The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Monday, January 03, 2005


Holy Symbolic Gesture, Batman!
President Bush brought together former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton on Monday to launch an appeal for Americans to make a donation to help victims of the South Asia quake and tsunamis.

"I ask every American to contribute as they are able to do so," Bush said.

The president's father and Clinton will lead a bipartisan effort to seek out donations both large and small to provide relief assistance to millions left homeless by the Dec. 26 calamity that killed thousands in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.

"We are here to ask our fellow citizens to join in a broad humanitarian relief effort," said Bush, joined in the White House Roosevelt Room by his two immediate predecessors.

The U.S. president, whose initial reaction to the catastrophe was criticized as sluggish, called the $350 million pledged by the U.S. government "an initial commitment." Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are contemplating more.

Bush asked Americans to contribute directly to reliable charities already providing help to tsunami victims. He cited as examples the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, the Salvation Army, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, CARE, UNICEF and America Cares. He directed people to the USA Freedom Corps Web site at for more information.

"As men and women across the devastated region begin to rebuild, we offer our sustained compassion and our generosity and our assurance that America will be there to help," Bush said.
The next sentence is slightly dubious:
The scale of the disaster prompted the White House to put together the rare coalition of ex-presidents to mount a nationwide fund-raising drive.
Suuuure. That said, the greater good is that all of this is happening and the administration is being proactive about this.

In fact, both politically and morally, this is the best thing Bush has ever done as President. Mark your calendars, folks.

The first few days of the administration's nonresponse to the tragedy were a miserable failure. Their initial aid pledge of $15million was less than half of what they planned to spend on the inauguration. Beyond the matter of whether or not that dollar amount was "stingy" in and of itself, the important thing was that a lot of this money would go to Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, at a time when we're trying to win over the goodwill of mainstream Muslims against Islamo-fascists and terrorists. To make a Marie Antoinette-ish initial offer of $15million is to hand Al Qaeda and their allies a helpful recruiting tool.

It is my hope that today's events will be a step in counteracting that folly.

Now, this is more than just a symbolic gesture, since it includes a real fundraising drive with real money. Still, standing with the prior two Presidents, representing both major political parties, is an obvious gesture of unity regarding the humanitarian crisis, and for that Bush should be commended. I'm glad his people got the message, for just a week ago they were mocking both Clinton and the idea of making a symbolic gesture.

(And of course, this move gets the Rove seal of approval. It takes two figures reviled among hard-right fundy Republicans -- Clinton and George HW Bush -- and associates them with all them forners with whom they're all so dern uncomfortable. The end result? The Bushies found a way to do the right thing and keep the Falwell wing in line. From a domestic political standpoint, that's not bad at all.)


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