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President Lands In Colorado To Monitor Rita
Rick Sallinger
Sep 23, 2005

(CBS4) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. President Bush landed at Peterson Air Force Base Friday evening to visit the U.S. Northern Command headquarters to monitor Hurricane Rita, which is forecast to hit Texas or southwest Louisiana late Friday or early on Saturday.

The president was originally scheduled to visit parts of Texas on Friday before flying to Colorado Springs.

The White House said Friday afternoon Bush dropped his Texas trip because search and rescue teams are being relocated as Hurricane Rita shifts course. Bush said he's trying to find a balance between helping in a crisis and being seen as interfering. He added he has no plans of getting in the way.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is repositioning search and rescue teams closer to the storm and he said the White House didn't want the president's itinerary to slow that effort.

Northcom, with headquarters at the base in Colorado Springs, coordinates the military's response to natural disasters and terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

"This (visit to Northcom) will give the president an opportunity to monitor the storm and to get a firsthand look at the federal government's assistance that is going on with state and local preparations and response efforts during Hurricane Rita," McClellan said Thursday.

Bush has been harshly criticized for the slow response by federal agencies to Hurricane Katrina.

Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of Northcom, acknowledged two weeks ago that the overall effort to help Hurricane Katrina victims could have been better. He said the command had lessons to learn, including how to better share information across more than 60 responding agencies.

Bush is expected to leave Colorado on Saturday from Peterson Air Force Base, White House spokesman Allen Abney said.

Northcom was already up to speed Friday, guiding troops and supplies into place, CBS4 reports.

The U.S. Northern Command focused on evacuating medical patients requiring life support and specialized care on Friday while making sure troops were ready to go as Hurricane Rita bore down on the U.S. mainland.

"We're directly in support of FEMA and hurricane relief," Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kelly of Northcom told CBS4. "The president will be coming out to see what we do with military forces and coordinating with FEMA."

Kelly said six ships -- the USS Iwo Jima, USS Shreveport, USS Tortuga, USS Grapple, USNS Patuxent, and USNS Comfort -- were following the storm to the Texas coast, where they were prepared to launch rescue efforts after the storm passes.

Kelly said about 4,000 people were evacuated Thursday by military aircraft to safer hospitals in Texas and Louisiana.

He said traffic control and protection of infrastructure, including oil refineries, was being left to the Texas National Guard.

The top-secret facility has about 80 representatives of various agencies monitoring multiple computer screens that show real-time movements of troops, maritime assets, aircraft and missile launches.

They also monitor satellite images from the National Weather Service and have their own full-time meteorologists.

This will be Bush's first look at the command since it was created in October 2002 in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks.

(© 2005 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

So Bush goes to an Air Force Base in Colorado to monitor a storm? Good grief. He says he wants to see how it all works; the federal government and the state working together. Wasn't he governor once? Shouldn't he already know? He's been president for almost five years and he still doesn't know how things work? Better late than never. Another Karl Rove photo op gone wrong.

Btw, when is Rove getting back to work? He's supposed to be in charge of Katrina repairs but is in North Dakota playing politics. Do these people ever go to work?