Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour on Post-Katrina Recovery Efforts
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 29, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Welcome back to "Hannity & Colmes." One year ago today, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and coastal Louisiana, but some of the killer storm's worst damage was inflicted on the neighboring state of Mississippi; 238 people were killed in the Magnolia State as the storm surge reached 27 feet at times and floodwaters moved almost 12 miles inland in some places.
Joining us now, the governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour. Governor, thank you very much for being with us on this very important day.
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, thank you. You know, Mississippi bore the brunt of this worst natural disaster in American history, and the eye of the storm came right in on us. And we had a storm surge actually in excess of 30 feet and 38 feet, including the waves on top. So it's not only remarkable in its depth, 75 miles from the eye of the storm, the storm surge was still over 20 feet deep. And that was why the devastation was so much.
COLMES: Governor, the New York Times reported today about when President Bush was there yesterday, they described it as a carefully orchestrated backdrop of neatly reconstructed homes when just a few feet out of camera range, gutted houses, wires dangling, tattered piece of a crime scene hung from a tree. Is that a more accurate picture than what we've see in the pictures on television?
BARBOUR: Well, what President Bush did is he went back to the neighborhood that he visited on the Friday after the storm. We actually went into a house that we had gone into, where three men had been pulled through the kitchen window into the house and their lives saved. So that house had had five feet of water in it. That house has been totally rebuilt.
Two more houses in the neighborhood totally rebuilt, and a couple of more that were in the process. But there are other houses in the neighborhood that haven't had that done. So I didn't read The New York Times story, but the reason the president went where he went, it's where he had gone that very first week.
COLMES: I guess the issue is, was it a carefully managed photo-op? Did we get the full picture, including the rebuilding? And, of course, there's been some great rebuilding, but also still some devastation there.
BARBOUR: Look, we got hit by the worst natural disaster in American history. We had 70,000 houses destroyed, and many of them have not even had reconstruction started. But we cleaned up faster than any other area in history. We put people into temporary housing faster than any other pace in history. Our schools, every school in Mississippi...
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, Governor, it's Sean Hannity. What a shock. The New York Times and liberals are trying to politicize a natural disaster and score cheap political points and attack George Bush. I mean, I saw the video, and you see some areas have been reconstructed, some haven't. You know, he can't win. If he doesn't go down, he's attacked. If he goes down, he's attacked. If he gives money, he's attacked. If he doesn't give enough money, if it's not fast enough — it's sort of the times we live in America today in many ways, isn't it?
BARBOUR: Well, let me just tell you, when you're struck by the worst natural disaster in American history, and they look back with 20/20 hindsight and think there could have been a perfect response, they just don't know what they're talking about.
The fact of the matter is, in Mississippi we've made tremendous progress. Every public school in Mississippi was open last fall before a single public school in Louisiana was opened. I'm very proud of the progress. But I can tell you what -- it's too slow. It hasn't been fast enough. There's got to be more, and we all realize that.
But, you know, anybody, for political or journalistic, if you call it that, reasons want to say, "Hey, here's who to blame and here's what's wrong." Man, there's a lot wrong when you get hit by the worst natural disaster in American history.
HANNITY: You know something, though? I will say this to you, Governor. And you and I have been friends a long time, and I think I'm putting aside our friendship when I say this. You know, there was a distinct difference in your handling of this situation and, for example, Mayor Nagin.
Mayor Nagin is still politicizing this just this week. He took a cheap shot at New York. He said this wouldn't have happened or the response would have been different if it was in Orange County, California. He was cursing and flailing like crazy. He didn't use the buses to get the sick and the elderly and the people that needed help out of the way when they had 35 years warning and five specific days warning.
You were a voice of calm, and steadiness, and reason. And you didn't blame the federal government. You went out there and tried to fix the situation. Why is it some people respond differently in situations like this?
BARBOUR: Look, I don't know enough about what's happened in Louisiana, but I do know this: We've got the same federal government Louisiana's got. And Texas has got the same federal government as Louisiana's got, and Alabama and Florida. If it's the federal government's problem, why didn't it happen in Mississippi, in Texas, in Alabama and Florida?
Our people did the best they could. We weren't looking for somebody to blame. Mississippians aren't into victimhood. We got hit by the worst natural disaster in American history, and we got flattened. Our people got right back and hitched up...
HANNITY: Good to see you, Governor. Good job.
COLMES: We appreciate you coming on. Thank you very much, sir. We hope a continued and fast recovery in your state. Thank you very much.
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