President Bush Tells Reporters He Will No Longer ‘Defend’ Initial Hurricane Response

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By: E&P Staff

In a joint appearance with Iraqi President Talabani in Washington, D.C. today, which mainly focused on the war, President Bush took two questions from reporters. The first, naturally, was not about the war, but the Katrinia catastrophe and questions it raised about what might happen in the event of another natural, or unnatural, disaster.

Surprisingly, the president merely responded that this was an “important question” but did not offer a ringing statement on readiness.

A moment later, he backtracked on his previous defense of the initial federal response to the hurricane, saying “I’m not going to defend the process going in, but I am going to defend the people who are on the front line of saving lives. “

Here from the transcript:

***

Q Mr. President, given what happened with Katrina, shouldn’t Americans be concerned if their government isn’t prepared to respond to another disaster or even a terrorist attack?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government. And to the extent that the federal government didn’t fully do its job right, I take responsibility. I want to know what went right and what went wrong. I want to know how to better cooperate with state and local government, to be able to answer that very question that you asked: Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack or another severe storm. And that’s a very important question. And it’s in our national interest that we find out exactly what went on and — so that we can better respond.

One thing for certain; having been down there three times and have seen how hard people are working, I’m not going to defend the process going in, but I am going to defend the people who are on the front line of saving lives. Those Coast Guard kids pulling people out of the — out of the floods are — did heroic work. The first responders on the ground, whether they be state folks or local folks, did everything they could. There’s a lot of people that are — have done a lot of hard work to save lives.

And so I want to know what went right and what went wrong to address those. But I also want people in America to understand how hard people are working to save lives down there in not only New Orleans, but surrounding parishes and along the Gulf Coast.

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