Published on Tueday, September 6, 2005 by the New York Post
Barbara: Houston Shelter is 'Working Very Well' for Poor
by Kate Sheehy
First Mom Barbara Bush yesterday walked past rows of poor and ailing refugees at the Houston Astrodome, then said, "So many of the people here . . . were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.
"What I'm hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality," gushed the white-haired mother of President Bush.
"Almost everyone I've talked to says, 'We're going to move to Houston!' "
The former first lady's comments were part of a broadcast on National Public Radio. The spokesman for her and her husband, Tom Frechette, said he did not have an immediate comment on the interview.
Later, on CNN's "Larry King Live," Barbara Bush appeared upbeat about the stricken evacuees' prospects while sitting alongside her hubby, former President George H.W. Bush.
It's been only a week since Katrina cut a deadly swath through the South, she said, "And look what's happened: Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated and are in comfortable shelters."
Still, she acknowledged, "It's going to take a while for families to get together."
Inside the Astrodome hang hundreds of heart-wrenching, homemade fliers from families desperately seeking word on loved ones from whom they were separated during the frantic evacuations.
They feature everyone from toddlers to elderly grandmothers.
Barbara Bush adamantly defended her son's handling of the government's response to the disaster, dismissing critics who charged that he would have been more speedy in prodding rescue efforts if so many of the victims hadn't been poor blacks.
"People came up to me all day long and said, 'God bless your son,' all races," she said.
Meanwhile, her husband, who also met with refugees while announcing a fund-raising effort with ex-President Bill Clinton, said he could "understand the criticism" of the government's handling of the crisis.
"I'm certainly not satisfied" with the way things were handled, the former president said.
The first parents' comments came as President Bush called Americans' response to Hurricane Katrina "amazing" — but didn't offer the same praise for the government, as he made his second visit to the disaster area.
There was a big chill in the air as Bush and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco toured the same Baton Rouge, La., relief center at a time when federal and state officials blame each other for the government's slow response in aiding the region.
At a Baton Rouge prayer center, some refugees asked Bush for an autograph.
But refugee Mildred Brown said, "I need answers. I'm not interested in handshaking. I'm not interested in photo ops. This is going to take a lot of money."
Additional reporting by Deborah Orin in Washington
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