Saturday, January 16, 2010
Time for America to Come Together in our Best Effort
Let's forget about Rush and Pat and focus instead on what we can do right. This is a time when the United States can come together and show real leadership in the world, and do it for the right reasons.
The pictures we've all seen coming out of Haiti the past few days have been heart-rending, terrifying, gruesome, horrible, painful, and evoke so many other emotions, so diverse but all terrible.
President Obama showed real leadership in moving quickly to help the people of Haiti. He and Secretary Napolitano also showed compassion in suspending deportations to Haiti for eighteen months by granting TPS (temporary protected status) to Haitians currently in the United States; dumping a bunch more people into the current scene of devastation would be unhelpful at best and disastrous at worst. Yes, they are getting some heat from Nativist groups but the real test of leadership is the ability to make tough decisions because they are right.
Right now there is no functioning government there but American relief workers are working shoulder to shoulder with those from many other countries and with those Haitians who are able to help to treat the wounded, bury the dead and rescue the survivors. But that is only this week. Rebuilding Haiti will be a long term project. And the fact is, Haiti was in terrible shape even last Monday, the day before the earthquake. Rebuilding it won't just mean patching together the same concrete buildings that collapsed and killed tens of thousands on Tuesday. It will mean rebuilding it better. Certainly that begins with constructing buildings that will stand up the next time there is an earthquake, but it will mean more than that. It will mean creating a vibrant, dynamic economy, one where people can hope for a future for themselves and their kids in Haiti, instead of only dreaming of escaping in a small boat trying to sneak into the United States.
President Obama also turned to the source that many other Presidents have turned to when they need someone to coordinate efforts like this: former Presidents. He asked former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to help lead this. Not only does this show that this will be a non-partisan effort but he is showing that he trusts ex-presidents to show real leadership on behalf of the United States, as they have in the past (the Gerry Ford spend-your-retirement-on-the-golf-course model is now officially obsolete; even Republicans have to admit that when Jimmy Carter raised the bar for ex-Presidents it was a good thing.)
President Clinton has done things like this before (remember the Tsunami relief effort he headed with the elder President Bush.) He's also been involved in other international efforts, such as last year's retrieval from North Korea of two American journalists.
President George W. Bush has kept a low profile since leaving office (unlike his former Vice President.) So in a sense this is his 'rookie' assignment as an ex-President. And I wish him success. I certainly was very critical of 'Dubya' the whole time he was in office (and there are still things left over from his administration that we need to get to the bottom of,) but I'm willing to give him a clean slate as an ex-president (remember that even Richard Nixon had evolved into somewhat of a senior statesman by the time he died.) This is a good start, and to be honest even while he was President, and for all his warts, Bush Jr. did give significant non-military aid to very poor countries (including Haiti.)
This is a time for America to step forward and do what we can together.