Did Bush Keep Katrina Promises?


WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 2006 — -- Eighteen days after hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, President Bush stood before the nation from Jackson Square in New Orleans and promised, "We will do what it takes, we will stay as long as it takes, to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives."

A year later, tens of thousands of people are still waiting for help.

President Bush pledged federal assistance in three key areas -- emergency response, rebuilding communities and strengthening New Orleans' levees.

In the first area, after a slow start, he largely delivered. The federal government moved most evacuees out of shelters within six weeks, helped restore oil refineries and the port of New Orleans within months, and cleared more than a million cubic yards of debris scattered across the Gulf States.

It's in rebuilding that many critics say the president's promises have fallen short.

"We want evacuees to come home," Bush told the nation in his speech from Jackson Square on Sept. 15, 2005.

Of the more than 1.8 million people forced to flee the area, only slightly more than half have returned.

Up to 10,000 people are waiting for promised trailers from FEMA: 116,000 trailers have been delivered, but local officials report in many instances they don't have water, or electricity or even keys to the doors.

And just last week, the government finally began to distribute grant money for home rebuilding. Funding had been bogged down in the federal bureaucracy for nearly a year.

In New Orleans, large parts of the city are still without reliable electricity and drinking water, and the crime rate is skyrocketing -- so much so that the national guard has been called in.

"Protecting a city that sits lower than the water around it is not easy," Bush noted in his Jackson Square speech.

That, perhaps, is the biggest obstacle holding back New Orleans' recovery.

All parties, from the president down, are waiting on a final plan for the redesign of the levee system, but a study isn't even due to be released until December 2007.

"I made a commitment that we would … help the people there recover," Bush said in an Aug. 21 press conference. "I also want the people down there to understand that it's going to take a while to recover."

Tied to the restoration of the Gulf Coast is, perhaps, the president's credibility. Critics and Gulf residents alike wait to see if the president -- who sells himself as man of his word -- will deliver on the promises he's made.

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