Newsmax.com: Gov. Haley Barbour Urged to Blame Bush

Richard A Whitenight rum.runner at JUNO.COM
Thu Sep 1 20:19:18 MDT 2005


Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 11:58 a.m. EDT 
Gov. Haley Barbour Urged to Blame Bush 
The media continues search for ways to pin the blame for Hurricane
Katrina's devastation on President Bush, with television anchors now
getting into the act.

Appearing Thursday on CNN's "American Morning," Mississippi Gov. Haley
Barbour was aggressively grilled over whether the "federal government"
[i.e., the Bush administration] "dropped the ball" on disaster
preparation efforts. 

"We knew it was a strong storm developing for several days before it ever
made landfall," AM host Miles O'Brien told Barbour, before asking, "Do
you have the sense that the federal government has dropped the ball here,
sir?" 
Barbour rebuffed O'Brien's attempt to get him to play the blame game,
insisting that he had his facts wrong. 
"I think it's very unfair for the federal government, for you to say we
knew this was a great powerful storm," Barbour said. "This was a category
1 hurricane when it hit Florida. Now that's the truth." 
Instead of agreeing to disagree, O'Brien insisted it was Barbour who had
his facts wrong. 
"Governor, it was a category 5 storm," he declared. "No, no, Governor
Barbour ... surely there was enough knowledge in advance that this was a
huge killer storm a matter of days, not hours, before it ever struck
landfall. And it seems to me the military" could have done more." 
Still, the Mississippi Republican refused to be steamrolled, challenging
the CNN host: "Now, Miles, if this is an interview or an argument, I
don't care. But if you want to let me tell you what I think, I will." 
With that, O'Brien relented and let Barbour have his say. 
"I'm not going to agree [that the federal government dropped the ball]
because I don't believe it's true," he told CNN. "The federal government
came in here from the first minute - in fact, in advance. They have been
tremendously helpful." 
Here's the full exchange between O'Brien and Barbour: 
O'Brien: The governor of Mississippi is Haley Barbour. He joins us now
live. Governor Barbour, good to have you with us. Bring us up to date on
the numbers. First of all, those numbers I just gave, are they accurate
to the moment? 
Barbour: Well, they're credible, Miles. They're certainly not official,
but it's because the government has a policy of not counting fatalities
until they've been certified by the coroner. But those numbers are
credible, and we worry that they may go up some. 
O'Brien: And when you say, "They may go up some," you've obviously been
down there. I've been down there. I've seen the extent of the wreckage. I
get the sense that they may go up quite a bit. What are you hearing about
people who have missing loved ones or friends? 
Barbour: Well, you have been down there, and between the coast and the
railroad for an area of probably about 50 miles, there's total
devastation. I mean, there's virtually nothing standing. Homes that are
just totally obliterated. And going through that debris, some of which is
waist deep or as tall as a man, going through that takes time. We've
rescued a lot of people, and we've found a lot of people. But under all
of that debris, it's realistic to believe there's going to be more
people. 
O'Brien: Let's talk about the response and what was put into position in
advance of this storm. We knew about Katrina. We knew it was a strong
storm developing for several days before it ever made landfall. Do you
have the sense - because it's quite clear that state and local officials
cannot handle this on their own. This is too overwhelming. Do you have
the sense that the federal government has dropped the ball here, sir? 
Barbour: I really don't. And I think it's very unfair for the federal
government, for you to say we knew this was a great powerful storm. This
was a category 1 hurricane when it hit Florida. Now that's the truth. 
O'Brien: Governor, it was a category 5 storm. 
Barbour: The federal government ... 
O'Brien: A category 5 storm when it was ... 
Barbour: No, it was a category 1 - it was a category 1 storm when it hit
Florida. It was a category 5 storm a few hours before it came ashore. 
O'Brien: No, no, Governor Barbour... 
Barbour: The federal government has been a tremendous partner in this.
They have helped ... 
O'Brien: Governor Barbour, surely there was enough knowledge in advance
that this was a huge killer storm a matter of days, not hours, before it
ever struck landfall. And it seems to me the military ... 
Barbour: Now, Miles, if this is an interview or an argument, I don't
care. But if you want to let me tell you what I think, I will. 
O'Brien: OK, go ahead. 
Barbour: And what I think is this storm strengthened in the Gulf. We
begged the people to leave, and thousands of people left. Thousands of
people left New Orleans. The federal government came in here from the
first minute - in fact, in advance. They have been tremendously helpful,
whether it's the Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers, FEMA. 
O'Brien: But ... 
Barbour: I don't think it's at all fair ... 
O'Brien: But ... 
Barbour: ... and I'm not going to agree to that, because I don't believe
it's true. 
O'Brien: But conspicuously absent from that short list you just gave us
was the military, the Pentagon. This is a type of situation that cries
out for the kind of support, the kind of logistics, the kind of
coordination the military is ideally suited for. Why weren't more
military assets prepositioned and ready for the possibility here? 
Barbour: We prepositioned more than 1,000 National Guard, 175 on the
coastal counties, 1,000 more 60 miles inland, so that they wouldn't be
swept away in the storm. And as soon as it became clear where the storm
was going to hit, even Alabama had sent us National Guard. Pennsylvania
has offered us and is sending us 2,500 National Guard. 
O'Brien: But ... 
Barbour: Would I have liked to have had 5,000 National Guard on the
ground on Tuesday morning? Yes, that's not - other states are not going
to give up their National Guard until they see what's happening to them.
I don't blame them. 
O'Brien: But I'm talking about assets, like, you know, amphibious
vehicles that the Navy has. It has helicopter support, hospital support,
the ability to generate power, that sort of thing. We haven't seen that
kind of thing, the kind of thing we saw, incidentally, in the wake of the
tsunami. 
Barbour: Well, I'm not going to be critical of what the federal
government has done. We're very grateful for it. You know, it's easy to
go back and pick the bones, but we feel like they have tried very hard. 
This is the worst natural disaster that's ever struck the United States.
Everybody down here is trying hard. Everybody is tired and fractious. So,
I don't want to argue with you about it. But a lot of people from all
over the country are helping us, and we really appreciate them, because
we're making progress. And we're going to recover from what has been a
grievous blow to our state, not just the coast. And we're going to
rebuild, and it's going to be bigger and better than ever. But we're not
going to do it by nitpicking. 
O'Brien: Governor Haley Barbour, Mississippi. Thank you for your time,
sir. 
Barbour: Thank you, Miles. 
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