New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was interviewed on CNN Monday morning by Soledad O’Brien (transcript), where he revealed that Gov. Kathleen Blanco met with President Bush aboard Air Force One to make a decision about the timing of a New Orleans relief/support response by the federal government. Bush told Blanco that he was ready to move with troops and relief immediately, but Blanco requested a delay of 24 hours. Nagin doesn’t know why Blanco requested an additional day. All he knows is that more people died as a result of her decision.
Why? What was the purpose of the delay? Why did Gov. Kathleen Blanco not allow President Bush to give an order to move troops into New Orleans?
Your actions killed more people Governor. Why? Could it be that you were worried about the political ramifications of the White House looking like the hero instead of you? Or maybe you didn’t want it to look like you were running to George W. Bush for help?
And Mr. Mayor, while you’re busy providing interviews…what about those buses?
MORE: Watch the Interview
S. O’BRIEN: Solidly behind your efforts, although there’s been much written about kind of a power tussle between the two of you. Specifically, the mayor was telling us about a flight on Air Force One. And he said that you and he and the president were all in a room, and finally you and the president went separately to have a meeting.
Listen to what the mayor told us, ma’am, if you will.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: He called me in, in that office, after that. And he said, “Mr. Mayor, I offered two options to the governor.” I said — I don’t remember exactly what — two options.
I was ready to move today. The governor said she needed 24 hours to make a decision.
S. O’BRIEN: Twenty-four hours. Is that right? Was that what came out of that meeting on the tarmac with the president?
BLANCO: Soledad, the mayor was not in my meeting. And it was — I’ll tell you, it was a meeting that did not affect what was going on out in the field.
They were talking about paper organizations, nothing else. Nothing more. And they gave me a very complicated proposition to look at.
It didn’t help our effort in that instant moment. I needed a little time to understand exactly what it meant.
We went forward, all of us. All the resources were there. Nothing stopped. We ended up coming to terms and agreements. And I think that the effort’s going great.
S. O’BRIEN: Coming to terms, meaning that you rejected after that 24-hour window, that you didn’t have any interest in federalizing the troops or turning power over to the president. Why not hand it over, Madame Governor, when the first five days — and I think that meeting was on Friday, so the first several days of the recovery were clearly disastrous?
BLANCO: The first five days of the recovery were heroic. We had — we were the people who took control.
The National Guard took control of the city, brought order out of chaos, because we have law enforcement authority. The federal troops do not. I was very concerned about giving up law enforcement authority.
S. O’BRIEN: Heroic, but by a very small number of people who were on the ground. In fact, I believe it was Friday morning when I was talking to the FEMA director, who had only just seen that there were tens of thousands of people at the convention center. So at least by Thursday, let’s say the first four days, those people at the convention center were actually not getting anything. If it was not coordinated…
S. O’BRIEN: Yes, ma’am?
BLANCO: Soledad, the mayor and I were both asking for the same thing. We wanted troops, we wanted food, we wanted water, we wanted helicopters. We asked for that early in the week.
I asked for everything that we had available from the federal government. I got it from the National Guard. I got as much as possible. And the federal effort was just a little slow in coming.
I can’t understand why. You know, those are questions that are yet to be answered.
Jon Christian Ryter – “Blanco’s advisers told her that the remaining 7,000 National Guard troops left in Louisiana were not enough to secure the city of New Orleans, and that it was not in her best political interest to use them until they could be reinforced since they might get hurt, or worse, hurt or kill a civilian they were charged with protecting. Instead, she let Nagin’s 1,500 New Orleans cops fend for themselves in a city that had been tacitly surrendered to looters and thugs.”
Bob Livingston: “I raised hell with Gov. Blanco for not declaring martial law. I told her last Wednesday night I was going on ‘Hannity & Colmes’ and criticize her for not doing that, and 20 minutes later, she did.“
Blanco: “We all wanted more, faster,” Blanco said Monday evening after a day that included meeting with President Bush in Baton Rouge. “We needed more, faster. We were limited by our own capacity. We were limited by the speed at which organization could be mustered. There isn’t any person who is not sorrowful about wanting to do more in a quicker amount of time. We knew lives were being threatened minute-by-minute. Everything is now stabilized. We know there are still people to be rescued. Loved ones need to be buried.“
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