Catastrophe to Celebration …

Not everything is the Bush White House’s fault. Not everything.  In this case, not fully their fault, but the contrast is too striking to go without comment.

The White House sent Laura Bush to speak on the disastrous cyclone in Myanmar. She gave a prepared statement. And, then she took questions. And, the press had their chance to ask questions. Some were quite serious, quite on target. But, toward the end the questions strayed to issues closer to Laura’s heart. MSNBC, however, took a little time to pick up the shift of subject as you can see over at Huffington Post. Sigh …

Again, it isn’t as if the White House press office has the ability to control questions. Or that Laura might have suggested something like “Why don’t we focus our attention on the tragic situation in Myanmar.” No, of course, that would have been impossible. Actually, in fact, Laura’s opening comments invited the questioning.

Thank you all very much for giving me a chance to speak. I’m going to leave tomorrow for Crawford, for Jenna’s wedding, and I wanted to be able to make a statement about Burma before I left.

Burma, Jenna’s wedding. Jenna’s wedding, Burma. It wasn’t the media that opened the door.

Now, Laura has been criticized (for example here, here, and here) for words in the prepared statement due to the hypocrisy of these words coming from the Administration that handled Hurricane Katrina so poorly.

It’s troubling that many of the Burmese people learned of this impending disaster only when foreign outlets — such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America — sounded the alarm. Although they were aware of the threat, Burma’s state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path.

Yes, this is troubling and tragic.

But the hubris. Are there other governments, perhaps a little closer to home, that failed to act appropriately in the face of a serious weather threat?

The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs.

Think September 2005 with the words: “The response to the [hurricane] is just the most recent example of the [Administration’s] failure to meet its people’s basic needs.” Would that have sounded legitimate?

The regime has dismantled systems of agriculture, education and health care.

Has America’s “systems of agriculture, education and health care” strengthened in the past seven years? FYI — not by any reasonable set of metrics …

In her questions and answers, Laura Bush stated this:

But I think in front of their own people and in front of the world, if they don’t accept aid from the United States and from all the rest of the international community that wants to help the people of Burma, that that is just another way that the military regime looks so cut off and so unaware of what the real needs of their people are.

Does anyone want to remind her that the U.S. government was quite slow in accepting aid from the international community post Katrina and that there were many aid offers that were never accepted? Perhaps it might have merited notice that 59 of 77 offers of aid went unaccepted and, in many cases, even unanswered.

Truth be told, there are many things that Laura said that I agree with, but the hubris of someone from this White House criticizing another nation’s response to a hurricane/cyclone …

And, the indelicate (tasteless … heartless …) transition from speaking of such a deadly tragedy to the laughing and giggling over a wedding …

NOTE: Cyclone Nagris has killed 10,000s and devastated a large swath of the country. There are many ways to provide assistance, such as through Relief Web or through the Burmese labor unions.

And, there are innumerous pieces on the cyclone. DownWithTyranny provides an interesting voice, introducing us to “my pal Roland …”


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