Clinton criticizes Bush administration’s Hurricane Katrina response

Former president also takes aim at the war on terror, tax cuts and Supreme Court justice nominee John Roberts.


Former president Bill Clinton leveled heavy criticism at the Bush administration's initial response to Hurricane Katrina last Sunday, saying the administration's slow reaction to the hurricane exemplified their disconnect with poor Americans.

Clinton's remarks, coming amid a heavy flurry of criticism for the president's handling of Katrina, were just the latest fire the Bush administration has come under from top Democrats.


2004 Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and his vice presidential running mate, former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), have also argued that the Bush administration had mishandled Katrina.

"You can't have an emergency plan that works if it only affects middle-class people up," Clinton said in an interview with ABC's "This Week."


"But I think the fundamental problem there was-it's like when they issued the evacuation order: that affects poor people differently. They didn't have cars, so they couldn't take them out."

"If they really wanted to do it right, we would have had lots of buses line up to take them out and also lots of empty vans to save the belongings of those with no home or flood insurance."

Responding to the former president-who the Bush administration has enlisted to help raise hurricane relief money-the White House conceded again that President Bush was "not pleased" with the early response to the Katrina.

"That's why [the president] is moving forward within the federal government of a comprehensive review of all Cabinet departments and their response efforts," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters Monday. "That's why we're going to work closely with Congress to make sure that they conduct a thorough investigation so that we can apply those lessons to future response efforts. We want to make sure that we are fully prepared to address natural disasters or disease pandemics that could break out, or terrorist threats. And that's why it's important to look back at all those issues."

In a wide-ranging Sunday morning talk show interview-which was the first solo one Clinton had held since leaving office in 2000-the former president touched on an array of subjects, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and Supreme Court justice nominee Judge John Roberts.

On Iraq, Clinton said that if the Bush administration had a strategy for victory, it was not proving to be successful. "A lot of good Americans have given their lives; thousands of others have been horribly wounded ... The only thing I would sacrifice it to is if I thought we were going to lose in Afghanistan."

"We cannot lose in Afghanistan. We cannot let the Taliban come back. We cannot relax our efforts to try to keep undermining Al Qaeda, because that's still by far a bigger threat to our security."

Clinton also took the Bush administration to task over its tax policy. "Tax cuts are always popular, but about half of these tax cuts since 2001 have gone to people in my income group, the top one percent," he said. "I've gotten four tax cuts.... We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina.  I don't think it makes any sense.  I think it's wrong."

But Clinton applauded the nomination of Judge John Roberts for chief justice of the United States, saying Roberts was "qualified by intellect and character and background and by experience."


"I suspect he probably will be confirmed," he said.

When asked about who he thought would run for president in 2008-a race for which his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), is widely viewed as a frontrunner-the former president did not bite.

"I have no idea what's going to happen, but my family has an election in 2006," he said referring to the next congressional elections. "The country in 2008, and I think in 2006, will be in a desperate mood to come together and move forward. I think they're going to reject ideological solutions that are not fact-based, and I think they're going to want a government that works."