Former Presidents Bush and Clinton said Monday they are ready to help Hurricane Katrina victims through a new fund similar to the one they spearheaded after the Asian tsunami.
“We’re most anxious to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” Bush said. “It will take all of us working together to accomplish our goal.”
Bush and Clinton later visited with hurricane refugees who are staying in the stadium complex that includes the Astrodome.
Among the various corporations and other organizations that have so far pledged donations to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund are Wal-Mart and the Walton Family Foundation, which has given $23 million. Other major sponsors include Microsoft, Dillard’s Inc., Nike and the Trump Group.
“I should say that nothing we do can be an adequate response to the agony we’ve seen,” Clinton said. “I am grateful to all the folks who have given.”
Clinton said he and Bush decided to head this new fund not because there was a fear the federal government has not been doing its part to help victims, but to fill in the gaps in government assistance and “help people who would otherwise be overlooked.”
Both Clinton and Bush were asked about criticism of the federal government’s response in providing aid to hurricane victims. Bush said as a father he does not like the criticism leveled at his son, President Bush, but “as a president it goes with territory.”
Clinton said the focus now should be on helping refugees restart their lives.
“I think there should be an analysis of what happened. The time to do that is after some time passes,” Clinton said.
In the audience was Clinton’s wife, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who sat next to former first lady Barbara Bush and Houston Mayor Bill White. A few seats away sat U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and Reps. Al Green and Gene Green, both Houston Democrats.
Hurricane a 'wake-up call'
Hillary Clinton said she agreed with her husband about a look at the government’s response. She said that an evaluation of how prepared this country is for future natural disasters is also needed.
“It is time for this country to start investing in the infrastructure we need to be richer and safer and stronger in the future,” she said. “If this isn’t a wakeup call, I don’t know what it would take.”
Clinton and Bush first teamed up earlier this year to raise money for tsunami victims. They raised $11 million during that effort and President Bush asked his father and Clinton to pair up again for this crisis, former President Bush’s spokesman Jim McGrath said Sunday.