August 29th, 2007
09:03 AM ET
9 years ago

Bush returns to the Gulf Coast

President Bush greets New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin Monday night.

(CNN) – President Bush arrived in New Orleans Tuesday night to mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, his 15th visit to the Gulf Coast since the deadly storm.

Air Force One touched down at Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner, which served as a staging area for medical teams in the days following the storm. First Lady Laura Bush arrived on a smaller Air Force jet a few minutes before the President.

The President warmly greeted Governor Kathleen Blanco, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin at the foot of the plane. The smiles and pats on the back were in contrast to often bitter political disagreements between their administrations in the wake of the storm.

Mr. Bush then greeted Lt. General Russell Honore, who won praise for his role commanding military relief efforts after several days of complaints over government inaction. The President saluted Honore and then shook his hand.

Blanco and Nagin joined the President on Marine One for a trip to downtown New Orleans, where they were expected to dine at a newly reopened restaurant, Dooky Chase. Local reporters noted it’s in an area with a housing complex that is still shut down. The White House said community and cultural leaders were to join them.

Mr. Bush has several stops in New Orleans tomorrow, including a moment of silence for the victims, before traveling to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

The White House continues to face criticism over the response to the storm, and recovery efforts two years later. Aboard Air Force One, en route to the Gulf, White House officials briefed reporters on federal efforts. Spokesman Scott Stanzel told reporters, “The President continues to follow through on his commitment to help local citizens rebuild their lives and communities on the Gulf Coast. The federal government has provided more than $114 billion for relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts, and over $96 billion of which has been disbursed or is available for the states to draw from.”

Federal Coordinator for Gulf Coast Recovery Don Powell said levee rebuilding was a success, saying, “The levee systems are better and stronger than they've ever been in the history of New Orleans. In order for New Orleans to be a viable city going forward, the most important thing in the long-term rebuilding is the levee system. People want to feel that they're safe.”

–CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk

Filed under: Katrina • President Bush
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Rick, Chicago Illinois

    Patrick Kunc, Denver Colorado,

    "What was the assistance they were offering?"

    WHO ...CARES? Take it! Don’t debate political agendas while people are drowning.

    Especially since Dubya didn't get over there until about FOUR days later. What president GOLFS when a hurricane puts 80 percent of a major American city under water? He got his a** over to swing states during his re-election campaign quicker than he got down to N.O.!

    "Obviously when those national guardsmen were sent to Iraq, President Bush didn't know that a category 5 hurricane was going to destroy New Orleans."

    It doesn't matter! You don't send the help we MAY need HERE over THERE. Do you not buy a fire alarm and then say "Well, how was I to know a fire would break out?"

    It's a known FACT that 1) hurricane seasons were getting worse and WORSE before Katrina hit, and 2) every time a storm came anywhere near the city of New Orleans, the distinct possibility of the levees breaking was mentioned and both the State of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans begged the federal government for money to fix the levees.

    "sending troops to fight it is the President's call and has nothing to do with New Orleans."

    It sure does when he's sending NATIONAL GUARDSMEN over there to take part in COMBAT situations (that they're NOT trained to do) via a back-door draft when we need them here to handle unexpected emergencies!

    "It was a tragic situation that was NOBODY'S FAULT."

    Really? Then tell us why Bush personally apologized to the people of Louisiana and told them that the govt had "failed" them? Whoever else's fault it was (state, local, etc), it was certainly theirs as well since they had even admitted as much.

    August 29, 2007 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  2. Tricia M Charlottetown PEI

    I don't believe all the fault lies with President Bush regarding Katrina.
    I do believe that Mayor Nagin, Governor Blanco, Michael Brown and President Bush could have done much more.

    According to the Hurricane Center, State and Federal Officials were warned 32 hrs. prior to Katrina that it was going to be a level 4 or 5 Hurricane and would topple the levees.

    They had a more than difficult disaster facing them head on. However, I believe if they had worked together they could have saved many lives and lessened the horrific aftermath experienced by the survivors.

    In our modern age it is very difficult to understand how citizens sitting on roof tops could not be saved. Were there no emergency rescue means available? Hellicopters? Boats? Why did officials refuse the offer of aid from other areas and buses to transport NO residents to safety?

    I don't know the facts regarding the Geographics or Populations of the areas. But, I know if such a disaster ever took place here there would be many who would not have the strength, finances, or knowledge to know how to survive or deal with such a nightmarish event. But I would hope that those unable to help themselves would find assistance regardless of their race or community status.

    I believe whole heartedly in helping all nations in need. But I also believe that a nation's people should be provided for first before reaching out to assist those in far away lands.

    My heart goes out to all victims of Katrina and especially to those who after two years are still striving to achieve a normal existence.

    Next to 9/11 it was the most horrific disaster I've ever witnessed.

    August 29, 2007 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  3. Val Davydov, Agawam, MA

    You know, Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca and David, Salinas, CA, I had tears in my eyes when I read both of your posts (5:46 pm and 6:26 pm). Only and only in America it is possible to disagree on policies, and yet to remain friends at the end. THAT IS what makes our country so beautiful.

    This being said, however, I would have to agree with Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca and Patrick, Denver Colorado, that it WASN'T President Bush's fault ALONE the way things turned out to be in New Orleans. There are many to blame ... I will stop short of pointing fingers here.

    And calling the President names, dear Kim Portland, Oregon, will not produce any results to your "questioning" and "demand for accountability". It just allows the rest of the world to perceive that our President is stupid.

    August 29, 2007 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  4. Myron, Honolulu, Hi

    How cute. Big hugs all around–see what money can buy - hugs if not Love.

    August 30, 2007 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  5. Ed, Fort Worth, TX

    Well, it looks like we, the tax payers, just paid for another Bush photo op. I have no idea what a trip such as this costs us but however much, it is too much for this 'loser' and his wife to visit a city that is struggling to survive just so he can smirk and pat a few people on the back. I doubt any of them are dense enough to believe this clown.

    August 30, 2007 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. David, Gilbert Arizona

    What I don't understand about the whole argument is how the citizens of Louisiana could not have known Katrina was coming.

    On Friday August 26 Govenor Blanco declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. A state of emergency is a governmental declaration which orders emergency preparedness and citizen alerts. Katrina was a category 2 hurricane.

    On Saturday August 27 Katrina is upgraded to a category 3 hurricane. Governor Blanco asked President Bush to declare a federal state of emergency. “I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments..." The federal emergency is declared and FEMA is asked to mobilize.

    And at this point the citizens of Lousiana are doing...what exactly?

    7am Sunday August 28 Katrina is upgraded to a category 5 hurricane. The morning newspaper warns the levees may give. At 9am Mayor Nagin issues a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. President Bush is given a briefing on the levee conditions and tolerances. Louisiana requests 700 buses from FEMA. 100 buses are sent.

    Early Monday morning August 29 Katrina makes landfall as a category 4 hurricane. 30,000 evacuees have already gathered at the Superdome.

    The following days after Katrina made landfall are a series of FEMA failures. They are documented from the initial failure to send enough buses to the failure to move trailers which were parked enmass 100 miles north of the disaster area. That is indeed a Bush administration failure. Understandably Bush delegates authority to his directors but ultimately the failure lays at the feet of Bush. He hired the directors.

    I will also say, although it may not be politically correct to do so, the citizens of New Orleans had a personal responsibilty to get out of harms way. Psychologists have likened the mindset as disbelief or, "it can't happen to me" syndrome. Faced with a category 5 hurricane the citizens still felt as if a pending disaster would not befall them.

    As boats were moving up and down the streets of New Orleans rescue workers were faced with survivors who refused to leave their homes, even though they were flooded with fetid water.

    There is blame and failure enough to go around. After two years the blame game needs to end. Rebuilding New Orleans will not be an easy or fast project. It is a very real possibility that New Orleans should not return to the city it once was. New Orleans was it's own undoing and it is no great surprise that a city built below sea level in a hurricane zone was bound to be flooded.

    August 30, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Amy, TN

    Rick in Chicago:

    "It's a known FACT that 1) hurricane seasons were getting worse and WORSE before Katrina hit, and 2) every time a storm came anywhere near the city of New Orleans, the distinct possibility of the levees breaking was mentioned and both the State of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans begged the federal government for money to fix the levees."

    Read your own post and it becomes quite obvious that if what you say is true, the City of N.O. should've known to prepare ITSELF for a category 5 and its aftermath. Not waited for a federal government who’d apparently ignored it’s begging up to that point. The distinct possibility of levee failure is the REASON Nagin should’ve evacuated everyone in his city, not waited for the feds to swoop in and save the day. Which didn’t and COULDN’T happen immediately.

    Your post makes it obvious, the government of N.O. dropped the ball, the Bush Administration just kicked it out of play.

    August 30, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  8. Amy, Fl

    "And calling the President names, dear Kim Portland, Oregon, will not produce any results to your "questioning" and "demand for accountability". It just allows the rest of the world to perceive that our President is stupid."

    Posted By Val Davydov, Agawam, MA : August 29, 2007 11:55 pm

    I'm guessing the perception by the rest of the world that the U.S. president is stupid already exists. I hope I am wrong (but I doubt it).

    August 30, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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