President Bush says he will lead an investigation into what went wrong with the government's initial response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Bush says his administration is committed to righting what went wrong and helping those in need.
The president says his administration will spare no effort to help the hurricane victims. But he acknowledges the initial recovery effort was flawed, and says he wants to know why. "What I intend to do is lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," he said.
The president says getting it right is a matter of national security, noting America still lives in what he calls "an unsettled world." He says the country must be prepared to deal with all kinds of potential disasters, from a hurricane to a terrorist attack.
But even though he is promising an investigation, the president is not criticizing any top officials in public. They include Michael Brown, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. Among those calling for his ouster is the biggest newspaper in the flooded city of New Orleans, Louisiana, New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Mr. Bush says people want to assign blame. But he says he has bigger priorities at the moment than "playing the blame game." He added: "We have got to solve problems. We are problem solvers. There will be ample time for people to figure out what went right and what went wrong."
The president spoke to reporters after a meeting with his cabinet. He said his administration will not rest until the recovery from Hurricane Katrina is complete. "A lot of people are doing good work," he said. "We have a heck of a lot more work to do. And that is exactly what this government is going to do."
President Bush said he is sending Vice President Dick Cheney to the Gulf Coast on Thursday to assess recovery efforts and find ways to remove bureaucratic obstacles in areas ranging from housing to public health. One area of concern cited by the president is how to get government pension checks to elderly victims who lost their homes and now have no mailing address.
After the cabinet meeting, Mr. Bush conferred with leaders of various volunteer and charitable organizations helping to provide food and shelter to evacuees. He thanked them for their work and took issue with those who have referred to those displaced by the hurricane as refugees. "Let me tell you my attitude and the attitude of the people around this table," he said. "The people we are talking about are not refugees. They are Americans, and they need the help and love and compassion of our fellow citizens."
Under fire for the U.S. government's initial response to the disaster, the president has filled his days with meetings and appearances dealing with the storm. In addition to his discussions with the cabinet and private aid officials, his schedule Tuesday also included a session with his education secretary on students and schools affected by the hurricane and a meeting with Congressional leaders.