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President Bush In San Diego On Day Katrina Hits

Five years ago, on the very day Hurricane Katrina made landfall, I was assigned by to cover President Bush's arrival in Coronado, where the following day he was scheduled to make a speech at Naval Base Coronado commemorating the 60th anniversary of VJ Day.

It became an awkward, discomforting juxtaposition for the President - and virtually everyone listening to the speech - to be celebrating such a glorious moment in our history when everyone knew that a massive hurricane had just hit our Gulf Coast.

After what we were told was a briefing that morning on Katrina, Bush proceeded in a motorcade to the base, where he appropriately began the speech by mentioning that his thoughts were with the Katrina victims and their loved ones. Among the things he subsequently focused on in the speech, I recall, were the alleged parallels between World War II and the war in Iraq and how he was still very confident that we would prevail in Iraq.


The President's West Coast trip was cut short that week because of the hurricane, but on the day of his speech he still managed to visit with wounded warriors at Naval Medical Center San Diego, present a Purple Heart to a Navy corpsman, and meet with doctors and staff from the USN Hospital Ship Mercy to salute their humanitarian aid to tsunami victims and others (see my earlier blog about the good ship Mercy).

The President then headed to the Hotel Del Coronado, where he was met with some anti-war protesters. This was at a time, remember, when the war was already beginning to wear on some of the American public. The next morning, the President was gone. But the government's response to Katrina that followed, which some said was at best too little and too late, sank the President's approval numbers to the lowest point of his two-term presidency.

History will ultimately be the judge of President Bush's actions in office, but at least with regard to Iraq, while the story of the that war is still being written, it looks a whole lot better for Bush than it did five years ago. However, there are few who will ever change their opinion that not only the President, but Congress as well as other federal, state and local pols of both parties responded too slowly and inadequately to the human tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans.