Trying to erase the black mark left on his presidency by the administration's sluggish response to Katrina, Mr. Bush returned to the first scene he saw a year ago of the storm's devastation in Biloxi, Miss.
Standing on a vacant lot in a working class neighborhood where trailers and gutted buildings stand next to newly built homes, President Bush pledged the federal government would stand with the region as it rebuilds. It's a promise viewed with skepticism by victims still reeling from the storm.
"A year ago, I committed our federal government to help you," Mr. Bush said. "I said, 'We have a duty to help the local people recover and rebuild,' and I meant what I said."
CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports the president is hitting twin themes on this tour – recovery from the worst natural disaster in American history will need more than a year, and that federal help is on the way.
"The checks have begun to roll," Mr. Bush said. "They're beginning to move."
Meanwhile, 15 Democratic members of Congress gathered in the French Quarter during the morning for a bus tours of stricken areas. They planned to visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast later in the day.
The Democrats' trip was led by Rep. William Jefferson of New Orleans, who said the recovery is slow because of the complexity of the issues involved and concerns that many evacuees have about returning.
"We've got a lot of work to do. We have to have a visit and stay committed to it," Jefferson said.
The president was set to visit Mississippi on Monday, then go to New Orleans for events on Tuesday marking the anniversary, his 13th visit to the Gulf Coast since Katrina.
Meanwhile, another part of the South was a under hurricane watch asseemed to move toward Florida's densely populated Atlantic coast on Monday. Residents there stocked up on fuel, water and other storm supplies, as officials and journalists hypothesized on whether New Orleans' levees could handle another Katrina-sized storm.
The president's optimism is not shared in New Orleans, where a year later, the population has been more than cut in half, and a third of Katrina-related garbage has yet to be picked up, Axelrod reports.
But federal emergency officials say one major step to recovery is solid: The New Orleans levee system, despite the less-optimistic views of other political leaders and engineers.
"I think we're in good shape," Don Powell, the Bush administration's coordinator of Gulf Coast rebuilding, said Sunday. "There's no question in my mind. We're ready."
The levees failed after Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 storm, roared ashore a year ago, flooding New Orleans. The levees were built to withstand a Category 3 storm; the highest level is Category 5.
"We are ready for a hurricane regardless of where it's going to hit," said David Paulison, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Paulison told Bob Schieffer on CBS's Face The Nation Sunday that FEMA has been working very closely with Louisiana to make sure "they have good, solid evacuation plans in place."
"We all know, as the governor said earlier, that people cannot ride out these storms in a travel trailer or a mobile home; they have to be evacuated," Paulison said.
In other developments: