had people here from the federal government now for the last two days. The president signed our pre-declaration right away. And the coordination`s actually very, very good. I mean, we`re as prepared as you can be for something that`s totally beyond your control, like this huge storm.

We`re already seeing power outages across Maryland, and it`s going to be a long night. But we do have a lot of assets here from out of state and from our federal government and from the new, improved FEMA.

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk about that FEMA. Governor Markell, one of your neighboring governors from Delaware, said tonight on our earlier edition that it should deserve a 10 right now. We`ve heard very good words from Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey, a Republican, of course, who`s pretty outspoken generally, both those governors saying very good things about FEMA.

How important is that agency? Because I bring this up in a partisan sense in this way, that in the recent debate in June of this year, Governor Romney -- former Governor Romney trashed it, basically saying we don`t need it. We could go -- the states could handle these emergencies.

O`MALLEY: I think that this -- these are the occasions when people see why it is that they pay taxes and why they have a government. FEMA was so broken and so dysfunctional back in the days of "heck of a job, Brownie" and the miserable way that we failed to protect and respond and help our citizens in New Orleans to recover. And under President Obama, I`ve seen a much improved FEMA.

And honestly, you know what? The Republican governors say the same thing, and I`m glad they`re saying it in the face of this storm. The truth is that public safety, emergency preparedness -- that should be nonpartisan. And there are certain things that we have to be able to find a way to afford to do, and protecting the public in the face of big emergencies is one of them.

So it`s been really inspiring to see the way that men and women have come together here in our state, our National Guard and our friends from -- colleagues from FEMA and crews and fast water rescue teams from states like South Carolina and Texas. This is a moment when we put aside the politics and focus on protecting life.

MATTHEWS: Well, it looks like we`re getting landfall just about now right on the edge of your state, in Delaware. Let me ask you about your biggest -- when you go to bed at night and you put your head on the pillow, what are you worried about most happening in the next 12 hours?

O`MALLEY: Well, I think the biggest worry I have is really the potential for loss of life from those unpredictable tides in the Chesapeake Bay, especially when these winds are so unpredictable, and also the damage that can be done to human beings when trees fall on homes. And we`re going to see a lot of trees get knocked over and a lot of power lines getting knocked over in this long, violent night ahead.

MATTHEWS: Yes, some of the trees in D.C., where I live -- or work, rather -- I live in Maryland, as you know. These trees were planted years ago, decades and generations ago. And not all of them have any root system at all. And you realize when the big wings hit, they just go over. They topple. They don`t even break.

O`MALLEY: You know, I guess, given some of the experiences we`ve had, I`d like to believe that the strongest trees have survived. I mean, we lost a lot of trees in the derecho. And as I`m looking at this map right now and looking at the outages, I see that Cecil County up in the northeast -- I mean, Chris, you can almost see by looking at the power outage map, you can trace the track of the storm. So northeast is really taking it hard. Forty-one percent of the people in Cecil County are now without power up there.

So far, knock on wood, we haven`t seen those sorts of numbers in the Washington suburbs, but likely -- this thing is so damn big, it`s going to stretch over our entire state.

MATTHEWS: Well, thank you. It`s great to have you on. Governor Martin O`Malley of Maryland, one of the sharpest governors out there.

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