Obama Highlights Plan to Build New Orleans

Feb 7, 2008 7:16am

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports: Echoing themes central to John Edwards, Barack Obama argued against the "empty promises" that George Bush made to the city of New Orleans after the devastation of hurricane Katrina.

"When President Bush came down to Jackson Square two weeks after the storm, the setting was spectacular and his promises soaring: "We will do what it takes," he said. "We will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives." But over two years later, those words have been caught in a tangle of half-measures, half-hearted leadership, and red tape."

Obama told a Tulane crowd of 5,000 that he won’t be a president that watches people from the window of an airplane instead of on the ground.  The Obama campaign pointed out that this is Obama’s fifth visit to New Orleans since Katina stuck. His last visit was in August as a presidential candidate.

"If catastrophe comes, the American people must be able to call on a competent government. When I am President, the days of dysfunction and cronyism in Washington will be over. No more Brownie. No more heads of the Arabian Horse Association," Obama said referencing Michael Brown, the head of FEMA under the storm.

Obama outlined his plan to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast – a plan he’s announced before – including having the FEMA director, with a fixed term report to him directly.

"I don’t want FEMA to be thinking for one minute about the politics of a crisis. I want FEMA to do its job, which is protecting the American people – not protecting a President’s political future."

Obama weaved in his argument of past vs. the future that he’s been hawking since the South Carolina primary, applying it to the reaction to Katrina, "We can begin to turn the page on the invisible barriers – the silent storms – that have ravaged this city and this country: the old divisions of black and white; of rich and poor. It’s time to leave that to yesterday. It’s time to choose tomorrow."

The Republican National Committee responded to Obama’s rhetoric.  "Rather than putting forward political attacks, Barack Obama should explain how his own short Senate career qualifies him to take over the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. America needs stronger leadership than Obama’s promise to simply be

or vote ‘present’," said RNC spokesman A

lex Conant. 

Later today Obama will tour the George Washington Carver Elementary School where students have class in modular trailers as renovations are still ongoing.

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