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Cao Disputes Bush’s Comment That Not Landing Air Force One Was His Biggest Mistake During Katrina

By Amanda Terkel  

"Cao Disputes Bush’s Comment That Not Landing Air Force One Was His Biggest Mistake During Katrina"

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Yesterday, ThinkProgress spoke to freshmen Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA), who recently beat incumbent Democrat William Jefferson. House Republicans are pointing to Cao — who was able to win in a heavily African-American district — as the future of their party. Interestingly though, Cao didn’t run on partisan conservatives issues. He received almost no backing from the national Republican party and told ThinkProgress that his top policy concern is the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

Yesterday in his final press conference, President Bush addressed Katrina by hitting back on criticisms his administration received: “Don’t tell me the federal response was slow.” When asked about his biggest mistakes in office, Bush addressed Katrina only by saying that he could have landed Air Force One and avoided the infamous disastrous photo op.

When ThinkProgress spoke to Cao yesterday, he disputed Bush’s comments:

CAO: Well, from experiencing the devastation of it and living through it, I believe the federal response was a little slow, given the fact there were people stranded in their homes, people not having foods to eat, not having water to drink. I believe that the FEMA could have been more prepared and more proactive in their response to Katrina.

Q: And do you think that the worst mistake was not landing Air Force One?

CAO: No. Whether or not the President landed Air Force One, I don’t think would have contributed to the federal response of Katrina. It would have conveyed a message that he had a lot more concerns for the plight of the people, but I don’t think that the landing of Air Force One would have improved the federal response to Katrina.

Watch it:

When asked about it will take to rebuild the Gulf Coast, Cao replied, “Coastal restoration, health care, and education — you name it, we need it.”

Transcript:

CAO: Well, from experiencing the devastation of it and living through it, I believe the federal response was a little slow, given the fact there were people stranded in their homes, people not having foods to eat, not having water to drink. I believe that the FEMA could have been more prepared and more proactive in their response to Katrina.

Q: And do you think that the worst mistake was not landing Air Force One?

CAO: No. Whether or not the President landed Air Force One, I don’t think would have contributed to the federal response of Katrina. It would have conveyed a message that he had a lot more concerns for the plight of the people, but I don’t think that the landing of Air Force One would have improved the federal response to Katrina.

Q: And what more, if you don’t mind me asking — And what more now, currently, needs to be done to complete the recovery from Katrina?

CAO: Oh, gosh. Besides all the issues that I just outlined? Coastal restoration, health care, and education — you name it, we need it. Most of the areas are still very much devastated. Homes remain empty, businesses have not returned, hospitals are not up, many schools are in shambles. The rebuilding process still needs extensive attention from the federal government, and the second district will require much more federal aid in order to fully recover.

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