New Orleans, Sept. 11 (Reuters): President George W. Bush headed to the US Gulf Coast today to confront a region where the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina were receding but residents’ frustration still overflowed and political recriminations were rising.
“I’m finding a lot of frustration, and it’s a lot easier to deal with frustration than anger,” said Vice Admiral Thad Allen, chief of staff of the US Coast Guard, who was put in charge of rescue and recovery on Friday.
Bush’s third visit to the region since the storm hit coincided with the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, which killed 2,700 people.
Then, he was able to unite and rally the nation. Now, he faces withering criticism for a bumbling governmental response to the August 29 hurricane and is suffering the lowest approval ratings of his presidency.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said on NBC’s Meet the Press he had the impression Bush was badly informed in the immediate aftermath of the storm which flooded his city, stranding thousands of people unwilling or unable to evacuate. “I think the President for some reason probably did not understand the full magnitude of this catastrophe on the front end,” said Nagin.
Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama said Bush seemed to lack empathy for those stranded by the hurricane. “It’s puzzling, given his immediate response during 9/11, that he did not feel a greater sense of empathy towards the folks that were experiencing this enormous disaster,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
Hundreds of New York firefighters who battled the conflagrations in their city four years ago, attended a Catholic mass on a field north of New Orleans.
New York fire department assistant chief of operations Michael Weinlein said: “We worked side by side as we dug through the rubble of the World Trade Center. We have come to repay that debt.”