"...Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all
of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our
sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed
guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines."
Aaron Broussard and Tim Russert on Meet the
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Jefferson Parish President Broussard, let me start with you.
You just heard the director of Homeland Security's explanation of what has
happened this last week. What is your reaction?
MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country.
Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever
to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go
down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever
in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation
here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out
just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe
me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go
in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever
is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed
off and we've got to start with some new leadership.
It's not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New
Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans
area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now. It's so obvious.
FEMA needs more congressional funding. It needs more presidential support.
It needs to be a Cabinet-level director. It needs to be an independent agency
that will be able to fulfill its mission to work in partnership with state
and local governments around America. FEMA needs to be empowered to do the
things it was created to do. It needs to come somewhere, like New Orleans,
with all of its force immediately, without red tape, without bureaucracy,
act immediately with common sense and leadership, and save lives. Forget
about the property. We can rebuild the property. It's got to be able to
come in and save lives.
We need strong leadership at the top of America right now
in order to accomplish this and to-- reconstructing FEMA.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Broussard, let me ask--I want to ask--should...
MR. BROUSSARD: You know, just some quick examples...
MR. RUSSERT: Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn't the mayor of
New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn't
they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized
in evacuating the area?
MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day,
"The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's
coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun
to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but
I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.
Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart
deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them
back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000
gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The
Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got
there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the
fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency
communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee,
goes back in,
he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No
one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American
government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't
be in this crisis.
But I want to thank Governor Blanco for all she's done and
all her leadership. She sent in the National Guard. I just repaired a breach
on my side of the 17th Street canal that the secretary didn't foresee, a
300-foot breach. I just completed it yesterday with convoys of National
Guard and local parish workers and levee board people. It took us two and
a half days working 24/7. I just closed it.
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
MR. BROUSSARD: I'm telling you most importantly I want to
thank my public employees...
MR. RUSSERT: All right.
MR. BROUSSARD: ...that have worked 24/7. They're burned out,
the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I'll
shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs
this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything.
His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called
him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he
said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming
to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's
coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday."
And she drowned Friday night.
She drowned Friday night.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. President...
MR. BROUSSARD: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming
to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had
press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut
up and send us somebody. ..."
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