Two refugees had nothing but profanities to utter after President Bush’s speech from New Orleans. A casino dealer said Congress was to blame for the slow response to the hurricane, not the president.
Americans watched Bush’s speech Thursday with mixed expectations. Some were glad the president acknowledged again the government’s failure in its initial response to Hurricane Katrina; others were angry, saying the speech was too little, too late.
“He had no intention of coming to help us,” said Samuel Lewis, 31, an evacuee who watched the speech in a Houston shelter. “He should have been there 24 hours after. He is telling me he is going to rebuild my city. Still, when I go back home, you are going to rebuild my city, but what about all the stuff I lost? What about jobs?”
'A day late and a dollar short'
Speaking from New Orleans’ French Quarter, Bush promised the government would pay most of the costs of rebuilding the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast in one of the largest reconstruction projects the world has ever seen.
“A day late and a dollar short,” said 18-year-old Wayne State University student Rachel Aviles in Detroit. “I think he’s more responding to the negative media than responding to fix the problem.”
Jason Sawyer, 30, added his sarcasm as he watched at the Eastlake Zoo tavern in Seattle. When the president offered toll-free help numbers, Sawyer responded: “Oh yeah, pick up that cell phone that doesn’t work and call FEMA.”
In Rochester, N.Y., students gathered around a television in a residence hall at the University of Rochester. Nat Powell, 21, wasn’t confident the money to rebuild New Orleans will be well spent.
“It’s going to be geared toward rebuilding the city — it’s not going to be geared toward building up the population, and that I think is the main problem,” he said. “The poor are going to stay poor unless the problem of poverty is actually addressed.”
'There's lots of talk, no action'
The speech left Kevin Melton, 54, a retired Marine from Biloxi, Miss., disgusted. He lost his home and car in the storm and is now staying at a Red Cross shelter in Gulfport, Miss.
“I’m constantly seeing on TV that money is being allocated, and we’re not seeing it,” he said. “There’s lots of talk, no action. It just seems to be a showcase now.”
Yolanda Johnson, a 39-year-old single mother of four, was looking for a bit of inspiration, but was also left disappointed. She watched Bush on a tiny television in a Houston shelter.
“I really thought he was going to say something beneficial, something for us to look forward to,” she said. “It’s the same thing we’ve been reading in the paper. Every politician makes promises and the promises are never kept.”
'He's just the middle man'
But Scott Parker, 44, a casino dealer from Ocean Springs, Miss., doesn’t blame Bush at all. “He knows what happened here,” Parker said. “He’s been here. But he’s just the middle man. Congress has the say-so.”
In Albuquerque, N.M., members of an extended family who fled their homes in New Orleans following Katrina’s wrath sat silently as the president spoke, gesturing in agreement when he mentioned the hardships faced by the refugees.
“I think it was a positive message, and I think it will be done,” said 21-year-old Christopher Freeman. “It just takes time.”
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