Thursday, December 30, 2004

A missed opportunity...

I mostly agree with the Moose's post today about Bush's response to the tsunami disaster. This was a huge opportunity and it was missed by a wide margin. He calls it "an opportunity missed but not lost", but I'm not so sure it's salvageable. Had the President addressed the nation on TV right after the calamity and promised aid and exhorted private donation to the relief effort, he would have earned credibility for his claims of benevolence toward Muslims, regardless of the amount pledged. The importance of such a move can hardly be overstated. That is how one wins hearts and minds. As it was, the administration quietly offered $15 million and opened itself to charges of being "stingy". You can buy that charge or not (I think it's a bit overblown, to say the least), but the fact that it was leveled at all is evidence of an appalling political performance on the administration's part.

We should aid the rescue and recovery because it's the right thing to do, not because it's politically useful. But doing so the right way is politically useful, and it should be done in whatever way maximizes that usefulness. Rather, it should have been done in such a way. I'm afraid that nothing the administration does now can escape the charge that it is only being done under international pressure. Again, we should do all we possibly can anyway, and maybe the Moose is right that Bush redoubling his efforts can "repair our image in the world", but I'm not so sure that the moment to both ease the suffering and bolster our image in the Muslim world hasn't passed.

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