As Washington rushed to pass more than $50 billion in emergency relief for Katrina victims, President Bush promised homeless evacuees, among other federal benefits, an immediate payout of $2,000. “The people that have been hurt by this storm need to know that the government is going to be with you for the long haul,” said the president.
On all fronts Thursday, it was administration damage control.
Vice President Dick Cheney was dispatched to tour the hurricane zone, where he explained, “The president asked me to come down to take a look at things to begin to focus on the longer term.”
At a school in Mississippi, it was first lady Laura Bush defending the government’s response to Katrina. “I think we’ve seen a lot of the same footage over and over that isn’t necessarily representative of what really happened in both — in a lot of ways,” she said. “Overall, it was a very good response.”
But the criticism grows: A new Pew Research poll shows nearly two-thirds interviewed think President Bush could have done more to speed up relief efforts.
And the president’s mother, Barbara Bush, has herself been criticized as being insensitive after saying, about Katrina victims Monday, “Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were underprivileged anyway. This is working very well for them.”
Democratic leaders in Congress have called the president "oblivious" and said they would boycott a congressional investigation because it’s not bipartisan.
Republican leaders at the White House said Democrats have crossed the line. “People can join in and help get the job done,” said Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. “Or some people can stand aside and criticize.”
But even Republicans admit mistakes have been made and suggested President Bush was open to the idea of naming a new “disaster czar” to lead the rebuilding.