Thursday, September 01, 2005

"Compassionate Conservative" Hastert Touches Raw Nerve With Insensitive Comments About Rebuilding New Orleans

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) said that rather than rebuild New Orleans with federal assistance, "it looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed."

Hastert, showing the savvy of someone asking Mrs. Lincoln whether she enjoyed the play, made his comments yesterday to the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. You know he would never dare say such things in the presence of anyone from the Crescent City.

In a transcript supplied by the suburban Chicago newspaper, Hastert said there was no question that the people of New Orleans would rebuild their city, but noted that federal insurance and other federal aid was involved. "We ought to take a second look at it. But you know we build Los Angeles and San Francisco on top of earthquake fissures and they rebuild too. Stubbornness.''

The cost of rebuilding could total $75 billion, according to one expert. House members were returning to Washington Thursday to vote on a $10.5 billion federal aid package.

***

This evening, Hastert tried to spin his comments, saying: "I am not advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated." But Hastert did not apologize for his earlier insensitivity, as had been sought by Louisiaba Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Blanco, a Democrat, said it's an insult to even suggest that "one of the most historic cities is not worth an investment" of federal dollars.

Also responding to Hastert was Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who issued a statement to "disagree strongly'' with Hastert.

"While I disagree strongly with Speaker Hastert’s comments regarding the city of New Orleans, he raises a debate that we can address at some time in the future. Right now, however, we have important work to do," said Landrieu, a Democrat. "I encourage Speaker Hastert and our colleagues to focus time and attention today and tomorrow on providing Louisiana with the local, state and federal security resources."

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