Kerry Spot [ jim geraghty reporting ]
WE CAN'T BRING BACK THE DEAD, BUT WE CAN EXPOSE IDIOTS
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As I look over yesterday's posts about U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland's inane comment that the U.S. is "stingy," and see similar responses from around the blogosphere, I begin to sense that this comment hit a nerve.
We're watching 68,000 people die on the other side of the world. Other than giving to relief organizations, there's not much we can do - the damage is done, and those who were lost are gone.
But some fool using this terrible event as an excuse to bash America, ignoring the facts? He is somebody we can do something about.
Now Egeland has a few friends, on the front page of the Washington Post:
The Bush administration more than doubled its financial commitment yesterday to provide relief to nations suffering from the Indian Ocean tsunami, amid complaints that the vacationing President Bush has been insensitive to a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions...
Although U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland yesterday withdrew his earlier comment, domestic criticism of Bush continued to rise. Skeptics said the initial aid sums as well as Bush's decision at first to remain cloistered on his Texas ranch for the Christmas holiday rather than speak in person about the tragedy showed scant appreciation for the magnitude of suffering and for the rescue and rebuilding work facing such nations as Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Indonesia...
Some foreign policy specialists said Bush's actions and words both communicated a lack of urgency about an event that will loom as large in the collective memories of several countries as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do in the United States. "When that many human beings die at the hands of terrorists or nature you've got to show that this matters to you, that you care," said Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.
There was an international outpouring of support after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and even some administration officials familiar with relief efforts said they were surprised that Bush had not appeared personally to comment on the tsunami tragedy. "It's kind of freaky," a senior career official said...
Gelb said what appears to be a grudging increase in effort sends the wrong message, at a time when dollar totals matter less than a clear statement about U.S. intentions. Noting that the disaster occurred at a time when large numbers of people in many nations especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia object to U.S. policies in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence...
"My initial reaction is that it does not seem to be very aggressive," said Morton Abramowitz, a former ambassador to Thailand who has been active in humanitarian relief efforts, of the administration's response to the tsunami.
What a lame story. The only on-the-record anti-Bush quotes come from Gelb, Abramowitz, who uses very careful words; and Wes Clark, who is not even quoted directly in his criticism of Bush. Instead, we are told Clark "urged Bush to take a higher profile."
There is also a "senior career official" quoted anonymously. Anybody want to guess this senior career official was hoping to be working under a President Kerry come January?
To judge from the early paragraphs of this front page story create the impression Bush is being slammed by unnamed, but presumably numerous, "skeptics" and "foreign policy specialists." Instead we get Gelb, the careful words of Abramowitz, Clark and Anonymous Boy.
Why does one suspect that this story was spurred by a reporter or editor who believed Bush was wrong for not rushing out and "feeling the victims' pain" the way Bill Clinton did (who is favorably compared in the story) and who simply kept calling as many former ambassadors and international affairs gurus until he or she had collected enough quotes for a Bush-bashing story?
Notice all the dogs who didn't bark - no Harry Reid, no Pelosi, Biden, Kerry, Albright, Kennedy. No one who actually has to face the voters is taking this moment to criticize the president. And the argument is pretty lame - "Never mind all these concrete actions to help the victims, the president hasn't cried in front of the cameras to show he cares."
[Posted 12/29 09:16 AM]