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December 29, 2004

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? (Moral Leadership Department)

It's the little things that are the most bizarre. Here's Josh Micah Marshall:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: December 26, 2004 - January 01, 2005 Archives: President's latest response to the tsunami tragedy: badmouth Bill Clinton. From the Post ...

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.

Actions speak louder than words? Actions?

Posted by DeLong at December 29, 2004 04:27 AM


For what it's worth, CNBC spent a fair amount of time yesterday afternoon mocking the paltry $15mm that the US has offered to date for disaster relief efforts.

Posted by: Charles Kinbote at December 29, 2004 05:29 AM

It cannot be emphasized too much that everything bad, including original sin, is all Clinton's fault . . .

Posted by: rea at December 29, 2004 05:34 AM

Josh Marshall didn't read the article carefully. The Post precisely describes what actions the president is taking: "clearing brush and bicycling."

Posted by: JR at December 29, 2004 06:00 AM

Yep, that speaks louder than words all right.

Posted by: Ken Houghton at December 29, 2004 06:08 AM

Actually, it should be:

Bush's lack of action speaks much louder than the handful of words spoken by Clinton.

Posted by: Mark-NC at December 29, 2004 06:11 AM

Well, the fact is that Bush can't feel anyone else's pain. So there you are.

And badmouthing is an action, too.

Posted by: Aunt Deb at December 29, 2004 06:30 AM

"A top Bush aide said." It's always nice to see the Post taking a tough stand against anonymous quotes.

Posted by: dave at December 29, 2004 06:38 AM

The Administration will cut it out when Democrats start pounding them on the cheap shots. Or when Democrats start saying that now is the time to show that we care for the rest of the world.

But we just don't seem to care. It is just disgusting that no major politician stood up and yelled : "we Shouldn't torture people!" and now none is willing to stand up and say " Now is the time to mobilize our resources to help countries hit by the Tsunami.

What do we as a country stand for? And what does the Democratic Party stand for? Nothing much it seems...


Posted by: Samuel Knight at December 29, 2004 06:47 AM

"It is just disgusting that no major politician stood up and yelled : 'we Shouldn't torture people!'"

Well, Al Gore did, for one. They questioned his sanity, of course.

Posted by: rea at December 29, 2004 06:53 AM

Apologies for the preceding blogs by detractors of USA actions and pronouncements. Are they posing for "holy pictures"? Give help. Millions of dollars in the tsunami devastated areas are worth a lot more than a million bucks buying foodstuffs and clean water in NYC or LA.

Think heartland USA values and costs.

Posted by: donmaj at December 29, 2004 07:02 AM

I am surprised Bush hasn't suggested a tax cut or privitization............

Posted by: me at December 29, 2004 07:13 AM

"...Are they posing for "holy pictures"? Give help. Millions of dollars in the tsunami devastated areas are worth a lot more ..."

What the tsunami-devastated areas needed most was immediate, forceful action to mobilize all the quick-response resources available for rescue. I suspect that a very large fraction of such resources reside in the US military and Coast Guard, or are otherwise also very much of under the ultimate command of our President, but the under the immediate command/control of bureaucrats lacking the authority to move on their own.

If Bush had more than an ounce of brains, or even just any real sense of the principles of leadership, he'd have been on Air Force 1 back to Washington to take command and mobilize those resources.

The world is watching.

Posted by: jm at December 29, 2004 07:33 AM

Nice King George is at it again...

Posted by: The Casual Observer at December 29, 2004 07:51 AM

"I suspect that a very large fraction of such resources reside in the US military and Coast Guard, or are otherwise also very much of under the ultimate command of our President, but the under the immediate command/control of bureaucrats lacking the authority to move on their own."

I don't want to be a bad person, but you are dissolutioned (in part). The job of our military is to rain death and destruction upon an enemy. Otherwise they contract with civilian firms for construction and personal services ... Halliburton, KBR, Boeing, etc.

The budget process takes some time to identify/adjust/extract funds. Exec employs funds "at hand". You can't throw funds helter skelter. And there are always funds "at hand" but in limited quantities.

Send money to established and active relief agencies.

Posted by: donmaj at December 29, 2004 07:58 AM

jm: The world is watching.

Make that the world outside of the Red States.

In the Red States, Sri Lanka is less real than Sunnydale. They're all just little images on a screen, not real people. No need to get upset.

Posted by: lightning at December 29, 2004 08:06 AM


In order to rain death and destruction upon an enemy, our military possesses enormous resources for logistics, communications, coordination, and medical treatment. Exactly those things that have been wiped out in the disaster areas, and which need to be gotten there ASAP.

It is exactly because of the need to cut through the Gordian knot of "...budget process takes some time to identify/adjust/extract funds..." that Bush should have gone immediately to Washington.

Posted by: jm at December 29, 2004 08:24 AM

Actions do indeed speak louder than words. Bush's initial offer was $15 million. That was an absurd and insultingly low amount of money for a disaster of this magnitude. Only AFTER the words from the UN about Bush being stingy did the president leap into action by doubling the amount of money. The new promise is still absurdly and insultingly low, but at least the words of the UN prompted some small action by the president.

At any rate, this is just one more clear demonstration of the steady and consistent leadership of Bush. No matter what is happening--whether warnings of impending terrorist attack or natural disaster on a scale unknown in our lifetimes--Bush will never, ever interrupt his vacation. His ability to stick to recreation while world-changing events overtake the country is what endears him to red-state voters.

Posted by: Derelict at December 29, 2004 08:42 AM

The President is an exceptionally shallow being. His incapacity for emphathizing with the sufferings of others verges on the pathological. He and the people around him have got into their heads that any expression of sympathy for others is necessarily hypocritical, because that's how they operate. He is FDR's polar opposite. It's quite remarkable that so many decent people in this country support him on the basis of his 'values'. He lives in a different mental world from the rest of us. I doubt he knows what friendship means.

Posted by: Knut Wicksell at December 29, 2004 09:00 AM

Not at all surprised by the response of US govt led by her president. Does any one else in Asia expect anything else? Contrast the difference.

Indian Prime Minister offered every possible help to all the affected nations in his first public statement after the calamity. While India is still counting her dead, her help has already reached shores of Sri Lanka and Maldives.

This is the difference between Western values and Asian. Get it Kipling?

Posted by: Aniruddha G. Kulkarni at December 29, 2004 09:01 AM

But, seriously folks, have you noticed that every time Bush goes to his "ranch," he spends a lot of time "clearing brush." I've begun to wonder if there isn't a White House aid in charge of dragging "brush" in for Bush to clear. And has anyone ever heard anything about what they do with the places from which he "clears brush"?

Posted by: Donald A. Coffin at December 29, 2004 09:18 AM

Well said Aniruddha.

When I watching TV, I saw the news US donates XX dollars.. I thought what a paltry amount.

I think Bush, his men and 51% of US has gone self centered and mupped. Do they have brains or left it in the ballot for Dubya ?

Posted by: Navin at December 29, 2004 09:19 AM

We should do all that is within our power to help the survivors in the areas hit by the tsunami. We should do it for their sakes, and our own.

One of the themes that grew out of the September 11 attacks was that the US enjoyed unprecedented sympathy and support from the rest of the world. Subsequently, our government squandered that good will through its actions. Now, a far greater catastrophy has hit the people who live around the Indian Ocean. If we don't give a once sympathetic and supportive world evidence that we reciprocate their good will, what will they think of us?

I willingly admit my argument for greater assistace is a very selfish one. I was once in the business of thinking of things this way, and old habits die hard. We died by the thousands on 9/11 because we were attacked. They have died by the tens of thousands, with tens of thousands more at risk of death, disease and enduring poverty. Does it matter less because nobody is to blame, that there is nobody to hunt down to make us feel safer?

The aftermath of the tsunami presents problems we know how to address. There is no us-against-them situation here. This is us-for-them or us-ignoring-them. Can't a country that tosses billions to corporations in a single vote make a gesture that amounts to more than an accounting error in our national books to help people in need, in our own interest if not in theirs? I sure hope so.

Posted by: kharris at December 29, 2004 09:31 AM

Initial offering of aid : $35 million
Money to be spent on innaguration festivities: $40 million

I think Dubya has his priorities.

Posted by: FA at December 29, 2004 09:34 AM

How many lives could an ealy warning system have saved?

The death toll will be close to 200,000; tens of millions of lives will be affected.

Shouldn't responsibility be investigated before the typical canards are spit out?

Everyone is scared of the legacy of massive incompetence in which we find ourselves. It's asking too much for most to step up to the plate.
It's probably not asking too much not to be a blowhard about such great loss at this time.

Sometimes, when there's nothing yet to say, say nothing.

Posted by: pyres at December 29, 2004 09:40 AM

Here's another nugget...

>> "He's been monitoring it very closely," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters at a briefing here. "He's seen some of the images on television."

You could, I suppose, hope that this comment was taken out of context. But more likely, this is the best face they could put on the President's attention span.


Posted by: Dan Ryan at December 29, 2004 09:54 AM

The "action" is to bash Clinton - worked before, didn't it?

Posted by: peBird at December 29, 2004 10:09 AM

pyres: The notion that "responsibility" should be determined as a first priority is just absurd.

There was no Pacific Tsunami warning system until 1967 -- 3 years after the Alaskan 9.2 quake, and there has not been a major tsunami in the Indian Ocean for 100+ years. In a region with daily, pressing, life-and-death concerns this simply was not on the agenda.

Posted by: CD318 at December 29, 2004 10:13 AM

Re: military logistics and medical

From what I've read, the Iraq insurgency has mostly
shut down the roads, so we're relying heavily on
resupply by air - which keeps our airlift capacity
tied up there.

And the strain on military medical teams is such
that they have been calling up retired surgeons
(I read of one 70-year-old oral surgeon who had
retired from the Army, gone into private practice,
retired from that, and was called up) and also
contemplating a draft of qualified medical

But hey, Saddam's in jail! That must make the
USA popular, right ?

Posted by: Richard Cownie at December 29, 2004 10:26 AM

Bush said we were giving $35 Billion (as in B) in aid. I wish that were true but it's only $35 Million. And we had to be shamed by the UN to up it from the "all we can do" $15 million. A nickel per U.S. citizen is not all we can do. And this debate as to whether $35 million is stingy or generous is just plain stupid. 80,000 people have died already and many more need help NOW. PR campaigns can wait for another day.

Posted by: pgl at December 29, 2004 10:40 AM

Hurry, send billions.
sounds like: Ready, Fire, Aim !

Posted by: donmaj at December 29, 2004 10:56 AM

"He's been monitoring it very closely," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters at a briefing here. "He's seen some of the images on television."

No wonder Bush's policies are so screwed up: his briefers just turn on Faux Nooze for him to watch.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA at December 29, 2004 11:58 AM

Rarely, does one glean more than one sows. President Bush is no exeception. I doubt if history will be overly kind to this President.

Posted by: bncthor at December 29, 2004 11:59 AM

The Bush administration has difficulty responding to anything that doesn't fit the script. Remember "We create our own reality." That is how they think, and they will ignore giant chunks of reality that have not been vetted ahead of time for political effect.

Notice how Bush is still yammering on about the Iraq elections in the face of the largest natural disaster in over a decade. That--and the holiday brush clearing--was going to be this week's big story. Bush is not one to let a little 8.9 magnitude quake get in the way of the approved narrative.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at December 29, 2004 12:12 PM

I don't want to be a bad person, but you are dissolutioned (in part). The job of our military is to rain death and destruction upon an enemy.

No, and I think this is a major issue. The job of our military is to defend the Unites States.

And disillusioned is the word I think you were groping for.

Posted by: Chance the Gardener at December 29, 2004 12:35 PM

And disillusioned is the word I think you were groping for.

I like dissolutioned better. Afterall, I was solvent before Bush came to power, but after four years of his economic policies I am certainly dissolutioned. (Sorry, just couldn't resist.)

Posted by: Derelict at December 29, 2004 12:40 PM

I don't want to drag this thread into an off-topic pissing match, but it should be noted that this:

"This is the difference between Western values and Asian."

is, as it is phrased, racist bullshit. If Aniruddha G. Kulkarni is just trying to say that genuine generosity and stingy selfishness is the difference between India's current government's values and America's current government's values, I won't argue - in fact, I agree. (I campaigned against Bush and I was heartened when the Congress party beat the BJP.) But the idea that certain values belong to certain countries, or continents, is not just wrong but offensive. Plenty of Americans deplore Bush's cheap, tightfisted stance and I'm certain that plenty of BJP voters don't want Indian aid going to Muslims in Indonesia, etc. More broadly, there are no governments more generous than those of Norway and Sweden, and no more tolerant governments than those of Canada and the Netherlands; conversely, there are no values worse than those propounded by such Asians as Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden.
This kind of nationalist or regionalist bigotry is, sadly, all too common in the U.S., and it's offensive here, and it's no less offensive when expressed by people from other places.
I didn't want to let that comment go unremarked, but, as I note, I also don't want to hijack this thread, so I would suggest that all umbrage be directed to my email account rather than posted below.

Posted by: Brendan Lynch at December 29, 2004 12:43 PM

Bush's instinctive niggardly response was because he is a Christian of the "right" variety and they don't believe in government largesse. That should be the domain of private charity. Unless, of course, it comes to taking care of the already well-off. So what we have here, as Derelict noted above, is "just one more clear demonstration of the steady and consistent leadership of Bush".

"Now watch this drive."

Posted by: Dubblblind at December 29, 2004 01:08 PM

You mean:- Watch me clear this brush on my bicycle.

Posted by: eric bloodaxe at December 29, 2004 01:47 PM

still, you would think someone somewhere in the bush administration would have noticed that the predominant religion in Aceh is Islam and thought about the simple atmospherics of taking a leadership role on that basis alone.

but that's what gets you about the bush administration: at the end of the day, no one thinks. they all posture instead.

Posted by: howard at December 29, 2004 01:51 PM

Scum is what we have for a president.

His lack of response to one of the great human crises of history says it all.

But we should not be surprised. We've human tragedy aplenty at home in America and in Iraq and he doesn't give one sh#t.

Time for the Asians to pull the plug and start selling treasuries. Time to cash in those IOUs, put there money somwhere that makes sense, bankrupt America and finally wake up its electorate to the fact that there are consequences to its actions and it's people's votes.

Posted by: hbj at December 29, 2004 02:00 PM

The US committment to direct financial aid - while clearly insufficient to the task at hand, appears to be much greater than that pledged by the EU. Several USN warships have been diverted to the region, these vessels are capable of producing hundreds of kiloliters of fresh water a day, surely their operating costs count as aid. The private donations given by US citizens will, as usual, dwarf the amount of financial aid given by any single government.

Posted by: Steven Rogers at December 29, 2004 03:51 PM

Hmmm... I don't remember Bush or anyone associated with the administration who got those enormous tax cuts saying they were personally donating a nickel. But of course he expects the rest of us to.

After pledging our nation's financial support, a large personal contribution is the first thing I'd announce if I were president.

Posted by: hbj at December 29, 2004 04:01 PM

I am sorry if my comments above have sounded “racists” to Brendan Lynch. Well, I largely meant what he says at the beginning - "genuine generosity and stingy selfishness is the difference between India's current government's values and America's current government's values".

There is an ancient Sanskrit tale. A huge storm has broken over jungle and a person caught in it is looking for a dry place to protect himself from the rain. He comes across a small hut where a very poor person welcomes this stranger inside his hut. They barely have any place to stand there. After some more time, another person comes along looking for a place. He too is welcome after a momentary debate.

It is more generosity of heart I was talking about.

By the way- BJP likes Indonesian Muslims as ancient Indian epic of Ramayana and other Hindu symbols are an integral part of Indonesian culture. Current BJP President fondly recalls stage show of Ramayana performed by all Muslim Indonesian cast.

Posted by: aniruddha g. kulkarni at December 30, 2004 05:04 AM

I think we should start calling it the Brush administration.

I wonder if Bush's pre-millenial beliefs might figure into the paltry response. He may regard this catastrophe (since everyone is characterizing it as of "biblical" proportions) as the start of Armaggedon--a confirmation of the claim that we're in the "end times." If this is part of "God's Plan," it's not clear whether the faithful are obligated to help--or even SUPPOSED to help. This is so pathetically insane, but it may be the operative program in Brush's pea-brain.

Posted by: Nancy Irving at December 31, 2004 12:23 AM

Today I watched inetrview of Sri Lankan President. She said that India was the FIRST country to offer and reach the help while India herself still was sufferring. When Indian Prime Minister told Sri Lankan President of India's commitment of approx US $ 25 Million to Sri Lanka alone, Sri Lankan President asked him whether India could really afford it when she herself has suffered so badly!
Sri Lankan President expressed her deep gratitude towards Indian govt and Indian people.

By the way- India has turned down all the international help she was offerred.

[In God's name, why?]

Posted by: Aniruddha G. Kulkarni at January 1, 2005 12:53 AM