MSNBC: Tim, your reaction to President George W. Bush’s address to the nation from New Orleans.
Tim Russert: I think President Bush demonstrated to the country he understands the magnitude of the crisis. But, because we’re into the third week of the crisis, one speech alone will not solve his political problems. This is a marathon -- $300 million dollars!
The remaining three years of his presidency will be devoted to this and he also has to deal with the problem of the racial divide and that three out of four Americans believe that their government is not prepared to protect them if there’s another crisis or disaster.
It’s a tall order, and he began Thursday night. But it must be sustained. It’s complicated and difficult. It will have to be overseen in a steady, unrelenting way.
MSNBC: You saw the devastation yourself in the tour you took of St. Bernard Parish. Even the backdrop of the president’s speech was eerie, with building lights coming on and alarms blaring as power came back. New Orleans is no where near “back,” but progress is being made. What’s next?
Russert: We have to be careful this doesn’t become a tale of two cities with the French quarter and downtown lighting up, but, out there, where I was walking, seeing, smelling, feeling – it’s desolate its devastating.
People need real help. They have to be helped now, from all across the country – private and public sector help. They really are on their heels. They’re on their knees. I’ve never seen anything like this.
MSNBC: During the president’s speech, a military and police convoy traveled on a nearby road, at a high rate of speed – contributing to the feeling of martial law, of being in a lockdown condition throughout the region. This all has to have an affect on the psyche of the citizens.
Russert: New Orleans is an American city that has a real soul and many people I talked to today are fearful it may not be able to be recaptured.
The president tried to address that Thursday night, but there’re still the answered questions. What kind of city is this going to be? How big? Will it maintain its true and unique American character?
Again -- I underscore this – this is not a quick fix. This can’t de done by one simple governmental program. This has to be something that is detailed and enormous and sustained.
And also, I think the president began to touch on it, there are a lot of underlying causes. You can’t deal with the problems of poverty and class simply by fixing levees. It is deeper than that.
But, this really gives a chance, I think – a challenge and opportunity. It’s the first American city of the 21st century that can be rebuilt… and we all can play a part in it.
MSNBC: You'll, of course, be discussing all this Sunday, on Meet the Press?
Russert: This and more. We'll have the head of the Hurricane Katrina federal relief effort, Vice Admiral Thad Allen of the United States Coast Guard, with the very latest on the relief and recovery. Plus, former President Bill Clinton, the founder of the Clinton Global Initiative with a look at the Clinton Global Initiative as well as the Bush/Clinton Katrina Fund. Then, a roundtable on Judge Roberts Confirmation Hearings and Hurricane Katrina and Pres. Bush with Gwen Ifill of PBS’ Washington Week, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, Judy Woodruff , the former anchor of Inside Politics and Byron York of the National Review.
All Sunday, on Meet the Press.