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Notes from the August 29, 2010 broadcast of Meet The Press

August 29, 2010

A moving and passionate edition of Meet The Press today as NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams filled in for host David Gregory with a live broadcast from New Orleans marking the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The show originated from a beautiful room at a restored restaurant in the French Quarter.

The first guests were Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. They are brother and sister… and Williams played a clip of their father, Moon Landrieu, appearing on Meet The Press in 1972. Senator Landrieu was good as always. But the real star of the discussion was Mayor Landrieu. The country is just getting to know this guy who comes across as a very straight shooter, very clear in his assessment of what must happen in New Orleans. He could be a poster child for “competent leadership.”

Williams also spoke with Brad Pitt out in the neighborhood the actor is helping rebuild. Pitt was modest and wisely stepped away from any question where he did not feel he had the expertise to answer. He wants to make sure these homes and levees are rebuilt the right way. And he is correct to ask why they weren’t built right in the first place.

According to Pitt, last month all but one home in his new neighborhood were producing more electricity than they were using. “So families were getting bills that were $8, $12, just processing fees to tell them they didn’t owe anything for utilities. That’s an amazing story,” said Pitt. He wonders why every new home in America isn’t being built this way.

The roundtable included journalist Garland Robinette, actor Will Pierce, and historian Douglas Brinkley. I didn’t know much about Robinette before seeing him in all the anniversary coverage over the last few days. But I am glad he has stayed passionate about the fact that during this event water and MREs could not be delivered for five days to a spot inside the United States… and no one can explain why.

Pierce, like Pitt, seems to be very much about getting things done. He has led the rebuilding of a different neighborhood, again with all green technology.

Brinkley was very passionate about the on-going importance of New Orleans to American history. He suggested the rest of the world seems to hold New Orleans in higher regard than we do.

The broadcast became its most emotional when tape was replayed dealing with dead bodies in the convention center and the overall failure of government (at all levels) to respond. This added emphasis to Robinette’s warning that New Orleans has long been the “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the country. If you don’t like what you see in New Orleans, get ready to do something about it, because history says the failures here are likely to be visited on your town next.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

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