tv Haley Barbour on Americas Great Storm CSPAN September 3, 2017 3:00pm-3:48pm EDT
have to give people grace. we have to give people the benefit of the doubt and if somebody isn't quick enough to denounce whatever you think they need to you should think about yourself, think about your forcing people to live according to a standard that that's not god's standard by the way. i really think that we just have to try to model this. anyway, thank you. >> host: for the past three yours he been talking with radio talk show host and author, eric metaxas. thank you for your time. >> guest: thank you so much. what a joy.
book selling and we're grateful for them as always. really former governor mississippi governor haley barbour needs no intrusion, whan 0 who gets around on the world stage. was talking several years ago to richard ford, fellow mississippian and novelist and was doing a teaching stint in dublin and was wandering around the campus, exploring his new setting, and opens the door to a lecture hall and that's haley barbour, lecturing on international politics in ireland. so, governor with many, many talents. but i will say what may have been the most significant chapter for mississippi was governor barbour as a politician and public servant began ten years ago this week as the winds
began gathering into what would become the monster storm of hurricane katrina. over the next year the governor, his wife, marsha, first responder and public officials in mississippi and the gulf coast work tirelessly and absolutely uncharted territory. the new book "america's great storm" the governor gives us a behind the scenes look exactly how he handled third uncharted territory and the important lessons he has taken from tom journey. i've been able to experience the governor's talent for making the impossible possible. the press -- our typical book school eat is 12 mom and the storm came together in less than six to a small miracle for us and i want to thank the governor and his co-author, and his marvelous assistants who are here tonight and the many people who have helped check facts,
round up photos, and do a lot of the work to make this book happen. also to the university press staff. there was really a since of infectious enthusiasm that we were all doing something big together, and that was very meaningful for us. so, governor, we're grateful to be part of your telling the story, and once again, you bring out the best in those around you. so, thank you. and welcome, and you're going to tell us a little bit more abouture book. [applause] >> lela, thank you very much. shouldn't have done. that thank you to everybody at university press for doing this. it's funny, when i thought about writing this book, i have a casual friendship with john meacham, and random house, and i married a girl from trivett, and i saw him and said itch i write
a book about trinity i asked if he would be interested in publishing if called me back two weeks later and said i've been thinking about this, you ought to get university press in mississippi to do this. we're going to publish god knows how many books this year. they'll think that this is special because you have been governor and all that. i tried them. you think we can get it done in six months? and john was right. he gave me the right advice, and fortunately smart enough to take and it we appreciate y'all. i'd never wherein a book before. when i was chairman of the republican national committee, i edit a book on public sol policy that was wasn't by 13 committees we hat appointed on different subject matters and jurisdiction, as far as writing a book, this my first time to do that. likely my last time. to do that.
i can't tell you -- i look at ginnie back there and i have another assistant named zoe, and the two of them mostly wrote, type, what i wrote out in longhand, and hundreds of pages in long hand, and then we'd edit and jerry nash helped me start to rite me become if didn't realize win you write a book, you have read it about 15 times. the first two or the time its thought this was a great book. about the 12th i was like, is anybody going to want to buy this? so it's -- i think it may be my only book, but it was a book i had to write. you're going to see this weekend why i felt like i had to write it. that is because the news media paid very, very little attention to mississippi after the storm. i always say the news media
doesn't like to cover airplanes that land safely. they don't consider that news. they want a big story about something terrible happening. those things didn't happen in mississippi. weber the brunt of the worst national doctors in american history. it was utter obliteration on the coast, and it wasn't just the coastal calamity. a third of the fatalities happened inland, in the inland counties of the state. we had hurricane force wins north of meridian. columbus and starkville were declared major disaster areas because of the amount of destruction in those counties. more than 200 miles inland. to see it and, frankly, you had to see it in person to get it. to capture the scale of the
destruction. the type of the destruction. you just couldn't get that out of a television camera or a photograph in the newspaper. you had to see it. so, as time went on, i thought about this storm and maybe the tenth anniversary would be the right time to try to write a book about the storm that told the story that not everybody got to see and virtually nobody got to see enough, because it simply wasn't covered very much. it's a story of strong, resilient, self-reliant people who had to -- the misfortune to, whatever you want to call it, to bear the brunt of the worst natural disaster in american history, and katrina ways the worst national disaster in american history.
the greatest insurance loss. it was the third deadliest natural disaster in american history. and it barreled right into us. all of us who grew up around the gulf south know when a hurricane comes up out of the gulf from north to south, the worst place to be in the northeast quadrant, the upper right-hand side. it's like a boxer's right cross. of course katrina came onshore almost on the louisiana-mississippi line, which is the pearl river. and where mississippi and louisiana make virtually a 90-degree angle, and it came and pushed all this water that it had been pushing in front of it for days, pushed it all into that corner with 150-160-miles-an-hour winds so what whale camille's winds were
200-miles-an-hour, found probably 200 hurricanes, and we thought camille would be the worst, as bad as a hurricane could be, one of only throw category 5 hurricanes to ever come onshore in the united states, and we planned for katrina. thinking it was the gold standard. couldn't get worse than katrina. -- i mean camille. well, katrina was much worse than camille. the winds weren't as high, but that wasn't the problem. it was the storm surge. the storm summer was the greatest storm surge ever reported in the history of meteorology according to the national weather service. i started on the first town neither their louisiana line and near the eye of the hurricane. the storm surge was more than 30 feet deep. 38 feet deep when you count the waves on top. there was not one structure left
in waveland, mississippi, that hat labbable after the storm went through. every think was gone. the problem was it was also gigantic. the eye of the storm was 32 miles across when it first came onshore. which meant that at pass could gu la, the storm surge was 20 feet deep, more than 20 feet before mean sea level. that's my house built in 1850s, elevation 19, nothing left but the foundation. in fact, most people don't remember, downtown mobile flooded. from the storm surge that was generated by a storm that came on shore at the pearl river. so, this gargantuan storm
wreaked havoc. you had to see it. i'll never forget the first time i saw it. we couldn't get out on monday. the storm came in monday morning. the roads were totally covered in debris the greatest amount of debris ever left in the wake of a hurricane. in fact it was twice as much as hurricane andrew in florida in 1992. we had 47 million cubic yards of debris that were on the ground and got picked up by somebody the federal government paid. that doesn't include all the debris on theground in private yards and inland counties. that is just what the federal government registered and had to pay for. 47 million cubic yards. took 11 months. one thing you learn is you can't
start building until you get the debris cleaned up. so, this storm was genuinely unique. it was incredibly awful. weber the brunt of it. always tell people, katrina, one storm, but two disasters. one disaster is what happen in mississippi. this hurricane with the gigantic storm surge, this 150 something-mile-per-hour winds, the destruct that we have kind of learn about from terrible hurricanes, new orleans, if you saw a picture in "time magazine," which i did, a couple weeks after the storm, they had pictures of new orleans in water would be up to the tops of windows in homes. it was awful. it's a terrible, terrible disaster. but very different from ours because you would look, there wasn't one shingle off a roof in
the pictures. it was all done by rising water flood that resulted from when the levees first were topped and then when they gave way. so very different from what we win through, and not minimizing, it's awful. but we hat born the brunt of the hurricane and when i saw it tuesday morning after the storm on monday from a helicopter, it looked as if a nuclear weapon had gone off in the sound off the coast. as in the hand of god has wiped away the coast, some places for blocks, some places for miles. the storm surge crossed i-10, numerous times. sometimes six or eight miles inland. you should know, a storm surge is not a tidal wave. at a tsunami. in a storm summer
the water rises for hours, goes back down for hours so pushes in and then pulls back out. and then each direction is very damaging, but in this case, more damaging than usual because i wouldn't have thought oft it. the bays rise with the gulf, so if the gulf rises 19 feet, biloxi bay rises 19 feet. the bay of st. louis rises 19 feet or in its case more like 30 feet. that mean if you if you're in bay st. louis, the storm surge is tearing things apart on the gulf side but it's also tearing things apart on the north side, on the inland side. jean taylor their congressman from bay st. louis, who us home was oblitz -- obliterated from m surge out of the bay.
in camille he wouldn't have anything happen because he lived on the north side of bay st. louis, but because the bays rose and distheir destruction, that was part of the shredding you saw, the shredding of timber, of trees, of leaves, of all sorts of things. there was debris everywhere, as i say. having seen that, and remembering it very vividly, i thought to myself in that helicopter, how many more bodies are going to be buried down there? under all that debris? if you would have told me 238, i would have said you're the most optimistic pollianist person i've ever been around. but that's what it was. part of the reason was because of the incredibly good work by the first responders who were
down there. first responders who were from city governments and county governments, but also from the state government, the national guard, the coast guard, who were phenomenal. so, in thinking about this and deciding to write a book, one ron i had to write this book is because i thought the story needed to be told about these first responders. the story needed to be told about these people in mississippi who just got knocked down flat. but they got right back up and hitched up their britches-win to work. win to work helping themselves but also went to work helping their neighbors. that was a constant theme in katrina. people helping other people. people who didn't have anything before the storm, lost what little they had, and they were worried about the little old
lady across the road who was a shutin or the families that lived down the dirt road that nobody could get to. my mama raised my two older brothers and me. she used to say, prices and catastrophe brings out the best in most people. i saw that over and over and over again after katrina. the very best of people trying to do what they could do to help others. another reason for writing the book is about the elected officials on the coast and really all over the state. one of the reasons louisiana had such a hard job is the mayor of new orleans fought the governor all the time, and they were pulling in opposite directions. i'm a republican. half the elected official in south mississippi on the coast were democrats.
but they said, from the day before the storm -- not even the first day -- somebody has to be in charge. if there is a mega disaster, if we're getting the worst damage we have ever had, somebody has to be in charge. and the logical person is you, governor. and so we're going to be on your team as long as you're -- we feel like you're making progress. you know, for an elected official to give up power is an unnatural act. and yet uniformly they did. it's one of the reasons we never lost civil order on the gulf coast. it's one of the reasons there were so little looting on the gulf coast. it's one of the reasons that we were able to put together a plan in a relatively short period of time to rebuild. so, those people deserve credit. you don't read that anywhere.
you didn't see that at the time. but i can tell you, it made a gigantic difference. i guess nothing except for the strength and character of our people, nothing was more important for me to get written than about the volunteers who came to mississippi. it is all together fitting and proper that's worst natural disaster in american history would elicit the greatest outpouring of volunteerism and philanthropy in american history and that's exactly what katrina did. 954,000 volunteers came to mississippi in the first five years. that's not a number pulled out of the hat because when they came they would register with a church or a charity that helped direct them. 954,000. perhaps as remarkable is that 400,000 of them came after the first year.
we had about not quite 600,000 come the first year, and we had another 400,000 coming the next four years. people kept coming. they were so, so indispensable, but i'll tell you, for the first year, virtually every volunteer out of those 600,000 didn't do anything but clean up. they did not have a great job when they came to mississippi. they were scraping muck and they were trying to clean off mold and they were ripping out sheet rock and tearing up floors and just doing the most menial, difficult things, but you know what? their attitude was so great. the most common things said to me by volunteers -- i saw thousands of them over the years. almost verbatim the volunteers would come up and introduce
themselves and say, you know, governor, your people are so great and they're so grateful, but i feel like i've gotten more out of this for myself than the good i've done for the people i came here to help. to me that was such a powerful sentiment. it was rewarding to them. it was fulfilling to them. mostly these were people from faith-bested groups. church people. and this was their religious service. service to their god. and interestingly they were all over the lot. i remember there's a company in salt lake city called the morell congresses, a bug construction company. for the 2002 for the winter
olympics they built most of the housing. mormon company. they called me after the storm and said, look, we'd like to put our expertise to use and build y'all some big temporary shelter for the people coming in there to work. so we got them a site at buccaneer state park, and they built this tent big as a football field. slept 700 people. and they had toilets and lavatories and showers and kitchens, the whole nine yards. just something. so they asked marsha and me to come come down for the grand opening so we said, of course. we got out of the car and there was gigantic tent and this end only had walls, no roof, and that's where the lunch was going to be, 250 people there. so as one toward there after seeing the people, i saw behind them there was a big motorhome, a big rv, and on the side and letters about that tall it said,
adventists in action. just kind officer left. here's this mormon deal where the morelles would not talk any money. they didn't allow the state or anybody else to pay for anything. they and the lds church, the mormon church u, paid for it all but there's the seventh day adventists doing the cooking. kind of tickled me. got up and i spoke and i asked, how many of y'all are mormon. maybe 20, less than 10%. i stayed how many are seventh day adventist, about six if said what are the rest of y'all, if i had any since would have known the answer. people of the same denominations that are prominent in mississippi because they came down here from a church somewhere else and were being directed by church in mississippi of their denomination. so all these baptists, all these methodists.
none of these people were from mississippi and they were lutherans and catholics and presbyterians presbyterians presbyterians and pent kole stalls and the whole nine yards. i stayed with me. these people were all here because of their religious convictions, and no matter the differences in their theology , their desire to serve they're god as they knew they're god overcame everything, and they worked together like -- can't imagine. well, go back and get in the car, little old man comes up to me, i'd say 70s, and small, and he said, governor, my name is harold, and i'm from new york. i said, yes. thank you for being here. said, last new england i called my son, he rabbi, and i said, son, it's about to be the high holy days, which typically occur
in the jewish religion the most sacred of the jewish holy days, and october. and he said shy come -- should i comb home to new york for the high lowly days him said my son told me, no, dad, you shouldn't come home. you're probably closer to god than you are now than you would be if you came back here. just took my breath away ump here's this jewish man, and, again, he was there for his religious service. at times we had muslims and jews working together on playgrounds, and it's one of the great thing about america and one of the un -- things not told enough about this story, is that these people came to serve because of their religious views and in our country you can do that. in our country you can get pat
on the back for doing that even of we need more people to know about these people that came because of their religious ideas. we had people who weren't with religious groups. people like americorps, young kid just out of college that work for the government and they would come stay for months. usually volunteers stayed a week. they kind of got trained the first day and then worked for five days and then went home. well, most over the training we discovered after about a month, people did all the training would be the americorps kids because they were there for the long term. stayed for months and months. knew how to teach peopleweight to. do don't get me wrong, red cross and habitat for a humanity were fabulous but the vast majority of the people came out of religious fervor. i wanted that be part of this story. i wanted it to be part of the story that 46 of our sister states sent resources to
mississippi. 46. more than 25,000 employees of state and local governments in other states came to mississippi, including more than 10,000 national guard. remember when katrina hit, our big national guard unit was in iraq. we had 3,000 mississippi national guard in iraq. so, these were a god send to us. so this is a book that is going to be mostly about things you hadn't read much about, because like i say, those are not the stories the news media thinks are news. but the other things are about how our legislatures stood up, did a great job in the special session. did a great job by doing things that need to be done, including letting casinos come onshore. but the didn't do thing that didn't need be done. they didn't spend money that we
didn't have. they were very prudent. what they did. in the book you'll see, i praised billy mccoy, speaker of the house. he and fight like cats and dogs. over tort reform and budgets and everything, but when this came up, bill mccoy stepped up to the plate and was a real, real leader. there's a chapter about congress, what we did with congress and how indispensable that cochran was, what a blessing he was ceremony over the progress committee of the senate, and mississippi's darkest hour of need in modern times. he had the best position in the whole congress to help us, and he helped us. interestingly, thad and the delegation were very much like the local officials. thad told me on wednesday after
the storm on monday, he said, y'all are going to be done here, going to be closer than we are. we are not going to try to develop a plan. we're not going to tell you what we think ought to do. you and the local people develop a plan and bring it to me and i'll try to get it passed. you decide what we need to do and i'll try to get it done. interestingly, president bush the next week came to the first meeting of the barksdale commission, our commission about recovery, rebuilding and renewal, said almost exactly the same thing. he said we want you and mississippi to decide how mississippi's gulf coast and south mississippi will be rebuilt. we're not going decide in washington but i will give you all the help i can give you. the federal government took some really, really bad criticism, a lot of it very deserved. their logistical system they imposed totally collapsed.
never work. and we were within a day, if not hours, of catastrophic results because of it. but we work around it. and i have to tell you, one of the way wes work around fema's, the federal government's failure, was the u.s. military stepped in. they brought us 1.7 million meals that they airlifted in and it took the place of what fema was supposed to have done. these weren't disaster assistance meals. this was the pentagon taking meals that are supposed to be for soldiers, and saying, we can get them replaced before we run out. so, a lot of times the federal government was typically a great partner. they did a whole lot more right than wrong. but they sure did some things wrong, and i'm not saying that they didn't. i hope when you read this book,
the book is half as good as the story, because if i've done the story justice, this is going to be a great book. cause it's a great story. i mention met my mother, she brought out the best of most people. the would say, but remember, crisis does not create character. crisis reveals character. the, which -- the character was already there character and spirit of the people of mississippi was there unrecognized, perhaps most unrecognized by us, by ourselves, but after katrina, after the response of our people, i can't tell you how many times i would hear what i
first heard as a business council meeting, an organization of ceos, i made a talk a month after the storm about how we were doing and a man jumped up and said, -- a ceo, don't know who. he said governor you got to be proud of your people. those are to the kind of people we'd like to have work for us, and i would suggest to you that toyota, paccar, service, ge aviation, those people never thought of coming to mississippi until katrina. golly, you wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy to go through what we had to go through, but having survived, having responded, having overcome the worst natural disaster in american history, the truth is, our response to katrina did more for the image of mississippi than anything else that has in my lifetime.
i believe that sincerely. both in people's image of us, but also of our self-image, because i do think we did not recognize the spirit and character of our people as much as we should have until this terrible storm made it be revealed to everybody. i hope you like the become. i am, again, grateful to university press. i'm gravity toll ginny and rebecca and zoe and tremendously grateful to jerry nash. our politic aren't exactly the same. but he had written a couple of becomes, and i asked andy taggert about him, and andy recommended him and i talked to him, and we have had a great time doing this. he has been a great partner. i promise you, we not be here
were it not for jerry nash. i'll always be grateful to him. i end the book with a chapter called "ten lessons." in leadership. that i'm not going to go through them all right here but die believe that if you'll look at them no, matter what kind of leader you are, captain of the football team, president of the university, president of the united states, ceo of some company, that you'll see that the lesson from the mega disaster, this mega disaster, those lessons are applicable to most crises, even business crises, and i hope you will learn, one of them i already talk about. somebody has to be in charge. the guy who is in charge got to make decisions. we were in totally uncharted waters. nobody ever been through this before. never been a storm like this before that -- in the united
states about we were making it up as we went along. somebody had to be in charge, and somebody had to make decisions and one thing i learned, you make enough decisions, you're going to make some bad decisions. but the other thing is, even more obvious, in the mega disaster, no decision is worse than a bad decision. if you let the natural -- let the negative disaster talk its natural course, that is the worst. that is the worth decision. so, i made a bunch of bad decisions. but the lesson 0 of leadership, when you recognize you made a bad decision, change it. don't get pig-headed. don't act like it might hurt my politically or hurt my reputation, make a bad decision, change it or adjust it. have a staff that is strong enough and good enough that they'll tell you, boss, this isn't work out like we thought. maybe we need to look at something different. we did a time and time and time
again, tell the truth. that's one of the great lessons of catastrophe. your corrected is in difference spencable to your leadership. your credibility is first test evidence withure own staff. if you lie, don't the truth, first people going to know is your staff, who you depend on, hopefully are empowering. roberts has been around politics all his life, look i have, and politicians don't like delegating authority. they are perfectly willing to delegate responsibility but they're unwilling often to delegate the authority necessary to carry out the responsibility. you got to learn delegate authority. so people can get something done. so they can help you. the last thing will say is the last lesson in the book.
it is really, really important to have a great partner. and i was blessed in katrina that marsha and i -- we'd been married 33 years in, 43 now. but she became the eyes and ears for not just me but for our whole team. she was on the coast 70 the first 90 days after the storm. she became the face that said somebody cares. that somebody is trying to help. i always say issue don't believe she ever tried to help anything that voted for me. her -- he thought her job was to help the people who knew the least about how to get help. the people who had the least in resources. the people that needed help the worst. and she did, and i'm very proud
of her. but importantly as a lesson of leadership, it is great to have a strong partner who understands what you're doing, why you're working 80 are hour weeked why you're driving your staff in working 80-hour weeks. why this is hard, and she got it and she was there to keep me informed. she was there to kick me when my ego got a little out of line. she was there to cheer me up when i got down, and i will tell you, there were a lot of days that it was pretty easy to be down. we had to look at what we were dealing with. i hope you like the book. i hope you will see that the book gets more coverage for what really happened in mississippi than we have had so far.
if we do, that will achieve my main goal, and i hope you like it. thank you. [applause] somebody in the back dish can't see very well -- has a hap up. [inaudible question] >> cue speak about the frustration of not being able to communicate and what the state did after that. >> -- from the national guard got down to the coast on monday night with 800 national guard, and he said, for the first self days, he might as well been a civil war general bus they had no ability to communicate. he'd have to send somebody. in fact he talks in the book about filling out cards and giving the card to some enlisted man and sending him to pass could gu la to fine some officer
they couldn't communicate with. so it's critical, and of course you have to remember, not just the cell towers. when you lose electricity, you can't imagine what all you lose. isn't just the light god out and the air conditioning done work. means the food locker and the freezers and coolers ator grocery store don't work so all of the food goes bad. it means the lift pumps at the gas station can't -- you can't -- thousand gallons of gas in the tank, can't get it up. even the lift pumps on the sewers in areas where you have enough elevation change, sued don't work. so it's not just the telephones and the televisions. one of the great days of the whole katrina episode, after camille, it took eight weeks to get electricity restored to everybody. after katrina, mississippi power
restored -- had every customer had lost power. every customer. they lost a huge part of their generation, and almost all their transmission. they got the electricity back on 12 days. to every customer who could take electricity. and the truth is bat fourth or fifth of their customers couldn't take electricity because a lot of them didn't on have a house left. we created a new verb during katrina, the verb is slabbed. i've been slabbed, meaning my house us gone, nothing left but the slab. there probably were 20,000 or 25,000 homes on the gulf coast that were reduced to nothing but the slab. i was going to finish on that point. tell yous this, under the federal disaster law, the existing law, states would get
7.5% of the public assistance, the individual assistants, et cetera, that the federal government gave the state to do this and that. we get another 7.5% for what is called hazard mitigation. we wanted to take our money and had twice this much money coming, and build a survivable, inner operable wireless communication system. they would not let use the money for that. they said that communications didn't fit into hard mitigation. about the studentest -- stupiddist things i've heard. if you can tell people to get out of the way you can save lies and property. at the end of the day, senator cochran, made people that move 100 million dud out the hazard mitigation account and put it in a different account and then give it to us.
that's how pig-headed they were about this stupid rule. we're still the only state in america that has a survivable interoperable wireless communication system statewide. because it's still the rule. [applause] >> anyway, anybody else? >> i wondered i you would talk about leadership and the composure. you were on television so often during the disaster, and you had to be dealing with information that was astronomical and the level of destruction, the amount of money, but you were always a composed, sensible voice. how in the world did you maintain that? >> well, thank you for saying that. we had a press briefing at least every day.
some days we would have more than one for some particular reason or not. so, i do believe one thief strong lessons to the leader in a catastrophe is, be open but let the public through the news media know what is going on. if it's bad news, admit it. when i was political director or the white house, henry kissinger said in government and politics, if there's bad news, get it out fast. because unlike fine wine, bad news does not improve with aim. and so i followed that. we told the bad as well as the good. we emphasized the good. we were trying to give people hope and confidence because the ultimate mission here was to get people returned to their commune communities and re build the communities. took jobs, took a place to live, took a place to send your kids to school. so, housing was the biggest
issue from the second week. searching for survivors and for remains were the biggest issue the first week. so we tried to get the truth out, and you -- as i mentioned earlier, just have to tell the truth. nothing hurt worse than for people to fine out you lied about something. why i was compose inside i don't think of myself as having been especially composed imremember doing an interview with cnn on thursday morning after the storm, and miles o'brien, a political reporter for cnn, we did bit satellite. i'm standing in front of the governor's mansion, and he asked me three times in a row why i was not being critical of the federal government, was i being politically loyal to president
bush, and he kept asking the question, and i just kept ducking it because i was taught, praise in public, correct in private. and if you are going to try to be a good teammate, you told people privately, theirs the problem. didn't go out and criticize them. finally miles said -- asked me a fourth time itch said, look, miles, we have an interview and an argument, whichever one you want, i'm ready for either one, and so i did occasionally lose my temper dealing with these guys. but you have to give people good information, which means you got to make it understandable. if being throughoutful isn't enough, it people don't understand it, don't understand the import of it, we have tried to stay well-briefed and tried to keep the public briefed. don't know that there's any