President Bush finally made a public appearance the other day to comment on the tsunami that may have killed more than 100,000 people in Indonesia and Tailand. I say finally because the tsunami struck on Saturday and Bush waited three whole days to respond.
Imagine the reaction of most Americans if other world leaders had waited even one day to react to or send condolensces after 9-11. In that context, Bush's lackadaisical response to this global disaster was an embarrassment.
Then there was the initial $15 million in aid that the Bush administration offered. It was only after people began to point out that was less than half the amount the Bush folks will blow in one day for the inauguration festivities next week that the sum was bumped up to $35 million. And even that is a tawdry amount in proportion to what will be needed.
The Washington Post ran a story that was justly critical of Bush's response. Here is the key parts of the story:
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
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.
Kind of freaky, indeed.