In September 1999, Hurricane Floyd -- a category 3 -- was bearing down the Carolinas and Virginia.Here's a short summary of Bush's (and a few other high-ranking government officials') response to hurricane Katrina:
President Clinton was in Christchurch, New Zealand - meeting with President Jiang of China ... He made the proclamation that only Presidents can make and declare the areas affected by Floyd "Federal Disaster Areas" so the National Guard and Military can begin to mobilize. Then he cut short his meetings overseas and flew home to coordinate the rescue efforts. This all one day BEFORE a Cat-3 hit the coast. ...
How about [George W. Bush's] own father during Hurricane Andrew? Once again, President [HW] Bush (41) -- August, 1992 -- was in the midst of a brutal campaign for re-election. Yet, he cut off his campaigning the day before and went to Washington where he martialed the largest military operation on US soil in history. He sent in 7,000 National Guard and 22,000 regular military personnel, and all the gear to begin the clean up within hours after Andrew passed through Florida ...
In August of 1969 when Cat-5 Hurricane Camille hit roughly the same area as Katrina, President Nixon had already readied the National Guard and ordered all Gulf rescue vessels and equipment from Tampa and Houston to follow the hurricane in. There were over 1,000 regular military with two dozen helicopters to assist the Coast Guard and National Guard within hours after the skies cleared.
- Prior to landfall, Bush is on vacation in Texas.
- Monday, August 29 - Katrina makes landfall at 6:15am near New Orleans, after hitting Florida on August 25 (link). Bush celebrates John McCain's birthday in Arizona, and samples a birthday cake (link). Bush also gives a speech on Medicare's prescription drug program: "The president did not speak to reporters, who were hoping he might say something about Hurricane Katrina." (link) Donald Rumsfeld attends an evening Padres game in San Diego (link).
- Tuesday, August 30 - Bush gives a speech on Iraq at a Naval Air Station in San Diego, and "cuts short" his visit to San Diego by one hour (link). Bush announces by mid-afternoon that he will return to Washington "tomorrow" (link, link). Condoleezza Rice shops for "several thousand dollars' worth of shoes" in New York (link).
- Wednesday, August 31 - Bush "cuts short" his vacation, heads back to Washington, and "visits" the hurricane-affected region by flying over it in Air Force 1 on the way to Washington (link). Bush gives a speech outlining relief efforts, which includes many implications that relief has already arrived (e.g. "The National Guard has nearly 11,000 Guardsmen on state active duty," "FEMA is moving supplies and equipment into the hardest hit areas," and "HHS and CDC are working with local officials to identify operating hospital facilities so we can help them, help the nurses and doctors provide necessary medical care. They're distributing medical supplies ..." link); significant relief supplies do not arrive in New Orleans until Friday (link). Condoleezza Rice attends a Monty Python musical in the evening (link) at the same time international aid is being rejected (link).
- Thursday, September 1 - Three days after the hurricane makes landfall, Bush says that "there's a lot of help coming" (link). Media reports make it clear that sufficient aid has not arrived (link, link, link). Bush also says, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees." (link) New Mexico finally receives paperwork from Washington to send National Guard troops to Louisiana, even though New Mexico's Governor had offered the troops the day before the hurricane hit and "Bush had the legal authority to order the National Guard to the disaster area himself." (link)
- Friday, September 2 - Significant aid finally arrives and is allowed into New Orleans (link). Bush states that "the results are not acceptable" and travels to affected areas in a trip that has been rumored since Tuesday (link, link). It is reported that the American Red Cross has been prevented from entering New Orleans by the National Guard and state Homeland Security Department (link, link).