Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Good intentions matter most

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The Washington Post is already attempting to use the tsumanis against President Bush. (Hat tip: Captain Ed.)

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.

Note that this criticism comes from unidentified "skeptics" and "reporters." And note the Post's use of the word "cloistered" to describe the President's stay in Crawford. The Post adds that Gerhard Schroeder cut short his vacation and "returned to work" because of the tsunamis, and that Bill Clinton managed to get his mug before the BBC cameras in order to urge international response.

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.

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 Relations.

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."

Again, note that "some foreign policy specialists" and "even some administration officials" complained about the President, but only Leslie H. Gelb is identified.

Gelb said what appears to be a grudging increase in effort sends the wrong message, at a time when dollar totals matter less than a clear statement about U.S. intentions. Noting that the disaster occurred at a time when large numbers of people in many nations -- especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia -- object to U.S. policies in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence.

The WaPo article notes everything that the US is doing to help, but the repeated refrain is that President Bush must "take a higher profile." He must make sure that he announces his good deeds with trumpets.

President Bush has always been the sort to let his actions speak. Unlike his predecessor, he doesn't run to the cameras to shed crocodile tears. He doesn't make sure the cameras are rolling every time he signs a bill. This President doesn't loudly boast that he is creating a cabinet that "looks like America;" he just goes ahead and does it, and sometimes it gets noticed.

But if only the president would fly back to Washington to hold a press conference where he can say "I feel your pain," will he be let off the hook. At least as far as a bunch of unidentified sources are concerned. And it would help if he just pulled out of Iraq. Public statements of good intentions are what really matter right now.


Post a Comment

<< Home