Bill Clinton stumps for Hillary in Miss.

March 8, 2008 6:46:47 PM PST
Former President Clinton highlighted his wife's support for reforming national flood insurance and for rebuilding wetlands in a town nearly wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina as he campaigned ahead of next week's Democratic presidential primary in Mississippi.

Bill Clinton ran down Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's resume and legislative record, and reminded the audience at a high school here that he and former president George H.W. Bush raised millions of dollars for Mississippi after the storm on Aug. 29, 2005.

George W. Bush's administration's response to the hurricane sent a message that "cronyism is more important than competence," Bill Clinton said, referring to the slow response under former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown.

"The president's second term was significantly damaged by the reaction to what happened after Katrina, because the American people thought that it wasn't handled right," Clinton continued. "They thought that we didn't have professionals in charge of our emergency management agency any more."

Hillary Clinton will never forget what happened, he said.

There are 33 delegates at stake in Mississippi's primary on Tuesday; both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have campaigned in the state. Mississippi has a large black population, giving Obama the advantage.

Clinton said he had flown over the Arkansas airport where FEMA is storing thousands of unused trailers, but hadn't realized that thousands of Mississippi residents are still living in such trailers more than two years after the hurricane.

"By now, they should have been building more permanent housing for you," he said. "I will work on it and I'll see what we can do."

Steve Haas, 43, of Bay St. Louis, a realtor who said he developed an upper respiratory infection after living in a trailer for two years, said he was shocked the former president didn't realize so many people were still in trailers.

But Matt McKenna, a spokesman for the former president, said he thought Clinton was speaking specifically about people still living in trailers contaminated by formaldehyde ? not trailers in general.

"I think it's good he's going to do something," Haas said. "We have a Republican president and a Republican governor who are absolutely not letting anybody know about" the formaldehyde findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Haas, a Democrat, said he recently decided to vote for Sen. Clinton.