Bush Heads to Texas
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.
President Bush monitored Hurricane Rita as it came ashore from the headquarters of the US Northern Command in Colorado Springs. He then made his way to Austin, Texas, out of the path of the storm. Austin is where Texas state officials are working round the clock now to cope with Rita's effects. NPR's White House correspondent David Greene has been traveling with the president and he's with him now.
DAVID GREENE reporting:
ELLIOTT: Why did the president choose Colorado Springs to follow the storm's progress?
GREENE: Well, it's a very good question because on a day that he was focusing on a powerful hurricane, he was in a pretty sunny, cool location in the Rocky Mountains. I think he was trying to strike a balance. A lot of the criticism he got after Katrina was that he didn't seem engaged in the first few days and seemed a little sluggish and there was a disconnect. This time, he wanted to find a way to be engaged and to send a message to Americans that he was on top of this and even ahead of the storm, but he had to do it in a way that wasn't actually interfering with emergency operations. So he was looking for a spot and Austin gave him the same opportunity to be in a place that was very relevant to the relief effort but not anywhere nearby the hurricane.
ELLIOTT: Mr. Bush was at the headquarters of the Northern Command. Did the US military play any role in Hurricane Rita preparations?
GREENE: They did. The president had ordered troops into place ahead of time, and again, that was in response to some of the criticism that came after Katrina. And one thing the president said today when he was in Colorado was that he was seeing a relationship that seemed more organized. After Katrina, there were complaints from officials in Louisiana, in Mississippi about begging for federal help and begging for both National Guard and active-duty troops to come in and help and that they just came in too slow. So one of the things the president wanted to do today was be in the spot where the military effort in response to Rita was beging coordinated, to be talking to those officials face to face and, you know, get the cameras getting images of him right there.
ELLIOTT: Did the president have anything to say to the American public today?
GREENE: He did. It wasn't a lot. It became clear to all of us who are not photographers as the day went by that we were not the prime target today. The president wanted to get on the television screens and into newspapers tomorrow. Photographers were getting their very large share of opportunities to snap photos of the president. He didn't take any questions from reporters. He did say a few things. He urged residents down in the affected communities not to go home too quickly. He said, `Listen to your local officials and only go when you know it's safe and when you know the flooding is going down.' He also urged residents in Texas, especially Houston, not to try to get back to that city because there might be a reverse evacuation; some of the problems that we saw coming out, clogging the highways at a time when emergency officials are trying their best to get down to some of the affected communities on the coast as quickly as possible.
ELLIOTT: Where is the president now?
GREENE: We just landed in San Antonio, and again, it's hot and sunny and feels very far from the storm. But this is where some of the relief operations from the federal government are based, and the president's going to be spending the night on a military base and speaking to some of those military officials tomorrow morning. And then he plans to make his way to Baton Rouge and in a way come full circle and start talking again about Katrina and the relief effort that's certainly going to be a big part of the rest of this term.
ELLIOTT: NPR's David Greene traveling with President Bush in San Antonio, Texas.
GREENE: My pleasure.