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December 28, 2004
Washington Post Starts New Bush Meme, Trots Out Stinginess For An Encore

The Washington Post runs to the rescue of Jan Egeland by both reinforcing the UN undersecretary's assertions of American stinginess and creating a new smear against George Bush, this time for not exploiting the deaths of 60,000 people for his own political gain:

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.

After a day of repeated inquiries from reporters about his public absence, Bush late yesterday afternoon announced plans to hold a National Security Council meeting by teleconference to discuss several issues, including the tsunami, followed by a short public statement.

The Post's John F. Harris notes approvingly that Bush's camera grab puts him in the same class as Gerhardt Schroeder and other world leaders. Harris also reports on another figure in Europe that beat Bush to the television cameras: Bill Clinton, who got wide press coverage for issuing an insipid statement in Britain about the importance of coordinating the international response to the disaster.

We will hear more of this in the days ahead, how Bush cares more for his vacation than the suffering of the Asian victims of the tsunami, and so on. Harris reports on whispers in the political and international communities that the aid package put forth and Bush's absence shows his arrogance and disdain for the human tragedy. Leslie Gelb from the Council on Foreign Relations gets a quote telling Post readers that Bush had to "show people that this matters to [him], that [he] cares."

Of course Bush has to act to assist the governments suffering from the tragedy, but how does getting on TV and acting weepy -- Bill Clinton's specialty -- help them in any material way? Bush put his energy into getting the largest aid package of any nation deployed ($35 million and growing). He redirected a carrier group to the Indian Ocean (USS Lincoln), and he sent the USS Bonhomme Richard and 5,000 sailors to Sri Lanka (via Instapundit). Post readers should ask themselves what helps tsunami victims more -- self-serving TV appearances or thousands of helping hands arriving on the scene, not to mention the cash?

The worst part of this article is Harris' endorsement of the stinginess meme that even Egeland had abandoned by this afternoon:

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.

Harris deliberately uses the narrow definition of assistance, that given directly by governments. As many bloggers have already noted, that definition hardly tells the full story. Americans donate more money privately and volunteer more hours than anyone else in the world. The American economic structure that allows people to retain most of their own earnings also allows them to make much more effective use of donor money and time. (However, I note with some satisfaction that Norway only donates 0.92% of its GNP. Egeland sneeringly referred to those Western countries that keep 99% of what they make; I guess his native country belings in the same class.)

While the Post has its own issues with bias, I hold them in much higher regard than the New York Times because it usually manages to get its facts straight. This article seriously challenges my generally positive opinion of the Washington Post.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 28, 2004 10:02 PM

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