Watch CBS News

Reporter's notebook: George W. Bush and the week Hurricane Katrina hit

WASHINGTON - While former President George W. Bush visited New Orleans and Gulfport Friday, marking the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I recalled that week in 2005 and the flawed response of his administration.

Mr. Bush was at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, and on Aug. 29, the day Katrina made landfall, he began a trip to Arizona and California, that he eventually cut short only after the true impact of Katrina became apparent. Although he is famously remembered for saying his FEMA director, Michael Brown was doing "a heck of a job," that very same day, Sept. 2, the president conceded that the federal response was inadequate.

What follows is my daily log from covering then-President Bush that week - pre-Twitter - reflecting the statements and decisions he made in response to Hurricane Katrina.

These were my contemporaneous notes, part of my daily log of presidential actions, statements and movements, so forgive mistakes in my grammar, syntax, abbreviations and spelling.

Editor's note: This log has only been annotated to clarify some abbreviations and formatted to make the date notations larger.

sun aug 28 CRAWFORD, Day 27 of ranch vacation (26 days at ranch)

Pres Bush summons reporters to the Marine One hangar at his ranch (adjacent property, really) to make 1130am/ct [central time] statement on the forthcoming Hurricane Katrina - promising to do everything in the federal government power to respond and minimize suffering. He also spoke of the completed draft constitution in Iraq. And its importance. No questions.

At Camp Casey, protests hold a prayer service. Rev Al Sharpton arrives late, but takes part. Later in the day, actor Martin Sheehan [sic: should read "Sheen"] arrives to support Sheehan.

mon aug 29 CRAWFORD. Day 28 of ranch vacation (27 days at ranch).


Bush and FLOTUS [first lady] depart ranch to TSTC Airport and AF-1 [Air Force One] en route: EL MIRAGE, AZ: Arrive Luke AFB [Air Force Base] and m/c [motorcade] to the RV Park to try to drum up interest among senior citizens for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan that goes into effect in January. Urges seniors to fill out the forms required to qualify for the plan. Also uses his remarks to offer prayers and pledges of aid to those hard hit by Hurricane Katrina:

"I want the folks there on the gulf coast to know that the federal government is prepared to help you when the storm passes."

Also uses speech to trumpet draft constitution in Iraq and US determination to see the mission through. Declares "I am very optimistic" about Iraq.

Also uses speech to offer assurances to border states that he shares their concern about border security and illegal immigration. Back to airport and AF-1 to:

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA: Arrives Ontario Intl Airport and m/c [motorcade] to holding room. Then to the James L Brulte Senior Center for another "conversation" on Medicare. Then back to airport and AF-1 to:

CORONADO, CA: Arrives Naval Air Station North Island and m/c to the Hotel Del Coronado for RON [remain overnight]. Some anti-war protestors demonstrate nearby.

tue aug 30


CORONADO, CA: After a morning conference call briefing on Katrina, Bush m/c to Naval Base Coronado for speech marking 60th Anniversary of VJ Day. Begins remarks with words of concern for Katrina victims.

"The federal state and local governments are working side by side to do all we can to help people get back on their feet. and we have got a lot of work to do."

Uses body of speech to draw parallels between WWII and the War on Terrorism.

"I made my decision: we''ll stay on the offensive, stay with the people of iraq. and we will prevail."

Sits for interview with Armed Forces Radio and TV and then visits with wounded military personnel at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Presents Purple Heart to one wounded navy corpsman. Also meets with doctors from the USN Hospital Ship Mercy to salute their service to victims from last year's tsunami.

Back to NAS North Island and AF-1 back to: CRAWFORD, TX: Day 29 of ranch vacation (28 days at ranch)

Arrives TSTC Waco and Marine One back to the ranch.

wed aug 31 CRAWFORD, TX: Day 30 of ranch vacation (29 days at ranch)

***Bush ends working vacation and departs for DC***

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Bush ends his ranch vacation two days early, departing about 1010am/CT by Marine One to TSTC Waco and boards AF-1.

On the way back to DC, AF-1 flies over New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi and Mobile, giving mr bush a aerial view of some of the flooding and destruction.

He spends 35 minutes looking out the left side of the aircraft.

Back at the White House, he meets with his task force on the hurricane response, and then in the rose garden, makes a statement vowing a massive relief operation. But he says "this recovery will take a long time. this recovery will take years."

thu sep 1 WH. [White House]

Bush has usual briefings. His schedule dominated by Katrina response including a 10a meeting with DefSec Rumsfeld and Gen Myers. Bush discusses the economic impact in a lunch meeting with Fed Chairman Alan Greespan. Then discusses it with his economic team.

At 2p, Bush meets with his dad and former Pres Clinton - who agreed to help raise private contributions for hurricane relief, as they did for the tsunami that struck Asia late last year.

Bush makes statement and discusses gasoline shortage and soaring prices - urging americans to use energy prudently declaring "don't buy gas if you don't need it."

Later in the day, WH announces Pres Bush is asking congress for a supplemental appropriation of $10.5 billion for hurricane relief including ½ billion for DOD.

Senate voting late tonight. House tomorrow.

fri sep 2 WH.

On the way to Marine One for a trip to the hurricane zone, Pres Bush makes a 9A statement to reporters in which he concedes that the results of the federal response so far "are not acceptable." But he believes the response itself has been good.

But he also says: "I want to assure the people of the affected areas and this country that we'll deploy the assets necessary to get the situation under control."

Further, he says, "we'll get on top of this situation. and we're gonna help people that need help."

Boards Marine One for Andrews AFB, boards AF-1 en route:

MOBILE, AL: Arrives Mobile Regional Airport and takes part in briefing on Katrina's impact from FEMA Director Mike Brown, Gov. Bob Riley of AL, Gov. Haley Barbour of MS and others.

Bush says: "my attitude is if it's not going exactly right we're gonna make it go exactly right. If there's problems, we're gonna address the problems. and that's what I've come down to assure people."

But he doesn't blame FEMA, telling director Michael Brown - "Brownie, you've done a heck of a job."

Boards Marine One for aerial tour of hard hit areas of Alabama and Mississippi, landing in:

BILOXI, MS: Bush boards m/c for ground tour of hurricane ravaged neighborhoods. On a debris strewn street, Bush encounters two sisters, sobbing about the loss of their home and belonging, the older woman looking for clothes for their son. Bush hugs them and offers comfort. Bush walks further down the street to a Salvation Army canteen truck to talk with aid givers and recipients.

During a chat with reporters, he says:

"we're gonna clean all this mess up. the federal government is gonna - will spend money to clean it up." Bush calls the destruction "unbelieveable."

He disputes assertions that the US military commitment in iraq hurt the disaster response along the gulf coast:

"We've got a job to defend this country in the war on terror, and we've got a job to bring aid and comfort to the people of the Gulf Coast, and we'll do both. We've got plenty of resources to do both."

He clarifies his "unacceptable" statement of earlier in the day: "I am satisfied with the response. I'm not satisfied with all the results."

He is clearly awestruck by the level of devastation: "these are tough times. This is a storm the likes of which, you know, I pray I never see again."

Back to the airport and Marine One to:

NEW ORLEANS: Arrives Louis Armstrong Intl Airport in Kenner, LA., for meetings with Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin. Then boards Marine One for aerial tour of the flooding and destruction.

Lands at Hammond Street Bridge to view work being done to repair 17th Street Levee that collapsed and allowed the flooding of the city. Offers attaboys to workers. The same to personnel at the nearby Coast Guard station. Then Marine One back to the airport and final statement of the day.

Says he knows people are suffering.

"I'm not going to forget what I've seen. 084 I understand the devastation requires more than one days' attention. it's gonna require the attention of this country for a long period of time.

"This is one of the worst natural disasters we have faced with national consequences. and therefore there will be a national response.

"I believe that the great city of new Orleans will rise again and be a greater city of new Orleans."

Boards AF-1 for flight back to Andrews.

Arrives WH around 830p. Heads to Oval Office to quickly sign the $10.5-Billion emergency funding bill for hurricane relief.

sat sep 3 WH

***Chief Justice William Rehnquist Dies tonight at age 80***

With Rumsfeld, Myers and Chertoff at his side, Bush delivers his Saturday radio address live from the Rose Garden. He announces he's dispatching 7000 more active duty troops, army and marines, to the disaster zone.

Admitting that some victims are not getting the help they need, Bush vows to change that: "In America, we do not abandon our fellow citizens in their hour of need. And the federal government will do its part."

sun sep 4 WH.

Bush begins day attending 8A Sunday worship service at St. John's.

At 10a, Bush makes a statement in the Roosevelt Room, paying tribute to the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who died last night.

"He was extremely well respected for his powerful intellect. He was respected for his deep commitment to the rule of law and his profound devotion to duty. He provided superb leadership for the federal court system, improving the delivery of justice for the American people, and earning the admiration of his colleagues throughout the judiciary."

Bush departs via m/c at 1021am for the American Red Cross to tour their disaster relief operation. Makes statement of support, urging contributions. Is back at the WH by 1110a.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.