Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Would you like some cheese with that whine?: Today's Washington Post has a front-page article on the Bush administration's response to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
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.
Insensitive? Because he hasn't gone out in front of cameras like his predecessor to "feel the pain" of the millions of people affected by this disaster?
Further down in the story, Bush officials make a similar point.
Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' "
Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view of his appropriate role.
Of course, that's not important to people who value style over substance.
The article also addresses the downright stupid claim by U.N. bigwig Jan Egeland that the United States and other "rich" nations are "stingy" when it comes to providing money for humanitarian crises. (A comment he later claimed had been "misinterpreted.")
The alleged smoking gun of U.S. "stinginess" is a woefully incomplete figure provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Among the world's two dozen wealthiest countries, the United States often is among the lowest in donors per capita for official development assistance worldwide, even though the totals are larger. According to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development of 30 wealthy nations, the United States gives the least -- at 0.14 percent of its gross national product, compared with Norway, which gives the most at 0.92 percent.
Of course, this figure includes only direct cash payments from our government to corrupt, sometimes undemocratic nations. It doesn't include things like global food aid of which the U.S. in 2002 provided 64.9 percent. That's right -- 64.9 percent of the food aid came from the United States. By comparison, the EU provided only 13.8 percent. That percent of GDP doesn't look so stingy now, does it?
The figure also ignores private donations by American citizens -- something that is not unconsequential. For example, at just after 5 p.m. EST yesterday, the Instapundit pointed out that the American Red Cross Disaster Relief fund over at Amazon.com had collected more than $112,000 in donations for people affected by this disaster. As I look at the page now, that figure is above $970,000. Compare that to say, the French, who, according to Fox News, have pledged $135,000 in aid. No, I'm not being stingy with the zeros -- it'd be even less if the dollar was stronger against the euro. (But that's a completely different subject.)
Would that every nation was as "stingy" as the United States.
On a related, personal note: As I was getting ready for work yesterday, I was going through in my mind some of the things that I needed to do. One of the items was to write an e-mail to Anna, a friend of mine, who is spending the year studying art in New York City. I thought that it was something I needed to do, but there was no rush because she's not in New York now anyway, she's in Thailand ... visiting her parents ... for the holidays. And it hit me, hard. My jaw dropped and I grabbed my cell phone to call her best friend here in town. I figured if anyone knew if Anna was OK, it would be her.
When I picked up my Treo 600 cellphone and turned on the screen, it notified me that I had an e-mail message -- it had just arrived -- from Anna. She's OK. She and her parents were several hundred miles inland when the tsunami struck. They felt the earthquake, but were unaffected by the tsunami and subsequent flooding.
That was a big relief for me, and what was even more amazing was that my panic lasted less than a minute.
Many others, however, were not so lucky. If you're able, consider donating a small sum to the American Red Cross via the link above. But also pray for those people affected by this terrible tragedy.