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2005-09-05

Louisiana Offical: The Federal Gov’t Has Abandoned Us

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On Sunday Aaron Broussard, the president of Jefferson Parish appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and accused the federal government of abandoning the people of New Orleans. He broke down crying, as he recalled how the mother of one of his colleagues died after waiting days to be rescued. [includes rush transcript]

  • Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana, appearing on Meet the Press.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: [Tim] Russert asked Broussard to respond to Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff’s explanation of the federal response to the hurricane.

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.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard speaking yesterday on NBC’s "Meet The Press." Following an interview, host Tim Russert did with Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. Chertoff had defended the response to Hurricane Katrina by federal authorities, shifting the blame to local governments. Host Tim Russert asked Broussard whether local officials had more responsibility to bear for last week’s horrific shortcomings. Broussard continues.

AARON BROUSSARD: 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.

TIM RUSSERT: All right.

AARON BROUSSARD: I’m telling you most importantly I want to thank my public employees...

TIM RUSSERT: All right.

AARON 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.

TIM RUSSERT: Mr. President —

AARON 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.

TIM RUSSERT: Just take a pause, Mr. President.

AMY GOODMAN: Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard. Speaking on "Meet The Press" yesterday. This is Democracy Now!

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