Bush Calls for Katrina Investigation

President Bush fills his schedule with Katrina-related events and announces an investigation into the federal, state and local response to the storm. Congress is investigating the federal response. And the president is sending Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush back to the Gulf Coast region Thursday.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

President Bush is promising to lead an investigation into the federal, state and local response to Hurricane Katrina, and he's sending Vice President Dick Cheney and first lady Laura Bush back to the Gulf Coast region tomorrow. NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

The president darted from meeting to meeting yesterday in the West Wing, but the topic stayed the same: Hurricane Katrina. He began his public schedule speaking to his Cabinet.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you all for coming. My message to the Cabinet this morning is this: This administration is not gonna rest until every life can be saved, until families are reconnected, until this recovery is complete.

GREENE: Then it was on to the Roosevelt Room across the hall.

Pres. BUSH: Listen, I want to thank leaders in the faith-based and community-based community for being here.

GREENE: Then to the Oval Office.

Pres. BUSH: Laura and I just had a good visit with Secretary of Education Spellings and her team about the schoolchildren who've been displaced because of Hurricane Katrina.

GREENE: When spokesman Scott McClellan came to the briefing room to address reporters, he quickly got to the message of the day.

Mr. SCOTT McCLELLAN (White House Spokesman): Good afternoon, everybody. The president has had a very busy morning as he has continued to spend most of his time focusing on the Katrina response efforts and making sure that people in the region are getting the help that they need.

GREENE: But critics say that help didn't come soon enough. Officials on the Gulf Coast and members of Congress have attacked the Bush administration, saying federal officials had no idea how bad the hurricane was and brought help too late. The president's response yesterday was that now is not the time for a blame game. Eventually, he said, he will lead an investigation into whatever problems there may have been.

Pres. BUSH: And I'll tell you why. It's very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe. And the reason it's important is is that we still live in an unsettled world. We want to make sure that we can respond properly if there's a WMD attack or another major storm. And so I'm gonna find out over time what went right and what went wrong.

GREENE: There was plenty that went right according to Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told reporters at the Pentagon that after Katrina struck, the media suggested New Orleans had dodged a bullet. Given that early impression, he said the National Guard's response to the storm was impressive.

General RICHARD MYERS (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): Recall what the headlines were Tuesday, and you're talking about Wednesday, and we're talking about by Friday things are pretty much resolved not only in the Superdome but also in the--I think they call it civic center or Convention Center. They're, by Friday night, Saturday morning, pretty much resolved.

GREENE: Mr. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, was also focusing on the positive. She spoke to reporters in Houston where thousands of New Orleans evacuees have poured into the Astrodome. She said she heard many of them want to stay in Texas.

Mrs. BARBARA BUSH: Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality, and so many of the people in the arenas here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, this is working very well for them.

GREENE: Meanwhile, her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, said their son has been unfairly criticized for the government's response to Katrina. On the other hand, the elder Bush said, that comes with the territory.

David Greene, NPR News, the White House.

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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