Bush Pledges More Help, More Troops

President Bush acknowledges again that response to Hurricane Katrina's victims is unacceptable. He announced that a total of 17,000 more troops — including 7,200 active-duty members of the U.S. military —will be deployed over the next 72 hours.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Five days after Hurricane Katrina struck, there are signs federal and local authorities are getting a grip on the situation. More victims have been rescued and evacuated, more are receiving food, water and medical aid, and more security forces are arriving in the Gulf region. The Bush administration scrambled to show it is dealing with the national catastrophe. President Bush again acknowledged it is, quote, "unacceptable" that many of the storm victims are still waiting for help, and he announced that 7,000 troops from the active-duty US military will be deployed over the next 72 hours. They'll be assisting the more than 20,000 National Guard troops already in place in the Gulf Coast. We begin our coverage tonight with a report from NPR's Don Gonyea at the White House.

DON GONYEA reporting:

A day after his own tour of the devastated regions of the South, the president said that while the job emergency workers are doing is heroic, improvements in the effort to provide aid and restore order are needed.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The magnitude of responding to a crisis over a disaster area that is larger than the size of Great Britain has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities. The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans, and that is unacceptable.

GONYEA: The president said that military reinforcements will come from the Army's 82nd Airborne and the 1st Cavalry divisions and from a pair of Marine Expeditionary Forces.

Pres. BUSH: Our priorities are clear. We will complete the evacuation as quickly and safely as possible. We will not let criminals prey on the vulnerable, and we will not allow bureaucracy to get in the way of saving lives.

GONYEA: But the nature of this announcement also demonstrates how mindful the White House is of the political stakes surrounding the hurricane recovery effort. The president's remarks were billed as his regular weekly radio address, which is normally prerecorded. This time, though, the radio address took place in front of TV cameras against the backdrop of the Rose Garden. It seemed designed to make sure Mr. Bush is a visible force in managing this crisis as each day, each hour seems to bring a new batch of disturbing images from New Orleans and elsewhere.

The White House continues to come under fire from critics who say its response to Katrina was not sufficient, especially in the first days, that even today's announcement of more military help comes too late. Last night during a nationally televised fund-raising concert, rap artist Kanye West said, quote, "George Bush doesn't care about black people," a reference to the disproportionate number of African-Americans who've been trapped in New Orleans after the storm. The president did not respond directly to that remark, but his top domestic policy adviser and his Homeland Security secretary did meet with a small group of African-American leaders at the White House this afternoon. Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House.

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