In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas, President Bush offered his views on a range of topics, including the response to Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq, U.S. port security and the future of his presidency. What follows is a transcript of the interview.
ELIZABETH VARGAS: Let's start with Katrina, because today is the six-month anniversary of the hurricane hitting, and you know there have been a series of government reports evaluating the government response to that disaster. A congressional report assessed the U.S. reaction as "woefully unprepared" not only for a natural disaster now but for a terrorist attack, the state of readiness right now of the United States.
Setting aside future improvements that you plan, do you agree today with that assessment, that the United States is "woefully unprepared" for another natural disaster or attack?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I agree that we didn't do as good a job as we could have done on Katrina. However, I would remind people that there was a hurricane right after Katrina that hit Louisiana and Texas, and the response was much better coordinated, and the situational awareness on the ground was much improved. And so while I can't predict 100 percent success on a catastrophic -- major catastrophic event, I can say that lessons learned from Katrina were being implemented quickly. And the case I make is that hurricane that hit down there in Texas is one where the response was much better.
Listen, here's the problem that happened in Katrina. There was no situational awareness, and that means that we weren't getting good, solid information from people who were on the ground, and we need to do a better job. One reason we weren't is because communications systems got wiped out, and in many cases we were relying upon the media, who happened to have better situational awareness than the government. And when you have the media [with] better situational awareness than the government, the American people are saying, "Wait a minute. What is happening? How come the federal Government and state government and local governments couldn't do a better job of providing information necessarily so that people could react better?"
VARGAS: So you don't agree with that report that calls the U.S. "woefully unprepared?"
BUSH: I think the U.S. is better prepared than woefully unprepared. There's no question we've got more work to do, and our report on Katrina outlined the work that needs to be done.
I thought, for example, the reaction to the 9/11 attack was a remarkable reaction, positively. When the terrorists attacked and destroyed two buildings, there were rescue teams rushing in to save lives. There was a response by the city that was a coordinated response. Katrina was one that we could have done a much better job [on], and we're learning the lessons from Katrina. But the country has got to constantly be evaluating our capabilities and preparing for the worst.
VARGAS: When you look back on those days immediately following when Katrina struck, what moment do you think was the moment that you realized that the government was failing, especially the people of New Orleans?
BUSH: When I saw TV reporters interviewing people who were screaming for help. It looked -- the scenes looked chaotic and desperate. And I realized that our government was -- could have done a better job of comforting people.