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Watching Bush's Speech in New Orleans


Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu's office was quick out of the gate with some numbers about one of the subjects the president did not dwell on. She reported that in the 5,500 word speech, only 165 words were devoted to Katrina relief. Twice as much time was spent applauding the president than to actually speaking about the Gulf Coast.

We turn now to MORNING EDITION'S Renee Montagne, who is in New Orleans on a reporting assignment.

Good morning, Renee.


Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: You watched the speech just a couple of blocks from one of the city's levees?

MONTAGNE: Yes. I was in the once quite comfortable neighborhood of New Orleans East, on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. Last night, though, it was pitch black. The houses were empty. A few folks have come back, and I joined Holly and Kevin Hubble, who are both nurses, and their neighbor Arthur Busby, who's retired from the Air Force. Now, the two men are political independents; Holly Hubble is a registered Republican.

We gathered around the TV in the tiny FEMA trailer that Arthur Busby has parked next to his gutted house and Kevin Hubble began.

Mr. KEVIN HUBBLE (New Orleans resident): Excuse me. I don't know that I had any expectations, but it was rather disheartening to see that it was, we were basically just thrown a bone. We were put in the speech to not be left out, and it didn't really give any rhyme or reason as to the government's action, although they did quote how much money they've, they say they've spent. Thrown our way, anyway.

MONTAGNE: What would you want from the President or what would you like to have heard that you didn't hear?

Mr. ARTHUR BUSBY (New Orleans resident): I'd really like to hear that there's been money put into New Orleans or into the state that you now can use to help rebuild New Orleans. And, in my understanding, allocated doesn't mean anything.

Mr. HUBBLE: The system that's in place is not, is far from perfect. We do have a FEMA trailer in our front of our home. I'm grateful for it, you know, even, it's not perfect...

Ms. HOLLY HUBBLE (New Orleans resident): We're the guinea pigs. (Laughs)

Mr. HUBBLE: Well, you know, gee, I wish I could say it's somewhat efficient, but that would be a stretch too. But it's disappointing to me, and it has been from the start. And what's really has been in my mind is that we have no one leading. I mean, look at our mayor, my goodness, he's, you know, he's a laughing stock. How can we have any faith in this poor soul? And the guy, and the President came down here, We're going to do it, and then leaves. Nobody's doing anything.

Ms. HUBBLE: I think in this case...

Mr. HUBBLE: It's frustrating.

Ms. HUBBLE: ...I've never been one to really believe in government involvement in people's lives, but in this case, since the storm, I'm absolutely for the government for just coming in and just taking over this place and just doing what needs to be done. If they can do it in Iraq, they can do it in New Orleans.

MONTAGNE: There was a moment in the speech where the president was still at that point speaking about Iraq, and the President spoke of desperate need, and then Holly Hubble, I heard you say, That's us.

Ms. HUBBLE: This has always been a really family oriented part of town. And so, I believe that the families will come back if we're given a chance. You know, we just need to have that certainty. And I guess that's what we were looking for too, is that, okay, we know everything is going to be okay. And we didn't get that. And we haven't gotten it from our leaders or anyone. It's just this feeling of desperation that we live by every day.

You know, and then, come June, hurricane season, we're going to live in fear. Our levies are not prepared to withstand anything. And, you know, with so many people, this storm has affected millions of people. I mean, this is just a massive disaster.

MONTAGNE: Linda, that was Holly Hubble, along with her husband Kevin Hubble, and their neighbor, Arthur Busby, weighing in on the State of the Union address from a FEMA trailer in New Orleans East.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks, Renee.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.