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As Criticism Mounts, Bush Tours Gulf Coast

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    NHNE News List Current Members: 1358 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... AS CRITICISM MOUNTS, BUSH TOURS GULF COAST By Susan
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2005
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      By Susan Milligan
      Boston Globe
      September 3, 2005


      WASHINGTON -- As President Bush surveyed the damage wrought by Hurricane
      Katrina yesterday, a political storm brewed in Washington, unleashing a
      bipartisan wave of anger that started with the government's slow response to
      the disaster and extended to the war in Iraq, high gas prices, and race.

      Senate majority leader Bill Frist called for congressional hearings, and
      other Republicans normally loyal to Bush questioned whether the
      administration could handle a terrorist attack, given its lackluster
      response to Katrina. African-American lawmakers, meanwhile, bemoaned what
      they called inadequate help to some of the nation's poorest and least
      powerful citizens, and congressional offices said they were deluged with
      calls from constituents angry about spiraling gas prices.

      Bush said the results of initial hurricane relief efforts ''are not
      acceptable," though he later tempered his comments while touring the damage.

      Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, said the federal response suggested
      flaws in the nation's preparedness for another terrorist assault.

      ''This damage could just as easily have been caused by a terrorist attack,
      and many if not most of the same elements are involved in responding to
      natural disasters," Kyl said. ''There has to be a plan in place -- along
      with adequate resources -- to be able to evacuate people, or at least
      provide relief supplies before panic sets in. None of this appears to have
      been done in Louisiana."

      Others linked the crisis to another issue that has dragged President Bush's
      public approval ratings to record lows: the protracted war in Iraq, which
      Democrats said was siphoning money and National Guard resources from a
      domestic disaster.

      ''Where are our National Guard when we need them? They're over in Iraq,"
      said Representative Diane Watson, Democrat of California. ''It is not rocket
      science. Why is it that the monies that people pay and are collected as
      taxes are going elsewhere?"

      Asked about it by reporters in Biloxi, Miss., Bush rejected that notion.

      ''I just completely disagree. We've got a job to defend this country and the
      war on terror, and we've got a job to bring aid and comfort to the people of
      the Gulf Coast, and we'll do both," he said. ''We've got plenty of resources
      to do both."

      In Biloxi, where he hugged hurricane victims and chatted with local
      officials, Bush acknowledged for the first time yesterday that the results
      of initial relief efforts ''are not acceptable," but later tempered his
      comments to say that he was referring only to the looting and violence in
      New Orleans and not the government's response.

      ''I'm satisfied with the response. I'm not satisfied with the results," Bush

      Bush met with some displaced residents, walking arm-in-arm and comforting
      two weeping young women, telling them softly to ''hang in there." Later, the
      president took an aerial tour of the damage in New Orleans, where tensions
      are high and people are still trapped in the devastated city.

      Bush -- who got high marks for his leadership, compassion, and military
      certitude in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- looked
      uncomfortable and grim yesterday as he viewed the aftermath of a disaster
      caused not by terrorists, but by nature.

      Stu Rothenberg, an independent political analyst, said the hurricane crisis
      could create big headaches for Bush and other Republicans if Americans
      conclude he was not up to the task of taking care of Americans at home.

      ''It's certainly possible this could become a defining event for people,"
      Rothenberg said. ''I think if people feel personally he dropped the ball on
      this, it could become a problem for him."

      Members of the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday blasted Bush for his
      failure to quickly address a crisis that has largely affected poor

      With the president criticized for a late and slow response, the White House
      also dispatched two of the administration's most popular figures to meet
      with storm and flood victims: Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza
      Rice. As Laura Bush met with hurricane victims in Lafayette, La., Rice --
      who grew up in central Alabama -- announced yesterday she will tour the area
      to assess how to use the offers of aid and manpower pouring in from foreign
      nations, including some of the world's poorest countries.

      Rice, who is African-American, dismissed suggestions that race was a factor
      in the response to the deepening crisis in New Orleans, which has a
      predominantly black population. ''I just don't believe it," Rice said.

      But many Americans and their congressional representatives seethed over the
      nation's domestic and foreign troubles yesterday.

      Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Malden, said he passed a
      constituent who had just paid more than $60 to fill her gas tank. ''Get rid
      of Bush," Markey said the woman yelled out her car window.

      ''We're just being swamped with calls on both subjects -- energy prices and
      their disgust at how poorly the Bush administration has responded to this
      catastrophe," Markey said.

      A CBS poll released yesterday showed Bush's approval ratings at an all-time
      low of 41 percent. Historically, presidents' approval ratings tend to
      increase during a national crisis.

      Though Bush praised Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management
      Agency, for his work, Republican leaders in the Senate said yesterday they
      would conduct oversight hearings into FEMA's response to the catastrophe --
      a highly unusual act by a Republican-led Congress normally reluctant to
      investigate officials in its dominant party.

      Meanwhile, Republican leaders ranging from Massachusetts Governor Mitt
      Romney to former House speaker Newt Gingrich criticized the rescue effort.

      ''I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern
      Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster
      than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we
      think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?" said
      Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress.

      Republican Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Mike DeWine of Ohio asked the
      Bush administration to look into reports of price gouging by gas sellers.
      Roy Blunt of Missouri, a Republican and the House majority whip, delivered
      an unusually critical assessment of the federal response, saying public
      safety should have been secured before rescue missions began.

      ''I hope lessons have been learned that we have to respond more quickly, we
      have to respond in the right ways, and be sure our priorities are right,"
      said Blunt, normally a strong ally of the Bush administration.

      Louisiana lawmakers in both parties were deeply unhappy with the relief
      effort, lauding the House's final passage yesterday of $10.5 billion in
      preliminary aid but wondering why the process wasn't moving more quickly.


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