Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

January 14, 2010

THE U.S. RESPONSE TO HAITI'S CATASTROPHE.... The Obama administration is preparing a "massive military response" to the devastation in Haiti, including "ships, helicopters, transport planes and a 2,000-member Marine unit" that are either en route to Haiti or will be soon. Gen. Douglas Fraser, head of U.S. Southern Command, added that "one of the U.S. Navy's large amphibious ships will likely head to Haiti with a Marine expeditionary unit aboard."

Regrettably, Newsweek's Howard Fineman wants to draw parallels between President Obama's response to Haiti and George W. Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina. "[T]he Obama administration's competence and compassion will be tested in a similar racial context -- and with a much worse infrastructure," Fineman wrote yesterday.

As John Cole noted, the comparison is poor. We could see Hurricane Katrina headed towards Louisiana long before it hit land; the earthquake in Haiti was unpredictable. Louisiana is part of the United States; Haiti is a foreign country.

Nevertheless, if Fineman and the media establishment have decided that the Haitian crisis is the latest political test for the White House, Michael Scherer reports on the intensity of the president's response.

A White House aide tells me that President Obama issued a clear order Tuesday night, just before 6 p.m., when his national security aide Denis McDonough told him there had been an earthquake in Haiti: He told McDonough that he wanted an aggressive and highly coordinated response.

Aggressive it has been. He was briefed twice on Tuesday night, and briefed again by four different agencies and individuals before 10 a.m. Wednesday. He cancelled a planned speech on clean energy jobs, along with a side trip to Maryland, and spent the afternoon working the phones, talking to the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, to Secretary of State, to the USAID administrator and the leaders of Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and the United Nations. The White House website has been turned into a fundraising hub for the Red Cross, and the White House has emailed its list with an appeal to give money.

The full horror of the catastrophe is not yet clear, and it could be weeks before we truly know how effective the U.S. government response has been. But there is little doubt that Obama is seizing the moment to demonstrate, for the second time in the New Year, that he can perform as a crisis president.

That probably won't stop the usual suspects from complaining -- about what, I don't know -- but like the post-Christmas whining, it almost certainly won't be substantive or policy oriented.

Steve Benen 8:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (24)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

The usual suspects were already complaining yesterday. Of course it began with Rush making it a racial issue and completely missing the point by comparing the President's response to this tragedy to his response to the crotch bomber. I am so sick of these guys.

Posted by: Pragmatic on January 14, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK
That probably won't stop the usual suspects from complaining -- about what, I don't know -- but like the post-Christmas whining, it almost certainly won't be substantive or policy oriented.
"Clearly, Obama is more concerned with his perception on the world stage than with helping people right here at home." How's that? Do I have a future as a right-wing blowhard? Posted by: Bernard HP Gilroy on January 14, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

Close. You forgot the race card.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on January 14, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Chuck Todd reported on Morning Joe that Obama called W last night to ask him to take his father's role after the tsunami, and work with Bill Clinton to raise money for Haiti.

Posted by: sue on January 14, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Limbaugh's remarks yesterday were measured at 7.5 on the Imus Scale. An 8.0 ("Nappy Headed Ho's") brings about complete and utter destruction.

Tune in today for the aftershocks. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 14, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

All suffering black people are interchangeable, regardless of their country of residence or the type of natural disaster befalling them.

Posted by: Howard Fineman on January 14, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

The complaining is going to be about the Obama administration wasting US tax dollars on swarty people. Of course, the word 'swarty' won't be used. The code word will 'domestic vs foreign priorities', but the people this is intended for will understand.

Posted by: eserwe on January 14, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Politicizing disaster accelerates worst case scenarios! Some of our literati would do well to put away the microscopes they've been using to do narrative experiments on our duly elected president.

Note to whomever listens - we are the United States of America, and we respond to disaster not as an affiliate of any political party, but as concerned freedom-loving leaders of the world! Our good will and material response is usually 2nd to none, and that should be the bench mark for any president, Republican or Democrat, Male or Female, or of any ethnic heritage!

Note to media - stop putting microphones to the voices of ne'erdowells! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 14, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

O seems to be out in front, but the main military point man I heard this am needs to sound a bit more intense. He was also disturbingly vague about the military's immediate response " we need to evaluate" to determine what is needed blah blah blah.

Umm. People are sleeping in the streets. People are lying in the streets with broken limbs. Dead bodies.

They need blankets, water, food, body bags, and clinics, and an operational airport that can control the air traffic. What is so difficult about at least figuring that out?

Posted by: bigwisc on January 14, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Note to Kevo:

Our corporate media are the ne'erdowells!

Posted by: SadOldVet on January 14, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Bet Sister Sarah is peeved the earthquake stole some of her glory on her debut day.

any Facebook posts from her about Haiti?

Posted by: g on January 14, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

You know....

If America responds in an exceptional manner, in a very public forum, this may defuse a significant group of suicide bombers.

Just sayin'

Posted by: IntelVet on January 14, 2010 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

bigwisc: BBC radio was talking to an official from some aid group yesterday who was driving over from the Dominican Republic after loading up his vehicle with the small amount of supplies it would carry. He was saying his main purpose was to assess the situation and go back (since communications were out) so they could plan their further response, so I don't think our military point man's statement was out of line.

I've heard a lot about roads being impassable. A lot of the needs of the people are obvious, but how to get what they need not just into the country but to the places they're needed is going to require evaluating the situation.

Posted by: Redshift on January 14, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

A more appropriate comparison might be to Bush's (non)response to the Christmas tsunami in 2004.

Posted by: T-Rex on January 14, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

John Cole made an additional and valid point: the real comparison is with Bush's response to the tsunami, which was actually quite good and effective, under the circumstances of such massive destruction. And I guess it brings up something I've never reflected on before: why was Bush's response to the tsunami a world away so much more effective than his response to Katrina?

I think it brings home to me how self-destructive our current politics of polarization are -- that we see co-citizens as political enemies first, and human beings second, whereas we can see the humanity of people who probably disagree with us on a lot material points, because they don't threaten our power. I am so tired of this.

Posted by: Barbara on January 14, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Also, I would point out that Haiti basically lives full-time on the precipice of disaster. I worked in a church group that "adopted" a parish in Haiti -- we put children through school, raised money for clinics, and various other projects, and all I can say is that it is simply not possible to describe the enormity of the dysfunction. They were lucky to have electricity for four hours a day, there is very limited access to clean water, many people have nothing to do. Anyway, I stopped collaborating with the church group for a variety of reasons, but I have tried to support groups in Haiti that are directly aimed at establishing sustainable development in collaboration with Haitians. A lot of the aid in Haiti truly is "charitable" in the sense that it fills a need but does not advance the society to a point where the charity is less necessary.

Posted by: Barbara on January 14, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

The parallels to Katrina are moot, since this disaster occurred overseas, and is on a scale vastly different from Katrina.

We are talking about a total collapse, psst, poof!, of infrastructure in an already destitute country.

Yeah, the arguments over domestic vs. foreign priorities will appear, especially when you consider that Obama cancelled his green jobs forum to deal with Haiti.

But, come on folks, the world is facing possibly the largest scale natural disaster in the Western Hemisphere.

One does not just twiddle one's thumbs.

Sneer all you want Rush and Co. Your bigotry knows no bounds.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 14, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

"That probably won't stop the usual suspects from complaining -- about what, I don't know -- but like the post-Christmas whining, it almost certainly won't be substantive or policy oriented."

Wingnuts: "Typical that Obama waited three days to reassure white Americans after the Christmas attack, but is responding immediately to a bunch of foreign black people."

And no, I'm not just guessing. It had already started yesterday.

Posted by: Shade Tail on January 14, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Why do people keep trashing George Bush for his response to Katrina?

After all, he did say that he would rebuild New Orleans for the 'good citizens' there. He kept his word! Most of the blacks have not moved back.

Posted by: RepublicanPointOfView on January 14, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

The right wing wouldn't be happy with Obama even if his reponse to the catastrophe in Haiti was to invade Iran.

Posted by: qwerty on January 14, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the correction SadOldVet! I naively forgot the ne'erdowells were merely passing the mics around themselves to sustain the echo chambers they've created! Again, thanks SOV. -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 14, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

That probably won't stop the usual suspects from complaining -- about what, I don't know -- but like the post-Christmas whining, it almost certainly won't be substantive or policy oriented.

The usual suspects in the asshat chattering class would complain even if Obama had donned a red cape, burrowed into the earth at lightning speed and fixed the fault line before the quake ever happened. He'd then be accused of "meddling" in a foreign country and being too "proactive." (Then there's the whole ugly racial angle, which Limbaugh, true to form, has already gotten into).

Posted by: electrolite on January 14, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

That probably won't stop the usual suspects from complaining -- about what, I don't know

Fineman has already made it clear what they'll complain about. The truly annoying thing about Fineman's analysis is that he pulls the pundit-as-psychologist stunt and announces that if the Obama administration DOES measure up, it will be for all the wrong reasons. In Fineman's mind, Obama is driven to mount a robust response to the disaster so he'll look good in comparison to George Bush!!

It apparently eludes Mr. Fineman that the richest nation on earth might come to the aid of a tiny neighbor because it's the right thing to do.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 14, 2010 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

He was briefed twice on Tuesday night, and briefed again by four different agencies and individuals before 10 a.m. Wednesday. He cancelled a planned speech on clean energy jobs, along with a side trip to Maryland, and spent the afternoon working the phones, talking to the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, to Secretary of State, to the USAID administrator and the leaders of Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile and the United Nations.

That's weird. I thought that Obama was "huddled in the Cabinet room" with the VP, HHS Secretary, Reid, Pelosi et al. from 10:30am on Wednesday to 6:45pm. And every participant in the room had to leave their phone at the door. How was Obama able to spend the afternoon "working the phones"?

Posted by: josef on January 14, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK
Post a comment









Remember personal info?










 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly