Racing To Help Katrina Victims
It's a warm Texas morning and President Bush calls a press conference to address growing concerns about Hurricane Katrina.
Bush: "Thank you all for coming here today. Let me just say that my administration is ready to swing into action whenever New Orleans needs our help. I've asked the mayor to call me as soon as Hurricane Katrina hits the shore, even if I'm still on vacation."
Wolf Blitzer, CNN: "Mr. President, haven't you been watching the news? Katrina hit New Orleans five days ago. The city is flooded. Many people are homeless, desperate for food and water. They're wondering why it's taking so long for the government to send help."
Bush: "Hold on a minute, Wolf. I'll be right back."
The president returns after 10 minutes to address reporters again.
Bush: "Thank you all for coming here today. Let me just say that my administration is responding quickly to the tragic situation in New Orleans and other parts of Mississippi. We are calling this Operation Freedom From Water. I have dispatched 10,000 National Guard troops to the affected areas and they will arrive there as soon as they're done in Iraq. We are also airlifting emergency supplies to New Orleans, including food, water and American flags. I have asked Congress to approve $10.5 billion in disaster aid, while Vice President Cheney, acting with great urgency, has awarded the first rebuilding contract to Halliburton."
Terry Moran, ABC: "Mr. President, thousands of people are stranded in New Orleans, still waiting for help. Some are wondering if America will help them or if they need to turn to Mexico. Many are saying that the government has let them down, that they're being treated like animals, not human beings. What do you say to them?"
Bush: "Terry, this is America. We don't treat human beings like animals. We treat animals like human beings. You may not know this, but we've evacuated thousands of dogs and cats. A number of Chihuahuas, too."
Moran: "But what about the people, Mr. President?"
Bush: "We care about the people, too. That's why we asked everyone to evacuate before Katrina arrived. We asked them to load their cars and drive out of the city. Well, I've just been informed that some folks do not own cars. They rely on something called ‘public transportation.' I've asked the Secretary of Transportation to look into it and see if we can ‘public transportation' these people out of New Orleans and other parts of Mississippi."
Judy Keen, USA Today: "Mr. President, some of the hardest-hit people are saying that race was a factor in the government's response to the tragedy. Was race a factor?"
Bush: "Let me be frank with you, Judy: Race is always a factor in responding to disasters. If we don't race, how can we help people in time? We must race."
John Roberts, CBS: "Mr. President, some experts are saying that your single-minded focus on fighting terrorism has compromised the country's ability to handle natural disasters. They say it made us more vulnerable to Hurricane Katrina."
Bush: "Well, it made us less vulnerable to Hurricane Saddam. And what about Hurricane Osama? I consider them natural disasters, too, because it's in their nature to wish disaster upon us. We should be naming hurricanes after evildoers like them. If we did that, people would evacuate faster. Do you think anyone would stick around to see if they can survive Hurricane Hitler?"
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