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From the Chicago Sun-Times.

Say that again? 'Things are going relatively well'
September 12, 2005

From the disputed presidential election of 2000 to the terrorist attacks on America on 9/11/01 to the failure to find Osama bin Laden to the quagmire of a war in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina, this has been a terrible decade, century, millennium.

It's got to get better in 2006, doesn't it?

In the meantime, we're two weeks into one of the most tragic and shameful events in American history. Here, in chronological order, are some of the most memorable quotes from evacuees, politicians, journalists, media personalities and celebrities.

*"I wasn't going to let a little thing like a hurricane keep me from wearing my bathing suit." -- Eva Longoria on the Video Music Awards, Aug. 28. Had Longoria known what was going to happen in the days to come, one imagines she would have come up with another bit.

*"The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked." -- New Orleans councilwoman Jackie Carlson, Aug. 30. Meanwhile, President Bush was playing guitar with country singer Mark Willis in San Diego. Bush would return to Crawford, Texas, that night, for one more night of taking it easy before finally cutting his vacation "short."

*"I must say, this storm is much bigger than anyone expected." -- FEMA Director Michael Brown, on CNN, Aug. 31.

*"Excuse me, senator, I'm sorry for interrupting . . . for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people out here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated . . .

"And when they hear politicians . . . you know, thanking one another, it just . . . cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body in the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the streets for 48 hours . . ." -- CNN's Anderson Cooper, Sept. 1, in an awesome tirade directed at Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who had been tossing compliments to fellow politicians and blowing bromides up the wazoo before Cooper cut her off.

*"George W. Bush gave one of the worst speeches of his life yesterday, especially given the level of national distress and the need for words of consolation and wisdom. In what seems to be a ritual for this administration, the president appeared a day later than he was needed." -- New York Times lead editorial, Sept. 1.

*"It was chaos. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children . . . they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw . . . people who are dying in front of you." -- CNN producer Kim Segal, describing conditions in the New Orleans Convention Center, Sept. 1.

*"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." -- FEMA chief Brown, Sept. 1.

*"From here and from talking to police officers, they're losing control of the city . . ." -- CNN's Chris Lawrence, Sept. 1.

*"We just learned of the convention center -- we being the federal government -- today." -- FEMA Director Brown, trying to deflect criticism to local government, on "Nightline," Sept. 1.

*"Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio? Our reporters have been reporting on it for more than just today." -- Koppel's response.

*"Many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black . . . " -- CNN's Wolf Blitzer's well-meaning but unfortunate description of the evacuees, Sept. 1.

*"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job." -- President Bush, Sept. 2. One of the most idiotic, misguided, clueless and smug things the president has said during his two terms in office.

*"I'm satisfied with the response. I am not satisfied with the results." -- President Bush, later that day.

*"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." -- President Bush, cracking wise in Mobile, Ala., Sept. 2. And maybe when he sits on that porch, one of those unemployed evacuees can bring him a nice iced tea and a fan. After all, they'll be looking for work.

*"George Bush doesn't care about black people." -- Kanye West Sept. 2 on an NBC telethon for hurricane relief, as a deer-in-the-headlights Mike Myers stood beside him, no doubt wishing he was off making "Shrek 57."

*"I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fund-raisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. . . . Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened in Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh!" -- Excerpt from Michael Moore's open letter to President Bush, Sept. 2. Moore is reportedly considering making a documentary about Bush and Katrina. It would be the easiest film he's ever done.

*"I open the television, there's people still there, waiting to be rescued, and for me that's not acceptable. I know there's reasons for it. I'm sorry to say I'm being rude, but I don't want to hear those reasons." -- Celine Dion in an interview on "Larry King Live," Sept. 3. An hour later, yours truly was in the audience at Dion's show in Las Vegas, where she told a baffled audience that she had cried and yelled at Larry King earlier that evening.

*"The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in a St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' [starting to cry] And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday.' And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night." -- Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard, Sept. 4, on NBC's "Meet the Press," in one of the defining media moments of all the hurricane coverage.

*"We lost everything. Katrina didn't care if you were poor or rich; all the houses look the same now." -- Mississippi resident Penny Dean, quoted in People magazine, which has covered the hurricane story in honorable and comprehensive fashion.

*"What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them." -- Former First Lady Barbara Bush, sounding like a bad caricature of a "Dallas" character, in the Houston Astrodome, Sept. 5.

*"I understand there are 10,000 people dead. It's terrible. It's tragic. But in a democracy of 300 million people, over years and years and years, these things happen." -- Republican operative Jack Burkman, MSNBC, Sept. 7, in an obvious attempt to go for the Humanitarian of the Year Award.

*"Go f-- yourself, Mr. Cheney. Go f-- yourself." -- Off-camera citizen heckling the vice president during a live interview that aired on CNN and MSNBC, Sept. 8. The "Go f-- yourself, Mr. Cheney" guy has his own Web site and is auctioning copies of personal video footage on eBay.

*"First time I've heard it. Must be a friend of John, er, uh, never mind." -- A chuckling Cheney's nonsensical, half-joke of a response when a reporter asked if he'd been hearing a lot of that sort of thing.

*"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." -- Rep. Richard Baker (R-La.), Sept. 8, in a quip to lobbyists quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Baker is denying the quote; the WSJ reporter stands by his story.

*"How, then, did we get here? How did the richest country on Earth end up watching children cry for food in putrid encampments on the evening news? How did reporters reach crowds of the desperate in places where police, troops and emergency responders had not yet been--three days after the storm?" -- Time magazine, in a report to be published today.

Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper are hosting a special benefit screening of "Walk the Line" starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon on Sept. 25. All proceeds to hurricane relief efforts. To purchase tickets, go to

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