Here's how OTHER U.S. leaders have handled a crisis like Katrina:
Danger: Category-5 Hurricane Camille (August 1969)
Area: About the same area as that affected by Katrina
Response: Nixon prepared the National Guard in advance, ordering rescue ships from Tampa, FL and Houston, TX to stand waiting along with over a thousand regular military, 24+ helicopters to assist the Coast Guard and National Guard about as soon as the hurricane passed.
President: Bush the Elder
Danger: Hurricane Andrew (August 92)
Response: In the middle of a re-election campaign, Bush ceased campaigning the day before the hurricane, went to Washington, and
assembled one of the largest military forces ever mustered on U.S. soil. Seven thousand National Guard and 22,000 regular military were sent in with the necessary equipment shortly after the hurricane passed through.
Danger: Category-3 Hurricane Floyd (September 1999)
Area: Virginia and Carolinas
Response: Meeting with China's president Jiang in New Zealand, Clinton immediately declared the hurricane-affected areas as federal disasters, allowing the military and National Guard to move in and help. Clinton flew home immediately, one day before the hurricane hit, to help coordinate the rescue.
President: Bush the Lesser
Danger: Category-5 Hurricane Katrina (August 2005)
Area: Gulf Coast
Response: National Guard troops are down about 8,000 members because they are in Iraq with much of the necessary rescue equipment needed. Bush was on vacation, riding his bike for two hours the day before the hurricane lands. On the day Katrina landed, Bush attended a birthday party for John McCain. The levees began to crack. While emergency 1.5-ton sandbags were ready to be placed to steady the levee and absorb water, there were insufficient numbers of helicopters and pilots to set them before the levees break. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, pleaded for federal-level assistance and got none. Bush went to San Diego to play guitar with a country singer and end his vacation early -- but not until the next day, because he had tickets to a San Diego Padres game.