GULFPORT, Miss. — Walking a hurricane-ravaged street, Vice President Dick Cheney declared Thursday that much progress is being made in a disaster relief effort he termed “very impressive.”
Cheney’s plane took him on a course over heavily damaged houses as he arrived to this Gulf Coast town destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. After meeting with state and local officials, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, toured a particularly damaged part of the town.
The vice president told reporters he was struck by the “very positive, can-do” attitude of Mississippians toward the help they are getting. In general, Mississippi officials have been much more complimentary of the federal hurricane response than those from Louisiana and, particularly, New Orleans.
President Bush dispatched Cheney to the region, amid persistent criticism of the sluggish pace of the federal piece of the response, to examine any bureaucratic red tape getting in the way of helping people and to focus on the long-term issues at hand.
“I think the progress we’re making is significant,” Cheney said. “I think the performance, in general, at least in terms of the information I’ve received from locals, is definitely very impressive.”
He added: “That’s not to say there’s not an awful lot of work to be done — there is.”
While Cheney spoke, a passer-by hurled an expletive at the vice president. “First time I’ve heard it,” Cheney said, when asked if he was hearing a lot of such sentiments.
Most the people Cheney met with were friendly. Lynne Lofton, whose house further down the street was completely destroyed, was an exception.
“I think this media opportunity today is a terrible waste of time and taxpayer money,” she said. “They’ve picked a nice neighborhood where people have insurance and most are Republicans.”
Cheney was also accompanied by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Later Thursday, he was heading to Louisiana.
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