On Sunday’s "Good Morning America," weekend host Bill Weir highlighted the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and insisted that the storm "really tainted the Bush legacy." The GMA anchor talked to liberal author Jason Berry and asked if there was an intentional effort to not rebuild poor neighborhoods in New Orleans. "Is that a deliberate political move," he asked.
Attempting to draw a contrast between former President Bush and Barack Obama, Weir speculated, "But talk about the change in the presidential administration. You know, the response to Katrina really tainted the Bush legacy. But have you noticed any change in tone, any optimism under President Obama?" (Weir is the journalist who hyperbolically insisted during the President’s inauguration that "even the seagulls must have been awed" by the event.)
Berry eagerly concurred, "Oh, absolutely. Yes. I think many people are aware that President Obama made a campaign stop here, visited the city even before he ran for President and has, you know, given sort of soothing indications that we will get more help."
The ABC anchor then gave the author an opportunity to lobby for yet more federal funds for the city. Berry exclaimed, "Oh, I think we need a massive infusion of support to rebuild the streets, the piping system, the infrastructure. And on top of that, there are many people, you know, who expected to come back and have had funds, you know, log jammed in the Road Home program. "
A transcript of the August 30 segment, which aired at 8:14am EDT, follows:
BILL WEIR: Well, Kate, four years ago today, Hurricane Katrina had weakened, the levees had failed and the governor of Louisiana ordered a complete evacuation of the city of New Orleans. Many of those people never came back. And today, the Crescent City is still trying to pick up the pieces. For some insight on things- where things stand today now, we're joined by author, historian and New Orleans resident, Jason Berry. Jason, thanks for joining us. Good to see you.
JASON BERRY: Thank you. Good to be with you.
WEIR: Forgive us for waiting to the anniversary to ask this question, but how is it going down there? How are things?
BERRY: Well, it's surreal. You know, in some respects, it's, the rhythms of daily life are somewhat as they were, you know, four years ago before the storm. But when a third of the people have not come back, you feel the absences.
WEIR: Yeah. And I understand certain sectors seem to be doing okay, but certain neighborhoods, really the most impoverished neighborhoods historically, seem - like there's no chance that they'll ever come back. Is that a deliberate political move?
BERRY: Oh, I think so. Yes. In fact, Charles Jenkins, the recently retired bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Orleans, has said that he thought that there was a concerted effort on the part of the political powers-that-be to keep poor people from coming back. So it's been a rather disgraceful performance politically. The elected officials have been bickering. We have not gotten the federal support that we needed or expected and Baton Rouge and New Orleans have not really produced the kind of recovery plan that everyone thought would be the case.
WEIR: I know Mayor Nagin is seeing some of the worst approval ratings in history, about 25 percent. He's termed out in May, so you're gonna get a new mayor next year. But talk about the change in the presidential administration. You know, the response to Katrina really tainted the Bush legacy. But have you noticed any change in tone, any optimism under President Obama?
BERRY: Oh, absolutely. Yes. I think many people are aware that President Obama made a campaign stop here, visited the city even before he ran for President and has, you know, given sort of soothing indications that we will get more help. You know, it's interesting, though, Bill, the music community has really been resurgent. Culturally, writers have returned, artists have returned. There's a, really, a kind of cultural renaissance going on here, even though politically, it's still sort of a third water, third world back water, you might say.
WEIR: Yeah. Well, it really speaks to the soul of that city. It's, it's that-
JASON BERRY: Indeed.
WEIR: -that culture, that art that makes it so unique. So, finally, let me just ask you, what do you need? What is at the top of the priority list for the people of New Orleans?
BERRY: Oh, I think we need a massive infusion of support to rebuild the streets, the piping system, the infrastructure. And on top of that, there are many people, you know, who expected to come back and have had funds, you know, log jammed in the Road Home program. But, again, all of that having been said, I think what we need more than anything is a program for at-risk youth. You know, when Louis Armstrong was 12 years old, he was arrested for shooting off a gun. He went to a place called The Colored Waif's Home. There he got his first horn. He credited that place for the rest of his life. We don't any- we don't have anything like The Colored Waif's Home today, and yet, there are musicians, as I've written about in the book, who have been going into schools trying to assist with a program that would see some sort of reform like that. But we need the political support to see that happen.
WEIR: Yeah. The book you mentioned, Up From the Cradle of Jazz. Jason Berry, we appreciate your insight. Good luck to you going forward.