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Hannity

Miss. Gov. Reacts to Bush's Speech on Katrina Relief Efforts

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 15, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And welcome to a special edition of "Hannity & Colmes." Thanks, Brit. I'm Sean Hannity.

President Bush addressed the nation just a few moments ago and from the heart of New Orleans, declared that the Crescent City and that the rest of the Gulf Coast will be rebuilt.

Joining us now with reaction to the speech is the governor of Mississippi; Haley Barbour is back with us.

Governor, I know you've been working hard. I know you haven't had a lot of sleep. Our thoughts and prayers are still with the good folks in Mississippi and in the region. Thanks for being with us.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Sean, thanks for having me.

HANNITY: Let's start with the president's speech. Your reaction to it, first off?

BARBOUR: First of all, I think he recognized on the front end that decisions about how we're going to rebuild ultimately lie, not just with the states, but with the local people. That's very important. We all have got to be in this together. But the federal government shouldn't dictate to Biloxi, Mississippi, or Mississippi how to do this.

But the federal government is an enormously important partner and particularly in rebuilding public infrastructure. The Mississippi Gulf Coast was settled six years before New Orleans, 306 years ago, and a lot of infrastructure has been built by the public. And we do need the federal government's help in that and in other ways.

But he really recognized that the key is on the private side. He talked about a Gulf Opportunity Zone with tax treatments that would encourage people to come in here and create jobs. That's crucial, crucial.

He noticed that we need to let people who have been displaced have a chance to learn new skills. This worker opportunity, I don't remember exactly what he called it, very important to let people have a chance to rebuild their lives by gathering new skills that are going to follow these new jobs into the coast areas.

And finally, the homeownership part. Homeownership built America.

So I liked all of that. And we're going to try to work off of those sorts of themes. And I think we see eye to eye on a lot of that.

HANNITY: Yes, well, actually, before he talked about the Gulf Opportunity Zone, he said he's going to listen to the good ideas from state, local officials, from Congress, from the private sector. And that, you know, that this is such an important part of the plan. And I don't see how it could be successful any other way. So that part of it, I really liked what I was hearing there.

BARBOUR: Well, I set up a governor's commission on recovery, rebuilding and renewal. And its principal effect is to pull together people so that we can gather the good ideas, the alternatives, options, from our own people here, from outsiders that have had similar experiences.

So, everybody knows that in many ways, we're starting afresh and we're going to rebuild the Gulf Coast bigger and better but we're going to let the local people consider all the choices that they have and then we're going to support them.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Governor, it's Alan Colmes. Thank you so much for coming on with us tonight.

BARBOUR: Thanks, Alan.

COLMES: Is this a new role for the federal government, and certainly for a Republican administration to talk about urban renewal and homesteading and things like that? Is this a different direction all of a sudden?

BARBOUR: Well, I haven't seen all the details, Alan, but it sounds to me very similar to what was done after 9/11, where in New York, they did tax advantages in order to get people to come back into New York and rebuild and create jobs. That the government played a very large, and continues to play, actually, a very large role in rebuilding the infrastructure that is crucial.

Now, the homeownership part, I think, is something that's been worked out in the Reagan administration and the previous Bush administration. Maybe it's a new twist that it becomes part of a disaster plan. But I remember very well the efforts that Republicans made and frankly, Democrats, too, to let people have a better chance to own their own homes, because they realize how much better citizens and how much happier they are with their quality of life if they own their own home.

COLMES: And he mentioned, of course, Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin and, of course, you and your efforts. Is this a new opportunity for the two parties to work together and get beyond the partisanship?

BARBOUR: Well, it really is. And in our state, you know, we're not into moaning and moping and complaining and whining and victimhood. From the very first, we have been trying to work together on search and rescue, on cleaning up, on rebuilding, recovery. And whether it's Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, black, white, whatever, we're all trying to work together.

And frankly, that's why I think Mississippi has made so much progress in a little over two weeks. Our people are resilient. They're self- reliant. And more than anything else, they've been helping each other.

People that didn't have much before the storm and had nothing afterwards are still trying to help their neighbors. They're all pulling together regardless of politics or anything else. And that's crucial when you got a crisis like this.

COLMES: Governor Blanco was quoted in USA Today a couple days ago saying that she was tried to get through to the president, couldn't, didn't get a call back until hours later she tried again. And you were quoted as saying he called you. Was there different treatment? Have you talked to Governor Blanco about that?

BARBOUR: I didn't talk to her about that. I talked to her twice before the storm. We had — we and Louisiana we have an agreement that if they need to evacuate because of a hurricane or other catastrophe, that we will reverse our interstate highways to make our southbound lanes run north so that people can evacuate Louisiana quicker. That's called contraflow.

And she talked to me on Friday about contraflow, and I told her that Mississippi would honor our obligation. We had agreed to give contraflow to Louisiana for 24 hours whenever they requested it.

And she called me back Saturday and asked if we would begin contraflow at 4 p.m. Saturday evening. And we did. And we continued it not just for the 24 hours. We actually considered it — we actually did it until, like, 26 hours or so. And so, we were about 30 hours with our roads running where our own people had a harder time evacuating. But it's something we'd agreed to do, it's fair. We did it.

And the only other time that I have seen Governor Blanco since then is when the president landed in New Orleans and I was with him after he had been in Mississippi and we got a chance to say hi.

She's a great person and we're friends. But you know, as far as what's going on in Louisiana, I got my plate full here, Alan, I have to tell you.

HANNITY: All right. Governor, we wish you the best in Mississippi. Send our regards to everybody there, and appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much.

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