Bush Not Worried About Low Approval Ratings

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.

A lot went right, by the way. I don't want to denigrate the efforts of people that really worked hard. Our Coast Guard people were flying incredibly dangerous missions to rescue I think over 30,000 people from the roofs of their homes.

There was, you know, an amazing response from the citizenry who welcomed people who evacuated. And the state and the city evacuated a lot of people, and that caused there to be less loss of life.

But the chaotic scenes were very troubling. It just -- it was very unsettling for me to realize our fellow citizens were in near panic wondering where the help was.

VARGAS: One more thing that the report said when they talked about how the government -- the reaction by the government broke down. They were talking in particular about the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. The House report called the federal response to Katrina "a failure of leadership." It describes FEMA as "undertrained, understaffed, and overwhelmed" and lay the blame for that with the Department of Homeland Security for stripping down FEMA. Do you think you're being well served by Secretary Chertoff?

BUSH: I do. I think he's doing a fine job. I also know he's willing to accept criticism and respond. That's the important thing. You know, Katrina has left a legacy, and the question is will we be willing to learn from the lessons. And that's exactly what you're beginning to see happening. We ordered a report right after Katrina hit. I said let us take a look at how better to prepare for the next disaster. And the government has been, one, very quick to analyze and, two, has now got a whole list of suggestions on which to implement in order so that we can do a better job and future presidents can learn from the lessons of Katrina.

VARGAS: But when these reports place so much responsibility at Mr. Chertoff's feet, if he were to offer his resignation to you, would you accept it?

BUSH: I don't think he's going to. Washington is a town full of a lot of criticism, and some of it is merited and some of it, you know, is not. But in this case, we take the criticism seriously and recognize that we could have done a better job and are responding accordingly.

VARGAS: Let's move to Iraq. This has been a rough few days in Iraq since the bombing of the mosque in Samarra. There's been a lot of sectarian violence. We heard fresh reports of violence again today and reports from Baghdad that the violence in these past three days has been the worst since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. There was a lot of criticism from both the Shiites and the Sunnis of the U.S. military for standing back and not doing enough to stop the violence.

What is the policy if, in fact, a civil war should break out or the sectarian violence continues? Are you willing to sacrifice American lives to get the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop killing each other?

BUSH: I don't buy your premise that there's going to be a civil war. There's no question that the bomber of the mosque is trying to create sectarian violence, and there's no question there was reaction to it. On the other hand, I had the duty, which I did, to call these leaders, Shi'a

and Sunni leaders, as well as Kurdish leaders.

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