Hastert Tries Damage Control After Remarks Hit a Nerve

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert began his day yesterday explaining that he really does not want to see New Orleans bulldozed, and he ended it defending his absence from the Capitol when Congress approved a $10.5 billion hurricane aid package. In between, a former president hinted he would like to throttle the Illinois Republican.

Hastert was still reeling from reaction to his comments earlier this week about the storm-ravaged city. 'It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed,' he said in an interview with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. Asked whether it made sense to spend billions of dollars rebuilding a city that lies below sea level, he told the paper, 'I don't know. That doesn't make sense to me.'

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